The 2017 CLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLEVELAND BROWNS

Oh Cleveland. I’m so sorry.

 

For years you’ve been the butt of all the jokes in the NFL. Your mediocre at best play has resulted in exactly one playoff berth since your return to the NFL. In all honesty, it was starting to get old. I was almost looking for a new team to crap on.

 

But you guys have outdone yourselves here.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the most cursed city in football, the team that consistently puts up 5 or fewers wins almost every season, a 1-15 season in 2016 seemed to be rock bottom. For most teams, that SHOULD be rock bottom. But, in true Cleveland Browns fashion, they find a way to outdo themselves in 2017.

 

There had only been one prior 0-16 season in NFL History. The 2008 Detroit Lions lost all 16 games just one season after the 2007 New England Patriots won all 16 games. The Cleveland Browns were one Josh Lambo field goal away from achieving that in 2016, but with three first round draft picks, there was no way the Browns could screw that up, right?

Right?

Only in Cleveland…

 

To be fair, the Browns’ first round picks weren’t awful. First overall pick Myles Garrett had 7 sacks, despite a number of injuries. Tight End David Njoku caught 32 passes for 386 yards and 4 Touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Strong Safety Jabrill Peppers had 57 tackles and an interception. But, as the Browns do, the quarterback was th biggest concern for the team. Rookie QB Deshone Kizer was thrust into a starting role and did not show up very often. Throwing only 11 Touchdown Passes to 22 Interceptions, coming rather close to Peyton Manning’s rookie record for most interceptions by a rookie quarterback.

 

In reality, for an 0-16 team, the Browns didn’t play awful. Some of the games they played were actually competitive. Just, they couldn’t finish. Take a look at these scores

Week 1: Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 18

Week 2: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 10

Week 3: Indianapolis 31, Cleveland 28

Week 4: Cincinnatti 31, Cleveland 7

Week 5: New York Jets, 17, Cleveland 14

Week 6: Houston 33, Cleveland 17

Week 7: Tennessee 12, Cleveland 9 OT

Week 8: Minnesota 33, Cleveland 16

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Detroit 38, Cleveland 24

Week 11: Jacksonville 19, Cleveland 7

Week 12: Cincinnatti 30, Cleveland 16

Week 13: Los Angeles Chargers 19, Cleveland 10

Week 14: Green Bay 27, Cleveland 21 OT

Week 15: Baltimore 27, Cleveland 10

Week 16: Chicago 20, Cleveland 3

Week 17: Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 24

 

If you look at those scores, 6 of those 16 losses were decided by 7 or fewer points, two of those against the AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and another 2 were losses in overtime. Additionally the loss to Indianapolis came on a last-second field goal. So, if those one-score losses flip their way, Cleveland is a 6-10 team instead of 0-16. Still, not  great look by NFL standards, but for the Browns, that’s a successful season.

 

So, going in to 2018, the Browns have two of the top 4 picks in the 2018 draft. Many projections are saying that if the Browns keep their picks, they’ll be used on one of the quarterbacks in this draft class, Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield and UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen are two names that come to mind, and the second would likely be used on Runningback Saquon Barkley from Penn State.

 

With two Top-5 Picks, can the Browns possibly screw THIS up?

 

Following this 0-16 season, the Browns can only go up from here unless they find a way to lose the BYE week, which I wouldn’t exactly put out of the realm of possiblities, either. They would need a rather good season for head coach Hue Jackson to keep his job, where he has already earned himself an abysmal 1-31 record (.03125 win percentage). That needs to improve quickly before Jackson loses his job.

 

What do you think about the Browns next season. Will we see out first back to back 0-16 seasons? Or will Cleveland finally get its act together and put out the dumpster fire we know it as. Let me know on Twitter @ianmcusick

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Yankees Win Stanton Sweepstakes

You ever have those days where you wake up and you know the day’s going to suck?

 

Yeah. Today’s been one of those days.

 

I woke up at about 11 AM and by the time I got out of the shower, my phone blew up with notfications. Giancarlo Stanton is going to the Yankees. My reaction to this was as follows.

No God please. Anyone but the Yankees. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

 

Damn it.

 

The Yankees now have the two best hitters in baseball- Stanton and Aaron Judge. The two combined for 111 Home Runs last season and 246 RBIs. Stanton won NL MVP and Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year. In the Home Run-friendly American League East stadiums, the sheer thought of Stanton in Fenway terrifies me. The middle of this Yankee lineup includes the likes of Stanton, Judge, and Gary Sanchez, which can easily combine for at least 120 or so home runs a season, especially if 81 games are played in Yankees Stadium, one of the most hitter-friendly stadiums.

 

This news especially stings to me and Red Sox Nation because we were convinced that Stanton would consider waiving his no-trade clause to come to Boston, and not the rival Yankees.

Stanton has 10 years on his deal left, although he can opt-out after the 2020 season. He is set to make almost $300 Million in those 10 years. Should he stay in New York for all 10 of those seasons, it’s going to be a rough decade for Boston.

NFL Awards Predictions 2017

Some time ago, I wrote an article titled “Five Bold Predictions for the 2017 NFL Season”, where I made some predictions for the NFL. Well, most of those either haven’t been announced or they were flat-out wrong. One of my predictions that I made were my preseason picks for awards, such as MVP. Going into week 14 of the 2017 NFL Season, here is my updated predictions.

Most Valuable Player

Preseason Pick : Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots

Current Pick : Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots

 

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It’s pretty simple. Brady is 40 years old, and is leading the NFL in passing yards, with 3,632, tied for second in passing touchdowns, with 26, and has only thrown 4 interceptions. With 4 games left in the season, he is currently on pace to throw 4,843 yards, and 35 touchdowns. No quarterback is playing better football than the ageless wonder Tom Brady. This award is his to lose.

Other Possible Candidates: Carson Wentz (QB, PHI), Russell Wilson (QB, SEA)

Offensive Player of the Year

Preseason Pick : Tom Brady

Current Pick : Tom Brady

Tom Brady

See my previous point. Enough said.

Other Possible Candidates: Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson, Antonio Brown (WR, PIT)

Defensive Player of the Year

Preseason Pick : Landon Collins, Strong Safety, New York Giants

Current Pick : Demarcus Lawrence, Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys

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Lawrence currently leads the NFL in sacks with 13.5. He has been an absolute force on the field and has been the brightest part of a lowly Dallas Cowboys season. While this race is closer than OPOY and MVP, I expect to see Lawrence win the award this year.

Other Possible Candidates: Calais Campbell (DE, JAX), Eric Weddle (SS, BAL), Chandler Jones (OLB, ARI)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Preseason Pick: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Houston Texans

Current Pick: Alvin Kamara, Running Back, New Orleans Saints

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This one hurts to write, because this award would have absolutely gone to Watson if he didn’t tear his ACL earlier in the season. But Kamara has been incredible this season, spearheading a Saints’ run game that has never looked this good alongside Mark Ingram II. Kamara has only ran for 606 yards, but that’s because he has split carries with Ingram. Some might argue that he shouldn’t because of him splitting carries, but the 7 touchdowns speak for themselves.

Other Possible Candidates: Leonard Fournette (RB, JAX), Kareem Hunt (RB, KC), Juju Smith-Schuster (WR, PIT)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Preseason Pick : Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Cleveland Browns

Current Pick : Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, New Orleans Saints

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There have been a lot of injuries to what could have been a great defensive rookie class. Stars like Garrett and Malik Hooker have suffered injuries that have sidelined them or taken them out for the season. Amid this, Lattimore has stood out among the rest as a lockdown corner in a newly-revived Saints defense. Lattimore has been lockdown all season and I think he’s a safe bet for DROY.

Other Possible Candidates: Derek Barnett (DE, PHI), Myles Garrett, Deatrich Wise Jr. (DE, NE)

Comeback Player of the Year

Preseason Pick : JJ Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans

Current Pick : Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Chargers

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In a career riddled with injuries, Allen finally seems to be having a season where he has been healthy and is showing his true colors once again. He has caught 77 Passes for 1,032 and 5 touchdowns, and has once again returned to his dominant self.

Other Possble Candidates : Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)

Coach of the Year

Preseason Pick : Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Current Pick : Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

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The Los Angeles Rams finished 4-12 under head coach Jeff Fisher in their first season back in Los Angeles, leading to his firing. In comes Sean McVay. McVay, the youngest head coach of all time, has turned the 4-12 Rams into the currently 9-3 team we see at the top of the NFC West, and fighting for the top seed in the NFC. The Rams are currently the fourth best overall offense in the NFL and the top scoring offense. There are plenty of coaches who have shown potential for this award, but I believe McVay is the best pick.

Other Potential Candidates: Bill Belichick, Doug Pederson (PHI), Doug Marrone (JAX), Sean Payton (NO), Mike Zimmer (MIN)

 

What are your predictions for the awards this season? Let me know on Twitter @IamMCusick.

Looking back on the 2013 World Series

Being a Boston Sports fan, I’ve had a number of Championship victories that have felt particulary sweet, Super Bowls XLIX and LI come to mind, given their context. But, personally, there’s always been one that stuck out to me and New Englanders alike. The 2013 World Series.

Many New Englanders remember where they were that day. April 15, 2013. The Boston Marathon was running in its 116th annual race, and it was a flawless day. Yet hours after the event started, several explosives detonated near the finish line, killing 3 and injuring over 200. Boston was almost immediately put on lockdown, along with the surrounding cmmunities, in an attempt to find the ones who committed this heinous act.

And they were found. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were found by police, and Dzhokhar found himself arrested and in federal prison while Tamerlan was killed by police in a shootout with police. Boston rejoiced. It was over.

Several Days after everything died down, Red Sox DH and icon David Ortiz delivred his speech where he said “This is our f—ing city” and was met with the roar of tens of thousands of Red Sox fans at a packed Fenway Park.

The following clip is uncensored and does contain language that is NSFW

Fast forward to October 23, 2013. The Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals both were coming of 97-65 regular seasons, and 4-2 wins in their respective championship series against the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, to face each other in the World Series. The Red Sox had beaten the Cardinals 9 years earlier to break the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” in a 4-0 sweep of the Cardinals. On October 30, 2013, 4 years ago to the day,  the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in Game 6 of the World Series to win it 4-2, and sent a simple message to the rest of the world.

 

You can’t break Boston.

JJ Watt- True Texan

Amid the wreckage that Hurricane Harvey has brought, the storm has truly shown the good that is in the people of not only Texas, but the United States as a whole. Millions of dollars have been raised and donated by organizations, celebrities, and athletes alike, but one Houston icon took it one step further.

I shouldn’t have to introduce Justin James, or JJ, Watt. The three time defensive player of the year, four time pro bowler, and four time first team all-pro (along with a number of other awards and accolades) needs none. He’s made his presence known by fans of all 32 NFL teams. Arguable the best defensive player of this era, and without a doubt one of the best of all time at what he does, Watt makes a living terrorizing quarterbacks, and is he damn good at it.

Watt, however, is not always the animal we see on the football field. Watt is active in the communities both in Wisconsin, where he is from, and in Houston, where he plays. He’s done things such as participate in a snowball fight, which was shown on his snapchat last winter, to celebrating his elementary school teacher retiring by surprising her with a cake, to his charity, the JJ Watt Foundation, which provides for middle schools in need of sporting equipment witht he equipment they need. It has raised over $3.3 Million in several years.

Recently, with the damage that Hurricane Harvey brought to the city of Houston and the state of Texas, JJ decided to take action. On August 27 posted a video to his Twitter account (@JJ Watt) encouraging his followers to donate if they are able to. He set an initial goal of $200,000. This was met within hours. He raised it to $500,000. Several hours later, that was met as well. He raised it to $1 Million. This was also met. $2 Million, $3 Million, $5 Million, $6 Million, people continue to donate to JJ’s charity. As of right now, the campaign has raised $6,943,918 by over 70,000 people. Watt says he wants to reach $10 Million, which at this rate does not seem impossible. Watt’s foundation also set up an event at Pawaukee High School in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, which Watt attended, to donate food to be sent to the people of Houston.

Watt embodies what the NFL really is. He could’ve just made a donation and called it a day, but he shows he cares for the city through what he has done. For that,we at ProSportsFandom tip our caps to Mr. Watt and evrything he does and we strongly encourage anyone who is able to to donate at https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053.

UPDATE (8/31) – As of Thursday morning- Watt’s campaign reached the $10,000,000 goal and hit 100,000 donators. The goal is now $15,000,000.

Follow me on Twitter @IanCusickPSF

Vince Wilfork Officially Retires a Patriot

 

The Big Man Vince Wilfork has finally retired a Patriot. Wilfork played 12 seasons in the NFL, 10 of which with the Patriots, who drafted him 21st Overall in the 2004 Draft out of Miami. Wilfork saw great success during his tenure in New England, being an integral part of the Patriots teams that won Super Bowl XXXIX and Super Bowl XLIX.

 

Wilfork racked up 559 total tackles in 189 games over his 12 year career, along with 16 sacks. Wilfork also had 4 Forced Fumbles and 12 Fumble Recoveries. One of the more memorable parts of Wilfork’s career was his 3 interceptions, incredibly high for a defensive tackle.

Following the 2014-15 season, Wilfork signed with the Houston Texans. Wilfork helped cover the interior of what many considered to be one of the best defensive lines in football, where he saw limited success as a run-stuffing tackle. He didn’t put up incredible numbers in his last two seasons, but he did help the Texans win a pair of AFC South Titles.

Following the 2016 season, where Wilfork really began to show his age, rumors began to circulate that he was considering retirement, and these rumors were proven to be true in early August, where it was revealed that Wilfork will retire. His retirement was officially announced on August 7, 2017, via a video where Wilfork announced he is moving on to smoked meat, along with an announcement for a Tailgate at Gillette Stadium prior to the Patriots’ Week 1 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. He signed a 1 day contract with New England on August 9, officially retiring from the NFL.

Is Vince Wilfork a Hall of Famer? Personally, I don’t believe he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but I think it is more than possible we see #75 in Canton one day. Let me know what you think on Twitter: @Ian_Cusick

Falcons and Freeman Agree to Massive Contract Extension

The Atlanta Falcons and star RB Devonta Freeman have agreed to a contract extension, making Freeman the highest-paid RB in the NFL. Freeman signed a 5 year extension, worth $41.25 Million. $22 Million is guaranteed with this deal and it also carries a $15 Million signing bonus.

 

Freeman is entering his fourth season in the NFL, and the past two seasons has shown why he is the highest-paid back in the NFL. He has ran for 1,000 yards and 11 Touchdowns in back to back seasons. Freeman is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, where he has caught 157 passes for 1,265 yards and 6 Touchdowns.

 

Freeman was looking for a new deal prior to Super Bowl LI, but it clearly took longer than intended. With this deal finally done, the attention turns to reigning MVP Matt Ryan, who still has 2 years left on his deal, but a restructured deal would keep him locked up for longer.

LeVeon Bell

Le’Veon Bell, widely regarded as the most complete back in the NFL, could see a bigger payday than Freeman

With Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell signing a one year deal worth $12.12 Million, it’s possible that Freeman’s reign as top-paid back will not continue through the 2018-19 season, if he earns the big payday as he deserves and as is expected.

 

What do you think of this signing and who is next to receive a big payday? Let me know on Twitter @Ian_Cusick

First look at MUT 18 Ratings

EA has recently released some ratings for some of the players in the upcoming Madden NFL 18 Ultimate Team mode. This is a list of all the confirmed ratings so far. It is of note that Elite cards have been lowered from a minimum of 85 to 80 overall, thus creating a larger pool of elites in the full game.

 

Marshall Faulk (Legend) – Los Angeles Rams – RB – 89

Tom Brady – New England Patriots – QB – 90

Sean Lee – Dallas Cowboys – ROLB – 89

Terrence Newman – Minnesota Vikings – CB – 86

Marcell Dareus – Buffalo Bills – DT – 86

Anthony Munoz (Legend) – Cincinnati Bengals – LT – 91

Eric Weddle – Baltimore Ravens – SS – 90

Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals – WR – 88

Jimmy Smith – Baltimore Ravens – CB – 84

Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs – WR – 81

Cameron Jordan – New Orleans Saints – RE – 89

Olivier Vernon – New York Giants – RE – 88

Lane Johnson – Philadelphia Eagles – RT – 88

Kam Chancellor – Seattle Seahawks – SS – 88

Nate Solder – New England Patriots – LT – 84

Jonathon Cyprien – Tennessee Titans – FS – 86

Anthony Barr – Minnesota Vikings – LOLB – 81

Richard Sherman – Seattle Seahawks – CB – 89

Alex Mack – Atlanta Falcons – C – 88

David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – RB – 89

Jadeveon Clowney – Houston Texans – LE – 88

Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys – QB – 84

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Green Bay Packers – FS – 86

Kawann Short – Carolina Panthers – DT – 89

Dont’a Hightower – New England Patriots – MLB – 87

Jamie Collins Sr. – Cleveland Browns – LOLB – 85

Terrelle Pryor Sr. – Washington Redskons – WR – 84

Cris Carter (Legend) – Minnesota Vikings – WR – 91

Jurrell Casey – Tennessee Titans – RE – 87

Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys – RB – 89

Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots – TE – 90

LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles – RB – 85

Khalil Mack – Oakland Raiders – LE – 90

Jack Conklin – Tennessee Titans – RT – 88

Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants – WR – 89

Von Miller – Denver Broncos – LOLB – 90

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – New York Giants – CB – 89

Warren Moon (Legend) – Tennesse Titans – QB – 91

Ndamakong Suh – Miami Dolphins – DT – 89

These are some of the base elites and base legends available at launch, more ratings will be available on muthead.com on Monday, August 7, although it is unclear if the ratings for the GOAT Players (Tom Brady, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice, and Ray Lewis) will also be announced along with the free elite players that are received for pre ordering the game.

5 Bold Predictions for the 2017 NFL Season

1. The Cleveland Browns will actually be decent.

The Browns had a very underrated offseason. They were very quiet in free agency, but one pick that I really liked was the Kevin Zeitler signing. I’m a sucker for Wisconsin linemen, and adding another Badger to the Browns offensive line will be a big help. Where the Browns made a big splash was the draft. With 4 of the first 64 picks in the draft, Cleveland drafted Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M, 1st Overall), Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan, 25th Overall), David Njoku (TE, Miami FL, 28th Overall), and Deshone Kizer (QB, Notre Dame, 52nd Overall). I really like a lot of these picks, especially Kizer, who I believe was the third best quarterback in this draft, third only to Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, who went 10th Overall to Kansas City and 12th Overall to Houston, repectively. I expect all 4 of these rookies to have a big impact on the Browns, and I can definitely seeing them winning at least 6 or 7 games if this team plays as good as it looks on paper. Give it a few years and, dare I say, the Cleveland Browns could actually become a playoff contender.

 

2. The Patriots will lead the NFL in scoring

Let’s take a quick look at this offense:

QB: Tom Brady

RB: Mike Gillislee, James White, Dion Lewis

WR: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola

TE: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

Yeah….

I promise, this has nothing to do with my pro-Patriots bias. I legitimately think that this Patriots offense can easily average at least 30 Points per game (See my Overview of the Patriots’ Offense ). Following a 2016 season where the Patriots averaged 27.6 Points Per Game, and an offseason with the acquisition of key offensive players such as Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, and Mike Gillislee, I don’t see a reason why this team couldn’t average 30 points per game. While this entire Patriots team is very solid, this offense is terrifying.

3. Dak and Zeke won’t match their 2016 numbers

Dak and Zeke

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot will not match their 2016 numbers, but they will still put up solid numbers. It will be difficult for the pair to match their rookie seasons, and with the NFC East vastly improving, I don’t see the Cowboys having the same season as before, but they will still win the NFC East.

Dak and Zeke had an incredible rookie campaign together, but I expect the numbers to regress a bit just because the division has improved a good deal.

4. NFL Honors- Watson, Garrett win ROY Honors

It is way too early to make any of these predictions, but that’s why this is an article about bold predictions, right?

Most Valuable Player/Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Tom Brady

The Greatest of all Time has a career season with one of the top offenses in the NFL, need I say more?

Also possible candidates: Aaron Rodgers, Ezekiel Elliot, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown

Defensive Player of the Year: Landon Collins, SS, New York Giants

Landon Collins

Collins is an integral part of one of the best up and coming secondaries in the NFL. I expect 2017 to be his best season yet, and he will become one of the best defensive backs in the NFL, culminating in him being named Defensive Player of the Year.

Also possible candidates: Von Miller, Khalil Mack, JJ Watt, Deion Jones, Joey Bosa

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson was put in a good situation with Houston. All the pieces in the offense were there, but all that was lacking was a good quarterback. Watson was a solid quarterback in college, and with some weapons at his disposal in Houston, he will be dangerous as a rookie.

Also possible candidates: Patrick Mahomes II, Leonard Fournette, Corey Davis

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett

Being the first overall draft pick, Garrett has a lot of hype and a lot of expectations. He was a dominant pass rusher at Texas A&M, and he should put up big numbers in his NFL career. If he doesn’t miss a step after college, he will be a solid rookie pass rusher.

Also possible candidates: Soloman Thomas, Malik Hooker, Reuben Foster

Comeback Player of the Year: JJ Watt, DE, Houston Texans

JJ Watt

Some time ago, JJ Watt was without a doubt, the best player in the NFL. Now, he is still among the best and is for sure one of the top defensive players of all time. Early in 2016, Watt aggravated his back shortly after coming back from surgery for a hernia earlier in the year. If he returns to his former self after a disappointing 2016, he should be a clear winner for this award.

Also possible candidates: Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson, Keenan Allen

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick

The greatest head coach of all time, with one of the best teams in the NFL. If he can continue the Patriots’ dominance in 2017, he is an easy candidate for coach of the year. Although, this award can go to just about any coach and I can see a number of coaches winning this, especially a coach of a team that improves drastically in 2017.

Also possible candidates: Jack Del Rio (Oakland), Dan Quinn (Atlanta), Dirk Koetter (Tampa Bay), Jason Garrett (Dallas)

5. Brady wins his sixth

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I swear, I’m not trying to seem like I’m basing this on bias. With the additions of many key players such as Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, and Mike Gillislee, the Patriots are already favorites to win the Super Bowl. It seems a given that Brady will win the AFC East, and make it to the AFC Championship without much of an issue. With the team that has been built for Brady and company, I see no reason that the Patriots won’t repeat.

 

What are your predictions for the 2017 season? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Ian_Cusick

An Overview of the Dangerous 2017 New England Patriots Offense

Following the 2016 season, highlighted by the New England Patriot’s incredible comeback over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, it came to the surprise of just about everyone when Bill Belichick’s offseason took a complete 180° turn compared to offseasons of recent memory. This offseason, The Hooded Genius acquired a number of big-name players on both sides of the ball, including WR Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints and CB Stephon Gilmore from the Buffalo Bills. Compared to the previous offseason, where TE Martellus Bennett and DE Chris Long were acquired from the Bears and Rams, respectively, it appears that the defending Super Bowl Champions are planning on not only repeating, but perhaps going for an even more dominant season than their 2016 campaign, where the team went 14-2 with losses only to Buffalo and Seattle. The Patriots’ 2016 Offense was ranked #4 in yards and #3 in points, averaging 386.3 yards and 27.6 points per game.

The top Offensive signing by the Patriots this offseason was undoubtedly WR Brandin Cooks, who was acquired via trade with the Saints back in March. The deal sent Cooks and a fourth round draft pick (Pick 118, which was confiscated as penalty for Deflategate) to New England for a first round pick (Pick 32, used to pick OT Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)) and a third round pick (Pick 103, used to pick LB Trey Hendrickson (Florida Atlantic)). This trade was widely criticized by NFL fans everywhere, as it appeared the Saints gave the defending Super Bowl Champions a top-tier player for next to nothing. However, it is of note that this has happened several times in the past, and two situations come to mind in particular: The 2007 trade for Randy Moss and the 2011 trade for Chad Johnson. Of course, the Randy Moss trade led to a record setting 2007 season, while the Chad Johnson trade left much to be desired.

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Brandin Cooks is expected to do big things in the Patriots Offense

Cooks, 23, is one of the top young wide receivers in the NFL. Drafted 20th overall out of Oregon State by the New Orleans Saints in 2014, he has proven to be very effective as a vertical threat, Tom Brady’s first real vertical threat since the days of Randy Moss. Last season, Cooks caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards and 8 touchdowns, including one against the Raiders where he burned cornerback Sean Smith among other Raiders defensive backs for a 98 yard score. Cooks, being one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, can absolutely dominate man coverage over the top and this can lead to major gains of yardage, such as the previously mentioned touchdown. In his three-year career, he has caught 215 passes for 2,861 yards and 20 touchdowns. He will provide a great deal of talent to an already talented wide receiver core.

A lesser-name signing but one that will provide a large impact nonetheless is TE Dwayne Allen. The patriots acquired Allen via trade just days before the aforementioned Brandin Cooks trade. The Colts sent Allen and a sixth round draft pick (Pick 200, subsequently traded to Tennessee and then NY Giants, picked OT Adam Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh)) to the Patriots for the Patriot’s fourth round selection (Pick 137, picked OG Zach Banner (USC)). This trade is similar to the Martellus Bennett trade from a year prior, where the Patriots sent a fourth rounder for the tight end who acted as Gronk insurance along with a sixth round pick. Gronk has not played a full season since 2011, and in an offense where the TE is used frequently, keeping a backup for the injury-prone Gronk is essential to keep the Patriots Offense moving.

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Dwayne Allen will provide some much needed Gronk insurance at a position widely used in the Patriots Offense

Allen, 27, was drafted 64th overall out of Clemson by the Colts in 2012. In 6 seasons, he has caught 126 passes for 1,451 yards and 19 touchdowns. He saw a breakout season in 2016 where he caught 35 passes for 406 yards and 6 touchdowns. Allen proved to be a reliable target for the Colts, but following the emergence of TE Jack Doyle, it made it easier for the Colts to deal Allen away, who cost more to the Salary Cap. While he may not be a big-name signing, expect Allen to be a solid TE2 and to step up big if Gronk goes down.

Possibly the smallest of the big-name signings but arguably the most important signing overall is Mike Gillislee, the former Buffalo Bill RB. Gillislee was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 Draft, 164th overall by the Miami Dolphins. He had a rather lackluster career in Miami, with minimal usage in his rookie season and spending his second year on injured reserve, he was cut by the Dolphins in 2015, and was soon signed by the Bills, where he saw much more success. Despite being the second-string running back behind the elusive Lesean McCoy, Gillislee saw easily his best season in 2016, where he had 101 carries for 577 yards and 8 touchdowns. Gillislee led the NFL in yards per carry with 5.7, and was one of only six running backs to average more than 5 yards per carry, of those including his former teammate McCoy. Blount, the lone Patriot qualifying for the list, averaged only 3.9 yards per carry on 299 carries, putting him as the 30th most efficient running back. With a vastly improved offensive line compared to two offseasons ago, it is reasonable to think Gillislee will improve in 2017 and beyond.

The Patriots also signed RB Rex Burkhead and WR Andrew Hawkins. Burkhead, a sixth round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2013, spent his first four seasons with Cincinnati. He was primarily used in a special teams role prior to last season, where Burkhead saw more touches following Giovani Bernard going down with an injury. He rushed for 344 yards last year on 74 attempts, scoring twice. He will likely be used in a special teams role but he can also be used as a speed back role should either Dion Lewis or James White be injured. If need be, he can be effective in this offense, where receiving backs are valued.

Hawkins was an undrafted rookie out of Toledo in 2011. In his six-season career, he has played for Cincinnati and Cleveland, while seeing limited success. The Patriots signed Hawkins in late May, and he will likely be on the practice squad or see extremely limited time as a sixth-string wide receiver. Given the Patriots current WR status, it is unlikely he will be a factor on offense, if he ends up making the final roster.

After the offseason roster moves, this is what the Patriots Offense currently looks like

QB

————-

Tom Brady

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jacoby Brissett

Need I really say more? Brady is coming off a career year and both Garoppolo and Brissett showed potential should anything happen to Brady. This quarterback core is one of, if not the best in the NFL.

RB

————

Mike Gillislee

James White

Dion Lewis

Rex Burkhead (?)

Gillislee led the NFL in yards per carry last year with 5.7. James White proved his worth last season as a quality receiving back. Dion Lewis is also dangerous in open space, so long as he stays healthy, and in the event the Patriots lose Lewis, Burkhead will be an ample substitute.

FB

————-

James Develin

Glenn Gronkowski

In a league where the fullback position is dying, James Develin proves his worth by being one of the best at his position. Many of Legarrette Blount’s big runs in 2016 were made possible by key blocks by Develin.

TE

————-

Rob Gronkowski

Dwayne Allen

Matt Lengel

When Gronk is healthy, he is easily one of the best at his position. However, he hasn’t played a full season since 2011, which was statistically his best season. The offense did not look the same without Gronk, and with a healthy Gronk, this offense will dominate.

WR

————-

Brandin Cooks

Julian Edelman

Chris Hogan

Malcolm Mitchell

Danny Amendola

Andrew Hawkins (?)

The blockbuster trade for Brandin Cooks made this wide receiver core even more dangerous than it already was. Edelman, Brady’s current favorite target, just signed a two-year extension, keeping him signed through 2019 at this point, so not much will change in that regard. Chris Hogan led the NFL in yards per catch last season with 17.9 yards per catch, meaning the Patriots now have both the most efficient running back in Gillislee, and the most efficient receiver in Hogan. Interestingly, both were free agents from Buffalo. Hmmm…. Malcolm Mitchell got off to a slow start in 2016, but he showed promise about halfway through the season and got hot when it mattered. With Edelman and Amendola both aging and heading towards the end of their careers, it is reasonable to think he will be one of their replacements. Amendola, who has made many clutch plays in dire situations (See Super Bowls 51 and 49, 2014 AFC Divisonal Round, etc.) returns as likely the fifth-string wide receiver, but in an offense where Brady likes to spread the ball around, Amendola should still get a good amount of touches.

LT

————-

Nate Solder

Antonio Garcia (Rookie)

Conor McDermott (Rookie)

Solder is set to become a free agent next season. Given this most recent draft, where the Patriots drafted two left tackles, it does not appear he will be around after this year. Should he get hurt, Antonio Garcia was one of the top linemen in the nation at Troy, and Conor McDermott was also quite effective at UCLA. Chances are, Garcia will be the starter by the start of next season, if not earlier.

LG

————-

Joe Thuney

Thuney was one of the best rookie linemen last year, and that can be in part thanks to the return of Offensive Line Coach Dante Scarnecchia. Thuney played the most snaps of any Patriot last year, and there is no reason to think that he will decline in 2017.

C

—————

David Andrews

Andrews was extremely consistent in 2016. His play will continue to develop with more time spent with Coach Scarnecchia.

RG

—————

Shaq Mason

Mason was inconsistent in 2016. There were instances where he played extremely well, not letting any pressure get by him, and there were instances where he was blown off the ball. He will get the job done, but it’s possible to see the Patriots look to upgrade at this position.

RT

—————-

Marcus Cannon

Conor McDermott (?) (Rookie)

Following a disappointing 2015 season, Cannon stepped up big with the return of Scarnecchia. Cannon was one of the most improved Patriots in 2016, and 2017 should be even better for him. McDermott could also possibly play as a swing tackle, or even as a sixth lineman in certain running situation.

Looking at this offense, I don’t see any major holes. The two biggest questions regarding this offense this offseason were a potential replacement for Blount and the situation with Martellus Bennett. Both of these issues were dealt with and the new question is what happens to Nate Solder. The current starting Left Tackle is a free agent next offseason and two of the Patriots’ Draft Picks (Antonio Garcia (Troy) and Conor Mcdermott (UCLA)) both showed promise in college and are adapting well to the NFL scene. Only time will tell what the team plans to do with the aging Solder.

 

Overall, I predict this Patriots offense to tear up defenses, and to be one of the best in the NFL. Overall, I believe this offense may be better than the 2007 team. While the Brady to Moss connection might not necessarily be able to be recreated, this offense is more balanced than that 2007 squad, and Brady has never looked better. With Gronk, Cooks, Edelman, and company, who knows? Maybe Brady could break some records at 40.

tb

Tom Brady has won 5 Super Bowls, including the most recent Super Bowl 51. Could this offense help the Patriots go back to back once again?