NFL Preview: Super Bowl Prediction

Yesterday, I did a division by division examination of the NFL, predicting the 4 division winners and 6 playoff teams from each conference. Today, I will be taking those teams and attempting to project which two will be representing their respective conferences in Arizona come February. Before I did that though, here are some fun notes about yesterday’s predictions.

  • I gave a pretty negative account of the league, as I predicted 247 wins and 265 losses across the board. Most league predictions are overwhelmingly positive. With many more wins being assigned than losses.
  • I booted two playoff teams from each conference that made it last season and only changed the division champion in two divisions, the NFC South and the AFC North, which means I expect repeat champions in 6 of the 8 divisions.
  • The only teams in the AFC projected to have winning records are the playoff teams, in my NFC projections, 8 teams are projected to have winning records with one team at .500.
  • No 4th place team in the AFC was projected to finish with more than 4 wins, No 4th place team in the NFC was projected to finish with less than 5 wins.

Now, on to the Playoff Predictions:

To refresh, here are my projected AFC Playoff Teams with seeding and records.

AFC Playoff Seeding:  Bold = First Round Bye

1. Indianapolis Colts  12-4  (Win Opener Against Denver for Tiebreaker)

2. Denver Broncos 12-4

3. New England Patriots 11-5

4. Baltimore Ravens 10-6

5. San Diego Chargers 11-5

6. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7

 

The Playoff Projections are as follows:

Wild Card Round:

#3 New England over #6 Pittsburgh         #5 San Diego over #4 Baltimore

 

Divisional Round:

#5 San Diego over #1 Indianapolis     #3 New England over #2 Denver 

 

AFC Title Game:

#3 New England over #5 San Diego 

 

San Diego is built for a deep playoff run, they have a well balanced offensive attack led by a high level quarterback in Philip Rivers, and are buoyed by a strong defense. Their balance will see them over lesser versions of themselves in both Baltimore and Indianapolis. The Patriots enter 2014 as probably the most balanced team in the AFC, with the only possible question regarding the stoutness of their run defense. Brady will be armed with a greater chemistry with his wide-outs and will look much sharper throughout the campaign than he did in 2013. Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round is a potential trap game, but ultimately the road game in new England will be too much for the Steelers rebuilding defense to overcome. but Denver’s age will catch up with them in the playoffs, regardless of who they meet in the divisional round. In the conference title game, I have the Pats overcoming the Chargers due to both the location of the game (New England) and the fact that the Pats are simply the deeper side.

 

Now, for the NFC, here are my projected playoff teams.

NFC Playoff Seeding  (1st Round Byes in Bold)

1. Seattle Seahawks  13-3

2. New Orleans Saints  12-4

3. Green Bay Packers 11-5

4. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

5. Arizona Cardinals 10-6

6. Chicago Bears 10-6

 

The playoff predictions are as follows:

Wild Card Round:

#3 Green Bay over #6 Chicago            #4 Philadelphia over #5 Arizona

 

Divisional Round:

#3 Green Bay over #2 New Orleans      #1 Seattle over #4 Philadelphia

 

NFC Title Game:

#1 Seattle over #3 Green Bay

 

Both NFC Title Game participants will arrive there by way of favorable playoff schedules. The Packers, with their superior balance will likely be able to handle the Bears at Lambeau. The next week, in New Orleans, Rodgers will do what he always does in domes, namely, put up 30 or 40 points to beat the Saints on their own turf. Seattle will be more than happy to welcome Philadelphia to their home, where communication issues will cut the speed of Chip Kelly’s offense. In good faith, I can’t, at this stage say that Green Bay would be Seattle in Seattle, as there is so much yet to be proven about the Packers. Additionally, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are entering the 2014 with minimal losses to the defense, offensive upgrades, and a swagger that no one has had an answer for as of yet. Also of note, every game that has been projected in these NFC playoffs will be a rematch of a game from the 2014 regular season.

Thus, all that is left is the Super Bowl. Will it be Seattle with the repeat, or New England with their first title of the decade?

Super Bowl XLIX

New England Patriots  20

Vs.

Seattle Seahawks 24

History may not favor this pick, but Seattle is the team with the least questions heading into the 2014 season. Seattle will be able to pressure and hit Brady throughout the affair, as well as create discomfort in a still-young wide receiving group. Marshawn Lynch will run wild over a suspect New England defensive line, opening up passing lanes for Russell Wilson as the Pats are forced to bring more men up into the box to stop the run. The Pats will hang around, but ultimately won’t be able to get the ball back from Seattle at the end of the game, and the Seahawks will win their second Super Bowl in as many seasons, proving that defense does indeed still win Championships.

 

Agree or disagree? The pick of a repeat champions can’t be too popular. We always want to hear from you folks.

 

 

 

Advertisements

NFL Preview: Conference Previews

The NFL Season is nearly upon us. With only two games to go before Green Bay travels to Seattle for the first game of the 2014-2015 Season, this seems an appropriate time to reveal my preview of each conference. Tomorrow I will take my playoff teams from today, and predict my eventual Super Bowl match-up. Last season I successfully predicted the AFC Title game and that Denver would go to the Super Bowl and lose, but  I botched my NFC prediction by placing San Francisco in the Super Bowl with Denver. Hopefully this season I’ll be able to go a perfect two-for-two.

We will start in the AFC, division winners will be in bold, wild card teams will be italicized.

AFC East Division:

 

1. New England Patriots 11-5

2. New York Jets 7-9

3. Miami Dolphins 6-10

4. Buffalo Bills  3-13

 

Expect the Patriots to exert their typical dominance in the AFC East in 2014. Buffalo had a disastrous preseason in which essentially everybody on their roster seemed to regress in terms of ability, most notably EJ Manuel. Additionally, Sammy Watkins is already looking injury prone after only five preseason games, neither of these facts bode well. The Dolphins and Jets are both cases of teams that could potentially have been wild card teams if the AFC East wasn’t playing the AFC West. The presence of that difficult division will keep “winflation” down across the division, as it will also contribute to the Pats lower than average 11-5 campaign.

 

AFC North:

1. Baltimore Ravens 10-6

2. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7

3. Cincinnati Bengals 7-9

4. Cleveland Browns 1-15

 

It will be a typical battle to the end in the AFC North, as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati will be fighting it out till the end in this always unclear division. No team has an easy schedule, as the division is paired with the NFC South and an improving AFC South. Unfavorable road games also dot the map for top contenders. Additionally the attrition within the division will insure that whichever team emerges will have little chance at avoiding a Wild Card game. I have Baltimore winning the division, as their strength of schedule is very weak in December. Pittsburgh’s end of year schedule is unfavorable, and I see Andy Dalton regressing for Cincy in 2014. There is another team in this division, but they really aren’t worth mentioning.

 

AFC South:

1. Indianapolis Colts 12-4

2. Houston Texans 7-9

3. Tennessee Titans 5-11

4. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13

 

The NFL’s worst division last season won’t be much better in 2014. I’m not high on the Jaguars or Tennessee, as I don’t see much to push them past a much improved Houston team. Houston’s concerns lie on the offensive side of the football, but their defense has the potential to be the best in the division. The Colts 12-4 record is purely going to be a product of a soft schedule, and unless their defense improves, they will have a hard time navigating foes like New England and Denver.

 

AFC West:

1. Denver Broncos 12-4

2. San Diego Chargers 11-5

3. Kansas City Chiefs 6-10

4.Oakland Raiders 4-12

 

Favorable schedules and the complete collapse of the Kansas City Chiefs will help bring push both Denver and San Diego into the post-season. The Raiders will do better with Derek Carr at the helm than they would have done with Schaub (with the former Texans QB, I have their record dipping to 2-14, and it could still end up there). The Raiders have attempted to construct a tam of free agency, which smacks of desperation on the part of the their executive staff. The Chiefs were products of an extremely easy schedule last season, but their defensive implosion in the playoffs last season, and the up-and-down play of quarterback Alex Smith will be too much to overcome on a schedule fraught with challenges. San Diego will split with Denver this year, but likely will not have the killer instinct to power past them in the standings. Denver’s 12-4 record, much like Indy’s will not be a true representation of how good the team actually is, as it will have been won against a weak schedule with favorable match-ups throughout.

 

AFC Playoff Seeding:  Bold = First Round Bye

1. Indianapolis Colts  12-4  (Win Opener Against Denver for Tiebreaker)

2. Denver Broncos 12-4

3. New England Patriots 11-5

4. Baltimore Ravens 10-6

5. San Diego Chargers 11-5

6. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7

 

Near Misses: Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets

 

NFC Preview:

NFC East:

1. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

2. New York Giants 7-9

3. Dallas Cowboys  6-10

4. Washington Redskins 6-10

 

The NFC is not a friendly conference for the mediocre. If the NFC East was transplanted to the AFC, almost every team in the division would have a shot at a winning record, however, in the NFC, the losses will pile up, especially considering the fact that no team in the NFC East should be expected to dominate their divisional games. Dallas, Washington, and the Giants all have serious question marks headed into 2014, while the Eagles seem to have risen above the fray. No last week tiebreaker will be necessary this season.

 

NFC North:

1. Green Bay Packers 11-5

2. Chicago Bears 10-6

3. Detroit Lions 8-8

4. Minnesota Vikings 6-10

 

The NFC North, as it so often does, will come down to divisional games. The Vikings are still a step behind the rest of the division, and though they are closing the gap quickly, are still projected to struggle within the division. The Lions will be better in 2014, but they will not have been able to surpass Green Bay and Chicago for the crown in the NFC North. For Chicago, much will rest on their Week 15 game with New Orleans, as a win in that game would see them into a strong position headed into the final two weeks. Ultimately, Green Bay is still the more balanced of the two clubs though, and I will stay of that opinion until proven otherwise.

 

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints  12-4

2. Carolina Panther 9-7

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  6-10

4. Atlanta Falcons   5-11

 

Before training camp, I wrote that this division may end up being the NFL’s most competitive, and while I think there will still be a healthy dose of competition within the division, the Saints are clearly the best team here. Carolina, by gutting their receiving corps, have  neutered their offense to such a degree that they stand no chance on repeating last season’s success. Their defense will be the only thing allowing them to compete for a playoff spot. The Falcons problems were not only with injuries last season, but were endemic of a team getting old. I think the Mike Smith era ends in 2014. As for Lovie Smith and Tampa Bay, the Bucs are certainly a team on the rise, and I think they might have a legitimate shot at the South in 2015, but Greg Schiano did too much damage for one off-season to fix.

 

NFC West:

1. Seattle Seahawks  13-3

2. Arizona Cardinals  10-6

3. San Francisco 49ers  9-7

4. St. Louis Rams  5-11

 

The defending Super Bowl Champions are getting some love here, but the team they beat in the NFC Title Game is not. The 49ers were not impressive in the preseason, and a rash of legal issues will prevent their defense from being at full strength for most of the year. Additionally, as Frank Gore declines, and the lack of depth at running back becomes apparent in San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick will find himself in more uncomfortable situations. Looking for burgeoning Arizona to surpass the limping 49ers in 2014. As for the Rams, their chances for a successful season evaporated with Sam Bradford’s ACL.

 

NFC Playoff Seeding  (1st Round Byes in Bold)

1. Seattle Seahawks  13-3

2. New Orleans Saints  12-4

3. Green Bay Packers 11-5

4. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

5. Arizona Cardinals 10-6

6. Chicago Bears 10-6

 

Near Misses: Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions

 

 

Thanks for reading folks! Tomorrow, we’ll take our playoff teams and figure out who will be the Super Bowl XLIX Champion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Premier League: Week 1 Day 1 Recap

It was a great day of play across the English Premier League on Saturday, as only a late goal by Arsenal kept the home sides from going winless.

Featured Fixtures:

Manchester United 1 Swansea 2

After their 2-1 loss home against Swansea on Saturday, Manchester United fans can be forgiven for thinking “Here we go again.” The arrival of Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, the architect behind the Dutch national team’s third place finish at the World Cup, and former Champions League winner, was greeted with much enthusiasm. With today’s loss however, it is possible that those feelings have dimmed a bit. The youth on the Red Devils defense was readily apparent early, as Swansea’s Sung-Yung Ki was given miles of space in front of the penalty area. He made no mistake, stunning the Old Trafford faithful and giving the Swans an unexpected 1-0 lead.

Swansea was tremendous in the first half, their patience in moving the ball up the field was the real key to their opening salvo, and their defensive structure was clearly frustrating to a Red Devils side that is still feeling things out under new management. However, United came out looking more like themselves after the half. After generating a corner in the 53rd minute, Juan Mata sent the ball into Phil Jones, who commuted the ball to captain Wayne Rooney, who was able to draw Man U even with a nice overhead strike.

After Manchester United drew even, things seemed more right with the world, as United continually made runs into the Swansea end. Wayne Rooney nearly gave United the lead in the 66th minute, but his free kick ultimately deflected off the post. Then, Swansea shocked the world. In the 72nd minute, a scramble in front of the United cage ended when Gylfi Sigurdsson found the ball and then the back of the net to give the Swans a stunning 2-1 lead with a little over a quarter of an hour to play. The Swans would manage to hold out for a for the win, earning their first ever win and first ever points at Old Trafford.

The loss is Man U’s first opening day loss since 1972. The situation at Old Trafford will likely improve moving forward this season, but those thinking the Red Devils could seriously compete for a Premiership title in 2014-2015 will be sorely disheartened by this outcome.

Leicester City 2 Everton 2

America’s real-life super hero, Tim Howard, was held to a draw in his first start of the new Premier League season Saturday, as Everton could not handle newly arrived Leicester City at King Power Stadium. Everton had the better of the play for the first 20 minutes, and eventually broke through when Aiden McGeady scored for Everton, pouncing on a rebound off of Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel. McGeady fired a great shot from a tough angle, banging the ball in off the woodwork to give Everton the early lead in the 20th minute. However, the Toffees immediately conceded an equalizer. Leicester City was able to generate a corner immediately following the Everton strike. A poor clearance on the corner by the Everton defense that feel right at the feet of Leonardo Ulloa, who promptly deposited the ball past Howard to bring the Premiership’s new arrivals even with Everton. The 22nd Minute marker was Leicester City’s first Premier league marker since their last appearance in the Premier League in 2004.

For most of the first half, the Foxes were using late runs by their strikers to make the Everton defense uncomfortable, and for the most part it seemed effective, as the Toffee’s were forced to occasionally rush their clearances throughout the first half. Despite their discomfort early, it seemed as though Everton was setting in before halftime, generating a lot of possession and a number of solid chances. Everton’s newfound comfort translated into a late first half goal, as Steven Naismith buried a beautiful cross off of the woodwork to give the established Premier league club a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.

Everton’s issues defending set pieces nearly led to an equalizer early in the second half, but the Leicester players simply couldn’t finish the job. Leicester continued generating chances in the second half, most notably in the 66th minute when Forward Jeff Schlupp found himself alone at an angle with Tim Howard, before promptly punting the ball over the goal. In the 73rd minute, Leicester found themselves in a dangerous free kick position, but Riyad Mahrez couldn’t pot the free kick, or generate anything off of the subsequent corner kick, as the Foxes were once again denied in a second half where they had the better of the chances.

Leicester would finally break through in the 86th minute, as striker Chris Wood, recently inserted from the bench, found himself alone with the ball after an Everton defensive breakdown. Unlike Schlupp earlier in the affair, Wood would make no mistake, gunning the ball past Howard to send the Leicester City crowd into raptures, and set the Foxes up to nab their first Premier League point in over 10 years. Following the draw, Everton are going to have to look deeply at the way they handled the second half, as their poor job on set pieces, lack of energy, and decision to shell up all allowed Leicester new life in the second half. Leicester will be thrilled to pick up a point against a superior side, but also know that survival at the top level will take more than just one good performance.

Across the Premiership:

West Ham 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

West Ham will rue not getting anything out of this one, despite having a man advantage for roughly 33 minutes. Eric Dier’s game winner in stoppage time saved the Spurs from a poor opening day result.

Queen’s Park Rangers 0 Hull City 1

QPR’s crusade to prove that you can buy your way out of relegation got off to a shaky start against Hull City, as James Chester marked his return to the lineup with a goal in the 52nd minute and Hull City held on for a big road win. QPR had more chances, including a penalty, but had had problems finishing.

West Brom 2 Sunderland 2

In the battle of disarming team nicknames, the Baggies battled the Black Cats to a draw at The Hawthorns. Sunderland bookended the game with goals in the 5th and 85th minutes respectively, while Saido Berahino grabbed a pair of goals for West Brom in the middle of the game, one off a penalty. It was a big game for two teams who will spend the season battling relegation, and both would have liked to have grabbed three points.

Stoke City 0 Aston Villa 1

Consummate underachievers Aston Villa got their season off to a very good start Saturday as they downed Stoke on the strength of an Andreas Weimann strike in the 50th minute. Stoke controlled possession, but could only generate 2 shots on target throughout the affair. Greater finishing touch will be needed by Stoke going forward.

Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 1

Palace put up a valiant fight after the departure of former manager Tony Pulis two days before the season. The Eagles would even take an early 1-0 lead. However, a pair of stoppage time goals (one in the first half, one in the second half) would give the Gunners the win and the three points. Palace was hampered by a late Red Card, and simply couldn’t cope with Arsenal with only 10 men.

NFL Preseason Week 2: Thursday Recap/Friday Preveiw

Friday presents us with four intriguing preseason matchups following a highly competitive affair between Jacksonville and Chicago last night. Non Sequitur Sports has it all covered as we head into the second night of the second week of preseason NFL action.

Thursday Night Recap:

Jacksonville 19 Chicago 20

The Chicago Bears may have rallied to victory on the strength of their backups, but Jacksonville was certainly the more impressive team from the outset of the matchup. The Jags swarmed on defense, while Chad Henne and Blake Bortles both consistently moved the Jaguars into scoring range, picking up the teams’ 19 points. The Jaguars were aided by their special teams, which recovered a fumbled Chicago kickoff late in the first quarter to set up their only touchdown of the evening. All told, the Chicago Bears were only able to run 3 offensive plays in the first 14:10 of the ball game, as they quickly fell behind 13-0, before Jay Cutler led a beautiful drive which capped off with him tossing a touchdown to star receiver Brandon Marshall. For the Bears, defense remains the primary area of concern, as Chicago once again conceded nearly 400 total yards. This time they were torched through the air, as Jacksonville’s assorted quarterbacks combined for 301 passing yards. Chicago was soft on coverage from the outside, particularly in the deep middle of the field, where both Bortles and Henne were able to find big plays. More concerning for Chicago has to be that they gave up this kind of yardage against Jacksonville, a team with very few notable skill players. Ultimately, the Bears were able to pull out a victory despite trailing 19-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Jordan Palmer was able to move the Bears into range early in the fourth quarter, as they pulled within five on the strength of a Ka’Deem Carey rushing touchdown. The Bears would get the ball with 2:52 left in the game, and Palmer would once again drive them the length of the field, as Senorise Perry would score from 5 yards out to give Chicago the lead. Jacksonville’s comeback attempt ultimately fell by the wayside, as third-string quarterback Stephen Morris threw a horrible interception from his own 33 yard line. Despite the loss, Jacksonville will likely be very pleased by their overall effort and energy, as they looked like a team ready to pull off a few surprises in this 2014 season.

 

Friday Night Preview:

 

Philadelphia Eagles At New England Patriots 7:30 PM EST NFLN

In a rare turn of events, we might actually get to see Tom Brady take a few preseason snaps for the Patriots tonight. Of real import for New England tonight, aside from staying healthy, will be the play of their defensive line against a deep Eagles running attack, and the play of quarterbacks Ryan Mallet and Jimmy Garoppolo. Mallet struggled in his preseason debut against the Redskins, despite being touted as one of the NFL’s elite backups. Garoppolo on the other hand, thrived, providing New England with their only points on an otherwise dismal evening in DC. The Eagles will want their defense to have a much better outing on Friday than they did against Chicago last Friday, particularly in the passing game. Aside from this, the Eagles will want to see more out of starting quarterback Nick Foles. While his starting status will not be put into doubt based on his performance, you have to believe that Chip Kelly wants to see a bit more than two interceptions out of his offensive star.

 

Tennessee Titans At New Orleans Saints 7:30 PM EST

Young players dominate the storylines for this preseason game. For Tennessee, all eyes will be focused on second round draft pick, running back Bishop Sankey, who ran all over the Packers in the Titans’ first preseason game. Tennessee will also be looking for more out of their starting defense, which was gashed by James Starks on the Packers’ opening possession last week. That will be a tough ask against a New Orleans team which ran the ball exceedingly well in their first affair against St. Louis. The Saints will want to see rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks to put on another strong performance. Outside of these storylines, there isn’t much of note in this one.

 

Detroit Lions At Oakland Raiders 10:00 PM EST

The Raiders continue their tour of the NFC North tonight as they host the Detroit Lions. The Lions survived Manziel mania, no thanks to the sub-par play of their backup quarterbacks. The Lions has a ton of talent at the top of their depth chart, but not much underneath that. They will be looking for someone to step up and earn a job tonight in Oakland. For the Raiders, the story remains the quarterback battle between Matt Schaub and Derek Carr. While many out there think it will either be Hoyer in Cleveland or Henne in Jacksonville who will first fold to a rookie quarterback, I actually think it will be Schaub who will first relinquish his job, especially if last weeks’ performance repeats itself. Schaub still looks extremely uncomfortable throwing the football, and it is highly likely he is suffering from Jake Delhomme syndrome (a condition where a quarterback simply forgets how to play the position). If Carr wants the job, he is perfectly positioned to step up and take it tonight.

 

San Diego Chargers At Seattle Seahawks 10:00 PM EST NFLN

Preseason games between playoff teams are rarely interesting. So I’ll go with the standard, both teams are looking to evaluate their players and stay healthy at the same time. Also, continue to keep count of how often the Seahawks defenders are getting called under the new “points of emphasis.” Unless you are a fan of either team, I’d advise against watching this one.

Thanks for reading folks! Non Sequitur Sports has a lot planned for tomorrow, including complete coverage of the first day of English Premier League Soccer, and a recap of tonight’s NFL action. Don’t expect a preview for Saturday’s preseason games, though there will be a recap of those games on Sunday. Have a great Friday!

NFL Preseason Week 2 Preview: Jacksonville Vs. Chicago: 5 Things to Watch For

Tonight at 8 PM EST on ESPN, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears will provide the first action on this second week of preseason football. Both teams enter the game with the goal of staying healthy and performing critical talent evaluations in order to determine which players will be allowed to stick around as the preseason moves towards the first set of cuts. There are numerous story-lines to look for in this one, here are 5 of the most important.

1. Blake Bortles

If the Jaguars have their way in 2014, Bortles will not see the field and will learn under veteran Chad Henne. This is a team that knows first hand what can happen when you turn the keys over to an inexperienced or undeveloped quarterback (see Blaine Gabbert), and are unlikely to risk repeating that experience. However, that does not mean that Bortles won’t be under careful scrutiny Thursday night, especially after his strong performance last Friday against Tampa Bay. Bortles went 7 of 11 for 117 yards, and could be in for a bigger night against a Bears defense that didn’t look exceptionally strong against Philadelphia in their first preseason matchup.

2. Chicago’s Defense

Speaking of the Bears defense, the starters and second teamers need to dominate this affair. While the Bears top group was able to intercept Nick Foles twice last Friday, their second unit was gashed on the ground. The Jags possess nowhere near the offensive talent that Philadelphia brought to bare last week, and thus this is the Bears chance to show folks that 2014 will be the year in which the defense is able to match the offense in Chicago. However, a bad night for the Bears defense, and the questions and criticism will not stop until they display improvement in the regular season.

3. Chicago’s Offensive Depth

Taking off my analyst glasses, I want to simply tell everyone to take a step back tonight and watch this Chicago offense go to work on all levels. This is probably one of the deepest offensive groups in the league, particularly at Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver/Tight End. It will be interesting to see how well Jacksonville can fair against such depth, particularly considering they possess little depth themselves in any area. 

4. Jacksonville’s Skill Positions

The Jaguars possess little in the way of star power across their roster, and thus desperately need one or two players to step up and become an offensive force. Jordan Todman is supposed to be the guy at running back, but after only averaging a yard per carry against Tampa Bay, and not looking exceptionally sharp last season, that position could be in question. The Receiving corps is an unrecognizable hodgepodge of names like Allen Hurns and Kerry Taylor. Jaguars fans will be hoping that someone stands out from the pack.

5. Flags

 

The illegal contact parade began last week. However, watching most of those games, I honestly agreed with most of the flags that were thrown. It would be one thing if the refs were adding a new rule that further prohibited the way defenders could play, but they aren’t, they simply enforcing rules put into places after the 2003-2004 season. Of more important note though, is the fact that flags were not thrown at defining moments of the games. In the Green Bay-Tennessee game for instance, the Packers had a 4th and 1 at the Tennessee 23 with little time left. Chase Rattig threw a pass to a nameless wide-receiver a few yards up the field. There was a good bit of infighting between the defender and the receiver, and the pass fell incomplete. One could have made a case for defensive holding or interference, but the refs decided not to throw a flag. For the record, I am glad that they kept the flags in their pockets too, because in crunch time, I want the game decided by the players, not the officials. However, I am fine with them enforcing the rules as they are written more closely, especially if it means we can finally get some consistency in this league regarding interference penalties.

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to like Non Sequitur Sports on Facebook. We’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of Bears-Jaguars and a preview of Friday’s action. Take care folks!

Who’s That Quarterback: Green Bay Packers/Tennessee Titans

This week, instead of giving you folks a Saturday recap, I’ll be covering three of the four Saturday Night games through my “Who’s that Quarterback” series. I had intended to bring up Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns today, but I have been too busy to perform a film study on that game. So, I’m going to discuss the quarterbacks from the teams I watched on Saturday Night, the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans.

 

Green Bay Packers:

Last season, lack of depth at the quarterback crippled Green Bay after Aaron Rodgers went down. Only the arrival of Matt Flynn could help right things in Packland. This season the Packers come armed with three quarterbacks with professional starting experience, and have gone from having one of the worst Quarterback stables in the NFL to one of the deepest.

 

1. Aaron Rodgers

Year Drafted: 2005

College: California

NFL Experience: 10th Season

Career Stats: 1,945/2,955,  24,197 Yards, 188 TDs, 52 INTs, 15 Fumbles Lost, QB Rating: 104.9

Aaron Rodgers is the perfect example of how the position of quarterback should be played. Not only do the numbers (including the fact that he is the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating) speak volumes about the quality of his play, but so does the film. Rodgers has the fastest release I’ve ever seen. It’s an effortless seeming motion, but the velocity is on par if not greater to any quarterback currently playing in the league. His decision making is top notch, as is indicated by his ridiculous +136 Touchdown to Interception differential. Additionally, he also possesses great escapability and above average speed when he does decide to run. The only real knock that can be levied against Rodgers is that sometimes he holds onto the ball too long when he should just throw it away. This leads to sacks, and as we saw last season, potentially serious injuries. However, this one problem doesn’t really affect his status as a top tier NFL quarterback.

 

2. Matt Flynn

Year Drafted: 2008

College: LSU

NFL Experience: 7th Season

Career Stats: 211/341,  2,475 Yards, 17 TDs, 10 INTs, 8 Fumbles Lost, QB Rating: 88.3

Many people want to call Matt Flynn a pure system quarterback, but much of the criticism against him his been leveled unfairly. Flynn has only seen one game as a starting quarterback outside of Green Bay, and it was for the Oakland Raiders. In that game, Flynn actually played pretty well for a man with no offensive line and ever little support at wide receiver. Flynn has a particular set of skills, and there certainly a number of things which he cannot do as well as other quarterbacks. Flynn is not blessed with tremendous arm strength, but he does have a quick release and decent accuracy. He is fully capable of running an NFL offense, and is very efficient at getting teams in and out of the huddle. However he does not possess tremendous pocket presence, and struggles to escape difficult situations. If placed behind a good offensive line with a solid supporting cast, Flynn could be an average starter, in difficult circumstances, he is a stable backup with some flash potential.

 

3. Scott Tolzien

Year Drafted: Undrafted (2011)

NFL Experience: 4th NFL Season

College: Wisconsin

Career Stats: 55/90,  717 Yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs, 0 Fumbles Lost, QB Rating: 66.8

When you talk about quarterbacks with upside, no third stringer in the NFL has the upside of Scott Tolzien. Tolzien came to Green Bay in the middle of last season, signed by the Packers off of the 49ers practice squad after the injury to Aaron Rodgers. Tolzien played in three games for the Packers last year, all of which the Packers either lost or were losing when Tolzien was removed. So, why after his less than impressive 2013 season, is there hype around Tolzien? Much of it has to do with the fact that Tolzien possess crazy arm strength, he proved that with his ability to throw the deep ball in his games last season. On Saturday, he showed tremendous accuracy, going 8/12 for 124 yards, with three passes dropped by Packers wide-outs. Obviously there is a long way to go with Tolzien, but if he maintains this quality of play throughout the rest of the preseason, I’d be ready to say he’d be a fair back-up for most teams with eventual starting potential.

 

4. Chase Rettig

Year Drafted: Undrafted (2014)

NFL Experience: Rookie

College: Boston College

Career Stats: Rookie

Rettig looked like a lost ACC rookie out there in his preseason debut. It wasn’t that he was bad, it was more that simply wasn’t adapted to the speed of the NFL yet. From his passes, he looks to be typically jumpy in the pocket with solid arm strength and average accuracy. It’s tough to get any sort of a reading on this guy. However, if I had to make a judgement, he’ll probably be sitting on the Green Bay practice squad come September.

 

 

 

Tennessee Titans:

The health of Jake Locker may be paramount for Tennessee, but they also have a solid backup in Charlie Whitehurst, who has seemingly developed into a solid backup quarterback. Behind him is rookie Zach Mettenberger who showed a lot of flash in live action of Saturday night, leading the Titans to the winning touchdown. There is a lot to be positive about in regard to the quarterback position in Tennessee.

 

1. Jake Locker

 

Year Drafted: 2011

NFL Experience: 4nd NFL Season

College: Washington

Career Stats: 322/563, 3,974 Yards, 22 TDs, 15 INTs, 5 Fumbles Lost, QB Rating: 81.1

The problem for Jake Locker has never been his quality as a quarterback, it has been his inability to stay healthy. In his two seasons as a starter, Locker has only started 16 of 32 possible games, and suffered a potentially career ending hip injury last season. However, as a passer, locker posses decent accuracy and a strong arm. However, his most important characteristic is his play making ability, particularly when a play breaks down. Locker has always been good at escaping the pocket and using his legs to make plays, but he might have to alter his style a bit considering his injury history. Overall, Locker is firmly in the middle tier of NFL starting quarterbacks.

 

2. Charlie Whitehurst

Year Drafted: 2006

NFL Experience: 9th NFL Season

College: Clemson

Career Stats: 84/155, 805 Yards, 3 TD, 4 INTs, 1 Fumble Lost, QB Rating: 64.1

Whitehurst has the bearing of a career backup quaterback with decent fill in potential. He has started 4 games in his NFL career, and was unimpressive in each appearance. He can move the ball on offense and put up some points, be he also turns the ball over too readily. He is average is pretty much every category, though he doesn’t do much badly. Whitehurst can definitely finish out his a career as a 16 year backup, an average quarterback like him will always have a place in the NFL.

 

3. Zach Mettenberger

Year Drafted: 2014

NFL Experience: Rookie

College: LSU

Career Stats: Rookie

One game is not a lot to go off of, but Mettenberger looked like a better passer than Johnny Manziel in his NFL debut on Saturday. Despite throwing an interception off of a deflection, Mettenberger threw three tremendous strikes on the next possession, successfully maneuvering the Titans into position for the game winning touchdown. He didn’t look skittish in the pocket, and displayed impresses accuracy and arm strength. Hopefully he gets more reps against better competition over the next couple weeks, but first impressions indicate that the Titans may have found an impressive quarterback than Mettenberger.

 

 

Thank you for reading the second “Who’s That Quarterback?” of the 2014 NFL Preseason. There will be more of these coming up throughout the week.

If you enjoyed what you read, and want more content. Go check out this week’s Non-Sequitur Sports podcast by clicking here.

Also, you can check us out on Facebook here

Have a wonderful evening folks!

 
 
 
 

NFL Preseason Week 1: Friday Recap and Saturday Preview

 

Friday Night brought us a number of interesting quarterback battles and debuts. A few receivers came out and really made their mark on Friday as well. It was night with some quality, and some preseason quagmires. So without further ado, here we go.

 

Late Thursday Games:

 

Dallas Cowboys 7 At San Diego Chargers 27

                I mentioned in the game preview about how Dallas would be successful on Thursday if their defense was able to play more physical and provide more containment than they did last season, particularly against the run. That didn’t happen, as the Cowboys gave up 395 total yards of offense, a whopping 152 of which came on the ground. Conversely, Dallas only ran the ball for a combined 92 yards. For a team looking to create a more physical identity this wasn’t a good start. The only positive for Dallas was the play of Brandon Weeden, who orchestrated the Cowboys only touchdown drive and passed for over 100 yards. San Diego looked good on all fronts, as their overall depth was vastly superior to that of Dallas. The Chargers looked good on defense and were able to pound the ball on offense. 27 points is good for any team in the preseason, especially when those points all come from the offense.

 

Seattle Seahawks 16 At Denver Broncos 21

                It was a game that was interesting simply because of how long the starters played. In a league where some teams don’t even allow their starting quarterbacks to take the field for the initial preseason contest, the Broncos played Peyton Manning well into the first quarter and Seattle was still letting Russell Wilson go at it in the second quarter. Seattle did not seem overly affected by the tighter enforcement of rules regarding pass coverage, and turned in a respectable performance in the first half. I do think that this defense is a touch weaker overall with the losses they incurred over the off-season, but it is still one of the top units in the game. Denver will be happy with the effort they got from new addition DeMarcus Ware, who provided a sack of Wilson, and will also be glad to have seen their first team offense score a touchdown, thought they seemed to have to work very to get it. The result didn’t matter in this one, both teams got what they wanted, and managed to stay healthy.

 

Friday Recaps:

 

 

Miami Dolphins 10   At   Atlanta Falcons 16

                Both teams got what they wanted out of their starting offenses, as both teams rant the ball with promise, and both starting quarterbacks were perfect as the teams traded touchdowns early in the game. The Falcons look rejuvenated and healthy on offense while the Dolphins look like they will have a much more dynamic offense in 2014. Once the starters left though, the game digressed into a rough affair without much to comment on either way. The Falcons won the battle of the backups, and thus went on to win the game.

 

Buffalo Bills 20   At   Carolina Panthers 18

                The Buffalo Bills got much more out of EJ Manuel on Friday than they had at the Hall of Fame game as Buffalo beat Carolina. Manuel went 9/13 for 96 yards and helped the Bills pick up an early field goal. The other Bills’ quarterbacks reprised their Hall of Fame game performances with Thad Lewis struggling and Jeff Tuel finding the endzone, but also throwing an interception. The Panthers went without Cam Newton, but that didn’t stop rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from finding the endzone on a beautiful adjustment off a Derek Anderson pass. The Panthers were hampered by poor play from backup Matt Blanchard, who went 1/7. Joe Webb made a game of things, but ultimately threw an interception on the Panthers’ last drive. Overall though, it was a win for both teams, as the Panthers starting defense acquitted itself very well and the Buffalo offense continued to look sharper than it did last year. Additionally, both teams got their rookie wideouts into the act with both Benjamin and Sammy Watkins making an impact on the stat sheet.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10   At   Jacksonville Jaguars 16

                Blake Bortles made his professional debut for Jacksonville while new addition Josh McCown struggled in his debut for Tampa Bay. The Jags started Chad Henne, who is expected to be the guy this season while Bortles develops behind him. Henne wouldn’t bring Jacksonville any points in a game which would feature only two offensive touchdowns. McCown would throw a pick-six, and then fumble the ball away later in his appearance. Mike Glennon would play well for Tampa putting up 140 yards and touchdown. Bucs fans won’t be thrilled with McCown’s performance or their offensive effort overall, but the defense looked really good. For Jacksonville, offense was also not easy to come by. After Henne exited, Blake Bortles made his debut, going 7/11 with 117 yards. He looked good in the pocket, if a little tentative, but that’s why the kid needs to develop. Overall, Jacksonville looks like a team in its second year of a rebuild, that is to say, they look to be improving.

 

Philadelphia Eagles 28   At   Chicago Bears 34

                Chicago quarterbacks combined for four touchdown passes, as the Chicago offense picked up right where it left off last year against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday Night. The Bears posted 491 yards of total offense, 399 of which came through the air. Those are stunning numbers for a preseason outing where most quarterbacks can’t figure out which way to throw the football. Clearly the Bears are a team with much to talk about offensively. Defense is still a work in progress for the Bears though, as they gave up nearly 400 total yards, and while only 76 of those came on the ground, they still surrendered a pair of rushing touchdowns and gave up an average of 4.2 yards per rush. The Bears were greatly aided by Nick Foles, who threw a pair of picks early in the game to put Philly in an early hole. The Eagles won’t be happy about the turnovers or their defensive performance, and they have much to clean up in the coming weeks.

 

Oakland Raiders 6   At   Minnesota Vikings 10

                The quarterback battle game turned out to be a bit of a snooze-fest as the Raiders met the Vikings in Minnesota on Friday evening. Matt Cassel was impressive for Minnesota leading a quick opening drive for a touchdown. He finished 5/6 for 62 yards. Teddy Bridgewater was much less impressive for the Vikes, as he looked rather uncomfortable with the pace of the game, and attempted to use his legs too much en route to a 6/13 night. Christian Ponder wasn’t much better, going 3/7 for 39 yards. It’s still Cassel’s competition to lose after the first game. In Oakland, the chants for Derek Carr will likely be growing a touch louder after Matt Schaub struggled at the outset of this game. Carr came in and played pretty well in a very simple offense, going 10/16, despite not getting much help from his receivers, as Greg Little outright dropped a pass, and his interception was a ball that went in and out of the an Oakland fullback’s hands. Matt McGloin got the Raiders on the board with a late 10 yard touchdown run, but they would get no closer. In review, nothing has really changed for either team based on last night’s performances.

 

New Orleans Saints 26   At   St. Louis Rams 24

                There was a surprising amount of offense for a game where neither team played its starting quarterback Friday night in St. Louis. The Rams got great quarterback play across the board, as they scored three passing touchdowns, two from Shaun Hill and one from Austin Davis. However, it would be the unit the Rams will be banking on in 2014 that caused the let down last night, their defensive line. The Saints put up 123 rushing yards, with an average of 5.1 yards a rush. Mark Ingram, who played well into the 3rd Quarter for the Saints, averaged over ten yards per carry, putting up 83 yards on 8 rushes. The Rams also struggled against the pass, though they did manage to get two interceptions, with one coming from defensive lineman Chris Long. Saints wide receiver Brandon Cooks was impressive in the second half, raking up 55 yards on 5 catches, and the game winning touchdown. Ultimately, you can’t judge a defense on its preseason performance, but both of these teams would have liked to have seen something more last night.

 

 

 

Saturday Previews:

 

Cleveland Browns   At   Detroit Lions   7:30 PM EST NFLN

                You will likely be getting enough Johnny Manziel talk from the national media, so I’ll try to focus on other story-lines. Specifically for Cleveland, ignore who the quarterback is and focus on the pace of the offense. The Browns are going to need to be able to push the pace in 2014 if they want to have much success against the stout AFC North defenses. In that division, the teams that win are the teams that can keep their opponents off-balance, and Cleveland has been the worst at doing so over the last few seasons. For Detroit, keep an eye on rookie tight end Eric Ebron. Many said that the tightend class wasn’t particularly deep in 2014, and Ebron made it pretty clear that he thought he was the best. He reminds me a lot of Jermichal Finley in that he can be a dynamic playmaker, but can also struggle with the fundamentals, like catching the ball and blocking in the run game.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers   At   New York Giants     7:30 PM EST

                The Giants will look to build on a good start to the preseason as they host Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Giants are going to be hoping for another big showing from Andre Williams, who looked great in the opener. Additionally, they will want another strong performance from backup Ryan Nassib and a turnover free performance from Eli Manning. If they can get those things, not give up a huge amount of yardage or points, and stay healthy, it will be a win for the Giants. Pittsburgh is going to want to see how deep they are as a team. This is another team where it will be important to see how the second stringers hold up because that group is going to be the unit that ultimately determines the fate of the Steelers in 2014.

 

Green Bay Packers   At   Tennessee Titans   8:00 PM EST

                A new coaching staff has arrived in Tennessee hoping to build on an already solid group of players. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt will be tasked with bringing more consistency to Tennessee, especially among the quarterback group. The defense will be looking to build on its improvements from a year ago. As a team with a new coach and a new philosophy, it’s important to get the positive energy going early. This is one of the few times where I will say that winning a preseason game is important, but nothing creates confidence like winning, and for a new staff, confidence can make a big difference once the season starts. Winning is less important for the Packers, who come into this game hoping to stay healthy, and to help decide a few key position battles at Tight End, Wide Receiver, and Safety. Of those positions, Tight End is the murkiest race, with Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, and Richard Rodgers all battling for the top job. This is an important battle for fantasy players, as the Packers’ Tight End tends to be a very productive pick-up. My money right now would be on Bostick to win the job over the incumbent Andrew Quarless.

 

Houston Texans   At   Arizona Cardinals   8:30 PM EST

                Jadeveon Clowney will make his NFL debut against the Cardinals Saturday night, as Houston begins the first phase of their rebuilding process under rookie Head Coach Bill O’Brian. Ryan Fitzpatrick will also get his chance at the helm of the Texans offense, as they seek to turn the leaf after a disastrous year on that side of the ball. Houston fans will be happy if they see energy and just general improvements. A game without turnovers would be ideal for Houston fans. The Cardinals will see their first action after just missing the postseason in 2014. I have them overtaking San Francisco in the NFC West this season, mainly due to their defense. One thing the Cards will have to do better in 2014 if they hope to overtake the 49ers is run the ball better. The Cards were last in the West in rushing, averaging less than 100 total yards per game. In a division that is so physical, the Cards are going to have to be able to beat teams at their own game. Thus, Cardinals fans can be happy if Arizona can run the ball successfully tonight and throughout the preseason.

 

 

Thank you for reading! You can check out Non-Sequitur Sports’ most recent podcast here

You can follow us on Facebook here

Good luck to all of your teams, have fun, and stay safe!