Category Archives: NFL Articles

Hotard: NFL Postseason Picks

The NFL preseason teases people more than the girl who “friend zoned” you in high school. As I told my buddies in high school, it gets better. All the teasing comes to an end this Thursday when the defending champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers. As exciting as the offseason and preseason were, from Geno Smith getting punched out of 10 games (literally) to Deflategate, the real thing is FINALLY upon us. It is going to be glorious. With that being said, every year there is always so much uncertainty looming around the NFL season.

Now is the time for fans and analysts to make all of their predictions regarding their favorite teams and players for the upcoming season, just so we can laugh at every blunder from now until February. According to NFL.com, at least four new teams have made the playoffs each year since 1990, with that number climbing more toward five in the last decade. The landscape is constantly changing in the NFL, which is why I believe people seem to crave it more with every season. It also helps that there is not 82 or 162 games. Each week becomes more meaningful than the next. That is what makes the NFL special.

Without further ado, I will introduce my lucky 12 teams to earn a playoff birth, along with my conference championship and Super Bowl teams.

AFC

1- New England Patriots 13-3

Is it really hard to understand why I take the Patriots as the top team in the AFC? Tom Brady had his four-game suspension lifted and I believe he will have a fantastic year because he is competitive to a fault. I feel like he wants to stick it to the commissioner. He is climbing in age and certainly isn’t the guy he was in 2007, but he still finds ways to win games. Since taking over the starting role for Drew Bledsoe in what seems like centuries ago, he has made the conference title game practically every other year (not an exaggeration).

2- Indianapolis Colts 12-4

The Colts made some great signings this offseason adding longtime Texans receiver and future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson, along with former 49ers running back Frank Gore. I think some veteran presence is exactly what the Colts need and they got it. I also loved them picking Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett in the draft. They still have issues on the offensive line, but that hasn’t seemed to phase Andrew Luck yet.

3- Baltimore Ravens 10-6

The Ravens are just a sound football team and its built from the ground up, which is why they seem to be at their best come playoff time. A solid front seven on defense and a solid offensive front is enough reason for me to believe Ravens will once again find themselves deep in the postseason.

4- Denver Broncos 10-6

Much like Brady, Peyton Manning has been winning for so long that it seems impossible to bet against him. I just have to wonder if the Peyton every football guru gushes over actually shows up. If he does, how long does it last? His first half of the season last year was typical Peyton numbers. He was erratic for the last 8 games due to injuries. So which guy are we going to get? He is still one of the best to ever play, no question, but age is definitely catching up.

5- Miami Dolphins 11-5

Yes, I love the Phins this year. Ndamakung Suh was a big win for Miami. Pairing him on that front line with Oliver Vernon and Cameron Wake will certainly be a trio that is tough to stop. Former LSU star, Jarvis Landry posted a solid rookie campaign with over 700 yards and five touchdowns. Miami was aggressive to get pass catchers this offseason as they snagged receivers Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, as well as tight end Jordan Cameron. As icing on the cake, they drafted the speedster from Louisville Devante Parker in the first round. All I can say for the latest big money quarterback Ryan Tannehill is…pick your poison.

6- Buffalo Bills 10-6

A lot of people don’t like Rex Ryan as a head coach, but I do. Although I am unsure about Tyrod Taylor as a starting quarterback, it doesn’t matter. That offense is set up for success with running back Lesean McCoy and receiver Sammy Watkins. IF Percy Harvin can stay healthy, that offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Defensively, they did lose linebacker Kiko Alonso as part of the McCoy trade, but they still have a front four that includes Marcel Dareus and Mario Williams. With Sexy Rex running the show, that defense won’t miss a beat.

NFC

1- Green Bay Packers 12-4

I know receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the year, but Aaron Rodgers was a fantastic quarterback prior to having Nelson and it won’t change now. Donald Adams showed some flashes of potential last season and he finally gets to showcase it. Plus they still have a healthy Randall Cobb. Not saying you can just replace Nelson, but the best quarterback in the game will be just fine. Unless 12 goes down, they’re still the top dog this year.

2- Philadelphia Eagles 12-4

Unfortunately Sam Bradford has one massive question mark on his head. I was listening to The Herd on Fox Sports today and Troy Aikman said if he stays healthy, Bradford could be an MVP candidate. I don’t know if I am buying that, but I am not selling it either. I hope the former Sooner can stay healthy because I want to see the fireworks that follow.

3- Seattle Seahawks 11-5

Losing center Max Unger in the trade for tight end Jimmy Graham will be tough on the offensive side. Although, I do love that Russell Wilson finally has a big name to throw the rock to. The big question is coming on defense though. Safety Earl Thomas is expected to play in the season opener. Great news for Seattle fans, however, fellow safety Kam Chancellor is unhappy and plans to hold out. The team is still loaded, but that hurts and is why I have them dropping to 11-5.

4- New Orleans Saints 10-6

I feel like I am being a bit of a homer here, but the Saints have a favorable schedule so I think they can manage to sneak out of the division with the title. There are just so many questions. How will the defense rebound with all the injuries? Who is the go-to-guy on offense? Are they really going to focus heavily on the run game? I love that the offensive line is looking damn good again, on paper. The reason Dallas looked like the best team in football come playoff time was their offensive line and of course Demarco Murray. The defense was below average, but it was masked because they were rarely on the field. I think the Saints could use a similar formula to reach the playoffs again.

5- Arizona Cardinals 11-5

Defensively, the Cardinals won’t miss a beat. Offensively, it comes down to Carson Palmer. Much like Sam Bradford, if Palmer can put together a healthy year, this is a dangerous football team. Cardinals already had a solid offensive line and they wound up getting former 49ers guard Mike Iupati, which only boosts the offense.

6- Minnesota Vikings 10-6

Adrian Peterson makes his triumphant return and he finally has a solid signal caller to play off of. Teams will not be able to just stack the box anymore. Good luck covering Mike Wallace if you choose to do so. Teddy Bridgewater was fantastic toward the end of last season notching in a pair of three-hundred-yard outings and managed to not dip below a 68 percent completion rate in the final five contests.

Championship Sunday Picks: 

AFC- Ravens @ Colts

NFC- Seahawks @ Packers

Super Bowl Pick: 

Packers over Colts –

MVP- Aaron Rodgers

Advertisements

Bell to miss first three games

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without Pro Bowl running back, Le’Veon Bell for three games because of marijuana possession and a DUI he received last season.

The NFL decision was handed down on Thursday morning. Bell is expected to appeal.

Bell was in the vehicle with then teammate, Legarrette Blount who received a one game suspension for marijuana possession.

Photo: NFL

Mad respect for Chris Borland

At the age of 24, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland decided to call it a career on Monday because of safety issues.

“I feel largely the same, as sharp as I’ve ever been. For me, it’s wanting to be proactive,” Borland said. “I’m concerned that if you wait ’til you have symptoms, it’s too late. … There are a lot of unknowns. I can’t claim that X will happen. I just want to live a long, healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”- The former Wisconsin Badger said.

I’m sure this was not an easy decision for Borland to make. His career just began and he had already made an impact for the team in the absence of Patrick Willis, who also retired this offseason. What he is commendable. Not everyone is willing to walk away from a huge paycheck in the name of his or her health. He had over $1.8 million left on his contract for the final three years.

In fourteen games, Borland had 108 tackles and 2 interceptions.

Borland told ESPN’s Outside the Lines that he planned to return to school to obtain a degree in sports management.

Personally, I do not know if I could have done it so early in my career. Assuming my dream has always been to make it to the NFL, I would have spent my high school years and college years just to get a taste of my dream. Maybe living out the first contract would have been a better idea. However, if the heart is not in willing to be apart of the NFL why take a roster spot of someone who really wants to play.

Photo by: AP

For up to the minute information be sure to sign up for the email list and follow Down the Line Sports & Entertainment.

Share a Link via twitter

Twitter Follow Regis J. Welch

Twitter Follow Down the Line Sports and Entertainment

Contact Us

Who Dat Nation…Relax!

For the second year in a row, the New Orleans Saints face financial hardships and they are making the most of the situation.
It began with the release of players like running back Pierre Thomas and linebacker Curtis Lofton.

It did not stop there.

On Tuesday afternoon, rumors circulated that the Saints were actively shopping Drew Brees’ go-to-guy, tight end Jimmy Graham.

Literally five minutes later, the Seahawks popped up as a potential suitor for Graham. Within 15 minutes from the news initially breaking, Graham was set to take his talents to Seattle.

Obviously, the Who Dat Nation is taking the news hard. First it was the beloved running back Thomas, a crucial piece in the Super Bowl winning team of 2009.

Then it was Lofton, a tackling machine for the Saints defense.

Now, Graham, arguably the best player who has the most upside on the black and gold roster.

I am here to tell the Who Dat Nation to have no fear because once again, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton are doing what is best for business.

There is one word that I want folks to keep in mind, VALUE.

As stated before, the Saints are tight on salary cap space and they have loosened the bind by trimming down the roster.

I love good ole PT Cruiser (Thomas) just as much as the next Who Dat. He has without doubt been one of the best players in Saints history, a true team guy taking pay cuts when asked and always putting his best foot forward no matter what was asked of him. From the bottom of my heart as a fan, I say thank you to Thomas.

However, put the emotion aside and realize the Saints saved a hair shy of $2 million in cap space for 2015. Is it worth it to keep Thomas?

He was used primarily for screens, where he simply isn’t as much of a threat as he used to be.

Sorry my fellow fans, but the answer is no.

Lofton was another player who came at a hefty price and his production simply wasn’t worth it. Cutting the 28-year-old linebacker saved the Saints $7.25 million. I realize Lofton racked up close to 400 tackles in three seasons with New Orleans, but he is also notorious for missing tackles. While I like Lofton, I don’t like a middle linebacker making $7.25 million, unless your name is Luke Kuechly.

As stated earlier, I believe Graham was the best player on the Saints roster with tremendous upside. Normally, I would not want a team I like to trade their best player, but in this case, sell.

New Orleans shipped Graham along with a 4th round draft choice for pro bowl center Max Unger and a 1st Round draft pick.
The Saints offensive line was horrendous last year, especially in the interior line. Often times last year, the pocket would collapse not allowing Brees to step up and fire the ball downfield as we have seen in years past.

Before the offseason began, there were rumors that either guard Ben Grubbs or Jahri Evans would be cut while the other would renegotiate their contracts. Both are among the five highest paid players for the black and gold.

It seems like forever and a day ago that both Grubbs and Evans were near the top of the league as guards. Unger will be a key part in the Saints offensive line success moving forward as he could potentially help milk whatever is left in the tank of the two guards until their replacements are found.

With center being one of the biggest needs after losing Brian De La Puente to the Bears last offseason, the Saints have found a fantastic replacement.

What we are seeing with New Orleans offense is not a rebuild, but simply a restructure.
Shipping Graham, focusing on the interior line and re-siging Mark Ingram to a 4-year deal could mean the Saints are going to focus attention on a power run game.

As far as tight end is concerned, have no fear because the Saints still have a young pass catcher in Josh Hill and an excellent blocker and reliable target in Ben Watson who both fit the mold of a true tight end.

While everyone can complain about losing tangible playmakers that you see on every snap, the most important positions begin up front.

The two teams (Patriots and Seahawks) that competed in the Super Bowl last year made it because of one common trait. Both teams control the line of scrimmage.

The Dallas Cowboys are another team that sticks out because they have been slowly building up the offensive line, which led them to a 12-4 season and a solid playoff run last year.

DeMarco Murray had the best season for a running back in Cowboys history and an aging Tony Romo had the best season of his career as well all thanks to a stellar offensive line, period.

Do I think the Saints will win the Super Bowl next year? No. That belongs to Seattle because that roster is still loaded and they have a solid back up at center named Patrick Lewis who hails from Metairie, Louisiana.

Adding Jimmy Graham gives them a go-to-guy that Russell Wilson has been missing desperately.

As for the Saints, this move will help them in the long term. Hopefully they will make some wise choices with the additional draft pick.

In the meantime, fingers crossed that the Saints can land either Tramon Williams or Brandon Browner in free agency.

From one Saints to another, relax. This is a business.

For a regime (Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis) who has a reputation of winning, 7-9 will not sit well with them.

Photo: Crystal LoGiudice — USA Today Sports

Share the link via Twitter

Follow Down the Line Sports and Entertainment on Twitter

Contact Us

Browns improve their QB situation

On Friday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns announced that had signed the quarterback Josh McCown.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year deal. Last season with Tampa Bay he started eleven games and passed for over eleven touchdowns and over 2,200 yards.

It appears that Brian Hoyer will not return to the team. As the Browns do not deserve the talent that he brings.

What does this mean for Johnny Manziel? Well, if you read Down the Line Sports and Entertainment often you know that I have been very critical of the second year player from Texas A&M. I still can say that Republicans have more faith in John Boehner (Speaker of the House of Representatives) than what I have in the Cleveland Browns or Johnny Manziel.

Photo: AP

For up to the minute information be sure to sign up for the email list and follow Down the Line Sports & Entertainment.

Share a Link via twitter

Twitter Follow Regis J. Welch

Twitter Follow Down the Line Sports and Entertainment

Contact Us

Bush and Hawk cut

Wednesday was a tough day for veterans in the NFL as A.J. Hawk, Jacoby Jones, and Reggie Bush were both released by their high profiled teams.

Linebacker, A.J. Hawk, is the leading tackler in Green Bay history with 1,118 in nine seasons. After the season was over he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle.

“A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons,” “He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community. We wish A.J., his wife Laura, and the rest of their family all the best.” Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter reported that Reggie Bush, Lions running back, was shown the door after two seasons. This will save the team over $3 million in 2015. In the 2014-2015 season he only played in eleven games. Detroit has two stud backs, however. Joique Bell and Theo Riddick have the capabilities of being a great combo back duo.

I would think that both players will be highly sought after as second tier players who are still capable of being great.

Photo by: Joe Robbins / Getty Images North America

Share the link via Twitter

Follow Regis J. Welch on Twitter

Follow Down the Line Sports and Entertainment on Twitter

Contact Us

20 offensive skill unrestricted free agents every team will want

The players listed below are eligible to become free agents when the period opens on March 10th at 4 p.m. eastern standard time. Players on this list can resign with their respected teams before the free agency period begins.

  1. Dez Bryant, WR

  2. Randall Cobb, WR

  3. Jeremy Maclin, WR 


  4. DeMarco Murray, RB

  5. Demaryius Thomas, WR

  6. Mark Ingram, RB 


  7. Julius Thomas, TE

  8. Reggie Wayne, WR

  9. Frank Gore, RB

  10. Michael Crabtree, WR 


  11. Torrey Smith, WR

  12. C.J. Spiller, RB 


  13. Jordan Cameron, TE

  14. Charles Clay, TE 


  15. Ryan Matthews, RB

  16. Justin Forsett, RB

  17. Steven Ridley, RB

  18. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB 


  19. Cecil Shorts, WR

  20. Shane Vereen, RB

Share a Link via Twitter

Follow Regis J. Welch on Twitter

Follow Down the Line Sports and Entertainment on Twitter

Contact Us