Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - New England Patriots

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS                                    

2014 Record: 12-4-0 (1st in AFC East)

HEAD COACH: Bill Belichick

New Players in 2015 - TE Scott Chandler; LB Brandon Spikes; CB Robert McClain; CB Bradley Fletcher; CB Chimdi Chekwa.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 11th in NFL (365.5 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 13th in NFL (344.1 ypg)

Offense: Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP, is back for another season after putting up 33 touchdown passes with just nine interceptions and 4,109 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo is the back up.
The BIG QUESTION entering the 2015 season is whether or not Brady will be on the field for the Patriots when the regular season begins. A four-game suspension was handed down by the league to Brady for the "deflate gate" scandal during the post-season when the Patriots were on their way to a Super Bowl title.
The rest of the offense will see LeGarrette Blount as the featured running back with Jonas Gray backing him up. Blount (281 rush yards, 4.7 ypc average and three TD) enjoyed a resurgence of sorts when he re-joined the Pats following a disastrous and very brief stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gray totaled 412 yards on the ground (4.6 ypc average) and scored five touchdowns.
The receiving corps has Brandon LaFell (74 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns), Julian Edelman (92, 972, four TD) and Danny Amendola, who made 27 receptions for 200 yards and a score while being used sparingly due to nagging injuries all season long.
The tight end is Rob Gronkowski, the best in the NFL, who snared 12 TD catches while totaling 82 receptions for 1,124 yards.
Tim Wright (26, 259 and six TD) is another solid tight end, who along with free agent TE Scott Chandler (47, 497, three TD with Buffalo) will provide even more weapons for Brady.
The offensive line will see Brian Stork at center along with tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder and guards Jordan Devey and Ryan Wendell.

Defense:  Changes up front as long time nose tackle Vincent Wilfork is gone and instead the Patriots will feature tackles Alan Branch and rookie Malcolm Brown (Texas) along with ends Chandler Jones (six QB sacks last year) and Rob Ninkovich (eight sacks) in the 4-3 set.
The linebacking unit will have Jerod Mayo in the middle and Dont'a Hightower (six sacks) and Jamie Collins, who had two interceptions last season, on the outside. Brandon Spikes comes on board this season to provide depth along with Jonathan Freeny and Cameron Gordon.
The secondary also has undergone vast changes as Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis are gone from last season via free agency and in their places are Logan Ryan (two interceptions) and Malcolm Butler at the corners. The safeties are Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty (two INT).
Rookie Jordan Richards (Stanford), Bradley Fletcher, Tavon Wilson, Robert McClain and Justin Green will provide depth.

- It has been said all off-season that the controversy surrounding Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick and all of the pending suspension of Brady for the "deflate gate" will motivate the team in much the same manner as "spy gate" did in 2007 when the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season.
That remains to be seen because without Brady at QB for four games, the impact could be huge in the AFC East standings with up-and-coming Buffalo and Miami looking to challenge the Patriots.
True, the Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions (thanks to a very peculiar play call selection by the Seattle Seahawks in the closing minute of last season's Super Bowl) and they will be wearing the very large target on their collective backs coming into the 2015 season.
There are no surprises to what Brady and company do on offense, it's just a matter of opposing defenses being able to stop them or at least trying to slow them down. New England was third in the NFL in scoring last year, averaging just over 29 points per game.
The defense will be the key for the team this year with the number of player personnel turnover from last year.
The secondary is vital as Butler (the Super Bowl hero with the late game pick to seal the win) and Ryan will have big shoes to fill at cornerback. If the pass defense is decent, the Patriots should be solid on defense.
Expect New England to once again win the AFC East, going 11-5 and having yet another deep playoff run. Whether or not they can win another Super Bowl is another topic, what with all the drama surrounding them coming into a new season.
But don't count them out.
After all, this is Brady and Belichick we are talking about.

Week 1 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 2 - at Buffalo Bills
Week 3 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 4 - BYE WEEK
Week 5 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 6 - at Indianapolis Colts
Week 7 - vs. New York Jets
Week 8 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 9 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 10 - at New York Giants
Week 11 - vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 12 - at Denver Broncos
Week 13 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 14 - at Houston Texans
Week 15 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 16 - at New York Jets
Week 17 - at Miami Dolphins

Sunday, July 26, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Miami Dolphins

MIAMI DOLPHINS                                                    

2014 Record:  8-8-0 (3rd in AFC East)

HEAD COACH: Joe Philbin

New Players in 2015 - DL Ndamukong Suh; WR Kenny Stills; WR Greg Jennings; TE Cameron Jordan; CB Brice McCain; LB Spencer Paysinger; OL J.D. Walton; OL Jeff Linkenbach.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 14th in NFL (350.1 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 12th in NFL (343.4 ypg)

Offense: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill leads the way on offense after an impressive season last year in which he threw for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. Matt Moore is the backup.
The running back is Lamar Miller, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry while going for 1,099 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns in 2014. Rookies Jay Ajayi (Boise State) and Damien Williams (Oklahoma) will provide depth.
The wide receivers include Jarvis Landry (84 receptions for 758 yards and five TD) and newcomers Kenny Stills (63, 931 and three TD with New Orleans last year), Greg Jennings (59, 742, six TD with Minnesota) and rookie DeVante Parker (Louisville). The tight end is Jordan Cameron, who caught 24 passes and scored two touchdowns with Cleveland last year in only ten games played. He replaces Charles Clay, who left for Buffalo as a free agent. Dion Sims (24, 284, two TD) is another option at the tight end spot.
The O-Line consists of center Mike Pouncey, guards Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner and tackles Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James.

Defense: The Dolphins feature pass rush specialist Cameron Wake (11 1/2 QB sacks) up front at defensive end along with Olivier Vernon (6 1/2 sacks) and tackles Earl Mitchell and Pro-Bowl player Ndamukong Suh, who comes over from the Detroit Lions.
The much sought after free agent Suh is a player the 'Fins will be counting to help the run defense,  which allowed 121 yards per game last season, ranking 24th in the league. Rookie Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma) will get his chance up front as well.
The linebackers are Koa Misi in the middle along with Jelani Jenkins and Chris McCain on the outside. Rookie Mike Hull and free agent Spencer Paysinger provide depth.
The secondary has corner men Will Davis and savvy veteran Brent Grimes, who was among the AFC leaders with five interceptions last year. The safeties are Reshad Jones (three picks) and Louis Delmas.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - Tannehill had a decent year in 2014 and his continued progress is vital if the Dolphins want to make the playoffs this season.
Head Coach Joe Philbin was somewhat on the hot seat a year ago following a tumultuous 2013 campaign that saw much strife in the locker room as he lost control of the team. He is looking forward and hopeful of better things ahead in the 2015 season after a .500 finish a year ago.
The offense should do a good enough job to keep the team competitive with a nice mix of running and passing, especially with some added veteran talent to go along with Tannehill's passing skills.
The defense is solid and can get after the quarterback (39 team sacks a year ago) but has to improve against the run. Suh is expected to help up front to solve that problem.
The first part of the schedule favors the Dolphins and a quick start will be very important as they battle with Buffalo to try and catch the mighty New England Patriots in the AFC East.
The playoffs are attainable as long as Tannehill limits the turnovers and the defense doesn't give up too many big plays.
An 8-8 record is likely once again, depending on the team's health and the continued progress of Tannehill. But don't overlook the Dolphins, who just might achieve double-digit wins this year and get back in the post-season for the first time since the 2008 season.

Week 1 - at Washington Redskins
Week 2 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 - vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 4 - vs. New York Jets
Week 5 - BYE WEEK
Week 6 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 7 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 8 - at New England Patriots
Week 9 - at Buffalo Bills
Week 10 - at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 11 - vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 12 - at New York Jets
Week 13 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 14 - vs. New York Giants
Week 15 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 16 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 17 - vs. New England Patriots

Saturday, July 25, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Buffalo Bills

BUFFALO BILLS                                                          

2014 Record: 9-7-0 (2nd in AFC East)


New Players in 2015- QB Matt Cassel; WR Percy Harvin; RB LeSean McCoy; TE Charles Clay; OL Rich Incognito.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 26th in NFL (318.5 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 4th in NFL (312.2 ypg)

Offense: The Bills added running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy in the off-season. McCoy gained 1,319 rushing yards (4.2 ypc average) with the Philadelphia Eagles last season and scored five touchdowns while also hauling in 28 passes (way down from his 2013 production in that area) for another 155 yards. Fred Jackson (525 rushing yards with 3.7 ypc average to go with 66 receptions) scored three touchdowns in 2014 and will spell McCoy in the Bills backfield.
In addition to that, Matt Cassel will take over at quarterback after being benched in Minnesota last year as super rookie Teddy Bridgewater emerged as the QB of the future there.
Cassel is no shoe-in as E.J. Manuel (838 passing yards with five TD and three INT in 2014) will be back in 2015 trying to regain the starting spot. Tyrod Taylor comes over from Baltimore via free agency to add depth.
The wide receivers have Sammy Watkins (65, 982, 15.1 ypc average and six TD), Robert Woods (65, 699, five TD) and tight end Charles Clay (58, 605, three TD), who comes over from the Miami Dolphins. Percy Harvin, who had a forgettable 2014 season with the NY Jets, is also in camp as a third wideout option. Harvin had just 29 receptions and one touchdown last season.
The line features center Eric Wood, guards Chris Williams and Rich Incognito (yes that Rich Incognito who played along with Jonathan Martin in Miami two years ago) and tackles Seantrel Henderson and Cordy Glenn.

Defense: The Bills can get after opposing passers, evidenced by the 54 sacks they had last year to lead the NFL.
Up front is nose tackle Marcell Darius (10 sacks), tackle Kyle Williams, who registered 5 1/2 sacks and ends Mario Williams (14 1/2 sacks) and Jerry Hughes, who had 10 sacks.
The linebacking unit has middle man Ty Powell, who is flanked by outside men Randell Johnson and Nigel Bradham. The secondary has safeties Aaron Williams and Duke Williams. The corners include Leodis McKelvin (four interceptions) and Stephon Gilmore (three picks).
Others in the fold are Corey Graham and Bacarri Rambo, who each intercepted two passes last season. The Bills totaled 19 interceptions, which ranked sixth in the league.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - With new Head Coach Rex Ryan in town, there will be very few dull moments for Bills fans this season.
The Bills showed vast improvement last year, going 9-7 after three consecutive 6-10 campaigns. A late season loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders wound up costing the Bills a possible playoff spot, something they haven't had since the 1999 season.
The offense must improve and with McCoy teaming with Jackson in the backfield and the Ryan mantra of "ground and pound" while playing stellar defense, the Bills should make a serious run for the post-season this time around, barring any major injuries of course.
The quarterback position is iffy with Cassel and Manuel battling for the spot, but either way the team has decent wide receivers and a quality tight end to throw the football to. Plus McCoy and Jackson are both adept at catching the ball out of the backfield.
A fast start is critical for Buffalo this season as they see the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Week Two after a tough opening day assignment against Indianapolis before traveling to Miami in the third week.
The Patriots have owned the AFC East for about a decade and a half and the Bills have to stay close to have a shot at winning the division.
They can be playoff contenders this year, but a lot will hinge on the play of the quarterback position and how well the team adapts to the style of Ryan and the ball control offense and aggressive defense he likes to employ.
Another 9-7 season could be in the offing for 2015, possibly 8-8 or worse if the quarterback play isn't what the team expects from Cassel and/or Manuel.
The playoffs are not out of the question, but they certainly are no lock either.
Stay tuned!

Week 1 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 2 - vs. New England Patriots
Week 3 - at Miami Dolphins
Week 4 - vs. New York Giants
Week 5 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 6 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 7 - at Jacksonville Jaguars (London, England)
Week 8 - BYE WEEK
Week 9 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 10 - at New York Jets
Week 11 - at New England Patriots
Week 12 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 13 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 14 - at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 15 - at Washington Redskins
Week 16 - vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 17 - vs. New York Jets

Monday, July 20, 2015

Remembering 'The Snake'

Legendary NFL quarterback Ken Stabler died recently and this is just a remembrance and tribute to the former Oakland Raiders great, who led them to a Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XI following the 1976 NFL season.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy 4th of July

Hoping that everybody enjoys a safe and happy 4th of July weekend!