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Archive for the category “NFL”

Pass Rusher For Hire

(photo courtesy of Scott Terna/Icon Sportswire)

(photo courtesy of Scott Terna/Icon Sportswire)

Mario Williams was supposed to be a monster when he entered the NFL. He had the size, speed and skills that had many believing he could be one of the best ever. He was taken first overall in the 2006 NFL Draft out of North Carolina State by the Houston Texans. And immediately, the expectations were heaped upon him. Honestly, there was no way that he was going to live up to what people expected of him. He did have a few good years in Houston, but ultimately, they did not believe he was worth keeping around and opted to build their defense around defensive lineman JJ Watt (which ended up being an excellent decision). Williams signed a huge deal in Buffalo (six years and $96 million with $31.4 million guaranteed) and the buzz was that he was going to return to the form he had in his second and third years in the NFL. His sack totals grew each of the first three years he was there, climbing from 10 sacks the first year to 14.5 sacks in 2014. But this past season he regressed to five sacks in Rex Ryan’s first year as head coach. The lack of production along with the rumblings of him being unhappy in Buffalo under Ryan will lead to him being officially released very soon. But what are his options and how will he be viewed on the open market.

Williams is a beast of a man lining up at defensive end. Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 292 pounds, he strikes fear in a lot of offensive linemen. But unfortunately, he does not play like a guy that strikes fear in offensive linemen all the time. He has been known over his career to take some time off on the field and disappear in games like he did this past season. If you are going to sign him, then you have to take a chance that he may disappear again. And with the need for pass rushers in the NFL, someone is going to pay him big money once again. But along with the inconsistency his career has shown, you also have to think about his age. Williams is no spring chicken anymore. He will be entering his 11th season next year (31 years old heading into next season) and there are no guarantees that he can get to the heights that he was at in his first three years in Buffalo. The place where he lands will have to be a 4-3 defense because he is best when he has his hand on the ground rushing off the edge. If he decides to play and show that he still has it, then he could be a steal for a team looking to get any pressure off the edge. Or worst case scenario, he has the potential to be a stain on the salary cap of the team he chooses to sign with. Essentially, an ideal situation would be for him to go to a team that has multiple pass rushers to take some pressure off him with a younger pass rusher to spell him from time to time. But the reality is that he will end up more than likely going to a team that is in desperate need for a pass rush. So with that being said, where are some ideal spots for him?

Williams could be taking his game out West. With defensive end Justin Tuck announcing his retirement, there is a need for Williams in Oakland. Their offense is up and coming, but the defense needs some help. The Raiders would probably prefer to sign a defensive back to help their ailing secondary, but having a pass rush combo of linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack and Williams would be terribly tough to handle for the rest of the league (provided Williams shows up every week). The team also could pay him an astronomical salary that he would want. That team with the offensive talent they have just needs a defense and they could make some noise and eventually the playoffs. Another team that is up and coming is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They, just like the Raiders, have some budding stars offensively. And just like the Raiders, the Jaguars need defensive help. They play in a division where the Texas (with how bad they were) won the division and the Colts aren’t exactly the most solid-looking team these days. Williams could come in there and lift that defense up if he plays up to his potential. Adding Williams and a cornerback would be huge for Jacksonville in their attempt to get back to relevance. But the last and final team that would fit Williams the best are the Giants. New York missed the playoffs last season and part of that reason was their inability to create a pass rush. With Williams, that problem could be solved. And with the rumblings that the Giants are going to sign back Jason Pierre-Paul, he would take some of the pressure off him to be the main pass rusher for the team. With adding him and maybe some health in the secondary (along with some good pickups there), the Giants could remake their defense to support their offense. And in the NFC East, the Giants have as good a chance as anyone to win that division, especially with the only quarterback currently in the division that has won a title. And of the three teams mentioned, they have the best shot to win the title.

Mario Williams is likely about to sign his last big contract once he is officially released from the Buffalo Bills. And where he signs, there will be pressure on him to perform and win. Time is running out on his career and the next place he signs, he has to be present and not disappear like he did in this past season. It will be interesting to see where he lands and what they give him to come there.

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The Next Chapter For Matt Forte

(photo courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.huffingtonpost.com)

Matt Forte has been a mainstay in the backfield of the Chicago Bears. Ever since he was drafted in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Bears out of Tulane, he has been giving opposing defenses fits. And the 6’2”, 218 pound back is not only a threat on the ground, but through the air as well. He has been doing his thing in Chicago for eight season, but 2015 was his last season as a Chicago Bear. The organization has decided to go in a different direction and will not be retaining his services. Forte said his goodbyes to the fans on social media and thus begins his search for a new home next season. Plenty have speculated on where he will land next year and what kind of team fits his style. But in all honesty, there are a few things that will effect what he wants to do next. Some of that falls at the feet of Forte. But then there are also some teams that have to address where they are at this point in time.

Forte is a veteran player at this point in his career. He has reached 30 years old and that is deadly for a running back. At that age, running backs usually have the wear and tear catch up to them. You tend to see guys getting banged up more and missing more games. Forte has been very durable over his career, but he did miss the second-most games in his career last season and had the lowest single-season rushing total he has had in his entire career. If he is to go somewhere, he will have to split carries with someone. For a guy that is used to carrying the load, that will definitely be an adjustment for him. The question will be is he ready to do that or not? If he is, he better be ready to take a paycut (made $9.2 million last season). Running backs are not as valued as they once were in the NFL. More teams are going to a rotation system at that position and also are going with cheaper options to run the football. Forte may be looking for that last payday, but that last one will probably not be as much as he wants. If he accepts less money to play, it will more than likely be to play for a contender. During his time in Chicago, he has not really been blessed to play with a contender.

Now that we have gotten the particulars in what Forte is at this point, what he may be looking for and what he may get on the free agent market, it is time to get some teams to mind that may be able to use his services. One team that could use him would be New England. The Patriots are big in using the short passing game and Forte would be a perfect fit for them there. They do have Dion Lewis coming back next season, but the Patriots have not been any stranger to adding veteran backs. And ultimately, the Patriots would give Forte a chance to win that elusive ring. Another team that could use his talents would be the Seattle Seahawks. Of course they would have to get him on a tremendous discount due to the money they have to pay all the players they have. But if they were to get him, then they would have insurance in case of Thomas Rawls not repeating his performance next season. And they would also have a guy that could play all three downs for them with ease as a backup also. And third on the list comes the Dallas Cowboys. Even though the Cowboys may not be the contender the Seahawks and Patriots are, they could make some noise offensively provided everyone is healthy. But one thing that would scare me about that team is that Tony Romo has broken his clavicle multiple times. And at Romo’s age, clavicles don’t heal up and maintain themselves like they may have if he was younger.

Forte is nearing the end of his career. Money will be the motive, but so will the chance to win a ring. The veteran running back has to balance getting paid along with going to the best fit for him to win or be effective. On the flipside, teams checking Forte may want to make sure and sign him as a luxury and not an essential piece. Signing a 30 year old running back to be the feature back is not good business at all. It will be interesting to see how things turn out for Forte. He has had one heck of a career up to this point and could help some teams.

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Derrick Henry Will Not Live Up To The Hype In The NFL

(photo courtesy of The Charlotte Observer)

(photo courtesy of The Charlotte Observer)

The running back position has been one that has been devalued over time. Instead of many teams picking running backs in the first round, teams are starting to get running backs in the second, third and fourth rounds and even getting good ones as undrafted free agents (Thomas Rawls from Seattle comes to mind there). But every year, there is a top running back that garners enough attention that a first round pick is mentioned next to their name. One of those running backs this year is Alabama running back Derrick Henry. The 6’3”, 242 pound Florida native was the engine behind Alabama’s offense and helped lead them to the National Title this season. And along the way, he scooped up the prestigious Heisman Trophy award in New York City. The size, speed and power of Henry is something that some think will translate well to the NFL. There is no denying that there will be some teams that will see him as being a feature back for them. But unfortunately, his success at the college level may not translate to the NFL. Despite the great measureables and numbers he put up at Alabama this season and over his career, the NFL game is not a place where we will see him succeed.

Plenty speak of Henry and his power when he runs along with his speed. But have many even really watched him play. There is no doubt that he can run, but Henry is a long-strider when he runs. He often is like a runaway train once he gets it going. But the problem at the next level will be getting his speed generated quicker. Many times, Henry will not have the type of time he had when running behind that line at the University of Alabama. And that means he will have to get through the holes quicker and faster. With his long strides, that may be an issues. And because of that, those long runs that we saw him have in college could be few and far between. The difference between him and a guy like Rams rookie sensation Todd Gurley is that Gurley has explosion as soon as he gets the ball. He does not need that much room or that many steps to get his speed going. Henry does need that and he will definitely need a solid like that can afford him that time.

Another issue will be Henry in the passing game. Derrick Henry can catch the ball and that is no issue. Many did not see him get to catch the ball much, but remember this play he made in the 2014 Sugar Bowl versus Oklahoma:

Notice he had time to catch the ball, square his shoulders and generate some speed. In the NFL, it is highly doubtful that a man of his size will standing as wide open as he was in this play. And if he does, then that defense deserves whatever comes their way. But the thing about Henry is he will probably not be a back that can be used on all three downs. His quickness to run the option routes out of the backfield is something that will not scare many teams. Running those options routes requires a shifty back with sudden movements. Henry is not that type of back quite honestly. Screen passes will be something that he will be helpful in doing for the team that drafts him. But he will not be the guy you can look at to make that explosive play outside of a screen pass at all.

Drafting Henry would not be that bad at all if he was drafted in the second or even third round. But because of where he will probably be taken, he may not be able to live up to where he is picked. Henry was excellent in college. But the thing he lacks that backs like Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon from Alabama had was that explosion through the hole along with the quick and shifty feet. And unfortunately, that is something that you cannot develop as much at this stage in the game. Quite honestly, Henry could end up being like another big back that came out of the SEC almost a decade ago. His name was Brandon Jacobs. It would be great to see Henry do well and I wish him nothing but the best. But looking at film of him, he will have some struggles at the next level. And with him being a first round pick more than likely, that could mean he won’t live up to the hype.

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Kirk Cousins And The Interesting Contract Dispute In DC

(photo courtesy of Jeffrey G. Pittenger

(photo courtesy of Jeffrey G. Pittenger

Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III were both drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2012. Griffin III was drafted 2nd overall by Washington after they made a trade with the St. Louis Rams to get that pick. In the 4th round, Cousins was selected as a potential trade piece in the future. And as expected, Griffin III came out and was the star at quarterback for the Redskins in his rookie season. And his explosive play helped lead the Redskins to the playoffs in his rookie year. But after he got hurt at the end of the year and tore up his knee in their lone playoff game, Griffin III has not been the same. And during that time, Cousins has had his times to show he can be the starter. Cousins floundered in his first two tries as the starter of the Redskins in 2013 and 2014. It got so bad in Washington that Cousins was replaced by Colt McCoy after Cousins replaced Griffin III at one point. But this season, he was named the starter from the beginning of the season. And even though he had some rough moments, Cousins was able to lead the Redskins to the playoffs. But now the Redskins have another decision to make. Cousins is a free agent this offseason and could potentially leave the team. Recently, contract negotiations were broke off between Cousins and the Redskins when they could not come to an agreement. But even though the contract negotiations have broken off, there is little to no reason to think that he will not be wearing a Redskins uniform next season.

By March 1st, all teams have to have their franchise tags in place. We all pretty much assume the Broncos will have theirs in place for pass rush supreme Von Miller. But Cousins will be a guy that more than likely will have one placed on him. If Washington places the franchise tag on him, that will give them more time to discuss a long-term contract with Cousins. He and his agent will more than likely come back to the negotiation table after the franchise tag is placed on him. At that point, numbers will be compared and the two will either agree to a new deal or allow him to play through the franchise tag. If they are to pay him and make him the franchise quarterback, then they would be committing to a deal that would have him making at least an average of $20 million per season. That type of money would put him in the class of contracts that Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are in. And with that type of contract, there would be more expectation on Cousins to lead this team like a franchise quarterback does. That would mean he would have to put up numbers like he did this season (29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) and then some consistently. And considering that he has had chances before and this year was the first time he put up good numbers, can the Redskins really ensure that making Cousins the franchise quarterback is a solid move?

If the Redskins are smart, they would allow Cousins to play out the year on the franchise tag. By doing that, it would give them an even clearer answer on Cousins as the future for Washington at quarterback. By that time, defenses would have adjusted to some of the things he does offensively. The biggest challenge for him will be keeping ahead of the curve and showing that he is just not one that took advantage of defenses that were not familiar with him. If he proves that he can make it happen despite defenses gearing up to stop him, he will have then shown that he may be capable to be their franchise quarterback. If the Redskins make a mistake and sign him based off one year, they could hamstring themselves for years. If Cousins falls back to what he has been before the 2015 season, then you have a team that has no cap space and will be tied into Cousins for at least two years. All the while, they will be watching pieces leave that they may not have the money to keep. Cousins could end up becoming the newest version of Matt Flynn. There is a lot of possibilities out there that last year could have been an overachievement and the Redskins need to think long and hard along with taking an extended look at Cousins. If they are able to get that, then they can get the deal done next season. Of course, Cousins will probably have some leverage over them, but Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has shown over his time there that he is not afraid to open the checkbook for players.

Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have some decisions to make over time. Both have to get back to the negotiation table and the Redskins have to make a decision in franchising Cousins should they not complete a deal before March 1st. And when he gets franchised, that is when the fun will begin. That also is where the hard stance should begin. If they want to be smart, then they will look to see more before paying Cousins top money. If not, then they are not tied up at that position for a while longer.

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Peyton Manning, Selective Memory And Revisionist History

(photo courtesy of The Big Lead)

(photo courtesy of The Big Lead)

The football season is over, but there is still some buzz going on around the football world. While everyone is wondering what Peyton Manning will do, writer Shaun King dropped an article chronicling Peyton Manning’s sexual assault at the University of Tennessee. The incident happened when Manning was at the University of Tennessee and involved a team doctor, Dr. Jamie Naughright. For the full story, including the 74 pages of court documents, check here. Instantly, the document caused a stir on social media. There were those that took the taking down of Dr. Naughright seriously and had a different view of Peyton Manning. And there were others that seemed to brush this incident off. But it is amazing how folks can view some things when they actually like a player.

Peyton has forever been someone that people have seen as classy, hard-working and a great spokesman for the NFL. There is no doubt that he is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. But what some have to understand is that he essentially tormented Dr. Naughright. The funniest part of the whole thing is that some people did not read the story at all. Peyton Manning did not moon someone and Dr. Naughright did not walk in at the wrong time. He actually scooted down while she was examining a potential stress fracture of Manning and put his “man parts” on Dr. Naughright’s head. And secondly, Manning tried to besmirch Dr. Naughright’s character by saying she spoke vulgar and saying that she hung with Black guys all the time. Naughright may have spoken vulgar (which was refuted by every witness that Manning tried to get), but what does her hanging with Black guys have to do with any of this? Sounds to me that Manning was just trying anything to get out of this one and when the case was settled and Gag order placed, that screamed of guilt of Manning. And when he lied again in a book about the incident, he cost himself some more money because he again had to settle with Dr. Naughtwright. All the while he has done long-term damage to her career while not even offering so much as an apology. It is true that this incident happened in the past, when Manning was young. But that does not excuse the incident and the crap he put that woman through for nothing.

Many have also spoken on the length of time it has been since this incident happened. Some think that it is a convenient attempt to tear down Peyton’s legacy before he leaves the game by bringing up his past. Well, what some may want to realize is that this story is older than some of the fans that Peyton has actually. And I have come across many that were not even aware of the reality of this story. So in essence, it was new to a ton of people in that sense. Another thing that is interesting is how some can say they are trying to tear Peyton down or that this happened in the past when they cannot forget others and their past. For example, Cam Newton had success this season. And many were very happy for him and how well he had led the team. But there were some that continued to bring up his incident at the University of Florida. For those that are not aware, Newton stole a laptop and that got him in hot water. He was eventually out at the University of Florida because of it. And it is definitely interesting that some of the same folks will break that out in a minute while telling us to pipe down on the Manning incident. To those I would like to ask, “Why the change up on both Manning and Newton?” There will be some that will ask why I used Cam as an example and I can assure you that it was the first one I thought of. Not downing or supporting Cam and his press conference in this article and that is not the issue at hand anyway. But what is at hand is how some can selectively bring up the past for some and forget it for others. Another example of folks not letting go of the past is the incident Michael Vick had. The veteran quarterback went to jail for animal abuse, but so many still go at him about that as well. But with Peyton we are supposed to forget something that was an ugly situation because he paid them off? Honestly, that ought to concern more people than anything.

In the end, people are going to have their own opinion about Manning and what happened back then. But one thing cannot be disputed in this scenario: people tend to be more forgiving, forgetful and blind to the facts when it is someone they love. Manning is a great quarterback and no one is taking that away from him at all. But this ugly incident is definitely something that was covered up and hushed. With Vick and Newton, they paid consequences for what they did. But Peyton has seemed to avoid that along with any public backlash essentially. Some that keep blowing this story off would not do so if it was their daughter, wife, or family member that this mess happened to. But let them tell it, nothing even happened to begin with. And those folks are blind in broad daylight. If you’re going to bring up the past for one, you have to do it for all. You cannot pick and choose who you drag through the mud. That wreaks of hypocritical talk.

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Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode Deactivated

(photo courtesy Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last four seasons. They are known for a dominant defense and a physical running game. This year, that formula changed a bit with the loss of running back Marshawn Lynch for half the season due to nagging injuries and sports hernia surgery. The responsibility of the offense fell more on quarterback Russell Wilson to run the show and make it happen. The offense was still successful, but there was no doubt that they could have been even better with a healthy Marshawn Lynch. The veteran running back has been the staple of their offense since their run started in the Great Northwest. Each game, you got used to seeing a physical run happen that would just amaze you. Many players said he was one of the toughest players to tackle in the NFL. But Marshawn has decided he has had enough of the NFL. At the age of 29, Lynch has decided to call it a career. Lynch tweeted out a picture during the Super Bowl that indicated that he was retiring and there were messages from teammates Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman along with Seahawks owner Paul Allen that all but confirmed it. The real confirmation came when Lynch’s agent confirmed it on Monday that Lynch was indeed calling it a career. So Beast Mode will now be leaving the game and headed on to a new chapter of his life.

Many will remember the things that he did on the field and the effect he had there on the Seattle team. One of the most memorable plays of his career had to be the run he had against the New Orleans Saints back in 2011. That run and the cheers led to an actual earthquake happening. And that memory will forever be in the minds of Seattle fans and NFL fans as well. But what will also be in the memory of many is that Marshawn did things his own way. Much was made of him and speaking to the media. When he was in Seattle, media was not something he did at all. If he could have his way, he would avoid it at all costs. But due to threats of being fined, he eventually made some appearances with media. Those appearances, however, were still done on his own terms. He said very little if anything and promptly told media why he was really there. Who can forget him saying that he was at the Super Bowl press conference last year so he does not get fined? Marshawn just was not about the media at all and could care less about talking to them. He was more about playing the game and having fun with his teammates on the field or as he says it “I’m bout that action boss.” And about the action he was with career numbers of 9,112 yards, a 4.3 career average per carry and 83 career touchdowns over nine NFL seasons.

Marshawn Lynch and his exploits on the field will be talked about for a while. And there will be a debate whether he is worthy enough to make the Hall Of Fame in the upcoming years. He put up some good numbers over nine years. But the reality is he has 3,000 less yards than Frank Gore and he also has 29 less career touchdowns than Adrian Peterson. Both Gore and Peterson will more than likely be Hall of Famers. But with the way he handled media, that could affect him getting in. Lynch, though, could probably care less whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not. To him, he got what he wanted out of the NFL and is now able to move to the next step of his life. And reportedly, he has not spent much of his money he made in the NFLl. Lynch can now devote his energy to causes that affect where he is from, Oakland, and things that interest him and create a new life and identity for himself away from the game. And more importantly, Lynch can now be as quiet as he wants to be. Of course he cannot live like a hermit because many know who he is. But he can get away from the spotlight that he really did not like anyway. And that seems to suit him just fine.

Lynch definitely was a guy that struck fear in defenses. And when Seattle began to become the power they are now, he was the face of that movement. But Lynch has made his decision and it is time for him to move on. And who can blame him? He is getting out with his health and a bunch of money to live with. And he more importantly got to go out the way he wanted to go out: on his own terms. Good luch in retirement Marshawn. Enjoy life after football.

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The Denver Defense Takes Over The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

(photo courtesy Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

The Super Bowl was a matchup of the old guard and the new school of quarterbacks in the NFL. We had Cam Newton and the high-scoring Carolina Panthers in one corner and veteran Peyton Manning and the gritty Denver Broncos in the other corner. Both teams had fought through different things to make it to the big game. The Panthers lost their top wide receiver and many did not expect much of them to start the year. And for the Broncos, they had their share of quarterback issues and offensive issues as a whole. But there these two stood, battling for the Lombardi Trophy. In the end, the Broncos were able to prevail over the favored Panthers 24-10. And with that, Peyton Manning now has his second Lombardi Trophy to add to his illustrious career. The Panthers fought hard, but they just did not have enough to make it happen. And for the Broncos, their defense definitely won this game.

The Broncos defense had a tall task: stopping the MVP, Cam Newton. He has been terrorizing defenses all year with his feet and his arm. But in this game, the terror was what he faced in the Denver defense. The Panthers offensive line was not very successful in protecting Newton and that led to him being sacked seven times in this game. The main guy who was after Newton all game was pass-rusher supreme Von Miller. The free-agent-to-be and MVP of the game was all over the field and on Cam’s heels all night long. He had a total of 2.5 sacks Sunday night. The pressure on Cam was the most he had seen all season long. And the hits that he took just kept coming all night long. That led to him not having much time to hit any of his wide receivers down field and having to throw away more passes than he had all season long. Because of the disrupting of the passing game by the Denver pressure packages, the Panthers looked disjointed in the passing game and Cam never seemed to get comfortable in the pocket. And when he scrambled, Cam had a few runs of note, but he had the clamps put on him for most of the night.

Coming into this game, the Panthers were the team that was known for forcing turnovers. They had the best turnover ratio in the NFL coming into this game. But in the Super Bowl, the Broncos defense turned the tide. The Broncos forced three turnovers in this game. And the Panthers, they were only able to force three turnovers. Usually the turnovers the Panthers force end up in points. But in this game, they were not able to take those turnovers and convert them at all, as the Denver defense was stingy all night long. The Denver defense, however, forced two big turnovers that led to their two touchdowns. The first big turnover they forced came when the Von Miller sacked Cam Newton. Miller was able to strip Newton on the play and then the Broncos recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. And the other huge turnover was when they were up 16-10 and Carolina had the ball, needing a touchdown and extra point to take the lead. Von Miller again striped Cam Newton of the ball while rushing the passer. That turnover led to the game-clinching touchdown that would seal the game. Those 14 points the Broncos defense helped either score or setup were the difference in the game tonight and helped them hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Another huge key in this game was the running game. Coming in, the Carolina Panthers were the team that was used to having a consistent running game. With Cam Newton being able to run and Jonathan Stewart running the ball very solid coming into the game, it was thought the Broncos could be the team to have the issue running the football. But the Panthers were never really able to get their running game going. Newton ended up with 45 yards on six carries, but Jonathan Stewart was missing in action all night long. The veteran running back out of Oregon had one big run of 12 yards in this game. But other than that, he had only eleven carries for 17 yards and a touchdown. With the running game never getting started, the Panthers had to depend on the passing game. And if anyone has watched the Panthers play this year, they are not a team that typically depends on the passing game to get them going. Besides their veteran tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers had a pedestrian receiving corps. In this game, their dropped passes finally caught up to them. And add to that some errant passes from Cam and the passing game was stuck in neutral as well.

Peyton Manning may be retiring after this game and riding off into the sunset as a two-time title and arguably the greatest of all-time. But the Denver Broncos did not win this championship because of his stellar play. They won this game on the strength of their defense. And from the beginning of the season to now, their defense carried the offense on their collective backs. It’s only fitting that the final game of the season was a defensive masterpiece.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Super Bowl Special

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

It all comes down to one game. Two teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, have fought hard to make their way to the Super Bowl. One was expected to be a contender from the beginning of the season. The other was not expected to even win six games. But now both are in Santa Clara, California getting ready to try and win the biggest football game in their professional careers. One will achieve that goal while the other will take in the bitter feeling of defeat on the NFL’s biggest stage. Which one will be taking that loss and more in the final installment of the General’s NFL proclamations coming right now!

Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Panthers are very heavy run-oriented and the Broncos stop the run very well. One of these strengths are going to have to give. The feather in the cap Carolina has is Cam Newton running the football. And with that being said, the Panthers will have 125 yards total on the ground, with Cam acquiring at least two first downs and 50 yards rushing. And just for good measure, let’s add in a touchdown for him as well.
  2. The Broncos have to get their running game going. And in doing so, they will be trying to run against a stingy defense as well. But unfortunately, the Broncos have not been as successful as the Panthers’ offensive line. In this one, look for the running game of the Broncos to not gain over 80 yards rushing.
  3. Cornerbacks Josh Norman and Aqib Talib have played very well for the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos respectively. Talib will have his own issues to deal with, but Norman has two really good receivers he will get some time against in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He will not be able to guard both, but he can affect both of them. Look for him to hold whoever he checks defensively to 4 receptions for 70 yards at the least.
  4. The Denver pass rushing duo of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware can cause havoc on opposing offenses. And every game they have played in together, they both have had an impact on the game. Well in this one, they will have their chances. Of course it will be hard for them to get Cam down. But they will get there at least once to get Newton.
  5. Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton has been the story for most of the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Many have wondered which one will have the better game. Well, both will have an interesting one in this game. Both will have at least one turnover and there will be one play made by one quarterback that will be the difference in the game.

Prediction: The Panthers come in riding high off their two big wins in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Broncos were able to hang on and win two big game to get to the big stage. Both teams need the running game to be effective and both defenses stop the run very well. Eventually, the playmaking of Cam overcomes the nasty defense of the Panthers. And through the air and on the ground, Cam makes the plays for the Panthers to win the game. And although Peyton will come out and play well for a while, he will not be able to keep up the pace for the entire game. The Panthers win their first ever Super Bowl title and it will be a close one. Carolina 27, Denver 21

The Carolina Panthers are Dabbin’ all the way back to Charlotte with the Lombardi Trophy.

(photo courtesy USA Today)

(photo courtesy USA Today)

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Five Factors For Carolina To Win The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

The Carolina Panthers have been a revelation this year. When the season began for the Panthers, there was trepidation with how they would do. Carolina lost their best wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, to a torn ACL before the season started. But the Panthers passing attack overcame that and ended up being one of the best offenses in the NFL, thanks to soon-to-be NFL MVP Cam Newton. And combined with that stingy defense, the Panthers steamrolled through the regular and the postseason. Now the next challenge awaits them as they take on the Denver Broncos. And while some may think it could be an ugly game for Denver, the Panthers should expect a battle from the veteran Broncos team. Here are five factors that could swing the game in their favor versus Denver.

  1. Turn up the heat on Peyton Manning

The Panthers have been steady in putting pressure on quarterbacks all year long. And the Denver Broncos have not exactly been the best at protecting their quarterback. The Broncos have gotten better over the year, but they are still the same offensive line that had issues to start the year. If Carolina is able to take advantage of that, then they will have Peyton Manning dancing in the pocket more than he would like to. One guy to watch out for up front is defensive tackle Kawaan Short. He seems to be the barometer of their front four and can be a huge force on the game.

  1. Who’s the other corner?

The Carolina Panthers have had cornerback Josh Norman step up all season long. And going into his free agency this offseason, he will be targeted by many teams because of his stellar job. But other than him, who do the Panthers have? The other cornerbacks have done well, but with Charles Tillman out, Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain have to step up and play well. Based on the Panthers defense, Norman will not be on Broncos’ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas all the time. And with Emmanuel Sanders at the other wide receiver slot for Denver, the Panthers will need someone else to step up and defend him sometimes too. Finnegan and McClain will be key to how the Panthers defend the Broncos’ passing game.

  1. Pound the rock

The Carolina Panthers are a physical team whose mantra is “Keep Pounding”. In this game, they must do so offensively. The Panthers are a run-oriented team with a passing game that works off of it. As far as the Broncos, they are a physical team that limits teams in the running game. The Panthers have to win that battle in the running game versus Denver’s defense. When they run the football with Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart or Mike Tolbert, it sets up everything that they do. And if they don’t have the running game, then it causes the Panthers to struggle a bit. The Panthers offensive line has to be nasty in this one from start to finish.

  1. Cam being the MVP

Cam Newton has been the MVP of the NFL this season. And in this game, the Denver Broncos will try to do all they can to limit him. But it’s real hard to limit a guy that is 6’6” and 250-260 pounds with a cannon for an arm. Cam has to make those special plays that make a player like him unique. The pressure will be after him all game long, so he has to turn those potential sacks into positive plays. And if he is able to do that and neutralize the Broncos’ pass rush, then the Panthers will be a better position to win the game.

  1. The others receivers

The Panthers receivers have been playing well this season. For example, Ted Ginn Jr has had a career year for Carolina. But there have been some times where Ginn Jr has disappeared and dropped sure touchdown passes. And for him and the rest of the Panthers receiving corps, they will have their opportunities to make some things happen. Denver’s defensive secondary is very good but they do allow some plays to happen. The question is will they make the plays when they present themselves like they have all season or not? The big stage can have a great effect on players and it can also have a damaging effect. If they show up and take advantage of their opportunities, they could be in great position to win.

The Panthers are in a spot where they can make history. Carolina can win their first title in team history if they are to defeat the Broncos. It will not be easy. The Broncos will give them everything they have. But if Carolina can make these five things happen, then they could potentially be Dabbin all the way to Charlotte after this one.

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Five Factors For Denver To Win The Super Bowl

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

(AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Denver Broncos are where not many thought they could be. After their big start to the season, they struggled offensively and Peyton Manning was hurt. At that point, many had lost faith that could get it right. But during the postseason, they have made it happen and will be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Their opponent in the Super Bowl, the Carolina Panthers, will present a formidable challenge. If they are to win, they will definitely have to play outstanding in all aspects. But it isn’t impossible for them to win this one. After all, the games aren’t won just off matchups alone. Here are a few things that could swing the game in their favor.

  1. Running game consistency

The Denver Broncos are facing a stingy run defense in the Carolina Panthers. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are two linebackers that can cause any offense problems. The offensive line of the Broncos will be charged with creating holes for their running backs. If they are able to run the football, then they keep the Panthers’ defense on their heels. But just as key as it is that the Denver offensive line open holes, it will also be important that running backs CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman hit those holes. Because against Carolina, any sliver of daylight they get running the football will close quick. If Denver is not able to run the football, then they will be at the mercy of the Panthers’ defense, who will be able to do whatever they want to.

  1. Paging Demaryius Thomas

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas got paid this offseason to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. And in the regular season, he played very well (105 receptions for 1,304 yards and six touchdowns). But in the postseason, Thomas has been less than stellar (six receptions for 52 yards). For the Broncos to win, they have to get something from Thomas when in passing situations. They have been able to win without him so far in the postseason, but on the big stage they need all their weapons to play well. Josh Norman will surely defend him a good percentage of the time, but it does not matter. Thomas has to be big and play big.

  1. Put Greg Olsen on a milk carton

The Panthers passing game was something many questioned at the beginning of the year. And to their credit, they answered the bell and have played well as a unit all year. But make no mistake about it, tight end Greg Olsen is Cam Newton’s must trusted weapon in the passing game. The Broncos have to eliminate him from the equation in this one. One way to do so would be for them to use safety TJ Ward on him and maybe play under Olsen with a linebacker. That will be tough to do since they also have to contain quarterback Cam Newton, but it isn’t something that cannot be done. Another option would be to put cornerback Aqib Talib on him some in this game. If they are able to eliminate Olsen, then it puts the onus on the Panthers’ wide receiving crew to make it happen. And although they have been solid all season long, including Ted Ginn Jr having a career year, they are still not generally looked upon as a strong group. If the onus is placed on them, it will be interesting to see how they react.

  1. Third-down proficiency

The Carolina Panthers have been one of the better teams at converting third downs this season, doing so at a 42% clip. On the opposite side, the Broncos are one of the least efficient teams in the NFL on third downs. For the Broncos, a huge factor will be stopping drives and converting to keep drives alive. If the Broncos are able to bring that percentage down from the Panthers while getting theirs up, then that will definitely increase their chances of winning this game versus Carolina. If they don’t, well we know what could happen. And of course that would not be a pretty sight for the many that want Peyton to win what could be his last game.

  1. Contain Cam

Cam Newton has been special this season. He has passed and ran his way all the way to what will be his first MVP award. But in order to win this game, they must be able to contain him. Of course there will be times that he will break contain and make a play in this game. But as long as they are able to keep him in the pocket for majority of the time, their chances increase to win this game. One thing the Broncos may try to do is Mush Rush. In doing so, they may be able to keep Cam in the pocket while hopefully holding up in coverage. The Denver pass rush will be pivotal in this game. And with Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe getting after Cam, there will be an interesting battle going on between them and Cam.

The Broncos made it here and they are now getting a chance to make it happen on the big stage. There is no telling when they will be back and if they will ever get back to the Super Bowl. So they have to take advantage of their opportunity. And if they do these five things, then they increase their chances to potentially send Peyton Manning out on a winning note.

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