Written by: Stasheroo

If I were Dallas Cowboys GM - Part One - Free Agency

February 09, 2016
Optional...
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With that miserable season behind us, it's time to look ahead toward the future!


And I know many of us are already looking towards the draft and free agency, I know I am! So I thought that I would share my thoughts on what I would do if I were running the show. Rather than put it all in one thread, I'll break it down into two so it's easier to read and discuss.

Feel free to add your own plan or to critique what I'm presenting here.Despite the ability to go crazy with restructures, free agency, and the draft, I would play things somewhat conservatively, making only a few choice moves.

1) Attempt to re-sign Greg Hardy.

I know that's a controversial and less than popular move for some, but I still think that he's a very good player that this team really needs. What I don't want to do is to let him go and create another weakness that needs to be filled. While Lawrence is good and Gregory might be, there are no guarantees and you need better production. And putting those two on the field at the same time leaves you at a distinct size disadvantage as well. The Cowboys have already taken the hit for Hardy's past issues, so I would keep him at a reasonable price, I'd guess in the $7 - $8 million range with safeguards/incentives built in.

Optional...
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

2) Release Barry Church and sign Eric Weddle in free agency.

Cutting Church saves nearly $3 million in cap space, which can then be used towards signing Weddle, who I anticipate in the $5 - $6 million per year range. Weddle has been among the league's best safeties for the past 5 years and I think he would provide stability to the secondary and a great veteran presence. I think he would also be an excellent mentor to Byron Jones. I think he's got another two seasons left at least.

3) Sign Lamar Miller at running back. While Darren McFadden had a very good year, I still think that this team can improve the position here. Other than McFadden, the running back position was a revolving door of disappointment and injury, and more talent is needed. Miller is just 24-years old, with a lot of tread left on his tires, and looks to still be an ascending player. Why the Dolphins under-utilized him was criminal, but their loss is our gain. He could be this team's back now, and for the future as well. I believe his contract would be for roughly $5 million per season.

4) Sign Rishard Matthews to be this team's 2nd or 3rd receiver. Another former Dolphin? I think so. For all of the flack Jeff Ireland gets - and rightly so - his 2012 draft in Miami looks like a fantastic haul at this point in time. Matthews was a 7th round steal, with good size, great speed, and good hands. He really put it together and was having an excellent 2015 prior to injury. To my eyes, he looks like another ascending player just hitting his stride at just the right time. Given the draft investments the Dolphins have made, and their gap,situation, I see Matthews hitting the market and I would pounce on him. I don't see the Cowboys re-signing the inconsistent Terrance Williams, and Matthews could be a nice deep threat compliment to Dez Bryant for the next several years. I'd estimate between $4 - $5 million per year. 

Optional...
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

5) Sign Colt McCoy as our veteran backup. It was painfully obvious that Tony Romo's injury, coupled with the lack of a capable backup quarterback, was the biggest contributor to the 'Great train wreck of 2015'. I sure don't want to see a repeat of that this year. Despite all of the talk about RG3 or Johnny Manziel, I don't want to roll the dice on the coming season by counting on either one of those boom or bust options. Give me a reliable, dependable player who will simply do his job. McCoy doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but he's shown he can capably get the job done. And he looks yo have come into his own as a pro in Washington. Prior to this season, he was in close competition with Kirk Cousins to be the starter, and given the great season Cousins had, I'll gladly take the guy who came in a close second. Take a look at what McCoy did during the preseason and see what you think. He made $1.5 million in Washington, so I'd expect a similar deal, possibly $2 million per year, would be enough. Especially when you can offer a return to Texas!


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Written by: jzenk42

My Super Bowl prediction

February 05, 2016

The Super Bowl is finally upon us as the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will meet in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday night. Carolina is favored by 5.5 points, led by quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman. Newton, the odds on favorite to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, passing for 35 touchdowns, while adding 10 more on the ground. The 35 passing touchdowns were 11 more than his previous best and the 10 rushing touchdowns were the most since his rookie season.

On offense, like I said above, Carolina is led by the probably NFL MVP. Newton was tied for second in passing touchdowns with 35 despite losing his No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin before the season with a torn ACL. As good as Newton was through the air, Carolina was even better on the ground. The Panthers were second in the league in rushing, averaging 142.6 yards per game. Carolina will try to run the ball against Denver's third ranked rush defense to try to neutralize the deadly pass rush of the Broncos. Jonathan Stewart will be a big part of the attack, as he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards this year. Rob Gronkowski had a great game against Denver two weeks ago and now Carolina faces Denver with arguably the second best tight end in the NFL, Greg Olsen. The big tight end has caught 12 of his 14 targets so far this postseason for a total of 190 yards and a touchdown. He will need another big game against a stout Denver defense. 

When Denver has the football, it will be tough sledding for the Broncos. Carolina gave up just north of 19 points per game (6th), while Denver scored 22.2 points per game (19th). People will talk about this being Peyton Manning's swan song, but he is not going to magically gain a stronger arm over night. Manning was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL this year. Manning just threw for nine touchdowns this year, while throwing 17 interceptions. Those 17 interceptions were second in the NFL to Jacksonville's Blake Bortles, who had 18. In comparison, Bortles threw his 18 picks in 606 pass attempts, while Manning just threw 331 passes to throw his 17 picks. That is one interception every 19.5 pass attempts. Not good. His quarterback rating was an embarrassing 67.9, the worst in the league among quarterbacks who qualify. To expect him to morph back into 2013 Peyton Manning is not thinking clearly. He has been not just bad, but awful this season.

With all of that being said, he does have some weapons at his disposal in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Owen Daniels, who caught both of Manning's touchdowns in the AFC Championship game against New England. With Norman more than likely going to be shadowing Thomas, Sanders and Daniels must come to play and have a big impact if Denver wants to hoist up the Lombardi Trophy. With Manning struggling, Denver has needed to rely more heavily on running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Anderson has rushed for 72 yards so far in each of Denver's first two postseason games. However, New England did a nice job on him until he busted loose for a 30 yard run late in the game. Denver's protection needs to hold up against a defense that is sixth in the league in sacks, while having a sitting duck at quarterback.

On paper, this looks like a blowout in my eyes. Both teams have top tier defenses, but Carolina also has a top tier offense, whereas Denver's offense is not very good. The way Denver stays in this game is turnovers. If Denver can force some mistakes from Newton and give its offense a short field to work with, the Broncos have a chance to bring home the title. That is if Manning does not turn the ball over himself. Carolina is a team on a mission right now. The Panthers have just torn through the NFC in the playoffs and fresh off a 49-15 demolition of Arizona. I think Carolina's top ranked offense vs. Denver's top ranked defense will basically cancel each other out. I don't think Denver will completely shut Carolina's offense out, but the Panthers will have a harder time scoring than the previous two games. However, barring a flurry of Carolina turnovers, I do not see Denver's offense doing much against the powerful Carolina defense. Also, when Denver made its way deep into New England territory in the AFC Championship game, the Broncos had to settle too many times for field goals. They will not be able to get away with that Sunday. I think when you add everything up, it equals a Carolina victory.

Prediction: Carolina 23, Denver 10

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Written by: rseguin3

Super Bowl 50 Preview

February 05, 2016
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The day so many football fans look forward to is finally here! Super Bowl 50 comes to us from San Francisco this Sunday at 6:30 PM ET, when the AFC champion Denver Broncos take on the NFC champs, the Carolina Panthers. Arguably the biggest story line of this game is the sheriff, Peyton Manning, squaring off against the young gun, Cam Newton. Manning, a five time MVP, will be playing in what could be his last NFL game. Newton, will likely be entering this game fresh off receiving his first NFL MVP. For the third straight year, we are witnessing a Super Bowl that features an NFL legend at QB on one side and the future of the league on the other. This game could be a changing of the guard so to speak or it could be one last notch in Manning’s incredibly accomplished belt, only the sixty minutes on the field will be able to settle that. Here’s my breakdown of Super Bowl 50:

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


When Denver has the ball:


Denver’s focus for this game is going to have to be their run game, short passes, and clock control. If they are able to convert on third downs, I think they will have success. Giving Peyton Manning two weeks of preparation is always scary, regardless of how much his game has regressed in recent years. With that being said, the Carolina defense is good, really good. Josh Norman will be able to neutralize Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, but the unfortunate part is that will leave the other with a bit more freedom. The key factor for the Panthers will be how well Luke Kuechly can play in the pass coverage and as we’ve seen, he can be excellent in that department. Kuechly already has two interceptions returned for TDs this postseason. Carolina’s defense should be able to contain Manning, but I will never count him out. I’m giving just a slight edge to the Panthers on this one.

Edge: Panthers

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports



When Carolina has the ball:


Despite having hardly any weapons at wide receiver and losing one of their leading rushers from last season, the Panthers offense worked pretty well this season. That is in large part due to the evolution of Cam Newton. The Panthers’ QB will most likely be named the NFL MVP on Saturday night. If Carolina is going to win, he will need to deliver an MVP performance. Statistically speaking, Denver’s defense is the best in football. That unit was the key to the team’s success this season and ultimate Super Bowl win. This game will be slightly different as their outstanding pass rush will be negated slightly by Newton’s ability to run. Just like the opposite side of the ball, I’m giving a slight edge to the defense.

Edge: Broncos

Special Teams:

I think both teams are pretty evenly matched when it comes to special teams. I would have faith in both Brandon McManus and Graham Gano converting on important field goal attempts. Both teams also have capable return men and I don’t see a clear edge one way or another.

Edge: Push

Coaching:

Both Gary Kubiak and Ron Rivera are appearing in their first Super Bowl as a head coach. Digging deeper, Kubiak has three Super Bowl rings as an assistant and Rivera has only had one appearance in his career. I’m not sure how much that translates into being a head coach in the biggest game, but the experience factor is definitely in favor of Kubiak. Overall, I don’t think there is much difference between these two and I think this is more of a push than anything else.

Edge: Push

Intangibles:

When it comes to intangibles, most of the positive signs lean in favor of the Broncos. First, Denver has experience in the big game. They are only one year removed from their last Super Bowl experience and their roster is loaded with guys who have played in a Super Bowl. The same cannot be said for the Panthers, so the jitters of the big stage may play a factor. Second, Peyton Manning’s career can end with the storybook ending, much the same way as Broncos’ legend John Elway. I believe in happy endings and events that can sometimes be too good to be true. Finally, I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist and I think when all the money is on one team, go with the opposite. As of right now, there is heavy money coming in on the Panthers and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Vegas does not like to lose money. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying games are fixed, but I am saying that I’ve seen enough big favorites lose to think this could be another example.

Edge: Broncos

Final Result:


There’s a big part of me that wants to root for the Panthers. There’s also a big part of me that thinks the Panthers will win this game, but there’s an even bigger part of me that thinks this game belongs to Peyton Manning. This will be his swan song and he is going to ride off into the sunset. Even though I think the defenses are the key to the game, I still believe points will be scored. Manning is your Super Bowl MVP and the Broncos win.

Broncos 27 – Panthers 23


Championship Record: 2 – 0
Playoff Record: 9 – 1
Regular Season Record: 150 – 90 
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Written by: Pat Schuster

NFL Draft Prospect Interview—Florida S Keanu Neal

February 02, 2016
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Having done over three hundred interviews with players as they anxiously await the draft, I’ve spoken to all kinds of guys. Players who are worried, excited, and everything in between, and speaking with Keanu I can say he is a player who sees the big picture and gets it. Roughly ranked as the third best free safety by the “experts”, Keanu is the type of kid who grew up around the game and isn’t going to have nearly the issue adjusting to the next step in his career that so many others have. Here is your chance to get to know a little more about a player most teams would benefit adding to their roster.

FD: What it is your official height, weight and forty?

KN: I am 6-1 and 213. My projected forty is 4.4

FD: How did you come to play football at Florida?

KN: I felt very comfortable with the coaching staff and the team. Felt like family and with my family so close, it was a great place to play and easy for them to come and see me.

FD: In 2014 against Alabama you led your team in tackles, forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown as well as being named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Was it harder playing against Alabama or making the Honor Roll?

KN: (Laugh) Making the honor roll no doubt. Football is like second nature to me, but with school work I have to put in time to keep my grades high.

FD: Having started 19 games the past two seasons, what has been the most important thing you learned from the first game to the last game?

KN: To have a short memory, focus on the play at hand and not dwell too much on a bad play or be too proud of a good play.

FD: What is your greatest memory from your college football days?

KN: Running out to the Swamp. You can only truly understand if you’ve done it. A truly amazing experience.

FD: How comfortable are you in pass coverage?

KN: I feel very comfortable in pass coverage. I know some people question if I can cover in space, and I work hard to prove that I’m a complete player.

FD: What are your thoughts on playing on special teams?

KN: I love it!! Both my head coaches talked it up at Florida and it’s something I enjoy when called into action.

FD: Of all the players you played with and faced, if you could pick one player to be a teammate at the next level who would it be?

KN: Jarrad Davis, LB, University of Florida.

FD: If an NFL team wanted to see you at your best which game film should they watch?

KN: 2014 against Missouri.

FD: Who was the best player you faced during your time at Florida?

KN: I have to give him props. Alabama’s Derrick Henry

FD: Who were your favorite player and team growing up as a kid?

KN: Cam Chancellor. He is a “do it all” safety. As for favorite team, the San Diego Chargers, as my older brother, Clinton Hart, played for them.

FD: Of all your coaches, who has taught you the most about playing football?

TT: Travaris Robinson. He was at Florida when I got here and now is with Coach Muschamp again at South Carolina.

FD: Who was your role model growing up?

KN: My brother, Clinton Hart.

FD: Complete this sentence the best football movie I’ve ever seen is?

KN: Remember the Titans. Awesome movie.

FD: Describe yourself in a few words?

KN: Humble, hardworking and outgoing.

FD: Does the #42 hold any significance for you?

KN: It certainly does, same number as my brother.

Follow Keanu on twitter at @Keanu_Neal as he gets ready for the April Draft

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Written by: jzenk42

I Don't Get The Hate for Cam

January 30, 2016

As I look around the Internet and talk to people, there is one topic that surrounds the Super Bowl more than any other: Cam Newton. There are many people in the country who despise Cam Newton, and quite frankly, I don't get it.

I realize that many people do not like the way Newton acts on the field. Many think he is too cocky and arrogant. However, when you look around the NFL, all of the top quarterbacks are a bit cocky and arrogant. I do not see any difference between Newton's dab and Rodgers' championship belt, but I don't see anybody (outside of Packers rivals) ripping him about it. 

When "Kaepernicking" was at its peak, I don't remember a hatred for Colin Kaepernick like there is for Newton. I also don't see any difference between when he does his "Superman" celebration and when a player emphatically signals for a first down after getting a key first down. 

Some people may still be bitter about him from his time at Auburn and the scandal involving his father and Mississippi State. The NCAA said it had found no major violations and the scandal was swept under the rug.

When you look at Newton outside the playing field, Newton has done a ton in the community and with children. Newton has a foundation that helps youth and it carries over onto the playing field when after scoring a touchdown, he gives footballs to children after scoring a touchdown. If you just look at him off the field, he seems like a good guy. But it is just when he is on the football field and he is arrogant and cocky that people do not like him. I, personally, chalk it up to just having a good time.

I mean, who wouldn't be having a good time when your team has won 17 of 18 games on the year and is on the brink of winning the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy? Every great player has an arrogance about them and Newton is no different. He is going to be the NFL's Most Valuable Player this year. 

I don't see Carolina's offense being shut down by Denver's No. 1 defense and if Carolina wins against Denver, he possibly will win Super Bowl MVP as well. I'd say he has the right to be arrogant. The last player to win MVP and the Super Bowl in the same year was St. Louis' Kurt Warner back in 1999.

People say they don't like him because of his arrogant acts, but I just don't get it. I, personally, think we need more players like Newton. Actually, check that. We need more people like him as well.  He is great for the game of football. Yes, I will admit that I did not think that he would be successful in the league, but I am dead wrong about that. 

Like him or hate him, there is one thing for sure: he is a joy to watch play and he makes the league more fun.

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Written by: Pat Schuster

NFL Prospect Interview --Middle Tennessee St ---T.T. Barber

January 28, 2016

Another in a series of interviews with top NFL Draft Prospects; I had the opportunity to speak to Middle Tennessee State’s four year starter, OLB-T.T. Barber. Although not a household name yet, T.T. is the type of player top NFL teams are built on in the league; the hard working blue collar type that makes the key play on special teams or picks off that pass just at the right moment. It was a great pleasure talking to this young man and you can expect to see him playing on Sundays in the fall.

FD: What is your official height and weight?

TT: I am almost exactly six feet tall and weigh 230 pounds.

FD: How did you come to play football at Middle Tennessee State? Where there any other D1 schools in the mix?

TT: There was some schools came in late like Georgia Tech and NC State. It was a little too late to take them seriously. Middle Tennessee State stood out to me because a person by the name of Don Calloway from my high school played here. Several other coaches I knew from All-Star games and on the staff at Middle Tennessee had connections to my high school and my area in Georgia.

FD: Starting nine games as a freshmen you were fortunate to see playing time early in your career (ranks 4th all-time in total tackles). Looking back over your time at Middle Tennessee State, what was the biggest/most surprising thing you learned about football from your first college game to your last game?

TT: That the game really never changes when you get down to it. When I saw the field as a freshman my confidence was high, but in the back of my mind I wondered if I was ready for the speed of the college game. Each year I saw that if you do your job and know your duties nothing really changes.

FD: What is your greatest memory from your college football days?

TT: My sophomore year as we were leaving our bowl game against Navy my phone was blowing up with texts. I had always said it would be so cool to make the ESPN Top 10 plays of the day. Well, my family and friends were texting me a play I made in that game that was number two that night on ESPN Sportscenter. That was pretty awesome.


FD: How comfortable are you in dropping back into pass coverage?

TT: I enjoy it. Honestly not a big deal at all. I had seven interceptions in my career.

FD: What are your thoughts on playing on special teams?

TT: I enjoy special teams immensely since I started playing them my freshmen and sophomore year. Near the end of my sophomore year I was taken off special teams as my defensive responsibilities increased. I always felt kickoff coverage is my thing.

FD: Who was the best player you faced in a game during your college career?

TT: Brandon Doughty at Western Kentucky

FD: If an NFL team wanted to see you at your best which game film should they watch?

TT: I would say two of them. The BYU game my sophomore year and the Marshall game this season.

FD: Who were your favorite player and team growing up as a kid?

TT: Ray Lewis was amazing. Because of Ray I of course was a fan of the Baltimore Ravens.

FD: How many times do you think the media will accidently refer to you as Tiki Barber?

TT: I get it a lot of that now but expect it to increase.

FD: Who was your role model growing up?

TT: My mom.

FD: I read you were Vice President of your senior class, so once your NFL career is complete could politics be in your future? If not where do you see yourself.

TT: (Laughing) No, politics isn’t in my future after football; but going back to school hopefully is, as I would like to become a physical therapist. My aunt has her doctorate in PT and I admire the work she does and have always found that to be an interesting career.

FD: What is the best advice you ever received to this point in your career?

TT: Just be focused and don’t worry about what others might say.

FD: Where are your currently training as you get ready for the big day in April?

TT: Premiere sports training Academy in Atlanta

FD: Who on the current roster should the fans and media keep an eye on to have a great 2016 season for Middle Tennessee State?

TT: Too many to name people, just need to look out as the team is going to be good again next season.

If you are wondering what does the T.T. stand for, it is Trevonti Terrell and you can follow the progress of TT Barber on twitter at   knockemloose_12

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Written by: IBleedGreen24-7

2016 Eagles -- Seven Round Mock Draft

January 28, 2016

For my first “article” I figured I would tackle something I know well. The Eagles and the NFL draft. So with draft season very much under way here is my “Eagles Only Mock Draft”

** This mock is under the assumption that we do not resign Sam Bradford.  I will do a new mock on Monday with one that has us signing Bradford.

(R1)13: QB PAXTON LYNCH-MEMPHIS: If we don’t sign Bradford, we need to draft our future QB. Coaches and QB’s need to grow together. Pederson needs his QB. If a perfect world Lynch would get to sit for a year behind someone like Chase Daniels. Lynch is young (he will be 22 on Feb 12) to sit for a year, maybe two and work on some of the issues that spread (rookie) QB’s have, ie. Footwork when coming off their first read. I would be very happy with this pick as long we sign a vet to teach our rookie.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

(R3)77: OG SPENCER DRANGO-BAYLOR: Drango is a interesting prospect. I see him as a starter at RG right away. He’s 6-6 and has long arms (for a OG) at 32 ¾ However the reason I like this pick and the Haeg pick is because I feel that both of these players can play both OG and OT. We can move Lane over to LT (if/when Peters leaves) and slide either (I think Haeg is a better RT prospect than Drango, but time will tell)

(R3)79: OT JOE HAEG-NORTH DAKOTA STATE: SEE ABOVE

(R4)110: DE VICTOR OCHI- STONY BROOK: You can never have too many pass rushers and Ochi fits perfectly into what Schwartz wants to do here in Philly. He won’t be asked to start right away, but he will have a role on this team as a rookie. He has a very quick first step, which he showed off at the East vs West game. What I really like about him is that he has “heavy hands” meaning he uses his hands extremely well to get off of blocks.

(R5)141: CB ERIC MURRAY-MINNESOTA: I really feel that Murray can push for a nickel job this year depending on the health of our other CB’s coming off injury from the 2015 season. He has good size for a CB (5-10 ¾ 198) What I really like about Murray is the fact that he has experience as a press corner and also in zone coverage. A big plus for me is his willingness to play run. He is also a excellent ST player for Minnesota.

(R5)152:DT JAVON HARGRAVE-SOUTH CAROLINA STATE: Another player who stood out to me at the East vs West shrine game. He is similar to Ochi where he won’t have the pressure to start (playing behind Cox and Logan) but with our switch to 4-3 we are semi-thin at the DT spot.

(R6)170:OG/OT JORDAN WALSH-IOWA: He stood out to me last year when he more than held his own when he went up against Ra’Shede Hageman (2015 2nd round pick- Atl).

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

(R7)201: QB JACOBY BRISSETT-NC STATE: Love this kids potential. He is a real leader and played his best vs the best competition (see the FSU game this year). And if you think drafting two QB’s in the same draft if crazy, maybe you should call a Redskins fan and ask them what they think!

(R7)219: FS JORDAN LOMAX:IOWA- He was the leader of the best defense in the NCAA last year. Not big, not fast but just makes plays. Sorta like a certain safeties coach we have…….

#FLYEAGLESFLY

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Written by: rseguin3

NFL Championship Game Picks

January 22, 2016
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Well just 120 minutes of football separate us from finding out who will be in Super Bowl 50. It’s hard to believe that we are down to the final three games of the season, but this conference championship week should be one of the best in recent memory. Here’s my in-depth breakdown of each game:


New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos – Sunday 3:05 PM ET

The Broncos and Patriots will square off in a rematch of their Week 12 overtime thriller from earlier this season. There was one thing missing from that game in November and that was Peyton Manning. Denver was able to win that game with Brock Osweiler at QB, who was filling in for the injured Manning. With Peyton back under center, it will set up Manning vs. Brady part 17. This will be the 5th Brady vs. Manning playoff matchup and the 4th AFC Championship game featuring the two QBs. In the previous three AFC Championship games, Manning has won two. The overall matchup, however, is in Brady’s favor with a record of 11-5 vs. Manning. But enough history, let’s take a look at how this playoff matchup will break down.

When Denver has the ball:

We’ve all witnessed the regression of Peyton Manning. Even though he spent a good portion of this year injured, Manning has done enough as Denver’s starter to win football games. Manning is 8-2 as a starter this year and also led the Broncos back in the second half against the Chargers in Week 17. Most people would believe that Bill Belichick will try to take away the running game from the Broncos and dare Manning to beat them. It’s a risky dare, but given Manning’s arm strength and performance that season, it just might pay off. If there’s one flaw in the Belichick system, it’s the fact that sometimes he can outsmart even himself. I will give a slight edge to the Broncos when they have the ball because Manning’s mind is sometimes more valuable than his arm.

Edge: Broncos

When New England has the ball:

On the other offensive side, Tom Brady is as good as it gets. He operates like a surgeon, dissecting opposing defenses better than anyone else. The Patriots do have some injury concerns on offense and I think their success will be directly tied to the health of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Not to mention, the Broncos defense is very good. If the Broncos’ defense can get pressure on Brady, it will really impact how well he can distribute the ball to his receivers. Just like with Denver, I’ll give the slight edge to the Patriots only because of Tom Brady.

Edge: Patriots

Special Teams:

Both teams have very reliable kickers. Brandon McManus has hit 30/35 this season and Stephen Gostkowski has hit 33/36. If this comes down to a kicking battle, I don’t see either kicker buckling under pressure. Obviously Gostkowski has more experience, but McManus is also used to kicking in Denver. 

Edge: Push

Coaching:

This one is easy – Bill Belichick is the best coach in the NFL, if not the best football coach of all time. While Gary Kubiak has done well in his first year in Denver, there is no chance that he can out-coach Belichick. As I mentioned previously, Belichick can sometimes outsmart himself, but the vast majority of his decisions are flawless. If the outcome of the game was solely based on coaching, I’d take the Patriots in a heartbeat.

Edge: Patriots

Intangibles:

The first thing that sticks out when talking about intangibles is home field advantage. This playoff cycle went from all four road teams winning in round one to all four home teams winning in round two. Basically, home field advantage is pretty non-existent. While Denver is one of the more unique venues to play in because of the altitude, I don’t see it being all that much of a factor. Next up is a bit more of an obscure statistic, but since 2008, Denver is 8-0 in games called by referee Ed Hochuli. Moreover, Peyton Manning is 14-2 in his career with Hochuli as the referee. Who knows what that means, but it is definitely worth mentioning. From the emotional standpoint, the Broncos have given the Patriots a good deal of bulletin board material this week, most notably by calling Tom Brady a crybaby. If there’s one thing I know, it’s you don’t want to get Tom Brady angry. The more significant emotional aspect of this game, however, is the fact that this could be Peyton Manning’s last game ever. Whether Manning and the Broncos elevate to another level is a different story.

Edge: Broncos

Final Result:

I think this game is going to be excellent. For anyone like myself, the prospect of the final Manning vs. Brady game is heartbreaking. These two QBs defined a generation and have provided us with some incredible football along the way. My head is telling me to take New England, but my heart is saying Denver. I’ve never claimed to be the smartest person in the world, so I’m going with my heart.

Broncos 30 – Patriots 27



Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers – Sunday 6:40 PM ET


The NFC championship game is a bit different in terms of familiarity. The Panthers and Cardinals have played just 14 times since Carolina joined the league in 1995. Two of those match-ups have come in the playoffs, including last year’s Wild Card round win by the Panthers. In terms of NFC Championship games, this will be Carolina’s 4th NFC championship game since their inception. The Cardinals, on the other hand, will be playing in only their 2nd NFC Championship game since its start in the 1970-71 season. The good news for Cardinals’ fans is that they are 1-0 in NFC Championship games. As for this time around, here’s what I think:

When Carolina has the ball:

The Panthers went 15-1 this year without any significant weapons at WR or RB. That is a true testament to how good Cam Newton actually is. Newton is an incredible athlete and can beat teams with his arm or with his legs. I think the latter part is where he will thrive this week. Conditions in Carolina may be a little sloppy and I think the Panthers will rely on Cam to run the ball a bit more. The Cardinals defense has had moments of brilliance this season, but I’m not sure they will be able to stop Cam and the Panthers while they have the ball.

Edge: Panthers

When Arizona has the ball:

Throughout the regular season, Carson Palmer was one of the best QBs in football. Last week was a bit of a different story as it looked like nerves were getting the best of him. That all changed when he led the game winning drive in overtime. A big portion of that overtime win has to be put on WR Larry Fitzgerald, who was incredible in the extra drive. Arizona’s receivers have definitely been the bright spot for them this season. As for this week, I can see Fitzgerald being the most important receiver of the Cardinals’ bunch, with Michael Floyd will likely having a tough time matched up against Josh Norman. While the Cardinals have put up a ton of yards and point this season, I can see them having a tough time this week. There are many things to like about the Carolina D, but LB Luke Kuechly is definitely the key to the defense. I am giving a slight edge to Carolina when they are on defense.

Edge: Panthers

Special Teams:

Chandler Catanzaro is one of the more accurate kickers in the NFL, but he was 0-2 from outside 50 yards this year. Graham Gano, on the other hand, hit 30/36 FGs and was 2-4 from beyond 50 yards. The Panthers have given up a kick return and a punt return for a touchdown this season and have not scored on special teams themselves. Also, in terms of kick returning, the Panthers are averaging less than 20 yards per kick return while giving up just over 26. I like the Cardinals specials teams by just a bit.

Edge: Cardinals

Coaching:

The coaching match-up here features two of the most aggressive coaches in the NFL today. “Riverboat” Ron Rivera has had success in his time with the Panthers. He has made a lot of aggressive calls, especially when it comes to 4th downs and his counterpart on Sunday, Bruce Arians, lives by the motto “no risk it, no biscuit.” Even though it is a small sample size, I like what I see from Arians. He filled in well in Indianapolis and has done everything right in Arizona. We will definitely see both coaches gamble on Sunday, but anyone who gambles knows that you lose just as much as you win. I think it will come down to whichever coach’s gamble (or calculated risk if you ask them) pays off the most.

Edge: Cardinals

Intangibles:

Unlike the AFC Championship game, this game doesn’t feature any rivalry, conspiracy theory, or sentimental value. We know home field advantage doesn’t really matter. The snowy mess in Carolina should mostly be cleaned up, so that shouldn’t have much of a factor. Both teams have playoff experience, but neither team has a wealth of playoff experience. This is about as neutral of a match-up as you can ask for. 

Edge: Push

Final Result:

As two of the greatest QBs to lace up a pair of cleats finish what could be their last battle, the man who quite possibly could become the new face of the league will take the field in Charlotte. I think Cam Newton is going to have a breakout playoff game and cap off his MVP season with a trip to the Super Bowl. There is a big part of me that is rooting for guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer as they enter into the twilight of their career, but it’s Cam’s time to shine.

Panthers 31 – Cardinals 28

Divisional Record: 4 – 0
Playoff Record: 7 – 1
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Written by: Pat Schuster

2016 First Round Mock (Pre-Combine)

January 21, 2016
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the first installment of how round one might shake out if it were done this weekend.   Check back after this weekend for an updates and follow us at @ftballdialogue or on Facebook.

    1. Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil  OT  Ole Miss.   There’s little question this team needs to protect its’ young franchise quarterback, Marcus Mariotta, and adding Tunsil at left tackle will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

 2.   Cleveland Browns: Jared Goff  QB  California. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Browns are selecting their next franchise quarterback.  At least it is not at the 22nd slot like Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and John Manziel.  Goff can make all the throws and has the smarts to be a leader. The only real concern is arm strength considering the weather he may face in Cleveland.   With Hue Jackson’s prior success with Joe Flacco, it could make Paxton Lynch the more appealing prospect if he shows well at the combine.


  3.    San Diego Chargers:  Joey Bosa    DE  Ohio State.   Most NFL ready prospect in this draft and Bosa would be an instant starter and cornerstone for the Chargers.  Offensive tackle is another option here as this team needs to keep Philip Rivers healthy.  

4.   Dallas Cowboys: Laquon Treadwell   WR  Ole Miss.  The Cowboys offense was abysmal without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant last year, and with Goff off the board the Cowboys still need to add more firepower to the offense, and Treadwell, teamed with Dez accomplishes that for them.  Adding Treadwell may also act as motivation for Bryant to focus a little more, as easy drops are becoming too common.

5.   Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey   CB  Florida State.   It finally appears that the Jaguars have some building blocks in place, and adding the multi-talented Ramsey to a defense that will be welcoming back Dante Fowler Jr. could create a special unit for the Jags.

6.   Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley   OT  Notre Dame.   Stanley is a technically sound lineman who should secure one of the tackle spots for the next decade.   The Ravens will need to tune up his game a bit, but he should be a day one starter and a line leader by the end of the season. 

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

7.   San Francisco 49ers: Myles Jack  OLB  UCLA. Depending on what he shows at the combine, Jack might be the player teams are trading up for if he shows he’s fully recovered from injury. With the 49’ers experiencing something never seen before with so many early retirements, they could use a playmaker like Jack in their defense.   And we all know that Chip loves the Pac-10 guys.

8.    Miami Dolphins:   Mackensie Alexander  CB  Clemson. There’s a new sheriff in town, and the team may finally be ready to move on from Brett Grimes and his wife’s actions.   If not this season, it certainly is time to groom an eventual shutdown corner replacement.   It was obvious to anyone who watched the NCAA title game that once Alexander went down, the game turned for Clemson.   Alexander is a special player who should have an easy transition into the league.

9.    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeForest Buckner  DE  Oregon.  Buckner is a beast and the Buccaneers need to upgrade their defensive ends with some more pass rush.    Buckner, at six foot seven, with the wingspan he possesses, will make it difficult to pass, even if he does not get to the QB.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

10.  NY Giants: Shaq Lawson  DE  Clemson.   The ideal replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul as the Giants will look to move on from that PR nightmare of last season.   The Giants have to upgrade their pass rush and the multi-talented Lawson is a perfect selection.

11.  Chicago Bears: Emmanuel Ogbah  DE  Oklahoma State.  The Bears need to improve the defensive front, especially with Jarvis Jenkins and Mitch Unrein due to become free agents.  Ogbah had some great moments this year and some less than stellar as well, but has the ability to play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 front.   He would team well next to Eddie Goldman in Vic Fangio’s defense. 

12.  New Orleans Saints: Vernon Hargreaves III Florida.  The Saints defense was a mess last year, so adding a corner with elite skills would be a welcome addition.  Hargreaves battled with the best of the best in the SEC and should handle the transition to the NFL well. 

13.   Philadelphia Eagles: A’Shawn Robinson  DT  Alabama.  With new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on board, the Eagles will likely transition to a 4-3 defense, so adding a top tackle like Robinson will make the switch that much easier. Pairing Robinson with Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox will create quite an impressive front, as the Eagles move on from the Chip Kelly disaster.

14. Oakland Raiders: Jack Conklin  OT  Michigan State. The Raiders need to upgrade both tackle spots to better protect Derek Carr.  Conklin is the type of blue collar lineman that championship teams are built on.    

15.  Los Angeles Rams: Carson Wentz  QB  North Dakota State.   This team needs a top tier signal caller, and while Wentz looks to have all the tools to succeed at QB, he will need some time as the move up from North Dakota State to the NFL will be significant. The Rams may also want to look for a veteran to sign to start and mentor Carson Wentz for at least a season. 

16. Detroit Lions:  Andrew Billings  DT  Baylor.  Three out of four starters on the defensive line are free agents, so it is obvious where they need to look to rebuild the area that was instrumental in leading them into the playoffs a few seasons ago. 

17. Atlanta Falcons:  Reggie Ragland   ILB  Alabama.  With no real impending key free agents, the Falcons would be wise to invest in a player who is an upgrade to a current starter and a low risk pick.  Reggie Ragland has the makings of a great team leader and future stud middle linebacker. 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

18.   Indianapolis Colts:  Ezekiel Elliott  RB  Ohio State.  The Colts need to take some offensive responsibility off the shoulders of Andrew Luck and adding a top tier talent at tailback certainly accomplishes that goal for the team. 

19.   Buffalo Bills: Kevin Dodd   DE  Clemson.  With the pending release of Mario Williams, the Bills will need to address the hole that move will create and Dodd is a great addition to an improving defense.   Paxton Lynch certainly is an option at this spot if the team is not sold on any of the current quarterbacks as their long term answer at the position.

20.   New York Jets: Paxton Lynch  QB  Memphis.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown to be a good, solid journeyman type quarterback who can only take a team so far.    Bringing in a physical specimen like Lynch is the first step to securing the quarterback position, but now they need to show they can develop one too. 

21.  Washington Redskins:   Jarran Reed  DT  Alabama.  Both Terrance Knighton and Kedric Golston are free agents.  Reed was part of a special unit at Alabama and should see significant time during his rookie season and lock down the position for the next ten years. 

22. Houston Texans :  Corey Coleman  WR  Baylor.   When you reach your first playoff game and get shut out, you need more offensive weapons.  Coleman, opposite DeAndre Hopkins, will give whoever is under center two fabulous targets.   Remember, Nate Washington is a free agent and Coach Bill O’Brien might have an eye on a signal caller in later rounds.  Maybe someone he coached at Penn State?

23. Minnesota Vikings: Leonard Floyd  OLB  Georgia. If Chad Greenway returns, it would only be for another year, and Floyd can secure the position for many years to come after learning from a veteran like Greenway.    

24.  Cincinnati Bengals: Robert Nkemdiche  DT  Ole Miss. Cincinnati is the land of second chances and considering the crazy off-season Nkemdiche has had, he has the credentials to match up perfectly with the Bengals franchise.  All depth behind the starting defensive tackles are pending free agents, and if Nkemdiche can stay out of trouble he will push for a starting role early in his career. 

25.   Pittsburgh Steelers:   Eli Apple   CB  Ohio State.  Pittsburgh finally needs to address the lack of talent at their corners and the addition of Apple is a great first step.  Having played on the ultra-talented Buckeyes teams, Apple knows what it is like to face NFL caliber players and this should make the adjustment to the NFL that much smoother. 

26.  Seattle Seahawks:  Taylor Decker  OT  Ohio State.  Lady luck finally ran out for the Seattle Seahawks and there was no second half collapse (Green Bay) and no missed field goal (Minnesota) to help them to advance this year to the Super Bowl.   Now it’s time to reload and improving the talent of the offensive line is a great move.   Decker should send Garry Gilliam to the bench as he is groomed to eventually replace Russell Okung at left tackle.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

27.  Green Bay Packers:  Kenny Clark  DT  UCLA.  The Packers have the luxury of taking the best player available at a need position and Clark is the best DT on the board.   He has the skill and size to step in at nose tackle if needed, and with both BJ Raji and Letroy Guion set to become free agents, this is a top priority for the team.  

 28.  Kansas City Chiefs: Darron Lee   OLB  Ohio State.   Lee has all the measurables to be a special talent, he just needs to get stronger and add some weight to his frame. Kansas City has two pending free agents, ILB Derrick Johnson and OLB Tamba Hali, so getting a guy like Lee in the fold would not only help the team this year, but also allow them some much-needed flexibility with regards to the salary cap.

29. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Cook QB Michigan State. Of course the season did not end as the Cardinals had hoped, but they did have a terrific season and will now look to prepare for the future by drafting an accomplished player like Cook. Cook comes with some impressive accomplishments, but also with a few red flags that will have to be vetted before investing this pick. By landing in Arizona, he’ll have some time to assimilate to the NFL game and locker-room before being expected to take the reins of this offense. Sitting, studying and copying Carson Palmer would be a great start down the road to a successful NFL career.


 

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Written by: jzenk42

Green Bay Packers Face Big Decisions in Off-Season

January 21, 2016

After yet another heartbreaking playoff loss, the Packers are facing a big offseason. ahead. Green Bay has 18 free agents, including quite a few solid contributors. The free agents include NT B.J. Raji, CB Casey Hayward and RB James Starks.

I believe the player the Packers need to re-sign the most is Raji. He had a very good year and I consider a must-sign for Ted Thompson this year. Another player who needs to be high on Green Bay's list to retain is K Mason Crosby. He went 24-28 on field goal attempts this year, an 85.7 percent clip, the second highest of his career. Thompson has shown that he will pay to keep current Packers.

Mike Neal is another player who I would like the Packers to re-sign, but like always, it will come down to money. I believe the Packers will re-sign one of either Neal or Nick Perry. They won't be able to re-sign both, though. Letroy Guion also has a place in Green Bay and I think he will be re-signed.

One player who I have no idea if he will be back is Hayward, With the progress of rookies Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, Hayward becomes expendable. Hayward had a solid year this year and is a solid nickel back. Hayward would be welcomed back, but he may go where the money takes him, much like Davon House last offseason.

James Jones had a very solid year and did everything asked of him in a difficult situation after Jordy Nelson went down. However, I do not see him being brought back with Nelson, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams already in the fold as well as the emergence of Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. I also doubt Starks is back. I see him competing for a starting RB in another uniform next year. He was a tremendous complement to Eddie Lacy, but I think he will be too expensive for the Packers to hold onto.

The rest of the players, such as John Kuhn and Brett Goode, will be brought back if the money is right. However, Kuhn is one of two fullbacks on the roster and Green Bay could just roll with Aaron Ripkowski at fullback in order to keep both Abbrederis and Janis.

The road to Super Bowl 51 begins now for Green Bay and with some big moves this off-season, the Packers will be serious contenders to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next year.

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