Posts by Joe Mason

Week 13 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 13 was the final chance for most fantasy owners to get their team in the playoffs, so getting solid production from everyone on the roster was extremely crucial. Unfortunately, some of the top players in the NFL faltered when it matter the most for fantasy football owners. These are the three players that
Week 13 was the final chance for most fantasy owners to get their team in the playoffs, so getting solid production from everyone on the roster was extremely crucial. Unfortunately, some of the top players in the NFL faltered when it matter the most for fantasy football owners. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy owners the most in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season.

Drew Brees

Few things have been more reliable over the years than Drew Brees playing at home in the Superdome, but all of that changed on Sunday. Brees entered his Week 13 matchup against the Detroit Lions as one of the top scoring quarterbacks in fantasy football. The Lions had also struggled to stop the pass most of the season. While this appeared to be a great matchup for Brees, he ended up having his worst game of the season. Brees managed to throw for 326 yards, but he also ended up with three interceptions and zero touchdowns. The poor performance ended his NFL-record streak of 60 straight home games with at least one touchdown. Drew Brees is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL, so he should be able to bounce back with solid performances the rest of the season.

Lamar Miller

Unlike Drew Brees, Lamar Miller has disappointed his fantasy owners on more than one occasion this season. Miller entered this season as one of the most interesting running backs in the league, but he has consistently failed to live up to his high expectations. Since Miller is averaging just under 20 carries a game, it has been hard for fantasy owners to find a better option on a weekly basis. A snowy field against the Green Bay Packers appeared to create a great matchup for Miller in Week 13, but he was unable to find running room throughout the entire game. While he got to touch the ball 15 times, Lamar Miller only accumulated 18 yards. With disappointing performances in the last two weeks, it is going to be hard for to trust Miller in the fantasy football playoffs. He just does not look capable of putting together a solid game in the inept offense of the Houston Texans.

Davante Adams

No wide receiver disappointed their fantasy owners more than Davante Adams in Week 13. Adams was coming off a game that saw him get 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but he was unable to get anything going against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Going up against the great secondary of the Texans was not a great matchup for Adams, but it was hard to put him on the bench after his amazing game in Week 12. The snowy conditions in Green Bay did not make it easier for Adams to get open on a consistent basis. While he was targeted seven times, Davante Adams only caught one pass for 17 yards. Adams has two tough games in the fantasy playoffs, so his production may continue to be erratic the rest of the season despite surpassing Randall Cobb on the depth chart.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 12 Fantasy Disappointments

The fantasy football season is filled with disappointment, but poor performances from star players are becoming more costly as we get closer to the end of the year. One bad game from a normally reliable player may be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. These are the

The fantasy football season is filled with disappointment, but poor performances from star players are becoming more costly as we get closer to the end of the year. One bad game from a normally reliable player may be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy owners the most in Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season.

Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks had the perfect opportunity to succeed when he got to play a struggling Rams defense at home in New Orleans. While Drew Brees and the Saints had a great offensive game, Cooks was nowhere to be found. The top receiver on the Saints failed to get one catch in a game that saw the team score 49 points. Nearly every offensive player on the New Orleans Saints helped their fantasy owners in Week 12 expect Brandin Cooks. The star wide receiver, who is considered one of the fastest players in the NFL,  recently expressed his frustrations over his role in the offense. These comments usually forces the coaching staff to get a player more involved, so it would not be surprising to see Cooks have a few huge games before the end of the season.

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates was given a difficult matchup when he had to go up against the Houston Texans in Week 12, but fantasy football players still expected a decent performance from the great tight end. Gates was coming off his two best games of the season, and he had scored a touchdown in three straight games before Week 12. Just like Brandin Cooks, Antonio Gates went the entire game without getting a pass thrown in his direction. Backup tight end Hunter Henry’s touchdown late in the game just added more salt in the wound for Gates’ fantasy owners. This game may cause some people to abandon Antonio Gates, but the aging tight end has a great schedule coming up. If he returns to his normal role in the offense, then Gates should find a way to score a few more touchdowns this season.

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson was coming off three straight great games after finally fully healing from his ankle injury, but he produced his worst game of the season in Week 12. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense had Wilson under constant pressure, so the great quarterback never had much time to find an open receiver. Since Wilson was forced to only throw short passes, he finished the game with 151 yards. Nearly all of Wilson’s fantasy points in Week 12 came from his 80 rushing yards. The Seattle Seahawks have a very favorable schedule the rest of the season, so Wilson should be a top-tier fantasy quarterback in Week 13 and beyond.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 11 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 11 of the NFL season was once again full of disappointing fantasy performances for owners all over the country. With only two weeks left until playoffs start in most fantasy leagues, dud performances are starting to really take a toll on playoff chances. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy players

Week 11 of the NFL season was once again full of disappointing fantasy performances for owners all over the country. With only two weeks left until playoffs start in most fantasy leagues, dud performances are starting to really take a toll on playoff chances. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy players from this past week.

Tyrod Taylor

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has actually been a fairly consistent fantasy option for people who opted to draft a quarterback in the later rounds. Before Sunday, Taylor had only failed to eclipse 15 standard fantasy points just one time. Unfortunately for his owners, Taylor was almost non-existent from a fantasy perspective against the Cincinnati Bengals. He managed just 166 yards through the air with no touchdowns and an interception. He also only managed 39 yards on the ground. Despite a gritty 16-12 win for the Bills, Taylor left his owners, myself included, out in the cold.

The Bills schedule is filled with exploitable defenses for the rest of the season, so Taylor should be able to turn it around sooner rather than later. The possible return of injured star receiver Sammy Watkins in the next couple of weeks would certainly bolster Taylor’s fantasy upside.

Ben Roethlisberger

Arguably the biggest Week 11 disappointment, Roethlisberger entered Sunday with the juiciest fantasy match-up he could have, the winless Cleveland Browns. Despite ranking near last in every major defensive category, the Browns held Roethlisberger to just 167 passing yards and no touchdowns. In Big Ben’s defense, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stole the show with over 200 total yards from scrimmage, but being held under 200 yards passing by the hapless Browns is more than a bit embarrassing.

Roethlisberger will have another juicy match-up this week against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving.  His owners will hope for the Big Ben who put up 408 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys instead of the unenthusiastic play he showcased against the worst team in the league.

Michael Crabtree

Oakland Raiders veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree exploded onto the fantasy scene this season as the Robin to Amari Cooper’s Batman. Thus far, he has amassed 601 yards receiving to go along with 6 touchdowns. Unfortunately for his owners, none of this production came to fruition this week against the Houston Texans. Crabtree only managed 5 yards on 3 receptions, far below his projections. He did manage to draw 2 pass interference penalties that moved Oakland way down the field, but flags don’t count towards fantasy points.

He will look to turn it around next week against the Carolina Panthers, a team that has been struggling to stop receivers all season.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 10 Fantasy Disappointments

Fantasy football is a game of almost constant disappointment because even the best players in the league occasionally have a bad game in a great matchup. This is what makes fantasy football such a fun, interesting and difficult game to play. These are the three biggest fantasy disappointments from Week 10 of the

Fantasy football is a game of almost constant disappointment because even the best players in the league occasionally have a bad game in a great matchup. This is what makes fantasy football such a fun, interesting and difficult game to play. These are the three biggest fantasy disappointments from Week 10 of the 2016 NFL season.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady became the most coveted quarterback in fantasy football when he returned from his four-game suspension, and he instantly proved that he was worth the hype. Brady put on an amazing performance in his first four games of the season, but he finally disappointed his fantasy owners in his Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. While he still managed to throw for 316 yards, Brady did not put up the fantasy numbers everyone has come to expect from him. The high yardage total did not account for many fantasy points because Brady ended up with zero touchdown passes. He also threw his first interception of the season. Brady is still the best quarterback in the NFL, so his fantasy owners should expect a few more great games before the end of the season.

Jordan Reed

No pass catcher disappointment his fantasy owners in Week 10 more than tight end Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins. While Reed often struggles to stay healthy, he usually puts up great numbers when he gets on the field. While the Minnesota Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league, they usually give up a lot of yards to the tight end. The Vikings defense has a strong pass rush and great cornerbacks, so the quarterback is usually forced to throw the ball to the tight end. While the Redskins were able to get the ball to one of their tight ends for a big play, it was a great touchdown pass to Reed’s backup Vernon Davis. Jordan Reed’s two catches for 41 yards was his worst game of the season, so he should be able to quickly bounce back the rest of the season.

Jonathan Stewart

Few players in the NFL are as unpredictable as Jonathan Stewart. He can easily get several touchdowns in a game, or he can fail to find running room for an entire game like he did in Week 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Since there are very few running backs in the league that get consistent carries, fantasy owners are forced to rely on Jonathan Stewart nearly every week. He may be coming off a game where he only got 39 yards, but Stewart has an extremely favorable schedule the rest of the season. Fantasy owners should be rewarded for sticking with the Panthers running back very soon.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 9 Fantasy Disappointments

Fantasy football is a fickle beast. In Week 9 of the NFL season, three names had particularly poor outings considering what was expected of them.

Christine Michael

Michael is the guy for the Seattle Seahawks, at least for the time being. With Thomas Rawls due back in

Fantasy football is a fickle beast. In Week 9 of the NFL season, three names had particularly poor outings considering what was expected of them.

Christine Michael

Michael is the guy for the Seattle Seahawks, at least for the time being. With Thomas Rawls due back in Week 11, Michael’s time as the bell-cow back could be coming to an end. That is especially true after a disastrous Week 9 performance.

Entering the game, Michael was projected as a top-10 player at running back and thus a must-start in all leagues. He finished the game against the Buffalo Bills with five total touches for one total yard! Luckily for owners, Michael found his way into the end zone to salvage what could have been a death sentence in weekly matchups.

Michael and the Seahawks have the Patriots on the schedule this week, and then Rawls is due back. The Patriots have one of the premiere rush defenses in the NFL. Michael’s usefulness as a fantasy starter may be over for good.

Charcandrick West

West was the biggest waiver pickup in the league between Weeks 8 and 9 because of the injuries around him. With Jamaal Charles hitting IR and Spencer Ware set to miss the game, West was due for a major workload in the matchup against Jacksonville. He did indeed dominate touches, but West did nothing with them. He had 16 total touches while no other Chief had more than five. He got 39 yards on the ground and 35 through the air; that was it. Ware is due back in Week 10, so West will once again be relegated to the bench.  He can safely dropped and disregarded at this point.

Dez Bryant

Though the Dallas Cowboys dominated the Cleveland Browns, Bryant did not partake in the festivities. He entered the week as arguably the number-one fantasy wide receiver because of the matchup. Instead of keeping pace with the likes of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, Bryant was a complete zero.

He caught one pass for 19 yards and never factored into the offense. This was a scary development for Bryant owners. Dallas had been playing so well without him, turning to the likes of Cole Beasley. Bryant returned to the field, had one good game and then disappeared again. Moving forward, it is hard to have confidence in him being a key in this offense that relies on running the football and the underneath passing tree.

Next up are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who boast a threatening offense but a defense that can be exploited in the passing game. Dak Prescott has little rapport with Bryant so who knows how often the latter will be targeted, let alone what he will produce.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 8 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 8 of the NFL season held lots of disappointment for fantasy owners. No player is ever a lock to have a monster day, but that guy you drafted in the 2nd round (We're looking at you, Mark Ingram) wasn't supposed to put up a negative number. Here

Week 8 of the NFL season held lots of disappointment for fantasy owners. No player is ever a lock to have a monster day, but that guy you drafted in the 2nd round (We’re looking at you, Mark Ingram) wasn’t supposed to put up a negative number. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy performers from this week.

Julio Jones

Julio was the consensus pick by experts to be the top fantasy receiver heading into Week 8. With a juicy matchup against the Green Bay Packers’ depleted secondary, everyone expected another monster performance from the star wideout. His speed and explosiveness should have been unmatched against a bunch of second-string corners. Instead, Jones only had 3 catches for 29 yards, good for just 2.9 standard fantasy points.

The game turned out to be a shootout just like everyone expected, but most of the fantasy production went to number 2 Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, who had 9 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Even Taylor Gabriel had a better fantasy day than Julio, posting 68 yards and a touchdown on 3 receptions. Jones should certainly rebound next week against the Buccaneers, who are still fighting for playoff contention.

Mark Ingram

Ingram had a less than stellar matchup against a stout Seattle Seahawks rushing defense, but he was still considered a low end number one fantasy back heading into the contest. Ingram had seen at least 15 touches in 4 straight weeks, and he had been fairly productive.

Instead of seeing his usual volume, Saints head coach Sean Payton benched Ingram in favor of backup running back Tim Hightower, who went on to record more than 100 yards on the ground. This would have been a little easier to swallow for his fantasy owners if he hadn’t only had 5 yards on 3 carries when he got benched. In a standard league that scores a -2 for a fumble, Ingram left his owners with an abysmal -1.5 score.

DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins was a sure-fire top 10 pick in fantasy drafts to start this season. After finishing last season with 1,521 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, Hopkins was due for another monster season. Instead, he’s on pace for a measly 860 yards and 6 touchdowns this year. While this isn’t terrible, it’s a far cry from what owners expect from a first round pick.

Everyone expected Hopkins to turn things around against a terrible Detroit Lions defense that was to be without top corner Darius Slay. Instead, Hopkins only recorded 44 yards on 4 catches, good for just 4.4 standard points. After this most recent abysmal performance, Hopkins can now safely be considered a bust. With quarterback Brock Osweiler under center, things only appear to be getting worse for the star receiver.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 7 Fantasy Disappointments

Week 7 of the NFL season provided many intriguing matchups for football fans. Brock Osweiler lost the battle to his former team despite a career high 41 passing attempts. The Seahawks and Cardinals would square off in a battle for divisional position. The game would end in a 6-6 tie with neither team

Week 7 of the NFL season provided many intriguing matchups for football fans. Brock Osweiler lost the battle to his former team despite a career high 41 passing attempts. The Seahawks and Cardinals would square off in a battle for divisional position. The game would end in a 6-6 tie with neither team finding the end zone. The NFL continued their International Series, with a sloppy contest that saw the Giants edge out the Rams and had fans wondering why they woke up that early on a Sunday morning.  Jay Ajayi continued to shoulder the load for the Dolphins, rushing for over 200+ yards in consecutive weeks. These somewhat historical occurrences would mark for the major storylines in week 7 of the season.

The more important statistical rankings are the fantasy performances of individual players. Each week, millions of competitors face off against a friend that may quickly become a foe in the fantasy arena. Many players, like Ajayi, had monster fantasy performances. Below we’ll detail 3 players that really never go things going or players who disappointed many fantasy hopefuls in week 7.

Jamaal Charles

First we’ll start with a name that many fantasy players are quite familiar with: Jamaal Charles. Charles averaged 2nd to 3rd round value at the beginning of the season. Despite being featured on less than half of the team’s snaps in week 6, Charles was able to find pay dirt and muck up a hard earned 33 yards on the ground. A week 7 matchup against a lackluster New Orleans defense seemed like the perfect place for Charles to find his footing once again. The result was the exact opposite, with Charles rushing the ball one time for no gain while only seeing a couple of snaps. This was only his third time on the field this season and fantasy owners wish that he would have been held out prior to game time. His recovering knee seems to undergo setbacks each week and it remains to be seen if he will ever become the lead back once again in Kansas City.

Jordan Howard

Another back suffering from loss of touches due to an unlikely source was Jordan Howard of the Bears. Howard was just starting to find his groove in Chicago until the team traveled to Green Bay for a historic battle with the Packers. The Packers defense has been rather mediocre over the past few seasons, citing health issues as the main reason for this fall-off. Howard lead the Bears in touches the past three weeks, putting together some rather impressive numbers during that stretch. The Bears, who are very banged up on offense, seemed to switch their game plan without notifying fantasy owners on Thursday night. Ka’Deem Carey lead the team in touches and in rushing yards. Howard rushed 7 times only producing a total slightly over 20 yards. He also failed to bring in his lone target out of the backfield. Howard owners should be worried heading forward as it is unclear who will get the touches going forward.

Alshon Jeffery

Sticking in Chicago, where fantasy duds seem to attract one another, we have Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery is the main target for the Bears on offense, and it’s not even close. The team lost Kevin White early in the season to an injury that would end his 2016-17 campaign. This would seem like the opportunity for Jeffery to put up large numbers and gaudy targets; the result has been anything but. Jeffery was targeted 11 times against the Packers, but only managed to successfully reel in 3 of those targets for 33 total yards. The Bears have lacked consistency at the quarterback position, which has created trouble for all offensive targets. Jeffery hasn’t even found the end zone this season and, if the team can’t find someone he can adequately communicate with, we don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 6 Fantasy Disappointments

There were many unfortunate fantasy letdowns in Week 6 but here are the top three under-achievers of the week. Some of us might look at our lineup and say, “What, only three?” Anyway, these are the players we hope will turn it around in Week 7.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte posted 2.20

There were many unfortunate fantasy letdowns in Week 6 but here are the top three under-achievers of the week. Some of us might look at our lineup and say, “What, only three?” Anyway, these are the players we hope will turn it around in Week 7.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte posted 2.20 fantasy points in the Jets debacle with the Cardinals.  The Jets’ defensive line desperately needed to perform at the highest level in order to give the Jets an opportunity to compete, which they did not.  With the game quickly out of hand, Forte rushed nine times but gained only 19 yards and also caught only one of three passes that came his way. He was even targeted one less time than Bilal Powell. How the glory has departed! Forte has rushed for less than 30 yards in the last 3 games. In Week 5, he collected 6.0 fantasy points, and in Week 4 it was 4.30, so this has been going on for a while.

It’s not that Matt has lost a step because in Week 2 he blew up for 28.90 points against Buffalo. It’s that Jets coach Todd Bowles simply needs to use him more. The Jets are 1-5, so what are they thinking? If they have a better option, Forte owners might want to bench him until the Jets make this obvious decision. Otherwise, owners can simply wait it out.

Travis Benjamin

Travis Benjamin ended up with -0.30 points against Denver. Ok, it’s Denver, but negative points, really? He caught three of five passes, but for only 17 yards and, as a punt returner, muffed a punt on the 11-yard line. Fortunately, he’s been replaced there by Dexter McCluster.

Many see Benjamin as a “boom or bust” player. But he can be more boom than bust. In Week 5, he brought in a respectable 11.70 points and, in Week 2, 23.40 points. Benjamin was a productive staple in a poor Cleveland offense, and he’s filled in admirably for the injury-stricken Chargers. Through Week 5, he scored the 15th-most fantasy points of any wide receiver. It is a safe bet to start Benjamin in Week 7 against the Falcons.

Jordy Nelson

Jordy’s 4.80 points against the Cowboys was just part of the general Packers meltdown, following Aaron Rodgers’ QB struggles. Week 6 presented Nelson with a season low in targets while gaining plenty of attention from the tough Cowboys defense. Aaron Rogers spreads the ball around and has a completion rate of 60.2%, which also makes it tougher for Jordy. What’s more, in the first quarter, the Cowboys defense forced Nelson to fumble on the Packers 36 yard line.

But all is not lost. In Week 7, the Packers play the Bears, who are struggling more than they are. The Bears defense ranks 21st in total tackles, with only 2 interceptions. The Bears offense also spends little time on the field, wearing their defense out, so the Packers will be able to pick it apart. Nelson gets the most targets on the team, so he’s a sure start for Week 7.

So here’s hoping your fantasy world is looking up. Last week frustrated, this week elated!

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Week 5 Fantasy Disappointments

The NFL and fantasy football are filled with surprises and disappointments. Something shocking is almost guaranteed to happen every week. The potential of chaos at any moment is one of the things that makes fantasy football so much fun to play. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy football owners the

The NFL and fantasy football are filled with surprises and disappointments. Something shocking is almost guaranteed to happen every week. The potential of chaos at any moment is one of the things that makes fantasy football so much fun to play. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy football owners the most during Week 5.

Julio Jones

Julio Jones was coming off the sixth best receiving game in NFL history, so he was always going to have a hard time living up to expectations in Week 5. He was also stuck playing against the great cornerbacks of the Denver Broncos that have been able to shut down every great receiver they have faced this season. All of the fantasy football experts had Julio Jones ranked much lower than normal heading into Week 5, but he still managed to disappoint his owners. Jones only had two receptions for a total of 29 yards against the Broncos. The future should be a lot brighter for Julio Jones, but he may struggle to meet his lofty expectations on a weekly basis as the Falcons feature a much more balanced offense than last year.

Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller entered the 2016 season as the consensus 10th overall ranked player in fantasy football. While he has never lived up to this ranking, Miller still produced solid stats in his first four games thanks to a large number of carries each week. While the Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL, fantasy owners were still expecting a solid game from Miller thanks to his impressive workload. He severely disappointed by only gaining 20 rushing yards on eight attempts against the Vikings. Despite the horrible start, the upcoming schedule is very favorable for Lamar Miller. If the Texans continue the commitment to the running game they showed in their first four games, then Miller should be one of the more valuable running backs the rest of the fantasy football season.

Eli Manning

Eli Manning had three straight unimpressive games entering his Week 5 contest against the Green Bay Packers. Fantasy owners were still expecting big things from Manning because of the great matchup. The Packers have a great rush defense, but they showed no ability to stop the pass before their game against the New York Giants, who many believed would have one of the most potent offenses in the league this season. Manning only tallied 199 passing yards and one late touchdown against the depleted secondary of the Packers. Unlike the other two players on this list, it is hard to trust Manning in the near future. The terrible play calling of Ben McAdoo will probably limit Manning’s upside the rest of the season, so he is only a desperation play at this point in the fantasy football season.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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John Elway Rolls Dice With Quarterback

The Denver Broncos sent off Peyton Manning in a grand fashion by capping off his storied career off with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was a shell of himself in the game, throwing for 0 touchdowns and only 141 yards. However, a win's a win and Manning will go down as one of top quarterbacks

The Denver Broncos sent off Peyton Manning in a grand fashion by capping off his storied career off with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was a shell of himself in the game, throwing for 0 touchdowns and only 141 yards. However, a win’s a win and Manning will go down as one of top quarterbacks of all-time and ended his career with a storybook ending.

It’s no secret that the Broncos won with a fantastic defense, great game planning, and playing mistake free football. When Peyton retired, it opened the door for the next Broncos quarterback to help lead the team back to the Super Bowl. There were a few candidates available: Brock Osweiler, Colin Kaepernick, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, John Elway chose to sign Mark Sanchez and draft project quarterback Paxton Lynch.

The Broncos may have the biggest drop off in quarterback for a Super Bowl defending champion, since – well – the Broncos. History has a funny way of repeating itself. John Elway carried the Denver Broncos to a 14-2 record and beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII in his final season. How did they fare the next year? Brian Griese was at the helm for 6-10 record for the Broncos that year.

The Broncos clearly thought Osweiler was a good enough quarterback to play for them since they offered him a contract. The Broncos reportedly offered their former quarterback a contract worth $45 million, with about $15-16 million paid per year, and a guaranteed $30 million. The biggest offer of $72 million over four years, with $37 million guaranteed came from the Texans. Since they did offer a contract, John Elway clearly wanted to bring the young quarterback back, but had a set price and wasn’t going to go over it.

Trade talks between the Broncos and 49ers picked up this offseason for Kaepernick, but talks died down before the draft. Again, this indicates that Elway was interested in bringing quarterbacks in. Ryan Fitzpatrick also was in search for a new home this season and an already-made team like the Broncos would have been a perfect fit, but the two never were reportedly talking.

John Elway must have great confidence in his defense again since he decided to defend his title with either Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, or Paxton Lynch. Sanchez is the most experienced of the three, having bright spots with the Jets early in his career, but on Monday Coach Gary kubiak named Siemian the starter

Is John Elway trying to outsmart himself? Does he think any quarterback can just come and play with this Broncos team and they will still win? It’s a risk and storyline that will play out this entire season. Osweiler and Kaepernick aren’t All-Pro quarterbacks, but there was a reason why Elway was interested. Instead, he is rolling his dice with Siemian, and Sanchez if that doesn’t work out. It will be a very interesting year in Denver.

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Three Potential Landing Spots for Greg Hardy

As the regular season draws closer, one big name free agent is still sitting on the open market, defensive end Greg Hardy.  Despite his struggles, which include lackluster play during his one season in Dallas and his continued misbehavior on and off the field, which he has been in counseling

As the regular season draws closer, one big name free agent is still sitting on the open market, defensive end Greg Hardy.  Despite his struggles, which include lackluster play during his one season in Dallas and his continued misbehavior on and off the field, which he has been in counseling to deal with, Hardy is still a 28-year old with 40 sacks in his career (27 of which came in his last two full seasons) in a pass happy league that craves pass rushers.  

Despite that, the Cowboys let him walk, the Redskins decided not to take a flier on him after another season-ending injury to linebacker Junior Gallette and there hasn’t been much of a market for him to this point.  While things can certainly change in a hurry thanks to injuries or teams seeing that their current crop of sack artists don’t quite live up to the hype, there are three spots right now that make sense for Hardy and his potential suitor.

First up are the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Despite having a defensive-minded coach in Gus Bradley, the Jaguars only mustered 36 sacks last season (ranked 20th in the league).  It’s true that last year’s first round pick Dante Fowler is back from injury, but if he isn’t 100 percent or gets injured again, the Jags will be in need of help off the edge.  They’ve already had Hardy in for a fact finding workout, but they don’t have immediate plans to sign him.  The Jags have an offense poised to score a lot of points, but they need to be able to stop teams too.  With their sack numbers seemingly tied to the health of Fowler, Hardy makes sense here.

Next up are the Buffalo Bills, whose putrid sack total of 21 ranked them 31st in the league.  Head Coach Rex Ryan and his brother, Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, certainly wouldn’t shy away from a controversial player, especially if they thought he could help.  After all, Ik Enemkpali was signed by the Bills after he was released by the Jets following his cold-cocking of Geno Smith. The Bills are also dealing with key injuries to top draft picks Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, further weakening an already suspect defense.  Looking at the team on paper, Hardy’s potential for disrupting offensive backfields is sorely needed in Buffalo.

Finally, you have a team that is always a dark horse candidate, but really shouldn’t be with their history of taking fliers on players others thought were washed up physically or mentally; the New England Patriots.  It usually doesn’t matter who they bring into the fold, with the way the team is run, everyone on the roster ends up doing things the “Patriot Way” very successfully.  Randy Moss was seemingly done after two sub-par years in Oakland, but then came to the Patriots in 2007 and caught 98 passes for almost 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns.  Corey Dillon wore out his welcome in Cincinnati, but came to the Patriots in 2004, rushing for almost 1,700 yards and 12 touchdowns. While the Patriots 49 sacks last year were second best in the league, 12.5 of those were traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the form of Chandler Jones.  With nobody else in double digits, the Pats could find a spot for Hardy.

While it may take some time, the NFL is a league of many second chances (if you can still play) and Hardy is likely to get his.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Mariota and Winston Year Two

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be forever linked. These two met in the very first College Football Playoff Game at the Rose Bowl. They came into the game carrying the last two Heisman Trophies and the previous year's National Championship. The first half of the game was really good, but the second half was

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be forever linked. These two met in the very first College Football Playoff Game at the Rose Bowl. They came into the game carrying the last two Heisman Trophies and the previous year’s National Championship. The first half of the game was really good, but the second half was Mariota and his Oregon Ducks running up a huge score on Jameis and his Florida State Seminoles.

They met again in their first NFL game after both were selected with the first two picks in the NFL Draft; Winston #1 by the Tampa Bay Bucs and Marcus #2 by the Tennessee Titans. Different uniforms, different leagues, both getting a hefty pay check, but similar results as Mariota again lit up Winston’s team.

It looked as if the Titans were geniuses at the time, but by season’s end, it looked as if the Bucs may have gotten the better quarterback. Winston had the Bucs to 6-6 at one point, thinking they might have a shot at the playoffs. The “P” word was never uttered in Nashville though as Mariota ended up going 3-9.

However, upon further review, Marcus had some really good stats. He passed for 19 touchdowns compared to only 10 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 91.0. If he keeps that QBR over 90, he will be very successful and so will the Titans.

Winston was also very good, especially for a rookie. He threw for 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and his QBR was 84.2. Not too shabby.

So what will happen in their second year? You’ve heard of the “Sophomore Jinx” of course. There is a reason for that. Many times, that second season can be tough. Defensive coordinators have film on you now, and you now have expectations you that were not there in your rookie season.

But, these guys have dealt with a lot of pressure for several years now. College football, especially at the top of the sport, is every bit the pressure cooker the NFL is. And there was no shortage of film from college ball for the defensive coordinators to check out.

It seems evident that the second year will only get better for these two young talents.  Both Winston and Mariota seem to grasp their offenses very well, and can also read defenses. This is seen when you notice the low number of interceptions each threw. They should only get better in this area the more they play.

They also both have fantastic leadership qualities. Even as rookies, it was clear that they were the voice of their respective teams. Neither shied away from the press even after things did not always go well.  These are not easy things to do as a rookie.

The Bucs schedule includes the Arizona Cardinals, Broncos, Bears, Chiefs, and Chargers as well as the six NFC South teams.  While Tennessee has the Dolphins, Chargers, Packers, Vikings, Lions and Bears as well as the Raiders, Browns and their six games against the AFC South.

Both of those schedules have some land mines, but both could be a lot tougher. Both of these teams should go into the season with playoff aspirations. Will both make it? Probably not. Of the two, the Bucs have the best chance, but making the playoffs for any team in the highly competitive NFL is never an easy task.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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The Rise and Fall of Trent Richardson

As the 2012 NFL draft approached, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was viewed as a can’t miss prospect.  Some said he was the best running back to come out of the college ranks in 15 years, while others were comparing him favorably to Adrian Peterson - who by

As the 2012 NFL draft approached, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was viewed as a can’t miss prospect.  Some said he was the best running back to come out of the college ranks in 15 years, while others were comparing him favorably to Adrian Peterson – who by then had run for more than 6,700 yards, 67 touchdowns and was about to embark on a campaign that would see him come close to breaking the single season rushing record – and why not…. in three years carrying the rock for the Tide, Richardson had amassed more than 3,000 yards rushing and scored 35 touchdowns, helping the program win two BCS National Championships.

The first two picks of the draft were quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, III, who went to Indianapolis and Washington respectively.  After trading four draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings to move up from the fourth pick to the third, the Cleveland Browns selected Richardson with visions of building an offense around the strong running game he would provide.

Richardson’s rookie season went fairly well.  He played in 15 games, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, but a 3.6 YPC average was cause for concern.  After two subpar outings in the Browns first two games of the 2013 season, they traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick, but the new surroundings didn’t help.  In his two years in Indy, Richardson barely managed to run for three yards per carry and was released after the 2014 season.  The Oakland Raiders gave him a chance to earn a roster spot in 2015, but he could not.  The Baltimore Ravens took a flier on him this offseason, but the results were the same.

So how did a can’t miss prospect, with a stellar college resume go from first round pick to NFL draft bust lists?  Three reasons: lack of ability in a key area for a running back, off-field distractions and injuries.

Former Browns CEO Joe Banner (who did not join the team until October 2012, meaning he was not involved in the selection of Richardson) said the Browns traded him because he lacked vision.  According to Banner, the inability to see where the running lane was going to be undermined the speed and power that Richardson possessed. Understanding blocking schemes and anticipating holes were not Richardson’s only problems.

As the third overall pick in 2012, Richardson received a guaranteed $20.5 million contract and then the leeches moved in.  Richardson was spending thousands of dollars a week for box seats for family and friends.  He would also constantly get calls from those same people asking for money to bail them out of various financial issues and it clearly weighed on him.

Finally, as is the case for many NFL players, the injury bug bit.  Richardson had his knee scoped during the offseason, and even though he was in the Ravens camp, he spent the entire time on the physically unable to perform list until he was released.  Despite the issues that have derailed his career, Richardson could still play in the NFL again at some point.  It’s not inconceivable – or unfamiliar for that matter – to imagine a good team like the Patriots or Broncos taking a chance on a guy like Richardson.  Even Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh recently said the Ravens may still have interest in him. Richardson certainly isn’t giving up on himself.

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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49ers to use 2-QB System Through Pre-Season

Most NFL teams name their starting quarterback prior to pre-season action. The thought is that they can get their starter plenty of first team reps through training camp and then live game action through the first couple pre-season games. Most times the starter will then play limited minutes in the final two preseason games to

Most NFL teams name their starting quarterback prior to pre-season action. The thought is that they can get their starter plenty of first team reps through training camp and then live game action through the first couple pre-season games. Most times the starter will then play limited minutes in the final two preseason games to avoid injury.

Chip Kelly and the San Francisco 49ers have a different plan. Despite being the starting quarterback for the past few seasons, Colin Kaepernick will have to earn that role again this off-season. Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are neck and neck at this point, so much so that Kelly is splitting their reps right down the middle. Kelly plans to use a 2-QB system throughout the pre-season, in hopes of determining a starter.

The pre-season plan of attack from Chip Kelly is not a good sign for Kaepernick. He seemed to lose confidence in himself last season before being benched in favor of Gabbert. And it seems he has lost the confidence from the coaching staff as well. The 49ers acknowledged Kaepernick’s lost confidence when they stated that they were benching him “to give the QB a mental break”. It is strange for a team to put that out in the open for everyone and at the same time surprising that a guy who seemed so supremely confident in his skills could lose it so quickly.

The 49ers were 2-6 when they made the switch at quarterback last season. But what was bad news for the team, was good news for Kaepernick, as the 49ers only won 3 games the remainder of the season with Gabbert at the helm. Although, Gabbert did seem to give the 49ers a small boost as the starter. He kept them competitive in games down the stretch and had probably his best season to date, but was far from setting the world on fire. Over the course of his young career, Gabbert has 33 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, with a 55% completion percentage. Last year showed that Gabbert could be a serviceable starting NFL quarterback if needed.  But did nothing to dispel the reality that he is better suited a solid backup. He has shown consistent mediocrity since being drafted by Jacksonville in 2011 and it’s hard to imagine him as a starter on a winning team.

In the end it still seems far fetched that Gabbert ends up starting over Kaepernick; at least at the beginning of next season. Kaepernick is clearly the more naturally talented player and should get the first look as a starter, but he still has to legitimately show that he can be a consistent enough to rely upon. The 49ers showed that they were not afraid to go away from him last season and if he does not get it together, he could lose out on the job again. If it does come that, he will likely have to look for a new home next season and maybe that would be best for both parties.

It would behoove the 49ers to give Kaepernick one more shot at the starting gig to see if he can regain his confidence before giving up on him all-together. After all, this is a guy who led them to a Super Bowl and two straight conference championships.  But in the cutthroat and highly competitive NFL, you’re only as good as your last pass..

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Seahawks Somehow A Sleeper Heading In To 2016 Season ?

The Seattle Seahawks have been led by Pete Carroll for six seasons. During that time frame, Carroll led the club to five playoff berths, three division titles, two conference titles and one Super Bowl title. Seattle is just one year removed from making back-to-back Super Bowls. And yet,

The Seattle Seahawks have been led by Pete Carroll for six seasons. During that time frame, Carroll led the club to five playoff berths, three division titles, two conference titles and one Super Bowl title. Seattle is just one year removed from making back-to-back Super Bowls. And yet, it feels as though the Seahawks are slipping out of the NFL forefront.

Part of that is self-explanatory. The salary cap has been catching up with this organization for a couple of years now. With so many highly talented players reaching the end of their deals, Seattle was forced to jettison a lot of depth as well as pay stars their market worth.

It started by moving on from players like Red Bryant, Percy Harvin and Zach Miller. Then it was Golden Tate, Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and Brandon Browner.  As the years went, Max Unger and Cary Williams were out the door in a trade and a release respectively. Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Brandon Mebane, Jaye Howard and J.R. Sweezy ventured elsewhere as well. Then Marshawn Lynch retired. Suddenly, the Seattle roster, which had been the envy of the league in terms of depth, looked like a stars-and-scrubs knockoff.

With those changes, it was only natural that the team would begin to decline. Even still, last year, while they were worse than they had been, the Seahawks still put together a pretty impressive season overall. I mean, making it to the to the second round of the playoffs is a huge achievement to most organizations. But that was far from the level of expectations of the fan base or the team itself.

This brings us to the 2016 NFL season, where Seattle seems to have taken yet another step back in the public consciousness. Another offseason has resulted in even more roster turnover. Perhaps more importantly, another season has seen the advancement of the Arizona Cardinals, who are now deemed the cream of the NFC West crop to most observers. It’s not necessarily that Seattle has gotten any worse, though its offensive line will certainly be an area of concern even after the selection of 2016 first-round pick Germain Ifedi; instead it’s that Arizona has passed it over.

But the Seahawks still have a case as an NFC title contender. They are still led by Pro Bowler Russell Wilson at quarterback. They have the breakout star at running back, Thomas Rawls, to fully take over for the departed Lynch after he played so well in a relief role a season ago. They have another full year of Jimmy Graham pending as the former Pro Bowl tight end gets acclimated into the offense. They still have the Legion of Boom and most of its founding members, as well as a fearsome linebacking corps.

Suddenly, the two-time conference title winner is looking like an underrated and under appreciated foe entering this season. Even the fans were starting to question some of the moves made by the Seahawks, leading to this feeling of disappointment. It is hard to imagine that a team that has won double-digit games for four straight seasons is being disregarded, but here we are. Just don’t bury the Seahawks among their past cap casualties just yet.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Can The Cardinals Take A Step Further in 2017? What Will It Take?

The Arizona Cardinals look like a Super Bowl contender at times, but then other times look pretty pedestrian. Last year they got to the NFC Championship Game, but once they got arrived, looked wretched while getting blown out by the Carolina Panthers.

Can Carson Palmer and

The Arizona Cardinals look like a Super Bowl contender at times, but then other times look pretty pedestrian. Last year they got to the NFC Championship Game, but once they got arrived, looked wretched while getting blown out by the Carolina Panthers.

Can Carson Palmer and the Cardinals get one game better and make it to the Super Bowl in 2017?

To answer this question, let’s first look at the other teams in the Cards division, the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers would not appear to be good enough to finish ahead of the Cardinals. But the Seattle Seahawks very well could. This would put the Cards in the Wild Card round of the NFC playoffs. If that happens it means the Cardinals winning playoff games on the road. We saw how that went last year in Charlotte. So it seems almost necessary for them to win the division.

Let’s look at the Cardinals schedule, and see how realistic that is.

They start the season with a home game against the New England Patriots. This could be a break since Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games. Brady will be back for the Pats game with the Seattle Seahawks. So the Cardinals could pick up a game there.

Tampa Bay comes in for the second game. The Bucs should be improved over last year with second year quarterback Jameis Winston, but we still like the Cards in this one. The Cards also catch a break in Week Three because they go on the road to face the Buffalo Bills. If you have to play at Buffalo, playing there in September is when you want to do it because of the horrible weather conditions in November/December. The Cards have a great chance here too.

Week Four brings the Los Angeles Rams to the desert. The Cardinals should have a tough time, but they still can win at home. It seems like the first four games should leave the Cards at least a 3-1 to start, maybe even 4-0.

Then in Weeks Five through Eight, they have the San Francisco 49ers on the road, home games with the New York Jets and Seahawks and a road game with the Carolina Panthers. We know how tough that game at Carolina will be, but it still feels like a good chance they can split these four. They should beat the Niners and they ought to be able to get one of two between the Jets and Seahawks. So the Cards should being no worse than 5-3 at the halfway point seems very realistic.

Weeks Nine through Twelve have the 49ers at home, then away games with the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons and a home game with the Washington Redskins.  If the cardinals can win in all four of these games where they are likely the much better team, that will put Arizona at 9-3.

The last four games are at the Miami Dolphins, a home game with the New Orleans Saints and two away games at the Seahawks and Rams. They should be able to get a split out of these two games. That puts their predicted finals regular season record at 11-5.   The question thought is will that be enough to win the division? It will most likely end up being very close.

If the Cardinals can win the games they’re supposed to, and maybe even a few that they “shouldn’t,” they’ll be on their way to have a potential home field advantage in the early rounds of the playoff, possibly throughout.  That just may be the missing pieces in order for them to make it back to the Super Bowl.  Can they do it one more time for Larry Fitztgerald?  Let’s hope so, the all time great deserves it!

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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How Do The Weekly Monday Night Football Matchups Stack Up This Year

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Monday Night Football used to be a huge event. Back in the day, the Monday Night game was the best game of the week. But then again, back in the day there was no Thursday Night or Sunday Night games so it was easier for Monday Night to get the best match-up.

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Monday Night Football used to be a huge event. Back in the day, the Monday Night game was the best game of the week. But then again, back in the day there was no Thursday Night or Sunday Night games so it was easier for Monday Night to get the best match-up.

Some of the best games ever have been on Monday Night Football. Some memorable Monday Night games that come to mind is the 1985 Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins game, which turned out to be the only game the Bears lost all season, and the Green Bay at Oakland game when Brett Favre had one of his best games of his career days after the death of his father.  And who can ever forget the Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks game when Bo Jackson trucked Brian Bosworth on his way to the end zone. There was the Houston Oilers vs Miami Dolphins game when Earl Campbell led the Oilers to a thrilling win in the Astrodome.

Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford were must-watch TV for years. Every game seemed to be a classic. I remember as a kid, the main topic of conversation at school on Tuesday was always the Monday Night Football game.

While Monday Night Football isn’t what it once was, it’s still football, so it’s still a good thing. Let’s take a look at how each week of MNF stacks up on a interest and watchability scale.

 

Week One- Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins:

Two playoff teams from last season clash in the first game of a double-header in the season opening Monday Night Football game. Important to note this game is on at 7 pm eastern time so if you’re on the west coast and have a job may be a little tricky to catch the start. Big Ben and Kirk Cousins should be a really good quarterback battle. Hopefully the progress the Skins made last year will continue and make this a competitive contest.

Watchability – 3.5 out of 5

 

Week One – Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers: This one doesn’t sound like much based on actual skill level, but the Rams and 49ers had a big rivalry back in the day when the Rams were in L.A. With the Rams back in L.A. we will see the NorCal vs SoCal rivalry possibly re-ignite once again. Since this one doesn’t start till 10pm on the east, you fantasy football fans may have to go to sleep not knowing if they won week 1.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Two- Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears: This could be a good game if we get good quarterback play from Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler. But both of those guys are prone to stinking up the joint at times so this one could end up pretty bad too.

Watchability – 2.5
Week Three- Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: The Falcons and Saints always put on a good show and they really put one one when they play on Monday Night. This one should be a shootout between Matty Ice and Cool Brees. They are two NFC South rivals and both want to be the team to challenge the Panthers this year. The winner will have a leg up to do that.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Four- New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings: This could be fun. Teddy Bridgewater is becoming a good NFL quarterback add in stars like Adrian Peterson, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham and this thing get’s pretty interesting.

Watchability -3.5

 

Week Five- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: This is another NFC South division rivalry game. This one is a bit more one-sided than Falcons Saints though. The Bucs may hang in there for a while but they have little chance in this one. Cam Newton is always entertaining, and seeing how Jameis Winston performs following his Rookie Of The Year rookie season is an interesting sub plot.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Six- New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals:  The Cards are always fun to watch and they seem to always play well when they are on in prime time. The Jets were surprisingly good last year as well. The Larry Fitzgerald vs Brandon Marshall matchup is worth the price of admission in itself.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Seven- Houston Texans at Denver Broncos: Well, come on now, this is Brock Osweiler going back to Denver! You have to watch this one. J. J. Watt is playing and you have the Super Bowl Champs at home.  Must see tv.

Watchability – 4

 

Week Eight- Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: Halloween Night in the “Black and Blue” Division. If you like to watch two old rivals go at it in a good defensive game, then you’ll like this one. It might not be the prettiest game though.

Watchability – 2.5

 

Week Nine- Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks: Seattle is always a great atmosphere, especially in prime time. It will be loud there, we know that for sure. The Bills are getting better, but might not be ready for this quite yet. This has blowout potential.

Watchability – 2.5

Week Ten- Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants: This one should be fun. We know Eli Manning and Andy Dalton will put it up a lot. They might not always go to the right color jerseys though. It’s hard to say what might happen in this one. These two teams are capable of playing great and also stinking it up. Sometimes they do it both in the same game.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Eleven- Houston Texas at Oakland Raiders:   The Houston Texans are back on after only a three week absence. This time they face the Raiders in a game that might be half empty in the stands. If the Raiders announce they are leaving town by then, there might not be anyone.

Watchability – 1.5

 

Week Twelve- Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles: The Packers are always fun to watch. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game’s history. Eagles fans make them a tough opponent to take on at home. This game has high potential, but could also end up a very one signed affair.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Thirteen- Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets: Joe Namath guarantees the Jets will win. Just kidding. But Andrew Luck is in the house, and with that new contract he signed in the offseason he better put up some serious numbers this year.  So this should be a good one.

Watchability – 3

 

Week Fourteen- Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots-  This one could be a really good one if the Ravens are still in contention. When Baltimore is at their best they are one of the few teams that can go into Foxboro and win.  They won in Foxboro in the 2o09 playoffs, can The Ravens do it again? But it all really depends on how their season is shaping up leading in to this late week contest.

Watchability – 4

 

Week Fifteen- Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins-  Cam Newton vs Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback match-up, assuming they’re both still healthy. If both of these team are in the hunt for a division title, and they really should be, then this will be surely be a good one.

Watchability – 3.5

 

Week Sixteen- Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: It’s hard to say what we might have with this one. Both teams could be well out of the playoff race by then. If Tony Romo goes down to another injury this could be a real stinker, but there is always the chance that the Cowboys could be well in the hunt for the NFC East. Hard to call.

Watchability – 2.5

 

Week Seventeen- No Monday Night game.

On paper, there are definitely some good looking games on Monday Night Football, but not too many that make you really salivate. They don’t seem to get those great games like Ravens vs Steelers or Packers vs Bears or Pats vs Broncos that the Sunday Night matchup constantly gets now. Theres also a lot of teams that don’t ever make it to Monday Night spotlight.  Unlike the Thursday Night game where you can see every team play. But then again, are you really all that  sad the Titans, Jaguars, Dolphins, or Chargers aren’t on Monday Night?

 

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Did Denver Give The NFL The Key To Stop Cam and The Panthers?

Up until last year's Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this.

Up until last year’s Super Bowl, it appeared that nobody had an answer to Cam Newton. He was running and passing all over the best defenses in the NFL, making them look inept. Then along came The Super Bowl, and frankly, they made it look easy.  The Denver formula went something like this. Stop the run on first down, putting the Panthers in second and long. Bring everybody up on second down and stuff the run or the short pass. Then put pressure on Newton on third down, not letting him scramble out of the pocket.

 

The Broncos defense had another component as well. They went conservative on offense and played the field position game. Denver did not try to stay with the Panthers, score for score. They did not try to take chances on offense. They were quite to punt, put the Panthers back deep in their own territory, play great defense and dare Cam to drive the Panthers down the field. A taunt that ended up working out very well, they just could not do it.

 

Last year, the Panthers formula for winning was to cause turnovers and turn the ball over to Cam and the offense with a short field. Denver made sure that did not happen, even if it meant handing the ball off on third and long.

 

To pull this off, a team needs a stout defense and a good amount of patience. If your defense can’t stuff the Panthers run game, then third won’t work. If the Panthers can keep the defense guessing on whether they will run or pass, then they won’t be able to sell out on the pass rush or they will be susceptible to the screen pass, draw, or Cam taking off on a run.  But if there are teams who feel they can stop the Panthers run game on first down, then the Panthers will have to come up with something to combat this.

 

Having Kelvin Benjamin back for this season will surely be a big help. Somehow Newton managed to throw 3,837 yards and 35 TD’s without the physically gifted deep threat last year, as he was out all season with an ACL injury suffered early in the preseason; nonetheless, having him back is surely a huge benefit.  If Cam can hit him on some big passes, this might make the Denver blueprint a little bit tougher to follow. It’s tough to load the box if you can’t cover Benjamin one on one.

 

What Denver did show the rest of the league in last year’s Super Bowl is that Cam is not Superman. He is just like every other quarterback in the game. If you put pressure on him and keep him from getting outside the pocket, he will be pretty useless.

 

The defense will also have a little bit tougher time giving Cam a short field this year without one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Josh Norman, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent in the offseason. In his time with the Panthers Norman was able to shut down the opposition’s top wide receivers, leaving the safeties free to ball hunt. Now those safeties may have to help try to cover the number ones on the other side which means they can’t sit back and play center field, picking off passes and running them back into their territory.

 

All this adds up to the Panthers having a bit tougher time this season. Does this mean they are not a serious Super Bowl contender again? No. Does this mean they will not go 15-1 again this year. Yes, it almost certainly does.   

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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The One NFC Team That Could Take Down the Patriots in the Super Bowl

The Patriots almost lost to the New York Giants last week – but they didn’t. Instead, the Patriots are undefeated and look for all the world like they’re ready to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Among the AFC teams, only the Bengals look truly capable of standing in their way

The Patriots almost lost to the New York Giants last week – but they didn’t. Instead, the Patriots are undefeated and look for all the world like they’re ready to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Among the AFC teams, only the Bengals look truly capable of standing in their way – and there are matchup concerns there, as the Bengals play a similar offensive-minded brand of football but have been unable to put up the same point differentials as the Patriots have.

The Patriots seem destined to make the Super Bowl again, and if they do so, there’s reason to believe that they’ll triumph. That said, the New York Giants showed that there was a way to stay competitive with the Patriots: you just have to pick on their secondary and pit a strong pass rush and secondary against their offense. Can any playoff-bound NFC teams manage to do that? Yes: the Arizona Cardinals can.

Beating the Butler

The New England Patriots have few weaknesses, but their secondary is one of them. The New England Patriots let CB Darrelle Revis walk in the offseason, replacing him with Super Bowl star Malcolm Butler. Butler is a solid player, but he’s no superstar, and it shows: the Patriots are 22nd of 32 teams in pass defense. They’ve played only a couple of strong passing teams (the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts), so matchups haven’t been the issue. The likes of the Bills, Jaguars, Cowboys (who started their backup quarterback), Jets, Dolphins, and Redskins have been the ones pushing the Pats down the list, so this is a matter of real concern.

Enter the Cardinals, who lead the league in total offense and are fourth in the league in pass offense. The Cardinals have gotten it done against tough defenses like Seattle’s and St. Louis’, and they should be more than capable of making life miserable for the Patriots defense. Malcolm Butler would have to line up against Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals’ legendary and seemingly ageless receiver. That’s a tough matchup, and it favors the Cardinals.

Stopping the Pass

The other key to beating the Patriots is perhaps the more important of the two, and that’s defending the pass. The Patriots have scored practically at will against their opposition, but they looked more than a little thrown off when they had to deal with the New York Giants’ game plan. Pressuring Brady can lead to results if it’s paired with strong secondary play, and the Cardinals have what it takes to use that formula. They’re the third-best defense in the league (trailing only Denver, a team that seems lost on offense, and Seattle, a team that will likely miss the playoffs). They’re sixth best in pass defense. They’re likely to be the best defense in the NFC playoff picture, and that could serve them well in the postseason.

Putting it All Together

There are other teams in both conferences that can match one or the other part of this formula. Pittsburgh could use Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown to light up the Patriots’ secondary, but they can’t defend well enough to stop Brady. Denver could do wonders against the Patriots’ passing attack, but Peyton Manning is injured and the Broncos can’t seem to score. The Packers, among other NFC teams, feature strong passing games but mediocre defenses. The Panthers have a good pass rush, but Cam Newton may not be the quarterback that can pick apart the Patriots’ secondary.

Only the Arizona Cardinals have both parts of this crucial formula, and it seems clear that they’re the best matchup for the Patriots. If the Super Bowl comes down to a showdown between the Cards and Pats, it will be a matchup to remember – and one that will favor Arizona.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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4 Reasons that the Patriots and Broncos Should Worry about the Cincinnati Bengals

Entering the ninth week of the NFL season, there were no fewer than three undefeated teams in the AFC. The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals were all 7-0. And on Thursday night, the Bengals became the first of these teams to reach 8-0.

Entering the ninth week of the NFL season, there were no fewer than three undefeated teams in the AFC. The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals were all 7-0. And on Thursday night, the Bengals became the first of these teams to reach 8-0.

Lots of people are talking about the defending champion New England Patriots or the Denver Broncos team that recently beat the Packers, and with good reason. But there are also plenty of good reasons to talk about the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that the Patriots and Broncos should be pretty scared of. Here’s why.

Andy Dalton Has Become an Excellent Quarterback

The Bengals have been a competent team for a few seasons now, but their jump to elite status has been made possible in part by the superb play of Andy Dalton. While Dalton is still a cut below the Tom Bradys of the world, he’s now actively improving his team instead of holding it back. As quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, and even Russell Wilson have shown, you don’t need elite quarterback play to get to the Super Bowl – but you do need very good quarterback play. That’s what Dalton is providing now.

Dalton’s 2015 stats are really, really good. He’s throwing for per game, a top-ten mark in 2015. He’s third in yards per attempt, and fourth in ESPN’s total QBR. Did we say Dalton wasn’t quite elite yet? Heck, in 2015, maybe he is!

The Bengals are an Offensive Team, but a Balanced One

The Bengals are 8-0, but they do not have a top-five offense. They do not have a top-five passing offense, and they do not have a top-five rushing offense. They also do not have a top-five defense, or a top-five pass defense, or a top-five rush defense.

What they do have is an offensive-minded team that is remarkably well rounded. The Bengals are sixth and seventh, respectively, in passing and rushing offense. That means that they’re not overly reliant on either. They’re a bit weaker on defense, where they finish in the low twenties, but they’re pretty balanced there, too. There isn’t an obvious way to attack this Bengals team or an obvious way to defend against them. They’re just a team you have to beat honestly – and that’s very tough to do.

The Bengals Schedule Has Been Tougher Than You Think

The Bengals are undefeated, sure – but who have they played? Well, some teams that are quite a bit better than you’d think.

The Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, for instance. Those are both technically .500 teams. But the Seahawks taken three of their four losses to undefeated teams, and they have a strong defense that should have matched up well against the Bengals offense (and, frankly, did – the Bengals were just too good to let it stop them). The Steelers, meanwhile, have started both of their offensive superstars (QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le’Veon Bell) in just two games this season. The only time they lost with both stars starting was against the Bengals. Le’Veon Bell was injured again in the Bengals game, so we’ll never now how good the Steelers could have been if he’d played the whole season. But considering the Steelers are 4-4 and have only been at full strength of a few quarters, it seems safe to say that the Bengals beat a very dangerous team.

We could go on: the Raiders look like a playoff team, the Chargers’ high-powered offense makes them perhaps the best 2-6 team ever, and the Chiefs took three of their five losses against elite teams (Denver, Green Bay, and the Bengals themselves). Yes, many of the teams the Bengals beat have losing records – but were any of them truly bad? Frankly, we don’t think so.

The Bengals Have Shellacked The Opposition

Even if you think the Bengals have had a cupcake schedule, you still ought to be impressed. The Bengals haven’t just won games – they’ve won them in style. The Bengals have outscored their opponents by a total of 66 points this season. That’s the third-best point differential in the entire NFL. The Patriots best them (nobody’s point differential is higher than the Patriots’ +116), but the Broncos lag ten points behind. The Bengals are right in the thick of things with the best teams in the league, and they’ve earned their point differential even while dealing with defensive-minded teams like the Seahawks and the Bills.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Can the Raiders take down the Chargers this Sunday?

In Week 7 of the NFL season, the Oakland Raiders travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers in the latest installment of this AFC West battle. In terms of record, little separates the two squads in 2015. In terms of expectations though, there seems to be a rather large gulf building

In Week 7 of the NFL season, the Oakland Raiders travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers in the latest installment of this AFC West battle. In terms of record, little separates the two squads in 2015. In terms of expectations though, there seems to be a rather large gulf building between Oakland and San Diego.

The Chargers have been an AFC playoff contender for years now. Over the past decade, they have finished above .500 a remarkable eight times, never finishing with a record worse than 7-9. Not since the Drew Brees era in 2003 have the Chargers won fewer than seven games in a season. That run has brought with it six playoff berths, a trip to the conference title and six major award winners, the most important being LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 NFL MVP.

Over that same time span, the Raiders have finished above .500 zero times, made the playoffs zero times and won a major award zero times. Not since a Super Bowl loss way back in 2002 have the Raiders found any type of success on the field. The team is also just 1-6 in its last seven matchups against the Chargers, with the lone win coming at home in Week 5 of the 2013 season with Terrelle Pryor playing quarterback.

This dichotomy within the AFC West brought with it obvious expectations for each squad. San Diego is expected to be pretty good every year while Oakland has nothing much expected of it at all. That’s what makes the 2015 matchup so intriguing. The tides appear to be shifting in Oakland’s favor.

With two wins apiece, both squads trail first-place Denver by a considerable margin not even halfway through the 2015 season. But one team’s 2-3 record (Oakland) looks much better than the other’s 2-4 record (San Diego). Gambling win total over-unders don’t capture the entire picture of a team’s outlook preseason, but they give a pretty good representation of how the public feels about each team. Prior to the year, these two teams’ over-unders were placed at 5.5 games (Raiders) and 8.0 games (Chargers) respectively. Now it becomes clearer why two similar records mean different things.

Digging deeper, Oakland has had the better defense and has the superior point differential heading into Week 7. San Diego has yet to play a divisional game but is winless on the road and has the fourth-worst differential in the conference. The former also seems to have bright young talents on the way up while the latter is treading water (or drowning, as it were) with older players on the outs.

The folks over at Football Outsiders have a number of great stats that boil down rankings into easily digestible bits. In the quarterback matchup, one would assume San Diego has the gigantic advantage with Philip Rivers behind center. Rivers does rank highly in both DYAR and DVOA, two Football Outsiders metrics that measure value in the aggregate and value per play respectively. Rivers comes in fourth in the NFL in the aggregate and seventh on a per-play basis. But not far behind is Oakland’s Derek Carr. Don’t let his poor quarterback rating fool you. Carr ranks a very solid eighth in both DYAR and DVOA. Few would tab him as a top-10 quarterback in just his second pro season, but here we are.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders have cut the difference and actually surpassed what the Chargers offer. Neither club has been great, but Oakland has had the decided advantage on defense thus far in 2015. Outside rusher Khalil Mack actually ranks as Pro Football Focus’ number-one overall edge defender this season, helping to prop up the entire defense at large.

And of course special teams, the unit folks often forget to consider because it’s harder to quantify, shows the Raiders as the much better team. F.O.’s special-teams DVOA takes into account five aspects: kicks, kickoffs, punts, kick returns and punt returns. After crunching the numbers, the Raiders have the 8th-best special teams unit while the Chargers wallow all the way down at 29th thanks to poor groups in four out of the five categories.

Of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom for San Diego these days. Antonio Gates is still working himself back into game shape after being suspended for the first four weeks of the season. Third-year wide receiver Keenan Allen is having a stupendous season after a sophomore slump blinded people to his special first season. He is currently on pace to smash his rookie numbers across the board.

Statistics can’t tell the whole story, which is why the numbers get updated as teams play more games and we find out more information. Just because Oakland ranks out higher doesn’t mean it will surely win on the field. This Week 7 game will go a long way towards determining who actually holds the upper hand in the rivalry… at least until the Week 16 rematch later this year.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Tony Romo vs. Ben Roethlisberger: Which Quarterback’s Injury Hurts Their Team More?

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have the same huge problem: they’re missing their star quarterback for a big chunk of the season. Both teams have already felt the pain: the Cowboys lost last week’s game to the Atlanta Falcons and last night’s to the Saints, and the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have the same huge problem: they’re missing their star quarterback for a big chunk of the season. Both teams have already felt the pain: the Cowboys lost last week’s game to the Atlanta Falcons and last night’s to the Saints, and the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a heartbreaker in the Thursday night game after failing to convert two fourth downs.

The two injuries are arguably the most devastating losses in the league. But which team is hurt more by the absence of their quarterback? Let’s break it down.

Who’s the Better Quarterback?

Both Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo are excellent quarterbacks, so this is a tough one to answer. Romo led the league in passer rating last season and yards per pass attempt last season, but Roethlisberger led it in passing yards and long passes. Romo has a statistical edge in most categories over the past few years, but he also plays more games in domes and favorable conditions. Observers generally peg Roethlisberger as the better QB (they dislike Romo’s interceptions, which always seem to be thrown at the worst possible time), but we’re going to call it a wash – both are consistently excellent guys, arguably top-five QBs in most seasons.

How Bad Are the Injuries?

Both of these injuries are brutal, but one will take longer to recover from than the other will. Ben Roethlisberger, despite taking a hit that looked like a season-ender, only took damage to his MCL (his ACL was spared). He should be back in 4-6 weeks, though the Steelers aren’t being very clear about that timetable. Tony Romo’s broken clavicle requires a longer rehabbing period: he’s out until at least late November. That’s eight weeks. Thanks to the Cowboys’ bye week, Romo will only miss seven games, but that’s still at least one more than Roethsliberger will miss. Romo’s injury is a repeat of one earlier in his career, and it’s an upper-body injury. We’ll give Romo the dubious honor of winning this round.

Backing Things Up

Brandon Weeden is a solid backup for the Cowboys, but we’re going to give the Steelers the edge at the position. It’s worth remembering that Brandon Weeden was older than the average draft pick when he was nabbed by the Browns in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s not a raw talent anymore – he’s 31 years old, and this may be as good as he gets. Vick may be past his prime at 35, but at least he had one.

Both backups will have some support. A great offensive line helped Romo have a career year last year; this year, they’ll help give Weeden some time to figure things out. The Steelers have incredible offensive weapons, including RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, which will make things a bit easier on Vick.

Margin for Error

Brandon Weeden and Michael Vick are not going to lead their teams to Super Bowls. Their jobs are the same: limit the damage until the superstar comes back. We’ve already mentioned that Weeden has a longer period to weather. But does that mean that his team is more at risk?

Michael Vick is expected to start only 4-6 games for the Steelers, but those 4-6 may be more crucial than the 7 games that Weeden has to start. That’s because the Steelers have two problems that Dallas doesn’t: a tough division race, and a brutal schedule.

The Cowboys, at 2-1 at the time of this writing, lead their division. The Giants keep beating themselves, the new-look Eagles aren’t working out, and the Redskins – well, they’re the Redskins. The Steelers were 2-1 prior to their Thursday night loss, but they weren’t in first even before the Ravens beat them: the Bengals, at 3-0, had that locked up. The Bengals are much better than any of the Cowboys’ NFC East competition, and they’ll get a crack at the Steelers on November 1, a game that Roethlisberger is likely to miss.

On top of that, the Cowboys have a chance to make up ground fast once Romo is back: the Cowboys have games against the Panthers, Redskins (twice), and Jets. The Steelers have no such luck: Ben will deal with the Seahawks, Colts, Bengals, Broncos, and Ravens (again) when he gets back. At least he gets the Browns twice, too.

The Verdict

Romo may be out longer, but Roethlisberger is a bigger loss. Without Big Ben, the Steelers are likely to slide out of contention entirely. Both quarterbacks will return, but in all likelihood, only Tony Romo will play into the postseason.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Power ranking the 7 undefeated NFL teams

We’re three weeks into the NFL season, and more than two thirds of all teams have already been beaten. Only seven teams are left with an undefeated record. Which one is the best? Here is my ranking of every 3-0 team.

  1. Carolina Panthers

Are the Panthers really this

We’re three weeks into the NFL season, and more than two thirds of all teams have already been beaten. Only seven teams are left with an undefeated record. Which one is the best? Here is my ranking of every 3-0 team.

  1. Carolina Panthers

Are the Panthers really this good? Here’s a hint: their first three games were against the Jaguars, Texans, and Saints. Those teams are a combined 2-7. The Panthers aren’t going to be bad, and they should contend for their division, but they’re a definite step below the other undefeated teams.

  1. Atlanta Falcons

Don’t look now, but the NFC South isn’t so bad this year. The Falcons are one of two undefeated teams from the NFC South, and no other division in football can count more than one. The Falcons are the class of the NFC South thanks to a coaching change that has revitalized star QB Matt Ryan, who was always being held back by his poor teams. He’s on the loose now, mounting thrilling comebacks in New York and Dallas. The Falcons are the third-ranked offense in football, and their schedule is only going to get easier. Some will argue that the Falcons are more like the Panthers than they are like the rest of the teams on this list, but I’m on Atlanta’s bandwagon.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Believe the hype: the Bengals are great this year. They’re ranked second in total offense, just ahead of the aforementioned Falcons. Things were a little close for comfort against the Chargers, but San Diego has a good team. The Bengals should win the AFC North, and with Big Ben missing from the Steelers, they should do so with ease.

  1. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are 3-0 right now, but with their schedule, who wouldn’t be? They’ve only played the Saints, Bears, and 49ers. Those teams are a combined 1-8. Still, the Cardinals have impressed with the way in which they’ve finished off their victims. They put up 47 points on San Francisco, and they lead the league in interceptions. That kind of offense is going to come in handy down the road.

  1. Denver Broncos

A couple of the Broncos’ games have been a little too close for comfort, which is why they’re only third on my list. But of all the teams here, the Broncos may have the most exciting future. They’re headed into a cakewalk portion of the schedule and seem to have just cracked the code on offense, their only weak point this year, by beginning to utilize the shotgun and pistol formations more often. Watch out for this team.

  1. New England Patriots

The Patriots look incredible on offense, which was expected. Nothing I’ve seen has assuaged my fears about the weakened secondary, but who needs a secondary when you’re averaging nearly 40 points a game? The Patriots look formidable enough to defend their crown as world champs.

  1. Green Bay Packers

The Packers are at the top primarily because they have one marquee win (over the Seahawks at Lambeau) that nobody else can top. The Patriots’ win over the Steelers was impressive, but could they have pulled that off if Le’Veon Bell hadn’t been suspended? Besides, the Steelers are not as good of a team as the Seahawks are (don’t believe Seattle’s 1-2 record). The teams on this list have all proven they can beat three teams, but the Packers have proven that they can beat any team.

Follow @joemess17 on Twitter

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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3 things the Seahawks need to do to make the playoffs

Thanks to a rough start that included an upset loss to the St. Louis Rams and a defeat in the hostile environment of Lambeau Field, the Seattle Seahawks are 0-2 and don’t look at all like the Super Bowl favorites they were supposed to be. It’s not too late for the Seahawks to

Thanks to a rough start that included an upset loss to the St. Louis Rams and a defeat in the hostile environment of Lambeau Field, the Seattle Seahawks are 0-2 and don’t look at all like the Super Bowl favorites they were supposed to be. It’s not too late for the Seahawks to right the ship, but their task is a serious one. With a great Arizona team cruising at 2-0 and competitive divisions around the conference prepping potential Wild Card teams, the Seahawks stand a very real chance of missing the playoffs. They also have a great chance to reverse course and head to the postseason – as long as they do these three things.

Bring back Kam Chancellor

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor has been holding out for a better contract and hasn’t yet played a game for the Seahawks this year. By the standards of these things, you have to think that this holdout is going pretty well. With the Seahawks 0-2 and showing an uncharacteristic tendency to give up big pass plays, it’s time to start listening to Chancellor’s demands. Aaron Rodgers is good, but James Jones isn’t Jordy Nelson and shouldn’t be burning your secondary for 30-yard touchdowns in crucial situations. This is a defense-first team that relies on their secondary, and Kam Chancellor is an essential part of that.

Beat the Cardinals

The best thing you can say about the Seahawks’ first two losses is that neither was to the Arizona Cardinals. Sure, they lost a head-to-head with Green Bay that puts their odds of a conference-leading record on life support, but the Seahawks are in no position to whine about number one seeds right now. They need to win their division, and thanks to their schedule, they still technically control their destiny in that respect. Two wins against Arizona would make up for the two losses to start the season while giving the Seahawks an important tiebreaker. The two Arizona showdowns are the Seahawks ninth and 16th games. Don’t be surprised if the division comes down to the final week’s game in Arizona.

Throw the ball to Jimmy Graham

The Seahawks picked up Jimmy Graham to make a difference at tight end. So why aren’t they throwing to him? He was targeted just twice in the Seahawks’ loss to Green Bay. The biggest play by a Seattle tight end in that game came courtesy of Luke Willson. Jimmy Graham is better than Luke Willson. This should be a no-brainer.

Graham is explosive, of course, but he also needs to a threat in short yardage situations. There, he can draw defenders off of Marshawn Lynch (and vis versa). Targeting Graham benefits the entire offense. Why this isn’t already a huge part of the Seattle game plan is a mystery. Why pull of a blockbuster trade if you don’t plan to use the player you gain?

No time left

It’s going to take all three of these things – at least one big win against Arizona, improved play from Jimmy Graham, and the return of Kam Chancellor – to get the Seahawks back to the playoffs. Plenty of observers think the Seahawks can right the ship, but make no mistake: this situation is dire. Teams that start 0-2 miss the playoffs more than 95% of the time. The Seahawks are talented and should have better odds than that, but how good could their chances be? There’s no more time to lose. The Seahawks need to be better starting right now.

Follow @joemess17 on Twitter

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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3 reasons the Bills could beat the Patriots this week

The Patriots have dominated the Bills for the better part of the past 15 years, and they’ll look to add another chapter in that saga when they visit Buffalo in week two of the 2015 NFL season. This time, however, things could be different. With a new coach in Buffalo, a new starting

The Patriots have dominated the Bills for the better part of the past 15 years, and they’ll look to add another chapter in that saga when they visit Buffalo in week two of the 2015 NFL season. This time, however, things could be different. With a new coach in Buffalo, a new starting quarterback, and significant changes in the Patriots roster since they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last year, there is reason to believe that Buffalo can win on Sunday. Here’s why.

The Bills defense could be really, really good this year

Hey, have you heard about the Bills defense? Of course you have – pundits and observers are falling over themselves to mention it. But they have a very good point here: the Bills defense really could be something special this year. They were a top five squad by just about any measure last year, and they’d added defensive guru Rex Ryan as a head coach. Ryan’s defenses play great fundamental D, usually limiting offense rather than going for explosive turnovers and big plays. Ryan also loves to bring pressure, which is the best way to play Tom Brady (it’s the best way to play any pocket passer, really). If the Bills can limit the Patriots’ scoring and keep their offense off the field, they’ll give QB Tyrod Taylor a chance to win the game.

The Patriots secondary is questionable

It’s not necessarily fair to point to the Pittsburgh game when criticizing the Patriots secondary – Roethlisberger’s Steelers are expected to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, and some of those points were scored in garbage time anyway. But the Patriots secondary has been a question mark ever since they let Darelle Revis walk, and it’s fair to at least say that they didn’t assuage any of those concerns against Pittsburgh. Tyrod Taylor is no Ben Roethlisberger, but he looked pretty good last week against Indianapolis and won’t face exceptional hardship dealing with a secondary that’s led by Malcolm Butler. Butler is good, but unspectacular – most fans hadn’t heard of him until his Super Bowl-winning catch last year. The Patriots will miss Revis this year, and the Bills could make sure they do in week two.

The Patriots have issues defending the run, too

The Patriots last year were better at defending the long play than they were at defending the run. This year, to be frank, they’re not going to be stellar at either. This isn’t a bad front seven, exactly, but it’s one that got pushed around early by the Steelers (though they got a reprieve when, inexplicably, the Steelers called a trick play that soon killed off the drive). The Steelers did well early with RB DeAngelo Williams (Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first two games), and Williams is probably past his prime. Bills RB LeSean McCoy could be poised to have a field day against the Patriots. Buffalo used a ton of power-running plays against the Colts; expect to see that again when the Patriots come to town.

This would be no upset

The Bills could very well lose the Patriots, as they’ve done in all but three of their meetings since 2011. But if they do win, it will be because the Patriots lose the defensive battle. And if that happens, don’t let anybody tell you that this was an upset. These Bills are for real, and there are plenty of reasons to think they can get a rare win against their division rivals.

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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Jets’ victory over Cleveland shows Todd Bowles’ rebuilding is working

It's been five years since the New York Jets have been a relevant threat in the AFC East. Many fans wondered during the off-season if that trend would change in 2015. Well, after one game, it appears that the Jets may in fact have a legitimate shot at returning to the playoffs.

It’s been five years since the New York Jets have been a relevant threat in the AFC East. Many fans wondered during the off-season if that trend would change in 2015. Well, after one game, it appears that the Jets may in fact have a legitimate shot at returning to the playoffs.

Yes, it was just one game. Yes, it was against the lowly Cleveland Browns who have only made the playoffs once since returning to the NFL in 1999. And yes, the Jets still have a long way to go. But second-year head coach Todd Bowles looks like he’s prepared to go that distance, especially after an off-season defined by the punch heard round the world on the team’s probable starting quarterback Geno Smith.

The Jets weren’t good in 2014, and no one expected them to be. Bowles knew that he would be handed a team in need of major rebuilding, and the biggest question was exactly how long that process would take. This weekend’s 31-10 victory over the Browns was a sign that the process is working.

Journeyman backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played his usual smart and effective game in throwing two touchdown passes, while running back Chris Ivory scored two of his own on the ground.

On defense, it seemed like the Jets of old were out there running around against a Johnny Manziel-led Browns offense. New York forced five turnovers on the day, which added a little nostalgia for both teams probably.

When the Jets were challenging for AFC titles, they were wreaking havoc on defense. When the Browns struggle – which has happened a lot in recent years – it’s usually because of the inability to take care of the football.

Bowles needed this kind of start to the new campaign. While no one expects the Jets to contend for a Super Bowl trophy this season, again, progress is what matters. Cleveland was a team that New York should have beaten.

It did, and now Bowles and company prepare for a game that could spark even more progress.

The Jets will head to Indianapolis for a Monday Night Football showdown with the Colts in Week 2. Indy was a popular Super Bowl pick prior to the season, but after getting routed in Week 1 by the Buffalo Bills, the Colts showed that they aren’t invincible.

It will be a tough spot for the Jets coming off of a big win and facing an angry Colts team with something to prove. It’s the type of game where Bowles’ team can prove something of their own by carrying over the momentum from the Cleveland win.

If the Jets want to prove to the football world that they are for real, then they won’t take a step backwards Monday night.

They won’t be the favorite. However, a win isn’t necessary to show that Bowles has this team on the right trajectory.

The Jets just need to keep taking steps forward. Week 1 was the perfect start, but now it’s time to determine if this team is a contender or pretender.

Follow @joemess17 on Twitter

Joe is a co-founder of Rukkus, a web & mobile marketplace for sports tickets. As a former Division I pitcher, he has a deep love for sports and a passion for writing.

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