Tag Archives: Ed Reed

NFL 2016: AFC East Preview

jimmy-garoppolo-tom-brady-nfl-new-england-patriots-training-camp-850x560

Despite age and suspension, the Patriots train is on track once again in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

 

AFC East

New England Patriots – Obviously, the headlining story with the Patriots this upcoming season will be the Tom Brady suspension. Brady will miss the first four games in the regular season this year and Jimmy Garoppolo will beging the season as the starting QB. Garoppolo has been in Brady’s shadow for years now and even though he doesn’t have a lot of regular season experience, I think he’ll be able to handle the situation well until Brady returns. It’s hard to tell if Garoppolo will light up the stat sheet in Brady’s absence but I think I can say that the offensive personnel that New England has will be a big help for him in those first four games. New England isn’t known for having a great running game but they struggled with running the ball when RB’s LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis both went down due to injuries. Having those two guys back and healthy will definitely help the running game especially if they can both last 16 games. When you’re a young QB that lacks experience, the TE usually becomes a safe bet when it comes to targets. If this is true about Garoppolo, he’s going to be in pretty good shape as he has the best TE in the league to throw to, Rob Gronkowski. Along with Gronkowski, the Patriots also brought in another huge TE to the passing game, Martellus Bennett. Between Gronk and Marty B, the Patriots will have probably the top TE duo in the league. Gronk is a threat as a big target in the open field no matter what the situation. Bennett isn’t the same but he’ll be a huge target as the Patriots march towards the end zone. Also with the wealth of talent at the TE position, the Patriots have an underrated veteran led receiving core. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are somewhat injury prone but when healthy they are as tough as they come. The way to stop the Patriots offense has always been through the offensive line and that won’t be any different in 2016. The Patriots will be looking to get better play from that unit this season but it’s unclear if that will come in fruition. New England made a trade for OG Jonathan Cooper but he is already facing injury problems much like he did in Arizona. Thinking of Arizona, it’s time to talk about that defense because the Patriots got Cooper by trading away their best defensive player. Even though the Patriots have been successful in recent years without having a top defense, they will greatly miss Chandler Jones on that defensive line. The Patriots do have a nice mix of young guys and veterans on the defensive line but no players on the level on a Jones. At defensive end, Rob Ninkovich returns and Jabaal Sheard will probably be the guy who will get the first crack at replacing Jones. The Pats also brought in veteran Chris Long from the Rams but his best days as a pro are probably behind him. New England had a top ten run defense in 2015 and they’ll look to continue that success in 2016. Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch will probably be the starters inside on the defensive line. I like the addition of DT Terrance Knighton who didn’t have a great season last year in Washington but he’ll be a key mentor and leader this season. At linebacker, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are a decent duo. They brought in Shea McClellin from Chicago who didn’t fit over there in a 3-4 defense. If he can improve, he’ll add some flexibility as a guy who can play outside linebacker and can rush the passer on passing downs. New England’s secondary was a middle of the road unit last season and I don’t see how they improved in the offseason. CB Malcolm Butler is probably their best corner but I’m not sure if that’s really a good thing. Safety Devin McCourty is a leader in the secondary and probably the only consistent playmaker. Patrick Chung has had some rough recent season in New England but they have failed to replace him. I’m not sure how much of an impact a rookie can have but I really like 2nd round pick, Cyrus Jones out of Alabama. So basically, I think this Patriots team will be much like how they’ve been recently. The defense may overachieve but it will be Brady and the offense as the tone setters on this team. Despite being dominated in that AFC Championship game a season ago, it was amazing to see Brady and the offense rally and still almost pull off the comeback. That will serve as motivation going into this season. Again, they will not face much of a challenge in the AFC East but because of their losses on defense, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to match what they did a season ago in the playoffs. I think Brady will return ready and refreshed. But Father Time is still undefeated and you have to wonder if this will be the season where he starts to decline. I don’t think we’ll see that happen in 2016 but I don’t know how good New England will be in the post season this year because of the losses on defense. Prediction: 11-5 (AFC East Champs)

New York Jets – The Jets had surprise success in 2015 and even more surprising, they have IK Enemkpali to thank for that. But seriously, I don’t see the Jets having the success they had offensively with Geno Smith as the starting QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be a career journeyman but he was exactly what the Jets needed at QB last season. After a lengthy contract holdout, Fitzpatrick is back for 2016 looking forward to leading the Jets aerial attack once again. I don’t know if Fitzpatrick will be able to create the same success he had a season ago but the Jets will have the tools on offense once again to succeed. The offensive line may have gotten better as they traded for a new left tackle, Ryan Clady, who started for a Super Bowl champion a season ago. Fitzpatrick built a great relationship with the two, big outside receiving threats on this team, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Marshall is coming off one of his best seasons and Decker proved to be a valuable piece of the passing attack. The Jets need to develop more depth at that position though. I also think the Jets got better at RB. Chris Ivory left for Jacksonville but they signed Matt Forte. Forte isn’t a tough, between the tackles, runner that Ivory is but he is a lot more versatile as a receiver out of the backfield and he offers more speed once he gets to the second level. The Jets also have decent depth at the RB position with Bilal Powell and Bernard Pierce. There is a lot to be optimistic about for the Jets on offense this season. Going into the offseason, there were a lot of questions surrounding the strength of the Jets defense, the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson was in a contract dispute and Sheldon Richardson was rumored to be facing a lengthy suspension. Wilkerson got his long-term contract, Richardson will only miss one game, and they also have a young beast in 2nd year tackle Leonard Williams. The Jets will continue to be strong up front defensively in 2016. At outside linebacker, the Jets will be looking for some more growth from Lorenzo Mauldin who had a decent rookie season. The middle of the defense will continue to be anchored down but veteran LB David Harris. Also keep an eye out for rookie, first round pick, LB Darron Lee, who was among one of the quickest at the position in this past draft. CB Darrelle Revis returns once again as the leader of the secondary. Revis is still a top defensive player in this league but their really isnt much around him in this Jets secondary. Safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist are average at best and the Jets really don’t have a solid starter opposite of Revis at CB. Outside of Revis, I don’t think the Jets secondary is that great but the strength of the defense comes from up front and that usually always helps out that unit. The Jets return a defense that was 2nd in the league at stopping the run last season. Head coach Todd Bowles surprised everyone with that success his Jets had a season ago and they will hope to build on that in 2016. The Jets actually look strong on paper but I think last year was a case where a lot of things went right. And even with that, the Jets still missed the playoffs. I think the Jets will be a tough football team again this year but I don’t see them overtaking New England in 2016. They will definitely compete for a playoff spot. Prediction: 8-8

Buffalo Bills – Rex Ryan arrived in Buffalo last year with so much noise and hype but it didn’t really materialize into anything last year. The Bills played some stretches of good football but by the end of the season, they fell apart. The Bills still have some good players going into 2016 but now they are completely rebuilding the defense and I don’t know if they’ll be able to resemble the team that Ryan wants so quickly. I’m confident that Rex Ryan can be successful in Buffalo but I’m worried about the Bills giving him enough time to build up his defensive scheme. On offense, Buffalo is pretty much set and they’ll be looking to continue the success they had a season ago especially on the ground. The Bills found their QB last season in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a great athlete and an average QB but he fits what the Bills want to do on offense. Buffalo had the best running attack in the league a season ago and Taylor is apart of that. Even a bigger part of the running game is all-pro LeSean McCoy. McCoy had a disappointing season by his standards and he’ll be looking forward to starting 2016 completely healthy and with a chip on his shoulder. Last year, RB Karlos Williams was a break out player and was a great compliment to McCoy. Williams is currently facing suspension and is dealing with some injury issues. So, Buffalo also brought in veteran Reggie Bush who might have a role early on this season while Williams is out. I’m not sure what Bush has left in the tank but at the least, Buffalo run blocks very well and Bush might have some left to offer in special teams. Buffalo’s passing attack could be better but lets face it: passing isn’t Tyrod Taylor’s strong suit. And its really a shame because WR Sammy Watkins is able to put up much better numbers than what he has shown but they need to find a way to get him more touches. QB’s like Taylor usually have a decent option at TE and that what he has in Charles Clay. In 2016, the running game will set the tempo for the Bills offense again. When pressed, Taylor can be a playmaker with this arm and his legs. But I don’t know if he can be good enough where the offense doesn’t have to lean on the running game so much. I don’t know what to expect from the Bills defense this season because Rex Ryan is in the process of completely rebuilding that unit in his 3-4 scheme. On the defensive line, DT Marcell Dareus will continue to be a disruptor but he will need more help around him. For a team making a transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, the Bills actually have a decent group of LB’s. But they may be already hurt in that department due to injuries. First round pick, Shaq Lawson, will miss the beginning of the season and second round pick, Reggie Ragland, is going to miss his entire rookie season. Inside at linebacker, I think Preston Brown and Zach Brown (no relation) will do just fine. But the Rex Ryan defense needs pass rushers to excel. OLB Jerry Hughes can get the QB but Buffalo needs more than just him. In the secondary, Buffalo has a good pair of starting CB’s in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby. Also, Ed Reed will coach the secondary, which is exciting. I like Buffalo’s core as a ground and pound team on offense and a tough run stuffing team on defense. But there aren’t enough pieces on both sides of the ball where I can see this team taking the next step. I sure hope that the Buffalo front office realizes that Ryan needs at least one more offseason to get the defense closer to what he had in New York. The blueprint for success is there in Buffalo. They are just going to have to give Rex a little more time. Prediction: 7-9

Miami Dolphins – A season ago, Miami made so much noise in the offseason with the moves they made in free agency. At the end, it proved to be a disaster and their head coach was fired. Going into 2016, I was hoping that Miami would hire a stronger personality to really grab ahold of this locker room instead of hiring “insert successful coordinator’s name here”. Instead we got the latter and I don’t sense much excitement surrounding this team going into this season. Everyone is still waiting for QB Ryan Tannehill to break out. I’m starting to think that this isn’t a good thing that we are still waiting. Either Tannehill is going to become this next great Dolphins QB or he is not. To Tannehill’s credit, he has done better statistically each season but he hasn’t done good enough where he can raise Miami out of mediocrity. Again to his credit, that task might be too tall for just for him. Miami’s supporting cast on offense didn’t get better in the offseason with the departure of starting RB Lamar Miller. Miller left for Houston and Miami really didn’t think much on the subject of replacing him. They have second year RB Jay Ajayi who is still struggling to stay healthy and they brought in Adrian Foster from Houston who is an aging veteran. Journeyman Isaiah Pead might end up being the Week 1 starter. At receiver, Tannehill has a good collection of talent to throw to. Jarvis Landry wont get the fame that fellow LSU Tiger Odell Beckham Jr receives in New York but he is probably just as good of a receiver. DeVante Parker merely scratched the surface in his rookie season and Miami will be looking for him to have a bigger role in the passing game in 2016. Tannehill also has a good target at TE in Jordan Cameron. Not having a running game will hurt this Miami offense but I think its time for Tannehill to go all-gunslinger this year and see if he can become an elite passer in this league. Miami’s defense was a massive disappointment last season. Ndamukong Suh got the big money deal from Miami but the team isn’t getting a fair return as Miami had one of the worst run defenses last season. Suh should be extra motivated to return to the form that made him one of the most feared defenders in football. DE Cameron Wake is still one of the best pass rushers in football. DE Mario Williams was brought in from Buffalo to replace Olivier Vernon. Wake is coming off from an injury and Williams is an aging vet at this point of his career. Miami’s defensive line was such a disappointment last season; I really don’t have any realistic expectations for them in 2016. But Miami is going to have to have that unit improve if they hope to amount to anything in 2016. Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are decent LB’s and Miami brought in Kiko Alonso who is coming off injury-plagued seasons in Buffalo and Philadelphia. If healthy, Alonso will improve the Miami LB core. Miami’s secondary is headlined by safety Reshad Jones who is coming off his best season as a pro. Miami brought in Byron Maxwell who found out last season that life outside of Seattle can be rough. I expect even more abuse for him in 2016 as he just wasn’t that good to begin with. Miami’s secondary was a weak point last season and that will probably be the same in 2016. With the hiring of Adam Gase at head coach, I really don’t know what is Miami’s long-term plan with this team. With so many high profiled veterans, this locker room is not the place for a rookie head coach. Miami is short on talent and leadership. Prediction: 5-11

Advertisements

NFL 2013: Week 3 Predictions!

Image

Week 3 might prove to be another tough weekend for the AFC North.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 13-3 (Survival Pick: Baltimore – W)

Season: 22-10

Big Five Games of the Week 

Kansas City @ Philadelphia – Emotions might run high tonight in Philly as the Eagles welcome back one the most successful head coach/QB combos in league history. Donavan McNabb gets his number retired on the same night Andy Reid brings his undefeated Chiefs team into Philly. The Eagles gained a lot of hype after Week 1 but last week, their fast break offense did show some flaws. Plus, the Eagles defense was exposed to be as weak as it was a season ago. The strength of this team remains to be the offense, which might give Kansas City some trouble. The Chiefs have a very good defense but they are coming off a short week where they might not be fully prepared for the Eagles attack. On offense, Alex Smith usually plays it safe, which doesn’t usually results into big plays. But that strategy might produce some big plays against an Eagles defense that allows a lot of yards. If the Chiefs can protect the football, they should be able to be in this game. I think this game might come down to turnovers and I might trust KC’s defense more than Philadelphia’s. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Eagles 23

Green Bay @ Cincinnati – The one thing I took away from last Monday’s game was how unimpressive the Bengals looked against a weaker Pittsburgh team. The Bengals have a lot of talent but it still seems like they haven’t been able to put it all together yet. I don’t think the Packers are some type of unstoppable machine but I think that the way they execute their offense could let them run away with one in Cincy this weekend. Andy Dalton looked bad last week and he was barely pressured at all. I don’t think Green Bay’s pass rush is that great so Dalton might see great time in the pocket again this week. Dalton just has to start making the simple throws because he missed too many open receivers a week ago. The Bengals defense is decent but they’ll be tested early and often against Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack. The Packers could actually run the ball last week and doing so again this week will help them. Prediction: Packers 31 – Bengals 21

Houston @ Baltimore – Ed Reed will finally see playing time this week as he returns to Baltimore in a different uniform. Houston has had the two most exciting opening games than any team this season. The games may have been tough but they have won them and I think it shows that this team is battle tested early. Baltimore got their first victory last week but it wasn’t pretty against a terrible Browns team. The Ravens offense is not producing enough, as they don’t have as many weapons as a season ago. If Cleveland had a better offense, they probably would of beat Baltimore last week. Houston is just playing better football than Baltimore is right now. Matt Schaub is playing good football right now and he’s leading a decent, balanced attack of offense. In order to win Sunday, Joe Flacco is gonna have to get the offense out of the rut they are currently in. Prediction: Texans 28 – Ravens 20

Indianapolis @ San Francisco – The Colts have all the headlines going into Week 3 as they made a big trade. RB Trent Richardson might be able to help the Colts offense eventually but it might be too soon for him to make an impact this week against a stout 49ers defense. The Niners are coming off a major beat down last week and they are anxious to bounce back at home. The 49ers defense should be able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage against the Colts. Andrew Luck and his targets will test the San Fran secondary. QB Colin Kaepernick really needs to rebound after a tough week. The Colts defense is decent upfront but they allowed a lot of yards against a not very strong Dolphins offense last week. If the Colts had more time to integrate Richardson into their system, they might have a better chance this week. But they’ll find it tough on the road at San Francisco. Prediction: 49ers 26 – Colts 18

Chicago @ Pittsburgh – Steeler fans are at a panic as Pittsburgh is in serious danger of starting 0-3. The Steelers are in great need to play at home in front of their fans but they face a pretty decent Bears team on Sunday night. Chicago’s defense should present a lot of problems for a Steeler offense that is already having a hard time this season. Pittsburgh isn’t getting enough right now from their offensive line, the running game, or their pass catchers. TE Heath Miller has been practicing this week and he could provide a much-needed boost to the offense at home. The Steeler defense has also been unimpressive as they are failing to create pressure or turnovers. Chicago’s offense is off to a decent start this season. QB Jay Cutler is winning ball games and getting the ball to his playmakers. The Bears defense still excels at forcing turnovers and creating pressure in the backfield. Playing at home might create some momentum for Pittsburgh but if Chicago plays like they have so far, the Bears should be able to outmatch their opponents. Prediction: Bears 27 – Steelers 17

The Rest of Week 3

Rams over Cowboys – St. Louis hasn’t been that impressive this season but their defensive front seven will create a lot of problems for a Dallas offense that has had a lot of problems playing up to their potential. If the Cowboys defense can force some turnovers, the game might go their way.

Chargers over Titans – San Diego scored a rare road victory last week and they might get a second in a row in Tennessee. Philip Rivers is playing surprisingly well early this season.

Vikings over Browns – Move over 2008 Detroit Lions. You might have some company soon. The Cleveland front office has punted this season after only two weeks. Yikes.

Patriots over Buccaneers – This game will be close. New England has been unable to run away from opponents this season unlike in the past. A lot of turmoil is Tampa these days.

Saints over Cardinals – I’m shocked at the Saints start this season. They are usually a sure bet at the Super Dome.

Redskins over Lions – I’m going back and forth on this one. Washington’s defense has been awful but this is an early must win for them. It’s time for RG3 to have a strong showing.

Giants over Panthers – Carolina could upset here. The Giants defense has allowed a lot of points early this season. New York will have to win on the strength of Eli Manning and the passing attack.

Falcons over Dolphins – Miami is a surprising 2-0. Atlanta should be able to jump up on them early at home.

Bills over Jets – Rookie EJ Manuel gained a lot of confidence last week in a home victory. That’s pretty much the opposite of what Rookie Geno Smith has right now.

Seahawks over Jaguars – Safest game of the week. Seattle will make it look easy and Maurice Jones-Drew probably wont even travel with the team.

Broncos over Raiders – Denver is on a roll early this season. I must admit that I’ll be kinda rooting for Terrelle Pryor as he makes his first MNF start.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Matt Schaub (Texans) – The Ravens defense hasn’t forced an interception this season and Schaub will have all his weapons healthy in Baltimore.

RB: Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks) – Jacksonville has one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. Lynch always runs strong at home.

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) – After a tough match-up against the Steelers, the Packers don’t have a defensive back that can match up with Green. The pressure will be on Dalton to deliver him the ball.

TE: Jimmy Graham (Saints) – Drew Brees must take advantage of the mismatch between Graham and the Cardinals’ safeties.

DEF: Seattle – I don’t know who’s starting at QB for Jacksonville but it wont matter. The Seahawks defense is looking strong and they’ll look even better at home against the Jaguars.

NFL 2013: AFC South Preview

Image

Can Ed Reed put the Houston Texans over the top and contend for a Super Bowl?

By: Elias McMillan

Houston Texans – The Texans have been knocking on the door for a couple seasons now. They hope that this 2013 team can be the one to bust through that door and play for a Super Bowl. A lot of familiar faces return to this Texans team. QB Matt Schaub is the commander of this offense. The guy that really gets things going is RB Arian Foster who is among the leagues best at running the football. WR Andre Johnson will once again lead a young WR core with new addition, rookie DeAndre Hopkins. They are expecting some big things from Hopkins in his first year as this offense needs a second legit threat in the passing game opposite of Johnson. TE Owen Daniels is another reliable target for Schaub in this offense. The standout on defense is the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, DE J.J. Watt. Watt is a pass blocking extraordinaire who is also a great pass rusher from the interior.  The linebacker position might have some questions surrounding it. If ILB Brian Cushing can return to being the player he was before he got hurt, it would go a long way to helping this defense. Second year OLB Whitney Mercilus needs to solidify his role this season as a consistent pass rushing threat. The Texans already had a solid secondary but they signed safety Ed Reed to really put them over the top this season. If Reed can return at 100%, his knack of creating turnovers will make this defense even more dangerous than it already is. This team has a lot of experience together and I think they know what it will take for them to finally take the next step and compete for a title. As long as they stay healthy, I can see Houston being a team on the rise in this wide-open AFC. Prediction: 12-4 (AFC South Champs)

Indianapolis Colts – The Colts surprised just about every one last season when they make the playoffs. This year, they wont be able to sneak up on anyone as the league knows how dangerous of a team they are. QB Andrew Luck exceeded expectations in his rookie year and is poised to become one of the top passers in the NFL. The Colts have a decent stable of RBs led by Vick Ballard & Donald Brown. They also brought in veteran RB Ahmad Bradshaw who could become a valuable option for them. WR Reggie Wayne is a gamer that is coming off another career year. T.Y. Hilton is another receiver who has emerged as one the most exciting players in the league. I have concerns about this Colts defense who lost veteran DE Dwight Freeney in the offseason. ILB Pat Angerer does return from injury in 2013 and if he’s healthy, he’ll once again be among the top tacklers in the league. OLB Robert Mathis will have more attention on him now that Freeney is gone but hopefully rookie OLB Björn Werner can become a legit pass rushing threat as well. The Colts will have one of the top safety tandems in the league with veterans Antoine Bathea and LaRon Landry. The Colts surprised last season but I don’t think they did much to improve going into this year. With Andrew Luck at the helm, I know this team will compete but they are still some years away from taking over this division. Prediction: 8-8

Tennessee Titans – Despite their 6-10 record last season, Tennessee fans have reasons to be optimistic going into 2013. A lot is gonna depend on the development of QB Jake Locker and if he is really ready to lead this offense. The Titans are also need RB Chris Johnson to return to the player that he used to be. I think they made a great decision when they decided to team him with RB Shonn Greene in the backfield. When the running lanes are not their for a speedster like Johnson, the Titans can now depend on a runner like Greene to get the tough yards. Tennessee also has a deep receiving core. If WR Kenny Britt can stay on the field, he can be a force in the passing game. They have a nice mix of young guys like WR Kendall Wright and vets like WR Nate Washington. The Titans need better play from their offensive line in 2013. Hopefully, the draft pick of OG Chance Warmack can bring back some physicality to that unit. I don’t see the defensive line being a strength on this team despite having a good pass rusher in DE Derrick Morgan. I really like Tennessee’s LB core. LBs Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers seem to be set to lead this defense for years to come. I also like the addition of safety Bernard Pollard. Pollard, teamed with Michael Griffin, will bring a physical presence to this defense. A lot is gonna depend on how the offense plays but I think the Titans could be a surprising team in 2013. I think the defense will be among the leagues best if they stay healthy. Prediction: 8-8

Jacksonville Jaguars – Things will be pretty bleak in Duval County this season. At least at seasons end, they will probably have answers to their many questions. For instance, is Blaine Gabbert the QB going forward? Gabbert is better than most think but for him, consistency will be key. What is the motivation for star RB Maurice Jones-Drew? Now that he’s back from injury, will his focus be on helping Jacksonville to win games? Or will he be advertising himself to other teams in preparation for the offseason? Jacksonville has decent depth at wide receiver. WR Justin Blackmon is running out of chances to prove that he’s not a knucklehead. But WR Cecil Chorts is vastly under rated and can put up solid numbers. There’s gonna be a lot of interest surrounding how they will use rookie WR/RB Denard Robinson. Robinson has the ability to make a difference on special teams and on offense he could be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. Their first round pick OT Luke Joeckel will be a big part of the offense. Gabbert is gonna need time in the pocket to prove his worth. The Jaguars have a pretty active front seven. DE’s Tyson Alualu and vet Jason Babin could be a decent duo on the defensive line. When healthy, LB Paul Posluszny is one of the better middle linebackers in the league. Jacksonville’s secondary is pretty sad though. Rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien could turn into a solid player if he is developed right. This team does have some decent young pieces but 2013 will prove to be another rebuilding year. Prediction: 4-12