December 21, 2014

All Out Blitz: NFL News & Notes

Arizona Cardinals:  Well the axe fell on head coach Ken Whisenhunt on Monday.  Can’t really blame the Cardinals for wanting to change the direction of their franchise but also can’t blame Whisenhunt either.  It all comes down to the quarterback position, and the Cardinals don’t have one right now.  Is Kevin Kolb the answer?  The Cards didn’t seem to think so when they went after Peyton Manning in the off-season.  Makes you wonder if they think so now.

Atlanta Falcons:  Everything is set up nicely for the Falcons.  They have home field advantage once again in the NFC.  They don’t want to blow it this time around.  The NFC seems to be wide open with no truly dominant team, but a matchup in the second round against the Seahawks wouldn’t be a good thing.  Seattle has two really good corners to match up against WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones, and Marshawn Lynch may run all over that defense.  If Atlanta were to lose their first playoff game, they are going to be put in the same class as the Dallas Cowboys, can’t win the big one under this regime.

Baltimore Ravens:  Baltimore will play Indianapolis in the wildcard round of the playoffs.  probably not the greatest of matchups for the Ravens as Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is very familiar with the Baltimore team, having coached there for so many year.  The Ravens have looked like a shell of themselves this season.  Do they have a big game in them?  Possibly, but they need to have RB Ray Rice touch the ball 25+ times, take the pressure off of QB Joe Flacco, and the defense can’t let up the big play, put pressure on Colts QB Andrew Luck, he is still a rookie after all, he will make mistakes.

Buffalo Bills:  No big shock that head coach Chan Gailey and his staff were let go on black Monday.  Question now is, who takes over?  What does the new staff do with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick?  What do they do with RB Fred Jackson?  Even the owner, Ralph Wilson may have had enough as he has ceded control of the team to Russ Brandon.  Wouldn’t say the team is a mess, but they are not all that tidy and clean either.

Carolina Panthers:  Having a hard time wondering why everyone is penciling in QB Cam Newton in the number four spot in fantasy rankings for next season.  I like him as a top 10 but can’t put him above someone like Peyton Manning.  He’s in that next tier for me, would like to see Carolina surround him with a few more weapons as well.

Chicago Bears:  The Bears were yet another team to dismiss their head coach Monday as Lovie Smith was let go.  When you start off a season 8-1 and then fail to make the playoffs, well the writing is kind of on the wall, now isn’t it…..Wide receiver Brandon Marshall had 188 targets this season.  That’s almost 12 a game.  Bears have to find a complementary receiver next season or pray that Alshon Jeffery becomes that player.

Cincinnati Bengals:  Can the Bengals do this year what they couldn’t last year?  Beat the Texans in the playoffs.  Would seem unlikely.  The Bengals as a franchise have never won a road playoff game.  One has to believe that Houston will do all they can to take WR A.J. Green out of the game plan and force Cincinnati to find an alternate means of winning the game.  Do the Bengals have another way?  Their defense is good, front seven may be one of the best in the game, but can it be dominating enough to keep the score down?  Have a feeling this is a 20-17 type of game.

Cleveland Browns:  Pat Shurmur is done as head coach of the Browns.  I’m not surprised, a new owner usually does want his own personnel and that extends to the coaching staff.  Still believe the Browns are on the right path but they play in a rough division and will need a couple more productive drafts and free agent signings to compete with the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens…..First order of business should be getting RB Trent Richardson healthy.  Richardson admitted after the season that he played most of this season with broken ribs, ouch.

Dallas Cowboys:  The Cowboys are certainly disappointed with how their season ended.  They once again lost a win and get in game.  Granted it was on the road once again, but still, a disappointing loss none the less.  Quarterback Tony Romo had a miserable game anyway you look at it.  I know he played with a cracked rib and that didn’t help matters, but three interceptions, all of which look to be his fault, that just can’t happen.  Dallas will re-sign him, he’s still a top eight QB in the NFL, but they need to build a better supporting cast around him.  Specifically they need to address the offensive line, all three of those picks were on blitzes.

Denver Broncos:  From missing the entire 2011 season to the top seed in the AFC, pretty incredible season for QB Peyton Manning…..Are the Broncos the best team in the AFC?  They did play the easiest schedule, seemed to lose to every good team they faced, still though, don’t see anyone anxious to travel to Denver to play them…..Running back Willis McGahee can return from the IR if the Broncos make the AFC Championship game.

Detroit Lions:  Jim Schwartz is one head coach that has survived the chopping block and should continue to do so.  His contract still has a few years left on it which should allow him to get at least one more season to put things together in Detroit…..Schwartz did come out and say this week that there is still a place on the team for WR Titus Young.  A little surprising seeing as how the season ended with those two but probably the right thing to do as Young does have upside, but almost zero trade value right now.

Green Bay Packers:  Bewilders me how the Packers defense knows the run is coming, is playing the run, yet still gets gashed over and over again by Vikings RB Adrian Peterson.  That’s 409 yards he has gained against them in two games this season.  Packers defense can’t be looking forward to the third game Saturday night…..Cornerback Charles Woodson should finally make his return to action in this game…..WR Greg Jennings could be playing his last game in Green Bay.

Houston Texans:  What a terrible ending to the regular season for the Texans.  They peaked to early and stumbled to the end.  Not having a first round bye more than likely cost them any chance at reaching the Super Bowl this year, just don’t see them beating Denver and New England both on the road…..Head coach Gary Kubiak stated this week that the offense needs to get TE Owen Daniels more involved once again.  Against that Bengals defense, it might come down to the passing game as the front seven could make things difficult for RB Arian Foster.

Indianapolis Colts:  What a great game for the Colts last week.  Not only did they welcome the return of their head coach, Chuck Pagano, back to the sidelines, but they defeated a division rival, a rival that needed to win the game in order to secure home field advantage in the AFC…..The Colts still have issues, this is a young team now that will make mistakes, but they also can be fun to watch and will grow and get better because of what they went through this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  What is there to say about the Jaguars?  They picked the wrong year to bottom out and get a top two pick in the draft.  There is no franchise QB worthy of being picked in that spot.  Will they sign QB Tim Tebow if he is released by the Jets, maybe.  Is he worth it, probably not.  He will sell tickets and is probably better than Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert, but is that really saying all that much?

Kansas  City Chiefs:  I think we all knew that head coach Romeo Crennel was going to get canned Monday, but it was a little surprising that general manager Scott Pioli wasn’t let go as well…..Andy Reid is being mentioned as a possible candidate for the job.  If he were to go there, does QB Michael Vick follow?  Reid certainly won’t live with Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel and like Jacksonville, there just isn’t an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III to take with the first overall pick.

Miami Dolphins:  The Dolphins have already let it be known that they will be interested in Mike Wallace and/or Greg Jennings should they become available on the free agent market.  Jennings would seem to be the favorite as he is well known to head coach Joe Philbin from his time with the Packers.  Miami needs a number one receiver badly in order to continue the development of QB Ryan Tannehill.  Funny thing about Tannehill, he had an okay season, but if he were to come out this season, he’d be the top QB taken.

Minnesota Vikings:   What a season RB Adrian Peterson has had.  Can’t believe he is able to gash all of these defenses when they know the run is coming.  The fact that he is doing it with virtually no passing game and coming off of ACL surgery just adds to the lore…..Can the Vikings beat the Packers in back to back games.  Would seem unlikely, but they are built to win games on the ground outdoors in cold weather with AP.  Saturday night in Green Bay, supposed to be a balmy 24 degrees.

New England Patriots:  Is there anyone that really doesn’t want to see QBs Tom Brady and Peyton Manning hook up in the AFC Championship game?  I know I do…..Tight end Rob Gronkowski returned last week in a limited variety and caught a couple of passes, one for a TD.  With a week off thanks to the bye Gronk should be at full strength in the divisional round of the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints:  No big surprise that Sean Peyton will return as head coach of the team.  Eight million per year will keep him, the offense, and the fans pretty happy…..We’re hearing plenty of rumors that a few of the players believe defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should be fired.  Apparently he didn’t mesh well with the players and we all know they didn’t perform for him.  Saints need to fix that defense or else next season will be another one where the offense will need to bail them out time and time again.

New York Giants:  The Giants went out with a bang this season, obliterating the Eagles on the final Sunday, but it wasn’t enough as the Bears victory over Detroit sent them packing for the off-season.  When the Giants watched the Cowboys and Redskins play Sunday night for the NFC East division crown, they had to be thinking  we are a better team than both.  Truth is, they probably are, but were so inconsistent that they played down to their level of competition…..Word came out Monday that WR Hakeem Nicks came back in about half the time that he should’ve from his knee injury, this does explain quite a bit…..DE Osi Umenyirora has more than likely played his last game in a Giants uniform.

New York Jets:  What a mess it is in Jets’ land.  The Tim Tebow experiment blew up in their faces.  It cost GM Mike Tannebaum his job, probably OC Tony Sparanos also.  Head coach Rex Ryan has survived for now, but he will be on the hot seat from training camp on next season…..The Jets need playmakers, anywhere and everywhere.  What will they do at quarterback.  Can’t really go into next season with Mark Sanchez as your number one.  They could be in a position to draft Matt Barkley out of USC, but his status has taken a huge hit this year.  Barkley may have cost himself millions by not coming out last year.

Oakland Raiders:  Terrelle Pryor did okay in his first NFL start.  Still not sure that he is the long term answer as a starter for Oakland, but a good backup is a possibility…..The Raiders have some cap problems, but nothing that can’t be fixed.  They need to fix the defense badly and an upgrade on the offensive line wouldn’t hurt either…..By firing their offensive coordinator the Raiders have admitted that a zone blocking scheme is not what’s best suited for RB Darren McFadden, then again with the amount of games he missed due to injury, the NFL may not suit him either.

Philadelphia Eagles:  Head coach Andy Reid is gone, will QB Michael Vick be next?  One has to think so but that also could depend on whether the new coach wants a veteran or a second year QB that the jury is still out on…..One has to believe that a new coaching staff will use RB LeSean McCoy next season more than Reid ever did, especially with Bryce Brown to back him up…..As mentioned earlier, wouldn’t it be kind of ironic if Vick ends up with Reid in Arizona, replacing Kevin Kolb once again?

Pittsburgh Steelers:  Will the Steelers franchise or re-sign WR Mike Wallace?  Probably not.  With Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders in the fold Pitt would seem to have more pressing needs than signing another high priced receiver…..What the Steelers end up doing at running back should also be interesting.  Who comes back out of Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, and Jonathan Dwyer?

San Diego Chargers:  We all knew HC Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith were as good as gone, I’m a little bit surprised they aren’t interested in Andy Reid, but perhaps they want a new head coach rather than a recycled one…..Running back Ryan Matthews has to be one of the biggest busts this NFL season.  Think he had more broken clavicles than touchdowns…..Tight end Antonio Gates came on at the end of the season, but still think he’s going to fall off a cliff as far as production.

San Francisco 49ers:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick may not have any chemistry with TE Vernon Davis, making him pretty irrelevant in the passing game, but he certainly knows where WR Michael Crabtree is.  Crabtree and Kap could be quite the combination for years to come…..I truly have no problems with the 49ers signing another kicker as David Akers has struggled all season, but Billy Cundiff, really.  When did this guy become mister accurate?  Do you really want him making a game winning or tying kick in the fourth quarter?  Ask the Ravens how that worked out.

Seattle Seahawks:  Now I have Green Bay and New England reaching the Super Bowl, but if you were asking me to pick an undergo, Seattle would be it.  They match up pretty well against Washington.  They will run the ball with RB Marshawn Lynch, and there defense is good enough to keep RB Alfred Morris in check.  I also like their probable matchup against the Falcons should they win.  Cornerback Richard Sherman and company can cover WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, and Atlanta has a poor run defense.

St. Louis Rams:  The Rams will look to improve their offensive line in the off-season.  They also need to find a true number one receiver and decide what to do with RB Steven Jackson.  Jackson can become a free agent in March but has stated that he would like to return to the team…..Kicker Greg Zuerlein started off looking like the second coming of Nick Lowery, but struggled as the season went along.  He ended up with a 70.1%, not good enough.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  What to think about the Bucs?  They looked good for about the first two thirds of the season before once again falling apart at the end.  Will they bring in a veteran QB to challenge Josh Freeman next season?  When his play fell off, so did the teams.  Head coach Greg Schiano also needs to fix the defense, a defense that looked terrible down the stretch outside of DT Gerald McCoy.  McCoy made his first Pro Bowl this season and could be a fixture in the middle of their defensive line until the next decade.

Tennessee Titans:  Wide receiver Kenny Britt believe he will be at full strength next season, good news for an offense that needs all the help they can get…..Running back Chris Johnson could be released by the team for cap reasons, but that is unlikely to happen.   Would also be good to see what Johnson could do behind an average to good offensive line…..For now it looks like Mike Munchak will remain as head coach, but he’s yet another HC that will be on the hot seat next season.

Washington Redskins:  Who would’ve ever thought the Redskins would win the NFC East after starting the season 3-6, just incredible.  The hit gold with QB Robert Griffin III but did even better with RB Alfred Morris.  Morris won’t win rookie of the year because of the seasons that Andrew Luck and RGIII had, but he is the MVP in fantasy leagues.  Morris was either drafted late or not at all in most leagues due to fantasy owners not trusting Mike Shanahan, but if you drafted him or claimed him off of waivers, you hit the jackpot.  Still think the Skins season comes to an end Sunday.

 

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