Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS                      

2014 Record: 2-14-0 (4th in NFC South)

HEAD COACH: Lovie Smith

New Players in 2015 - DL Henry Melton; LB Bruce Carter; DB Chris Conte; DL George Johnson; LB Larry Dean; DB Sterling Moore.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  30th in NFL (292 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  25th in NFL (368.9 ypg)

Offense:  The Buccaneers will be going with rookie Jameis Winston (Florida State), the number one pick in the NFL Draft, as the starting quarterback this season. Backing him up will be Mike Glennon, who had 1,417 passing yards a year ago with ten touchdowns and six interceptions.
Doug Martin (494 yards, 3.7 ypc average and two touchdowns while missing five games) and Bobby Rainey (406, 4.3 ypc and one TD) are the top two running backs heading into the new season.
The wide receivers are led by Vincent Jackson (70 receptions, 1,002 yards, two TD) and Mike Evans (68, 1,051 and 12 TD) while Louis Murphy (31, 380, two TD) is the third option. The tight ends are Austin Seferian-Jenkins (21, 221, two TD) and Brandon Myers, who had 22 catches for 190 yards.
The line has center Evan Dietrich-Smith, along with guards Logan Mankins and Patrick Omameh. The tackles will be Demar Dotson and either rookie Donovan Smith (Penn State) or Kevin Pamphile.

Defense:  The ends in the 4-3 set are Jacquies Smith (6 1/2 QB sacks) and George Johnson while the tackles are Gerald McCoy (8 1/2 sacks) and Clinton McDonald, who registered five sacks a year ago.
The linebackers are Bruce Carter in the middle with Danny Lansanah (three interceptions) and Lavonte David on the outside. Kwon Alexander (LSU) is a rookie linebacker who may be called upon along with Larry Dean and Orie Lemon.
In the secondary are corner men Alterraun Verner (two INT) and Johnthan Banks (four picks) along with safeties Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald. Backing up will be Sterling Moore, Leonard Johnson, Major Wright and Keith Tandy.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  Tampa Bay Head Coach Lovie Smith will be looking for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston to help giver the offense a much needed shot in the arm this season after the team ranked 30th in the NFL last season.
Winston is a former Heisman Trophy winner who led Florida State to a national championship two years ago and many think the rookie can step right in at the pro level and be a mover and shaker. Winston, along with receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, should improve the passing attack.
The offensive line must do a better job in pass protection for the rookie in 2015 after they allowed 52 sacks last season.
The running game must improve after averaging a paltry 86 rushing yards per game last season and the Bucs are hoping that injury riddled RB Doug Martin can regain some of the magic he displayed back in the 2012 season at halfback.
The defense was lacking a year ago as well (25th overall and 28th against the pass) as they allowed nearly 26 points per game and registering 36 QB sacks.
Playing in the NFC South, the Buccaneers need not look long term to get back into the thick of things as Carolina won the division in 2014 with a sub .500 record.
Their loyal fans are counting on just that to happen sooner rather than later, so figure on a 5-11 season this year as the Bucs improve from last year's disastrous first year under Lovie Smith while they build for a better future.

Week 1 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 2 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 3 - at Houston Texans
Week 4 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 5 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 6 - BYE WEEK
Week 7 - at Washington Redskins
Week 8 - at Atlanta Falcons
Week 9 - vs. New York Giants
Week 10 - vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 11 - at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 12 - at Indianapolis Colts
Week 13 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 14 - vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 15 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 16 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 17 - at Carolina Panthers

Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS                            

2014 Record: 7-9-0 (2nd in NFC South)

HEAD COACH: Sean Payton

New Players in 2015 -  OL Max Unger; RB C.J. Spiller; LB Dannell Ellerbe; LB Anthony Spencer; DB Brandon Browner; DB Kyle Wilson.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  1st in NFL (411.4 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  31st in NFL (384 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Drew Brees had 4,952 passing yards last season with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Veteran Luke McCown will hold the clip board.
Mark Ingram (964 rushing yards with a 4.3 ypc average and nine touchdowns) will lead the Saints running game once again. Khiry Robinson (362 yards, 4.8 ypc and three scores) and C.J. Spiller (300 rush yards and 19 receptions in just nine games with Buffalo last season) will back him up.
Leading receivers (tight end) Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills are gone entering 2015, leaving Brees with wideouts Marques Colston (59 receptions for 902 yards and five touchdowns) and Brandin Cooks, who made 53 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Toon will look for more of a role this season after making 17 receptions for 215 yards and one touchdown.
While the Saints cannot replace Graham's numbers at tight end, they will have two players looking to fill the role as Benjamin Watson (20, 136, two TD) and Josh Hill (14, 176, five TD) will take over this season.
The O-Line has Max Unger, the player they traded Graham to Seattle for, playing center. The tackles are Terron Armstead and Zach Strief. Playing the guard spots will be Senio Kelemete and Jahri Evans. Top rookie pick is offensive tackle Andrus Peat (Stanford), who will look to get his chance as well.

Defense:  Up front in the 3-4 set is nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley along with ends Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan, who had 7 1/2 sacks a year ago. John Jenkins, Glenn Foster and Lawrence Virgil will rotate in up front.
The linebacking unit is comprised of outside men Parys Haralson (three sacks) and either Ronald Powell or Anthony Spencer. The inside backers are David Hawthorne and possibly rookie Stephone Anthony (Clemson) or Dannell Ellerbe.
The defensive backs include safeties Kenny Vaccaro (two interceptions) and Jairus Byrd along with cornerbacks Keenan Lewis (two picks) and free agent signee Brandon Browner, who left the New England Patriots after last season's Super Bowl winning season.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  Quarterback Drew Brees can only do so much and last season seemed to be pressing, which resulted in numerous turnovers (Saints were a minus-13 in that category) that cost his team by season's end.
The Saints did lead the league on offense, averaging 411 yards per game while also putting up 25 points a game.
Running back Mark Ingram will be looking to crack the 1,000-yard plateau and help balance the offense and take some of the burden off Brees. Running back C.J. Spiller comes over from Buffalo to give Brees the outlet receiver he was lacking last year after Darren Sproles had gone to Philadelphia via free agency.
The defense was downright woeful in 2014 and New Orleans will be looking to some new talent this season to help turn that around after finishing 31st overall on defense by allowing 384 yards per game and 26.5 points per game.
Head Coach Sean Payton is entering his tenth season at the helm in New Orleans along with Brees and the duo will be looking to recapture some of the mojo that seemed to be sorely lacking a year ago.
The NFC South looks to be a three-way battle once again and the Tampa Bay Bucs are a team that could be on the rise as well, which would further crowd the field for the division title.
Look for a 9-7 turn around season for the Saints as they look to improve the defense and keep the offense moving along while limiting the mistakes and costly turnovers that ruined their 2014 season.
The playoffs are once again a realistic possibility in the Big Easy this year. 

Week 1 - at Arizona Cardinals
Week 2 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 3 - at Carolina Panthers
Week 4 - vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 5 - at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 6 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 7 - at Indianapolis Colts
Week 8 - vs. New York Giants
Week 9 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 10 - at Washington Redskins
Week 11 - BYE WEEK
Week 12 - at Houston Texans
Week 13 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 14 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 15 - vs. Detroit Lions
Week 16 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 17 - at Atlanta Falcons

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Carolina Panthers

CAROLINA PANTHERS                         

2014 Record:  7-8-1 (1st in NFC South)

HEAD COACH: Ron Rivera

New Players in 2015 - DB Kurt Coleman; DB Charles Tillman; WR/KR Ted Ginn, Jr.; OL Jonathan Martin; OL Michael Oher; LB Jason Trusnik; RB Jordan Todman.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  16th in NFL (346.7 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  10th in NFL (339.8 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Cam Newton is back after passing for 3,127 yards and 18 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions. Newton also ran for 539 yards (5.2 ypc average) and scored five touchdowns. Derek Anderson (701 yards with five TD) is the backup.
Jonathan Stewart (809 yards, 4.6 ypc average and three TD) is the primary back along with Mike Tolbert (fullback), Fozzy Whittaker and Jordan Todman.
The wide receiving corps got a major shakeup in camp as top wideout Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season with a knee injury. Benjamin had 73 receptions for 1,008 yards with nine touchdowns last season.
The Panthers will look to Ted Ginn, Jr. (14 receptions with Arizona and a punt return for TD), Corey Brown (21 receptions, 296 yards, two TD), Brenton Bersin (13, 151, one TD), rookie Devin Fuchness (Michigan) and Jerricho Cotchery, who had 48 receptions for 580 yards and one score. The tight end is Greg Olsen, who led the team in 2014 with 84 receptions for 1,008 yards with six touchdowns.
Up front on the line is center Ryan Kalil, guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner and tackle Michael Oher and Mike Remmers.

Defense:  Ends Charles Johnson (8 1/2 QB sacks) and Kony Ealy (four sacks) will start along with tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. Mario Addison (6 1/2 sacks), Wes Horton, Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards will be on hand as well.
The linebacking unit has All-Pro Luke Kuechly manning the middle and he is flanked by outside backers Thomas Davis and A.J. Klein. Backing up will be rookie Shaq Thompson (Washington), Jason Trusnick and Adarius Glanton.
The secondary will feature cornerbacks Charles 'Peanut' Tillman, who comes over after a long successful stint with the Chicago Bears, and Josh Norman, who had two interceptions. The safeties will be Roman Harper (four INT) and Tre Boston. Backups include Josh Norman, Melvin White, Kurt Coleman and Colin Jones

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  Quarterback Cam Newton is the unquestioned leader of the offense and when he is healthy, he is among one of the better quarterbacks in pro football. He is a danger with his running abilities as well as his arm.
Carolina's offense will likely be challenged as they go along without Kelvin Benjamin at wide receiver, but they do have a slew of players who are certainly capable of doing the job. They need a big season from RB Jonathan Stewart, who led the team in rushing a year ago.
The defense slipped somewhat last season, giving up some big yardage plays after a monster 2013 season when only Seattle was better on defense.
Luke Kuechly leads the defense at middle linebacker as the Panthers tallied 40 QB sacks a year ago while ranking tenth overall, giving up 340 yards per game. They can also get after the football by forcing turnovers, as they had a plus-three in that category.
Head Coach Ron Rivera shouldn't have to sweat it out on the proverbial "hot seat" entering the season as the team has made the playoffs for two straight years now.
The Panthers look to be a .500 (or possibly better) team this year as well, which just might be enough to win the NFC South division again. A 9-7 record could be in store for Carolina, which if it's good enough to get them into the post-season once again, they could make some noise.
It will depend on how far a healthy Cam Newton and the offense can go as they try and overcome injuries and possible uncertainties with the running game.

Week 1 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 2 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 3 - vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 4 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 5 - BYE WEEK
Week 6 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 7 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 8 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 9 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 10 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 11 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 12 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 13 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 14 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 15 - at New York Giants
Week 16 - at Atlanta Falcons
Week 17 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thursday, August 27, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Atlanta Falcons

ATLANTA FALCONS                                                  

2014 Record:  6-10-0 (3rd in NFC South)


New Players in 2015 -  LB Justin Durant; DL Adrian Clayborn; WR Leonard Hankerson; TE Tony Moeaki; TE Jacob Tamme; DL Tyson Jackson; LB Brooks Reed; OL Jared Smith; DL/LB O'Brien Schofield.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 8th in NFL (378.2 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 32nd in NFL (398.3 ypg)

Offense:  Matt Ryan will be back for his eighth season as the Atlanta quarterback after he had 4,694 passing yards last season with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Backing him up will be either T.J. Yates or recently signed veteran Rex Grossman.
The running game will be without Steven Jackson this year after he was not re-signed in the off-season. Devonta Freeman (248 rushing yards with a 3.8 ypc average and one touchdown along with 30 receptions for 225 yards and one score) will likely be the starting halfback. Rookie Tevin Coleman (Indiana) and Jerome Smith (144 yards, 6.3 ypc and two TD) are other possibilities to carry the ball this season.
The wide receivers are once again Roddy White (80 receptions for 921 yards with seven TD) and Julio Jones, who made 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six scores. Devin Hester (38, 504, two TD and one punt return for TD) is back this season as a third option.
Leonard Hankerson comes over from Washington looking for a spot after missing the last two seasons with numerous injuries. Also available will be Eric Weems and rookie Justin Hardy (East Carolina). The tight end will either be Levine Toilolo (31, 238, two TD), Tony Moeaki (with Seattle last year) or Jacob Tamme, who had 14 receptions for 109 yards and two scores with Denver last season.
The O-Line has center Joe Hawley, along with guards Harland Gunn and Jon Asamoah. The tackles are Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder.

Defense:  Playing in the 4-3 set, the Falcons will have Tyson Jackson and either rookie Vic Beasley (Clemson) or Adrian Clayborn at the ends. The tackles are Jonathan Babineaux and Paul Soliai.
The linebacking crew consists of Paul Worrilow in the middle with Brooks Reed and Justin Durant playing outside. O'Brien Schofield, Allen Bradford and team sack leader Kroy Biermann (4 1/2 QB sacks) provide depth.
The secondary has corners Desmond Trufant (three interceptions) and rookie Jalen Collins (LSU) or Robert Alford (three picks) starting this year. The safeties will likely be William Moore and Kemal Ishmael, who led the team with four picks a year ago. Providing backup will be Sean Baker, Ricardo Allen, Dezmen Southward and Charles Godfrey.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  If the Falcons want to contend once again in the NFC South division, they will have to be much better on defense than they were a year ago.
Atlanta finished dead last in total defense last season, giving up 398 yards per game while also allowing 26 points per game. The pass defense was abysmal, giving up 280 yards per game, including a good number of big plays allowed. A better pass rush is also a must in 2015 as the Falcons had a meager 22 QB sacks last season.
The offense was pretty decent, scoring 23.5 points per game while finishing eighth in the league overall, averaging 378 yards per game.
Matt Ryan is the leader of the offense and knows his two receivers (White and Jones) extremely well. The running game must improve after gaining just 94 yards per game in 2014.
Head Coach Dan Quinn knows his team can compete with New Orleans and Carolina for the division crown, having just missed by one game last season.
The Falcons can get after the ball, evidenced by their plus-five turnover rate a year ago. More of that would help the defense as some new faces are being added via free agency and the NFL draft.
The key for the team will be the ability to beat the division foes and try to take advantage of what (on paper) looks to be a favorable schedule through the first ten weeks.
An 8-8 record is possible, and that may be enough to contend in the division once again. The Falcons can either soar back to the playoffs this year or be left out for the third straight season.
Stay tuned.

Week 1 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 2 - at New York Giants
Week 3 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 4 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 5 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 6 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 7 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 8 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 9 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 10 - BYE WEEK
Week 11 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 12 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 13 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 14 - at Carolina Panthers
Week 15 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 16 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 17 - vs. New Orleans Saints

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Tennessee Titans

TENNESSEE TITANS                                                     

2014 Record:  2-14-0 (4th in AFC South)

HEAD COACH: Ken Whisenhunt

New Players in 2015 - LB Brian Orakpo; WR Hakeem Nicks; OL Byron Bell; DB Perrish Cox; WR Harry Douglas; TE Anthony Fasano; WR Jacoby Ford; WR Clyde Gates; DB Da'Norris Searcy.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  29th in NFL (303.7 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  27th in NFL (373 ypg)

Offense:  With the second pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Titans selected quarterback Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and he will be the starter this season. Zach Mettenberger (1,412 passing yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions) and Charlie Whitehurst (1,316 yards with seven TD and two INT) will back up the rookie.
The running game will likely see Bishop Sankey (569 yards, 3.7 ypc and two TD) as the featured back. Dexter McCluster (131 rush yards and 26 receptions with one score) and rookie David Cobb (Minnesota) will back up.
The wide receivers are Kendall Wright (57 receptions, 715 yards, six TD), Justin Hunter (28, 498, two TD) and Harry Douglas, who made 51 catches for 556 yards and two touchdowns with Atlanta last year. Tight end Delanie Walker led the team with 63 receptions last season for 890 yards and had four touchdowns.
Others in the mix for 2015 include Hakeem Nicks (38, 405, four TD with Indy), Jacoby Ford, Clyde Gates, rookie Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri) and tight ends Anthony Fasano (25, 226, four TD with Kansas City) and Craig Stevens.
The offensive line has tackles Taylor Lewan and Byron Stingily. The guards are Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack and the center is Brian Schwenke.

Defense:  Sammie Hill (three QB sacks) plays nose tackle in the 3-4 set with end Ropati Pitoitua and Jurrell Casey (five sacks) at tackle. Karl Klug, Al Woods and Mike Martin are also available up front.
Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan led the Titans with 6 1/2 QB sacks last season and will be joined by free agent Brian Orakpo, who comes over from Washington. The inside backers are Zach Brown and Avery Williamson, who made three sacks.
In the secondary will be Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty (three interceptions) at the corners along with safeties Da'Norris Searcy and Michael Griffin, who made two picks last season. Backing up are Coty Sensabaugh, Brandon Harris, Daimion Stafford and Marqueston Huff.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  It's a new era in Tennessee as rookie QB Marcus Mariota takes over behind center.
The Titans finished in last place in the AFC South in 2014 and Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt will be looking for the team to go forward this season with Mariota and company on offense improving on their 29th ranked unit from 2014. The Titans averaged just under 16 points a game last year as well, which was 30th in the NFL.
The defense needs to improve in stopping the run (31st in NFL last season) as they gave up 137 yards per game while also holding down the opposition on the scoreboard, where they finished 29th overall, yielding 27.4 points per game.
This year definitely will be the beginning of the rebuilding process for Tennessee, but recent history has shown that teams can improve in a hurry. Indianapolis has done so since Andrew Luck took over as their quarterback in 2012 and prior to numerous injuries, Washington made a one-year turnaround with RG3 at quarterback.
Mariota will learn as he grows in the offense and Whisenhunt is a good coach who runs a good system, so look for the Titans to improve from last year. A 5-11 (possibly better) record looks to be in store this season.
But the future should get much better in Tennessee as the team looks forward to better days ahead.
Week 1- at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 2 - at Cleveland Browns
Week 3 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 4 - BYE WEEK
Week 5 - vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 6 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 7 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 8 - at Houston Texans
Week 9 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 10 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 11 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 12 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 13 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 14 - at New York Jets
Week 15 - at New England Patriots
Week 16 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 17 - at Indianapolis Colts

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Jacksonville Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS                                        

2014 Record: 3-13-0 (3rd in AFC South)

HEAD COACH: Gus Bradley

New Players in 2015 - TE Julius Thomas; RB Bernard Pierce; LB Dan Skuta; DB Sergio Brown; DB Davon House; DL Jared Odrick; OL Jeremy Parnell; OL Stefen Wisniewski.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  31st in NFL (289.6 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  26th in NFL (370.8 ypg)

Offense:  Blake Bortles is back after a rough rookie season in which he passed for 2,908 yards with eleven touchdowns and also 17 interceptions. Backing up Bortles will be Chad Henne (492 yards passing with three TD and one INT).
The running game could be going the way of running back by committee this season as last year's team leading rusher Denard Robinson returns after going for 582 yards (4.3 ypc average) and four touchdowns. Also in the mix will be Bernard Pierce (366 rush yards, 3.9 ypc and two TD with Baltimore), Toby Gerhart (326 yards, 3.2 ypc and two TD) and rookie T.J. Yeldon (Alabama).
Allen Robinson (48 receptions for 548 yards and two TD), Marqise Lee (37, 422, one TD), Allen Hurns (51, 677, six TD) and rookie Rashad Greene (Florida State) will be the primary receivers for the Jaguars this year.
The tight end is Julius Thomas, who signed on with the Jags as a free agent after making 43 receptions for 489 yards and twelve touchdowns in Denver last season. Marcedes Lewis (18, 206, two TD) and Clay Harbor (26, 289, one TD) are the other tight ends.
Up front on the line is center Stefen Wisniewski along with tackles Luke Joeckel and Jeremy Parnell. The guards are Zane Beadles and Brandon Linder.

Defense:  The tackles are Sen'Derrick Marks (8 1/2 QB sacks) and free agent Jared Odrick. The ends in the 4-3 set will be Tyson Alualu and Chris Clemons, who registered eight sacks a year ago.
Top rookie pick Dante Fowler, Jr. (Florida) was lost for the season when he suffered a severe knee injury in the rookie mini camp. Ryan Davis (6 1/2 sacks) and Andre Branch (three sacks) will add depth up front.
The linebackers include nine-year veteran Paul Posluszny (two sacks) in the middle along with outside linebackers Telvin Smith and Dan Skuta.
The corners are Demetrius McCray and Davon House and the safeties are Jonathan Cyprien and Sergio Brown. Rookie James Sample (Louisville) is another safety and along with Aaron Colvin, Josh Evans and Dwayne Gratz, will look to rotate into the secondary during games.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  Heading into his second season as Jacksonville quarterback, Blake Bortles will be hoping to stay on his feet as the team allowed a whopping 71 sacks last season. That MUST improve if the team wants to have success on offense, where they ranked next to last in the NFL in yardage last season.
In fact, the Jaguars will be looking to improve in scoring points as well as they finished dead last in the league in scoring, averaging just 15.6 points per game.
It all starts up front with the line in pass protection and run blocking, so Head Coach Gus Bradley will need the passing game to get better  (31st ranked in NFL in 2014) and also see more consistency from the running game.
The defense has to be more aggressive and create turnovers after picking off only six passes last year. On a bright note, the Jags did muster up 45 QB sacks, which was sixth in the NFL.
All in all, it's still an uphill climb for this team entering the 2015 season. The Jaguars should be more competitive after being outscored by 10-plus points per game a year ago. They play in the AFC South and will likely battle Tennessee once again to avoid the division basement.
A 4-12 record would be a one-game improvement as the team continues to build around Bortles and company and looks for better days ahead in the future.

Week 1 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 2 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 3 - at New England Patriots
Week 4 - at Indianapolis Colts
Week 5 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 6 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 7 - vs. Buffalo Bills (London, England)
Week 8 - BYE WEEK
Week 9 - at New York Jets
Week 10 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 11 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 12 - vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 13 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 14 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 15 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 16 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 17 - at Houston Texans

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS                                           

2014 Record:  11-5-0 (1st in AFC South)

HEAD COACH: Chuck Pagano

New Players in 2015 - RB Frank Gore; WR Andre Johnson; OL Todd Herremans; DB Dwight Lowery; DL Kendall Langford; LB Nate Irving.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  3rd in NFL (406.6 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  11th in NFL (342.7 ypg)

Offense:  The Colts offense revolves around quarterback Andrew Luck, who is coming off his best season as a pro. Luck threw for 4,761 yards with a league best 40 touchdown passes along with 16 interceptions. Ageless veteran Matt Hasselbeck will once again back him up.
The running game will look to veteran Frank Gore, who finished the 2014 season with 1,106 rushing yards (4.3 ypc average) and scored four touchdowns with the San Francisco 49ers. Backing up will be Dan Herron (351 yards, 4.5 ypc and one TD).
T.Y. Hilton is the top wide receiver for Indianapolis after a big year in which he caught 82 passes for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. Longtime Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson comes over this year to replace Reggie Wayne, who left as a free agent in the off-season. Johnson had 85 receptions for 936 yards and three scores last year.
Rookie Phillip Dorsett (Miami, Florida), along with Donte Moncrief (32, 444, three TD) will give the team depth. The tight end is Coby Fleener, who had 51 receptions for 774 yards and eight touchdowns.
Up front on the line will be either Khaled Holmes or Jonotthan Harrison at center along with guards Lance Louis and Todd Herremans. The tackles are Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort.

Defense:  Josh Chapman looks to be the nose tackle while Arthur Jones will play the other tackle spot. The end will be Kendall Langford in the 3-4 alignment. Zach Kerr (three QB sacks) is also available at nose tackle.
Linebackers include veteran Robert Mathis, who is coming off a serious Achilles injury, on the outside along with Trent Cole. The inside spots are manned by D'Qwell Jackson (four QB sacks) and Jerrell Freeman. Pass rushers Jonathan Newsome (6 1/2 sacks) and Erik Walden (six sacks) will be on the outside spots as well.
The secondary will see corner men Vontae Davis (four interceptions) and Greg Toler team with safeties Mike Adams (five INT) and Dwight Lowery. Rookie D'Joun Smith (Florida Atlantic) and Darius Butler provide depth at cornerback while Dewey McDonald and rookie Clayton Geathers (UCF) will look to rotate in at safety.

OUTLOOK FOR  2015 -  As long as quarterback Andrew Luck stays healthy, the Colts should remain a contender in the AFC.
The running game will be looking to veteran Frank Gore for a shot in the arm to complement the passing attack, which was number one in the NFL a year ago, averaging 306 yards per game. With T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson in tow, Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano knows Luck will enjoy more success in the passing game.
The defense needs to step up after last year's 45-7 shellacking against New England in the AFC title game.
The Colts will have Robert Mathis looking to come back from last year's Achilles injury that cost him the season. Mathis is the team's all-time sack leader and provides leadership on the field.
The Colts were eleventh overall on defense a year ago while finishing 19th in scoring defense, giving up 23 points per game.
After winning the AFC South last season and advancing to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the Peyton Manning era, the Colts will no doubt set their sights even higher entering the 2015 season.
Expect another division title with an 11-5 record as Indianapolis will look to get over the next hurdle and make it to the Super Bowl this time around. It's possible, but only if Luck doesn't get injured and the defense is more consistent.

Week 1 - at Buffalo Bills
Week 2 - vs. New York Jets
Week 3 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 4 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 5 - at Houston Texans
Week 6 - vs. New England Patriots
Week 7 - vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 8 - at Carolina Panthers
Week 9 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 10 - BYE WEEK
Week 11 - at Atlanta Falcons
Week 12 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 13 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 14 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 15 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 16 - at Miami Dolphins
Week 17 - vs. Tennessee Titans

Saturday, August 22, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Houston Texans

HOUSTON TEXANS                                                      

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

HEAD COACH: Bill O'Brien

New Players in 2015 - QB Brian Hoyer; WR Cecil Shorts; RB Chris Polk; WR Nate Washington; DB Stevie Brown; DB Rahim Moore; DL Vince Wilfork.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  17th in NFL (344.6 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  16th in NFL (348.2 ypg)

Offense:  Either Ryan Mallett (400 yards passing with two TD and INT) or Brian Hoyer can be the team's quarterback in 2015. Hoyer comes over from Cleveland, where he passed for 3,326 yards with twelve touchdowns and 13 interceptions a year ago.
Starting running back Arian Foster (1,246 yards with 4.8 ypc average and eight TD) suffered a severe groin injury in training camp and will be out for at least the first part of the regular season, if not longer.
That will leave Alfred Blue (528 yards, 3.1 ypc and two TD) and/or Jonathan Grimes as the team's halfback until Foster is ready. Chris Polk adds depth at running back.
The wide receiving corps no longer has Andre Johnson, who went to the Indianapolis Colts in the off-season. DeAndre Hopkins had 76 receptions a year ago for 1,210 yards with six touchdowns and will start along with either Cecil Shorts (53, 557, one TD with Jacksonville) or rookie Jaelen Strong (Arizona State) or possibly Nate Washington, who caught 40 passes for 647 yards and two scores with Tennessee last year. The tight end is Garrett Graham, who made 18 receptions a year ago.
The O-Line has tackles Duane Brown and Derek Newton, center Ben Jones and guards Xavier Su'a-Filo and Brandon Brooks.

Defense:  One name comes to mind for the Texans on this side of the football and that is Defensive End J.J. Watt, who is a force to be reckoned with on defense. Watt had 20 1/2 quarterback sacks last season and will team with nose tackle Vince Wilfork and fellow end Jared Crick (3 1/2 sacks) up front in the 3-4 set.
The linebacking unit has Brian Cushing and Akeem Dent on the inside with Whitney Mercilus (five sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney looking to be the outside backers. Clowney missed his rookie season with injuries and will look to join Watt as a force in the Texans defense.
Meanwhile, one of the team's top rookie picks is linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who will look to get on the field regularly along with Mike Mohamed, Justin Tuggle, Jason Ankrah and A.J. Bouye (three interceptions).
The secondary had some issues last season and will have top rookie pick Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) possibly stepping in at cornerback along with Kareem Jackson (three interceptions) and Jonathan Joseph, who made two picks. The safeties are Stevie Brown and Rahim Moore (four INT with Denver last year).  Jumal Rolle (three picks) is a good player in the nickel package.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  The Texans are the one team that may challenge the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South and even that's a big reach given the team's quarterback situation coming into the 2015 season.
Add to that not having leading rusher Arian Foster for the first half of the season (possibly longer) and the fact that either of the two quarterbacks looking to take the reigns has only one returning regular wideout this year and it may take awhile for the offense to get going.
Head Coach Bill O'Brien knows his team's defense is pretty solid with Watt and (hopefully) a healthy Cushing and Clowney at linebacker. The run defense ranked tenth overall and the Texans had 20 interceptions last year along with 38 QB sacks. They also were ninth in scoring defense, allowing just under 20 points per game.
Houston will most likely have to contend for a wild card spot if they want to make the playoffs this season. They have a realistic shot for the post-season only if they can improve the offense with a new quarterback and have a good running game. Not having Foster will make it tougher for them after they averaged 135 yards rushing per game last year.
An 8-8 season looks to be what the Texans will be in for this season, but they could surprise with a better record if the offense clicks and the defense can stay healthy.

Week 1 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2 - at Carolina Panthers
Week 3 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 4 - at Atlanta Falcons
Week 5 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 6 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 7 - at Miami Dolphins
Week 8 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 9 - BYE WEEK
Week 10 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 11 - vs. New York Jets
Week 12 - vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 13 - at Buffalo Bills
Week 14 - vs. New England Patriots
Week 15 - at Indianapolis Colts
Week 16 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 17 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Thursday, August 20, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Minnesota Vikings

MINNESOTA VIKINGS                                          

2014 Record: 7-9-0 (3rd in NFC North)

HEAD COACH:  Mike Zimmer

New Players in 2015 - WR Mike Wallace; QB Shaun Hill; LB Casey Matthews; DB Taylor Mays; DB Terrance Newman.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 27th in NFL (315.5 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 14th in NFL (344.7 ypg)

Offense:  After an early season merry-go-round of quarterbacks, Teddy Bridgewater won the starting job and finished the season with 2,919 yards passing with 14 touchdowns and twelve interceptions. He also rushed for 209 yards (4.4 ypc average) and had one running touchdown. Shaun Hill looks like he will be the backup QB this year.
Adrian Peterson returns after missing all but one game last year due to league disciplinary matters. In 2013, his last full season, Peterson went for 1,266 yards (4.5 ypc) and scored ten touchdowns. He just inked a new deal with the Vikings and is said to be excited and ready to go in the new season. Jerrick McKinnon (538 rush yards, 4.8 ypc) and Matt Asiata (570, 3.5 ypc and nine TD) will be ready when needed.
Mike Wallace (67 receptions for 862 yards and ten touchdowns) comes over from Miami and will start along with Charles Johnson, who made 31 receptions for 475 yards and two scores last year. The tight end is Kyle Rudolph, who was limited to nine games last season and had 24 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Other receivers and tight ends in the mix include Jarius Wright (42, 588, two TD), Cordarrelle Patterson (33, 384, one TD) and (tight end) Rhett Ellison, who had 19 receptions for 208 yards and one score.
The O-Line has center John Sullivan and guards Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco. Starting tackle Phil Loadholt was lost for the season with an injury in training camp, so either rookie T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh) or Mike Harris will start along with left tackle Matt Kalil.

Defense:  Playing in the 4-3 set, Minnesota has ends Brian Robison (4 1/2 QB sacks) and Everson Griffen (12 sacks) along with tackles Sharrif Floyd (4 1/2 sacks) and Linval Joseph (three sacks). Tom Johnson is another tackle who registered 6 1/2 sacks last season.
The outside linebackers are Anthony Barr (four sacks) and Chad Greenway and either Casey Matthews or rookie Eric Kendricks (UCLA) will man the middle. Others at linebacker include Brandon Watts, Gerald Hodges and Audie Cole.
The secondary has safeties Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith (five interceptions, including one for a touchdown) along with corners Xavier Rhodes and (rookie) Trae Waynes (Michigan State). Josh Robinson (three picks), Captain Munnerlyn (two INT), Andrew Sendejo, Terrence Newman and Antoine Exum will rotate in as well.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  With running back Adrian Peterson back in the mix on offense, the Vikings could have the balance they sorely lacked a year ago when Teddy Bridgewater began to emerge as a decent rookie quarterback as the season went along.
The Vikings should be better offensively as they have some potential for big plays with Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson and new WR Mike Wallace on the field. The offensive line must do a better job in pass protection as they allowed 51 QB sacks last year.
On defense, Minnesota accumulated 41 sacks and 13 interceptions while ranking 11th in scoring defense. Building on that, the Vikings used their first three draft choices on defensive players, with two of them likely to be starters.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer is of the defensive mind set and would like to see the team continue to improve in that area while the offense does the same with Bridgewater under center and Peterson in the backfield.
The Green Bay Packers are the team to beat in the NFC North, but the Vikings should be able to stay close with Detroit for second place. A wild card berth may be a bit too much to ask this season, but an 8-8 record is reasonable and possibly better if everything comes together.
One thing for sure, the Vikings will not be doormats for the opposition in the 2015 season.
Stay tuned.

Week 1 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 2 - vs. Detroit Lions
Week 3 - vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 4 - at Denver Broncos
Week 5 - BYE WEEK
Week 6 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 7 - at Detroit Lions
Week 8 - at Chicago Bears
Week 9 - vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 10 - at Oakland Raiders
Week 11 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 12 - at Atlanta Falcons
Week 13 - vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 14 - at Arizona Cardinals
Week 15 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 16 - vs. New York Giants
Week 17 - at Green Bay Packers

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY PACKERS                                             

2014 Record: 12-4-0 (1st in NFC North)

HEAD COACH: Mike McCarthy

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  6th in NFL (386.1 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  15th in NFL (346.4 ypg)

Offense:  The 2014 NFL Most Valuable Player is Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who passed for 4,381 yards last season with 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Running back Eddie Lacy went for 1,139 yards for a 4.6 yards per carry average and scored nine rushing touchdowns. He also made 42 receptions for 427 yards with four touchdowns. Backing him up will be veteran Jame Starks, who ran for 333 yards (3.9 ypc) and scored two touchdowns.
The wide receivers include two All-Pros with Jordy Nelson (98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 TD) and Randall Cobb, who made 91 grabs for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Davante Adams is an excellent third option as he hauled in 38 passes for 446 yards and three scores. The tight ends are Andrew Quarless (29, 323, three TD) and Richard Rodgers, who had 20 catches for 225 yards and two scores.
The line has center Corey Linsley, tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari and guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton.

Defense:  The Packers play the 3-4 set and B.J. Raji is back at nose tackle after missing most of last season with injuries. If he can't get it done, Letroy Guion (3 1/2 QB sacks) is ready after filling in admirably last season. The ends are Josh Boyd and Mike Daniels, who made 5 1/2 sacks.
The outside linebackers are two good pass rushers in Clay Matthews (11 sacks) and 14-year veteran Julius Peppers, who had seven sacks a year ago. The inside backers include Carl Bradford and Sam Barrington. Backup linebackers Nick Perry (three sacks) and Mike Neal (4 1/2 sacks) will be looking to contribute again this season.
The secondary is solid with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett at the safety spots. The corners are Casey Hayward and Sam Shields. Micah Hyde (two interceptions) provides backup while also doubling as a kick returner. Two rookies include Damarious Randall (Arizona State) and Quinten Rollins (Miami, Ohio) who will bring more depth to the defensive backfield.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - The Packers had the NFC championship all but wrapped last year, but blew it to Seattle in the final minutes of regulation and eventually lost in overtime.
That bitter taste still has to linger as they finish training camp and head toward the 2015 season and Head Coach Mike McCarthy knows the team is capable of getting to the Super Bowl this time around and also knows they can win it all.
With Aaron Rodgers and company moving the ball (almost) at will against their opponents, expect the Packers to score a bunch of points once again this season after leading the league in scoring a year ago.
The defense was better in 2014 than in previous years and it showed as the pass defense was among the top ten in the NFL while getting 18 interceptions. They will look to improve against the run, where they ranked 23rd overall last season. Green Bay did lead the NFL in turnover ratio with a plus-14 while also getting 41 QB sacks.
The schedule will be difficult, but the Packers look strong on both sides of the ball and should go 13-3 and win the NFC North again in 2015.
As long as the defense plays consistent football this season and no key players miss significant time with injuries, the sky should be the limit for this team and anything less than a Super Bowl title would be a disappointment.

Week 1 - at Chicago Bears
Week 2 - vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 3 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 4 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 5 - vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 6 - vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 7 - BYE WEEK
Week 8 - at Denver Broncos
Week 9 - at Carolina Panthers
Week 10 - vs. Detroit Lions
Week 11 - at Minnesota Vikings
Week 12 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 13 - at Detroit Lions
Week 14 - vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 15 - at Oakland Raiders
Week 16 - at Arizona Cardinals
Week 17 - vs. Minnesota Vikings

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Detroit Lions

DETROIT LIONS                                                          

2014 Record: 11-5-0 (2nd in NFC North)

HEAD COACH: Jim Caldwell

New Players in 2015 - DL Haloti Ngata; DL Phillip Hunt; OL Manny Ramirez; DB Josh Wilson; DL Tyrunn Walker.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 19th in NFL (340.8 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 2nd in NFL (300.9 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Matthew Stafford (4,257 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions) will be the starter once again after a decent 2014 season. Either Kellen Moore or Dan Orlovsky will be the primary backup.
The running game will see Joique Bell leading the way after he led the team with 860 rushing yards (3.9 ypc average) and scored seven touchdowns. Rookie Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) and Theo Riddick will fill in when needed.
The wide receiving tandem of Calvin Johnson (71 receptions for 1,077 yards with eight TD) and Golden Tate (99 receptions for 1,331 yards and four TD) is as good as any in pro football. Corey Fuller (14, 212, one TD), Lance Moore and TJ Jones are on hand as reserves. The tight ends are Eric Ebron (25, 248, one TD) and Brandon Pettigrew.
The line has center Travis Swanson, guards Larry Warford and either rookie Laken Tomlinson (Duke) or Manny Ramirez and tackles Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle. 

Defense:  Haloti Ngata (two QB sacks) takes over up front at tackle for the departed Ndamukong Suh (now in Miami) while Tyrunn Walker (2 1/2 sacks) takes over for Nick Fairley, who also left after last season. The ends are Jason Jones (five sacks) and Ezekiel Ansah, who had 7 1/2 sacks last year.
The linebackers include Stephen Tulloch in the middle with Kyle Van Noy and DeAndre Levy on the outside. Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis provide depth.
The secondary has Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay (two interceptions) at cornerback while the safeties are James Ihedigbo (four picks) and Glover Quin, who led the NFL with seven interceptions last season.  Bill Bentley, Josh Wilson and rookie Alex Carter (Stanford) will backup at the corners while Isa Abdul-Quddus and Don Carey provide depth at the safety spots.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  The Lions offensive production dipped last season as Stafford didn't put up the gaudy, eye popping numbers as in season's past.
A big reason the offense slipped was the running game ranked 28th in the league, averaging just 89 yards per game. The Lions will be counting on Bell and (rookie) Abdullah to get those numbers back to respectability.
Opposing defenses can tee off on Stafford (he was sacked 45 times a year ago) once again unless that running game keeps them on their heels. The Detroit wideouts are among the best in the NFL as Johnson and Tate each had over 1,000-yards receiving last year so that will be important once again for the team's offense as they put up over 600 passes.
The defense will be going through changes in personnel up front as the team's three leading tacklers from a year ago all are gone elsewhere and in their place are two proven defensive linemen in Ngata and Walker.
The secondary was solid, picking off 20 passes while the Lions accumulated 42 quarterback sacks. Their run defense ranked at the top of the NFL, giving up just 69 rushing yards per game. They key will be whether the Lions can do that again or at least come close to those numbers.
The team was steady under Head Coach Jim Caldwell and he would like to see more of the same this season as the team lost in a controversial filled finish to Dallas in the Wild Card round of the NFC Playoffs last year.
 An 8-8 finish is most likely to happen this season as the team will play a rough schedule. Playing in the NFC North along with their 2015 schedule will make it tough for the Lions to repeat their best record (11-5) since the 1991 season, but if they can get off to a good start, it's not out of the question.

Week 1 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 2 - at Minnesota Vikings
Week 3 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 4 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 5 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 6 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 7 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 8 - at Kansas City Chiefs (London, England)
Week 9 - BYE WEEK
Week 10 - at Green Bay Packers
Week 11 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 12 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 13 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 14 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 15 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 16 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 17 - at Chicago Bears

Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Chicago Bears

CHICAGO BEARS                                                       

2014 Record: 5-11-0 (4th in NFC North)


New Players in 2015 - LB Sam Acho; CB Alan Ball; WR/KR Eddie Royal; DL Jarvis Jenkins; LB Mason Foster; LB Pernell McPhee; DB Antrel Rolle.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 21st in NFL (327.1 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 30th in NFL (377.1 ypg)

Offense:  Jay Cutler returns as the starting quarterback after passing for 3,812 yards last season with 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Jimmy Clausen (223 yards, two TD, one INT) will once again play the backup role.
Matt Forte (1,038 yards rushing, 3.9 ypc average and six TD along with 102 receptions for another 808 yards and four TD) will be the starting halfback with either Jacquizz Rodgers (217, 3.7 ypc, one TD with Atlanta) or rookie Jeremy Langford (Penn State) backing up.
The wide receiving corps took a hit in training camp when it was revealed that top rookie draft pick Kevin White (West Virginia) would need surgery for a leg injury and could miss the entire season.
Returning in 2015 will be Alshon Jeffery, who made 85 receptions for 1,133 yards with ten touchdowns. Along with Jeffery will be Eddie Royal, who made 62 receptions for 778 yards and seven touchdowns with the San Diego Chargers last year. Marquess Wilson (17, 140, one TD) is another option at wide receiver. The tight end is Martellus Bennett, who caught 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns.
Up front on the offensive line is center Will Montgomery, guards Matt Slauson and Kyle Long and tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills.

Defense: The Bears will be switching over to the 3-4 alignment this season and it looks like it will be Jeremiah Ratliff (6 1/2 QB sacks) at nose tackle. The ends will be Ego Ferguson (two sacks) and Jarvis Jenkins. Willie Young (ten sacks), David Bass (three sacks) and Will Sutton are being counted on as well.
The linebacking crew will have Jared Allen (5 1/2 sacks) and Pernell McPhee on the outside while Christian Jones and Shea McClellin will play the inside linebacker spots. Jonathan Bostic, Sam Acho, Mason Foster and DeDe Lattimore add depth.
Playing the corners in the secondary will be Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller, who made four interceptions last season. The safeties are either Brock Vereen or Ryan Mundy (four picks), along with Antrel Rolle. Alan Ball and possibly rookies Al Louis-Jean (Boston College) and Adrian Amos (Penn State) will rotate in when needed.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - With a complete overhaul taking place this season, the Bears will not be expected to contend for the NFC Playoffs.
New Head Coach John Fox has had success in the past with Carolina and Denver, taking both teams to the Super Bowl during his tenures.
The offense needs to improve after averaging just under 20 points per game last season and this could very well be quarterback Jay Cutler's final chance in the Windy City. On the plus side, Matt Forte is a solid running back who is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, making 102 catches last season. He is the heart and soul of the Bears' offense.
It was a tough break for the new regime to have their top draft pick (WR Kevin White) need surgery in the pre-season.
The Bears are hopeful that White could recover quickly enough to see some action this season, which would give the team a dynamic duo with him and Alshon Jeffrey at the position.
The defense was a mess last season, finishing 30th overall while also finishing 31st in scoring defense, giving up just under 28 points per game. At the midpoint of the 2014 season, the Bears were lit up for 50-plus points in successive games.
The Bears find themselves in a rare position of being overwhelming underdogs in the NFC North division, where the Green Bay Packers loom large. Detroit made the playoffs last season and the Minnesota Vikings also look to be much improved heading into the 2015 season.
However, the Bears can surprise if Cutler plays within the system and Forte and Jeffery continue to put up the numbers as they have the past two seasons.
The big question marks will be with the new 3-4 defense the team will employ this year. The Bears did have 39 QB sacks a year ago, so that is a plus. They need to avoid giving up too many big plays as they did last year.
All in all, it looks to be a rebuilding year in Chicago, so a 6-10 record would be an improvement from last season as the Bears look to a better future.

Week 1 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 2 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 3 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 4 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 5 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 6 - at Detroit Lions
Week 7 - BYE WEEK
Week 8 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 9 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 10 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 11 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 12 - at Green Bay Packers
Week 13 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 14 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 15 - at Minnesota Vikings
Week 16 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 17 - vs. Detroit Lions

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH STEELERS                                         

2014 Record:  11-5-0 (1st in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: Mike Tomlin

New Players in 2015 - DeAngelo Williams

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  2nd in NFL (411.1 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  18th in NFL (353.4 ypg)

Offense:  What will quarterback Ben Roethlisberger do for an encore this season?
All he did in 2014 was throw for a team record 4,952 yards along with 32 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
The running game is equally strong with Le'Veon Bell (suspended for the first two games) starting after a big year in which he gained 1,361 rushing yards (4.7 ypc average) with eight touchdowns along with making 83 receptions for 854 yards and three touchdowns. DeAngelo Williams was signed as a free agent and Dri Archer is also back to provide depth.
The wide receivers are led by All-Pro Antonio Brown, who led the league with 129 receptions for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. Along with Brown are Martavis Bryant (26 receptions for 549 yards, 21.1 tpc average and eight touchdowns) and Markus Wheaton, who had 53 catches for 644 yards and two touchdowns.
The tight end is veteran Heath Miller, who is one of Big Ben's favorite targets. He caught 66 passes last year for 761 yards and three touchdowns.
The line has center Maurkice Pouncey, guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro and tackles Kelvin Beacham and Marcus Gilbert.

Defense:  The line will have Steve McLendon playing at the nose tackle with Cameron Heyward (tackle) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt in the 3-4 alignment. Heyward led the team with 7 1/2 QB sacks last year.
Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons man the inside linebacker spots while Arthur Moats (four sacks) and Jarvis Jones will play outside linebacker. Veteran James Harrison (5 1/2 sacks) is back to provide depth along with top rookie draft pick Brad Dupree (Kentucky), Sean Spence and Vince Williams.
The secondary will see William Gay (three interceptions) and Cortez Allen (two picks) at cornerback. Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell play safety. Robert Golden, rookies Senquez Golson (Mississippi) and Doran Grant (Ohio State) and Antwon Blake will also be available.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - While the Steelers offense has made significant strides in the last few years, the defense has taken a step back from their usual greatness.
The run defense was decent last year, but the pass defense was terrible, ranking 27th while allowing 253 yards per game and also giving up numerous big plays of 40-plus yards.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin is defensive minded, so if Pittsburgh wants to return to the post-season and go further, the defense must improve, especially in the pass happy NFL.
With Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers should once again be among the best offenses in the league. Le'Veon Bell will miss the first two games (suspended) this season, but he should once again be among the top running backs in the game. He is also very adept as a receiver out of the backfield.
The targets available in the passing game provide Pittsburgh with big play capability as Big Ben knows he can chuck it down the field at any time. He threw for back-to-back 500-plus yard games last season and opposing defenses know they can't keep eight men in the box when the Steelers offense is on the field.
The Steelers will once again be competitive in the AFC North and have a chance to make it two straight division titles. An extremely difficult schedule will push the team and a 9-7 finish wouldn't be surprising at all in what could very well be another three-team division race to the wire.

Week 1 - at New England Patriots
Week 2 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 3 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 4 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 5 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 6 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 7 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 8 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 9 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 10 - vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 11 - BYE WEEK
Week 12 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 13 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 14 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 15 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 16 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 17 - at Cleveland Browns

Saturday, August 15, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND BROWNS                                            

2014 Record: 7-9-0 (4th in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: Mike Pettine

New Players in 2015 - QB Josh McCown; WR Dwayne Bowe; WR Brian Hartline; TE Rob Housler; DB Tramon Williams; DL Randy Starks.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 23rd in NFL (324.6 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 23rd in NFL (366.1 ypg)

Offense:  Josh McCown comes over to play quarterback for the Browns this season after a sub par season with Tampa Bay, where he thew for 2,206 yards with just eleven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Johnny Manziel will be the backup after seeing limited action in his rookie season.
The running game has a good tandem with Terrance West (673 rush yards, 3.9 ypc and four TD) and Isaiah Crowell, who gained 607 yards (4.1 ypc) and scored eight touchdowns.
The receivers will be led by Andrew Hawkins (63 receptions for 824 yards and two scores) and Dwayne Bowe (60 catches for 754 yards with Kansas City) while Brian Hartline, another free agent, is a third option after making 39 catches for 474 yards and two touchdowns with Miami last year. Taylor Gabriel (36, 621, one TD) gives the team a deep threat.
The tight end will likely be Rob Housler, who was signed after Jordan Cameron left to go with Miami this season. Housler had only nine receptions last season with Arizona.
The O-Line is decent, as All-Pro Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz play the tackle positions. The center is Alex Mack and the guards are John Greco and Joel Bitonio.

Defense:  The Browns will have Desmond Bryant (five QB sacks) and Randy Starks playing the end spots while the nose tackle will probably be rookie Danny Shelton (Washington), the team's top draft choice this year.
If Shelton isn't quite ready, then Phil Taylor is capable of doing the job. Xavier Cooper, another rookie (Washington State) may also see time up front at the tackle spot.
The linebackers are Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger (eleven QB sacks) on the outside while the inside spots go to 12-year veteran Karlos Dansby (three sacks) and Craig Robertson (two INT). Rookie Nate Orchard (Utah), Armonty Bryant, Tank Carder and Chris Kirksey will rotate in when needed to.
In the secondary, the Browns will see Joe Haden (three interceptions) and Tramon Williams at the corners while AFC interception leader Tashaun Gipson (six picks) and Donte Whitner play the safety positions.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  The Browns will be looking to build off last year's 7-9 finish, which was better than anticipated. However, the Browns fell apart down the stretch, losing their final five games to finish last in the AFC North once again.
Head Coach Mike Pettine knows his defense can keep the team competitive, but the run defense was the worst in the NFL a year ago, giving up 142 yards per game and that must improve. The pass defense was good, picking off 21 passes (second in NFL) while finishing eight overall.
The offense will have yet another field general calling the plays this season as Josh McCown gets the chance to show he is better than the effort he had with Tampa Bay in 2014. McCown has been around the block and knows how to handle the duties. The running game is solid with West and Crowell pounding away and two new wide receivers should help bolster the passing attack.
The team needs to score more, as they averaged just over 18 points per game while allowing 21 points. The key for the Browns to improve will be winning more close games after playing in eight games decided by one score a year ago.
The AFC North is a tough division, as shown a year ago when three of the four teams made the AFC playoffs.
The Browns will likely be looking up at all three division foes once again this season as they face a hard schedule and will be counting on a new QB and new receivers to mesh quickly to avoid a slow start.
That may be asking too much for the young Browns, so a 5-11 record looks to be in order this season as they will attempt to surprise their opponents and possibly move up in the standings.

Week 1 - at New York Jets
Week 2 - vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 3 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 4 - at San Diego Chargers
Week 5 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 6 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 7 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 8 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 9 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 10 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 11 - BYE WEEK
Week 12 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 13 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 14 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 15 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 16 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 17 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI BENGALS                                           

2014 Record: 10-5-1 (2nd in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: Marvin Lewis

New Players in 2015 -  DL Michael Johnson; WR Denarius Moore; LB A.J. Hawk; DL Pat Sims; QB/WR Terrelle Pryor.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  15th in NFL (348 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  22nd in NFL (359.3 ypg)

Offense: Andy Dalton (3,398 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions) returns to start at quarterback again this season and A.J. McCarron will be the backup.
Jeremy Hill emerged as the top running back for the Bengals last season, going for 1,124 yards (5.1 ypc average) and scored nine touchdowns. Gio Bernard (680, 4.0 ypc and five TD and 43 receptions for 349 yards and two TD) gives the team a strong second option in the backfield.
A.J. Green (69 receptions for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns) and Marvin Jones, who missed the entire 2014 season with injuries, will be the starters. Jones made 51 receptions for 712 yards and ten touchdowns in 2013.
Mohamed Sanu (56, 790, five TD), Brandon Tate (17, 193, one TD) and Denarius Moore (12 receptions with Oakland in 2014) will provide depth. The tight end is Tyler Eifert, who missed most of last season after making 39 catches for 445 yards and two scores in 2013.
The offensive line is made up of center Russell Bodine, guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler and tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith.

Defense: Carlos Dunlap (eight QB sacks) and Michael Johnson will play defensive end and the tackles will be Domata Peko and Geno Atkins (three sacks) up front in the 4-3 set.
Rey Maualuga is the middle linebacker while Emmanuel Lamur and Vontaze Burfict man the outside spots. A.J. Hawk comes over from Green Bay to give a boost to the linebacking unit along with reserves Marquis Flowers and Vincent Rey. Rookie linebacker Paul Dawson (TCU) will get a shot as well.
The secondary is solid, finishing third in the league with 20 interceptions last season. The corners are Leon Hall and Adam (Pacman) Jones (three interceptions) with Dre Kirkpatrick (three picks) also a strong corner man. The safeties are Reggie Nelson (four picks) and George Iloka, who had three interceptions. 

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - The Cincinnati Bengals are a consistent football team. Each of the last four seasons, they play well during the regular season and make the playoffs and then lay an egg and get chased in the first round.
Head Coach Marvin Lewis would love to see that trend change should his team make it back to the post-season once again this year.
The offense is decent and has balance with Dalton leading the way and A.J. Green his main target in the passing game. Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard give them a solid one-two punch in the running game and their line does a good job in both areas.
The defense was fair a year ago, down from recent seasons, but does enough to keep the Bengals in most games. They need to get after enemy quarterbacks more this year as they only had 20 sacks in 2014, which was the worst in the league.
Cincinnati should compete with Pittsburgh and Baltimore once again the rugged AFC North division, where they finished second a year ago after winning the division a year earlier.
The good but not good enough tag has to change if they want to be taken as serious contenders in the AFC. That likely will not happen once again this year as the Bengals finish 8-8 while looking up at both the Steelers and Ravens.

Week 1- at Oakland Raiders
Week 2 - vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 3 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 4 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 5 - vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 6 - at Buffalo Bills
Week 7 - BYE WEEK
Week 8 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 9 - vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 10 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 11 - at Arizona Cardinals
Week 12 - vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 13 - at Cleveland Browns
Week 14 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 15 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 16 - at Denver Broncos
Week 17 - vs. Baltimore Ravens

Thursday, August 13, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Baltimore Ravens

BALTIMORE RAVENS                                          

2014 Record:  10-6-0 (3rd in AFC North)

HEAD COACH: John Harbaugh

New Players in 2015 - CB Kyle Arrington; DB Kendrick Lewis; QB Matt Schaub.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 12th in NFL (364.9 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 8th in NFL (336.9 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Joe Flacco (3,986 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions) will be back for his eighth season as the Ravens' starter. Matt Schaub was signed on to be the backup.
The running game got a huge shot in the arm last season when Justin Forsett stepped in for Ray Rice, who had all kind of off-season turmoil and issues. Forsett played huge for Baltimore, going for 1,266 yards (5.4 ypc average) and scored eight touchdowns. He also hauled in 44 receptions for 263 yards. The backup RB is likely to be rookie Javorius Allen (USC).
The wide receiving corps will be led by veteran Steve Smith, who is calling it a career after this season.
Smith led Baltimore with 79 receptions for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns last year. Along with Smith will be rookie Breshad Perriman (Central Florida) and/or Marlon Brown, who had 24 catches for 255 yards in limited action.
The tight end will likely be another rookie, Maxx Williams (Minnesota) after Owen Daniels left for Denver in the off-season. Veteran Dennis Pitta, coming off hip surgery, is hoping to return to the field in the 2015 season.
The offensive line is made up of center Jeremy Zuttah, guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele and tackles Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner.

Defense:  The strength of the team for many seasons has been the defense and they will have a new man playing the nose tackle spot in 2015 as Brandon Williams take over for Haloti Ngata, who was traded to Detroit. The tackle is Timmy Jernigan (four QB sacks) and the end is Chris Canty. Rookies Carl Davis (Iowa) and Za'Darius Smith (Kentucky) will look to get playing time.
Playing outside linebacker will be All-Pro Terrell Suggs (12 QB sacks) and Elvis Dumevil, who had a whopping 17 sacks while splitting time with Courtney Upshaw. The inside backers are C.J. Mosley (three sacks, two interceptions) and Daryl Smith.
The secondary has Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith playing the corners with Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill playing safety.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - The Ravens come into the 2015 season feeling very confident despite the fact they will have players with no pro experience playing key positions on offense.
They did battle New England to the wire in the AFC Playoffs last year, and Head Coach John Harbaugh has been very successful in his seven seasons with the team, including the Super Bowl title just three years ago.
No wonder Joe Flacco and company are a confident bunch as they battle with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the AFC North.
As long as Flacco is healthy and protected (he was sacked just 19 times last season), the Ravens can move the football. Add in the running game, led by resurgent Justin Forsett and Baltimore should be pretty potent once again after they averaged just under 26 points per game last season.
Their defense always gives them a chance and this year should be no different as Suggs and Dumervil should once again wreak havoc against opponents.
Look for a 9-7 season as the Ravens battle it out for the AFC North title and another trip to the playoffs. A deep run in the post-season depends on how well Flacco is playing when the chips are down.
Stay tuned.

Week 1 - at Denver Broncos
Week 2 - at Oakland Raiders
Week 3 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 4 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 5 - vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 6 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 7 - at Arizona Cardinals
Week 8 - vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 9 - BYE WEEK
Week 10 - vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 11 - vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 12 - at Cleveland Browns
Week 13 - at Miami Dolphins
Week 14 - vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 15 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 16 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 17 - at Cincinnati Bengals

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS                                                 

2014 Record:  12-4-0 (1st in NFC West)

HEAD COACH: Pete Carroll

New Players in 2015 - TE Jimmy Graham; CB Will Blackmon; CB Cary Williams; DL Ahtyba Rubin.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 -  9th in NFL (375.8 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 1st in NFL (267.1 ypg)

Offense:  Quarterback Russell Wilson received a new contract as training camp began and is the unquestioned leader of the offense.
Wilson passed for 3,475 yards last season with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In addition, Wilson rushed for 849 yards (7.2 ypc average) and scored six rushing touchdowns.
The running game is all about Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 1,306 yards (4.7 ypc average) and scored 13 touchdowns while also making 37 receptions for 367 yards and four touchdowns. Robert Turbin  (310 yards, 4.2 ypc) backs him up.
The receivers are Doug Baldwin (66 receptions, 825 yards, three TD) and Jermaine Kearse (38, 537, one TD) while Paul Richardson (29, 271, one TD) and Ricardo Lockette (11, 195, two TD) will provide depth. The tight end is All-Pro Jimmy Graham, who comes over from New Orleans after making 85 receptions for 889 yards and ten touchdowns. Luke Willson (22, 362, three TD) is a solid backup at tight end.
Patrick Lewis plays center on the offensive line. The guards are Alvin Bailey and J.R. Sweezy and the tackles are Russell Okung and Justin Britt.

Defense:  The league's best defense has Michael Bennett (seven QB sacks) and Cliff Avril at the end positions in the 4-3 set while Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are the tackles. Jordan Hill rotates in at tackle and had 5 1/2 QB sacks last season.
The linebackers are newly signed Bobby Wagner in the middle with outside backers K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin, who had 6 1/2 sacks and two interceptions.  
The secondary is loaded with All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman (four interceptions) and Cary Williams playing the other corner spot. The safeties are Earl Thomas and Cam Chancellor. Providing depth will be Will Blackmon, Jeremy Lane, Dion Bailey, Marcus Burley and DeShawn Shead.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - After coming ever so close to a second consecutive Super Bowl title, the Seahawks are chomping at the bit for the 2015 season to atone for the worst play call ever in the history of the Super Bowl.
Head Coach Pete Carroll knows his team and they play a fast and loose style on both ends of the football.
The defense is the best in the NFL, ranking first overall in yardage and scoring defense (for the third straight season) while also ranking third in the league against the run and first against the pass.
Russell leads the offense and is very adept at keeping opposing defenses on their toes with his accurate passing and his legs. Marshawn Lynch is one of the top running backs in pro football and he exudes the confidence as well.
The wide receivers don't get a lot of credit, but they showed they can play their game and balance the offense so defenses can't pack eight men in the box against the running game. Oh, and there is yet another weapon for the Seattle offense in tight end Jimmy Graham, who will draw lots of double coverage, allowing the other receivers to get open.
After surviving Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks blew the Super Bowl, losing a ten-point lead and then watching the infamous pass play call that was intercepted at the New England one-yard line in the final minute that cost them the Super Bowl title.
Needless to say, Seattle wants to get back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year and win it again.
That may very well happen, but the Seahawks must first take care of business in the NFC West and then most likely would play Green Bay once again in the NFC Championship Game.
Barring injuries to any key players, look for the Seahawks to go 12-4 once again and face the Packers in January.
Another Super Bowl appearance and title is very possible for this team.

Week 1 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 2 - at Green Bay Packers
Week 3 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 4 - vs. Detroit Lions
Week 5 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 6 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 7 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 8 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 9 - BYE WEEK
Week 10 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 11 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 12 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 13 - at Minnesota Vikings
Week 14 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 15 - vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 16 - vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 17 - at Arizona Cardinals

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - San Francisco 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO 49ers                                          

2014 Record:  8-8-0 (3rd in NFC West)

HEAD COACH: Jim Tomsula

New Players in 2015 - RB Reggie Bush; WR Jerome Simpson; WR Torrey Smith; LB Nick Bellore; DL Darnell Dockett; OL Erik Pears; DB Shareece Wright.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 20th in NFL (327.4 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 5th in NFL (321.4 ypg)

Offense:  Colin Kaepernick (3,369 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and ten interceptions) is back as the starting quarterback with Blaine Gabbert backing him up. Kaepernick was also the second leading rusher on the team last year, gaining 639 yards (6.1 ypc average), including a 90-yard TD run.
Frank Gore, the team's leading rusher last year, left as a free agent and signed with Indianapolis.
This season the 49ers will have Carlos Hyde (333 rush yards, 4.0 ypc average and four TD) and Reggie Bush (297, 3.9 ypc and two TD and 40 receptions for 253 with Detroit) in the backfield. In addition, Kendall Hunter, who missed last season, is looking to be ready to go again and rookie Mike Davis (South Carolina) may get a chance as well.
The wide receivers will be Anquan Boldin (83 receptions, 1,062 yards and five TD) and Torrey Smith, who comes over from Baltimore after making 49 catches for 767 yards and eleven touchdowns. Youngsters Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton will be relied on this season and free agent Jerome Simpson provides depth.
The tight end is Vernon Davis, who will be looking to have a big bounce back season after seeing his production slip big time from year's past. Davis hauled in just 26 receptions for 245 yards and two scores last year.
The line has center Marcus Martin, tackles Anthony Davis and Joe Staley and guards Brandon Thomas and Alex Boone.

Defense:  Playing up front in the 3-4 set this season will be nose tackle Ian Williams and ends Tony Jerod-Eddie and 12-year veteran free agent Darnell Dockett. Top rookie pick Arik Armstead (Oregon) should see action early and often in the trenches.
The linebacking unit has Michael Wilhoite (two interceptions) and NaVorro Bowman playing the inside with Aaron Lynch (six QB sacks) and Ahmad Brooks (six sacks) on the outside spots. Rookie Eli Harold (Virginia), Nick Moody, Corey Lemonier, Nick Bellore, Desmond Bishop and Shayne Skov give the 'Niners plenty of depth.
The secondary has Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright at the corners with Eric Reid (three INT) and Antoine Bethea (four picks) playing the safety positions. Rookie Jaquiski Tartt (Samford), along with Chris Cook, Dontae Johnson, Jimmie Ward and Craig Dahl, will look to contribute this season.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  There is a lot of personnel turnover for the 49ers coming into this season, including new Head Coach Jim Tomsula, who will have very big shoes to fill after former head man Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan.
The team was very inconsistent last season and sought to weed out some problem players who are no longer on the team roster heading into the 2015 season.
Offensively, Kaepernick will again run the offense and he can do damage with both his arm and his legs as he in considered to be one of the top running quarterbacks in the NFL. He has weapons with Boldin and Torrey Smith at the wideout spots. Having TE Vernon Davis get back to his old form would be huge for the offfense.
The running game no longer has Frank Gore, so the trio of backs (Hyde, Bush and Hunter) will have to step big time to keep opposing defenses honest. Kaepernick was sacked 52 times last season, so the line must do a much better job in pass protection.
The defense was solid last season, ranking fifth overall while getting 35 QB sacks and intercepting 23 passes, which contributed to a plus-seven in the turnover category.
However, the 49ers let some big leads slip away late, most notably a loss early in the season to Chicago and then late in the year to San Diego in which they blew double-digit leads in both games.
With so many changes on both sides of the football and a new coaching staff taking over, look for the team to have some bumps along the way while facing a difficult schedule through the first ten games.
Realistically this seems to be a rebuilding year for the team and a 7-9 finish seems likely for the 49ers this season, but if they can come together offensively and maintain on defense, they might do better.

Week 1 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 2 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 3 - at Arizona Cardinals
Week 4 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 5 - at New York Giants
Week 6 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 7 - vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 8 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 9 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 10 - BYE WEEK
Week 11 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 12 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 13 - at Chicago Bears
Week 14 - at Cleveland Browns
Week 15 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 16 - at Detroit Lions
Week 17 - vs. St. Louis Rams