Category Archives: NFL

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

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Hotard’s Top 10 Quarterbacks Heading into 2015-16

As the NFL season knocks on the door, analysts and journalist have began compiling their respective lists of the top signal callers in the NFL.
I figured now would be a good time to take a crack at my top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2015-16 NFL season.
Before I begin my list, keep in mind that the NFL and sports in general are about the “what have you done for me lately,” mentality. I remember when San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick was being looked at as a one of the future gems of the NFL.
After a down year, he is sitting in limbo trying to figure out his identity. It seems like a century ago when Kaep was a stud.
Bottom line, it never ceases to amaze me what a few years of game film and success can do to a quarterback. The game changes quick, so it is best to evolve with it.

LETS BEGIN…

fancloud.com10- Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

I may be in the minority to include Tannehill into my top 10, but I love the guy. He has steadily improved his numbers every single year since his rookie season (2012). He finished last year just north of 4,000 yards to pair with a 66% completion rate. Icing on the cake, 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions isn’t too shabby either. The only knock so far has been his record. He and the Dolphins have not eclipsed eight wins in a season yet, but I am thinking this may be the year.

Joe Flacco fanspeak.com9- Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

I remember when Flacco claimed he was the best quarterback in the NFL and everyone laughed. Only problem was, the joke was on them as he went on to win his first and only Super Bowl. Flacco has been one of the more consistent play callers in the league. Since entering the league in 2008, he and the Ravens have only missed the playoffs one season. When the Ravens make the playoffs, Flacco isn’t exactly a quarterback you want to face. The guy has yet to go one-and-done in the postseason and hoists a record of 10-5. In his 15 appearences, he has thrown for 3,223 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Tony_Romo-geeksandcleats8- Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Still to this day, he is the most unfairly critiqued quarterback in the NFL simply because of the logo on his helmet. People hate the cowboys thus hating the quarterback. We all know the narrative that Tony Romo is not clutch. FALSE. He has the highest 4th quarter QB rating of ALL TIME. The problem is, all of his meltdowns have typically been when everyone has watched. Many times, it is because he is making a throw into a tight window. Oddly enough, didn’t Brett Favre miss out on two Super Bowls because of that same “gutsy” decision making? When Romo does it, it’s “bone headed.” People, especially fans, always want it both ways. I digress. Bottom line, he is coming off his best season and will always find a way on my top 10 list.

100710-Ben-Roethlisberger-SW-PI_20101007230653_660_3207- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Something about Big Ben that I cannot put my finger on just always leaves him out of the top 5. I watch him play and he is great, don’t get me wrong, but I just have never liked him enough to put him in that top 5 spot. There is no denying his ability to manipulate and move around the pocket and fire downfield. Now that he has a top receiver in Antonio Brown, he will age well moving forward.
Buffalo Bills v New Orleans Saints6- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Normally, I would stick Brees in the top five, but he has lost that big play ability it seems. I am not sure what to make of Brees heading into 2015. As a Saints fan, I have noticed he held on to the ball too long last year and doesn’t have the same strength to make throws he made three years ago. Is he still one of the best quarterbacks in the league? Absolutely, no question. I’ll take a Brees down year over most guys’ best season. Just not sure he is top five anymore. With some tweaks to the offensive line and moves that signify the Saints could be shifting to a more run-oriented offense, he could go on to have an outstanding year relying on play-action, much like Romo did last year.

5- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Maybe my favorite guy to watch in the NFL right now. His ability to make plays downfield by avoiding the pass rush is incredible. He has helped the Seattle Seahawks reach the last two Super Bowls and I firmly believe (Prediction alert) he is about to make round three. I’m salivating over the fact he now has a big target in Jimmy Graham. For a while, they made hype about how great he is at home because they were literally unbeatable at Century Link Field for two years. More impressive are his numbers on the road and being poised and confident away from the rabid Seattle fans. Last season, Wilson threw for just under 2,000 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 1 interception on the road. For those who have claimed he is a “game manager,” game managers don’t do that.

peyton-manning-run24- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

It is evident that Manning, like Brees, has lost some luster in his arm and wears down more rapidly. However, Manning is still a tower at 6’5. He was on pace to have another historic season early last year, but wear and tear caught up in the second half. He is still one of the most intelligent signal callers of all time. Combine that with his size, the guy won’t be hurting too much to sustain success.

Crouch-Brady-Deflategate-Press-Confrence-12003- Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Part of me wanted to slate him out of the top 5 due to his suspension for Deflategate. The guy is still coming off of his fourth Super Bowl win and sixth appearance. The combination of him and Head Coach Bill Belichick is just unfair. I suspect they will back near the top and fighting for a Super Bowl.

AndrewLuck2- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

The most can’t miss QB prospect has been everything he was expected to be and more. It is truly a treat to watch him play. He is the next transcendent star that the NFL has to offer. Luck really is a combination of Peyton Manning (intelligence) and John Elway (athleticism and arm). He could easily make a case for the top spot. It only took Luck three years to toss 40 touchdowns in a season. That is with a sub par offensive line as he has been hit more than any quarterback the last three years and without a true number one receiver.

tumblr_m12fz1K7XN1qdyvixo1_5001- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

The two time and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player tops the list, no surprise here. Maybe the most impressive thing about Aaron Rodgers is that he isn’t slinging the ball 40 times per game and yet he still puts up nearly 40 touchdowns and 4,400 yards each season. His touchdown to interception ratio is obnoxious every year. He has a massive arm and can pinpoint it anywhere. Let’s be honest, Rodgers has made a career off the back shoulder throw. No matter, who he throws to, they become stars. RODGERS! DISCOUNT DOUBLE CHECK!

Now that I have spewed my top 10 list, share yours below or tell me what an idiot I am because of something that you may not agree with. I welcome it.

The Five Greatest #1 Picks Draft History

Each year there is a huge conversation about who is going to be the next best thing coming into the NFL, however some of those players live up to their potential others just flop away.

Please note three things about this list.

  1. This list was created in a chronological order.
  2. Bo Jackson was not included because he did not play in the season in which he was drafted No. 1.
  3. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton did not make the list only because they are still in the league.

Year Position Player School Team Drafted By
1949 C, LB Chuck Bednarik Penn Philadelphia Eagles
AP

Accomplishments

  • 8x Pro- Bowler
  • 2x NFL Champion
  • Hall of Famer

Year Position Player School Team Drafted By
1970 QB Terry Bradshaw Louisiana Tech Pittsburgh Steelers

Accomplishments

Photo: AP
Photo: AP
  • 3x Time Pro-Bowler
  • 4x Super Bowl Champion
  • 2x Super Bowl MVP
  • League MVP
  • Hall of Famer
Year Position Player School Team Drafted By
1979 RB Earl Campbell Texas Houston Oilers

Accomplishments

Photo: Geary Broadnax, HP Staff
Photo: Geary Broadnax, HP Staff
  • 5x Pro- Bowler
  • League MVP
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Hall of Famer


Year Position Player School Team Drafted By
1983 QB John Elway Stanford Baltimore Colts

Accomplishments

Photo: AP
Photo: AP
  • 2x Super Bowl Champ
  • 9x Pro- Bowler
  • Super Bowl MVP
  • NFL MVP
  • Hall of Famer

Year Position Player School Team Drafted By
1989 QB Troy Aikman UCLA Dallas Cowboys

Accomplishments

  • 3x Super Bowls
  • 6 Pro Bowls
  • Super Bowl MVP
  • Hall of Famer

Cover Photo: AP

Did your favorite not make the list?

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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

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

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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

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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

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