Tag Archives: steelers

Time to Take The Bell Down

Image result for leveon bell poster free useI’m done.

We all should be.

There’s only so much nonsense you can take before the phrase “I’ve had it up to here” should be utilized.

Le’Veon Bell has reached that point.

On the off-chance you’re still living under a rock in 2018, Le’Veon Bell is a professional football player, specifically, a running back, in the National Football League who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s very accomplished, carries superior talent and has become possibly the best in the world at what he does and so has asked to be paid as such. So far so good.

I, as well as most, completely sympathize with someone’s efforts being rewarded. We want to see our work and time appreciated and for us to be compensated as such. That is perfectly reasonable.

If you haven’t followed Bell’s saga because you’ve been under that rock, here’s a synopsis:

  • Bell is drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, the second back taken off the board.
  • Bell suffers a mid-foot sprain in his second preseason game, missing the first three weeks of the season. Despite that, Bell breaks legend Franco Harris’ rookie franchise record for yards from scrimmage (1,259).
  • Bell has a stellar 2014, finishing second in rushing yards and scrimmage yards behind DeMarco Murray, leads all backs in receiving and earns his first Pro-Bowl nod. Bell hyperextends his knee in the final contest of the regular season, missing the playoffs.
  • Bell is arrested with then-teammate LeGarrette Blount on DUI and marijuana possession charges. He’s suspended two games.
  • Bell’s 2015 season ends after suffering a torn MCL.
  • Bell sleeps through an alarm and misses a third drug test, which ends in another suspension, this time for three games.
  • Bell suffers a groin injury late in divisional round, leaving him mostly inactive for the Steelers’ championship loss against New England.
  • In 2017, Bell is named to his third Pro Bowl and amasses nearly 2,000 scrimmage yards.
  • Days before the team’s playoff match with Jacksonville, Bell says he would consider retiring if the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive campaign. The previous offseason, Bell turned down a five-year contract that would have paid him an annual average value, or AAV, of 12. It included 30 million for his first two seasons and 42 for his first three, an unprecedented evaluation for a running back. Even Adrian Peterson’s extension back in 2011, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, had an AAV of 9.6. Bell turned down 12.

There are a couple of things you should take note of in the above section:

  1. Le’Veon Bell is good at running back.
  2. Le’Veon Bell has disciplinary issues.
  3. Le’Veon Bell has an injury history.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at some headlines:

“LE’VEON BELL REPORTEDLY WANTS $17 MILLION A YEAR”

“LE’VEON BELL WANTS TO BE PAID AS TOP RB AND NO 2 WR”

“LE’VEON BELL WANTS $17 MILLION A YEAR FROM STEELERS LIKE ANTONIO BROWN”

 

I wish I could say I laughed when I saw these. I really do.

I didn’t.

You see, reader from under the rock, Le’Veon Bell has an ego.

That’s fine. He’s Le’Veon Bell. He’s really good at running back.

However, I’m talking about Le’Veon Bell’s ego. Le’Veon Bell’s ego is huge. Le’Veon Bell has been surrounded by people who tell him he’s God’s gift to the world.

This is also fine. Parents tell this to their children every day before they send them off to school, usually to try to give them a much-needed boost of confidence but ostensibly because they have no idea how to parent. They figure if they make them confident, everything will fall into place.

Bell is a product of what happens when this parenting technique goes horribly wrong. Le’Veon believes himself to be so talented that he rationalizes he should be paid as two different people, both a top running back and a two-spot receiver, but also believes he’s worth as much as the league’s best pass catcher, Antonio Brown. Now, reader under a rock, feel free to google Antonio Brown on YouTube to get to know the guy a little bit. I actually talked about him in my One Team, One Jersey series, where I talk about each football team and decided what jersey I would want from that team. (Insert shameless plug here).

Despite the fact that one more slip-up in the drug department could warrant a long-term suspension and Bell’s struggle to play a full 16-game spread, both of which are rather large red flags, Bell thinks he’s worth $17 million a year.

 

Rather than mock Bell for another couple paragraphs, I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s what any sportswriter or fan should do. Let’s take a look at the evidence and give the guy a fair trial, shall we?

Let’s take a look at salary cap figures, just to get an idea of how good Le’Veon thinks he is.

Prior to this offseason, the largest cap hit for any running back in the league was LeSean McCoy at 8.95. Even after all of the signings this spring, Jerick McKinnon’s 2018 cap hit is 10.5 after signing a four-year, $30 million deal to become the starting tailback of San Francisco. His AAV? 7.5. A reminder that Bell is asking for 17.

The highest AAV for a running back is 8.25. That number belongs to Devonta Freeman, who in August signed a five-year extension for $41.25.

A reminder: Bell wants an AAV of 17.

In 2018, only two backs will have an AAV of 8 or more: Freeman and standout LeSean McCoy. Add McKinnon and you get the only three who are making more than 7 per. Le’Veon Bell will play on the franchise tag and will make $14.5, meaning he’s making more than double the pay of almost every running back in professional football. If he had signed that extension, that five-year, $60 million offer, Bell would be making more than double what every running back in the league is making with the exception of the three above plus Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott and Lamar Miller. (Fournette and Elliott are still on their rookie deals.)

For context, learner under the rock, the running back market has not increased over the last few seasons. It is cemented in stone at this point that only the very best running backs see close to no depreciation once they hit 30. Backs touch the ball more than any player other than a quarterback and take a lot of punishment because of it. Due to that, most backs are out of the league once they near or surpass 30 years of age. Only the gridiron gods can keep their game together and even then, sometimes those generational talents begin to fade away.

This is why Bell wants paid so much. He knows what we all do: his career will end before most other athletes from his draft class because of the position he plays.

With that said, Bell wants double the next guy. His latest evaluation of $17 million AAV means he believes he’s worth double any back in the NFL. It takes an extraordinary amount of arrogance to make that claim, but it’s only arrogance if it’s not true. So let’s find out if it is.

 

In five seasons, Bell has amassed 5,336 yards rushing and 2,660 yards receiving for a net total of 7,996. He’s accomplished this in 62 games for a per game average of 128.96 yards, a statistic that Bell has paraded around a number of times to prove his worth. That 128.96 is one of the best numbers in NFL history, currently at the top of the list, though many, including me, doubt that number’s sustainability. Hall of Fame players have seen similar numbers in their early years before seeing their numbers teeter off on the back-end. The great Jim Brown is right behind Bell at 125.5 and not only did he play in a less organized era when football was still very rudimentary, Brown retired at 29. We never got to see his play diminish. Even Barry Sanders, who retired at 30, posted 118.9 in his career, an incredible achievement that hasn’t come close to being duplicated. The closest are Terrell Davis and Adrian Peterson, who posted 113.9 and 112 respectively.

It is hard for any analyst to look at the players on this list, all of the greats, and believe the argument that Bell is greater than all of them.

Let’s pretend for a moment he is. Let’s compare him to some of the other younger talents in the NFL.

Taking a look at a player’s first few years, the same as Bell’s career length at this juncture, should give us an idea of how comparable or incomparable he is.

 

Le’Veon Bell 62 games, 62 started 5,336/2,660/7,996/128.96/128.96 (rushing/receiving/total/yards per game/yards per game started)

Devonta Freeman 61 games, 43 started 3,248/1,582/4,830/79.18/112.33

LeSean McCoy 74 games, 60 started 5,473/2,127/7,600/102.73/126.66

Frank Gore 73 games, 60 started 5,561/1,841/7,402/101.40/123.37

 

Adrian Peterson 73 games, 66 started 6,752/1,170/7,922/108.52/120.03

LaDainian Tomlinson 79 games, 79 started 7,361/2,292/9,653/122.19/122.19

Edgerrin James 65 games, 65 started 6,172/2,019/8,191/126.02/126.02

 

If we look at three comparable players from his current era, we see Bell’s numbers are comparable to even someone like Frank Gore, who during his early years played in the garbage fire that was San Francisco. While Bell’s receiving numbers are higher than any player’s on this list, there have been players who have done more on the ground in recent years and some by a wide margin. An additional five to ten yards simply doesn’t make you worth double the next guy. It’s just basic economics.

I also compiled a list of three Hall of Famers (James should get in sooner rather than later) and you’ll see his numbers are comparable.

“Wait, how can even Devonta Freeman, who hasn’t done anything crazy special in his career, still be putting up numbers in the same ballpark as LT? And how did Frank Gore average a little under five yards less in his first five years than Le’Veon Bell?”

Honestly, it’s because the difference between a very good and great running back often aren’t chasms apart. While the game has evolved away from the run game, the best backs in the league can still get it done. Look no further than LeSean McCoy, who has made a great career into a possible Canton trip. Look no further than Edgerrin James, who put up Bell-level production while Peyton Manning was performing surgery on NFL defenses. Look no further than Frank Gore, who played with a new offensive coordinator literally every season and still put up Pro-Bowl level numbers.

Le’Veon Bell has been gifted a top-five offensive line, Hall of Fame quarterback and the best receiver in football.

Frank Gore played with Antonio Bryant and pre-resurrection Alex Smith.

Hell, if we take out Gore’s rookie year, when he started only one game and show just his second through fifth seasons, when he started every game he played in, his stat line looks like this:

Frank Gore 59 games, 59 started 4,953/1,700/6,653/112.76/112.76

112 yards per game behind the San Francisco 49ers line of the mid 2000’s is incredible value. A player of Bell’s talent is almost expected to mimic those numbers behind a great offensive line.

For transparency’s sake, what if we needle some of these stats down to make a more accurate sample size.

LeSean McCoy 58 games, 56 started 4856/1819/6,675/115.09/119.20

At 115 yards per game, McCoy was at a per game average slightly behind Barry Sanders, yet was only paid $8 million in AAV. Why is that? Let’s take a closer look.

 

McCoy, in 2017, put up 1,586 yards from scrimmage. That means McCoy was paid $4,886.51 per yard by cap hit. Not a bad pay-day.

Todd Gurley won Offensive Player of the Year last season, accruing 2,093 yards. Still on his rookie deal, that means Gurley was paid…$808.24 per yard?

This, lad under the rock, is called the salary cap.

You see, to make the playing field fair, the suits instituted a salary cap, meaning there was a limit put in place to what a team could spend on its players. This led to a more competitive board and to new philosophies regarding team building. One of those philosophies is not spending a bazillion dollars on one player.

When it became apparent how difficult it was to find an excellent passer, teams assigned higher value to that position, the same way that teams starting pouring money into the left tackle spot after Lawrence Taylor killed Joe Theismann. (You probably don’t get that reference. Sorry. Here’s a link.)

So when teams started to find their running backs slowing down and coupled that with the evolution of pass-happy offenses, executives, and therefore the market, determined the running back position was less valuable.

In the 2016 season, Aaron Rodgers piled a total of 4,797 yards during a year in which he was paid $12.6 million, which means $2,626.64 per yard. By cap hit? $4065.04. For those who struggle with math, $4,065 is less than $4,886. Don’t worry. Bell’s number figures to be a lot higher than that.

 

A base salary of $17 million in 2018 would put him sixth in the NFL in AAV behind Kirk Cousins’ new deal, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah. (It’s worth noting that Lawrence and Ansah are also playing on the franchise tag this upcoming season.)

Not only that, if Bell made $17 million in cash in 2018, that would put him one spot outside the top 25 highest-paid players in the NFL, a majority of which came from this most recent offseason. (If you don’t know, human under the rock, the offseason is when teams pay exorbitant prices to get players to join their team). McKinnon’s new signing will earn him $12 in 2018, good for 62nd in the league in total net earnings. To get to the next back, you have to scroll for half of your lifespan all the way down to 246, where LeSean McCoy’s $6.325 sits.

Which means, using our math skills, that Bell is looking to make nearly triple what LeSean McCoy is making despite averaging about ten more yards a game on a far better offensive unit.

I guess you have to ask yourself: Is ten more yards worth an additional $11 million?

No. No, it’s not.

Is it worth the additional $9 million in AAV Bell is looking for?

No. No, it’s not.

At 1,946 scrimmage yards last year at the figure Bell wants, he would have been paid $8,735.87 a yard by cap hit. Why would anyone pay nearly $9,000 a yard when they can get the same production for less than $5?

Yes, third-down yards carry more value. Yes, fourth-quarter yards carry more value. Sadly, I don’t have the resources to look at those numbers. Given the numbers at our disposal, is it possible Bell is worth that much more than the next guy?

No. No, it is not.

This isn’t rocket science, my new friend. It’s basic math.

It’s now come to my attention that you probably don’t understand that expression. My apologies. Will have to get to that later.

To make matters worse, Bell has picked up a shovel and started digging his own grave with social media, accusing fans and the media of painting him as a villain. It was one of the most tone-deaf uses of social media yet displayed in 2018. No one was bashing Bell’s performance. They were tortured by his unabated greed. As one media member commented, “Look down, Le’Veon. You’re the one holding the paintbrush.”

Le’Veon has not only made his tenure with the Steelers continuing beyond this season as improbable as a lottery winner, he’s also tarnished his reputation and image by decrying those who believe his numbers to be inaccurate, even if they are, factually, inaccurate. General annoyance with his antics has turned into the type of frustration a parent has when they’re forced to watch their child ignore their advice and run their head into a wall. I’m completely done with Le’Veon and so is much of this city. Annoyance has transformed to rage and now dissolved into complete apathy. I don’t care about Bell and I can’t wait when he’s off this roster.

I hope you’ve enjoyed escaping from under the rock, my new friend. The only one that’s still under there now is Le’Veon.

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 11

Top 5

1. Eight RBs had over 100 yards this week, five over 150 and two over 200. Also, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set the NCAA record for rushing yards in a single game (408), proving the point he’s been trying to make all year: running backs still matter.

2. WR Mike Evans 7 receptions for 209 yards, 2 TDs vs. WAS

Evans (21) is the youngest player ever to have a 200-yard receiving game and the first rookie with seven catches for 100 yards and a TD in three straight games.

3. RB Jonas Gray 37 carries for 201 yards, 4 TDs vs. IND

4. RB Jamaal Charles 20 carries for 159 yards, 2 TDs, Fmb vs. SEA

5. RB Le’Veon Bell 33 carries for 204 yards, TD vs. TEN

Worst of the Worst

1. Steelers’ safety Mike Mitchell goes ballistic on Twitter. I wrote a post about this.

2. RB LeGarrette Blount walks off the field in the middle of the game vs. TEN

3. QB Eli Manning 22/45 for 280 yards, TD, 5 INTs, 36.6 QBR vs. SF

4. QB Robert Griffin III 23/32 for 207 TD, 2 INTs, 73.3 QBR vs. TB

5. NFC South Standings: Atlanta 4-6, New Orleans 4-6, Carolina 3-7, Tampa Bay 2-8

Steelers Recap

Overall, the Steelers’ performance on Monday night was frustrating. The offensive fluidity fans had seen just a few weeks ago was gone. The team looked uncoordinated and unorganized. The fact that the Steelers had to come back to win this game was exactly the opposite of what Steelers nation wanted to see on Monday. They, like myself, wanted to see a dominant win against a struggling team. Instead, the Steelers gave the Titans boatloads of confidence going into their next game, while Tomlin needs to start re-evaluating the team depth chart and playbook. Le’Veon Bell and the offensive line were excellent during the second half but against the Titans front seven I think it’s important not to give them too much credit. The fact that Bell ran for over 200 yards and we still almost lost is pretty sad. This bye week could not be more well-timed. They need a break to recuperate some players but they also need to silent these off-the-field issues immediately. Mitchell’s tirade was a catastrophe on so many levels and I’m very happy they cut Blount almost instantaneously, but his actions need to be a reminder to the whole team that this is a team effort and if you’re not happy with your role, then get off the field.

Game of the Week: Dolphins @ Broncos.

I have the Broncos for this game but the Dolphins are surging and looking like a top-ten team right now. Their defense is excellent as I expected and if it weren’t for the lack of play-makers on offense, this team could probably threaten New England. It’s important Denver get’s back on the right track after dropping two of their last three. Expect a close one and don’t be surprised if an upset occurs.

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Tim Sports Report for 2014 NFL Week 1

Top 5

1. QB Matt Ryan 31/43 for (franchise record) 448 yards, 3 TDs, 128.8 QBR vs. NO

2. TE Julius Thomas 7 receptions for 104 yards, 3 TDs vs. IND

3. RB Knowshon Moreno 24 carries for 134 yards, TD vs. NE

4. WR Calvin Johnson 7 receptions for 164 yards, 2 TDs vs. NYG

5. RB Le’Veon Bell 21 carries for 109 yards,  TD, 6 receptions for 88 yards vs. CLE

Worst of the Worst

1. Steelers lead 27-3 at half, then allow 24 unanswered points before winning on a last-second field goal.

2. Eagles limited to 129 yards and Foles commits three turnovers in first half vs. JAC

3. QB Tony Romo 23/37 for 281 yards, TD, 3 INTs, 60.7 QBR vs. SF

4. Jets commit 11 penalties for 105 yards, 2 turnovers and 1/4 in the red zone vs. OAK

5. Raiders held to minute 158 total yards vs. NYJ

Steelers Recap

The Steelers had a stellar first half and more than exceeded my expectations for week one…until the second half started. From that point onward, the Steelers reminded all of its fans why they started 0-4 last year. Undisciplined play, atrocious pass coverage and total negligence on the run defense, they were all present. The Steelers may have won the game, but the fact remains they played a little over half the game, not a full 60 minutes, something that coach Tomlin has had to constantly remind his players to do. In Baltimore tomorrow, Ravens win.

Game of the Week: PHI @ IND

The Eagles were dreadful in the first half of their game against the Jaguars. The Colts, on the other hand, showed some resolve and determination, almost completing a comeback against the Denver Broncos. The Colts look hot and the Eagles, not. Luck leads his team to victory.

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2014-2015 NFL Preview: AFC North

Last year’s Super Bowl was probably the worst one ever. What was being called one of the best of all-time before it even started ended up to be a massive blowout, with Seattle being the victors. Hopefully we’ll never have to witness such a sad sporting event again, but it’s okay because football is back and I am pumped. I’m pumped for the NFL season to start and I’m pumped for my second year of fantasy. First, the AFC North.

AFC NORTH

CINCINNATI BENGALS

GET: S Danieal Manning, OT Marshall Montgomery, OT Will Svitek, DE Sam Montgomery, QB Jason Campbell, CB R.J Stanford, LB Dontay Moch

LOSE: DE Michael Johnson, WR Andrew Hawkins, OT Anthony Collins, CB Brandon Ghee, FB Chris Pressley

RE-SIGNS: LB Vincent Rey, WR Brandon Tate, G Mike Pollak, S Taylor Mays

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State     2nd round: RB Jeremy Hill, LSU     3rd round: DE William Clarke, West Virginia     4th round: C Russell Bodine, North Carolina     5th round: QB AJ McCarron, Alabama     6th round: OLB Marquis Flowers, Arizona     7th round: WR James Wright, LSU     CB Lavelle Westbrooks, Georgia Southern

SUMMARY: The Bengals are now the undisputed powerhouse of the AFC North or are they? Based off last year, it sure seems that way but the Bengals aren’t known for their clutch performances. The loss of DE Michael Johnson hurt, but they made up for it by stealing S Danieal Manning in free agency and drafting Michigan State standout CB Darqueze Dennard to bolster an already superb defense. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap will fill the void that the loss of Johnson will leave as will LB Vontaze Burfict, who led the league in tackles last year with 171. They also bolstered the offensive line and the backfield by drafting LSU’s Hill. However, the Bengals failed to draft a WR until the seventh round when of all the needs this team had, that was probably the most important one. Marvin Jones will start at the second WR spot and he has 69 receptions for 913 yards in his whole career, most of which he accumulated last year. A.J. Green is a top-5 receiver in the league easily, but he’s the only aerial threat this team has, limiting the skills of their franchise quarterback Andy Dalton, who the Bengals signed to a bloated 6 year, $115 million deal. That’s nearly $20 million a year to throw the ball to A.J. Green. That is preposterous. If Green can’t have an effect on the game, this team’s offense dwindles like a feather in the wind…heavily. RB Giovanni Bernard will takeover the backfield as the primary back this year, which will give the Bengals another offensive outlet, but this team’s dire need of vertical threats will continue to limit this team’s progression in the playoffs until the front office decides to get a decent receiver to put opposite of Green.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

Week 1: @ BAL   Week 2: vs. ATL   Week 3: vs. TEN   Week 4: BYE   Week 5: @ NE   Week 6: vs. CAR   Week 7: @ IND   Week 8: vs. BAL   Week 9: vs. JAC   Week 10: vs. CLE   Week 11: @ NO   Week 12: @ HOU   Week 13: @ TB   Week 14: vs. PIT   Week 15: @ CLE   Week 16: vs. DEN   Week 17: @ PIT

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

GET: S Mike Mitchell, WR Lance Moore, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, DT Cam Thomas, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Arthur Moats

LOSE: LB LaMarr Woodley, S Ryan Clark, DE Ziggy Hood, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jerricho Cotchery, RB Jonathan Dwyer, TE David Johnson, DE Al Woods

RE-SIGNS: LB Jason Worilds, OT Guy Whimper, S Will Allen, OL Cody Wallace

DRAFT: 1st round: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State     2nd round: DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame     3rd round: RB Dri Archer, Kent State     4th round: WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson     5th round: CB Shaquille Richardson, Arizona     C Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt     6th round: OLB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA     DT Dan McCullers, Tennessee     7th round: TE Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts

SUMMARY: The Pittsburgh Steelers started last season 0-4 and the fans went crazy. The Steelers responded to their cries and to the adversity, going 8-4 in their remaining 12 games and falling just short of a wild-card spot. The Steelers season could be summed up in their last play against the Miami Dolphins, when Antonio Brown’s last second miracle was nullified because he stepped out. However, if anything, the season did show the Steelers weren’t going to just quit and try and get a first round pick. This team still has talent and they showed that last year. Antonio Brown was second in the league in receiving and 2013 second round pick Le’Veon Bell had a huge effect when he was on the field. However, injuries did hamper him some and that is something to watch out for in 2014. However, the Steelers grabbed speedster RB Dri Archer from Kent State and signed powerback LeGarrette Blount to a two-year deal, which should get them out of the 28th slot that they occupied for total rushing yards last year. They also drafted to fix their needs, drafting LB Ryan Shazier and DE Stephon Tuitt to finish up their young linebacking core and d-line. This team is struggling to stay under the salary cap and some of that is their own fault, like paying LB Jason Worilds close to $10 million to play one season in the black and gold, but the team is making ends meet. Wide receiver is a need for every team in the AFC North and the Steelers are no exception, but if Bell, Ben and Brown stay healthy and the defense holds moderately steady, the Steelers will be in the hunt for a wild-card spot once again.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

Week 1: vs. CLE   Week 2: @ BAL   Week 3: @ CAR   Week 4: vs. TB   Week 5: @ JAC   Week 6: @ CLE   Week 7: vs. HOU   Week 8: vs. IND   Week 9: vs. BAL   Week 10: @ NYJ   Week 11: @ TEN   Week 12: BYE   Week 13: vs. NO   Week 14: @ CIN   Week 15: @ ATL   Week 16: vs. KC   Week 17: vs. CIN

BALTIMORE RAVENS

GET: WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels, RB Justin Forsett, S Darian Stewart

LOSE: CB Corey Graham, OT Michael Oher, S James Ihedigbo, LB Jameel McClain, TE Ed Dickson, DE Arthur Jones, WR Tandon Doss

RE-SIGNS: TE Dennis Pitta, OT Eugene Monroe, LB Daryl Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, LB Albert McClellan, NT Terrence Cody

DRAFT: 1st round: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama     2nd round: DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State     3rd round: S Terrence Brooks, Florida State     TE Crockett Gilmore, Colorado State     4th round: DT Brent Urban, Virginia     RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina     5th round: G John Urschel, Penn State     6th round: QB Keith Wenning, Ball State     7th round: WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest

SUMMARY: I thought Ray Rice was overrated long before his disastrous season last year. I just thought he would fail sooner than he did. Nonetheless, he was not the only problem the Ravens faced. After letting playoff hero WR Anquan Boldin go to San Franciso, their receiving core was decimated by injuries. TE Dennis Pitta suffered a dislocated and fractured hip, WR Jacoby Jones was concussed after a collision with one of his own teammates, leaving QB Joe Flacco to throw to WR Torrey Smith, who had a fantastic year, a year I capitalized on in fantasy. Ray Rice’s failed to do much of anything, rushing for only 660 yards and Flacco’s limited targets led to one of the Ravens having one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league (25th, 20 ppg). The Ravens defense kept the team in the wild card hunt till the end though and made sure the team broke even at season’s end. The front office made some big moves shortly after, signing longtime Panther WR Steve Smith and veteran TE Owen Daniels. RB Justin Forsett will join RB Bernard Pierce in carrying the backfield duties if Rice struggles again. Baltimore also did fantastic in the draft, drafting LB C.J. Mosley from Alabama and Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan in the first two rounds to sure up an aging defense. The secondary for this team is this though, as third round pick S Terrence Brooks will start at free safety with second year S Matt Elam. This team will battle tooth and nail with the Steelers for second, but the Steelers have the younger team, so I have to go in Pittsburgh’s favor.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

Week 1: vs. CIN   Week 2: vs. PIT   Week 3: @ CLE   Week 4: vs. CAR   Week 5: @ IND   Week 6: @ TB   Week 7: vs. ATL   Week 8: @ CIN   Week 9: @ PIT   Week 10: vs. TEN   Week 11: BYE   Week 12: @ NO   Week 13: vs. SD   Week 14: @ MIA   Week 15: vs. JAC   Week 16: @ HOU   Week 17: vs. CLE

CLEVELAND BROWNS

GET: S Donte Whitner, LB Karlos Dansby, RB Ben Tate, CB Isaiah Trufant, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Miles Austin, WR Nate Burleson, OT Paul McQuistan, WR Earl Bennett, FB Chris Pressley

LOSE: DB TJ Ward, LB D’Qwell Jackson, OL Shawn Lauvao, OL Oniel Cousins, QB Jason Campbell, QB Brandon Weeden

RE-SIGNS: OL Alex Mack, K Billy Cundiff

DRAFT: 1st round: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State     QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M     2nd round: OT Joel Bitonio, Nevada     3rd round: OLB Chris Kirksey, Iowa     RB Terrance West, Towson     4th round: CB Pierre Desir, Lindenwood

SUMMARY: The Cleveland Browns traded RB Trent Richardson to the Colts to start off the season and that was the highlight of the season for them aside from WR Josh Gordon’s record receiving year despite his two-game suspension. However, Gordon can’t stay out of trouble and with a likely year-long suspension on the way, the Browns signed a lot of pass catchers during free agency, such as WRs Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Nate Burleson, and Earl Bennett. They grabbed S Donte Whitner and drafted CB Justin Gilbert to boost a secondary that surprised a lot of people last year with a eighth place ranking. Even with Gordon’s heroics, the offense only managed a measly 19.8 points per game, which is why the team failed to win. Heisman Johnny Manziel may give something for Cleveland fans to rally behind, but at the end of the day, it’s all about LeBron in Cleveland and for good reason. The Browns lost their best linebacker in D’Qwell Jackson and while the defense has made great strides, the offense’s advancements have been baby steps in comparison. Especially considering RB Ben Tate’s durability concerns, don’t expect this team to be a dark horse threat.

SCHEDULE     PROJECTED RECORD: 5-11

Week 1: @ PIT   Week 2: vs. NO   Week 3: vs. BAL   Week 4: BYE   Week 5: @ TEN   Week 6: vs. PIT   Week 7: @ JAC   Week 8: vs. OAK   Week 9: vs. TB   Week 10: @ CIN   Week 11: vs. HOU   Week 12: @ ATL   Week 13: @ BUF   Week 14: vs. IND   Week 15: vs. CIN   Week 16: @ CAR   Week 17: @ BAL

AFC West   AFC East   AFC South   NFC North   NFC West   NFC East   NFC South

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 10

Top 5

1. Saints set record for most first downs in a game (40), hold Cowboys to 0/9 on third down and 193 total yards, get 625 themselves including 245 rushing vs. DAL

2. WR Tavon Austin 2 receptions for 138 yards, 2 TDs and a punt return touchdown vs. IND

3. CIN LB Vincent Rey 15 tackles, 10 solo, 3 sacks and an interception vs. BAL

4. QB Drew Brees 34/41 for 392 yards, 4 TDs, 139.0 QBR vs. DAL

5. WR Demaryius Thomas 7 receptions for 108 yards, 3 TDs vs. SD

Worst of the Worst

1. Colts go 2/12 on third down, commit five turnovers, get 18 yards rushing, and allow two defensive/special teams TDs vs. STL

2. Ravens S James Ihedigbo tips hail mary ball to A.J. Green for last second TD to force overtime

3. Dolphins get two yards rushing vs. TB

4. QB Colin Kaepernick 11/22 for 91 yards, INT, six sacks, 42.0 QBR vs. CAR

5. QB Tony Romo 10/24 for 128 yards, TD, 72.9 QBR vs. NO

Steelers Recap

The Steelers beat the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday  23-10. The Burgh held the Bills to 95 yards rushing on the game, limiting the tandem of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to 78 yards. Pittsburgh held Buffalo to 3/14 on third down and went 8/17 themselves. However, the team was 2/5 in the redzone, which kept the Bills in the game when it easily could have been 35-10. The Steelers face the Lions this upcoming Sunday, a team that leads the NFC North at 6-3. One of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in football in Stafford and Megatron will give the Steelers secondary plenty of work. Reggie Bush is a more than capable runningback and I just don’t see how the Steelers can win this game and that’s without mentioning the matchup of the stellar Lions D-line against the patch-worked Steelers O-line.

Game of the Week: Patriots @ Panthers

Last week, I picked the Cowboys and Saints as the game of the week but the game was overshadowed by the defensive showdown between the Panthers and 49ers. The Panthers went on to win the game and they’re on a five-game winning streak. This Monday Night matchup will show if the Panthers are playoff-bound or not. I’m not sure who to pick in this one yet. It could go either way.

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 9

Top 5

1. QB Nick Foles 20/28 for 406 yards, 7 TDs, 158.3 QBR vs. OAK

7th QB in NFL history throw 7 TDs in one game, first with perfect rating

2. WR Andre Johnson  8 receptions for 229 yards, 3 TDs vs. IND

3. RB Mike James 28 for 158 yards, touchdown pass vs. SEA

4. WR T.Y. Hilton 7 receptions for 121 yards, 3 TDs vs. HOU

5. RB Zac Stacy 27 for 127 yards, 2 TDs, 6 receptions for 51 yards vs. TEN

Worst of the Worst

1. Bills lose to KC despite out-gaining them.

BUF: 470 KC: 210 BUF had 241 rushing, but 3 turnovers led to 2 defensive touchdowns for KC

2. Steelers allow franchise record 55 points and 610 yards vs. NE

3. Bengals lose in OT on safety vs. MIA

4. QB Andy Dalton 32/53 for 338 yards, 3 INTs, Fmble, 55.4 QBR vs. MIA

5. QB Matt Ryan 20/27 for 219 yards, 3 INTs , 70.4 QBR vs. CAR

Steelers Recap

I was disinterested in this past week’s Steelers game and the biggest reason for that is because the Steelers were being outplayed the whole game. Despite the score being tied at 24 at one point, there had been so many defensive miscues for the Steelers that I truly didn’t understand how they were still in the game. The Patriots were the more dominant team the whole game even though they needed the fourth quarter to pull away. The Patriots were 5/8 in the red zone. The fact that they were in the red zone eight times in one game is embarrassing. Roethlisberger threw for four touchdowns and 400 yards, but had two interceptions and a fumble. The offense overall was prevalent but Dick LeBeau’s defense was atrocious.  I wasn’t surprised the Steelers lost but I was a little surprised the Steelers allowed franchise records in points and yardage, despite facing a Patriots team that is not as good as it was in past years. Tom Brady has struggled without his go-to receivers this year but has still been able to lead his team to victories. You would have thought that with Brady throwing to the likes of Aaron Dobson and an injury-prone Amendola and Gronk they would have struggled at least a little bit, but it looked like Brady had been throwing to these guys for the last ten years. Despite how bad the Steelers played, I’m going to pick them against the Bills this Sunday. The game is at home and I think that E.J. Manuel will struggle in his first game back since October 3. They will be battling one of the best running back duos in the league in Spiller and Jackson, but I believe if the offense can be half as prevalent as it was last week, they will be able to pull out the victory.

Game of the Week: Cowboys @ Saints

Very rarely do I believe the Sunday night game is actually the game of the week, but the Cowboys and Saints match-up will be one to watch.

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 7

Top 5

1. QB Andrew Luck 21/38 for 228 yards, 3 TDs, 99.5 QBR vs. DEN

2. RB Matt Forte 16 carries for 91 yards, 3 TDs vs. WSH

3. WR Calvin Johnson 9 receptions for 155 yards, 2 TDs vs. CIN

4. QB Andy Dalton 24/34 for 372 yards, 3 TDs, career-high 135.9 QBR vs. DET

5. WR Vincent Jackson 10 receptions for 138 yards, 2 TDs vs. ATL

Worst of the Worst

1. QB Matt Barkley 11/20 for 129 yards, 3 INTs, 35.2 QBR vs. DAL in just the 4th quarter

2. QB Josh Freeman 20/53 for 190 yards, INT, 40.6 QBR vs. NYG

overthrew 16 attempts Monday, most by any QB since 2006

overthrown % is highest in the league, 23.8%

2nd QB in league history to throw for less than 200 yards on more than 50 attempts

3. Refs call penalty in OT of Pats-Jets game

Folk’s 56 yd missed field goal attempt nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on DT Chris Jones for pushing a teammate in the back in an attempt to block the kick. The refs  ruled that Jones was a second-level defender that pushed teammate Will Svitek from behind. The rule states “Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.” Though Jones did appear to push Svitek, he was originally lined up on the line of scrimmage. The violation is said to occur only when the pushing player starts at the second level of the defense. It’s the first time the penalty has been called and it’s a rule change for 2013. 61% of Sports Nation said it was a bad call. I personally don’t know why they have a rule like that and I think it’s dumb, but that’s just me.

4. QB Brandon Weeden 17/42 for 149 yards, TD, INT, 48.6 QBR vs. GB

5. QB Tom Brady 22/46 for 228 yards, INT, 53.5 QBR vs. NYJ

Steelers Recap

Steelers beat the defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, 19-16 this past Sunday. I took a huge leap of faith on the Steelers, picking them to win, and they didn’t let me down. Ben was 17/23 for 160 yards and a TD, no turnovers, and had only three sacks. While it may have only been 160 yards passing, the Steelers had 141 yards rushing, including rookie Le’veon Bell’s 19 carries for 93 yards. Lawrence Timmons had 17 tackles and Suisham was 4/4. While the redzone field goals were an issue, the Steelers were able to hold on for the win. It’s a huge improvement and definitely a step in the right direction. The Steelers face the Oakland Raiders on the road this week after losing to the Raiders at home last year. This is a must-win for Pittsburgh, even more so then the Ravens game, because if they lose to the Raiders, they lose all the momentum they just gained after beating the Ravens on their home turf. If they like they did this past Sunday, they should be able to win by 7+. They just can’t overlook the Raiders. They’re 2-0 since their bye, which I predicted, and I predicted them to beat Oakland before losing against New England. I’m going to stick with my guts. Let’s go ‘Burgh!

Game of the Week: Cowboys vs. Lions

The Lions once again get in my game of the week as they face a Cowboys team that leads the struggling NFC East. The Lions only lost by three points against Cincy and they played a great game. Meanwhile, the Cowboys struggled against the Eagles despite numerous takeaways, scratching by with a 17-3 win. While the Cowboys may bounce back, I’m taking the Lions. It’s Calvin Johnson vs. Dez Bryant in this air attack fiasco. It’s sure to be a good one.

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 4

Top 5

1. QB Drew Brees 30/39 for 413 yards, 4 TDs 144.5 QBR vs. MIA

Threw for 400 yards for 10th time, 2nd-most all-time behind Dan Marino (13)

2. QB Philip Rivers 35/42 for 401 yards, 3 TDs, INT, 120.3 QBR vs. DAL

3. QB Peyton Manning 28/34 for 327 yards, 4 TDs, 146.0 QBR vs. PHI

16 TDs in first 4 games most in NFL history

4. TE Tony Gonzalez 12 receptions for 149 yards, 2 TDs vs. NE

5. RB Reggie Bush 18 carries for 139 yards, TD vs. CHI

Worst of the Worst

1. QB Blaine Gabbert 17/32 for 179 yards, 3 INTs, 30.6 QBR vs. IND

2. QB Joe Flacco 25/50 for 347 yards, 2 TDs, 5 INTs, 46.4 QBR vs. BUF

3. QB Ryan Tannehill 22/35 for 249 yards, TD. 3 INTs, Fmble, 57.9 QBR vs. NO

4. QB Jay Cutler 27/47 for 317 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, Fmble, 65.6 QBR vs. DET

5. QB Andy Dalton 23/42 for 206 yards, INT, Fmble, 58.2 QBR vs. CLE

Steelers Recap

The Steelers lost to the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday in London 34-27. The Steelers were 3/6 in the red zone and failed to force a turnover for the fourth consecutive game. I’ll be honest when I say I was disinterested with this game in the middle of the third quarter. I still watched, but I was only half watching and it was because I knew the Steelers were going to lose…again. The Steelers didn’t play bad offensively. There were a lot of positives to take away from Sunday’s game. For example, rookie Le’Veon Bell had 16 carries for 57 yards and two touchdowns in his debut. The problem was the same as it had been for the previous three games before it: the Steelers didn’t make big plays and they let the other team make them.

In the Titans game, RB Isaac Redman fumbled on the TEN 5 yard line which was then recovered by the Titans. Later in the game, Ben threw an interception, which the Titans then took down the field for a touchdown. Big plays: TEN-2 PIT-0

Against Cincinnati, the Steelers had a 3-0 lead and Ben completed a 34 yard pass to TE David Paulson to get the Steelers into the redzone, only to watch Paulson get stripped by CB Adam Jones. The Bengals went on to score a touchdown and a field goal on their next two possessions and the Steelers never recovered. Big plays: CIN-1 PIT-0

After the Bears scored a field goal on their first drive, Ben fumbled the ball on the third offensive play for the Steelers. The Bears go on to get two touchdowns on their next two possessions. Ben throws a pick-six to give the Bears 7 more points and RB Felix Jones fumbles the ball on the opening second half drive and the Bears score again. Oh, and let’s not forget about Julius Peppers’ fumble return for a touchdown. Big plays: CHI-4 PIT-0

Then the Vikings game they allow a 70 yard touchdown catch to WR Greg Jennings and later on a 60 yard touchdown run from RB Adrian Peterson. Take away those two big plays: Steelers win the game 27-20. The defense was nowhere to be found on Sunday and so the Steelers lost again. The Steelers’ problem is not one that requires a brainiac to figure out. The Steelers need to take advantage of chances, make the big plays, and stop turning the ball over while getting some takeaways of their own. It’s not that difficult.

Game of the Week: Texans @ 49ers

Both teams have met unexpected adversity in the first four weeks of the NFL season. This is the chance for both teams to show they’re for real.

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Tim Sports Report for 2013 NFL Week 3

Top 5

1. Panthers shutout Giants, sack Manning 7 times, hold Giants to 150 yards total offense

2. WR Antonio Brown 9 receptions for 196 yards, 2 TDs vs. CHI

3. RB DeMarco Murray 26 carries for 175 yards, TD vs. STL

4. LB Justin Houston 7 tackles, 6 solo, 4.5 sacks, forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries vs. PHI

5. TE Jimmy Graham 9 receptions for 134 yards, 2 TDs vs. ARI

Worst of the Worst

1. QB Eli Manning 12/23 for 109 yards, INT, 49.0 QBR vs. CAR

2. Packers score 30 unanswered points and cause 4 Bengal turnovers on 4 consecutive drives, then lose to Bengals

3. QB Colin Kaepernick 13/27 for 150, INT, Fmble, 49.9 QBR vs. IND

4. QB Carson Palmer 18/35 for 187 yards, 2 INTs, 43.4 QBR vs. NO

5. QB Michael Vick 13/30 for 201 yards, TD, 2 INTs, Fmble, 49.4 QBR, 4 carries for 99 yards vs. KC

Steelers Recap

The Steelers lost to the Bears 40-23 last Sunday night and while some people were furious over the Steelers’ performance, I actually thought I saw some improvement from last week’s game against Cincinnati. They ran 65 plays for 459 yards, good for 7.1 ypp. They also ran the ball for 80 yards, which was better than last week. I still think Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones should be the primary backs for this team. Jones has potential as a decent back if he can hold on to the ball and Dwyer was the best runningback on this team last year. He has the build and running style of Jerome Bettis. He’ll never be as good as him, but he’s that type of guy, and he’s great at blocking for Ben in passing situations. Ben had more passing yards than any other quarterback in the league this past week with 406, and remember that this was against a top-5 defense. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Steelers got a field goal to make it 27-23 but the Bears proved to be too much for them. The Steelers committed five turnovers including two interceptions and two fumbles for Ben, which led to two defensive touchdowns for Chicago. If you subtract those two scores from the final score, the score would not be 40-23, but 26-23, and considering this was the Chicago Bears defense and a struggling Steelers offense, I’m willing to take that. Did the Steelers give the game away? Yes, but for a second if not third-rate offensive line, a struggling offense, and an aged defense, I expected a 30 point blowout. The Steelers held the Bears to a 17 point win. I’m not saying Steelers fans should be excited, but you can’t ignore that there are some positives to take away from Sunday’s game. This week the Steelers face the Minnesota Vikings who are also 0-3. Christian Ponder will be out with a rib injury so the Steelers will be facing backup quarterback Matt Cassel. That might help, but the Steelers still have to stop MVP Adrian Peterson from running all over them and that is no easy feat. I could see this game go either way, but the Steelers are going to have to show me a little more improvement before I’m going to pick them to win. I’ll take the Vikings in a close one.

Game of the Week: Dolphins @ Saints

While everyone will most likely be watching the Sunday night game starring the Patriots and Falcons, I will be more excited for the Dolphins-Saints matchup on Monday Night. The Dolphins had a huge offseason and while some fans were questioning some of the moves, the Dolphins have showed the results that all Dolphins fans have been looking for. While on paper this team is 21st and 18th against the pass and rush respectively, this defense is underrated. Tannehill is showing improvement and while starting runningback Lamar Miller is struggling, I think he will begin to produce in time. The Dolphins were heavy underdogs against the Colts and I picked the Phins and they won. They were heavy underdogs against the Falcons. I picked the Falcons, but the Phins won again. This week they are heavy underdogs, again, and after beating two tough teams, they’ve impressed me enough that I’m willing to pick them over the Saints. It should be a great game.

 

 

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2013-2014 NFL Preview: AFC North

I’ve done a  lot of research on this over the summer so I’ve been looking forward to writing this for a long time. So here it goes.

All the numbers that come after players’ names represent how they were rated on ESPN’s Free Agent Tracker.

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS

GET: DE Elvis Dumervil (82), LB Daryl Smith (81), DT Chris Canty (78), DE Marcus Spears (75), S Michael Huff (75)

LOSE: S Ed Reed (84), S Bernard Pollard (77), LB Paul Kruger (75), LB Dannell Ellerbe (75), NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (74), CB Cary Williams (73), WR Anquan Boldin (trade) LB Ray Lewis (retired)

RE-SIGNS: QB Joe Flacco (84), FB Vonta Leach (78), OT Bryant McKinnie (76), TE Dennis Pitta (74), DE Arthur Jones (69), TE Ed Dickson (68)

DRAFT: 1st round: S Matt Elam, Florida     2nd round: OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas State     3rd round: DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State     4th round: DE John Simon, Ohio State   FB Kyle Juszcyk, Harvard     5th round: OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin     6th round: DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame   G Ryan Jensen, Colorado State-Pueblo     7th round: WR Aaron Mellette, Elon   CB Marc Anthony, California

SUMMARY: After a great Super Bowl run, the Ravens lost their two biggest stars as well as some of their best defensive players. The biggest hit of all was the loss of LB Dannell Ellerbe. Many thought that Ellerbe would become the star linebacker of the franchise, only to watch him leave to go to South Beach. However, management did a decent job of filling the holes. After an agent’s mistake, the Ravens were able to grab veteran DE Elvis Dumervil, following that up with the signing of Daryl Smith, an underrated LB from Jacksonville.  S Michael Huff and DE Marcus Spears will help provide leadership to the secondary and defensive front, respectively. While the Ravens did a good job with filling in the holes, there’s no doubt that this is not the same team. No linebacker in the league right now can replace the talent and ability of Ray Lewis, and his presence in the front seven will surely be missed. Michael Huff is no Ed Reed and their secondary will suffer this year. The loss of WR Anquan Boldin, who was one of their strongest offensive stars last year, as well as TE Dennis Pitta to a season-ending hip surgery, will hamper the offense this year, but despite all of these negatives, I believe this team still has the talent to win the AFC North.

SCHEDULE   PROJECTED RECORD: 10-6

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

CINCINNATI BENGALS

GET: LB James Harrison (78), QB John Skelton (off waivers)

LOSE: CB Nate Clements (73), LB Manny Lawson (72), K Josh Brown (65)

RE-SIGNS: DE Michael Johnson (83), LB Rey Maualuga (83), RT Andre Smith (78), CB Terrance Newman (75), DE Robert Geathers (70), DE Carlos Dunlap

DRAFT: 1st round: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame     2nd round: RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina   DE Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist     3rd round: S Shawn Williams, Georgia     4th round: OLB Sean Porter, Texas A&M     5th round: OT Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas     6th round: RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska   WR Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas     7th round: OT Reid Fragel, Ohio State   C T. J. Johnson, South Carolina

SUMMARY: The Bengals were able to keep most of their star players and are mostly the same team as they were last year, but with a few additions. LB James Harrison is no longer in his prime, but will still help aid the pass rush and provide leadership to a young team. The defense is definitely the key to this team but the offense is slowly maturing. QB Andy Dalton is improving and WR A.J. Green is a constant threat as well as one of the best receivers in the league. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is not an elite runningback, but he puts out constant production, stays healthy for the most part, and causes few turnovers. However, aside from that, the Bengals struggle on offense. If Green-Ellis can’t get the chains moving and Green is in double coverage, the Bengals struggle to score. While the drafting of TE Tyler Eifert and RB Giovani Bernard should help, I don’t think it will be enough. Their number two receiver is Mohamed Sanu. He played 9 games last year and had a total of…wait for it…16 receptions.

SCHEDULE   PROJECTED RECORD: 9-7

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

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

GET: TE Matt Spaeth (68), CB William Gay (67), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (66)

LOSE: WR Mike Wallace (84), NT Casey Hampton (82), G Willie Colon (78), LB James Harrison (78), RB Rashard Mendenhall (77), CB Keenan Lewis (75), OT Max Starks (73), S Ryan Mundy (66), S Will Allen (65), OL Doug Legursky (64)

RE-SIGNS: LB Larry Foote (75), G Ramon Foster (71), WR Emmanuel Sanders (68), WR Plaxico Burress (67), RB Jonathan Dwyer (65), RB Issac Redman (64), NT Steve McLendon (64), QB Byron Leftwich, QB Charlie Batch

DRAFT: 1st round: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia     2nd round: RB Le’veon Bell, Michigan State     3rd round: WR Markus Wheaton, Oklahoma State     4th round: S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse   QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma     5th round: CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois     6th round: WR Justin Brown, Penn State   ILB Vince Williams, Florida State     7th round: DT Nicholas Williams, Samford

SUMMARY: My hometown Steelers have a tough season ahead of them. They had to let some of their best players go because of the salary cap. I wasn’t upset about WR Mike Wallace’s departure nor was I bothered by G Willie Colon, RB Rashard Mendenhall, and LB James Harrison leaving. However, CB Keenan Lewis had a great year last year and with the secondary hurting as it is, I was hoping a one-year deal might be possible. OT Doug Legursky was also a great weapon on the line because he could play both guards or play center if C Maurkice Pouncey couldn’t play. Why the Steelers signed Foster instead of Legursky, I don’t know. I like the drafting of OLB Jarvis Jones. While he probably won’t start, I do expect him to have a decent amount of playing time. Some experts say that Bell might start this year. I don’t expect this to be the case, but if he does start, it would mean a lot to this team. They need offense wherever they can get it. Aside from WR Antonio Brown and WR Emmanuel Sanders, their wide receiving core is Plaxico Burress, Jerricho Cotchery and the newly drafted Markus Wheaton. TE Heath Miller will most likely miss the first four games if not more recovering from his knee injury that he suffered last year, which means even less offensive stars on the field. It will be a tough year for the Steelers, but I still think they can edge out the Browns for third place.

SCHEDULE   PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8

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

CLEVELAND BROWNS

GET: LB Paul Kruger (75), WR David Nelson (72), TE Kellen Davis (68), QB Jason Campbell (66), K Shayne Graham (58), WR Davone Bess (trade)

LOSE: K Phil Dawson (77), Sheldon Brown (76), TE Ben Watson (73), WR Mohammed Massaquoi (72), WR Josh Cribbs (71), DE Frostee Rucker (70), S Usama Young (68), LB Kaluka Maiava (67), QB Thaddeus Lewis

RE-SIGNS: none

DRAFT: 1st round: DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU     3rd round: CB Leon McFadden, San Diego State     6th round: S Jamoris Slaughter, Notre Dame     7th round: DE Amonty Bryant, East Central Oklahoma   G Garrett Gilkey, Chadron State

SUMMARY: The Browns made some key pick-ups this offseason. LB Paul Kruger had a great postseason for the Ravens and can add a new element to the pass rush as will DE Barkevious Mingo. WRs Davone Bess and David Nelson will provide new targets for QB Brandon Weeden. However, the defensive front is sure to suffer after the loss of Frostee Rucker and the secondary is Joe Haden and no one. This is definitely a team that is better than past years, but once again it relies on the performance of one player, except this time the Browns aren’t relying on their quarterback. They’re relying on their runningback.

SCHEDULE   PROJECTED RECORD: 5-11

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

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