Tag Archives: Ben Roethlisberger

One Team, One Jersey: Los Angeles Chargers

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The 2004 quarterback class was one for the ages as franchise stalwarts Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all went in the first round. (Poor J.P. Losman was also taken in the first round by the Bills.)

All three have aged well and Rivers has been no different. Over his 14-year NFL career, Rivers, along with Eli and Ben, has thrown for over 50,000 yards and 300 touchdowns, putting all three in the top ten of each category. All three have the chance to be Hall of Famers but there’s a notable difference between them: Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have each won two Super Bowls. Philip Rivers hasn’t been to one.

That monkey has been on Rivers’ back for a long time and will be for the rest of his life. That’s what happens when you’re drafted alongside talented stars that also play your position. You will always be compared to them, no matter how unfair it is that you are judged by someone else’s merits rather than your own.

Roethlisberger is a probable HOFer for moments like the final drive in Super Bowl 43 or the back-to-back games he threw six touchdown passes or the multiple playoff wins he has. Eli is a possible HOFer for moments like the Tyree helmet catch that dethroned the undefeated Patriots. Rivers is unlikely to get into Canton because he doesn’t have that moment.

That’s not to say the guy isn’t a good player. He’s breached 4,000 yards nine times in his career and owns nearly every Charger passing record.

But it’s also difficult to overlook the 2006 season, when the then San Diego Chargers went 14-2 with Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield and couldn’t win even one playoff game with home-field advantage. Also, Tomlinson won MVP and Offensive Player of the Year during that run, just as a friendly reminder.

It’s hard to overlook the Chargers falling short in the AFC Championship the following year to New England, although I do give Rivers a ton of credit (Rivers played the game with a torn ACL).

In the 2008 season, Rivers led the Bolts to their third consecutive AFC West title before dropping yet another contest in the divisional round, this time to the Steelers.

In 2009, after a 13-3 campaign, Rivers and San Diego left defeated in their first playoff game again, this time to the Mark Sanchez-led Jets.

Rivers has spent six of the last seven years on the couch come playoff time and don’t worry, the one game he did get to, he lost.

Look, I have nothing against Rivers. He’s a talented quarterback and still one of the better ones in the NFL. The Chargers haven’t made it to the playoffs solely because of Rivers. There are plenty of other factors at play.

The fact remains: 4-5 in the playoffs. Zero AFC Championship wins.

That just doesn’t scream Hall of Fame.

Is there a chance he gets in? Sure. He’s still been one of the most prolific passers of his generation, but he’s not Ben, Brady, Brees, Peyton, Rodgers or even Eli. He’s just not a good bet.

He’s still fun to watch. He’s still a gunslinger. He’s still elite. He’s just not tier one, top-of-the-game elite.

Neither is his number one receiver, Keenan Allen. After a strong rookie season (Fun fact: At the time, only five receivers in NFL history had more receiving yards their rookie year than Allen’s 1,046), Allen suffered a broken collarbone, lacerated kidney and torn ACL in back-to-back-to-back years. He performed great this past campaign, winning Comeback Player of the Year. He’s a constant target for Rivers who will pad his stat sheet with receptions (one of five players with over 100 catches last year), run a full route tree (His 13.7 ypc was in the upper third for receivers) and has the vision to make plays in the open field (His 458 yards after catch ranked him fifth among wideouts).

Remove this past year and the game to game consistency that you look for number one receivers to produce isn’t there. He’s a capable route runner but ran a 4.7 at the combine. He was recovering from a knee sprain that year and admitted he wasn’t 100% for Indy, but ran a 4.56 dash his senior year of high school, which isn’t out of this world speed for a receiver. While he’s 6’2″ and can make vertical plays, he doesn’t play an aggressive style like Demaryius or, more appropriately, like DeAndre Hopkins does. He prefers to out-finesse defenders than out-muscle them. He’s got the cut ability to do that.

He is athletic enough to torture defenses who don’t have either agile corners or experienced defenders (12 recs vs BUF, 11 vs DAL, 10 vs CLE). When he has to play top-end corners, such as Aqib Talib in division-foe Denver, he struggles to take over games the way we are used to seeing top end flights do. In two games against Denver this season, Allen compiled 5 catches for 35 yards and 3 for 41.

There are a lot of other factors at play. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or funding needed to go over additional game tape and count his matchups against man versus zone and do even more stat-crunching than I’ve already done. You also have to consider the team’s game plan that week and the in-game situation at that moment.

Overall, Allen is a great receiver in fantasy football. He’s a reliable option for an experienced and still physically-gifted quarterback and is in a scheme that allows him a high volume of targets. For that reason alone, he can be counted on for five receptions a game and a solid yards after catch bonus on a week-to-week basis. As a receiver, Allen is an above average talent that has never seen his potential fully nurtured due to injury and it’s prevented him from joining the ranks of AB, Julio, Green and Odell.

Melvin Gordon, the stud from Wisconsin, still has the breakout speed that commands respect. Even now, defenses are still trying to force him to the inside and still he is able to make it work. You saw it in college, you saw it in 2016 and you saw it this past schedule. He hasn’t peaked yet though and I want to see what the next stage of his progression looks like before I buy in, which leaves me to discuss the player I just can’t pass up.

Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and when you consider he never played a down of college football, well, that just speaks to the amount of athleticism this guy has. Imagine being so physically gifted that you could pick up something at the last possible second and be better than people who had been doing that thing for their whole lives. Everyone around you has spent countless hours perfecting their craft and you’ve made them look like boys among a behemoth who just learned the rules of the game. That’s frightening.

When you say the phrase “red zone threat,” I think Antonio Gates. Dude is too big and too strong. You could make the argument he was the one that started bringing basketball stars to the game of football.

He’s one of only ten players in NFL history to amass 100 touchdown catches and he’s currently 30th in receiving yards.

Melvin Ingram is a solid edge rusher. Joey Bosa is a technically-refined player that has some more hurdles to go through. Jason Verrett is a capable corner.

Antonio Gates? He’s a freak and worth my jersey spot for the Chargers.

My pick: Antonio Gates. My jersey: Home Blue.

 

Image result for antonio gates home jersey free use

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One Team, One Jersey: Pittsburgh Steelers

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for their stellar defense and in the middle of those defenses were exceptional linebackers: Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Greg Lloyd, James Farrior, Joey Porter. In recent years, the Steelers have spent a couple first round draft choices trying to find their next star in the middle. Ryan Shazier looked to be one of them before suffering a scary injury. If Shazier is ever brave enough to step on a football field, there’s no guarantee he’ll ever be the same. He was one of the fastest linebackers I’d seen in quite a while and showed enough promise that he deserved a nod on this list.

Bud Dupree has yet to do anything spectacular for me, although he did kill a guy in a playoff game. Rest in peace, Matt Moore.

T.J. Watt, brother of infamous J.J. Watt, had a promising rookie season, though I’d like to see more before taking his jersey under serious consideration.

As good as T.J. was this year, he was not the rookie that impressed me the most. USC product JuJu Smith-Schuster has big play ability and is an absolute blast of entertainment. He’s had quite a few enjoyable touchdown celebrations and has become a town favorite, interacting with fans in the heart of the city and creating his own YouTube platform. His Twitter is hilarious (if you don’t follow him, strongly recommend) and as the youngest player in the NFL, he reminds us how fun football is supposed to be. He’s still a kid but carries himself well, something I hold a lot of respect for. I’ve never purchased a rookie jersey. I often wait to see how an athlete’s career progresses before I fully get behind them but JuJu has a lot of character. It’s easy to want to root for someone like that.

There is one other linebacker we haven’t discussed yet. While his tenure with the Steelers is likely over, James Harrison was on the Steelers roster in 2017. Harrison has become one of the greatest undrafted athletes to ever play professional football. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, the first undrafted player to ever win DPOY. That season he registered 101 tackles and a franchise-record 16 sacks, though his most memorable play of the year didn’t come until the postseason. He built a reputation for an incredible motor, his workout regimen and disciplinary issues. During his career, Harrison accrued hundreds of thousands in fines for helmet to helmet shots and late hits. Despite it, Harrison was a Pittsburgh favorite because like the Grim Reaper or the Terminator, Harrison was a bad man on the turf, one that could be truly terrorizing. People loved him for it. In addition to five Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl rings, Harrison also owns the franchise sack record. He’s been on the decline these last few years but his legacy is one worth remembering. Sometimes you buy a jersey for what that player is then. Sometimes you buy a jersey for what that player was and James Harrison was one of the best edge rushers in the NFL for a time.

Of all the players on the Pittsburgh defense the last few seasons, one player has more value than any other. Cam Heyward, since entering the league out of Ohio State, has been a regular figurehead for the black and gold. In four full seasons as a starter, Heyward has recorded 31.5 sacks, including 12 this past season, earning him his first Pro Bowl nod.

The Steelers also have the killer B’s to consider: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Bell is a literal bell cow for Pittsburgh. He’s a playmaker in the backfield and his patient style of running paired with superior field vision leads to quite the highlight reel. At times, he looks like the best back in the NFL. He might be.

He has a unique style that analysts can’t help but gush over and his versatility is one of his greatest assets.

He also has off the field issues, such as drug suspensions and talking about getting a new max contract or retiring hours before a playoff game, to pair with a history of season-ending knee injuries. He values himself at 15 million a year, more than twice what the current highest-paid running back makes (LeSean McCoy had the highest cap hit among tailbacks in 2018 at 8.9. DeMarco Murray had the highest base salary at 6.25) and yet he reportedly turned down a two-year, $30 million contract extension last year. He also turned down a three-year, $43 million offer. Given his injuries and disciplinary history, 13-15 million a year is a boatfull for Bell, but Bell thinks he’s worth quarterback money, an offer no team in the NFL will pay him. That isn’t what the market is for running backs. Devonta Freeman’s new contract came with a base salary of 8.25. Between Bell’s irrational contract demands and a propensity for poor decision making off the field, I have a hard time picking that jersey. As talented as he is, I will be thrilled when he’s out of Pittsburgh.

Antonio Brown, a sixth-round selection out of Central Michigan, is a straight-up superstar. He’s one of the fastest receivers I’ve ever seen and has the field vision of a returner. Asking any corner to execute man coverage against him is simply unfair. The best in the game struggle with Antonio. Sometimes double coverage even looks insufficient. He’s the best route runner in the league, makes crisp cuts and has the elusiveness of a Barry Sanders. He’s had more than 100 receptions in each of the last five years and a minimum 1,284 yards in all five as well. In 2015, Brown caught 136 passes, the second most receptions in a single season behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002. He’s currently the highest-paid receiver in the NFL and he should be. He’s on pace to surpass Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Hines Ward as the best receiver in Steelers history and routinely accomplishes athletic feats that leave you questioning if you should be in awe or shock. For much of 2017, Brown was in the running for MVP.

Finally, Big Ben Roethlisberger has made a career in the black and gold and will likely get a chance to pair that with a trip to Canton. Over the years, gridiron fans have gotten to see a player evolve. Early in his career, Ben took a lot of punishment but also had the ability to shuck some of those sacks and extend plays. Following that turn came the age of a vertical offense with Bruce Arians, exploiting the advantage that is Ben’s deep ball. Over these last few years, we’ve gotten to see Ben settle into a pocket passer role. Watching him evolve and progress through each stage of his career has been something.

He’s likely better than Terry Bradshaw, making him the greatest center man in the franchise’s history.

He’s had some moments that will live on in football lore, like this and this.

However, Roethlisberger was accused multiple times of sexual assault early in his career, something I can’t ignore.

James Harrison would be a great pick. He personifies the grit and toughness of Steelers football. I really am a big fan of JuJu these days. What a kid.

That said, the choice is easy.

Antonio Brown is one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever witnessed and has always been a privilege to behold. Teammates constantly describe him as the hardest worker on the team. He’s a true competitor first. When he does stuff like this, it’s hard not to get hyped. At his current pace, it’s likely we’re watching a Hall of Fame player. He’s got charisma, flair and a great sense of humor. He loves the camera and can’t help but be theatrical in front of it. He plays the game like a kid. He’s having fun and it’s impossible for me not to want to sign up for that.

My pick: Antonio Brown. My jersey: Home Black.

Image result for pittsburgh steelers brown jersey free use

 

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2017-2018 NFL Preview: AFC North

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

GET: CB Joe Haden, WR Justin Hunter, CB Coty Sensabaugh, DE Tyson Alualu, TE Vance McDonald

LOSE: TE Ladarius Green, WR Markus Wheaton, RB DeAngelo Williams WR Sammie Coates, CB Justin Gilbert, QB Zach Mettenberger, TE David Johnson, CB Senquez Golson

RE-SIGNS: WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, OT Alejandro Villanueva, LB James Harrison, LB Vince Williams, QB Landry Jones

DRAFT: 1st round: OLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin     2nd round: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC     3rd round: CB Cam Sutton, Tennessee     RB James Conner, Pittsburgh     4th round: QB Josh Dobbs, Tennessee     5th round: CB Brian Allen, Utah     6th round: LS Colin Holba, Louisville     7th round: DE Keion Adams, Western Michigan

SUMMARY: An offense as dominant as the Pittsburgh Steelers is hard to stop and with nearly all of those pieces coming back in 2017, it’s hard to see that dominance waning. Pittsburgh was seventh in total yardage (5th pass, 14th rush) but could still use improvement in a vital category: points per game. Last year, they were tied for tenth with Buffalo (yes, that Buffalo) with 24.9 ppg.

Why is that? A very good question. In eight home games last year, the Steelers scored 226 points, an average of 28.3 per home game. Across a whole season, that would rank them third in the league in points per game, ahead of New England, Green Bay and Dallas. On the road, that total dropped to 173, a 21.6 average. If they played like that over the course of 2016, that would have ranked them 20th in ppg, tied with Detroit and narrowly ahead of Baltimore, a team with much less firepower. As any football expert can tell you, Roethlisberger has struggled on the road these last few years, which bodes poorly for the Steelers when they face weaker competition on the road this year, such as Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis. However, it also bodes well for them at home, when they face playoff-caliber teams like Minnesota, Tennessee and Green Bay. If the Steelers defense plays as well as they did last year (20.4 ppg, 10th-best; 38 sacks, ninth) and continue their bend-don’t-break philosophy, the Steelers look like a strong Super Bowl candidate in the AFC and one of two teams that have a roster capable of topping powerhouse New England.

Bell, Brown and Bryant all look like fantasy picks with high upside this year.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

Week 1: @CLE   Week 2: vs. MIN   Week 3: @CHI   Week 4: @BAL   Week 5: vs. JAC   Week 6: @KC   Week 7: vs. CIN   Week 8: @DET   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @IND   Week 11: vs. TEN   Week 12: vs. GB   Week 13: @CIN   Week 14: vs. BAL   Week 15: vs. NE   Week 16: @HOU   Week 17: vs. CLE

BALTIMORE RAVENS

GET: FS Tony Jefferson, WR Jeremy Maclin, CB Brandon Carr, OT Austin Howard, OL Tony Bergstrom, CB Brandon Boykin, RB Danny Woodhead, TE Ben Watson

LOSE: RT Ricky Wagner, LB Zachary Orr, LB Elvis Dumervil, DT Timmy Jernigan, OL John Urschel, TE Dennis Pitta, CB Kyle Arrington, C Jeremy Zuttah, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, TE Crockett Gillmore

RE-SIGNS: NT Brandon Williams

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama     2nd round: OLB Tyus Bowser, Houston     3rd round: DT Chris Wormley, Michigan     OLB Tim Williams, Alabama     4th round: G Nico Siragusa, San Diego State     5th round: T Jermaine Eluemunor, Texas A&M     6th round: S Chuck Clark, Virginia Tech

SUMMARY: The injury bug has hit Baltimore hard. Promising corner Tavon Young tore his ACL during OTAs and will miss the season. RB Kenneth Dixon and LB Albert McClellan are other notable contributors who will start 2017 on injured reserve. You’ll see unproven names along the offensive and defensive line, including 2013 sixth-rounder Ryan Jensen at center, tackle James Hurst, 2015 third-rounder Carl Davis, 2016 second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa and 2016 fifth-round linebacker Matthew Judon. The Ravens draft class is likely to see action on the field sooner rather than later, especially corner Marlon Humphrey, a likely nickel corner and Tyus Bowser, who will force pressure on the edge.

Last year, Joe Flacco threw the pigskin 672 times, one fewer than NFL-leader Drew Brees. Despite that, Joe threw only 20 touchdowns, a number that must increase if Baltimore wants a chance at a playoff spot. His 6.42 yards per attempt was 27th in the league last year, though this is likely due to the scheme offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has implemented, an attack predicated on the short passing game (Flacco threw within five yards of the line of scrimmage on 56.8 percent of his passes, second-most behind chronic drag route addict Sam Bradford). Regardless, Flacco’s numbers weren’t pretty. An 83.5 passer rating was good for 24th last year. Even Trevor Siemian managed an 84.6.

We can make all the jokes about whether Flacco is elite but what is becoming a concern based on fact is Flacco’s bloated contract is punishing the Ravens right now on and off the field. Flacco had a cap hit of $22.55 last year and that number will continue to go up until 2021. One historical Super Bowl run is not worth sinking your team for the next seven years. Injuries are a concern, but can only be blamed so much.

On the positive side, it seems heavily unlikely that Flacco manages less than 25 this year with the addition of Jeremy Maclin and the return of a hopefully fully recuperated Breshad Perriman, who needs to show once and for all why the Ravens spent a first round pick on him back in 2015. It would also be great if Baltimore could get a running game (averaged 91.4 per game last year, 28th) which would surely help them put more points on the scoreboard (21.4 ppg last year, 21st).

Baltimore’s defense has to copy their numbers from last year, but improve on their pass defense  (8th total yards, 23rd pass, 4th rush, 18.9 ppg). Those numbers will be hard to duplicate with youngsters on the starting roster, but is doable. All these things have to come together for them to win a postseason bid and even more would have to happen for them to dethrone Pittsburgh, though a win at home against the Steelers is a virtual certainty.

Mike Wallace is the best fantasy pickup this year from Baltimore. With Maclin now drawing attention from the slot, Wallace’s 14.1 yards per reception, which was already 24th in the league last year, could go higher.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

Week 1: @CIN   Week 2: vs. CLE   Week 3: @JAC   Week 4: vs. PIT   Week 5: @OAK   Week 6: vs. CHI   Week 7: @MIN   Week 8: vs. MIA   Week 9: @TEN   Week 10: BYE   Week 11: @GB   Week 12: vs. HOU   Week 13: vs. DET   Week 14: @PIT   Week 15: @CLE   Week 16: vs. IND   Week 17: vs. CIN

CINCINNATI BENGALS

GET: G Andre Smith, LB Kevin Minter, CB Bene Benwikere

LOSE: OT Andrew Whitworth, G Kevin Zeitler, LB Rey Maualuga, OT Eric Winston

RE-SIGNS: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, WR Brandon LaFell, RB Cedric Peerman

DRAFT: 1st round: WR John Ross, Washington     2nd round: RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma     3rd round: DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State     4th round: DE Carl Lawson, Auburn     WR Josh Malone, Tennessee     DT Ryan Glasgow, Michigan     5th round: K Jake Elliott, Memphis     C J.J. Dielman, Utah     6th round: LB Jordan Evans, Oklahoma     CB Brandon Wilson, Houston     7th round: TE Mason Schreck, Buffalo

SUMMARY: I have the same problem with Cincinnati that I’ve had with them for going on three years now: they don’t have a number two receiver. A.J. Green might be one of the most undervalued players in this league. They had a real chance to not only win a playoff game but contend for a championship a few years ago, but the lack of help in the passing game cost them both of those accolades. Cincinnati should have held onto Mohammed Sanu, who demonstrated his ability during Green’s absence, but as Cincy has come to do, they let another opportunity slip through their fingers. Let’s not forget Marvin Jones played for that team as well.

This year, they went heavy on the offensive side of the ball in the draft, selecting speedster John Ross and Tennessee pass catcher Josh Malone. We’ll see if that adds up to anything. An interesting stat: Dalton was a below-average deep passer, ranking 21st in the league with a 38.3 accuracy percentage. Ross’ big-play potential is fully reliant on Dalton bettering that ranking this year.

The Red Rifle wasn’t guns blazing last year either. After his best year in 2015, in which he had a career best 66.1 completion percentage, an 8.42 ypa, 25/7 touchdown-interception ratio and a 106.3 passer rating, second to only Russell Wilson, he imploded, throwing a measly 18 touchdowns last year. Trevor Siemian threw 18 last year.

Dalton’s performance also occurred behind a strong offensive line that lost two key cogs in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler this offseason, putting only more pressure on Dalton to perform.

The front office, clearly not excited about Jeremy Hill sitting in the bottom 10 in yards per attempt (2015: 3.6 ypc, third-worst. 2016: 3.8 ypc, t-10th) drafted another shady character to add to the toxic duo of Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones (honorable mention: Josh Shaw): Joe Mixon. Giovanni Bernard is likely to stay involved on passing downs while Hill is a short-yardage resort.

The defense is the biggest concern with this team. It hasn’t been the same since Zimmer’s departure to Minnesota after the 2013 season, minus the 2015 season, when the team outpaced expectations. In 2014 and 2016, Cincy was 20th and 21st against the rush. They weren’t much better against the pass in those years either (20th and 17th). They also haven’t gotten consistent pressure on opposing offenses (last in sacks in ’14 (20), 19th in ’16 (33)). They were eighth in points against last year, but the dam is cracking and if you thought last year was a flood, wait until you see what happens when that dam breaks.

On a positive note, Dalton’s likely to improve on 18 touchdown passes. A.J. Green remains the player to have in Cincinnati for fantasy. Bernard is likely to be nice in PPR leagues and if you’re willing to take a risk on Eifert’s injury history, he could provide a nice payday. Behind a revamped offensive line, I’m unlikely to add Mixon and I think the stats above demonstrate why you should avoid the Cincinnati defense.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: vs. BAL   Week 2: vs. HOU   Week 3: @GB   Week 4: @CLE   Week 5: vs. BUF   Week 6: BYE   Week 7: @PIT   Week 8: vs. IND   Week 9: @JAC   Week 10: @TEN   Week 11: @DEN   Week 12: vs. CLE   Week 13: vs. PIT   Week 14: vs. CHI   Week 15: @MIN   Week 16: vs. DET   Week 17: @BAL

CLEVELAND BROWNS

GET: CB Jason McCourty, S Calvin Pryor, G Kevin Zeitler, WR Kenny Britt, C J.C. Tretter, WR Sammie Coates

LOSE: WR Terrelle Pryor, G John Greco, CB Joe Haden, C Cameron Erving, QB Brock Osweiler, TE Gary Barnidge, LB Demario Davis, K Cody Parkey, QB Robert Griffin III, WR Josh Cribbs

RE-SIGNS: RB Isaiah Crowell, G Joel Bitonio, LB Jamie Collins, LB Christian Kirksey, P Britton Colquitt

DRAFT: 1st round: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M     S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan     TE David Njoku, Miami     2nd round: QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame     3rd round: DT Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte     4th round: CB Howard Wilson, Houston     5th round: OT Roderick Johnson, Florida State     6th round: Caleb Brantley, Florida     7th round: K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State     RB Matthew Dayes, North Carolina State

SUMMARY: The Cleveland Browns, for the first time in a while, will be an interesting team to watch. New management at the top (GM Sashi Brown, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta) have given Cleveland the type of intrigue and publicity they desperately need. They showed some of their wits when they accepted the tragedy of a contract that Brock Osweiler carried with him and a second and sixth round draft choice from Houston as a “Thank you for getting rid of this embarrassment,” all in exchange for one of Cleveland’s fourth rounders. The Browns, who have endless cap space, then simply cut Osweiler before the beginning of the year but had picks to show for it.

Their draft went well, selecting Myles Garrett, hybrid safety Jabrill Peppers, Miami product David Njoku and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer has earned the starting job going into Week 1 and now, after all Cleveland has done, they have to hope he doesn’t flounder like the 27 other quarterbacks before him.

Among high points for this season sits running back Isaiah Crowell. If Cleveland has had anything the last few years, it’s been a stout offensive line and it’s only gotten stronger with the addition of G Kevin Zeitler. Crowell was great last year, maintaining a clip of 4.8 ypc, a top-ten average. Expect Crowell to surpass his 198 carries last year as Cleveland puts together a dangerous running game.

Kizer will likely face early struggles with Kenny Britt as a number one target opposite Corey Coleman, only leading to more opportunities for Crowell. Teams that have a poor run defense, such as Cincinnati (21st), Indianapolis (25), and Chicago (27th), will struggle with Cleveland this year. I expect more surprises from Cleveland than blowouts.

If I haven’t mentioned it enough, Crowell’s a great fantasy pickup. As in RB1 status.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 5-11

Week 1: vs. PIT   Week 2: @BAL   Week 3: @IND   Week 4: vs. CIN   Week 5: NYJ   Week 6: @HOU   Week 7: vs. TEN   Week 8: vs. MIN   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: @DET   Week 11: vs. JAC   Week 12: @CIN   Week 13: @LAC   Week 14: vs. GB   Week 15: vs. BAL   Week 16: @CHI   Week 17: @PIT

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Tim Sports Report for 2016 NFL Week 5

Top 5

  1. RB Ezekiel Elliott 15 carries for 134 yards, 2 TDs vs. CIN

2. QB Ben Roethlisberger 28/40 for 380 yards, 4 TDs, Fmb, 124.4 passer rating vs. NYJ

3. RB David Johnson 27 carries for 157 yards, 2 TDs vs. SF

4. WR T.Y. Hilton 10 receptions for 171 yards, TD vs. CHI

5. QB Tom Brady 28/40 for 406 yards, 3 TDs, 127.7 QBR vs. CLE

Worst of the Worst

5. QB Ryan Tannehill 12/18 for 191 yards, 2 INTs, 62.3 QBR vs. TEN

4. Cleveland is still Cleveland.

3. Rams D. Where are you? They’ve allowed 28+ points in four of six games this season.

2. Carolina continues implosion, drops to 1-4

  1. San Diego blows another one, misses field goal to force game into overtime.

Steelers Recap

The Jets of 2015 are gone. They were dismantled. The secondary is being torn apart. The d-line is doing all it can but it hasn’t been enough. The quarterback situation in New York is a mess. The Steelers beat them handedly in all aspect and had all the reason to.

Game of the Week: Cowboys @ Packers

I could easily pick Atlanta in my game of the week, facing Seattle on the road, but I’m taking Dallas vs. Green Bay. Dallas is a vastly different team from last year and I’m taking them in an upset at Lambeau.

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Tim Sports Report for 2016 NFL Week 4

Top 5

  1. WR Julio Jones 12 receptions for 300 yards, TD vs. CAR

Fourth player in Super Bowl era to have 300 yards receiving in a game.

2. QB Ben Roethlisberger 22/27 for 300 yards, 5 TDs, 152.5 passer rating vs. KC

Sixth quarterback to have five touchdowns in five different games

3. QB Matt Ryan 28/37 for 503 yards, 4 TDs, INT, 142.5 passer rating vs. CAR

4. Bills LB Zach Brown 15 tackles, 13 solo, sack, two forced fumbles vs. NE

5. WR A.J. Green 10 receptions for 173 yards, TD vs. MIA

Worst of the Worst

5. QB Carson Palmer 23/36 for 288 yards, TD, INT, Fmb, 86.3 passer rating vs. LA

4. QB Matthew Stafford 23/6 for 213 yards, 2 INTs, 56.8 QBR vs. CHI

3. Jets D, where are you? 23 vs. CIN, 31 vs. BUF, 24 vs. KC, 27 vs. SEA

2. Quarterbacks knocked out: Newton, Palmer, Siemian

  1. San Diego drops another one. Chargers have led in final two minutes in all three of their losses.

Steelers Recap

It was a week after one of the worst games in Steelers history. The Steelers responded as we expected, or had all the right in the world to expect. Defiantly and confidently. Roethlisberger had one of the best games of his career against a team that had just picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick six times, one of the few teams to ever accomplish that feat. The defense held the Chiefs to 14 points. Cam Heyward had three sacks. The Steelers were back and showed their game in Philly was just that. One game, a memory soon to be lost in the deeper recesses of the team’s minds. Up against the struggling Jets next week, it’s impossible for me not to take Pittsburgh.

Game of the Week: Falcons @ Broncos

The best offense against one of the best defenses. If Siemian starts, I have to give the edge to Denver. If Lynch starts, it gets a whole lot closer. Either way, I’m taking Denver but not confidently. I think this game could go either way.

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2015-2016 NFL Preview: AFC North

I’m finally back to school and that means it’s time to begin the long-awaited NFL preview! I’m also adding fantasy advice in these previews so they’ll be longer than usual. Let’s get to it!

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS

GET: S Kendrick Lewis, CB Kyle Arrington, QB Matt Schaub

LOSE: CB Aaron Ross, CB Antoine Cason, WR Torrey Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, DE Pernell McPhee, DT Haloti Ngata, S Darian Stewart, TE Owen Daniels, DT Terrence Cody, QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Bernard Pierce, C Gino Gradkowski

RE-SIGNS: CB Lardarius Webb, DE Chris Canty, RB Justin Forsett

DRAFT: 1st round: WR Breshad Perriman, UCF     2nd round: TE Maxx Williams, Minnesota     3rd round: DT Carl Davis, Iowa     4th round: DE Za’Darius Smith, Kentucky     RB Buck Allen, USC     CB Tray Walker, Texas Southern     5th round: TE Nick Boyle, Delaware     G Robert Myers, Tennessee State     6th round: WR Darren Waller, Georgia Tech

SUMMARY:

Baltimore had a solid 10-6 season and no results from last season jump out to me as unusual. Despite it being such a quiet season for their star quarterback, Flacco actually had his best statistical year since 2010, surpassing his last three seasons in all categories, including completion percentage (62.1), passing yards (3,986), touchdown-interception ratio (27:12), QBR (67.0) and passer rating (91.0). Was it a great season for Joe in actuality? I would say probably not. Most of his stats are bloated due to the team’s early struggles at the running back position and the big plays we’re used to seeing from Flacco weren’t as apparent. With that said, I wouldn’t be concerned with Flacco. I got stuck with him in one of my fantasy leagues and I’m not too worried about the guy. No, he’s never thrown more than 27 touchdowns in a season and no, he’s not known for consistency, but I would argue last year was consistent and you should expect a similar season this year despite the reductions at receiver. The loss of Torrey Smith won’t hurt as much as people think, nor am I worried about Flacco’s outlets. Steve Smith Sr. would be a good receiver to take a flyer on in fantasy although I would avoid rookie Breshad Perriman. Especially in the AFC North, I would avoid rookie receivers altogether. You can find better options elsewhere.

The component that will determine the offense’s success, however, is Justin Forsett. The relative unknown managed an insane 5.4 yards a carry. Only Lamar Miller (yes, LAMAR MILLER), Jeremy Hill and Jamaal Charles averaged five or more yards a carry. That’s an exclusive club and one Forsett relished in. His 1,266 yards was fifth-most in the league and second-best in the AFC behind the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell and led the league in rushes of over 20 yards with 17. Behind one of the best offensive lines in football, Forsett’s breakout season last year shouldn’t have been blown up as much as it was and while many are concerned he’s a one-hit wonder, I do not share that concern. I saw potential from Forsett when he was in Houston and he relished in the spotlight. Forsett should be a solid back this year in fantasy, even with the departure of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

The Ravens’ defense, with both subtractions and additions, should be fine and remain hazardous for opponents as usual and with John Harbaugh at the helm, I have to think Baltimore is the favorite to win the division.

There are some things that could derail the train, however. Baltimore got swept by Cincinnati last season, a Bengals team that was actually weaker than it has been in the past so that cannot happen this year, especially considering the AFC North’s dangerous schedule. The Ravens were 23rd against the pass last year, something that must improve, especially when their front seven was an elite fourth against the rush. The onus, like with the Steelers, is on the secondary, but I have more faith in the Ravens defense right now then I do the Steelers. Finally, it’s crucial injuries don’t plague this team on offense. The Ravens’ depth at running back and receiver is desert thin and I don’t know if they’ll be able to hold the reins to the division if the bug plagues them. The Ravens front seven on defense, it’s disgusting how good they are, but can they carry a hobbled offense on their back if they have to?

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

Week 1: @DEN   Week 2: @OAK   Week 3: vs. CIN   Week 4: @PIT   Week 5: vs. CLE   Week 6: @SF   Week 7: @ARI   Week 8: vs. SD   Week 9: BYE   Week 10: vs. JAC   Week 11: vs. STL   Week 12: @CLE   Week 13: @MIA   Week 14: vs. SEA   Week 15: vs. KC   Week 16: vs. PIT   Week 17: @CIN

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

GET: RB DeAngelo Williams, CB Brandon Boykin

LOSE: OLB Jason Worilds, S Troy Polamalu, CB Ike Taylor, DE Brett Keisel, CB Brice McCain, WR Lance Moore, WR Justin Brown, TE Michael Palmer, RB Ben Tate

RE-SIGNS: QB Ben Roethlisberger, LB James Harrison, LB Arthur Moats, S Will Allen, TE Matt Spaeth, DE Clifton Geathers, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, LS Greg Warren

DRAFT: 1st round: OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky     2nd round: CB Senquez Golson, Ole Miss     3rd round: WR Sammie Coates, Auburn     4th round: CB Doran Grant, Ohio State     5th round: TE Jesse James, Penn State     6th round: DT L.T. Walton, Central Michigan     DE Anthony Chickillo, Miami     7th round: S Gerod Holliman, Louisville

SUMMARY: Last year’s big three (Ben, Bell, Brown) destroyed defenses like Fox destroyed the Fantastic Four in this year’s superhero dud. Roethlisberger had the best statistical year of his career, throwing for a league-leading 4,952 yards. His average of 8.15 yards per attempt, 67.1 completion percentage and 103.3 passer rating were good for third in the league. Aside from setting plenty of personal and franchise records, Roethlisberger has solidified his position as a top-five quarterback and was paid as such this offseason with an enormous five-year, $99 million extension. Is Ben worth the money? Definitely. Do I like the contract? No. Ben is a top-five quarterback right now, that’s non-debatable. However, the Steelers have a troubled history with salary cap issues and Ben’s $17.2 million cap hit this season and obnoxious $23.95 million cap hit next season is a cause for concern, especially when it comes time to re-sign Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

Speaking of Antonio Brown, he had a legendary year in 2015, racking up 129 catches, the second-most receptions in a season ever behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002. He led the league with those 129 catches and 1,698 yards, shattering his own franchise record of 1,499 yards set in 2013. Brown was also second in targets with 182 and caught 13 touchdowns so if you want a great fantasy receiver in the first round, take Brown. The wheels on the Brown go round and round.

Finally, but certainly not least, Le’Veon Bell was a monster last year. Bell ended the year with 1,361 yards rushing, an impressive 4.7 clip and also became an elite receiver, catching 83 passes for 854 yards. Le’Veon Bell is the best all-around back in the league with those stats and if you don’t pick up Brown or Ben, pick up Bell for fantasy. You can’t go wrong with any of these players.

Those stats led to an incredible 11-5 season for the Steelers that few expected, including three consecutive huge wins against Houston, Indianapolis and Baltimore. However, as there always are, there were some head scratchers. Before that win streak, the Steelers lost to Tampa Bay, beat Jacksonville by eight and got destroyed by Cleveland 31-10. Let’s not mention the Steelers’ humiliating loss to the Jets 20-13.

The defense, however, was not LeBeau’s finest escapade and it’s sad that it was his last in Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ pass defense was 27th last year and allowed 30 touchdowns, one of the worst secondary units in football. Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu missed much of the season and could not be counted on when they got on the field. Mike Mitchell had a terrible inaugural season. William Gay and Antwon Blake were the lone highlights. Luckily, the front seven was top-ten, finishing sixth against the rush, led by Lawrence Timmons and Cam Heyward.

Looking to this season, the Steelers have a lot to prove. The epidemic known as Cortez Allen’s hand-eye coordination will be starting at cornerback and with Senquez Golson out for the year, the trade for Brandon Boykin was paramount. Young Shamarko Thomas and the awful Mike Mitchell will be starting at safety. The front seven has to carry this team. While I still disagree with the Steelers taking Bud Dupree instead of Alabama safety Landon Collins, the linebacking core for the Steelers is now incredibly deep.

With all that said, the Steelers’ schedule this season is far too difficult for a team as weak in the secondary as the Steelers are to succeed in the long haul. Last year was quite a sight to see, but I doubt it’ll happen again.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

Week 1: @NE   Week 2: vs. SF   Week 3: @STL   Week 4: vs. BAL   Week 5: @SD   Week 6: vs. ARI   Week 7: @KC   Week 8: vs. CIN   Week 9: vs. OAK   Week 10: vs. CLE   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: @SEA   Week 13: vs. IND   Week 14: @CIN   Week 15: vs. DEN   Week 16: @BAL   Week 17: @CLE

CLEVELAND BROWNS

GET: WR Brian Hartline, DT Randy Starks, WR Dwayne Bowe, CB Tramon Williams, QB Josh McCown, QB Thad Lewis

LOSE: CB Buster Skrine, TE Jordan Cameron, DT Ahtyba Rubin, QB Brian Hoyer, OLB Jabaal Sheard, WR Miles Austin, G Paul McQuistan, K Garrett Hartley

RE-SIGNS: DE John Hughes, WR Marlon Moore

DRAFT: 1st round: DT Danny Shelton, Washington     C Cameron Erving, Florida State     2nd round: OLB Nate Orchard, Utah     3rd round: RB Duke Johnson, Miami     DT Xavier Cooper, Washington State     4th round: S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern     WR Vince Mayle, Washington State     6th round: CB Charles Gaines, Louisville     TE Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State     TE Randall Telfer, USC     7th round: ILB Hayes Pullard, USC     CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

SUMMARY: Guys, I have huge news! The Cleveland, (yes, you read that right) Cleveland Browns are starting to look like a football team. It’s only taken two decades, but I think they could compete in the SEC now. Hell, the Browns could have made the playoffs last year. They started 7-4. I’d be surprised if half the city of Cleveland didn’t fall over dead from a heart attack or something. They’d probably never seen the AFC North standings read Cleveland at the top. However, it’s okay, Cleveland. You still suck, because your football team managed to choke every single one of the last five games, miss the playoffs and finish in the bottom of the division, AGAIN. It’s honestly humorous and at the same time, pathetically pitiful. Just wow.

With all that said, Cleveland really did look leagues better than they did in the past. They creamed Pittsburgh 31-10 in the middle of the season and you know what? I wasn’t even mad. They deserved to win that game. Dare I say it, they looked like a professional football team. I can’t believe those words came out of my mouth while discussing the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland accumulated 12 draft picks this offseason, so a genuine round of applause for that front office. Now, let’s give an equally genuine round of applause for what they did with them. The Browns’ secondary was great last year, eighth-best in the league but their defense against the rush was dead last. Give the Browns credit for addressing that, drafting Shelton and Cooper in the first and third round, respectively and another young linebacker in Nate Orchard. They also signed DT Randy Starks from Miami to provide some guidance to the rookies. They grabbed a running back to add a section to the spin-the-wheel-and-see-who-you-get backfield and hopefully one of them emerges as a real starter behind yet another one of the best offensive lines in football. The AFC North is full of them. Any Cleveland fan that was upset with the Browns draft is a moron, so heed them no quarter.

The receiving corps as well as the quarterback situation needs a lot of help. A large part of that is that Josh Gordon is probably one of the dumbest players and people in football. You had one job, Gordon. Stay away from weed. Why the Browns didn’t trade him after his first suspension is beyond me. They could have gotten another first rounder out of him. Without him, two new additions are expected to start at receiver, Brian Hartline of Miami and Dwayne Bowe of Kansas City. Neither blows minds and neither is worth a fantasy pickup. In fact, let me just end my fantasy advice real quick right here: if it’s not the Cleveland defense, stay away from anyone on Cleveland. Even if the running back situation is sorted out, I think it’s unlikely they have a breakout season and it’s doubtful McCown or Manziel do either. Once again, it will be up to the secondary to hold the fort and if the front seven can be average up front, the Browns could very well pass the Bengals, who are trending down harder than Nicolas Cage’s acting career. I’m taking the gamble they do.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: @NYJ   Week 2: vs. TEN   Week 3: vs. OAK   Week 4: @SD   Week 5: @BAL   Week 6: vs. DEN   Week 7: @STL   Week 8: vs. ARI   Week 9: @CIN   Week 10: @PIT   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: vs. BAL   Week 13: vs. CIN   Week 14: vs. SF   Week 15: @SEA   Week 16: @KC   Week 17: vs. PIT

CINCINNATI BENGALS

GET: DE Michael Johnson, ILB A.J. Hawk, WR Denarius Moore, QB Josh Johnson, TE Rob Housler, DT Pat Sims

LOSE: OT Marshall Newhouse, CB Terence Newman, TE Jermaine Gresham, G Mike Pollak, DE Robert Geathers, WR Greg Little, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, S Taylor Mays

RE-SIGNS: LB Rey Maualuga, RB Cedric Peerman, OL Eric Winston, WR Brandon Tate

DRAFT: 1st round: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M     2nd round: OT Jake Fisher, Oregon     3rd round: TE Tyler Kroft, Rutgers     OLB Paul Dawson, TCU     4th round: S Josh Shaw, USC     DT Marcus Hardison, Arizona State     5th round: TE C.J. Uzomah, Auburn     6th round: S Derron Smith, Fresno State     7th round: WR Mario Alford, West Virginia

SUMMARY: Last year, I picked the Bengals to win the division and in my playoff preview, I said the following: “What really pisses me off is that the Bengals are one step away from being the best. If only they would draft a receiver in the first round.”

That still holds true now because this team still needs that receiver and last year’s season is a testament to that. Not only did Dalton lose his cool without Green in the lineup, recessing in every statistical category except completion percentage, but without the Bengals’ star receiver, the team at times looked like a discombobulated mess leaning on a rookie running back named Jeremy Hill. The LSU star thrilled, but could not carry the team nor should he have been expected to. This team has plenty of talent and year after year it goes poorly coached and Marvin Lewis, who has been with the team since 2003, has still been unable to get Cincinnati a playoff win. The longest playoff drought in the NFL belongs to the Bengals, not the Browns. If that’s not unsettling, I don’t know what is. Who knows why the Bengals continue to ignore their most vital need, a wideout, draft after draft. Let’s ignore that the Bengals, in the last two seasons, have taken two receivers in the draft, one in the sixth and one in the seventh. Let’s ignore that the Bengals learned diddly-squat about their receiver depth this past season because, again, they decided they only needed one receiver and decided to take that receiver in the seventh round. Let’s ignore the fact that the Bengals spent their first and second-rounder on tackles when their offensive line remains one of the strongest in the league so the need isn’t really there, nor was the need dire that they draft a tight end with one of their third round picks. Let’s ignore Marvin Lewis’ inability to coach in the playoffs time after time after time after time after time after time (he’s 0-6 now). Whatever.

At this point, the Cincinnati Bengals should just start ignoring everything. Ignore your needs, continue to build insane depth at positions that fall third or fourth on the check list and leave your main priorities unaccounted for year after year. If I was A.J. Green, I’d be livid. He’s made some insane plays and has carried this team without complaining for years now. Help a brotha, out. This is coming from someone who isn’t a Bengals fan, either. I’m a Steelers fan through and through, yet any real fan can look at an organization as misguided and negligent as the Bengals and become engulfed in a need for moral justice because no fans, not even Cleveland fans, deserve such incompetence from their franchises and the fact that such a thing is still a problem is as sad as it’s ever been. It’s 2015, we have technology, statistical analysis, endless Benjamins and then some and the Bengals still can’t figure out how to win a playoff game.

The loss of Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator proved to be a bigger blow to the team than I thought it would be. Cincinnati fell to 20th against the pass and the rush last year after a concrete fifth in both categories in Zimmer’s last year. When you look at the depth the Bengals have on defense, perhaps the lone project they’ve managed to not fall behind on, it’s criminal this team fell below 15th in any defensive category let alone 20th. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, Rey Maualuga, Leon Hall, Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick does not equate to a 20th-ranked defense on any planet and it’s a sad sign the team went so poorly coached last year.

But cheer up, Bengals fans, because Marvin Lewis is still here to practice mediocrity and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is returning to take a top-ten defensive lineup and let them run loose and wild like sheep on a prairie.

With no additions that truly matter on offense, franchise quarterback Andy Dalton trending down and the coaching staff being allowed to stay despite their obvious ineptitude, Cincinnati should look forward to keeping that egregious playoff streak going because this team ain’t going anywhere fast. Unless you’re drafting Hill or Green, run from Cincy like the plague.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10

Week 1: @OAK   Week 2: vs. SD   Week 3: @BAL   Week 4: vs. KC   Week 5: vs. SEA   Week 6: @BUF   Week 7: BYE   Week 8: @PIT   Week 9: vs. CLE   Week 10: vs. HOU   Week 11: @ARI   Week 12: vs. STL   Week 13: @CLE   Week 14: vs. PIT   Week 15: @SF   Week 16: @DEN   Week 17: vs. BAL

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 13

Top 5

1. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 19/27 for 358 yards, 6 TDs, 147.5 QBR vs. TEN

2. WR DeAndre Hopkins 9 receptions for 238 yards, 2 TDs vs. TEN

3. RB Le’Veon Bell 21 carries for 95 yards, TD, 8 receptions for 159 yards vs. NO

4. WR Calvin Johnson 11 receptions for 146 yards, 2 TDs vs. CHI

Set record as fastest receiver to 10,000 yards in just his 115th game.

5. QB Drew Brees 19/27 for 257 yards, 5 TDs, 140.0 QBR vs. PIT

Worst of the Worst

1. Raiders demolished 52-0, commit five turnovers vs. STL

2. Giants allow two fumble returns for touchdowns, lose to Jaguars after 21-0 lead.

3. The Bears on Thanksgiving. They have one of the best running backs in the NFL and they handed him the ball five times for six yards. Nearly every other play was a screen pass because of their poor pass protection and Cutler struggled to complete a pass he had to throw more than five yards.

4. Panthers allow two blocked punts returned for touchdowns vs. MIN

5. QB Colin Kaepernick 16/29 for 121 yards, 2 INTs, 36.7 QBR vs. SEA

Steelers Recap

When I saw fantasy guru Matthew Berry had Drew Brees on his hate list for last Sunday’s game, I chuckled to myself. This year hasn’t been Brees’ best year and he hasn’t put up the stats we’re using to seeing from him, but the hate list? The Pittsburgh Steelers are exceeding the expectations I had for them in my pre-season review but they still lost to the Buccaneers and the Jets, two of the worst teams in the NFL. Had they won those games, a playoff spot would almost be a certainty. Instead, they faltered in two easily winnable games and now are on the outside looking in. Berry was also putting his faith in the Steelers secondary, which by this point, has been given photo credit for a team picture posted next to the word “inconsistent” in this year’s Webster’s dictionary. Some of the defense is too young and inexperienced to be able to make the big plays required of them and some are too seasoned to compete at the level they were once capable of. I picked the Steelers to win a game they should have won, yet I wasn’t surprised they lost. They have struggled against aerial teams this year and in past years and will continue to struggle until they start drafting a corner or safety in the first round of the draft.

William Gay is the team’s best corner despite the hate Steelers’ fans give him. Ike Taylor is done in Pittsburgh at the end of the year. Cortez Allen is not worth half the five-year, $26 million contract we signed him to in September. Brice McCain has been probably the worst of the bunch aside from a pick-six against Jacksonville, consistently getting beat short and down-field again and again. Shamarko Thomas has potential but is struggling to adapt to the Steelers scheme, leaving undrafted free agent Antwon Blake as our only other true corner. Blake has made some great plays on special teams and in pass coverage and I would be very surprised if he isn’t moved up the depth chart at the start of next season.

The fact I’m already talking about next season is the attitude I have towards the Steelers right now. I’m still a huge fan and have hope for a playoff spot but I’m more disappointed in the fact that they lost to Tampa Bay and New York then I am impressed that they beat the Texans, Colts and Ravens in back-to-back-to-back weeks. True playoff contenders don’t lose to Josh McCown/Mike Glennon and Geno Smith. The team has a lot of potential, they just keep falling short of coming out the other side of the tunnel.

The Steelers have won three of their last five games in Cincinnati but the team always struggles in the jungle. Ben has averaged 242 yards passing during that stretch. The Steelers haven’t won a game in Cincinnati where they scored less than 20 points since 2004 when they won 19-14, so if the offense doesn’t come to play, don’t expect a win. Ben had probably his worst performance of the season last week against the Saints and whether that is because of an injured hand or not doesn’t make any difference. I got to take the Bengals at home.

Game of the Week: Seahawks @ Eagles

The Eagles defense is terrible, but is it worse than the Seahawks offense? And can Mark Sanchez lead his team past a Seahawks defense that’s back on track? Should be a thriller, but if it’s a blowout, it’s probably a Seahawks win. I refuse to put my faith in a USC quarterback in tough games.

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 9

Top 5

1. QB Ben Roethlisberger 25/37 for 340 yards, 6 TDs, Fmb, 136.3 QBR vs. BAL

First QB in NFL history to throw for six touchdowns in consecutive weeks. Sets record for touchdown passes in consecutive games (12). Most fantasy points by a quarterback in back-to-back weeks (79).

2. QB Tom Brady 33/53 for 333 yards, 4 TDs, INT, 97.4 QBR vs. DEN

3. WR Jeremy Maclin 6 receptions for 158 yards, 2 TDs vs. HOU

4. RB Mark Ingram 30 carries for 100 yards, 2 TDs vs. CAR

5. WR Antonio Brown 11 receptions for 144 yards, TD vs. BAL

Worst of the Worst

1. QB Cam Newton 10/28 for 151 yards, INT, Fmb, 39.4 QBR vs. NO

2. QB Philip Rivers 12/23 for 138 yards, 3 INTs, Fmb, 31.0 QBR vs. MIA

3. Jaguars allow two consecutive punts to be blocked vs. CIN

4. QB Colin Kaepernick loses two fumbles, including on last-second quarterback sneak for what would have been the go-ahead score vs. STL

5. Seahawks squeak past Raiders 30-24 despite 3 Oakland turnovers

Steelers Recap

Here are some fun stats: Ben Roethlisberger is second in passing yards (2,720) and completion percentage (68.3) this year. He’s also third in touchdowns (22) and QBR (110.6) and fourth in yards per game (302).

Le’Veon Bell is third in rushing yards (711) and has 47 receptions for 433 yards, giving him 1,144 all-purpose yards this year, third in the league.

Antonio Brown is second in all-purpose yards. That’s correct. Two of the top three players in all-purpose yards play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown leads the league in receptions (71), targets (103), receiving yards (996), and first downs (44). He’s also second in yards per game (110.7) and fourth in catches of 20-plus yards (14).

At his current pace, Brown is set to have 1,771 yards, which would be good for fourth in NFL history. Only Calvin Johnson in 2012 (1,964) and Jerry Rice (1,848) and Isaac Bruce (1,781) in 1995 would have more.

After going 1-2 during their easiest stretch of the season (L 27-14 vs. TB, W 17-9 @ JAC, L 31-10 @ CLE), the Steelers playoff hopes appeared to be shouldered onto the Week 7 home match-up against the Texans. The Steelers played their best game of the year and won 30-23. “They played great, but there is no way they’ll beat the Colts,” I said. Ben and the Burgh proved me wrong again, winning another superb home game 51-34. To top it all off, the Steelers decimated the Ravens 43-23 to split the season series.

If the Steelers beat the Jets on Sunday, they will hold sole possession of first place in the AFC North and the third-seed in the AFC because they beat Indianapolis, the projected winner of the AFC South. Their stat line (4th pass, 12th rush, 20th vs. the pass, 11th vs. the rush) is impressive and they are averaging 27.6 points per game, good for 7th in the league.

At this point of the season, not only are the Steelers far better than I expected, they are a solid playoff contender if they continue their current play. If they continue to execute the way they’ve been executing and continue to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, this team should be able to win at least four more games at minimum, especially with the Jets, Titans, Falcons, and struggling Bengals on the schedule. Let’s go Steelers!

Game of the Week: Panthers @ Eagles

Cam Newton was pathetic last game and the Eagles have lost Foles for a substantial amount of time. Can *cough* Mark Sanchez *cough* keep the team together or fail as he’s always done when the team’s looking to him to lead? This game will be a good first test for Sanchez. With that said, I think the Eagles are the better team, even if Sanchez falters yet again.

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 8

Top 5

1. QB Ben Roethlisberger 40/49 for franchise-record 522 yards, franchise-record 6 TDs, 150.6 QBR vs. IND

Fourth QB to win 100 of first 150 starts (Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw) and first QB to throw multiple 500 yard games.

2. QB Tom Brady 30/35 for 354 yards, 5 TDs, 148.4 QBR vs. CHI

3. WR Jeremy Maclin 12 receptions for 187 yards, 2 TDs vs. ARI

4. RB Arian Foster 20 receptions for 151 yards, 2 TDs, rec TD vs. TEN

5. TE Rob Gronkowski 9 receptions for 149 yards, 3 TDs vs. CHI

Worst of the Worst

1. QB Geno Smith 2/8 for 5 yards, 3 INTs vs. BUF

2. Falcons drop 21 point halftime lead, tying biggest comeback loss in franchise history in loss to Lions.

3. Eagles allow 80-yard and 75-yard touchdown passes in loss to Cardinals

4. Green Bay throttled in loss to New Orleans Saints

5. Jets commit six turnovers in loss to Bills

Steelers Recap

Steelers were awesome against the Indianapolis Colts, besting their week 7 performance against the Houston Texans with a sensational performance against the Colts secondary. All of the offense clicked during the game and the defense finally got pressure on a quarterback throughout the entire game, pressuring Andrew Luck the entire game and reminding us of the Steel Curtain we used to know. This Sunday night match-up against the Ravens is crucial but after two incredible home wins, I got to believe the Steelers make it three.

Game of the Week: Broncos @ Patriots

Perhaps the final match-up between two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, this is certainly the one to watch this week.

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 11

Top 5

1. RB Bobby Rainey 30 carries for 163 yards, 2 TDs, rec TD vs. ATL

2. QB Cam Newton 19/28 for 209 yards, 3 TDs, 7 carries for 62 yards, 125.4 QBR vs. NE

3. QB Ben Roethlisberger 29/45 for 367 yards, 4 TDs, 119.4 QBR vs. DET

4. RB Ray Rice 25 carries for 131, TD vs. CHI

5. QB Matt McGloin 18/32 for 197 yards, 3 TDs, 105.9 QBR vs. HOU

Worst of the Worst

1. QB Geno Smith 8/23 for 103 yards, 3 INTs, Fmble, 10.1 QBR vs. BUF

2. Saints CB Corey White picks off Kaepernick, fumbles ball trying to switch hands for celebration, ball goes out of end zone for a touchback vs. SF

3. Controversial calls in SF vs. NO and NE vs. CAR games

4. Browns allow 31 points in 2nd quarter to lose early lead vs. CIN

5. DET coach Jim Schwartz goes for it on 4th and 3 on opening drive on PIT 30, doesn’t get it, leads to 2 PIT TDs and PIT win

Steelers Recap

The Steelers had a big upset win over the Detroit Lions this past Sunday. They held a top-10 quarterback in Matt Stafford to 19/46 and 2/5 in the redzone.They also succeeded in limiting Stafford to 3/16 in the second half and held Calvin to no catches. Ben had a top 5 worthy performance, throwing for 367 yards and 4 TDs. The O-line gave up one sack against one of the best defensive lines in the league. They forced 3 turnovers, but the Steelers had only 40 yards rushing and were 1/4 in the redzone. They still have plenty of room to improve, but they’ve shown they still have talent enough to win a few big games. They will face the Browns in Cleveland but the Browns have been struggling as of late.

Game of the Week; Broncos@Patriots

Once again, it’s Peyton vs. Brady. Brady is usually the winner in these match-ups, but with the limited receiving core the Patriots have, I’m taking the Broncos this time.

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