Posts by Matthew Brandel

Doug Martin: The Most Uncertain Running Back in Football

Tampa Bay's re-signing of Doug Martin almost appears to be a no-brainer considering that he was one of the top running backs in the league last year: The 27-year-old rushed for over 1,400 yards and six touchdowns. Granted, most would argue that his five-year and 35.75 million dollar contract was a bit

Tampa Bay’s re-signing of Doug Martin almost appears to be a no-brainer considering that he was one of the top running backs in the league last year: The 27-year-old rushed for over 1,400 yards and six touchdowns. Granted, most would argue that his five-year and 35.75 million dollar contract was a bit much, yet the Bucs had to ensure that their top running back stayed in Tampa. The signing does circulate questions, however, about truly how effective Martin will be moving forward.

For most of his career, Doug Martin was an enigma. He burst onto the scene as a rookie and rushed for over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns, which included a 251-yard game against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9. In addition, he averaged 4.6 yards a carry and had over 400 receiving yards. He appeared to be one of the most promising running backs in the NFL.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The following year resulted in disappointment for Martin. After an outstanding first year, the Tampa Bay running back rushed for a mere 456 yards and one touchdown before tearing his labrum. It wasn’t just the injury that set off alarm bells, it was the fact that Martin’s average yards per carry dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 and he gained only 66 receiving yards.

His third year in the league resulted in yet another disappointing season. After being riddled with injuries week in and week out, Martin rushed for only 494 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, the former Boise State running back averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. After such a promising rookie season and breaking four franchise records, including most touchdowns in a game (four) and most rushing yards in a single game (251), the young running back appeared to be another bright player who would be forever plagued with injuries. 

After back-to-back disappointing seasons and getting bit by the injury bug multiple times, Doug Martin’s name appeared to fade into the background for most NFL fans. The Bucs running back was looking to have a comeback year, but the NFL appeared skeptical and questioned if he could stay healthy for an entire year. The first three games of the season started off disappointing, as he averaged less than 80 yards in each game and didn’t have any rushing touchdowns, and the casual fan began to wonder if this was simply Martin’s swan song. He didn’t let that discouraged him, however, and over the next three games, the running back ran for a total of 365 yards and three touchdowns.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Martin finished the season with stellar numbers and looked a lot like his rookie self. He tallied 1,402 rushing yards and six touchdowns, including a stellar performance against Philadelphia where he ran for 235 yards. In addition, Martin broke nearly 70 tackles last season, which is 10 more than any other running back in the league according to Pro Football Focus. His receiving yards did take a plunge, which is primarily due to Charles Sims taking responsibility for that role where he finished the season with 561 yards receiving. Aside from being relieved from his receiving duties, it would appear that Martin is back to his old ways where he is destined for another solid year, but there is room for skepticism moving forward.

Although the Tampa Bay running back did have a stellar season, it is still a mystery as to whether or not he can stay healthy moving forward.  In two years he has run for over 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 4.5 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the other two years he ran for fewer than 500 yards and averaged about 3.65 yards per carry. Keep in mind that he scored nine rushing touchdowns in three seasons compared to 11 in his rookie year. There is little doubt that Martin is an extremely talented running back, however, you never know what you’re going to get from him going from season to season. 

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Matt Forte: The Most Unappreciated Running Back In The NFL

If someone were to ask the question, "Who is the best running back in the NFL?" You would hear answers such as Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Jamal Charles. One name that rarely gets mentioned is that of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. There is

If someone were to ask the question, “Who is the best running back in the NFL?” You would hear answers such as Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Jamal Charles. One name that rarely gets mentioned is that of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. There is little doubt that almost every football fan would agree that he is a good running back but he’s essentially an afterthought to most. This is truly baffling, considering Matt Forte has quietly been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL since coming into the league.

As of Week 6, Matt Forte is currently the rushing leader in the NFL. In addition, Forte ranks third among all players in yards from scrimmage this season. What is surprising is the fact that very few have taken note of Forte’s accomplishment. Don’t believe me? Take last year as an excellent example. Matt Forte became only the second player in NFL history to have one hundred catches and rush for over 1,000 yards. Forte set an NFL record for most receptions by a running back with one hundred and two catches and ranked fourth in the entire league for receptions. Despite these incredible accomplishments, Forte was not selected to the Pro Bowl. The fact that Forte didn’t at least make the Pro Bowl is truly difficult to comprehend.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

I will admit that there have been running backs that have had better seasons that Matt Forte, but Forte’s recognition as a prominent running back in the NFL has been nonexistent. Forte has been one of the most consistent backs in the NFL. Through seven seasons Forte has averaged a respectable 4.1 yards per carry along with running for over 1,000 yards in five of those seasons. Furthermore, Forte has also had over four hundred yards receiving in all but one year since coming into the NFL. Considering that he is currently the rushing leader this season, it is easy to say Forte is on his way to his fourth consecutive season rushing for at least 1,000 yards.

Since entering into the league in 2008. Matt Forte has been one of the best running backs the Chicago Bears have had and one of the top running backs in the game. Forte currently ranks second all-time in Bears history for rushing yards behind the great Walter Payton and ranks sixth in rushing yards among all active running backs in the NFL with 8,211 yards. Forte also ranks sixth all-time in Bears history for receiving yards as well.

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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The one serious issue with Matt Forte are his rushing touchdowns, or lack thereof. Last year Forte ranked 17th in rushing touchdowns in 2014 and ranks 19th this season with just two. It is difficult to blame Forte for this, however, because the Bears as a team ranked 26th in rushing touchdowns last year and currently rank 15th this year. The Bears have been notorious over the years for fielding below average offensive lines. This has been a consistent struggle for the Bears over the years and as a result it has hindered Forte’s effectiveness in the redzone. 

Throughout his career, Matt Forte has worked hard in silence. For a man who is very soft-spoken in interviews, he lets his play do the talking. Although Forte has had a stellar career thus far as a running back in the NFL, his accomplishments often go without recognition. Forte has some of the best footwork in the NFL and it shows when he gets the ball. He poses as the double threat, a man who can not only run the ball effectively but also be one of the top receiving running backs in the game. He may not be the flashiest Running Back but it goes without saying that Matt Forte is a top tier Running Back who deserves recognition.  

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The Chicago Bears And Jay Cutler: A Love/Hate Relationship

Punk. Cry-baby. Spoiled brat. Lifeless. These are just a few adjectives that have been levelled upon Jay Cutler. Ever since landing in Chicago, Jay Cutler has been the main source of controversy for the Bears. It has been said by many critics that he has all the talent in the world, but

Punk. Cry-baby. Spoiled brat. Lifeless. These are just a few adjectives that have been levelled upon Jay Cutler. Ever since landing in Chicago, Jay Cutler has been the main source of controversy for the Bears. It has been said by many critics that he has all the talent in the world, but he’s not living up to his potential. Furthermore, Cutler’s attitude and persona have had critics disliking him even more. Chicago is a sports town and I completely understand its hunger to win another Super Bowl, but at the same time, Chicago can be one of the harshest cities on an athlete.            

Jay Cutler has played for the Chicago Bears since 2009. Since becoming their starting quarterback, he’s had plenty of ups and downs. His first year was a disaster. Cutler threw 26 interceptions and the Bears went 7-9. 2010 was a completely different story, however; with the help of their notorious defense, the Bears made it to the NFC Championship game. Cutler had a respectable season, throwing for 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, but he was sacked a league-high 52 times, including 9 times in the first half against the New York Giants. He sustained a concussion in that game, causing him to miss his only game of the season. In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, Cutler’s toughness was called into question after he sat out the second half with a knee injury. The Bears eventually lost to the Packers after a modest effort from Caleb Hanie, and the criticism for Cutler started. Analysts, former players, current players, and fans questioned Cutler’s toughness and why he couldn’t finish the second half against the Packers. The eventual prognosis was that Cutler had sustained a Grade II Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain in his knee. The following year, Matt Forte had almost the same injury, missed four games, and yet no one said anything.         

In 2011, Cutler was set for another successful season before he broke his thumb in week 11 against the San Diego Chargers. Cutler was injured trying to make a tackle after wide receiver Johnny Knox slipped and his pass was intercepted. Before Cutler got injured, the Bears were 7-3 and looked to be on their way to the playoffs again. Instead, the Bears lost five in a row, finished 8-8, and missed the playoffs with Hanie and Josh McCown at the Quarterback position.           

In 2012, the Bears missed the playoffs yet again despite having a respectable 10-6 record. Cutler had a sub-par season, finishing with 3,000 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Cutler’s lowest point came against the Packers, when he threw an abysmal four interceptions and got sacked seven times. The Packers game was also where Cutler infamously yelled at and shoved left tackle J’Marcus Webb after getting sacked multiple times from that side. After that incident, Cutler was again scrutinized for his lack of leadership and poor attitude. Once the 2012 season had finished, the Bears cleaned house and fired head coach Lovie Smith along with the majority of his staff. Marc Trestman assumed the helm as head coach.            

    In 2013, Cutler had improved his game, posting a career-high passer rating. But his interception total was still high (12 interceptions through 11 games), and he missed five games due to a groin injury. Josh McCown then had the best five games of his career. Despite McCown’s best efforts, the Bears still finished 8-8 after a heartbreaking loss to the Packers in the final game of the season, and missed the playoffs. Under Trestman, the offense improved significantly, however, the defense had taken a massive blow. The Monsters of the Midway had nearly disappeared and the Bears’ defense ranked in the bottom 3 in total yards, rushing yards, and points allowed.            

Almost every Bears fan knows how bad the 2014 season was. Without going too much into detail because the wounds still run deep, last season was a complete disaster. The New England Patriots came to town and absolutely dismantled every aspect of the Bears. The Patriots ended up scoring 51 points. Then two weeks later, coming off a bye week, the Bears showed no signs of improvement. Watching the Bears play the Packers was a comedy show. Forty-two points were given up in the first half. I wasn’t sure if I was in my right state of mind or if I was in my worst nightmare. The Bears lost 55-14. 

Jay Cutler was the man who took most of the criticism. He led the league (along with Philip Rivers) in interceptions but had the highest completion percentage of his career (66%) and a career high in touchdowns (28). What most individuals have said is that Cutler’s completion percentage is so high because he has been completing passes during garbage time. I can agree with that to some extent, however, allow me to give you some different perspective. 

Jay Cutler threw the ball 561 times last year and, leading up to the week he got benched for Jimmy Clauson, he had thrown the ball 332 times when the team had been trailing. Furthermore, 213 of those passes were when the Bears were down by more than nine points (Prisco, 2014). That stat is absolutely baffling. This is mainly due to the fact that the Bears defense last year was a revolving door and gave up points at will (ranked last in points allowed). Did Cutler have a stellar season? No and I am not suggesting that, but it’s hard to go after an offensive player when his defense is giving up 50 points in consecutive games.

    Am I saying that Jay Cutler is an elite quarterback? No. Should he have gotten that unreal contract? No. Jay Cutler is the definition of a decent quarterback. Since starting under center for the Bears, Cutler has a 44-38 record. Without him? 4-10. Interceptions have always been a factor with Cutler, there is no question. Since joining the team in 2009, he ranks third in interceptions behind Eli Manning and Drew Brees. With that being said, he has still been the best option the Bears have had in years. Cutler holds 14 franchise records for the Chicago Bears which include most 4th-quarter comeback wins, highest career quarterback rating, and most career passing yards, but also most times sacked in a career. The Chicago Bears have not had a proud history of quarterbacks, so having Cutler at the helm is not nearly as bad as what the Bears have had in the past (i.e Craig Krenzel, Caleb Hanie, Rex Grossman).

    Also, give the guy a break when it comes to facial expressions and having an “attitude.” First off, Cutler can’t win with the media. When he doesn’t show any emotion, he’s lifeless. When he yells at a lineman who keeps getting him hit, he’s a whiner. There’s no winning here. In the past there has been skepticism about his toughness, yet Cutler has been sacked 256 times since coming into the league, 11th among active Quarterbacks. The sad part is that half of the players ahead of him have been in the league since early 2000’s. Cutler takes a beating every time he steps onto the field.

    At this point in time, there is no better option than Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears. Cutler will have bad games and he will have good games. Cutler will make a plays that will make you jump out of your seat, then plays that will have you scratching your head. With all of that being said, Cutler is not as bad as people are perceiving him to be. It is understandable that when a team loses eleven games people want to point fingers, but it was a team that lost eleven games, not just Jay Cutler. Have a little faith in Jay Cutler Bears fans, he’s not all that bad. 

                     

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Five Tips To Have A Successful Fantasy Football Draft

Fantasy Football fans rejoice, it is that time of year again! Preseason football is in full swing, and Fantasy Football drafts are underway. While preparing for your draft, it is critical to have as much information as possible and to come prepared. With that said, if you are looking to take the championship in your

Fantasy Football fans rejoice, it is that time of year again! Preseason football is in full swing, and Fantasy Football drafts are underway. While preparing for your draft, it is critical to have as much information as possible and to come prepared. With that said, if you are looking to take the championship in your respective league this year, there are a few things that you might want to think about before your draft and during your draft. 

I have been playing Fantasy Football for almost 10 years now, and there are key lessons I have learned from the past that have helped me succeed in the future. Whether you are a novice or have been playing for as long as I have, these are a few reminders so you can reach your utmost potential during the Fantasy Football season. Here are my five tips to having a successful Fantasy Football season this upcoming year.

1. Strongly Consider Drafting Consistent Players

This is a pet peeve for me because oftentimes a player will come up and have numbers that are great, then as you look closer, you’ll realize they got those numbers inconsistently. I like to call these players the “feast or famine” players because one week they will give you 15 points, then the next week they only get you three points. This can be detrimental to your team on a weekly basis because you never know which week the player will perform. Drafting a player who consistently gets a solid amount of points week in and week out will make life much easier for you.

2. Have A List Of Sleeper Picks

This might seem like common sense to the veteran Fantasy Football players, but this advice is more aimed towards to newer players. The great aspect about the sleeper pick is you can usually pick them in the late rounds and if they turn out to be a great pick up, you look like a genius. Last year, Kelvin Benjamin and Martellus Bennett were both my sleeper picks, and this year I am going with Arizona Cardinals’ John Brown and Chicago Bears’ Eddie Royal as my sleeper picks. Have your sleeper picks ready, and don’t be afraid to draft them in the later rounds.

3. Draft A Productive Tight End Because They Are Game Changers

I know what you’re thinking, ”why wouldn’t I draft a productive tight end?” The answer is simple, because productive tight ends are very rare to come by. There’s Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olson and a few other good fantasy players, but the rest don’t come close to the numbers these guys will produce. Considering that tight ends are few and far between, it is wise to consider drafting a tight end earlier rather than later.

4. Pick A Handcuff Player In The Later Rounds

Every single year, there is that one player that steps up and delivers when the guy ahead of them misses games. Last year, Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett was that guy. Ray Rice didn’t play a down last year due to his unforgivable offseason actions last year, and Forsett came up big. Every year a player goes down with an injury (or a scandal) and the next guy has to step up. If there’s a player who has a history of injuries, it might be wise to consider drafting the guy behind them just in case.

5. Be Prepared

This is arguably the simplest piece of advice, but is also the most critical. You don’t want to be that person who is on cloud nine because he drafted Jordy Nelson in the late rounds, but then realize later that he’s out for the season with a torn ACL. (I’m sure that won’t be you…right?) It goes without saying that knowing who is injured or suspended is important, and having a game plan is key to success. Furthermore, I personally like to have a tab open on my computer to check on any player who I might consider drafting so I know if they just recently got injured or demoted at their position.
    
Fantasy Football is an art form. Knowing who to draft and when to draft them is key, but no one knows what the upcoming season will hold. Staying on top of players and doing some homework on the players you would like to draft will be essential during your draft. Following these simple tips will help you become a force to be reckoned with in your respective league. Just remember these five tips and you will have a successful draft. Best of luck!

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Will It Be A Comeback Year For Vernon Davis?

Let's flash back to Sept. 7th, 2014. It’s Week 1 of the NFL season, and the San Francisco 49ers have just defeated the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 28-17. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has finished the game with a respectable four receptions for 44 yards. Of the receptions, two of the

Let’s flash back to Sept. 7th, 2014. It’s Week 1 of the NFL season, and the San Francisco 49ers have just defeated the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 28-17. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has finished the game with a respectable four receptions for 44 yards. Of the receptions, two of the catches went for touchdowns. 

But after Week 1, the rest of the season for Davis was a complete disappointment. Davis would not see the end zone, nor have a game with over 40 yards receiving for the remainder of the season.

Standing at 6’3″, weighing 250 pounds and running a 4.38 forty-yard dash at the NFL combine, Vernon Davis is one of the most talented tight ends in the league. From his rookie year in 2006 through 2013, Davis had a very respectable career, with averages of 50 catches, 650 yards and nearly seven touchdowns per year. Despite the solid and consistent career numbers, Davis took a massive plunge last year.

In 2014, Davis had career lows in almost every receiving category, compiling a dreadful 26 receptions for 245 yards and only two touchdowns. Davis went from being top-10 in yards and second in touchdowns among tight ends in 2013 to ranking 36th in yards and tied for 30th in touchdowns in 2014. This all leads to the burning question: what happened last year with Vernon Davis?             

Simply put, the 2014 NFL season was full of distractions for Vernon Davis. Davis, unhappy with his contract last year, held himself out of off-season workouts hoping to have his contract restructured before the season started. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis reported that he was “inspired by an advisor” to restructure his contract, and stated that he was doing “something just so [he] could get paid.” 

However, Davis’ holdout did not last for an extended period of time, and in the end his contract was not restructured. To add to the contract dispute, Davis also promoted his relationship with Fantex Inc., which advertises itself as some kind of “athlete stock exchange.” Both the contract dispute, and promoting his affiliation with Fantex, led people to wonder if Davis truly had a commitment to the team, or if he was just in it for the money.

In addition to the questioning of his commitment to the team, Davis dealt with multiple injuries last year and even missed two games due to those injuries. Although Davis did state that his injuries were not the main source for his low receiving numbers, Davis did acknowledge that he had played injured for most of the year, with nagging injuries to his back and ankle.

But all this leads to the next big question: will Vernon Davis have a bounce back year for the 49ers?            

The answer is yes. It is hard to imagine that Vernon Davis will have another poor year for the 49ers considering that his career numbers suggest otherwise. Davis eliminated most of his distractions from a year ago, and since last year, Davis reportedly fired his adviser who told him to go after the money and has since gone back to what matters to him most, football. Vernon Davis reported to every 49ers offseason workout this year, and in his interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis stated that money no longer represents who he is as a person or player. “I don’t do anything for money. I don’t let money represent me. That’s just not me,” he said.

Money might not be his main motivator, but Davis is in the last year of his contract which means he has to prove that being 31 years old isn’t going to slow him down, and he seems poised to do just that. Thus far, coaches and teammates have given Davis praise and adulation for his focus, and seem excited to have him back to his old form. 

Although the regular has not started, it seems obvious that Vernon Davis is less determined about making money, and more determined to actually make plays this year for the 49ers. If you think that Vernon Davis is going to have another lackluster season, you just might be disappointed.

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DeMarco Murray: Fantasy Football’s Riskiest Pick

The month is August. The NFL is getting prepared for training camp and preseason football. Meanwhile, Fantasy Football lovers around the country are doing extensive research to gain an edge and take home their league’s respective trophy. If you are an avid Fantasy Football competitor like myself, then I have no doubt you are looking for

The month is August. The NFL is getting prepared for training camp and preseason football. Meanwhile, Fantasy Football lovers around the country are doing extensive research to gain an edge and take home their league’s respective trophy. If you are an avid Fantasy Football competitor like myself, then I have no doubt you are looking for the sleepers this upcoming season and also looking to avoid the busts. 

This upcoming Fantasy Football season provides only a select group of running backs that can carry your team well into the playoffs and choosing wisely in the first round is absolutely critical. If you are like me, you always get blessed with the bottom half of first round picks and have a difficult pick in the first round. Do I go with an Aaron Rodgers like Quarterback who will provide solid points every week? Or do I choose an above average running back such as Matt Forte? 

If you decide to choose running back in this scenario, the most intriguing name that will most likely be on the board is DeMarco Murray. With 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season, you would be salivating over how you stole one of the best players in the draft and this is where you should look further into what Murray truly has to offer. 

Although there is no doubt that Murray had an incredible season last year, the two previous seasons he played for the Cowboys looked a little less promising. In 2013, Murray rushed for 1,121 yards and 9 touchdowns over fourteen games. Granted. Murray had a decent season. However, he did sprain his MCL that season, which made him miss two games (week 7 and 8) and played on a limited basis the week he came back (week 9). In 2012, Murray rushed for 663 yards and 4 touchdowns while only playing ten games due to a sprained foot. This concludes that although Murray had a productive season last year, it was also his only healthy season within the past three seasons. 

Still not convinced? Besides the fact that the Cowboys offensive line is considered the best by many, Murray also moved to the Philadelphia Eagles this off-season where he will be their new starting running back. This should also wave a red flag to you as well. Comparing Murray’s season last year with the Eagles leading rusher LeSean McCoy tells the entire story. 

Murray clearly had the better season than McCoy but that’s not what sets off the alarm bells. What sets off the bells is the fact that McCoy had eighty less carries than Murray (312 compared to 392) last year and eight less touchdowns (5 compared to 13). Furthermore, McCoy also had almost thirty less receptions than Murray as well. The reason why McCoy had less touches than Murray is mostly because of the Eagles running back corps, which includes Darren Sproles and recently signed Ryan Matthews. 

While Murray was in Dallas, he never truly had a complimentary running back alongside him, unlike McCoy. Even when McCoy had his tremendous season in 2013 where he rushed for over 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns, he still only had 314 carries which is still significantly less than what Murray received last year.              

Fantasy Football is a game of consistency. The first two picks you make are the players that determine most of your success throughout the season. Take week 14 of last year. for instance, when Peyton Manning put up an abysmal 2.7 points and broke the hearts of many on their road to their championship last year. Or what about LeSean McCoy putting up 3 points thatsame week? Getting points like that from your starters during the playoffs could ruin your entire season. 

DeMarco Murray had an excellent season last year. However, a new season is upon us and it appears that Murray owners could be in for a disappointing season given his past injuries. In addition, the new team that he is playing for will be providing him with less playing time. Choosing Murray with your first round pick is without a doubt a large risk. My best advice is when you have the choice to pick DeMarco Murray or a guy like Matt Forte, choose the latter. 

References:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/MurrDe00.htm

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/McCoLe01.htm

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2015/01/08/2014-pff-offensive-line-rankings/4/

http://espn.go.com/fantasy/football/story/_/id/12866396/top-300-rankings-2015

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