Archive for the ‘Pigskin’ Category

Sky is the Limit… for these breakout players

Posted: August 31, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin



By: John Spurr

Everybody loves to know about up and coming players, so I’ve compiled a list of players that are soon to be household names.  Some are on the verge of superstardom and the others should be good for a pro bowl or two in their careers.  This is not a fantasy football article but good players usually put up good numbers so take notes.

Geno Atkins  DT  Bengals – The 6’1, 304lbs DT for the Bengals is one of the league’s best young pass rushing linemen.  He registered 7.5 sacks, 15 hits and 26 hurries for the Bengals last year in his first season as a starter.  The Bengals have a very talented young defense and having a pillar like Atkins in the middle makes everyone’s job easier.  Unlike many young pass rushers (cough!! Suh) Atkins is actually responsible against the run and will hold his gap discipline until it is obvious that it’s not a run.  You will hear his name lots this season.

Titus Young WR Lions – The diminutive second year receiver from Boise State has the fantastic job of lining up on the other side from the one they call Megatron (Calvin Johnson).  With defenses rolling coverages Johnson’s way last season, Young caught 19 balls for 231 yards and four touchdowns in the last five games of the season.  Draft pundits compared him to Desean Jackson prior to the draft last year so with a season under his belt he could give the Lions a legitimate second threat at receiver and another dynamic weapon to add to their ridiculous offense.

Jimmy Smith CB Ravens – The second year Raven cornerback was the best true cover corner in the 2011 NFL draft, yes better than Patrick Peterson but Peterson’s return skills elevated his value above Smith.   Rookie corners typically struggle but are able put up impressive stats due to quarterbacks choosing to throw at them, see Devin McCourty.  McCourty picked off six passes and made the pro bowl in his first year but in his second season he was an abysmal cog in the worst secondary in the league.  Jimmy Smith started only 3 games during the season but started both Ravens playoff games.  He recovered a fumble in the conference semi-finals against the Texans, while allowing only one catch.  In the conference finals against Tom Brady he was thrown at only twice, once for a six-yard gain and the second one he picked off in spectacular fashion in the endzone.  Smith has the tools to be an elite cover corner and teaming with Lardarius Webb could give the ravens a top-notch tandem for years to come.

Kendall Hunter RB 49ers – Hunter has shown the type of explosion and shiftiness that Frank Gore no longer possesses.  Expect to see Hunter used as the 9ers 3rd down back and perhaps even more frequently depending on the health of Gore.  Despite only starting one game for San Fran, Hunter amassed 473 yards rushing and 195 yards receiving last season.  He average 12.2 yards per reception last year which is incredible for a running back, just to add some perspective Darren Sproles has never in his career averaged 12 yards per reception.  Expect to see Hunter used more and more as the season goes on and many highlight reel plays from the talented back.

Pernell McPhee DT/DE Ravens – With the loss of Terrell Suggs for most if not all of the 2012 NFL season the Ravens are going to have to find other pass rushers to pick up the slack.  Luckily, they stole Pernell McPhee in the fifth round of the draft last year.  McPhee tallied six sacks as a rookie despite playing less than half of the Ravens defensive snaps last season and never starting a single game.  That is truly outstanding and out of a rookie no less.  McPhee will have a much larger role this year as Cory Redding who started ahead of McPhee last season has left for Baltimore.  McPhee could realistically put up a 10-sack season and be talked about in the elite pass rushing tier by season’s end.

Jared Cook TE Titans – The fourth year tight end out of South Carolina is basically a glorified wide receiver kind of like Aaron Hernandez of the Patriots.  He started five games last year and played in all 16, despite seeing limited action he still caught 49 passes for 759 and three td’s.  If you do the math that’s a 15.5 yd average per catch, which is ridiculous for a tight end.  He also had an 80-yard touchdown reception in week four against Cleveland, tight ends are not supposed to catch 80 yard tds.  With Jake Locker being named the starter in Tennessee you know that the tight end will benefit from a rookie qb looking over the middle to him.  This athletic marvel has only shown glimpses so far but look for him to eclipse a 1000 yds and put up 8+ touchdowns (fantasy alert!!!)

Earl Thomas S Seahawks – Earl Thomas is the best and most important player on a very underrated defense in Seattle.  The Seahawks boast what is widely considered the league’s best secondary.  With the tight end position being all the rage in the league right now, having a safety that is rangy enough to patrol the deep middle on his own allows the other safety (Kam Chancellor) to help the linebackers control tight ends.  Thomas’s speed and coverage ability in the deep middle allows the rest of the Hawks defense to play an attacking style defense.  Earl Thomas has produced seven interceptions and 14 pass breakups while putting up some gaudy tackle figures too (174) in his first two seasons.  He was the second safety drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft behind Eric Berry and while he isn’t quite as versatile as Berry he is a better pure coverage safety.  With Ed Reed beginning to show age, Thomas will be the consensus top coverage safety by the end of the season (if he isn’t already).

Justin Houston OLB Chiefs – Houston was seen to have first round talent coming out of Georgia but some off field issues caused him to drop in the draft to the third round where the Chiefs snatched him up.  Houston took a little while to get accustomed to the pro game but by the end of the season he was a starter and became a pass rushing terror.  He had 5.5 sacks in his last five games, including a 1.5 sack performance against the Broncos when he hunted Timmy Tebow all day long.  With Tamba Hali rushing on the other side from Houston watch for a big season from this 2nd year player.

Carlos Dunlap DE Bengals – Another case of a first round talent that dropped in the draft due to character concerns before the Bengals took the Florida junior.   Dunlap had a quiet start to his first season before racking up 9.5 sacks in the last 8 games of the season.  Last season Dunlap was played sparingly as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer likes to have a rotation of pass rushers.  In 278 snaps, Dunlap recorded 5 sacks, 13 qb hits and 29 pressures, which is the line of a highly disruptive pass rusher.  He actually has the highest average of pressure per rush in the entire league.  Due to the system, Dunlap will probably not approach a 15-sack season this year but on any third down watch for Dunlap to be right in the qb’s face.

Tyvon Branch S Raiders – The fifth year safety might be one of the most underrated defensive players in the whole league.  He is a versatile safety who can hit and cover at a position that doesn’t have enough talented players.  Last season Branch had 109 tackles, a sack, an interception and five pass defenses.  The most impressive stat by far though was when the Raiders faced the Patriots in week 4.  Branch was matched up on Rob Gronkowski all game long and he held him to one catch for 15yds, which was by far Gronk’s worst game of the season.  Branch is one of the best cover guys against tight ends in the league and is a fantastic weapon for an underrated Raiders D.

AJ Green WR Bengals – So most people know that AJ Green made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year but what they don’t know is how he became so good at catching.  When Green was a child his favourite hobby was juggling, so thanks to his odd childhood pastime Green already has some of the best hands in the NFL.  Green had a phenomenal rookie season, helping to rejuvenate a stagnant Bengals offense with fellow rookie Andy Dalton.   With all the hype surrounding Julio Jones this year due to the Falcons focus on lighting up the scoreboard, let’s not forget that every semi-credible scout in the nation considers AJ Green to be the better player.  He is an athletic marvel who possesses incredible hands and moves more fluidly than almost any 6″3+ receiver since Randy Moss.  Green is on his way to be a top three receiver by the end of the season after spending the offseason training with Calvin Johnson.

Sean Weatherspoon OLB Falcons – The most athletic linebacker in the 2010 NFL draft took his time getting accustomed to the pros but is now starting to dominate.  He’s been named as a defensive captain and is probably their most important single player on the defense.  He had 115 tackles, four sacks and eight passes defended last year making him a good defensive player in fantasy football.  He can rush the passer, tackle and cover tight ends, which makes game planning around him almost impossible.  By the end of the season Weatherspoon will probably be recognized as a top 3 outside linebacker.

Jason Pierre-Paul DE Giants – His name may sound like a French soft rock band but there is nothing gentle about this unique athlete.  The “Haitian Sensation” is 23 years old and only started playing football when he was 17.  Despite being named an NFL All-Pro last season he is literally still learning how to play the game and this should terrify quarterbacks and fans of teams who have to face this monster.  His level of athleticism has quite honestly never been seen in the league before and I’m well aware of the magnitude of this claim.  If you don’t believe me check out what this 6’5, 280lb beast did at the 2010 NFL draft.  Last season only his second in the NFL Pierre-Paul made 86 tackles, 16.5 sacks, a safety, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  He was also named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in December and let me reiterate this, he’s still learning how to play this crazy game.  The main reason that I added this obvious superstar to the list is because I’m putting in my Defensive Player of the Year vote right now and I’m voting for JPP!!! Watch out NFL, Quarterbacks and anyone who plays in the NFC East… I feel sorry for you.

We Gon’ Make It ? Part II NFC

Posted: August 28, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin

By: John Spurr

Isn’t training camp wonderful? Every team has a revamped roster, playoff aspirations and beautiful new cheerleaders. It’s a brilliant time of the year to be a fan of any team. Heck even the preseason helps to grow that positive outlook, with rookie quarterbacks carving up second-string defenses and first year coaches looking like they know what they’re doing. Don’t worry though after the initial madness of week one and two things will settle down and the teams will begin to separate.
Assuming that some teams are locks to make the playoffs let’s break down what needs to happen for some of the fringe teams to make it into the postseason. For the purpose of this exercise let’s assume that the Packers, Saints and 49ers will make the playoffs. That leaves three spots open including whoever wins the highly competitive NFC East.

NFC East – This division is one of the tightest divisions in football with four teams with tough defenses, three talented quarterbacks and one rookie quarterback who used to be a track star. This division is always decided in the last few weeks of the season as all four teams tend to beat each other up. The interesting aspect of this season is that the NFC East and NFC South both play each other in cross over divisional play. The NFC South is also a very strong and unpredictable division and essentially the NFC Wildcards will be decided by the way that these NFC East vs South games end up.

New York Giants
The defending Super Bowl champs are as deep and talented as they have ever been and are probably a better team than they were last year. Remember though that last year the Giants lost twice to the last place Redskins and were a Miles Austin catch away from the missing the playoffs. The 9-7 Giants turned it on in the playoffs en route to spoiling another Boston Tea Party but they weren’t an exceptional regular season team.

Will Make Playoffs if: The ultra deep D-line can produce consistently throughout the season and Eli Manning stays ELIte and doesn’t throw 25 interceptions like he did two seasons ago. Having Prince Amukamara develop into a top calibre cover corner, would take their defense to the next level. Rookie running back David Wilson teams with Ahmad Bradshaw to give the Giants a talented and versatile backfield.

Will Miss Playoffs if: Injuries derail the D-line and the O-line can’t protect Eli enough to get the ball to his skilled receivers.

Likely – I think the Giants are the class of the division and will win the NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have the most talented defense in the division, which says a lot considering the amount of defensive talent in the NFC East. It literally all hangs on Michael Vick’s shoulders, the talent is around him on both sides of the ball.

Will Make Playoffs if: Vick stays healthy for 14+ games and the defense delivers on their considerable promise. Nnamdi and DRC are able to perform much better in their traditional defined roles as cover corners. Lesean McCoy is able to continue eluding defenders like Barry Sanders and give Vick a dangerous checkdown weapon.

Will Miss Playoffs if: Vick misses significant time. The defense can play as good as they want, they’ll still have no chance. The offensive line struggles to protect the enigmatic quarterback and isn’t able to open holes for McCoy. The Eagles don’t find a consistent red zone threat with a rather small receiving corps.

Likely: I love this teams defense but I don’t think that they can survive without Vick and I don’t think he can survive the season.

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys always have such a great team on paper and this year is no different. Both sides of the ball have potential superstars at almost every position. Unlike last season though the strength of this team may be on the defensive side. With preseason injuries to Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, Tony Romo must be wondering why the cowboys elected not to pay Laurent Robinson.

Will Make Playoffs if: The injuries are just an early season issue and don’t linger throughout the year. The pass rush improves thus helping the secondary, which also improves. The offensive line comes together despite having serious questions with the interior.

Will Miss Playoffs if: If the injuries concerns continue and their Oline play doesn’t improve. Struggles at the safety position continue to haunt this talented defense. Pass rushing support across from Demarcus Ware doesn’t appear, as Anthony Spencer continues to struggle, having never put up more than six sacks in a season.

Likely: Are competitive in the division but don’t quite sneak into the big dance.

Washington Redskins

Make the playoffs if RG3 is better than Cam Newton

Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have finally decided to surround one of the most talented qb’s in the league with some actual receivers, what a novel idea. The last time Jay Cutler played with Brandon Marshall both of them went to the pro bowl. This season their offense should be much more dangerous with Cutler throwing to Marshall, rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and the freshly paid Matt Forte. The defense is aging but should still be solid with several standout players including the freakish Julius Peppers.

Will Make Playoffs if: The age of the defense doesn’t catch up to them this year and the offense plays the way a lot of people are expecting. Oline play should dictate whether or not this is the case. A big play from Devin Hester here and there could be the difference between a 10 win playoff team and 9 win team on the outside looking in.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The defense begins to drop off and the oline doesn’t play well enough for Forte and Cutler to be effective. There are rumours that Brian Urlacher’s knee is actually quite mangled and the Bears have even considered cutting him. If this was the case it would be completely demoralizing to the defense.

Likely: The Bears veteran defense continues to get it done and the Cutler- Marshall-Forte triplets make for a dynamic attack.

Detroit Lions
Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you the Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts 2.0. When Manning drove the ship in Indy, everyone always wondered why they didn’t try and improve their putrid secondary. Instead the Colts drafted more offensive talent and pass rushers because their plan was to outscore you and then harass your qb. This is the new Lions model for their franchise. With pundits screaming to fix the secondary the Lions drafted offensive tackle Reilly Reiff and another receiver in Ryan Broles to aid Matt Stafford’s ascension to elite status. They are going to score on teams and then pin their ears back and rush the passer.

Will Make playoffs if: Their key offensive players stay healthy and the pass rush remains strong. Solid seasons from trouble-makers Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure would make this team very strong.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The Madden Curse strikes and Calvin Johnson is injured, an injury to Stafford would have the same effect on this team’s chances.

Likely: The Lions have a top 5 offense and outscore a lot of teams. This team is playoff bound and that means that the NFC North sends three teams to the playoffs, mark it down.

Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have made the playoffs the last 3 years but have yet to win a game with Matt Ryan at the helm. They have surrounded him with very talented weapons and the offense will now look to pass first. This season rides entirely on the sharpness of Matty Ice’s haircut. The defense didn’t change much this offseason and should be solid but not spectacular. They should have a good secondary but the linebackers and d-line leave something to be desired. The oline that was once a major strength of the team is now somewhat questionable.

Will Make Playoffs if: Matt Ryan delivers on the considerable talent that Mike Mayock and other analysts gush about all day long when discussing the young signal caller. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon continues to improve in his second season and becomes the defensive star. The talented secondary frustrates opposing quarterbacks. John Abraham is able to drive his wheelchair past offensive tackles to the tune of a ten-sack season.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The conversion from a ball control, run first offense to an aerial attack is not as smooth as anticipated. The loss of Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker hurts the defense more than expected and the undersized defense can’t stop the run.

Likely: The Falcons have an explosive offense like they hoped but end up losing too many games due to their very difficult schedule, which includes games against the NFC East.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton!!! No seriously if you missed last season this phenom had the greatest quarterbacking season by a rookie in NFL history and that was just the passing part, he also rushed for a qb record 14 touchdowns and 700 yards. This has catapulted Carolina into the stratosphere of must see teams after being a rather bore for some time. This season the Panthers look to shore up their defense and help Newton get better. Drafting linebacker Luke Kuechly will give the panthers a defensive quarterback for the next decade. The arrow is pointing squarely up for the Panthers but it may be a year or two early for the Panthers to be considered a real threat.

Will Make Playoffs if: Newton is completely unstoppable and Steve Smith is able to turn back the clock for another season. A significant improvement would be required from the defense, mostly coming from the pass rush.

Will Miss Playoffs if: Newton regresses and his weapons aren’t able to perform as well as they need to. The pass rush does show the necessary fierceness to lead a modern defense and the secondary is hung out dry.

Likely: The Panthers will be a lot of fun to watch this year led by Cammy Cam and a trio of talented running backs. It seems unlikely that they’ll be able to emerge from the always chaotic NFC South, I’d say they are two years away from the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks
The often-overlooked birds have quietly put together a very strong defense under Pete Carroll. Many analysts around the league claim that Seattle has the league’s best secondary and in the new age of passing and nothing else, that is a major feather in the hawks cap. They boast speed, strength and athleticism at every defensive position on the field and they will be a top seven defense this season. Carroll has shaped the offense to be run a first team but that was until the emergence of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson has defied the critics at every level and according to league sources is a special quarterback, he may be able to energize Seattle enough to get them into the playoffs.

Will Make Playoffs if: Russell Wilson is able to add the passing component to the Seattle offense and develops a rapport with Sidney Rice. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin give them give a formidable running back tandem that eases the pressure on Wilson . Finally, the defense plays as well as people are expecting and are able to get turnover and give Wilson some short fields to work with.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The young rookie signal caller struggles the way that many do, turnovers could kill this team as they are not explosive enough to outscore people. Marshawn Lynch doesn’t run the way he did last year after getting a nice juicy contract. Sidney Rice has injury issues and is the uninterested and ineffective pass-catcher that he was last year. Significant injuries to the defense are about the only thing that could stop this group from being awesome.

Likely: The NFC has too many strong teams and the Seahawks and their rookie signal caller don’t have the offensive pop to win enough games. Seattle will come up just short of a wildcard birth.

There is no doubt that this is the way that the NFC will play out but the beauty of sports is that the only thing that matters is the scoreboard at the end of the game. Football season is 8 days away, or a time of the year I prefer to call “The Night Before Christmas.” Can’t Wait !!!!

We Gon’ Make It? Part One

Posted: August 25, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin

By Dane Belbeck

“I’m So Happy You Cut That Stupid Hair You Had Last Year Tom!!!!!”

Every August we get bombarded with football predictions by every single sports media outlet or blog telling you where each NFL team is going to finish and why. While Herman Edwards says that everyone is ‘playing to win the games’ it’s pretty clear that the New England Patriots are going to win more games then the Miami Dolphins this season. So I will spare you the write-up on why the Patriots are a good football team that will win the AFC East….They have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. As long as that statement holds true the Patriots will always be my AFC East favourite. There’s also not much debate as to whether the Houston Texans will win the AFC South. Andrew Luck’s endless ceiling aside, when Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker are the other quarterbacks in the division I like your team’s chances. So here are some predictions as to why the other teams in the AFC have a chance to make the playoffs…and why they most likely will not.


Pretty clear the Patriots are virtual locks to win this division and grab a playoff spot so let’s skip to the rest of the East.

New York Jets (2011 record 8-8, missed playoffs)

If they were giving byes to the playoffs for the most over-covered and over-analyzed team in the off-season the New York Jets would easily grab one. The circus that follows Timothy Richard Tebow arrived in New York March 21st, the day the Jets traded a fourth and sixth-round draft pick for the polarizing quarterback from Denver, and has only intensified since. To some this was the greatest trade in the history of trades (most of these people being devout evangelists or die-hard Florida Gator fans such as myself), a productive trade (put some pressure on Mark Sanchez to take his starting quarterback job seriously, have Wildcat guru Tony Sparano use Tebow effectively in the formation), or a train-wreck waiting to happen (anyone who has seen Sanchez play the last two years and realize the Jets will be trotting out a quarterback who can barely through a spiral as their starter by week six). The Jets seem to be operating under the classic “Can’t beat him…trade for him” ideal.

Make the Playoffs If: Rookie Quinton Coples fits right into the front seven and is able to get quarterback pressure without elaborate blitz schemes, The offense gets back to their roots and runs over teams with a power running attack featuring Wildcat and goal-line packages with Tebow and Shonn Greene, Sanchez doesn’t try to do too much and rookie Stephen Hill emerges as a legitimate #2 receiver.

Miss the Playoffs If: The offense looks anything like they have in the preseason, the Jets fail to generate a pass-rush and fall behind early in games forcing Sanchez or Tebow into a pass-heavy offense to a below average group of receivers outside of Santonio Holmes.

Likely: Sparano implements the wildcat and it achieves success like never before with the dual threat of Tebow, Sanchez has a productive year in which he is not asked to do much and Rex Ryan gets the defense back on track, the Jets grab a wildcat spot finishing second in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills (2011 record 6-10, missed playoffs)

The Bills made the biggest off-season move not named Peyton Manning as they added Defensive End Mario Williams from the Houston Texans for a six-year contract that could be worth up to $100 million. The club then signed Mark Anderson to man the other end of the front four. With Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus in the interior, the Bills easily have arguably the top front four in the game. A healthy Fred Jackson returns to form a loaded backfield with C.J. Spiller to give the Bills a very formidable rushing attack. After signing a six-year extension with the Bills last season, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s numbers dropped off significantly as he was hindered by an ongoing rib injury.

Make the Playoffs If: The front four is as good as advertised getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks allowing the Bills to drop six and seven men into coverage, first-round draft pick Stephon Gilmore lives up to the hype and immediately helps a secondary that ranked 19th against the pass last year, Fitzpatrick’s struggles were due to the rib injury and he returns to early season form from 2012, and the two-headed monster of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson terrorizes defenses.

Miss the Playoffs If: Fitzpatrick’s struggles last season were not due to the rib injury and he continues to struggle, the front four isn’t as productive at rushing the passer as advertised putting more pressure on the questionable back-end, Stevie Johnson fails to emerge as a legitimate number one receiver.

Likely: Fitzpatrick’s form falls somewhere between the great start to the 2011 season and the horrible end to the 2011 season. Fred Jackson returns and sees a slight dip in production with C.J. Spiller getting more touches, Williams impresses, Anderson does not and the Bills challenge the Jets for second in the division and a wildcard spot but fall a game short.

Miami Dolphins (2011 record 6-10, missed playoffs)

Let’s be honest, there’s no chance the Dolphins make the playoffs, but any excuse to show pictures of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s wife Lauren must be taken advantage of.

Really Great Upside on this Draft Pick..


Only once in the last six years has the AFC North not been won by the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens and in that time span the division has also sent 5 wildcard teams to the playoffs. Safe to say this is one of the best divisions in football. Last season the Cincinnati Bengals joined the Steelers and Ravens in the playoffs as the sixth seed. This year is sure to be another battle between the Steelers and Ravens for the division crown with the loser almost guaranteed a wildcard spot (although we know how that turned out last year), so let’s look at the chances the Bengals make the playoffs for a second year running.

Cincinnati Bengals (2011 record 9-7, 2nd AFC Wildcard team)

The Bengals resurgence came a year early as the sensational rookie tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green arrived on the scene and instantly added excitement to the offense. Carson Palmer was dealt to Oakland, and a young defense led by linebacker Ray Maualuga, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap finished the season 9th in points allowed per game. Leading rusher is Cedric Benson is gone to Green Bay, but the Bengals brought in Benjarvus Green-Ellis from the Patriots to replace him.

Make Playoffs If: Dalton continues to impress at the quarterback position, limit the turnovers, and continue his progress in being the best red-headed quarterback since Jeff Garcia, Green avoids the sophomore slump and continues his rise up the receiver ranks of the NFL, they are able to beat someone in the division not named the Cleveland Browns (0-4 versus Ravens and Steelers last season), and Green-Ellis makes everyone forget about Cedric Benson.

Miss Playoffs If: Do not improve on last year’s 2-4 divisional record, non-divisional games include the AFC West and NFC East compared to the abysmal NFC West and AFC South last year, Green and Dalton regress in their sophomore years, the rushing attack misses Benson and fails to take pressure off Dalton and new cornerback Terrence Newman plays like….well…Terrance Newman.

Likely: Three teams from the North will not be getting into the playoffs again this season with their out of division opponents posing much more of a threat then last years. The Bengals young talent matures and shows flashes of brilliance again for a half empty Paul Brown Stadium but cannot oust the Ravens or Steelers from the top two spots and misses the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (2011 record 4-12, missed playoffs)

The Browns really tested the “I just love football so much I will watch any game possible” theory with their struggles on offense last year. To rectify the problem they drafted running back Trent Richardson from Alabama and quarterback Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State. It’s hard not to think Trent Richardson is going to be a star, but it’s always dicey when you have a rookie quarterback actually OLDER then Aaron Rodgers already…Playoffs are not happening but if Richardson treats the opposition anything like he treats his running back’s coach, the Browns will be fun to watch

Look for part two featuring the AFC South and AFC West divisions coming up…

Gregg Williams: Walking the green mile

Posted: April 9, 2012 by skrizznasty in Pigskin

By Michael Skrzyniak

We got a dead man walking here.

Well, not literally. I’m referring to Gregg Williams and his tenure as an NFL employee.

On the day New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton meets with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to appeal the one-year suspension handed to him in regards to the infamous bounty scandal that rocked the sporting world weeks ago, an audio clip recorded from the Saints’ locker room before their January 14 playoff-game in San Francisco lets fans listen to defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams as he “encourages” his players to give it their all.

Before you listen in, I warn you, the language is very disturbing. Proceed with caution.

I find it ironic the first sentence is “We don’t f***** apologize for how we’re going to play.” Seems like a plethora of apologizing will soon be in order.

Take a good look, cuz this man will never be on a NFL sideline again

The first few sentences seem natural to any athlete who has ever received a pre-game speech. I was there. I wanted to obliterate kids when I played high school football. It’s what you’re supposed to do. You play to win the game. Hello?!?!

But there is a fine line between trying to intimidate and felonious immorality. The Saints marched over that line, however, then proceeded to beat it with a hammer.

Williams continues his speech:

“Kill the head and the body will die. We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill (San Fran running back) Frank Gore’s head.”

“Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”

Concussions in sports have dominated headlines. From Sidney Crosby to Colt McCoy, professional sports has concerned itself with improving safety for their players while avoiding continuous accusations that sports are considered too dangerous.

Thanks to Williams, three steps have just been taken back whilst none move forward.

The sickening words of Williams bothers me further because he rewarded his players with cash disassociated from player’s contracts. Jonathan Vilma, middle linebacker, is one of the main litigants of this story because he has been rumoured to offer money from his own pocket to one of his teammates if they injure an opponent. In one case he is believed to offer ten g’s (yo).

Did Drew Brees know?

Vilma is set to earn $5.4 million dollars for 2012. How much “motivation” do players need? Is sending Frank Gore off with a concussion worth another fancy car? Is tearing Vernon Davis’ ACL worth an entertainment centre for your house?

Before I get ahead of myself, I admit I am absolutely clueless as to what went on in the Saints’ locker room. No one except employees of the Saints will. I don’t know who orchestrated the bounty, I don’t know how, if any of this motivation affected the results on the field, and I’m unaware about where every rewarded cent came from. From the tape, it’s obvious some came from Williams, but that’s all we really know.

To think at one time the Saints were the feel-good story the NFL clamoured to. The controversy surrounding the Saints organization feels like the time the goody-two-shoes in elementary school was caught cheating on a spelling test. No one expected it and now perceptions have changed. Williams, Payton and other employees have much to do in order to regain the remains of their integrity and their word.

“A mind troubled by doubt, cannot focus on victory.”

Minds are troubled, coach. That’s a fact.

I’d hate to hear what went on if they actually won that game.

Elway to Tebow: Thanks for Nothin’…

Posted: March 22, 2012 by skrizznasty in Pigskin

This still looks weird....

What happens after you flip the script on a floundering franchise, earn a playoff victory, while keeping a squeaky-clean image in the eye of the Almighty?

Apparently if you’re Tim Tebow, not much…

The Denver Broncos pulled off another miracle. Despite persuasions from a Super Bowl contender (San Francisco) and the state where him and his wife have many ties to (Tennessee), #18 decided he’d like to battle the altitude in Colorado for a team with inferior weapons to say the least.

I guess all that Tebowing finally paid off for Bronco fans?

If Manning stays healthy, the Broncos are the perennial favourites to win the AFC West. The division was very weak last year but I do think the Raiders have potential, and the Chiefs are still very young and were crippled with injuries but I don’t know if either team has enough to topple the new swaggered-out Broncos and their in”Von”cible defence. I would consider San Diego, but…it’s the Chargers. Enough said.

So now, what happens to Tim Tebow? The former Florida Gator was easily the most discussed athlete of 2011. I was convinced the Heisman winner was sent down by Jesus Christ himself just to get the church some free advertising on Sundays.

I don’t want to get into this because we all know the story. Coach John Fox didn’t want him, VP of Football Operations and Bronco deity John Elway didn’t want him, some fans didn’t even want him.

But then, he won. A lot. I mean, a lot, a lot. Even in the playoffs, he won, which angered Steeler fans everywhere…

I’ve always chuckled at the expression “A two on the road is a 10 at home,” referring to my endeavours in favourable party locations such as St. Catherines and Kingston, Ontario,. This same logic could be applied to Tebow. It may have been ugly, but he got the job done.

Oh, how quickly people forget. Tebow wins and yet he still can’t win…

Today, the regained prestige, all of the comebacks, the record amount of jerseys sold, the infinte number of characters taken up on Twitter, the numerous articles written in papers and in Sports Illustrated, all of it has now evaporated with Manning’s new five-year deal.

ESPN is reporting that the Broncos are now looking for a suitable trading partner to deal their 2010 first round pick to.

If I’m Tebow, do I want to leave Denver? He should think about what future Washington Redskin Robert Griffin III said about what an honour it would be to hold Manning’s clipboard.Should the Broncos be so quick to trade Tebow? Do you think the Broncos can afford to see Peyton attempt a quarterback sneak on a third and one with defensive lineman like Richard Seymour, Vaughn Martin (raised in Toronto, btw) and linebackers like Tamba Hali hovering over him? I highly doubt it.

The Miami Dolphins, who have missed out on EVERYONE this off-season, along with Tebow’s home-town Jacksonville Jaguars, who are looking for ANYTHING that will help that dismal franchise sell tickets- are the two most intriguing teams that may desire Tebow’s services. These teams desperately need Tebow, in fact this was the last time anyone cared about the Dolphins…

What could Tebow learn from Joe Philbin that he couldn’t learn from Peyton Manning? Are you telling me the Jaguars have a better offence than the Broncos? The answers are: nothing and no.

I’m aware that the decision is out of Tebow’s hands. I’m utterly shocked to hear that the Broncos feel inclined to rid themselves of a player who in limited time has done so much for their franchise. If Tebow was a third or fourth round choice, then fine, I get it. But Tebow was drafted 25th overall. Are the Broncos going to receive corresponding value? Is any team going to trade a first round pick for a quarterback who is constantly ridiculed for his quarterback-ing skills?

This whole situation stinks if you ask me.

The Broncos had a quarterback who teammates, along with fans, supported. They were winning and had the chance to surround Tebow with greater complimenting pieces, like a mobile tight end, a la his former college buddy Aaron Hernandez and/or a more reliable wide receiver. Mike Wallace, anyone?

Mike Wallace could still end up being a Bronco, but he will be receiving passes from a different type of quarterback. A quarterback who will be forbidden from making plays with his legs. A player who will be calling plays from the line and a player who will need to rely on his offensive line to keep him from taking any hits because the next one may be his last…

Manning may have been strongly persuaded by Elway’s “going out on top” speech. It would be the proverbial cherry on top of the delicious chocolate sundae that has been Peyton Manning’s NFL career. I just hope Peyton stays healthy despite his new surroundings.

However, I think it’s safe to say Tebow won’t be praying for any more mile-high miracles any time soon.

Editor’s note- This was written before Tebow was traded to the New York Jets on Wednesday … but the editor was out getting crushing jager bombs in celebration of Tebow heading to the big apple to unseat the Sanchize to post on time…

Peyton’s Two Minute Warning

Posted: March 16, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin

By John Spurr

For the past decade when watching an Indianapolis Colts game, one of the most familiar sights was seeing Peyton Manning approach the line of scrimmage, observe the defense, then make some sort of weird gang-sign looking gesture and scream something funny like “banana” before finally snapping the ball. This audible would usually improve the Colts’ chances of running a successful play, and everyone would applaud Manning for his brilliance.

For the football nation, that has been closely watching Peyton’s free agency tour de force, it is beginning to look like Peyton has called another audible on us, and this time it might not end with a touchdown.

It was rumored in the days leading up to free agency by all the various news outlets, that Manning had a list of a few teams and that the decision on where to take his talents would be revealed quickly.

If that had actually happened, then the owner whom had successfully wooed Manning could then chase down other marquee free agents with their own personal Brinks truck full of cash.

How do you say no to this elegant young lady?

The early favourite in Manningpalooza 2012 was the Miami Dolphins and their B-level celebrity ownership dais. How could Manning say no to the skeleton of Marc Anthony or the highly insured curves of J-Lo. The Dolphins boasted a talented receiver in Brandon Marshall, the likes of which Manning hasn’t seen since Marvin Harrison packed up his gat and went home. It seemed like a pretty decent fit for an aging quarterback who prefers orchestrating his offence in pristine football conditions. When Marshall got traded to the Bears, the day after Manning was in contact with the Dolphins, everyone assumed that it was because Peyton didn’t want to work with Marshall and his many personalities. Since then though, it appears as if the Latin flair of South Beach has lost its appeal to Manning.

Peyton then became the Denver Broncos’ most eligible bachelor, as John Elway and Peyton toured around the facilities regaling each other with stories about how incredible the other one is. The word around Denver was that they were confident that Peyton was theirs and that Timma (for the South Park fans) would have to find another team to save. Really though, nobody thought that Peyton had any interest in the windy Mile High Stadium.

His adventure around the US took a stop in Arizona where the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald tried to convince him that if Kurt Warner could make it to the Super Bowl just imagine what Manning could do. Larry Fitzgerald represents a talent at receiver that Peyton has never experienced and it certainly seems like an alluring merger. Again though Peyton departed in search of something better.

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that after a ton of travelling around, he returned to the place of his fun-loving university days in Tennessee. Or perhaps it was the appeal of fleecing the third most senile billionaire owner in the NFL (I’m not forgetting you Ralph Wilson or William Clay Ford Sr), for a yacht full of money was too exciting for Peyton. He has now been chewing the fat with the Tennessee Titans brass for two days and it does appear to be a good fit. The Titans boast a good offensive line to protect that fragile neck of his, as well as the sometimes electric Chris Johnson at tailback and a talented young receiving corps. This could be the proper fit for Manning but if it isn’t what then?

Free agency is now 3 days old and therefore the talent pool is three days depleted. Gone are most of the top receivers, obviously they are the pieces of a team that mean the most to Peyton, as well as the offensive linemen. His former partner in crime from Indy, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, has decided he’ll return to Indy and help Andrew Luck rebuild the team. Teams such as the Cardinals are unsure what they are supposed to do with their existing quarterbacks, and therefore may be forced to bow out on Manning. Tebow doesn’t know if he’s suppose to pray for the Broncos or for the Jaguars. With each passing hour, Peyton’s future team is losing out on players that could help him and his new team succeed this season.

In the end he’ll sign with a team and they will most likely be able to put together a decent roster around him. If they falter along the way though, the questions will arise, did Manning hinder his teams ability to build around him? Because we have all seen how he reacts when surrounded by poor talent….