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Tom Brady

Expect a big game from Tom Brady against the Jets Sunday afternoon.

Ladies and gentlemen…get ready for your main event!  The Jets and Patriots have been battling through the media since the preseason.  They’ve also met twice on the field with each team winning at home.  They most recently met in week 13 in a game that was never close.  Everything went against the Jets and the Patriots crushed them 45-3 in Gillette Stadium.  But they have split their last six games.

The Jets come into this battle off an excellent wild card win over the Colts in Indianapolis.  Rex Ryan shockingly called off the dogs, not turning on the blitz and dropping linebackers into coverage.  The Jets cranked up the running game gaining 169 yards on 38 carries.  Mark Sanchez didn’t play well but it did not end up costing New York.

New England was the best team in the NFL this season, winning 14 games and racking up 518 points, almost 100 more than the next best team.  The Patriots young defense struggled against the pass early in the season but has improved by leaps and bounds in the second half of 2010.  Tom Brady had an MVP season and the offense featured a number of new weapons with no weak link.

The Jets win if: They adequately cover the Patriots’ tight ends and backs.  New England is deadly with the underneath and delayed running back routes.  It is not the Jets’ strong suit but they are going to have to shut down the tight ends and backs as much as possible.

The Patriots win if: They can stop the Jets running game.  They cannot depend on as many things going wrong for New York as did in the week 13 game.  The defense needs to be stout and stack up the run, forcing Sanchez into third and longs.

Who do I like: Patriots 27-17

Why: After all the talking this week the Patriots will be ultra-motivated to beat the Jets, not that they need to be to beat New York.  I think the Jets will slow them down a bit but Brady will dink and dunk his way down the field on long drives with lots of passes.  I think Ryan’s best play this week will again be to drop more ‘backers into coverage.  I also think New England will force Sanchez into difficult situations and bring different looks to confuse him.

I definitely like New England by a big margin in this playoff matchup.  Let me know who you think will win and why in the comments section below.

Photo source: americanistadechiapas

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NFL Week 14 has been marked by teams reasserting themselves into the playoff conversation after stumbling last week (Colts, Chargers and Bucs) and by the absolute dominance of the New England Patriots.  The two other big stories concern the New York teams.  The Jets fell on their face in a loss to the Dolphins.  And the Giants escaped getting buried by snow and will play the Vikings in Detroit tomorrow night.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 14 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

New England Patriots – 36-7 at Chicago Bears

Larry English

Larry English was one of the Chargers turning in impressive performances in Week 14.

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 31-0 over their division rival Kansas City Chiefs

Worst Loss

Green Bay Packers – 3-7 at Detroit Lions

Biggest Surprise

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest Disappointment

New York Jets

Offensive MVP

Tom Brady, New England Patriots – 27 completions 40 attempts 369 yards 2 TDs 113.4 QB rating

Defensive MVP

Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers – 2 interceptions (one returned 45 yards for a TD) 2 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals – 5-yard fake kick run for TD 5 FGs

Most Surprising Performance

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers – 17 completions 27 attempts 255 yards 3 TDs 130.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 27 completions 42 attempts 285 yards 2 TDs 4 interceptions 60.2 QB rating Lost fumble

Offensive Rookie

Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 122 yards 1 carry 17 yards

Defensive Rookie

Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals – 40-yard interception return for a TD 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – 16 carries 123 yards 2 TDs 3 receptions 86 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I am shocked at how quickly the Patriots absolutely dismantled the Bears.  Coming off the dominant win on a Monday night and having to go to Chicago in a snowstorm I thought New England might at least start slow.
  • The Bills could have packed things up long ago.  The fact that they are still fighting for wins is impressive and bodes well for Chan Gailey in the future.  Now they just need a lot more talent.
  • What has happened to the Jets?  Their offensive line looks nowhere near as strong as it was.  Their passing game is almost completely out of sync.  Mark Sanchez looks bad much of the time, but when he does make good throws his receivers are dropping the balls.  With their next two games at Pittsburgh and at Chicago the Jets better find their rhythm fast.
  • Adding insult to injury – the Dolphins only had 30 yards net passing and still beat the Jets.
  • The Jaguars scored another impressive win today over the Raiders.  They can clinch the division next week by going into Indianapolis and beating the Colts.

One BIG Question

Is there an NFL team that can hang with the Patriots?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on week 14.  Post a comment below and let me know what surprised and disappointed you.

Photo source:  SD Dirk

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The two teams with the best records in the AFC, the New York Jets and the New England Patriots, will go to battle in a critical Monday night tilt that could determine home field advantage in the conference.  Something has to give as the Jets bring their 5-0 road record to Gillette Stadium where the Patriots are 5-0.

Gillette Stadium Sign

Gillette Stadium will be rockin' on Monday night

It was nearly three months ago when New York scored an impressive victory over New England with a well-balanced attack in New Meadowlands Stadium.  A lot has happened since then.  The Jets have won eight of their last nine games.  They’ve been strong running the ball, ranking second in the NFL in rushing yards, and defending the run, ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.  But somewhat surprisingly they rank only 12th in both pass defense and sacks.

The Patriots have also won eight of their last nine games since that week two matchup.  Of course, New England is also one major deep threat lighter since then.  Without the long ball being a factor, Tom Brady has been able to nickel and dime teams to death while BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have given the Patriots good production from the backfield. 

The Jets win if: They can bump the Patriots receivers and throw them off their routes while generating a consistent pass rush that pressures Brady into hurrying his passes.

The Patriots win if: The defense can stop the Jets running game.  In their only loss since week two the Patriots were gouged early and often by the Browns on the ground. 

Who do I like: Patriots 24-17

Why: The temperature will be cold and snow may be falling in Foxboro.  We know that the Patriots know how to win in these conditions.  At home on a Monday night, with the world watching I’ve got to go with New England.  I think their very young defense is improving and they will play better than they did in the first matchup.  I expect them to crowd the line on early downs to stop the run.  I think they’ll change up their coverage and get enough of a rush on Sanchez to force him into a couple of turnovers.

Who do you like in this colossal battle?  Let me know how you see this game playing out by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Brian J. McDermott

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For the 13th time in the last 10 years the Indianapolis Colts will meet the New England Patriots.  Peyton Manning has a losing record against only two teams in the NFL.  Probably to no one’s surprise the Patriots are one of those teams.  Last year’s matchup was an epic Sunday night battle that the Colts won in Lucas Oil Stadium 35-34.  That game is remembered mostly for Bill Belichick going for the fourth down conversion on his own 28 with the lead and 2:08 left.

Gillette Stadium

Will Tom Brady win #25 in a row in his house?

This year’s Colts team has suffered a lot of injuries, particularly on offense.  They’ve fought through the loss of some key players and have an excellent 6-3 record.  The good news for them is that it looks like they’ll be getting Joseph Addai and Austin Collie back for Sunday’s game.

The Patriots are coming off a curious couple of weeks.  They were throttled by the Browns in Cleveland, while giving up massive yardage on the ground.  Then they came out last Sunday night and dominated the Steelers in Pittsburgh.  Tom Brady will be playing to tie Brett Favre’s record of 25 consecutive home victories.

The Colts win if: They can slow down the Patriots running game.  The Colts are 29th in the NFL against the rush and you know how Belichick likes to exploit weaknesses.  The Colts will have to sure up their run defense to beat New England.

The Patriots win if: They can keep the Colts passing game in check.  Injuries may have hindered some of the Indianapolis explosiveness, but New England’s young defense is ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass. 

Who do I like: Patriots 34-30

Why: This should be a real shootout.  I don’t like either defense to stop the opposing offense for any length of time.  Ultimately, I think the Patriots will rely on more healthy weapons on offense, a better playmaking defense and the home field advantage to get the victory.

How do you see this game playing out?  Will my Pats pick come through or do you see the Colts pulling it out on rival turf?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: cho_kettie

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Here in NFL week 10 it is quite clear that the three biggest games all take place in the evening – the spectacular Ravens-Falcons matchup on Thursday night, New England invading Pittsburgh on Sunday night and the Eagles visiting the Redskins on Monday night.  When the Patriots battle the Steelers the winner will have immediate control of the AFC.

Expected to be among the most productive offenses in the NFL, the Patriots have often struggled with the ball.  They come into this game with the 15th ranked running game (not a surprise) and the 17th ranked passing game (definitely a surprise) in the NFL.  They also suffered a shocking loss in Cleveland last Sunday.  Peyton Hillis gouged the New England defense, running for 184 yards on 29 carries.  The Browns D also held the Patriots in check, allowing only 68 yards on 20 carries and limiting Tom Brady to 224 yards and 19 completions on 36 attempts.

Ben Roethlisberger throwing

To win the Patriots will have to beat on Ben Roethlisberger

After the way the Steelers played the first four games without Ben Roethlisberger, I though his addition would lead to them destroying every team they faced.  That has not been the case at all.  They’ve played well enough to win three out of four and they do have the number one rushing defense in the NFL by a wide margin, but two of those three wins were one score margins with one being the controversial victory over Miami.  They have let up quite a few passing yards in their last three games when you factor out the sack yardage – 248 to Cincinnati, 305 to New Orleans and 257 to the now benched Chad Henne and Miami.

The Patriots win if: They blitz early and often and get to Roethlisberger.  New England is way down the NFL sacks ranks with only 13, but they need to get to Big Ben.  If they don’t he will pick them apart.

The Steelers win if: They keep the Patriots passing game in front of them and brutalize the receivers after they catch the ball.  New England does not have an established deep threat and Brady is being forced to dink and dunk his way to the end zone.  He doesn’t mind that, but the receivers will if they get lit up every time they touch the ball.

Who do I like: Steelers 23-13

Why: I think Pittsburgh is a much better team than New England and you can bet Heinz Field is going to be rocking on Sunday night.  I think Belichick will fix some of the deficiencies in the run defense but I expect Rashard Mendenhall to still get some big yardage.  I don’t think the Patriots will get enough of a pass rush to knock Roethlisberger off his game.  The Steelers will be hitting the New England receivers hard and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a ball or two or three bounce out of a receiver’s hands and right to Troy Polamalu.

What are your thoughts on this big matchup?  Do you agree with me that the Steelers will win or do you see the Patriots pulling off the upset?

Photo source: SteelCityHobbies

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The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.  Most often, the teams with the best quarterbacks are the teams that have the best records.  This is especially true in today’s pass happy NFL.  In the past couple of decades it has been a very rare occasion that a team without a star quarterback has won the Super Bowl.

Lombardi Trophies

You need a great QB to win one of these

So at the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season what teams have gotten the most out of the quarterback position?

  1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
    Without much run support and with an average offensive line at best, Manning has led the Colts to a 5-2 record while throwing 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions.  He’s also made the most of an injury-plagued receiving corps.  Even though he may have lost a tick he’s still the elite quarterback in the NFL.
  2. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
    Although he’s not one of my favorites, Rivers deserves his props.  While his team has struggled to a 3-5 start he’s been steady, leading the NFL with an average of 331 yards passing per game.  Like Manning, he’s had to deal with a receiving corps that’s been decimated by injury.  Still, he’s put up the third best quarterback rating (98.9) in the NFL through the first eight weeks.
  3. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
    Orton’s been nothing less than spectacular for the Broncos.  He’s second to Rivers in averaging 314 yards per game.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only five interceptions against defenses that have not had to respect the Denver running game at all.
  4. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
    Efficiency is the key for Brady.  He’s completed 65% of his passes.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  But, he’s averaging only 229 yards passing per game.  Maybe most importantly though he’s led New England to the best record in the NFL.
  5. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
    He’s thrown a frightening 11 interceptions but Brees has also completed 71% of his passes and has thrown a league leading 16 touchdowns while trying to make up for the loss of the Saints top two running backs.
  6. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
    Ryan’s quiet consistency has been a key to Atlanta’s 5-2 start.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62% of his passes for an average of 245 yards per game.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb
    Combined Vick and Kolb have thrown for 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  They’ve completed nearly 63% of their passes.  Two of the Eagles three losses have come when one of the quarterbacks were knocked out of the game.  With two quarterbacks with such differing skill sets as Vick and Kolb it is hard to adjust the game plan on the fly if one has to substitute for the other.
  8. Tennessee Titans – Vince Young and Kerry Collins
    The Titans have not exactly been racking up the yards through the air.  They rank 24th in the NFL at 187.6 yards passing per game.  But Young and Collins have combined for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while helping Tennessee start the season at 5-3.
  9. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
    Schaub has been steady but not spectacular and has not matched up to his 2009 season.  He’s completing 63% of his passes but only has 10 touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
  10. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
    Playing against top competition gets Flacco the benefit of the doubt.  His numbers are just okay – 59% completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions and 236 yards passing per game.
  11. New York Giants – Eli Manning
    His 11 interceptions send off sirens, but in fairness to Manning many of them went through his receivers hands or were tipped.  Otherwise, he’s completing an excellent 66% of his passes while throwing 14 touchdowns and averaging 255 yards per game.
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson
    Freeman has a very impressive six 4th quarter comebacks in just 16 starts, including two in a row.  He’s only thrown three interceptions to eight touchdowns while leading the Bucs to a 5-2 record.
  13. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
    He hasn’t lost games for the Chiefs but he really hasn’t won games for them either.  He does have a respectable 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.  He’s only completing 59% of his passes though while throwing for 171 yards per game.
  14. Detroit Lions – Shaun Hill, Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton
    The trio has combined for 14 touchdowns and an average of more than 250 yards per game.  To the negative they’ve thrown nine interceptions.
  15. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
    It’s hard to believe that Rodgers could be this low but he’s thrown nine interceptions to only 12 touchdowns while completing 61% of his passes for an average of 251 yards per game.
  16. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
    He was pretty atrocious early on but Palmer has rallied some through the middle of the season.  He has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon
    Roethlisberger’s four game suspension necessitated the starts for Batch and Dixon.  Roethlisberger has played quite well but their production at the position in the first four games was putrid.
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard, Todd Bouman, Trent Edwards and Luke McCown
    This foursome has thrown 15 touchdowns while completing nearly 64% of their passes.  The key contributor of course has been Garrard who has completed 68% of his passes for 13 touchdowns.  But his interceptions are high (7) and his yards per game are low (157).
  19. Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne
    As he continues to find his rhythm with Brandon Marshall, Henne is developing into a solid NFL quarterback.  He’s completed 63% of his passes for an average of 238 yards per game.  Interceptions have been his achilles heel.  He has seven, compared to eight touchdowns.
  20. New York Jets – Mark Sanchez
    He’s a polarizing figure among NFL talking heads and Sanchez has probably seen more ups and downs than any other quarterback in the league.  His nine touchdowns to four interceptions ratio is good but he’s only completed 53% of his throws for an average of 194 yards per game.
  21. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford
    As I’ve written before, one thing is for sure, when he actually has some weapons Bradford is going to be nasty.  The fact that he’s led the Rams to four wins in eight games counts for a lot.  He’s already thrown 11 touchdowns.  His eight interceptions are not good nor is his 59% completion percentage.  However, much of that can be put on that receiving corps.
  22. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards
    There’s a lot to like about Fitzpatrick.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions.  He’s completed 60% of his passes for 240 yards per game.  But the outings of Edwards have to count here and so does the Bills 0-7 record.
  23. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo and Jon Kitna
    Maybe this isn’t fair to Romo.  After all he did complete nearly 70% of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns and had numerous drops by receivers.  But Romo also threw some critical interceptions, Kitna has been less than mediocre and the Cowboys are 1-6.
  24. Oakland Raiders – Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski
    Campbell and Gradkowski have combined to throw 10 touchdowns and average 197.5 passing yards per game.  Their interceptions are high (8) and their completion percentage is low (54.8) but they have led the Raiders to four wins.
  25. Washington Redskins – Donovan McNabb
    It pains me to put McNabb this low but the stats are the stats.  He’s only completing 57% of his passes and has thrown eight interception to seven touchdowns.
  26. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith, Troy Smith and David Carr
    Across the pond the 49ers got a good performance from Troy Smith.  Alex Smith has been mediocre at best, completing 59% of his throws for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Carr was predictably awful in a short relief stint.
  27. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
    The Seahawks are 4-3 but Hasselbeck has played predominantly poorly.  He’s completed only 57% of his passes.  He also has seven interceptions to just six touchdowns.
  28. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson
    It’s hard to believe Favre is the same guy who threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last season.  He’s already thrown 11 interceptions through seven games with only seven touchdowns.
  29. Cleveland Browns – Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme
    I’ve been saying this for years – Delhomme is just plain awful.  Wallace has been decent and McCoy has been okay in managing games.
  30. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler and Todd Collins
    Collins set quarterback play back centuries in just one game.  Cutler has been brutalized but is completing 61% of his passes and averaging 247 yards through the air per game.  He’s evened up at seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  31. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Anderson and Max Hall
    These two have been atrocious.  They’ve combined to complete less than 53% of their passes and have thrown 12 interceptions with five touchdowns.
  32. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen
    After the past few years Panthers fans are used to poor performances at quarterback.  This season they are at an all time low though.  Moore and Clausen have thrown a league-worst 13 interceptions and have completed 52.2% of their passes, also worst in the NFL. 

What do you think of my list?  Who would you rank higher and who would you rank lower?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: daveynin

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With three solid playoff contenders and quality skill players everywhere you look, the AFC East should be a fun division to watch in the upcoming NFL season.  I also happen to think that the Bills will not be as bad as many others are predicting. 

Division Winner

New England Patriots Receivers

"Moss run the fly...Welker button hook."

New England Patriots

I know the Jets are the trendy pick to win the division, conference and Super Bowl.  I can see the Jets making another run in the playoffs but I think the Patriots will win the division title.  I like Tom Brady to be fully recovered from his knee surgery.  I like Wes Welker coming back from injury and young receivers stepping up.  I like all the talent they added in the draft.  I like their front seven to pull them through on defense even though the backfield has question marks.  And as much as I can’t stand the guy, I think Bill Belichik will be ultra-motivated to return to prominence.  Plus, they can’t possibly have as many injuries this year as they had last year.

Most Valuable Player

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

The Tom Brady that so incredibly frustrates the opposition will be back in 2010.  While having a “down” year in 2009 he still ranked fifth in the AFC in quarterback rating, throwing for 28 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.  He’ll be stronger and more confident this season while working the ball to the open receiver after reading the defense perfectly.  Ugh!

Most Important Player

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

Some would say the pick here should be Darrelle Revis because of the holdout controversy.  However, I believe the contract dispute will be resolved before the season starts.  To me the real key for the Jets will be Sanchez.  He matured in the playoffs and needs to continue along that path of development.  The Jets have surrounded Sanchez with more weapons and he must improve his decision making and utilize his backs and tight ends more when the receivers are taken away.

Offensive Player of the Year

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets

The second year back from Iowa will start the 2010 season where he left off in the playoffs.  With the offense the Jets run Greene will get plenty of opportunities to show off his nice balance of power and speed. 

Defensive Player of the Year

Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots

Mayo will be the key to what I believe will be a return to excellence for the New England defense.  Playing in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, Mayo is a huge talent whose leadership and ability to play every facet of the linebacker position well are critical components of the team’s success.  After battling injuries in 2009 I expect him to have a huge year in 2010.

Top Newcomer

Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami Dolphins

After inconsistent and uninspired play from the receiving unit the past couple of years the Dolphins decided they would take it no more and went out and got one of the top five receivers in the NFL.  Marshall is a huge addition to the Miami attack and should greatly aid the development of Chad Henne.

Top Rookie

C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills

Spiller should be poised to help the Bills on offense and special teams.  With a solid backfield already in place in Buffalo (although Marshawn Lynch may still be traded), Spiller is likely to be used in third down situations.  But don’t expect that to mean he will not have the chance to be effective.  The Bills will surely use him in the short passing game and will also set him up for screens.  In addition, he’ll be another weapon in an arsenal of return specialists that will be among the most deadly in the NFL.

Most Improved

Aaron Maybin, LB, Buffalo Bills

A lot was expected from Maybin last year after the Bills took the Penn State product with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft.  The rookie defensive end struggled and didn’t record a single sack.  That will change drastically in 2010 as Maybin moves to the outside linebacker position and the Bills switch over to the 3-4 defensive alignment.  His explosiveness will make him a dangerous pass rusher coming off the edge.

Most Pressure

Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills

While he doesn’t have the pressure of competing for the division or the playoffs, this is the last shot for Edwards.  He must show that he can effectively play the quarterback position and make good decisions.  If not, he’ll be looking at a career as a backup.

Biggest Loss

Joey Porter, LB, Miami Dolphins

Porter had 26.5 sacks over the last two seasons and served as a leader on the Dolphins’ defense.  He’s certainly getting older but the Dolphins have unproven talent trying to step into his shoes in 2010.

Who do you like to top the AFC East?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: the_junes

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