Why the Patriots Will Still Contend in 2020

“The Dynasty has died.”

“It’s over!”

“The Patriots will return to obscurity”

“A new era is born”

These were some of the phrases I heard when the announcement was made that Patriots legend Tom Brady was leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We were hearing all of these comments that Brady’s departure marked the end to the Patriots era.

But did it?

New England went 8-0 to begin 2019. Of course, the talk wasn’t IF they’d go 16-0 but was this already the greatest team ever due to the fact the Patriots had probably their best defense under the Belichick regime. However, I brought it up one time of “well, look at their opponents they had in that span (Big Ben-less Steelers, a noncompetitive Dolphins squad, the Giants, Jets, Redskins, Bills, and Browns)-one team that made the playoffs. And look down the stretch of the final 8 teams (4 division champions from the year prior plus a future division champion (Cowboys, Eagles, Ravens, Texans, Chiefs). Well, safe to say, the 16-0 went out the window in Week 9 when the Ravens embarrassed New England. After a few nail-biting victories against Dallas and Philadelphia (where the defense held their end of the bargain as the offense struggled), back-to-back losses to the Texans and Chiefs (a game in Foxboro), and then a home loss to an upset-minded Dolphins team sunk the Patriots to 12-4 and being bounced out of a first round bye. To make matters worse, the Patriots couldn’t muster much at home to the 6th seed Tennessee Titans in the playoffs and had their first home playoff loss since 2013, and their first Wild Card loss since 2009.

Change WAS needed in New England. And it honestly had to start at quarterback.

Nobody will ever debate the greatness of Tom Brady. You are practically talking two generations where he ranked atop of the NFL quarterbacks. He faced off against the likes of Manning and Favre to start, then went to the likes of Big Ben, Brees, and Rodgers and then to Mahomes, Watson, and Jackson. But to say the Patriots would get back to win Super Bowl #7 with Brady as the guy, it was going to be far-fetched.

As I mentioned earlier, New England’s start in 2019 was nothing short of dominant. He was completing nearly 65% of his passes, and 280 yards per game and 13 TD’s with a rating of 95. Strong, solid numbers. Then the second half arrived. 57% completion rate, 225 Yards per game, and 11 TD’s with a rating of 81. To add on top, Brady in terms of ratings was the 4th best quarterback in the AFC East. Bear in mind this is a division with Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Ryan Fitzpatrick as starters.

But to me there were two tell-tale signs that made me believe Brady’s decline was sharp and probably never going to get out. 1st one was the blame game somewhat. Brady didn’t necessarily throw any one under the bus, but the constant “well, I don’t know the guys too well on offense” kinda got tiring. He’s never been one that singled any one out or any group of teammates out as he was always willing to take the blame, and which made me respect the daylights out of him. It seemed like that shifted and the offense just wasn’t “together” down the stretch.

2nd reason why I thought Brady’s decline was sharp was looking in those final weeks, even in the Buffalo win, Brady wasn’t hitting the targets like he used to. I don’t mean the receivers didn’t have a shot to catch it, but Brady in the past could throw it on a dime with ease. But seeing the Buffalo game, he was throwing it at times ahead of the receiver, behind the receiver, or a little short. “Well, maybe the receivers are some of the roughest he’s had.” I didn’t realize Julian Edelman (who actually had a career year in 2019) all of a sudden became a liability. And given how Brady won with the likes of Branch, Givens, Patten, and Brown early on, I don’t buy into it. Nothing against those guys as I thought those receivers in the past were GREAT for the Patriots, they weren’t going to the Hall of Fame. But to me watching that playoff game against Tennessee was a bit heartbreaking because Brady didn’t look anything like his legendary self in that game. Same thing: he was missing his mark on his targets (yes, some should have been caught still but he was still off a bit) and he looked like a 42-year old quarterback. So for me, I sensed it would be Brady’s last game in Foxboro as a Patriot. Not even he would survive Belichick’s Patriot way in the end.

So, Brady is gone. To replace Brady is…Jarrett Stidham. And people have gone bonkers at New England for not signing a quarterback in the off-season, whether that was Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Philip Rivers, etc. and then not drafting a quarterback in the draft. So the Patriots are relying on a 4th round QB and a quarterback not named Brady or Bledsoe to carry them to start a season since 1992 (2008 notwithstanding when Brady was injured Week 1). But remember, Brady was a 7th rounder…

So why do I think the Patriots will still be pretty good aside from Brady leaving?

Hightower has been one of the key reasons why the defense is so good in New England

DEFENSE: New England finished tops in the NFL in total defense in 2019. They stifled squads all across the NFL (only team to really “get” the Patriots was Baltimore last season, but then again, get in line). They have Stephon Gilmore who may be the best shutdown corner in the league right now and the residing Defensive Player of the Year. Dont’a Hightower is as steady as they come at linebacker. Devin McCourty is a solid safety at the very least. There will admittedly be questions around Hightower notably as linebackers Jamie Collins (Lions), and Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins) are gone, but it always seems like the Patriots have plugged in guys to fit their system and they become stars. And to add on, most Patriots who flee elsewhere have often struggled. But overall the key cogs are there.

Michel started to get in a small groove when no one was paying attention

RUNNING GAME: This sounds very funny given how the Patriots massively struggled running the ball in 2019. However, Belichick and Josh McDaniels never really gave up on it despite the struggles. They were top 10 in the league in rushing attempts. AND their running game in the second half finished on a positive note (over 130 yards per game in 4 of their last 5 regular season games). And Sony Michel, who was pretty much maligned (and didn’t have a 100-yard game in 2019) did average 4.5 yards per carry in 5 of the last 8 games (and over 4 yards per carry in two more). So I think many are not giving this much serious consideration especially when you are seeing the NFL going back to more running. This will bode well for the Patriots in 2020.

FOXBORO MA. – SEPTEMBER 8:New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick makes notes on the sidelines during the first quarter of the season opener at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Foxboro, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BILL BELICHICK: Here’s going to be the debate that I think the casual sports fan wants answered: who was the primary reason for New England’s success from 2001-2019: Brady or Belichick? Me personally, it can’t be said anymore as Brady is on the decline and if it shows in Tampa it is an unfair answer either way. But I’m reminded of the Patriots in 2008 without Brady. Yes, New England didn’t make the playoffs, but with an 11-5 record. Most teams make the playoffs at 10-6 or even 9-7. Backup QB Matt Cassel had a Pro-Bowl year with Brady on the shelf and the offense didn’t miss a beat. We can say a lot about Belichick and whatever underhand tactics he does, but he is still a brilliant coach who gets a lot out of his players. To me, the Patriots are a team that has never been “all about Brady.” I think we will see that in 2020.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: With the Patriots losing Brady and falling off like they did in 2019, the favorites in the AFC are the Chiefs and Ravens. The Chiefs obviously with Patrick Mahomes and being the defending Super Bowl Champions and the Ravens with MVP Lamar Jackson, their running game, and their stout defense. Heck, people are really eyeballing Buffalo as a sleeper Super Bowl contender and Tennessee being a force in the AFC South. Compile that with NFC contenders New Orleans and San Francisco, the Patriots are definitely not one people will be eyeballing as a championship contender. Most of the time, the Patriots have been the favorites but here & there we’ve seen New England as “afterthoughts” like 2001, 2011, and 2014. But if you sit back on a team that is still good like New England, you could still see them play late games in January because they are a team that will have something to prove.

Where do I see the Patriots in 2020? I can envision them as a team being 10-6. Honestly they look to be a mirror image of what the Buffalo Bills are: a team that relies on defense and tries to emphasize on the run. And now hopefully having a quarterback that makes mistake-free plays. I don’t see New England being 7-9 or 6-10 with that defense and Belichick calling the shots. People have mistakenly viewed New England as a one-man show with Brady and that is definitely not the case. So in other words: don’t ever count the Patriots out.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Why the Patriots Need to Keep (and Move On From) Tom Brady

For the first time in a decade, the AFC Divisional Playoff is void of the team from Foxboro. The New England Patriots incredible run ended with a lackluster performance against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round.

Aside from the rest of America celebrating outside the New England region, there was one key storyline afterwards: “Is that the final game for Tom Brady, at least in New England?”

It is hard to fathom but Brady, who was probably the best quarterback in the NFL in probably TWO eras, may end up looking around for a job come March.

If the Patriots are dumb enough to allow him to do so.

Nobody will doubt Brady’s greatness and the greatest quarterback ever moniker. We can say a lot about Brady with Deflategate and whatnot but the guy has performed at a level for almost 20 years in the NFL.

That said, Father Time has *finally* caught up with Tom Brady. We should have been somewhat forewarned even in last year’s Super Bowl when Brady only mustered 13 points despite the win over the Rams for his sixth ring. The accuracy was off and made questionable passes. Still, we overlooked it in part because the Rams had a stout defense and well, he is Tom Brady.

For the first half of the 2019 season, Brady looked similar to his old self, completing 65% of his passes, 13 TD, 4 INT and a QBR of a 95. Not the MVP numbers but he was doing his thing. Adding on top of things, New England was 8-0 and rolling especially on defense to the point many were penning the Pats going 16-0 en route to their 7th Super Bowl ring. I pointed out once New England’s schedule was pertty weak until that point (Jets twice, Redskins, Browns, and a weak Dolphins team in disarray), but people shrugged it off saying “well, it’s still the Patriots. They will beat the better teams when needed”

Then the second half arrived. New England had to go through foes of Baltimore, Kansas City, Houston, etc. And New England went 4-4 including a home loss to the same Dolphins team who they beat 43-0. And Brady in the second half? 57% completion pct, 11 TD, 4 INT and QBR of 80. In a run of five games (against the Cowboys, Bengals, Eagles, Chiefs and Texans) he barely completed 50% of his passes and had a QBR of 75. In that same time period Sam Darnold put up better numbers and had a 96 QBR. And if you really want to get technical, Darnold in the second half of the season outperformed Brady.

What was more alarming about Brady was the missing of open receivers and zeroing in too much perhaps on his favorite targets Julian Edelman & James White. Furthering problems was the Patriots run game disappeared as Sony Michel had a sophomore slump making New England VERY one dimensional. The playoff game against the Titans showed how much Brady was no longer the guy we deemed to be the GOAT but more of a game manager at best when he is on. However, he wasn’t on. Short screen passes, quick passes, and other key passes were missed. This wasn’t the Brady we knew that could make plays on a dime when absolutely needed. Yes, Brady’s impact on the game is non-existent.

WITH ALL OF THAT SAID…the Patriots need to keep Brady for 2020 if Brady is still inclined to play. The numbers may have been misleading to an extent with the halves, but Brady still threw for 4,000 yards and was not a turnover prone machine even when he was off. And New England needs to find their next quarterback in the draft. Jacob Eason? Jake Fromm? Those two seem to have similar styles to Brady when Brady was at a higher level. But Brady, for as much as he wants to play until he is 50, needs to understand he is finally on the decline of his career and maybe the adjustment from being “elite” to a “mentor” will be tough for him.

Brady may have one solid season left in him, but that is about the highest fans or even Brady can expect. The transition for New England to get another QB has arrived. Letting Brady go would be a bad idea as we know what happens with teams missing that stability at quarterback (Cleveland?) but at the same time, the Patriots need to look towards the future and find their future franchise guy. If they let Brady go and draft a rookie, fine but New England isn’t one to throw a rookie into the mix Week 1. Brady needs to stay and remain the starter. But for only one more year. The decline is finally real for Brady and the Patriots can’t afford to keep him, but can’t let him go right away either.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Is There Anybody in the AFC That Will Challenge the Patriots?

So the Patriots went to another Super Bowl.

Ho hum.

New England has gone to four of the last five big games, winning three of those four. Two of their wins were come-from-behind wins and the last one was a defensive standout game (albeit a bit dull and boring by most people, but New England won’t apologize for it, nor shouldn’t).

In a year where the Patriots probably showed more holes and some question marks (i.e. struggles on the road, injury, not as stout in the passing game, defense, etc.), they still won the AFC.

Taking absolutely nothing away from New England as they have dominated the AFC for really the last 18 years, the conference is in a bit of a lull in terms of competition. Yes, you can’t fault the Patriots for that because, hey, they are winning games and are still doing all things necessary to win. The rest of the conference in the past 3-4 years (and some for longer) have been unable to get out of their own way sometimes, notably the Patriots AFC East Division foes Dolphins, Bills, and Jets.

With the season over and of course there will be changes around with all of the teams but I guess I’m calling it the “way too early” post of teams who could possibly end New England’s reign (though it may be when Brady and/or Belichick ride off into the sunset). But for the near future in 2019, is there anybody who can do it soon?

LIKELY CONTENDERS:

Oct 14, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: The Chiefs took New England to the wire twice in 2018. First was a regular season tilt where Kansas City nearly won in Foxboro in a classic game where both teams went back and forth and then again in the AFC Championship where the Patriots kept Brady from practically being touched by the Chiefs pass rush. Early odds have Kansas City being the favorites to win Super Bowl XLIV next year with MVP Patrick Mahomes running the show. However, the Chiefs need to address the running game and defense to have a legit shot. The defense is what kept Kansas City from going to Atlanta as the pass rush (maybe the lone strength the Chiefs had on defense) went AWOL against the Patriots thus being easily exposed by Tom Brady. Kansas City has a great shot, but needs to make the necessary changes, notably on defense (improving the secondary for example) if they want to claim dominance.

Chargers could take it from the Patriots-if they could keep their poise.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: The Patriots drubbed the Chargers in the AFC Divisional. The Chargers are one of two teams that to me are the most balanced in the AFC and could be more of a legit threat than Kansas City. They have a great passing game led by Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen, running game with Melvin Gordon, and a good blend on defense with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Derwin James, etc. However, the Chargers are somewhat of that team that plays in rhythm. If they are poised and in control, they look like the best team-in the NFL. But if they are getting frustrated or angry, they look like a top 10 draft pick team. And that falls on Philip Rivers. He was an MVP candidate this year, but he’s that guy, similar to Cam Newton, when things go south, he’s more of a liability than an asset (but in a different way-Cam is on another planet while Rivers will blame everything on this planet if things go awry; either way, still bad). If the Chargers are to move forward, they have to grow up a bit, which concerns me with a veteran quarterback with Rivers.

Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws a pass while pressured by New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers (98) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON TEXANS: I mentioned there were two balanced teams in the AFC that could really be an advantage against the Patriots. The Chargers were one and the Texans are the other. Deshaun Watson is a stud and has proved it all year while DeAndre Hopkins currently would be a top 3 WR in the NFL (maybe even the best to some). The running game with Watson and Lamar Miller (when healthy) gives defenses headaches. And the defense has JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and others. But the secondary was exposed against Indianapolis in the playoffs and Johnathan Joseph is no spring chicken anymore. And against the Patriots if you don’t have a top notch secondary, you may as well kiss it goodbye. However, it seems like Houston will be addressing it big time in the off-season, but free agency is as much of a crap shoot than even the draft these days.

IF THINGS GO THEIR WAY…..

Jackson’s improvement as a passer must happen.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: Baltimore will always have a defense that is near the top and are the one team that gives the Patriots fits in January the most (the Ravens have two wins at Foxboro in the playoffs-2009, 2012). They have an aggressive defense and plays physical with the Patriots receivers and such. And in a playoff game, assuming Baltimore and New England play each other, it is always a problem for Brady and Company. However, the offense is not always up to snuff with the Ravens. Lamar Jackson takes over for Joe Flacco and while Jackson was a rookie last year, he really struggled passing at times. He should get better, but he will have to at least be reliable and consistent to have a chance against Brady. Even Blake Bortles, when he played last year, had a solid game and really kept the Jaguars in the AFC Championship. But it will all be about Jackson if the Ravens want to dethrone the Patriots.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The Colts were the Cinderella of the NFL in 2018. Nobody penned Indy to be a legit threat and honestly they were the hottest team heading into the playoffs. Andrew Luck came back from a year off with his shoulder and looked like the Luck of old. Marlon Mack could be a top running back in the NFL given how he plays while TY Hilton showed he was a top tier receiver. But it was the defense that the Colts made leaps and bounds with Darius Leonard, Denico Autry, and Malik Hooker. So they are one of the more balanced teams heading into 2019 and could be a major threat. However what does scare me is Luck. Can he remain healthy? In the Colts loss against Kansas City, Luck’s arm looked dead and he probably had the worst game of his career that day. But if Luck isn’t durable, while I think the moves Indianapolis made in the off-season last year could help them win games without Luck (defense), it wouldn’t be near enough.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: Wait, what? The Browns????? Yup! Cleveland went 7-8-1 last year in one of the better turnarounds in NFL history. They also rid themselves of Hue Jackson who had no business being a head coach. And here’s the big thing: had the Browns not have a few bad breaks go their way, this team could easily be (and I’m not kidding) 12-4 last year. Mishaps against the Steelers in Week 1, Saints in Week 2, Raiders (especially that game), Buccaneers, and the Ravens in the last week were all games they could have won late. The defense is very strong and will be a force next year. The running game with Nick Chubb will be hard to handle, and Baker Mayfield is the right guy for the Browns at quarterback. The only two things that will keep Cleveland from at least this season taking down New England (never dreamed of thinking this with the Browns and Patriots) is injury to key players and the experience level.

NICE TRY BUT….

Tennessee smacked New England 34-10 in 2018, but Mariota needs to stay on the field if the Titans want to seriously compete

TENNESSEE TITANS: The Titans sit here even though they embarrassed the Patriots in Nashville this past season. Mike Vrabel, a former Patriot himself is trying to establish what New England has in Tennessee. It is always hard and it will never be as good as the original. However, Marcus Mariota needs to stay healthy. That has been the issue. They have tried to supply Mariota with the weapons but what good is it when your franchise quarterback is on the sideline? Derrick Henry had a beast of a run near the end of the season so they were a run oriented team and the defense is solid, but young. Again, in this league, you need your franchise quarterback to be consistent and be out on the field, and that is what is killing the Titans from advancing.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Why are the Steelers way down here? Simple: too much uncertainty in the Steel City. The team has a lot of issues in that locker room but also the Steel Curtain it isn’t anymore on defense. Le’Veon Bell is likely gone. Antonio Brown is likely gone too. Though it may be addition by subtraction, there seems to be other issues going on and Ben Roethlisberger, it does’t seem like he’s that team leader that people make him out to be anymore. Honestly, they may need to reconsider rebuilding at this point, at least on the offensive side. But who knows? If you remove cancers from your locker room you may get better.

PRETENDERS

Denver has taken down Brady a few times, but has a long way to go before they can get back to that level

DENVER BRONCOS: Denver has Von Miller. Great defensive player, but when the team is falling to 6-10 and not really being competitive, you really get forgotten. And the Broncos while getting Phillip Lindsay as a steal in the rookie free agent pool (only Denver can do that), have issues on offense. Case Keenum looked like Case Keenum every year besides 2017 (i.e. backup QB at best) and John Elway has come under major fire for his poor personnel moves. While the hire of Vic Fangio I think was a good one, there are still plenty of questions Denver needs to address.

BUFFALO BILLS: Josh Allen is a long way away from being a competitive quarterback. And the team lacks talent or so we think. But somehow, Sean McDermott (whenever he was not throwing in Nathan Peterman at quarterback) muster wins for a team who could be 3-13 on a yearly basis. However, if they can make the right moves and give Allen weapons, they can be on the way up. Just not now.

BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR…OR TWO…OR THREE…

Cincinnati missed their chance a long time ago.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: People like to poo poo on Andy Dalton for not being elite. Yep. However, the minute Andy Dalton got injured last year Cincinnati crashed and burned. The defense had major issues. The running game was a mess. And it was just bad the rest of the way for the Bengals. Marvin Lewis is finally out as head coach and the Bengals hope to catch lightning in a bottle with Zac Taylor, as he was the Rams QB coach (and a youngster like his boss in Sean McVay). But it may be a while before Cincinnati is remotely close to being competitive.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: The Dolphins are going to be rebuilding and likely be a team with numerous players coming in, most of whom are not major pieces to improve their team. It may be a long and lengthy rebuild.

RAIDERS: More of the question is where do the Raiders play in 2019 than anything (Oakland, Santa Clara, Phoenix, San Diego, Birmingham, AL????). The Raiders are just rebuilding for their brand to Las Vegas so nothing in the foreseeable future for the Men in Black.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: What a difference a year makes. The Jags were the team people pointed out (and me too) of having a defense legit to win a Super Bowl. And maybe Blake Bortles had turned the page. And then they beat the Patriots early in the season. And then they quit. Bortles went back to being Bortles of old, and the Jags defense was inconsistent throughout. And players seem to be griping and having the issue of effort. It may have to be some retooling over the next season or two before they are a threat for anything.

NEW YORK JETS: The Jets still have far more questions than answers all over the place. Sam Darnold is the future for the team, but he will have to make major steps forward for Jets fans to have hope. But he will also need help on offense which he doesn’t have. It may be a good while before the Jets are even considered a contender.

So right now you have three teams, maybe four who can be a thorn into the Patriots dynasty. But will take nearly perfection for those teams to beat the Patriots who are seemingly always one step ahead. Aside from that, we could very likely see New England in Miami next February once again going for that 7th trophy.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed Super Bowl Preview

It is almost here. Just a few days left and Super Bowl LIII kicks off in Atlanta.

Everything looks like it is coming full circle. The Patriots dynasty began somewhat in a Cinderella mode back 17 years ago when they brought down the heavily favored Rams with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt doing the Greatest Show on Turf scheme having a young quarterback that many felt was in over his head by the name of Tom Brady. Now we are seeing the Rams and the Patriots once again. This time the roles have changed. The Patriots have been the dynasty, winning five Super Bowls and Brady is considered the greatest of all time (no argument here) as his career is winding down. The Rams are the team looking to be that next dynasty as it is a young group with a young quarterback in Jared Goff paired up with a young head coach in Sean McVay. So, who takes home the bacon? Do the Patriots hoist trophy #6 cementing their legacy as the greatest franchise in the modern NFL era? Or do the Rams win one in their third year back in Los Angeles?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS VS. LOS ANGELES RAMS, 6:30, CBS

PATRIOTS WIN IF:

Brady was nowhere near under pressure against the Chiefs

THEY KEEP PROTECTING BRADY: Kansas City had the top pass rushing group in the NFL in 2018. But if you were able to get the ball out quickly, you didn’t have too many problems. Well, the Patriots really hashed out and protected Brady to the point he was rarely touched by any Chiefs pass rusher. To me that was the most impressive thing I saw out of their win in the AFC Championship. The Rams have beasts on the line notably in the middle with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh while having great edge rushers. To add on, the Rams secondary is one of the best when they are zeroed in and focused. So for Brady to be successful, he can’t be rushed or the Rams will make them pay, even if it is Brady.

THEY ESTABLISH A RUNNING GAME TO KEEP THE RAMS HONEST: The Rams made New Orleans one-dimensional (which when the Saints lose, is the reason why) and forced Brees to pass a bit and he looked worn out. They kept Ingram and Kamara from doing anything running the ball. James White and Sony Michel both will be key in whether New England has success on offense or whether the Rams can frustrate them and give the ball to Goff & Co.

THEY WIN THE TIME OF POSSESSION BATTLE: We think of the Patriots as a team with this high powered offense. And their offense can be that way. However, this team feels different in the sense of they are making long drives, wearing teams down, and making play after play on third down. It is what is breaking teams backs in the playoffs the last few seasons (Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Kansas City). The Patriots will do anything and everything to keep the Rams offense on the sidelines. And they will certainly try.

RAMS WIN IF:

THEY GET GURLEY AND CJ ANDERSON GOING: The biggest mystery in New Orleans before the “no-call” was why Todd Gurley wasn’t in the game. It sounded like he was fine, but CJ Anderson was the go-to guy evidently. It worked on the Saints who missed Sheldon Rankins in that game for CJ Anderson. But the Rams will have to put a steady dose of Gurley here in order for them to come out on top, which means also win the time of possession battle in the game.

SEAN MCVAY IS SEAN MCVAY: The guy is 33 years old and is already known as a genius of the game. He’s that one guy that I think at times can get overly aggressive, but I can see why at the same point. But he is also a guy who knows what buttons to press at what time. I thought he out-coached Sean Payton and it was a key reason why the Rams beat the Saints. People got mad at him for not going for it on 4th and 1, but I thought it was the correct idea and trust his defense. But he needs to be aggressive at the right time, use trickery at the right time, and such. It worked for Doug Pederson last year.

THE DEFENSE IS COMPOSED: McVay did a momentum-swinging fake punt against the Saints. It was perfect because while the Rams stopped New Orleans from getting up 21-0 to 13-0, New Orleans had no trouble moving the ball on them. And you started to sense the Rams were losing their cool and patience. The minute that fake happened and the Rams scored, it got the defense back on track. They can’t let Brady get into their heads otherwise if he is on a roll. They have to play their game with that composure or Brady will tear them apart.

PREDICTION: Honestly, I will probably change this 25 times before Sunday evening. The Rams to me are the better all-around team. But should you EVER doubt Tom Brady? I get it, he has lost 3 games in the Super Bowl, but he is still clutch when he needs to be. IF the Rams get stops on defense and keep moving the chains, then advantage Los Angeles. It will also be dependent if Goff continues to play mistake-free football as well. Can he handle that pressure? He won in a loudhouse 2 weeks ago in New Orleans but it wasn’t easy. He’ll be in Atlanta where it seems like the majority of the fans will be Patriots fans that will pack the stadium. So we will see. My take is he is not yet there. But I think McVay will have a few tricks up his sleeve Sunday to make this a game that will be decided VERY late. But I like the Patriots here because of that experience and ability to play big in key situations. PATRIOTS 35, RAMS 31

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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It is No Debate Anymore: Tom Brady is the Best Ever

For me, I don’t often get into the belief of who is the greatest ever. Yes, I know my friends will argue that I will side with Michael Jordan over LeBron James in that debate, which is true. But I can see why people point to LeBron as the best ever.

To me though, what makes debates of it so hard is the fact of the eras of the game. I felt like Jordan is the best ever because of the fact that if he went into the lane in the late 80’s/early 90’s against the Bad Boy Pistons or the New York Knicks he would be mugged and not get the foul. Now if somebody touches LeBron as he drives, it is a foul and if somebody goes Bad Boy Pistons on him, automatic ejection. So I don’t know if LeBron could do some of the things he can do now, but that’s neither here nor there (now disclaimer: I do think LeBron is one of the greatest ever so don’t say I’m “hating” him).

Now we are talking today about Tom Brady. People who do not like Tom Brady really point to 4 years ago when he got “caught” with under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship vs. Indianapolis. So we now hear the whole “Tom Brady is a cheater!” Argument. Yes, I like to have fun with that myself about the deflated footballs bit with him, but honestly, if we go back to where people in sports have cheated in some manner, we could probably write a book. And secondly, what I always laughed at about the argument was Brady was not doing well with the deflated footballs in that game (remember he threw a interception with one) and then in the second half with regulation footballs destroyed the Colts.

The argument is that people with that incident feel like he cheated to get on top of the football world. Therefore we should go back to the default method of Joe Montana being the greatest of all time or Peyton Manning, or whoever. Again, we are talking about an incident, but to think that defensive players have chances at making interceptions over the years on him or whatever, well, maybe they could have shown they caught a deflated ball.

But to me, there was some lingering doubt with Brady being the greatest of all time, at least at quarterback. And then I saw the Chiefs game.

Make no mistake, the Chiefs defense wasn’t going to be mistaken for the 85 Bears, the 00 Ravens, or the 02 Buccaneers. But more like Swiss cheese defenses that would have a record of 4-12 most years really had it not been for Patrick Mahomes as their QB, but what Brady did against them Sunday in the AFC Championship game confirmed it: he is the best ever.

If you look at that 4th quarter when Kansas City got the momentum and took a late lead, giving hope to the country outside of the New England area of a different Super Bowl team from the AFC not named the Patriots, Broncos, Steelers, Ravens, or Colts to get to the Super Bowl (those five teams have represented the AFC for 22 of the last 24 years as opposed to 13 NFC teams in that same span), Brady took over. I mentioned in a tweet during that 4th quarter drive by Brady that we are about to see Brady in the 4th quarter with two minutes and behind is like watching Bob Ross paint: a thing of beauty (and if he ever messed up we would all call it happy mistakes). And it was. Of course, there were a few breaks go his way, but still. And then making those big passes in overtime to net the win.

So when I thought about it and realized Brady was going against the Rams, the first team that Brady played in the Super Bowl back 17 years ago, I went “yep, there’s no debate.” So why do I think this way?

HE IS THE BEST QUARTERBACK IN REALLY TWO DIFFERENT ERAS: The NFL game was evolving and is far different when Brady started to make a name for himself as opposed to now. While the NFL was starting to become a more pass-oriented league, it was still dominated with the run game. But Brady and Belichick started to get one step ahead of the rest of the NFL in the early part of the decade. Teams could not take out New England’s passing game that featured Troy Brown, David Givens, Deion Branch, David Patten, Daniel Graham, etc. All of them good players and when payday came to get a contract, they cashed in with new teams, though none of them came remotely close to their success with Brady. But those guys then helped establish the New England passing attack, as later on Randy Moss and Wes Welker would join the fray. New England would dominate with their passing style as it was more and more aggressive. Now it is back to what it was in the early portion of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Philip Dorsett. And anytime you had that thought they would stop New England and Brady, they would be one step ahead of you. And Brady would continue to dominate. When he started, Brady had to go against the likes of Warner, Manning, Favre, McNabb, McNair, etc. all of whom had great years and stood atop them. Now it has been Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rivers, etc. (and we should give a shout-out to Brees and Manning as they also have dominated for a long period of Brady’s tenure as well). But for Brady to still being at an elite level for so many years, that says something.

HE COVERS UP DEFENSIVE WOES OF HIS OWN TEAM: Nobody will ever proclaim the Patriots have ever been a top defense in the NFL during Brady’s run. They have been pretty good most years however, though I think it was early on when they won three of four Super Bowls when they had the likes of Richard Seymour, Ty Law, etc. From a point of where the defenses are now, the Patriots are pretty average, and have been pretty average for the last 5-6 years. But their last two Super Bowl wins, to me were Brady come-from-behind wins, large in part because both the Seahawks and Falcons had leads in the 4th quarter and both of them took the pedal off while New England’s defense made key stops to give Brady that chance. But Brady always keeps his team in games. Every now and then you may see a game where the Patriots play flat (Lions and Titans this year), but for the most part, Brady keeps them close with long drives and wearing out defenses while the defense can make that needed stop.

HIS DRIVE TO WIN: Brady’s training regiment (though he still looks like an average Joe playing football), is pretty unreal. He gets teased for being a “pretty boy” but the guy prepares like no other. Guys like Brady separate themselves from the likes of these other quarterbacks who want to show they are an NFL quarterback, but loves all the life of luxury and such. I’m not saying these quarterbacks have to be robots and eat, sleep, and poop football 24-7, but you can tell how the likes of Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and others are always atop in the league keeping their teams in contention as opposed to in the past of why the Browns (Johnny Manziel), Jets (Mark Sanchez, who loved clubbing during the season), Raiders, and even Buccaneers with Jameis Winston now. I think it goes unmatched. Maybe only Peyton Manning comes close to Brady, and of course, Manning should be regarded as one of the best ever too.

HE IS A TEAM LEADER: Somewhat cliche (actually very cliche). Again, the drive to win has something to do with this. He knows in order to win he needs his teammates to do their jobs but will defend them through and through. He will never out a player for making a mistake when being interviewed. There may be grumbles with his head coach like we heard and saw last year, but that happens and he didn’t make it a media circus and leave hints to the media he is unhappy. That is what separates him from Aaron Rodgers where Rodgers feels the need to voice his displeasure and I think it is why Brady’s leadership is way ahead of Rodgers’s leadership. And it is also why it isn’t even a comparison on who is better.

CLUTCH (DUH): Do I even need to comment on this? Brady can kill you if the Patriots are ahead by 21 in the first half or down by 14 with 5 minutes left. He makes the passes needed to be made and he seems like he is never rattled when he does. He can throw three interceptions in a game but then come back and put up a drive where those three picks were like ten years ago. Nobody, not even Drew Brees has that skill where he can ignore a poor turnover and then drive it down the field feeling like he had all the momentum in the world.

HE CHANGES THE STORY TO HIS ADVANTAGE: You heard Brady say they were the underdogs against the Chiefs and nobody gave them a fighting chance. Of course most people in the media didn’t feel that way, though many felt they aren’t the same Patriots teams that have won the Super Bowl in years past. But he believed what he said. And also, while the majority of the nation HATES the Patriots, Brady seems to embrace it where he uses it as “us vs. the world” mentality and it works. And the guys who do that and embrace it are often the ones who people will remember as being one of the best ever. I haven’t seen a player who just embraces having that mentality and then going out and play like how Brady plays. Yes, players do that as well all across sports, but the minute they get BEAT like what they did, they often lose that edge and most often never get it back. Brady never lost that edge.

Well, there you go. Maybe next week is Brady’s last game in the NFL assuming the Patriots win. You may not like him or his attitude, or the fact he had that incident with the footballs, but you have to tip your cap as you are seeing one of NFL’s all-time greats. For me, he is the best ever quarterback in the NFL without question.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed AFC Championship Game Preview

I apologize for my hiatus as I have been battling some health issues. I’m still not 100% but for the last couple of days I have been feeling better. I will be posting more soon. Starting with this game.

The Patriots held serve last weekend in beating the Chargers decisively. I thought perhaps Los Angeles would have done the upset before the game so I would have predicted it wrong. And say what you want about Brady and Belichick, but they are still the kings of the mountain for a reason.

The Chiefs silenced critics (and me once again) with their also decisive win against the Colts. The defense stepped up coupled in by Andrew Luck having probably the worst game of his career on top of it and Kansas City jumped to a big early lead and never looked back.

So we get the two teams with the best records in the AFC fighting it out in a rematch of their shootout in the regular season where New England won 43-40. However, people were left amazed by what Kansas City did at that point. So will it be a classic shootout again? Probably, but strange things happen in the playoffs.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, 6:40, CBS

PATRIOTS WIN IF:

Jan 13, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls a play against the Los Angeles Chargers during the third quarter in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

THEY CAN START OFF FAST: Well, both teams last weekend (Patriots, Chiefs) got off to strong starts and somewhat hit the cruise control after that. However, New England never really let the foot off the gas that whole time. They kept coming after the Chargers as everything clicked. They will have to do the same exact thing against that Kansas City offense. The games I remember the Patriots losing this year was that the starts New England had were very slow starts and were really out of rhythm.

THEY FIND A WAY TO KEEP TYREEK HILL FROM BEING A GAME-CHANGER: Hill to me is that wide receiver that should be considered elite if he isn’t one already. But to me, out of any receiver in the league, he is that one who can change a game with one play due to his insane speed. We can most certainly give Patrick Mahomes all the credit in the world this year, but when you have that guy as your wide receiver, your job is slightly easier given how he can make that big catch or make that big break off a small pass. New England has to make sure he is in check all the time or else the Patriots will be giving up 40 pretty quickly.

BRADY IS NOT PRESSURED: Kansas City has been well maligned on defense. It is a known fact. But the Chiefs pass rush is very good (really the secondary is the giant issue for Kansas City). If the Patriots are able to keep Brady from being hit and not pressured, he can have a field day with the Kansas City secondary. If he isn’t, there will be some frustrations that are starting to be more and more shown with Brady during games he’s not been like we have remembered since 2001.

CHIEFS WIN IF

Jan 12, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

MAHOMES MAKES THE RIGHT DECISIONS: Mahomes has had an amazing year and an MVP year. However, as we are splitting hairs somewhat, the times Kansas City has fallen in games, Mahomes has made some questionable decisions which has resulted into turnovers and such. Now the two things that really does hinder him at times is when the games are close and he either has to play from behind (Rams) and forces it or when the Chiefs are slightly ahead as he seems like he wants to be aggressive but pulls back just enough to not be Patrick Mahomes. So that is the one thing he needs to do in the sense of knowing when he needs to be aggressive and when he needs to play for the next play.

THEY DO NOT LET THE FOOT OFF THE THROAT: We see it over and over with teams in college and the pros. We see teams jump off to big starts and by the third and fourth quarter, everything they did right in the first half/three quarters of the game, they let up and not do what got them the lead (i.e. playing not to lose). Kansas City did that with the Chargers late in the season and had Indianapolis not made some mistakes, even that game had a feel like Kansas City let up in the second half a bit. Yes, the Chiefs scored in the 4th, but late to make it 31-13. They can’t sit on a lead against New England. We’ve seen that in January with Jacksonville last year and Atlanta the year before that.

AN UNSUNG HERO STEPS UP: Who? The running game guys, notably the Williams boys, have Sammy Watkins look like that guy in his early days in Buffalo, Chris Conley, etc. New England is going to try to stop Hill and Travis Kelce, so it is the other guys who need to make sure they are on their game. And given how Mahomes has been this year, it may be the case. So in other words, have the Chiefs beat the Patriots at the Patriots own game.

OUTLOOK: I mentioned in my playoff rankings list is that if Kansas City wins their divisional game, they could take off. I’m going to stick by that argument. Arrowhead Stadium will be a madhouse and while I do think Brady and the Patriots will have success scoring, I do think he will be pressured early and often to give KC an early fast start. My lone question will be if Kansas City can maintain that pace the whole game, which I think they can, but they can’t be too comfortable. I do like the Chiefs and Andy Reid to silence the doubters here as New England isn’t the same team on the road as they are at home (3-5 away from Foxboro in 2018). CHIEFS 48, PATRIOTS 40

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The Obstructed AFC East Preview-2018

The AFC East, or as it has really been known since 2002, the Patriots Division due to their dominance and the other three teams being unable to even come close to putting a dent in the dominance, looks to continue as being the Patriots division for another year.  Of course, the hope is that the rumblings and grumblings in New England will have the great dynasty implode while the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets wait.  But one of the key questions will be, can either of those three teams end up having enough to jump ahead even if the Patriots fall back?  And honestly, I am not sure.  The Patriots may be that one team who if they do collapse, still ends up winning the division.  The Bills may have a shot, but the Jets are in rebuilding mode and the Dolphins look like they are trying to clean the slate.  So it looks like the Patriots will rule for another year, or so we think.

AFC EAST

Brady

(1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LAST SEASON: 13-3 (1ST IN AFC EAST, DEFEATED TENNESSEE IN DIVISIONAL, DEFEATED JACKSONVILLE IN AFC CHAMPIONSHIP, LOST TO PHILADELPHIA IN SUPER BOWL)

KEY ADDS: DE-Adrian Clayborn (FA-Atlanta), RB-Jeremy Hill (FA-Cincinnati), WR-Jordan Matthews (FA-Buffalo), DT-Danny Shelton (Trade-Cleveland), CB-Jason McCourty (Trade-Cleveland), WR-Cordarrelle Patterson (Trade-Oakland), OT-Trent Brown (Trade-San Francisco), RB-Sony Michel (Draft-Georgia), OT-Isaiah Wynn (Draft-Georgia), CB-Duke Dawson (Draft-Florida)

KEY LOSSES: WR-Danny Amendola (FA-Miami), CB-Johnson Bademosi (FA-Houston), CB-Malcolm Butler (FA-Tennessee), OT-Cameron Fleming (FA-Dallas), RB-Dion Lewis (FA-Tennessee), OT-Nate Solder (FA-New York Giants), WR-Brandin Cooks (Trade-Los Angeles Rams)

The Patriots still run the AFC.  However, near the end of the season, it seemed like there was some slight discord, notably with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  To me, it sounded like it was more of hearsay and rumor than anything though Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had a heated argument on the sideline late in the regular season last year.  And adding on to all of it is Patriots resident party animal Rob Gronkowski possibly wanting a new extension to his contract, though it seems sometimes he rather do anything else BUT football so that may be a question.  We’ll see.  But my attitude is, once the Patriots are on the field, all is well in the Patriot world.  The one thing they really added was the presence of a run game that shouldn’t be taken lightly (drafting Sony Michel and picking up Jeremy Hill).  That will be a problem for teams if the Patriots rely on that dimension more.  The passing game will be interesting given that the Patriots lost Danny Amendola to the Dolphins and Julian Edelman starts the season suspended while Brandin Cooks is in Los Angeles now.  However, the one thing we will always know about Brady until anything changes, he can get any WR and be a contributing factor.  Jordan Matthews is there now while the Pats kept kept Matthew Slater and drafted Braxton Berrios from Miami so until things change in New England with that I won’t worry.  Defensively it always seems like a question as last year it seemed pretty mediocre (30th in passing yards allowed and 20th in rushing yards allowed though 31st in rushing yards per attempt).  The additions to the defense was to get stronger up front with adding Adrian Clayborn and Danny Shelton while the Pats got Jason McCourty and drafting Duke Dawson, but it will be interesting though as the Patriots do not have a new defensive coordinator to replace Matt Patricia who is now coaching Detroit as of yet.  This year however seems like a few more questions than normal in  New England, whether it is replacing players or coaches and now possible discord in the locker room among Brady and Belichick (still think it’s overblown) and the contract situation of Gronkowski making it odd, but you still have to figure the Pats will still remain atop of the AFC East and the favorites in the AFC.  KEY QUESTION: is there an end in sight for the Patriots dynasty?  If it is, not this year.  Maybe next off-season we re-evaluate what the Patriots have, pending on if Brady comes back as there are now rumblings of retirement now, something that hasn’t been said too much prior to now.

MY PREDICTION: 12-4.  I know that may be like 8-8 or 7-9 to some Patriot fans, but I think some teams will start hitting the Patriots hard on that defensive side.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Buffalo Bills

(2) BUFFALO BILLS

LAST SEASON: 9-7 (2ND PLACE, LOST TO JACKSONVILLE IN WILD CARD)

KEY ADDITIONS: CB-Vontae Davis (FA-Indianapolis), RB-Chris Ivory (FA-Jacksonville), CB-Rafael Bush (FA-New Orleans), DT-Star Lotuleilei (FA-Carolina), LB-Julian Stanford (FA-New York Jets), DE-Trent Murphy (FA-Washington), QB-AJ McCarron (FA-Cincinnati), C-Russell Bodine (FA-New York Jets), QB-Josh Allen (Draft-Wyoming), LB-Tremaine Edmunds (Draft-Virginia Tech), DT-Harrison Phillips (Draft-Stanford)

KEY LOSSES: OT-Seantrel Henderson (FA-Houston), LB-Preston Brown (FA-Cincinnati), WR-Deonte Thompson (FA-Dallas), CB-EJ Gaines (FA-Cleveland), WR-Jordan Matthews (FA-New England), QB-Tyrod Taylor (Trade-Cleveland), FB-Mike Tolbert (FA)

The Bills were a cult classic somewhat thanks in part due to the Bills Mafia and their viral videos last year of fans jumping through tables.  But that said, the Bills Mafia had a lot to be excited about as Buffalo made the playoffs for the first time since 1999.  However, numerous changes happened in the off-season, and most of it has to be considered a positive.  Tyrod Taylor is gone (though to be fair, he was a solid option at quarterback, but just not on that elite level) and in comes in first round pick Josh Allen from Wyoming.  Allen is an NFL scout’s dream as he has the tools and the look of the prototypical QB.  Whether it happens or not will remain to be seen.  But if Allen doesn’t start to begin the year it will rest on longtime Bengals backup AJ McCarron, who many have felt like he should have gotten a crack at a starting spot somewhere.  But whoever is at QB will have weapons such as LeSean McCoy in the backfield and Kelvin Benjamin at receiver.  And the defense looks primed to make a splash after beefing up with former Panther Star Lotuleilei (somewhat surprised Carolina let this guy go) and drafting Virginia Tech standout Tremaine Edmunds, to really make the Bills a stronger defense.  Adding on top of it, the Bills added Vontae Davis and Rafael Bush at the corners to help out the passing defense.  So Buffalo looks primed for another playoff run.  KEY QUESTION: Will the Bills contend with New England for the division?  I think they’re a year away, but if they have another good year I think they will close the gap, especially if you are starting to see some question marks in Foxboro.

MY PREDICTION: 10-6.  I have lofty expectations, but I like the Bills defense and I think whoever is at QB will utilize the offensive weapons.  

Jets

(3) NEW YORK JETS

LAST SEASON (5-11, 4TH PLACE)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB-Teddy Bridgewater (FA-Minnesota), LB-Avery Williamson (FA-Tennessee), TE-Clive Warford (FA-Oakland), RB-Isaiah Crowell (FA-Cleveland), RB-Thomas Rawls (FA-Seattle), WR-Terrelle Pryor (FA-Washington), CB-Trumaine Johnson (FA-Los Angeles Rams), QB-Sam Bradford (Draft-USC), DT-Nathan Hays (Draft-Ft. Hays State)

KEY LOSSES: RB-Matt Forte (Retired), TE-Austin Seferian-Jenkins (FA-Jacksonville), C-Wesley Johnson (FA-Detroit), K-Chandler Cantanzaro (FA-Tampa Bay), DE-Kony Ealy (FA-Dallas), DE-Muhammad Wilkerson (FA-Green Bay), LB-Demario Davis (FA-New Orleans), LB-Julian Stanford (FA-Buffalo) QB-Bryce Petty (Waivers-Miami)

Well, the Jets surprised many as most projected them to be 0-16 or 1-15.  So it was a head-turner when they were 3-2 after 5 games and Josh McCown was playing out of his mind.  And then the Jets lost 9 of their final 11, thus reminding us of what we expected out of the New York Jets (though McCown never really tailed off, despite a hiccup here & there).  On a talent level, the Jets were supposed to be thumped, but Todd Bowles really got the guys playing.  This off-season New York made some moves that really progresses them to be a threat, such as landing two key pieces on defense in corner Trumaine Johnson and Avery Williamson.  They added depth at the running back with Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls.  They made two surprising moves of signing Teddy Bridgewater and paying a lot to draft Sam Bradford.  So many feel the Jets could be a sleeper or a team to definitely watch in the future.  But time will tell on that.  New York should be a tough team again though I still think the talent level isn’t as deep as the major contenders of the Patriots, but they should be one not to take lightly.  KEY QUESTION:  WHO STARTS WEEK 1 THIS YEAR?  McCown.  Sam Darnold fell backwards in his final year at USC and that should raise a few concerns.  McCown gives them the best shot to win right now, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets are eliminated by Week 15, you may see Darnold start, but if he starts earlier, the Jets are in trouble.

MY PREDICTION: 5-11.  The Jets may play physical, but still don’t match the passing prowess of the others, and still have holes on both sides that can’t be ignored.

Miami Dolphins v Baltimore Ravens

(4) MIAMI DOLPHINS

LAST SEASON: 6-10 (3RD PLACE)

KEY ADDITIONS: WR-Danny Amendola (FA-New England), WR-Albert Wilson (FA-Kansas City), G-Josh Sitton (FA-Chicago), QB-Brock Osweiler (FA-Denver), QB-Bryce Petty (Waivers-New York Jets), RB-Frank Gore (FA-Indianapolis), DT-Akeem Spence (Trade-Detroit), DE-Robert Quinn (Trade-Los Angeles Rams),  S-Minkah Fitzpatrick (Draft-Alabama), TE-Mike Gesicki (Draft-Penn State), LB-Jerome Baker (Draft-Ohio State) C-Daniel Kilgore (Trade-San Francisco)

KEY LOSSES: WR-Jarvis Landry (Trade-Cleveland), QB-Jay Cutler (FA), C-Mike Pouncey (FA-Los Angeles Chargers), RB-Damien Williams (FA-Kansas City), OT-Jermon Bushrod (FA-New Orleans), DT-Ndamukong Suh (Released-Los Angeles Rams), CB-Nate Allen (FA)

To say this a do-or-die-season for Ryan Tannehill is an understatement.  He missed all of last season due to a knee injury and he is one of the more polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL.  While they traded away Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins added Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson to help Tannehill in the receiver spot while adding Mike Gesicki in the draft to help at tight end while adding Frank Gore at back.  So many view he will have no excuses (though you wonder how much is left in the tank of Gore and Amendola).  If he succeeds, Miami will be in a fine spot.  If he doesn’t, well, start the talk of who the Dolphins get with one of the top 3 picks in the NFL draft.  Defensively Miami hopes to add by subtraction as the Phins let Ndamukong Suh and his insane contract go while adding Robert Quinn and hope the smarts of top draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick will go a long way.  But it feels right now the Dolphins defense is patchwork a little bit where their passing defense is brutal, and it’s not good when you have to see Brady twice and this year seeing the likes of Stafford, Rodgers, Cousins, and Carr.  It may be a long year in Miami for both sides of the ball especially if Tannehill isn’t consistent enough.  KEY QUESTION: Will this be Tannehill’s final year with the Dolphins?  Yes.  He does have weapons but it just seems like he can never get over that hump.

MY PREDICTION: 4-12.  I just don’t see Miami doing well, at all this season and it seems like they made moves to patch things up on a temporary basis.  I think a rebuild is in need.

 

Overall, it is still the Patriots division, but I think the Bills will surprise more and I think the Jets will get better, but the Dolphins need a new start.

-Fan in the Obsrtucted Seat

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PSF’s Ultimate Multi-Man Final 2018 NFL Mock Draft

Welcome to the final, ultimate version of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. Well with a twist at least. For this final try at mocking the first round of this year’s draft, I asked a few of my colleagues here at Pro Sports Fandom to help me out and participate in a multi man mock draft. We are exactly one week away from the draft and teams are winding down their list of roster needs. Scouts have traveled across the country to get great looks at some of the top prospects in this year’s draft class. After viewing all the tape I could handle from College Football to the Pro Days, I feel ready to release the final version of my 2018 mock draft.

So let’s get to the point right. Over the last few months, I scouted this 2018 draft class, position by position, player by player, as the college football season chipped away. I’ve watched enough tape on some of the guys to be able to put together rankings of them and now the final version of my mock draft for the 2018 NFL Draft. This mock draft is marking my final thoughts as we are one week away from the NFL Draft kicking off. In my opinion, this feels like a very good mock draft. Right now, I’ve enlisted the help of three colleagues and we’ve worked together and projected the first 32 selections in the draft, (with no trading predictions). And now, with all of that said, it is time to unveil the final version of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft! Don’t forget to go check out my colleagues and I on Twitter!

*Note: The initials in parentheses represent who made the pick for that respective team.

Tristan Beckmann (TB) (@TBeckmannPSF)

Brian Willis (BW) (@RealBrianWillis)

Eric Jensen (EJ) (@Eric18Utah)

Chris Chastain (CC) (@ChrisC_01)

And be sure to check out Eric and Chris’s amazing podcast on ITunes or Podbean, the Endzone Podcast, it’s a great place to listen to the guys just talking football! But enough of the talk, let’s get right into these picks.

1. Cleveland Browns (0-16) (TB):

Wyoming QB Josh Allen

2. New York Giants (3-13) (EJ):

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

3. New York Jets (from IND) (4-12) (BW):

USC QB Sam Darnold

4. Cleveland Browns (from HOU) (4-12) (CC):

Ohio State CB Denzel Ward

5. Denver Broncos (5-11) (TB):

UCLA QB Josh Rosen

6. Indianapolis Colts (from NYJ) (5-11) (EJ):

NC State EDGE Bradley Chubb

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) (BW):

Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

8. Chicago Bears (5-11) (CC):

Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson

9. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (TB):

Georgia LB Roquan Smith

10. Oakland Raiders (6-10) (EJ):

Florida State S Derwin James

11. Miami Dolphins (6-10) (BW):

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

12. Buffalo Bills (from CIN) (6-10) (CC):

Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

13. Washington Redskins (7-9) (TB):

Washington DT Vita Vea

14. Green Bay Packers (7-9) (EJ):

Louisville CB Jaire Alexander

15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) (BW):

Iowa CB Josh Jackson

16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7) (CC):

Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) (TB):

Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne

18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7) (EJ):

Texas OT Connor Williams

19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7) (BW):

UTSA EDGE Marcus Davenport

20. Detroit Lions (9-7) (CC):

Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF) (9-7) (TB):

UTEP OG Will Hernandez

22. Buffalo Bills (from KC) (9-7) (EJ):

SMU WR Courtland Sutton

23. New England Patriots (from LAR) (11-5) (BW):

Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch

24. Carolina Panthers (11-5) (CC):

Maryland WR D.J. Moore

25. Tennessee Titans (9-7) (TB):

Boston College OLB Harold Landry

26. Atlanta Falcons (10-6) (EJ):

Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5) (BW):

Penn State TE Mike Gesicki

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) (CC):

UCF CB Mike Hughes

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5) (TB):

Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk

30. Minnesota Vikings (13-3) (EJ):

Georgia OG Isaiah Wynn

31. New England Patriots (13-3) BW):

UCLA OT Kolton Miller

32. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) (CC):

South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed! Be sure to share with your friends and family! Feel free to give me and my colleagues your thoughts on Twitter @TBeckmannPSF! Peace!

Aftermath: AFC + NFC Championship Reaction and Analysis

Another Sunday is in the books and we now know exactly what two teams will be participating in the Super Bowl. The AFC Championship game was one for the ages while the NFC Championship’s outcome seemed to be determined halfway through the game. Nonetheless, these two games summed up the entire NFL season thus far: fun and completely unpredictable.

New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Final Score: 24-20, Patriots.

What went right: Lots went right in this game for both teams. Before the game, if you were to tell me Blake Bortles would complete 23 of 36 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown, I wouldn’t believe you. Yes, Bortles played a very solid divisional round, but let’s be honest: lots of his stats came in the fourth quarter and he struggled the majority of the Tennessee game. The Jaguars had a winning formula in place (run the ball and don’t ask Bortles to do too much), but it ended up biting them in the grand scheme. More on that later. Holding the Patriots to 10 points through three quarters is a testament to this Jacksonville defense. Amazing play by AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.

New England didn’t play that great of a game through three quarters. Jacksonville had the majority of the momentum and it looked like Tom Brady wasn’t going to be able to bring his team back. We all know how that one ended. Saving his best football for the last quarter of the game (two TD passes), Brady showed everyone that his hand is in no way a hindrance to his play. Tom Terrific is still Tom Terrific. Also, Danny Amendola and Stephon Gilmore both stepped up in the fourth quarter after failing to make any plays earlier in the game. Championship teams have championship players that step up in big moments, and this game was the epitome of that.

What went wrong: Instead of keeping the pressure on New England by trying to score some points before the half, the Jaguars elected to take their 14-10 lead into halftime. Jacksonville completely shut down in the fourth quarter. There were downs where the ball could have been snapped later. Play calls were way too predictable. Blake Bortles’ weaknesses were exposed. The defense gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. What I said earlier about championship-caliber players making big plays when they matter, Jacksonville was the opposite. Penalties also killed the team.

For New England, the offense just wasn’t clicking in the first half. Tom Brady was practically on his own once Rob Gronkowski went down due to a concussion. Dion Lewis (34 yards) was the Patriots’ leading rusher. That’s pathetic. That’s about it for what went wrong with the Pats. Everything that went wrong was fixed in the fourth quarter, so there’s not too much to complain about.

Final Thoughts: What a game. Jacksonville will be back here. I’m not sure if it will be with Blake Bortles at quarterback, but they’ll be back. Perhaps with Eli Manning or Alex Smith? New England should also be back, assuming Tom Brady/Bill Belichick return next season. Overall, New England’s championship pedigree came through when the team needed it most. Jacksonville is still developing that trait.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Final Score: 38-7, Eagles.

What went right: Almost everything went right for the Eagles. Nick Foles had one of the best performances of his career (352 yards, 3 TD) on the biggest stage he’s been on so far. The team rushed for over 100 yards. The defense picked off Case Keenum twice. Overall, it was a dominant performance by the Eagles and many things went in their favor.

For the Vikings, about the only thing that went right was the team going up early 7-0 on a Case Keenum touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. That’s that.

What went wrong: Nothing significant to note for the Eagles. Moving on.

Minnesota shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. Case Keenum was under constant pressure and threw two ugly interceptions, one of which that was returned for a touchdown. A top-two defense in the league gave up 38 points to… Nick Foles. It can’t get much worse than that for a team many picked to get to the Super Bowl when the playoffs began. Props to the Vikings for a great season, but everything collapsed at once in this game. Would the outcome have been any different with someone other than Keenum at QB? I don’t think so.

Final ThoughtsI haven’t been giving the Eagles enough credit this season. I waited for them to lose during the regular season and I’ve been waiting for them to lose this postseason. Nothing can stop this team (although the Patriots will likely be able to come Super Bowl time). I also haven’t given Nick Foles enough credit. After a shaky start in last week’s Divisional Round, he ended the game on fire and took home the W. This week, he was on point the entire game and made throws I had no clue he was capable of making. Minnesota has a lot to figure out QB-wise this offseason and the Eagles should be in the same position next year: competing for the NFC title.

That’s all I’ve got. If you guys have any thoughts, let me know! I’d love to chat with you. Reach out to me on Facebook (The Best Foote Forward) or on Twitter (@TheBestFooteFWD). Thanks for reading!

 

Jordan’s Conference Championship Picks and Analysis

Conference Championship week is here! Jacksonville travels to Foxborough and will face the Patriots on Sunday afternoon in what should be a thrilling matchup. Following the conclusion of that game, we’ll see Philadelphia host Minnesota as the underdogs (underdogs!) in a battle between two backup QB’s that are now NFC Championship competitors. It’s bound to be a fantastic Sunday of football; let’s see who I have slated to win!

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots (Sunday, 1:05 PM ET)

Many of you are going to pick New England rolling over Jacksonville, but not so fast. If Blake Bortles avoids turnovers and makes a couple plays down the stretch like he did last week, Jacksonville can keep this game close. If Bortles makes more than a couple plays and Leonard Fournette gets going, this game will be entertaining. If the aforementioned occur and the defense finds a way to slow down Tom Brady, Jacksonville will emerge victorious. That’s what I’m banking on, especially if the recent news of Tom Brady’s hand injury is legitimate. The drama surrounding the Patriots is going to be amplified immediately following this game, along with questions beginning to come to the surface about Tom Brady’s status for next year. Will the Patriots dynasty over? I’m not sure, but I think it’s going to be put on hold until next season, starting Sunday. I’m going out on a limb and picking the upset.
The Pick: Jaguars 28, Patriots 23
 

Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 4:40 PM ET)

Minnesota is simply the better team out of the two playing in this game. Case Keenum is better than Nick Foles. Keenum has equal, if not better weapons at his disposal and has a top-two defense to alleviate some of the pressure when things get intense. Philadelphia’s defense won the game last week. If Foles can’t throw a touchdown against the Falcons, he’s in for a rude awakening against Minnesota. Whether Foles throws 50 times or hands it off 35 times, it’s not going to make a difference. It’ll be close, but the better team will win and advance to Super Bowl 52. Case Keenum vs. Blake Bortles. Who would have predicted that heading into the season? Nobody.
The Pick: Vikings 24, Eagles 24
 
This concludes the Conference Championship edition of Jordan‘s NFL Picks. Have anything different? Reach out to me below and let me know!
 
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