Saturday, September 29, 2012

NFL Picks: Week 4

Albeit a little bit late, I did tweet my pick (@WilliamBotchway) for the Thursday Night Game. Rest assured that I was occupied prior to the tweet and had not checked the score for the game, even though I knew it had started. Here it is:
Browns (+11.5) over RAVENS.
Finally! I have won an early week game! 1-3 on early week games, 1-0 this week and  23-23-3* on the year.  Of course that should be 24-22-3 because I had the Packers winning, but that's neither here nor there.

"UPSET ALERT" next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not only cover. Also, home team in CAPS.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weekly Awards 9/26/12

Best Player in Baseball- Stop it. It's not Miguel Cabrera. It's Mike Trout.
Right Tackle of the Week- Let's just say that it is not Bryan Bulaga, his Packers let up 8 sacks in the first half on Monday night. At least they overcame it to win the game! Oh...wait.
Jets Touchdown of the Week- Laron Landry taking it to the house of a terrible throw by Tannehill.
Time to Jump off the Bandwagon- The Detroit Lions could easily be 0-3 because they nearly cost themselves by letting the Rams hang around for a while in Week 1. Their defense looks terrible. The good thing however...
Game of the Week- Lions/Titans was great. That has to be the first walk-off chain measurement in NFL history.
Time to Jump on the Bandwagon- Minnesota Vikings. They look like they can be this year's spoiler-ish team with a lot of talent, but too many gaping holes to make a playoff run. Christian Ponder doesn't just look like an NFL QB, he looks really good so far. They've already exceeded my prediction of 1-15.
Replacement Ref of the Week- Lance Easley made the worst call in recent history. It was him!
Hey, You've Done It!- Why am I all of a sudden impressed by Brandon Weeden? Gah, make it stop!
King of the Bottom of the Hill- Ryan Tannehill is still bad. No surprise here.
Worst Team in the NFL- New Orleans Saints. Their defense is beyond atrocious, and their offense isn't exactly in sync. Long season out in N'awlins. But hey, at least they upgrade from the interim interim coach to the interim coach in Week 7!
Coach of the Week- If Sean Payton was with the team, they would not have blown such a large lead against KC. Unbelievable.
Best Team in the NFL- The Houston Texans have been taking care of business so far this season. They will roll through their division and go deep into the playoffs.
Fantasy Pickup of the Week- Andre Brown and Mikel Leshoure.
My Fantasy Team Player of the Week- Thank you Andre Brown.
Amar'e Stoudemire/Javale McGee Stupid Act of the Week- No, Miguel Cabrera should not win AL MVP and anyone who says that he should is completely wrong.
Birthday of the Day- The Sedin twins.
The G.O.A.T. Looks a Bit Off!- Okay, I'm officially worried about my boy Peyton Manning.
Mike Trout Award- Just give him the MVP already!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NFL Picks: Week 3

I tweeted my pick for the Thursday Night Football game. My twitter is @WilliamBotchway and here is my pick:
PANTHERS (+3) over Giants.
Of course now I'm 0-3 on early week games and 14-16-3 on the season. Also, I have Cam Newton in one of my fantasy leagues. But thankfully, in my most important league, I have....ANDRE BROWN!

"UPSET ALERT" next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not only cover. Also, home team in CAPS.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weekly Awards 9/19/12

Best Player in Baseball- Mike Trout
Right Tackle of the Week- Cordy Glenn was very impressive for the Bills on Sunday. The Bills have yet to allow a sack to Fitzpatrick, and part of the reason is because Glenn can move really well.
Jets Touchdown of the Week- Well they only scored one TD.....
Time to Jump off the Bandwagon- The Kansas City Chiefs looked terrible in Week 1, but the excuse (that I believed) was that they were missing key players on their defense. Well they played in Week 2, and they still were destroyed by the Bills. Inexcusable performance by a team that I thought will win their division.
Time to Jump on the Bandwagon- If you read my Arizona Cardinals preview in August, I mentioned a lot of good defensive players, and they have as a unit exceeded my expectations. They play very physically and are dominant enough to mask their offensive shortcomings, such as the fact that Kevin Kolb was played in both games this season. Patrick Peterson is amazing. He's one of the best defensive players in the league.
Replacement Ref of the Week- That idiot who cost the Ravens the game by calling a pass interference penalty on Jacoby Jones for no reason. Shoutout to the phantom pass interference on Ike Taylor.
Hey, You've Done It!- Brandon Weeden threw for 300 yards. Really? Speaking of...
King of the Bottom of the Hill- Weeden no longer deserves this crown. Last week I mentioned that Ryan Tannehill was making a push, but after last week's performances, Tannehill is taking this award home for the week. Congrats Ryan.
Worst Team in the NFL- You win some, you lose some. Tannehill gets the previous award, but he and his team lost their stranglehold on the worst team in the league because they won. Well, who gets it? It was between the Raiders and the Chiefs, and I'm going with the Oakland Raiders. KC has talent on their roster, but this looks like a classic Raiders season. Everything goes wrong; they get screwed by their long snapper, then they are "forced to wear black uniforms in the Miami heat."
Coach of the Week- Sean Payton is still gone, the Saints and their interim interim coach are still bad.
Cortland Finnegan Victim of the Week- He always knows how to anger someone to no end, and thanks to these replacement officials, he takes some extra unnecessary shots at WRs and doesn't get properly penalized. Josh Morgan cost his team the game by throwing the ball at Finnegan, but credit to the Great Instigator.
My Fantasy Team Player of the Week- Eli Manning had 510 yards. His picks lowered his final total, but he still got me 26. Great job there. (I still lost.)
Amar'e Stoudemire/Javale McGee Stupid Act of the Week- Two winners, the NFL and Brian Strapolo. The NFL made a gigantic mistake with the replacement referees. Their background checks were not very thorough, and they had a full-blown Saints fan assigned to a game between the Panthers and the Saints. The man had pictures of himself in Saints gear plastered all over his Facebook page. It took Chris Mortensen to tell the league at 11 AM before they pulled him and replaced him with an alternate official that was travelling with the crew. Bad job by Goodell and the league, but even worse by Strapolo. How stupid can one be to have Saints gear on their public Facebook page when he has to be an objective authority figure on national television. That's literally inviting the NFL to remove him from the game. Not smart.
Birthday of the Day- The guy who should come in second in the NL Cy Young voting, Gio Gonzalez. Unfortunately he will win because of "wins."
The G.O.A.T is Still Back!- Peyton Manning looked terrible in the first quarter on Monday. That's okay because he still found a way to bring his team back within striking distance. Don't overreact, he's fine, he just had a bad game.
Mike Trout Award- This is the new name of the AL MVP Award.

**NOTE** I have been attempting to write this since Tuesday, sorry for the delay, but you know, schoolwork.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Three Things to Remember about the Jets and Steelers

While watching yesterday's game, I felt the ultimate moment of "I told you so" toward my fellow Jets fans. Talk about overreactions, apparently the Jets are an amazing offensive team. Yeah, right. I'm going to quote the great William Botchway:
"Don't worry, we still suck. Over the course of the season, Stephen Hill will continue to look like Victor Cruz did on Wednesday. Austin Howard will struggle blocking. Shonn Greene will remember that he's Shonn Greene and start to suck again. Also, Sparano has already made some stupid Tebow/Sanchez decisions, he'll continue to screw with Sanchez's rhythm in the middle of drives. Though the defense and special teams really is this good. Expect an average of 13 points for the rest of the year."
Jets Offense is not Good
I wrote that on facebook right in the middle of the Jets making Bills fans circle the wagons.  Why is it that most Jets fans ignored the deficiencies of the offense?

Yesterday, two of these problems reared their ugly heads yesterday as the Jets were dismantled. The receivers forgot to do their jobs, and the running game was anemic. Mark Sanchez actually played a very good game despite his statistics. The only problem was that Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill were getting mauled (the contact was very legal and I applaud the Pittsburgh corners for their play) downfield and could not get open to save their lives. The old Sanchez would have attempted to force the ball into very tight coverage and get picked off. He now sees how stupid that is and checks down to a shorter route hoping that something will happen. Nothing happened.

Shonn Greene is not good. He got hurt early in the game with a head injury, at which point I thought it would be an improvement. Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight did nothing to fill in for Greene until he finally returned in the 2nd half. He came back and continued to do nothing.

Why is it that so many fans were blinded  by one game and forgot all about the horrible shortcomings of most of the offense.

Dick LeBeau is a Genius
I don't know how I seem to forget this all the time, but Dick LeBeau is a defensive mastermind. I keep calling Pittsburgh's defense old and slow, and while I'm somewhat joking, I do mean it. Does it matter? Apparently not; LeBeau has an amazing scheme and it doesn't really matter who plays for him, his defense is good. It obviously helps when he has elite defensive talent. 

Ben Roethlisberger is Elite
Big mistake by me here, but it's easy to forget how good he is. Unless of course he's playing against the team that you root for. It's extremely frustrating to watch your team attempt to stop him. So many free runners at him thanks to his terrible offensive line, but nobody can tackle him. He escapes hits so well, and when he does get whacked, he's so big that he just absorbs it and shrugs off lineman left and right. The touchdown that he threw to Mike Wallace was one of the most astounding things I've seen in a while. He was down. The Jets were closing in on him and he avoided a few hits and launched a bomb to Wallace that made Antonio Cromartie look like a complete bum. He always gets forgotten in the conversation of the best QBs, but this skill of his makes him so good. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NFL Picks: Week 2

As you already know, I'm tweeting my pick for the Thursday Night Football Games for this year. My twitter is @WilliamBotchway and here is my pick:
Bears (+5.5) over PACKERS.
I'm now 0-2 on early week games, and 7-10 on the season. I would like to thank the Chicago offensive line for doing this to me. I hate you too.

"UPSET ALERT" next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not only cover. Also, home team in CAPS.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weekly Awards 9/12/12

Best Player in Baseball- Mike Trout, don't argue
Right Tackle of the Week- Austin Howard! I finally realized the fundamental problem with Mario Williams's style of play. He doesn't exactly get pressure on the quarterback, he gets sacks when there are open holes. Lining up against Austin Howard on Sunday, there were no open holes. Of course this led the $100 Million Man to complain about the Replacement Refs, but of course he's wrong.
Jets Touchdown of the Week- I'll have to give to give this one to Antonio Cromartie channeling his inner Neon Deion and taking this to the house.
Worst Long Snapper in the History of the World- Travis Goethel
Time to Jump off the Bandwagon- Buffalo Bills. They looked beyond inept. Inept I say. I finally remembered why everyone thought that Ryan Fitzpatrick was so bad. He's so stubborn! He stares down a receiver, allows the corner to lie in wait and it's an interception. There's a reason why he led the NFL in picks last year. Why did I buy the "cracked ribs" excuse?
Time to Jump on the Bandwagon- I was one of those "49ers will take a step back" people. Boy, is their defense physical. It's dominating and they will definitely go deep into the playoffs.
Hey, You've Done It!- Two things happened on Sunday that I never thought would happen.

  1. Blaine Gabbert looked like an NFL quarterback
  2. Christian Ponder looked like an NFL quarterback
They are no longer in the cellar. However....
King of the Bottom of the Hill- Brandon Weeden has arrived on the scene and taken the league by storm. By that I mean he's ready to continue handing interceptions away. The 28-year-old rookie is really bad. If the joke that is Cleveland realized that Colt McCoy has the amazing combination of being both younger and better than Weeden, they would be 1-0 and the city of Philadelphia would be rioting and attempting to murder Andy Reid. Not like they don't call for his head every week...Credit to Ryan Tannehill for attempting to get this award, but don't worry, he'll be involved later in this post.
Worst Team in the NFL- Remember when I said that Ryan Tannehill would be involved? Yeah, he's the leader of the worst team in the league. I said that the Bills looked inept, but the difference is that they have legitimate talent on their roster. What do the Dolphins have? Jake Long, Karlos Dansby, and would it be wrong if I said that Reggie Bush was their third best player? In fact, I should edit out the word inept in reference to the Bills, because that word was created for a team like this. Good Luck Miami! (Don't worry Jets fans, they'll still hand us the obligatory loss against the Fins in New Jersey. Can't have a Jets season without it).
Coach of the Week- Sean Payton. Without him, the Saints are nothing. Talented, but nothing. Speaking of that Saints-Redskins game...
RGIII Award- He deserves his own award after that amazing performance. As a pure QB, he looks better than Cam Newton.
My Fantasy Team Player of the Week- Let's just give him player of the year. The man. The myth. The legend. JULIO! Jones!!!!! (Your first introduction to my unhealthy obsession with JULIO!).
Amar'e Stoudemire/Javale McGee Stupid Act of the Week- Do I even need to say it? (That's my way of getting out of giving this to anyone because I can't think of a winner).
Tennis Player of the Week- Finally Andy Murray. Finally. It took you 2 extra sets that you should not have lost, but you finally got your major. Congrats, the man has worked hard.
Fix Your Bullpen- *Sigh* Let's Go Mets, whatever, I'm done with them until April.
Birthday of the Day- Andrew Luck! First NFL game on Sunday, birthday on Wednesday, good week for him.
G.O.A.T is Back!- Speaking of Andrew Luck, I can't finish this without mentioning my boy, Peyton Manning. He looked like he was back to being Peyton Manning. That sound you hear: Chiefs fans, Raiders fans, Travis Goethel, Chargers fans, Norv Turner, and Eli Manning all crying at once.
Mike Trout Award- Don't think I've been too caught up in the NFL to care about yet another unhealthy obsession of mine, Michael Nelson Trout. I didn't even bother to verify whether or not that is his full name, I'm confident that I have that memorized.

In terms of my NFL Picks for Week 1, I finished a whopping 7-9. Thanks to good ole Mike Vick, Matt Stafford, and Phil Rivers. They don't deserve to have their full first names.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

NFL Picks: Week 1

Here it is. Football has arrived, and you know what that means; weekly picks. This is the first year that I'll be actually picking against the spread. I'm using the average of the six lines that appear on Before we begin, I must mention that for the early week games (Wednesday for this week, Thursday from Week 2 on), I will tweet my pick, so go follow me @WilliamBotchway. Unfortunately I didn't get to do that because the powers that be at Twitter decided to throw me in Twitter Jail five minutes before the game so I was blocked from doing anything. Well here is what would have been my pick:
GIANTS (-4) over Cowboys.
As you can see, that failed, so my record is already at a sterling 0-1. I'll improve on that, don't worry. How exactly? Let's see this week's picks:

"UPSET ALERT" next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not only cover. Also, home team in CAPS.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

32 in 32: Putting It All Together

Preview Extravaganza
Read the introduction here
Read the Giants preview here

After 32 days of late night and early morning blogging, tons of research, racking my brains to remember what I thought about certain things, and a lot of deliberation, I have finished. Now what? I put all the records together, give you the standings, the playoffs, and even the awards. Y'all ready for this? Here you go, starting with the divisional standings:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

32 in 32: New York Giants

New York Giants
Read the introduction here
Read the Patriots preview here
Full on preview extravaganza full with awards and playoff predictions tomorrow.

2011 Record: 9-7

Key Acquisitions: Martellus Bennett, Jayron Hosley, Rueben Randle, Keith Rivers, Shaun Rogers, David Wilson
Key Departures: Jake Ballard, Jonathan Goff, Deon Grant, Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham, Kareem  McKenzie, Aaron Ross, Dave Tollefson

Here it is! The final team preview, and of course it ends with your Super Bowl Champions, the New York Football Giants. I had very low expectations for this team last year, not because of the talent, but because of health. Now I think it's their new skill; deal with a bunch of injuries and lose to bad teams, while beating the really good teams and getting healthy right at the end of the season to make a run through the playoffs that they really shouldn't by beating the Packers at Lambeau, the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and two other teams that are better than them. I picked against them in every playoff game last year (thanks a lot Atlanta) even though they're still a great team. The offense should actually be better this season because both the running backs and the receiver positions have improved. The defense has some questions. While they do have the best defensive line in the NFL (more specifically, the best group of three defensive ends), the back seven could be a problem. They got over it last year, and they'll find a way this year. As I just mentioned, they are notorious for playing down to their opponents, which is really frustrating to watch as a football fan, but awesome as a Jets fan (I actually like the Giants myself, except Giants fans annoy me). They have a bunch of good teams on their schedule, which of course means that they'll be fine. I have them winning the division, but just you wait, Giants fans will be firing Tom Coughlin after every loss, and there will be mutiny if they lose two in a row. I honestly don't get the constant obsession with hating on Coughlin because he's one of the best coaches in the game. But it's New York so being overreactionary and looking for something to hate is normal.

Eli(te) Manning is great. I've always been a fan, but he finally proved himself to the masses last year. Now he's not as good as his big brother (because that would mean that Eli is the best ever, and trust me, Eli is not the best ever), but he's great and well on his way to the Hall of Fame. He's a leader and knows how to get the most out of his offensive players, which is great because he has major weapons on this offense.

I don't know if Ahmad Bradshaw can really carry the load as the top running back. He has struggled with injuries at times in his career, and he was the leading rusher in the worst running attack in the league last year. I think he's in for a bounce back season, but David Wilson is right on his tail. Wilson basically has the same running style as Bradshaw, except he might even be better. He might not be, we'll have to see. What I am sure of however, is that Wilson is much better than Brandon Jacobs, so the running game will be much more of a factor this year. That's right Giants fans. That means a whole lot of points.

Victor Cruz had great chemistry with Manning last year, but don't expect him to repeat his performance or to get better. He's a legit receiver, worthy of being a #1 in this league, but it's impossible to have that many big plays in back to back seasons. He'll get tackled once in a while. The scary part is that Hakeem Nicks is probably better than Cruz, even though he disappointed last year. By disappoint, I mean that he reeled in 76 balls for 1,192 yards. He didn't exactly seem at full strength. He has had some injury troubles in the past, so hopefully that doesn't thwart his development. Mario Manningham made a great play in the Super Bowl. Alright, he wasn't that good otherwise, and Rueben Randle is much better. He has a load of talent. Ramses Barden is healthy! That sound you hear is Eli Manning rejoicing. Barden is a stud and his height makes it pretty easy for him to make catches. He could be a massive factor in the red zone. Manning will throw it up, and hopefully Barden will get it. The Giants have tried to incorporate Domenik Hixon into their offense for two years. They got rewarded with two ACL tears. It would help if he could stay on the field. Jerrel Jernigan was a non-factor last year, but was considered a good prospect out of college.

Martellus Bennett was a failure with the Cowboys, and he won't be much better in New York. They don't need him though.

The offensive line does not look very good. David Diehl was constantly allowing pressure on Manning last year. Kevin Boothe also struggled, and Will Beatty is almost never healthy. Chris Snee is the only sure thing on this line. He has always been great and should be healthy this year, a good sign for Manning.

The best defensive line in the NFL. They led the league in sacks last year, despite injuries to two of their best defensive ends, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Tuck had only 5 sacks in his 12 regular season games, but constantly got pressure on the QB, even with his lingering injury. Umenyiora had 9 sacks in 9 games, and an additional 3.5 in the playoffs. If he is healthy for 16 games, he'll do a whole lot of damage. I haven't gotten to Jason Pierre-Paul yet. He has the most raw talent out of these pass rushers, and showed that off last year, getting 16.5 sacks. He still has a lot of untapped potential,so there's no telling what he can do. I still think it's too early to bring him up in the conversation as the best defensive player in the league, because his first season was pretty bad, but if he puts together yet another great season, he's earned it. Chris Canty and Linval Joseph are both strong individuals in the middle but Canty won't be available for the first six games due to injury. Rocky Bernard is pretty good too, so he'll do a nice job filling in. Joseph and Canty stop the run very well and are able to get to the quarterback. Marvin Austin missed all of his rookie season with an injury, and with his talent, the Giants could end up with an embarrassment of riches at both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions.

The Giants traded for extremely talented linebacker Keith Rivers, but he's always injured, which means he's a perfect fit for the Giants. When he plays, he does everything well. Michael Boley will actually start over him on the weak side, but Rivers should get a good amount of playing time. Chase Blackburn should start in the middle, and he's alright. Both he and Boley struggle at times. Mathias Kiwanuka certainly has found his spot at the linebacker position. He's really good.

Here comes the weakness of this team, the secondary. Terrell Thomas got injured yet again, missing his second straight season with an ACL injury. His career is going to be affected greatly by his fragile ligaments. Corey Webster is not nearly as good as Giants fans like to give him credit for, but he was really good in the playoffs last year. He can get a good amount of interceptions, but he's not a shutdown corner at all. Prince Amukamara was obviously affected by injuries last year and looked really bad. Unfortunately, he's not playing in the season opener, which means that Miles Austin and Dez Bryant will take turns trying to exploit Michael Coe or Justin Tryon. Speaking of exploiting, Antrel Rolle was a disaster. It seemed every big pass play given up by the Giants was in his direction, yet he wasn't there to stop anything. He's really bad in coverage. Kenny Phillips however, was the opposite of a disaster. He's a really good safety who will only get better.

Special Teams
Lawrence Tynes was mediocre last year, but that's because he was recovering from multiple injuries (what else did you expect? He's a Giant, they always find a way to get hurt!). Steve Weatherford was a great punter last year, but he's probably in Coughlin's doughouse after his actions earlier this month. Jerrel Jernigan was alright on returns last year, and he should be getting better.

11-5, 1st in NFC East

**NOTE** Go ahead Giants fans, tell me that I have too much Jets bias and that Antrel Rolle, Corey Webster, and David Diehl are amazing. You're wrong.

Monday, September 3, 2012

32 in 32: New England Patriots

New England Patriots
Read the introduction here
Read the 49ers preview here
New York Giants tomorrow

2011 Record: 14-2

Key Acquisitions: Will Allen, Jake Bequette, Tony Fiammetta, Steve Gregory, Dont'a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Brandon Lloyd, Tavon Wilson
Key Departures: Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Gary Guyton, Matt Light, Chad Ochocinco (at the time he was Ochocinco, but of course now he's Chad Johnson).

Once again, the Pats will have a great regular season, but at this point it seems like a forgone conclusion that they will lose in the playoffs. Tom Brady is 35, but you can never predict when the greats will regress, so I won't try. The offense looks really strong once again, and the running backs could be surprisingly good as a unit. The defense has to be better this year, as they were way too talented to be next to last in the league. While it will be better, that doesn't exactly mean that they'll make the stops in the playoffs when needed. While they are almost a lock for a top 2 seed every year, they might end up with another playoff failure. Let's just say that I couldn't find too many losses on their schedule this year. They have the easiest schedule in the NFL (based on last year's record), despite it being a first place schedule.

Tom Brady is great. No surprise there. If you are surprised however, then you have major issues or you're a super homer Jets fan. He had the second most passing yards in a season in NFL history. Of course he finished behind Drew Brees in that category. Let's hope this dog won't track his scent and try to latch onto his arm again.

Individually, none of the running backs really stand out, but Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, and Danny Woodhead will all see a good amount of carries. Woodhead will be utilized more as a pass catcher out the backfield, taking over the longtime Kevin Faulk role. Ridley has the most breakout potential, so he'll end up getting the bulk of the rush attempts.

Wes Welker is still a slot receiver disguised as a #1. He is not a #1. Not enough down field speed, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for with hands, route running, and intelligence. Once again, he'll be Tom Brady's best friend. The real deep threat on this team, is Brandon Lloyd. Josh McDaniels returned to New England as the offensive coordinator, which means that Lloyd is very excited. With McDaniels as his coach in Denver, he had by far his best season, with Kyle Orton as his quarterback. This about how that season would have turned out with Tom Brady throwing him passes. Yeah, exactly. Julian Edelman is a decent short yardage receiver. Matthew Slater is a very good special teamer, so maybe he can bring some of that skill to the offensive side of the ball. Maybe.

Rob Gronkowski. Physical specimen, freak of nature, legendary partier. The Gronk will have another great season, but not nearly as good as last year. That was just way too good to be repeated. Especially since Aaron Hernandez will be featured more in the offense, fresh off his new contract extension. Hernandez is the third best tight end in the NFL, but the second best on his own team. And talk about an embarrassment of riches, the Pats claimed Jake Ballard off waivers early in the offseason and they went out and signed Visanthe Shiancoe. Ballard was a good young pass catcher for the Giants but he is currently on the inactive list. Shiancoe has proven himself to be an average at worst NFL tight end. If the top two members of the Boston TE Party happen to go down with an injury, Ole Hoodie won't worry too much.

Nate Solder was good at times, but had a lot of bad moments. He's excused however, because he was only a rookie last year. Logan Mankins is probably the best guard in the league, so he'll have yet another fine year. Dan Connolly is currently penciled in as the starting center, but that could change. It's very possible that  he can move to right guard and Ryan Wendell could take over in the middle.  Donald Thomas didn't really impress during the preseason. This all of course hinges on whether or not Brian Waters comes back. He was excused from all of training camp and he's considering retirement, but if he does return, he should still be a really good blocker. That is if he is healthy and in shape, something that we won't know until he finally makes his way to Foxborough. Sebastian Vollmer is a great tackle on the right side. It's possible that he could switch positions with Nate Solder, simply because Vollmer is more of a sure thing on Brady's blind side.

For some reason, the Pats decided to improve their hellacious defense by adding to the part of it that was good. The pass rush was the only saving grace for this defensive unit last year, with impressive pass rushers Mark Anderson and Andre Carter being the key factors with 10 sacks each. Carter was injured late in the year and as a result, was not signed by anybody in free agency. Anderson on the other hand, went to the division rival Bills. They are going to be replaced by first round pick Chandler Jones and third rounder Jake Bequette. Bequette won't be starting, but he could possibly find playing time as a situational pass rusher. Rob Ninkovich got a good amount of pressure on the quarterback last year, despite the fact that he was playing at the linebacker position. Expect a jump in his sack totals when he moves to defensive end this season. He's also pretty good in run support, and his biggest weakness was in pass coverage, so playing with his hand on the ground should help that deficiency. Jermaine Cunningham was good in his rookie year and took a step back last season, so I'm assuming that the lockout had an effect on him. Kyle Love is not a good pass rusher at all, but he's decent at stopping the run. Hopefully that makes up for his inability to scare the quarterback. Vince Wilfork had yet another great season. While his sack totals don't reflect it, he did a very nice job of getting into the backfield. He is a rock in the middle of the defensive line, and also stops the run pretty well. He even recorded two interceptions. Run fat man, run! He's also much younger than I expected, as he's turning 31 in November. He's probably the best defensive tackle in football.

The group of linebackers look really stout. Jerod Mayo is a former Pro Bowler and All-Pro who wasn't at his best in 2011. He's still young and he's talented. Brandon Spikes is very good at stuffing the run. Dont'a Hightower looks to be a jack-of-all-trades at the outside linebacker position, and I certainly think that he'll prove to be a very good draft pick.

Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty both have major big play potential. That's only when they aren't being victimized in coverage. Neither will lock any receiver down, because they both enjoy going after interceptions. Not the greatest mindset in the world, but they cause turnovers. Sterling Moore of Lee Evans fame could push for a starting job over one of these two corners. As you can see by that video, he goes to knock the ball away rather than for the pick. Patrick Chung is a good safety, while Steve Gregory looks to be a joke in coverage. A joke I say.

Special Teams
Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the league because of his accuracy. He has a very reliable foot. Zoltan Mesko was once again very good, and he's one of the best punters in the NFL. Nice kicking game here. Julian Edelman will handle most of the punt returns, but don't be surprised to see some Wes Welker sprinkled in there as well. Danny Woodhead could return some punts as well, and he and Matthew Slater are currently listed as the kick returners this year. Some potential here.

14-2, 1st in AFC East

Sunday, September 2, 2012

32 in 32: San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers
Read the introduction here
Read the Ravens previe here

2011 Record: 13-3

Key Acquisitions: Perrish Cox, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James, A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss
Key Departures: Josh Morgan, Chilo Rachal, Adam Snyder, Shawntae Spencer, Madieu Williams

The 49ers were so close to making to Super Bowl for the first time since Jerry Rice was running up and down the field. They played a great game against the Saints in the Divisional Round and played a really tough game against the Giants. Jim Harbaugh was able to jump in and flip this franchise around, cementing himself as a top coach in the NFL. The Niners were only 6-10 in 2010, but the former Stanford coach mustered everything that he could out his team, especially Alex Smith. Smith was considered to be a draft bust, and while he didn't put up gaudy numbers, nor was this an offensive juggernaut, he was able to successfully manage games and found ways to not hurt his team. The offense may not have been great overall, but they were situationally good. Let's not forget this defense though. They only allowed 2 rushing touchdowns last year, but none in the first 15 weeks of the season. Taking into consideration this division schedule, this overachieving team will still be good.

I still don't trust Alex Smith. He was so bad for so long, that I don't see how this is sustainable. He was really accurate, having his best completion percentage of his career. I just can't see how a player can be so inconsistent and bad for his whole career and just turn it all around. I realize that NFL coaches have a great effect on their players, but this was an amazing job by Harbaugh. My mistrust of Smith might have a lot to do with my partiality towards his backup Colin Kaepernick. I think he can be a very successful quarterback, so he should be the starter eventually. For the sake of the Bay Area, I hope it's this year.

The 49ers have four legitimate running backs. Frank Gore is obviously still the main guy, though he has always struggled with injuries. He's a very powerful runner when he is on the field. Brandon Jacobs was not very good last year and seemed lost in New York. Considering that he is the fourth best running back on this team, he's fine. Yes, Jacobs is the worst running back of the crew of four. Why do I say that? LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter are better than him. James is a very elusive back who will make a lot of big plays. Once he bursts into the second line of the defense, watch out. Kendall Hunter is the best running back on the team. He has the frame and the running style of Ray Rice, and he might actually be that good. Soon enough, Gore and Jacobs won't be factors on this team. Mark my words.

The wide receivers have definitely improved from last year, even though each one of the receivers will have a much bigger role than they should. Michael Crabtree is still Michael Crabtree, and that's not that good. Mario Manningham isn't as good as you would think. He made a great play in the Super Bowl. He has health problems. and he is pretty inconsistent. A.J. Jenkins was considered by everyone to be a reach at the end of the first round this year, so I'm not sure what to expect from him this year. Then of course there is Randy Moss. I actually liked this signing because it was cheap and he's better than the other options that they have. That has been proved by the fact that he survived the preseason cuts.

The right side of the offense is terrible. Alex Smith will get sacked, a lot. That's terrible because he was the most sacked signal caller in the league. Hopefully when Kaepernick comes in, he can use his running ability to get around it. The left side is alright, and should be the way to go for all runners. It's also good that the QB's blind side has solid protection. The center, Johnathan Goodwin is old and getting pretty bad.

Both rush ends, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are both really good. They were constantly getting a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks. Isaac Sopoaga is a rock in the middle of the line who is very good at stopping the run. This defensive line has quality mix of players.

That can also include Aldon Smith at times, who can play defensive end along with his spot at linebacker. Aldon Smith was not an every down player, which is crazy to think about because he had 14 sacks. At the opposite side of the linebacking corps is Ahmad Brooks, who great at stopping the run. He also rushed the passer pretty well, so he's a very well rounded defensive player. NaVorro Bowman is a tackling machine. He had 140 tackles and 113 of them were solo. Great numbers. Next to him is the best linebacker in the NFL, Patrick Willis. He didn't have his greatest season, so he'll certainly step it up this season. He's not going to have two bad seasons in a row. Bad by his standards, not by everyone else's.

Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown form a pretty good duo at the corner position. Rogers was a good playmaker last year. There is good depth here, because Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock, and, Chris Culliver are talented cornerbacks in certain packages. Cox is very talented, so if he gets his head straight, he may even become a starter. Dashon Goldson is really overrated, but he's fine. He's a hard hitter, and got his fair share of picks last year, but he tends to be exposed in coverage. He's hit or miss on each play. Donte Whitner is good at stopping the run, but he, like Goldson might have some issues in coverage. The corners will definitely make up for the possible problems at safety.

Special Teams
David Akers was allowed to walk out of Philadelphia for basically no reason. He signed on with the Niners and went on to have the best season in the history of kickers. He set the record for most field goals made in a season, and he was pretty accurate. Then Andy Lee had a very good year himself. He averaged 50.9 yards per punt, good for third on the all time yards per punt list. Amazing years for the kickers on this team. It's outstanding that they both had historic seasons in the same year. Ted Ginn is what makes this special teams unit the best in the NFL. Ginn failed as a wide receiver, but he's an amazing kick returner. 

11-5, 1st in NFC West

Saturday, September 1, 2012

32 in 32: Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens
Read the introduction here
Read the Packers preview here
San Francisco 49ers tomorrow

2011 Record: 12-4

Key Acquisitions: Corey Graham, Jacoby Jones, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Ryan McBean, Kelechi Osemele, Courtney Upshaw, Bobbie Williams
Key Departures: Chris Carr, Lee Evans, Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, Brandon McKinney, Haruki Nakamura, Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski

This team finally got over the hump for the first time in John Harbaugh's tenure and won the division. The defense was great as usual, but the offense stepped up greatly. Joe Flacco had a really good year and in the AFC Championship Game, went toe to toe with Tom Brady and played at his level. Some may argue that he outplayed Tom Terrific. When it comes to the wide receivers, this team is thin, but still pretty good. The offense should be much better than you would expect. The defense was yet another classic Ravens, but the biggest story going into this year is that Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon and while he should be out for the season, he claims that he'll be back in November but he won't be. They'll miss him, but their defensive scheme is so good that almost anyone can be plugged in there.

Joe Flacco spent his offseason saying that he is the best quarterback in the NFL. While he obviously didn't mean it to be cocky, he isn't. He certainly is very good though. He also proved in 2011 that he is reliable. He does have one of the strongest arms, if not the strongest, in the NFL. The deep pass isn't the issue with him, it's his decision making. It can be bad at times, but it improved last year. Major step forward for him.

Ray Rice has consistently been one of the best backs in the league, and for that reason I do consider him to be the best. He has great speed, but can also overpower guys with his big frame. He's also a lethal receiver because of his great hands. He is Flacco's #1 target and the QB knows how to find him on the quick dump offs, and they usually turn into big plays.

Anquan Boldin is good, but not as good as the Ravens expected when they traded for him. He's still fine and might even have his breakout Ravens season. Torrey Smith emerged as a legitimate deep target last season and played injured, so he has a great chance to improve. Hopefully, the other young guys will step up, because they are the only guys left in the receiving corps. Either Tandon Doss or LaQuan Williams will have to step up and be the third option. Williams was decent in a replacement role last year.

Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are the tight ends, and neither of them are very good. Once Todd Heap left, it created a whole that has yet to be filled by either of these guys. They need to step it up.

Bryant McKinnie has always been really inconsistent, so no one has any idea what he'll do. They lost Ben Grubbs, but have three people lined up to possibly take over his left guard spot, so at least one of them will be solid. Matt Birk is great, or at least he was. He's now 36, but he'll be fine. The impressive Marshal Yanda should continue his great blocking. Michael Oher was terrible last year. He was pretty good before that, so I'll blame the lockout.

Haloti Ngata causes havoc on the defensive end. He was amazing last year, and I remember saying that he deserved Defensive Player of the Year just based on his performance at the beginning of the year. He was awesome. Terrence Cody is a large individual. Pernell McPhee was okay at rushing the passer.

Ray Lewis is still Ray Lewis. He never slows down, so I can't predict him to stop being great. I'll believe that he's old when I see it. Jameel McClain isn't that bad. He's actually really good and does a very nice job at stuffing the run. Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw will shine as great pass rushers. Upshaw has massive upside and was a very good second round pick.

Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb form a very good tandem along the sidelines. Smith was only a rookie last year and he got better as the year went along. Webb is extremely underrated and is a great corner. Ed Reed will somehow end up with a lot of interceptions and a lot of backwards passes. It's inevitable.

Special Teams
Billy Cundiff got cut during training camp, but it's obviously for this. No one believes that the Ravens think that Justin Tucker is a better kicker. Just that Justin Tucker never did this. What is this you ask? Oh just a really clutch kick that he missed that would have sent the AFC Championship Game into overtime. Okay, I'm done. Sam Koch was good last year. Adding Jacoby Jones is a major boost to this special teams, and Lardarius Webb is a good kick returner himself.

11-5, 1st in AFC North 

Delusional Rex Ryan

I've already ripped the Jets to shreds in my 32 in 32 series. I even talked about the quarterback stupidity in a separate article. The only problem is, I have not had enough angry Jets fan posts yet. I heard something yesterday that really angered me.

Rex Ryan claimed that this is his best Jets team since he's been coach. Red the full article from here. This is the actual quote:

"I really like this team. I really like this team. I don't know if we're strong in this one area or that one area or special teams, whatever it is, but overall in my opinion, this has the chance to be the best team I've had since I've been the coach here. And I say that because I think we understand complementary football. Sometimes, your offense is going to be rolling. Sometimes, you're going to have to ask your defense to stand on their head. Our coaching staff, everybody understands it's not about winning, it's not about stats, it's about trying to find a way to win, and I think our team understands that."
Okay, digest that for a second. It's pretty obvious that Ryan was not exactly sober when he was saying this. This Jets team is actually the worst of his teams since becoming coach in 2009. You disagree? Let's put that to the test.

I will name the starters for each of his four teams, including this year, starting with the beginning of the Rex Ryan era, 2009.