The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

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Farewell To The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog has been my gift to the writing world ever since it started back in July of 2010. I started as an inexperienced writer that was trying to get a voice out to everyone. And you better believe that I had no idea what my writing would turn into. But over time and practice, the writing has gotten stronger and the dynamic has been crafted through my work. And with that dynamic growing and the writing becoming stronger, I created a following of people that either liked what I was writing about or gave stiff opposition. Either way, people were starting to tune in. And as people were starting to tune in, there were people on different levels that were paying attention as well.

Over my time writing on The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog, I have had the opportunity to interview people and write for people as well. People like ESPN Radio’s Freddie Coleman and Warren Moon have been gracious enough to allow me to interview them. And I also had the opportunity to write for Free (106 And Park fame) and having the opportunity to write for City Sports Report and my writing friend Derrel Johnson. And with Derrel, I was afforded the opportunity to cover the Christmas Day Knicks game versus the Washington Wizards in 2014. I remember covering that game and being able to go into the locker rooms and see the reactions and the way everyone conducted interviews around us. I also remember having the opportunity to see how things are done on the big stage of media. These experiences have proven to be invaluable to me as I have grown as a writer and expanded my media presence.

I have thoroughly enjoyed running The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog over the 5 and a half years it has been up. But the time has come for change to happen. And that change is The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog coming to an end. I have enjoyed all of you that have visited, commented and shared my work in the many places that it has popped up. But I just feel that it is time for this site to come to an end. But never fear, I could pop up again when you least expect it. Maybe in another form or fashion. But as of right now, this is the last time this guy will appear here on this site. The run is over for this one. Time to move on to the next phase. Turn off the lights. The party is over.

Signing Off,

 

Mike Patton

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog

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This Isn’t John Calipari’s Wildcats

(photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

The Kentucky Wildcats came into this season having to replace a lot of talent. Seven players chose to leave school early and enter the NBA Draft, including #1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns. And with those seven leaving, there were plenty of spaces available. With that being said, Kentucky again had the #1 recruiting class in the nation and they were expected to roll again this year. The season started with being led by point guard Tyler Ulis and guard Jamal Murray, as they went 7-0 out of the gate. But when the Wildcats lost to the UCLA Bruins, the chinks in the armor started to show. The Wildcats would go on to lose three more times in the last nine games and there has to be some concern there. As time goes by, if they don’t get it together, they could be following the steps of the Kentucky team led by Archie Goodwin back and Nerlens Noel back in the 2012-2013 season. That team had a bunch of hype behind them and then ended up floundering in the first round of the NIT. And to boot, Noel tore his ACL chasing down a Florida player and trying to block his shot. This team was not as disjointed as that team was, but it seems they have not got it going and on the same page as of yet. So what needs to happen for this team to get it together?

Under Calipari, Kentucky has always had that one big man that could put the ball in the basket. His first one he got at Kentucky was DeMarcus Cousins. And after that there have been guys like Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Julius Randle and Karl-Anthony Towns. Along with the guard play that we have come to expect, we always look for the next big man Kentucky would produce that would get it done in the paint. Coming into this season, that guy was supposed to be freshman Skal Labissiere. He was the #1 big man in the 2015 recruiting class and he was multitalented. He was a 6’10” big man with a skill set that was more of a faceup post guy. His style, unfortunately, has not translated to the college level. He has not been as strong as many thought he was going to be and is only averaging 7.7 points while losing his starting job to senior Alex Poythress. Speaking of Poythress, he is a 6’8” small forward with incredible explosion to the rim. But he has been very inconsistent, just like his career has been to date. And if you take a look at Kentucky’s other big man, Marcus Lee, he is a guy that can finish at the rim but cannot create his own offense. For the Wildcats to go any further, they will need one of these three to step up and step up consistently. One other option to bring in up front is Derek Willis. The 6’9” junior from Kentucky can shoot the basketball, but he is not a guy that can give them much in the post. But even with that, his shooting touch would help spread the floor for the guards of Kentucky to attack.

Defensively, the Wildcats have been solid at times on the perimeter. The defense has caused havoc, led by guard Tyler Ulis. But when the shot goes up, that is when the adventure begins. Kentucky has usually been a team that boxes out and outrebounds teams. And at the beginning of the year, Coach Calipari alluded to this team needing to get better in that area. Well, it seems like they have not been getting the message. Even with the veteran players in Poythress and Lee, the Wildcats are giving up second-chance points. And when that happens, Kentucky is giving up an offensive rebound and more than likely two points. Those extra points have not hurt them a lot this season, but those extra points could hurt them at the wrong time. The one thing the Wildcats could do to alleviate some of the rebounding issues is team rebounding. What that means is instead of guards sitting around watching the big men rebound, they need to help them out and get down there to fight with them. If they are able to do that, there is some stress taken off the big men of Kentucky. It may take them out of the fastbreak a little bit, but it will be worth it if they are not giving up second and third shots.

Rebounding and scoring from their big men is a huge thing, but what is even bigger is leadership. Who was the voice of the team was never a question for the Wildcats in 2014-2015. Last year, there was leadership and focus for numerous people. And because of that leadership, it helped Kentucky have the type of season they had. With this year’s team, the leader is unquestionably point guard Tyler Ulis. He is definitely the one barking out the signals and making sure things run smoothly. He also is the guy that takes some of the big shots along with guard Jamal Murray. Both he and Murray are also carrying the team offensively, combining for 32 points per game. But for this team to take the next step, he has to ride some of his teammates. A leader is someone that is not always liked by his teammates and Ulis has to learn that. He has to push them to be better and do better. If he is able to strike that chord with them, then that means he is taking ownership of that team. Many teams have a player that steps up and does the things that a coach would do in terms of getting on guys and leading them. Ulis has all the capabilities and has shown he is capable of it, but he has to do it all the time. That is what leaders do.

The Wildcats are not doing terrible, but they are not doing as well as Calipari teams usually do. For them to take that step forward and be considered a serious National Title contender, they will need to get better play out of their big men. The Wildcats also have to have leadership take over this team along with the improved post play. Only time will tell what happens, but the Wildcats’ problems will only get worse if they lose Thursday night against Arkansas. Time is of the essence.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Hue Jackson Takes Over In Cleveland

(photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

Hue Jackson had a bevy of options to become a head coach this offseason. As soon as the Cincinnati Bengals’ season was over, the interviews started. Up first was the San Francisco 49ers and next were the Cleveland Browns. The Giants were trying to get in on him too as he was one of the hottest commodities out there to be a head coach. But the choice began to get clearer when the second interview was set for Hue with the Cleveland Browns. The Giants, although they tried hard, were not even granted an interview with Jackson in favor of him taking the second interview with Cleveland. And in that second interview, it was apparent that he was the guy they wanted. Hue, for his part, could have played the game a little more and waited to give an answer to all that were interested. But Jackson heard some things he wanted to hear in the meeting with the Browns. And now Jackson will get the opportunity to pick up where he left off in terms of being a head coach.

The biggest thing that Cleveland needs is players. The team has had draft pick after draft pick not produce for them. The most recent ones have been picked by former Browns GM Ray Farmer. Needless to say, the Browns have not had much luck developing draft picks. With Jackson, he may not develop them as much, but he will be the guy that has some power over who gets picked up in the draft. Jackson is rumored to have taken this job because of the power over personnel. And with that caveat in addition to being the head coach, it would have been hard for Jackson to refuse. The 49ers or Giants clubs would not even come near giving personnel power to any new head coach. There are some that dislike this deal because it gives a head coach more to worry about: general management. But the difference between Jackson and a guy like Chip Kelly (who was given personnel control in his second season) is that Hue has been in the NFL as a coach while Chip was a college coach trying to adjust. In Cleveland, he essentially will be allowed to make the decisions necessary personnel-wise. And if he is successful at doing so, then he will end up bring back Cleveland in football.

One of the first personnel decisions Jackson will have to make is on his quarterback position. Quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted two years ago along with CB Justin Gilbert. The belief there in Cleveland is that Manziel would end up being the starting quarterback for this team. Well, things have not worked out that well when it comes to Johnny. The youngster has been on television for all things but playing quarterback. One of the conditions that helped Hue Jackson agree to being the head coach in Cleveland was to move on from Johnny Manziel. He has had enough of him after viewing him from afar and the time has come to turn the page. Hue could go one of three ways to get a quarterback. He could go get a quarterback with the 2nd pick in the NFL Draft (presumed to be California quarterback Jared Goff). Hue could also let Josh McCown come back healthy so he could back up the rookie. Another option is trading for a young quarterback in a backup situation, like Zach Mettenberger for example. Either situation would probably give them some sense of being steady at a position of need.

Another big task for Hue is the defense. The draft picks over the last five years have not been as great as they thought. Names like outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and cornerback Justin Gilbert have not lived up to the expectations from where they were picked. And the only defender that many worry about is cornerback Joe Haden. This defense has no identity and needs retooling in the worst way. Hue’s forte is not defense, but he has to hire an intuitive mind to work with what he has and make it work. If he is able to make the right hire, then the picks and free agents will fall into play, often as if they are done effortlessly. Free agency and trades can help the Browns rebuild. But the main thing is to set the base from within. That means making the correct personnel calls in terms of Cleveland so that they can mimic his former employer: the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have thrived over the last few years due to their strong drafts. An if Hue can do some of the same things, then the sky is the limit

The Cleveland Browns got one of the best head coaching candidates out there in Hue Jackson. No one thought this would happen but it did. And now we have a team fighting for relevance and getting that elusive head coach that many wanted but could not have. We shall see if this move makes the Browns better or worse.

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Are The Green Bay Packers Getting It Going At The Right Time?

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

The Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins were going in opposite directions going into the playoffs. The Packers entered the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. They had been embarrassed on national television against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16 38-8. And in the season finale going for the division crown, the Packers lost to the Vikings at home 20-13. The feeling around the Packers were that they had some issues on both sides of the football. Defensively, the Packers were solid up front. But in their secondary, there were some things going on there that were not conducive to good defense. Who can forget how the Cardinals had some fun at their expense in Week 16? But not to be left out, the offense definitely had their share of issues. The running game has been inconsistent all season long for the Packers offense and Eddie Lacy had not been himself. The wide receivers had not been able to get separation so Rodgers could throw them the ball. And the offensive line has been depleted all year. The feeling some in media had was that the hot team, the Washington Redskins, were better than the Packers at this point in the season. And if they were able to come out and jump on the Packers, then the Redskins would be marching on to the next game. But little did we know, the real Packers would come to play.

The Redskins came out and shook up Green Bay at first. The Redskins sacked Rogers in the endzone making it 2-0. And the Redskins took the next possession and drove it all the way down into Packers territory. From there, the Redskins squandered an opportunity while the Packers stood up. The Redskins thought they had scored when DeSean Jackson ran a dig across the field and got free. It appeared Jackson beat the defender to the pylon, but unfortunately Jackson did not stick the ball inside the pylon. That nullified the touchdown and put the ball at one-yard line. From there, the Packers defense made a stand. They stuffed the Redskins three straight times to force a field goal. The result of doing that missed opportunity was the potential four points that was left out there. The Packers had not shown that type of resolve in a few weeks and when put in a tough situation, they responded to the adversity instead of crumbling under the pressure. And as far as the running game, the Redskins had only 84 total rushing yards. That is outstanding rush defense.

But this was not all the Packers defense did. The aforementioned DeSean Jackson is an electrifying player. He can score from any angle on the field and make it look real nice while it’s happening. Against the Packers, it seemed the defense was clued into him and his abilities. And even though tight end Jordan Reed had a great day(9 receptions for 120 yards and 1 touchdown), the Packers were able to hold Jackson to just two receptions for 17 yards, with his longest being that reception that he should have scored on. The Packers communicated with each other and in doing so, helped each other do their jobs and keep Jackson in check. He did test them a few times down the field, but Green Bay was right there to swat the ball away. The young defensive backs of the Green Bay Packers (Quinten Rollins, Damarious Randle) handled the pressure of keeping up with Jackson and the Redskins passing attack quite well. And as a whole, the defense held the duo of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to under 100 yards total. That kind of defense, along with them putting heat on Cousins all game, will make any offense uncomfortable.

The defense played well, but the offense turned a corner on Sunday. It looked like the fun was out of the game in the last few weeks for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He was visibly frustrated at what was going on. He started off rough, but he soon found his rhythm. He would end up getting it going in the passing game to Randall Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams. The one that got him even more pumped up was the score before halftime. The defense had held the Redskins before the two-minute warning and got the ball back to the offense. And the Packers took it 60 yards for the score before halftime. That throw and that drive let people know that Rodgers was really feeling good and the confidence the offense was missing had started to reappear. Rodgers would only throw for 210 yards, but he was solid and looked like he was at the beginning of the year. And as far as the offensive line, they held up admirably after giving up the sack for a safety early in the game.

The passing game looked good, but the element of the run was a welcomed addition to this game. All season there has been no consistency there. When Lacy and James Starks were present, the team and the offense looked better and was able to win. When Lacy and Starks were not running the ball well, the Packers faced even more challenges to their offense. Sunday, the Packers’ running backs came out and ran the ball hard and tough. Eddie Lacy ran for 63 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, including a crucial 30 yard run in the second half. And as for James Starks, he ran for 53 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. When these two are running the football with conviction and toughness, the Packers are a tough team to beat. And with the holes the Packers offensive line was opening, it was definitely a sight for sore eyes to see that size of a hole. But what made their performances even better is they did not have to have the big holes to make yardage. There were a few times that Starks and Lacy had to duck their heads and get what they could get. And both realized that and did what they had to do. Eventually, they helped tire out the defense and make Aaron Rodgers even more lethal. When a passer like Rodgers gets a running game, it can keep the defenses guessing all game long. And that is something you don’t want with Rodgers at the helm.

Overall, the Packers looked like a much different team than they did the last few weeks of the year. And because of the polish they showed, they looked like the team that everyone thought they would be all season long. After this 35-18 win, the Packers head back to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals next weekend. It will be interesting if they can carry the momentum from this win to next week or if it was just a win against the winner of a pretty bad division.

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All Isn’t Good With The NFL’s Move Back To Los Angeles

The relocation of teams to Los Angeles has been talked about for a few years now. Teams that were mentioned over that time have been the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams. Well, we knew the Chargers were all but gone from San Diego after this year. But now we have word that three teams have applied to relocate to Los Angeles next season. Those three teams, the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, have applied to take their franchises to Los Angeles. A stadium is already in the works out in the Los Angeles area and there seems to be excitement in the air about the team being back in the area. There are still Rams fans out there on the West Coast and they play against teams that are on the West coast in the NFC West anyways. And as far as the Raiders and Chargers, they would be going back to where they originally came from (Chargers played in Los Angeles when they were first created in 1960). But even though there may be some that want the NFL in Los Angeles again, this move seems like it is one that is being forced.

The NFL is not wanting to bring a team back to Los Angeles because they feel bad for the Rams leaving. They are actually moving a team back there for business purposes. The NFL is all about the almighty dollar. And with them getting back into Los Angeles, it would mean they would not be in two of the biggest television markets out there. Being in a bigger market means that there are more televisions that have NFL games on them. And with the guarantee of having more televisions with football on them, that means more people will see the commercials that air during football. Having a piece of that market means that more sponsors will come to the NFL. And that means more money to flow in the pockets of owners across the league. The NFL just raised the salary cap because of some new deals they made with the folks that broadcast their games. But with this new development, this means that when that deal is up, the money will get even sillier as the NFL will have two major markets with a team. And along with the owners making more money, the salary cap will continue to climb higher and higher.

The money part of the scenario is huge for the NFL, but the other part of the scenario is one the NFL may not want to hear. Los Angeles really does not need an NFL team. In case the NFL missed the memo, Los Angeles has had teams come and go over the years. They have either not supported the team during the times in which they lose or refused to help finance a new stadium for them. The Rams originally moved to St. Louis because of waning support and the lack of funds for a new stadium for the team. When a team moves to Los Angeles again, there had better be some success that follows. There will be excitement over a new team just because Los Angeles has not had one for a while. But if one, both or all three of those teams are not any good over time, then the fans will do what happened in the past: find other things to do. Then the new stadium that was built will have been all in vain and the teams that moved there would be ready to move somewhere else yet again and leave the taxpayers holding the bag.

This move of a team to Los Angeles may be good for the short-term in regards to money for the league and access to a huge television market. But where it could hurt the NFL is if there is waning interest over time. In that case, the same story would end up playing out like in year’s past. If the NFL was thinking long-term, they would not be moving to Los Angeles again. But because of them wanting to get that extra dollar, they are ignoring the warning signs of moving back to Los Angeles. What makes this one even funnier is all three teams were once there, with two of them relocating because they could not get the new stadium they wanted. Now the reality is two teams will be sharing a stadium in a place that may or may not support them. And these teams will be leaving behind fans that actually cared to watch them play even though they disappointed them time and time again. Good luck to whatever teams end up moving to Los Angeles NFL. You had better hope the team(s) actually is successful this time around.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers Are The Most Dangerous Team In The NFL Playoffs

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Associated Press)

The Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they were going home early after last week’s game versus the Baltimore Ravens. The team looked lifeless, the passing game looked off and the defense was getting burnt by a bunch of backups that the Ravens had on the field. The Jets, meanwhile, were looking good. They beat the New England Patriots at home and only had to beat the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Steelers have the best wide receiving corps in the NFL and were thought to be out of the playoffs. But in one week, the situation for the playoffs changed in the Steelers’ favor. The Jets went to Buffalo to face their old coach, Rex Ryan. And in their effort to play spoiler, the Bills knocked off the Jets 22-17. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Steelers handled business and knocked off the Browns 28-12 to go into the playoffs. And now a team that many thought were done is back in the playoffs. And just like that, some trepidation just came from teams in the AFC.

The Steelers have not played consistently all season. The perfect example is their last two games of the season. They showed up against the Browns today but mailed it in against the Ravens the week before. But what scares many is the weapons that they have. Through good drafting, they have created the best wide receiving corps in the NFL. Their best receiver (and arguably the best receiver in the NFL), Antonio Brown, does a little bit of everything. He may not be the tallest of guys, but he uses his quickness, route-running and smarts to make things happen each and every game. You would think that most teams would put more coverage towards him, but the Steelers have another weapon on the opposite side that craves attention from defenses as well. Second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been getting it done ever since he returned from his four-game suspension to start the season. He has over 700 yards receiving in the ten games he played and he also accounted for six touchdowns. He scored his touchdowns in a myriad of different ways just like his counterpart, Antonio Brown. For a guy his size (6’4”) he is very fast and is a homerun threat from any point on the field he catches it. And as we all saw, he took some short passes the distance and he also burned defensive backs on deep patterns. These two are dangerous, but what takes this wide receiver corps to the next level is the development of wide receiver Markus Wheaton. The third-year wide receiver from Oregon State is enjoying his best season as a pro. Wheaton has accumulated almost 700 yards receiving despite having twelve less receptions from last season and he also has doubled his touchdown production (up to four from two touchdowns last season). And like Bryant and Brown, he can take it to the house from any point on the field. Guarding these three can make any defender sweat a little more. And with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger extending plays a lot, their opponents are often at their mercy.

The wide receiving group has been downright scary all year long. But there is one other guy that helps make this team as dangerous as they are. In the offseason, running back DeAngelo Williams was deciding where he wanted to play. He was no longer with the Carolina Panthers and wanted to go somewhere that he had a chance of winning. The place he chose was Pittsburgh, as he agreed to a two-year deal worth $4 million. It was thought that he would get some playing time in his first two games due to Le’Veon Bell being suspended for the first two games. Williams performed well in those first two games, averaging over 100 yards rushing in those two performances while scoring a total of three touchdowns. But when Bell was back, it was expected that he would go back to his backup role. But when Bell went down for the season on November 1st against the Bengals, Williams resumed the role as the starter. And it seems the Steelers have not even missed a beat. Williams has been the biggest bargain in football this season, giving the Steelers 899 yards rushing and scoring 11 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy that was not expected to have this much of the workload this season. He was injured against the Browns in the season finale, but it is expected that he will play in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. His running gives the Steelers offensive balance and makes defenses have to play the Steelers honest. And just like Le’Veon Bell, he can also be effective in the passing game, where he averaged 9.3 yards per reception and totaled 354 yards.

The Steelers’ offense is one of the most explosive in the league. And they will have to be on top of their game to make up for their defense, which has not been as tough as they usually are (ranked 22nd overall and 30th against the pass). If the Steelers’ defense is able to get at least three or four stops a game in the playoffs, then they will be in the driver’s seat and the pressure will shift to the opponent’s offense. And in the playoffs with the pressure picked up, the battle-tested Steelers have some players that have been to there before. The team no one wanted to see in the playoffs has made it. And with that, the Steelers are the most dangerous team in the playoffs.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Week 17

(photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

(photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

The last week of the NFL season has finally arrived. There are some teams that are glad that it is finally here. At last some can put an end to a season that was a lot less successful than they thought it would be. There are some teams that are trying to get it together for the postseason. Whether some are still trying to get themselves into the postseason or others trying to better their position, the urgency has arrived as the seasons have changed. It should be interesting to see how the end of the year effects the play on the field. Will some coast into the playoffs or will they button down the hatches and bring it for the last week? We shall indeed see on Sunday but for now, here are the General’s NFL proclamations for Week 17.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

  1. The Jets are trying to ensure being in the playoffs, so expect them to play hard in this game. And with that being said, look for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Brandon Marshall to connect at least two times for touchdowns.
  2. The Bills have found their quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. And he will cement that he is their quarterback by throwing for a least one touchdown and 200 yards and running for one touchdown as well.
  3. The winner of this game will not score more than 24 points. Although the Jets may be capable of scoring over 24 points, the game will have some sloppy moments and that will slow down the pace of the game.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

  1. The Patriots are playing for the first seed in the playoffs, but they will still be resting some guys here. With that being said, expect them to eventually take Tom Brady out of this game.
  2. The Dolphins have not met expectations them and their fans had this season. And one guy that did not play as well as they expected is big free-agent signing Ndamukong Suh. Look for him to do his usual thing, and that means taking plays off and just being a bystander in this one. He will do more watching than making plays in this game.
  3. The Patriots, although they will take players out of this game, will still put up points against the hapless Dolphins. But they will not do it in the way that most expect. Look for them to use the ground game to the tune of running for 200 yards on the Dolphins this weekend.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

  1. The rivalry is still there although both will be out of the playoffs this year. Expect at least three or four scuffles in this game. There is no love lost between these teams.
  2. The matchup between Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Drew Brees (Saints) are always good. And in this one, Brees comes in a little banged up. That nagging foot injury will harm him in this one as he throws at least two interceptions and looks less like the Drew Brees we know.
  3. The Falcons will finish the season with an offensive flurry. That flurry will definitely include wide receiver Julio Jones. Look for him to have at least 120 yards receiving and two touchdowns to cap off his spectacular season.

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

  1. The Bears are trying to finish the season strong after the bad start to the season. And if they are to finish this season off right, they must get good play from quarterback Jay Cutler. Look for him to get at least 250 yards passing and at least two passing touchdowns.
  2. The Lions will also be trying to finish the season off strong. And in doing so, they will follow their leader, quarterback Matthew Stafford. The veteran quarterback will be looking to cap off a solid finish and he will have at least 300 yards passing and one touchdown.
  3. Both teams will commit at least two turnovers. Both teams have been bad for a reason and that will show in this game.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

  1. The Eagles have not scored at the clip they wanted to this season. And in this game with rumors abound that Tom Coughlin will be retiring as head coach of the Giants, the scoring will be even tougher. The Eagles will not score over 17 points in this game.
  2. The Giants want to send out Tom Coughlin with a solid performance if this is his last time on the Giants’ sideline. With that being said, look for Odell Beckham Jr to make up for missed time and score not one but two touchdowns in this game.
  3. The Giants will score over 30 points in this game. They are due for a big game and the Eagles are ripe for the picking in this one.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

  1. The Redskins have won the division and are going to the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to take it to the Cowboys. Look for quarterback Kirk Cousins to have at least two touchdown passes and throw for at least 250 yards.
  2. But not only will Cousins get it going, but so will wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Look for him to have at least three receptions for a total of at least 100 yards receiving and one touchdown.
  3. The Cowboys offense has been struggling. And most of that has to do with uneven quarterback play. Look for this game to continue the bad play offensively as the Cowboys will not score more than 16 points in this game.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

  1. The Indianapolis Colts will be starting Josh Freeman at quarterback. No that is not an early April Fool’s Day joke. The fact that he will be starting says something about the ability of the Colts’ offensive line to protect their quarterback. And in this one, Freeman will see what Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck and Charlie Whitehurst saw. He will be sacked at least four times and will be lucky to escape this game unscathed.
  2. The Titans are not going to be the only one getting after the quarterback though. They have not exactly protected the quarterback well either. And with Mariota out, Zach Mettenberger will be sacked at least four times.
  3. Seeing that both quarterbacks will be under duress the entire game, look for this game to have no flow at all. And that means that there will be little scoring in this one. The first team to 20 will win this game.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

  1. The Ravens jumped up and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend at home. That win may have made the Ravens look good, but it also caught the attention of the Bengals. Look for Cincinnati to come out focused and that means they will be putting up at least 35 points in this game.
  2. In those 35+ points, look for the Bengals to raid through the air. That means AJ Green will be having a good time toasting the Ravens’ secondary. Look for him to get at least 140 yards receiving with two touchdown catches.
  3. The Ravens will have at least one highlight in this one and that will be Kamar Aiken. The young Ravens receiver needs 132 yards to get his first 1,000 yard season receiving. Look for him to get that in this game, as the Ravens will be playing from behind all game long and having to pass the football.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

  1. The Steelers’ offense looked asleep at the wheel last weekend and they lost the game they needed badly. Although it may be too little too late, the Steelers offense will come out and follow the lead of their leader, Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran quarterback will throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
  2. The Browns will be starting backup Austin Davis in this game versus the Steelers. And for a defense needing a break, they just got one. Davis will throw at least two interceptions in this game versus a defense that has struggled this season.
  3. The Steelers will put up at least 30 points in this one. Even though it may not even matter in terms of their playoff hopes, this game will help get the bad taste out of the Steelers’ mouths after last week’s game.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

  1. The Texans have come back from the dead to push towards the playoffs. To cement it, they need a good win versus the Jaguars. And that all comes down to the defense and how they play. Look for the Texans, behind JJ Watt, to get at least two sacks and one interception in this game.
  2. The Jaguars have been explosive in the passing game. And knowing the situation that awaits them, expect them to try and play the role of spoiler in this one. Look for Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson to connect on two huge plays of more than 30+ yards.
  3. The Texans will have multiple running backs touch the football in this one. Look for them to have at least two of those running backs score touchdowns in this game.

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs

  1. The Raiders have been dangerous offensively this year. But in this one, the only danger will be Carr throwing interceptions in the direction of defensive back Marcus Peters. The opportunistic defensive back will get at least two interceptions in this game, as he continues his ball-hawking ways.
  2. The Chiefs have been impressive offensively over the last couple of months. And in this one, look for them to take advantage of the Raiders secondary (minus Charles Woodson of course). Jeremy Maclin will have at least 100 yards receiving and one touchdown. He has been everything they have needed in Kansas City this season.
  3. The Chiefs will score at least 30+ points in this game. The Raiders have gotten better, but this game they are running into a Chiefs team that is looking to finish strong.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

  1. The Broncos clinched their playoff berth last week, but they still have work to do. Winning this game could help them, so expect them to come out with energy on both sides of the ball. And being that the Chargers have had protection issues all season, look for the Denver defense to tee off on the Chargers offense. With that being said, the Chargers will probably be giving up at least 4 sacks in this game to Denver.
  2. Denver offensively got on track last game. This time, they started slow and ended fast. That trend will more than likely continue this week, as Brock Osweiler will finish with two second-half touchdown passes in this one versus the Chargers.
  3. The Broncos will not only terrorize Phillip Rivers by sacking him, but they will make him pay for errant throws. Look for the Broncos to take one of Rivers’ mistakes back to the house for a touchdown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Carolina Panthers took their first loss last weekend and many came down on them. Well, this week will show that it only thickened their resolve. The Carolina Panthers will come out and score at least 28 points this week as they recover offensively from one of their worst games of the season.
  2. The Bucs have been up and down all year long. But in this one, the stock will be pointing down. The Panthers will be fired up defensively and that will lead to the Bucs committing at least three turnovers in this game.
  3. The Bucs will not score over 10 points in this game. It may be the end of the year for the Panthers, but they will be fired up.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

  1. The Seahawks and Cardinals will both be in the playoffs. Expect some players to make early exits because both are already in the playoffs.
  2. The Cardinals will not score more than 24 points in this game. The Seahawks will be as aggressive as they always are, but they will start shutting it down and that will change the outlook of this game.
  3. The Seahawks need to see what they have in their running game. And after this one, they will be glad to have Marshawn Lynch coming back next weekend. Christine Michael will not do much in this game. He will have only around 30 yards rushing and will not score a touchdown.

St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers

  1. The Rams had a big win versus the Seahawks in Seattle last weekend. And in this one, they will try to finish the season strong. Look for them to come out and put it to the 49ers to start the game. The Rams will score at least 20 points in the first half in Santa Clara.
  2. The 49ers will be trying to finish the season strong as well. And the main guy that will be trying to leave a lasting impression is quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Look for him to come out and throw for 200+ yards and one touchdown along with one interception.
  3. The Rams and 49ers will have at least one scrum in this one. Both teams are physical and that can end up spilling over beyond the whistle too.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

  1. The Packers and Vikings will be playing for the NFC North title. With that being said, look for Aaron Rodgers to get it going to the tune of 300 yards passing and 3 touchdown passes.
  2. The Vikings have been playing well, but there is always the legend of Lambeau that happens to get teams. And in this one, the Vikings will come out offensively and not play to their standards. Look for the offense to score under 17 points.
  3. The Vikings and Packers will both give up at least three sacks in this game. Both defensive front sevens will have a good time trying to make things happen in this one.

The season ends on all these division games. The intensity will be high in a lot of them, but in some there will be no energy at all. The end of the season is finally here and the postseason is now coming up quickly.

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16 Bold Predictions For 2016

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

A new year is upon us and there will be many great sports events that will happen. Some will be expected like the Super Bowl, college football championship game and the college basketball national championship game. But there are also things that happen that catch us all off guard. It’s easy to predict things that will happen, but it is not as easy to predict the unpredictable events that can happen. But with that being said, let me take my shot at it. Without further ado, here are my 16 predictions for 2016

  1. The Alabama Crimson Tide will win the National title

Clemson is a worthy opponent for Alabama in the National Title game. They are solid in each facet of the game and can make some explosive plays. But versus Alabama, the game will be won or lost in the trenches. Alabama is a physical football team and they have dominated teams up front for majority of the season. Clemson is a physical bunch as well and they will not wilt when facing the Crimson Tide. But eventually the physical play and the explosiveness of the Alabama front seven will get to the Tigers.

  1. The Golden State Warriors will not win the NBA title this season

The Warriors are again having a great season. And of course they will be a factor in the West this year. But let’s not forget that there are some other teams that can get it going and potentially knock them off. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs are talented enough to give the Warriors fits. And this season, one of those teams jumps up and gets the job done, ending the Warriors’ season prematurely.

  1. Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke will not make the NCAA Final Four this year

All three teams are very deep and talented. But in this year’s college basketball, each team has some flaws going with them. Of course North Carolina is the most talented of them all and they are shooting the basketball well this year. But eventually the shooting will fall back to earth and they will have to win a game with defense. That will be where they fall. As far as Kentucky, they have been pushed around more in the post than usual. And even though they are talented, that shortcoming will leave them hamstrung in March. And as far as Duke, they may have their tough guy, forward Amile Jefferson, back before the season is over. But they still don’t have enough scoring from inside that will scare someone. And that will be something that eventually catches up to them.

  1. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series

This past year, the Cubs went further than anyone thought they would. And heading into this season, the expectations are they will go even further. Some may wilt under those type of goals, but this team may just thrive under them. And with the additions they have made this offseason, the Cubs will finally make it back to the World Series and will win one, breaking the supposed curse that was placed upon them.

  1. The Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are sitting on top of the football world right now, sporting the best record in the NFL at 14-1. But that is not the ultimate goal for them. The thing that they are striving to get is the Lombardi Trophy. And for the Panthers, plenty keep speaking on all the reasons this team cannot win the Lombardi Trophy. Well, Cam and the boys have been listening and they will use that as extra motivation to go to the first Super Bowl for Carolina since 2003. And instead of coming up short like they did against the Patriots the last time they were there, the Panthers will seize the day and win their first Lombardi Trophy.

  1. Steph Curry will win another MVP

Curry was in another world last year. He averaged 24 points per game and eight assists last season while locking up the MVP trophy. And just when it was thought he could not get any better, he shows up this season and is putting up better shooting, scoring and rebounding numbers across the board. He has gone from another world to another stratosphere and there is no doubting that he is the best player in the NBA right now. And with the record the Warriors are currently sporting, he will be the MVP again. As much as some want to give this award to LeBron, it just will not happen again.

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers will swing and miss in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes

The talk around Philly is they are in tank mode once again. And the object of their affection this year seems to be LSU forward Ben Simmons. The Australian forward can do everything on the floor and that combination of size and skill has every NFL scout hoping Christmas comes in June for them. It would seem the perfect storm would have Philly getting the first overall pick this year in the draft. But unfortunately, it will not be for them this year either. The 76ers will get the second or third pick, not the first. And with that, they can kiss goodbye to Ben Simmons ever wearing a Philadelphia uniform.

  1. The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs next season

Head coach Gus Bradley is building something in Jacksonville. He has a quarterback in place in Blake Bortles, a reliable tight end in Julius Thomas, two young receivers that are making it happen in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson and running back TJ Yeldon. Defensively, the Jags have taken a step forward this year and will more than likely add a pass rusher next season. That combination of things along with the state of the AFC South could have them either winning the division or making the playoffs as a wildcard.

  1. The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs next season

The team showed growth this season. Derek Carr showed even more improvement this season. And with the weapons he has offensively, the offense should do nothing but get better next season. And defensively, they have a standout player in Khalil Mack. If they are able to add more defensive backfield help, this team will definitely be ready to make the playoffs next year. The Silver and Black will be back next year.

  1. DeMarcus Cousins will not be a member of the Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus is a very talented player. Unfortunately, he has not been able to wrangle his temper on the court. And with the surroundings in the city of Sacramento, it may not be the place for him to have success and mature as a player. So with that being said, Cousins will be out of Sacramento this offseason. Boston would be one place that has assets to trade for him. But there will be plenty that will be vying for his services. Only time will tell, but he will be playing in another city come next basketball season.

  1. Kevin Durant will re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Much has been said of where Durant will land next year. There have been rumors floated out there of him landing in everywhere from Golden State to Washington next year. But in the end, the prevailing thought is he will end up staying in Oklahoma City. The chemistry he and Westbrook have is something that he will not find anywhere else. And if they can get some consistent scoring from a third option, then this team will be able to make that magical run like they did when they met LeBron’s Miami team in the NBA Finals.

  1. Peyton Manning will not retire.

It was looking like he would be done at the end of the season last year. But instead of doing so, he decided to come back this season. Needless to say, this has not been the most memorable of seasons for him as a starter this year. And despite the thoughts that he will be retiring at the end of the season (and by looking at him right now, he should), he will more than likely try to play yet another season in the NFL. The question now is where he will play because it surely won’t be in Denver next year.

  1. Hue Jackson and Teryl Austin will get head coaching jobs this offseason in the NFL

Both have been excellent coordinators and Jackson never really got a shot when he was in Oakland. Jackson has been very solid as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Austin has been excellent as the defensive coordinator in Detroit. Both are definitely qualified and you are hearing their names mentioned over and over again in coaching searches. It will only be a matter of time before both become head coaches. And this offseason is the perfect time for both to become head coaches in the NFL.

  1. Luke Walton will be named the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

Unexpectedly, Luke Walton has been the interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Some may have expected the Warriors to not do so well without their leader, but Walton has led the team very well in his absence. And he has done so well that he will garner some head coaching looks around the NBA. One place that will be looking for a head coach soon will be the Los Angeles Lakers. With his experience with the organization as a player and his familiarity with the team, he would be a perfect fit for them and their young team.

  1. The Kansas City Royals will not make the playoffs this upcoming season

I know this is something that Kansas City fans will not want to hear, but it could definitely happen. The Royals just won the title, so there is always that moment of relaxation knowing you have achieved your goal. And the Royals will be fighting that all season long as they try to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome that as they miss the playoffs this upcoming season.

  1. Fans will continue to show no chill on social media

As time has gone on, keyboard courage has grown more and more amongst fans of sports. You can see on social media all the people that continue to call people out knowing they will never meet them in real life. Unfortunately, this is not going anywhere and there will be more of it to come. A thing I have proposed is that things would change if people had to attach their employer to the things that they say. I bet the fear of losing their job would change the things that people say.

The new year brings some new things and also some new happenings as well. It will be interesting to see if these sixteen things happen or if these thoughts going flying in the wind.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

The General’s New Year’s Resolutions In Sports

(photo courtesy of Kelly L Cox/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Kelly L Cox/USA Today Sports)

A new year is upon us and like usual, there are many that have made New Year’s Resolutions. You see some of the usual ones that involve working out posted everywhere, but what if teams and professional athletes had resolutions and we all had access to them? No one knows if some of these professional athletes made some resolutions for the year, but if they were to make them, this is what they could have been. Without further ado, here are some New Year’s Resolutions the General has for some people, teams and players.

Chicago Bulls-Remember Who You Are

A lot was made of Jimmy Butler’s comments in regards to his coach, Fred Hoiberg, and him needing to coach them harder. But one other thing the star guard spoke about was the team needing to play harder like they have in previous seasons. And he could not have been more correct. The Bulls have no identity at all this season and the effort seems to not be there on both ends consistently. For them to even compete in the East, they need to get back to the basics. Of course there is a new coach there, but the same pieces remain. For their sake, they better hope some things get better soon for them.

Markieff Morris- More Patience and Composure

The talented forward for Phoenix has had an interesting season. He watched his twin brother get traded to Detroit this offseason and it has seemingly had an adverse effect on him. He wanted to leave and demonstrated so during the offseason but that cooled down once the season started. But even now, he has had temper tantrums like throwing a towel at the coach. And like any player that has issues with a coach, he has been in and out of the doghouse. One thing he may want to realize is he is not making himself look any better with these tantrums. Other teams are watching. And eventually the talent-trouble formula will not be in his favor. Get it together Mr. Morris. Of you could be calling it a career quicker than you want.

Los Angeles Lakers-Atone for your mistakes

The Los Angeles Lakers have been employing Byron Scott for almost three years now. And with this team as young as they are, it seems like Scott hasn’t got the memo to play the young players so they can get better. So since he seems to not get the memo, why not let him go now? Kobe is about to exit Byron. Lou Williams is not a starting point guard in the NBA. Larry Nance Jr is not a starter in the NBA. The Lakers’ brass needs to end this science experiment with Byron as head coach and do so as soon as possible.

Dwight Howard- Find out who you are

Dwight Howard has had the potential to be one of the best big men in the NBA for some time now. But he has never lived up to it. Instead, he has been known as an unhappy big man. Dwight has visions of himself being more involved in the offense in Houston just like he had in Los Angeles for his one year there. But in each situation, he has yet to realize that he is the not the focal point of his team. It was Kobe in LA and now it is Harden in Houston. He will not be the main weapon on this Houston team because he does not have a consistent offensive game. Maybe if he had that, he would have a gripe. But right now, Dwight may want to focus on just being a rebounder, dunker and defensive presence because that is what he is.

Cleveland Browns- Take control of your situation

The team seems to be in disarray yet again. There seems to be no direction there and the front office and management seem to be on two different pages. The talk has been that general manager Ray Farmer will be done after this last game. But with the Browns, you never know. This one reads like a soap opera, so maybe one day they will get some direction and move forward. But it all starts from ownership. Ownership here has never asserted itself and taken control of the situation. And this mess will continue if Haslam and company do not do so.

Detroit Lions- See things clearer

The Detroit Lions had a rough start to the season. They were 1-6 out of the gate and there were many disappointed fans of that team. But the team righted the ship and played well down the stretch after they fired their offensive coordinator and members of their front office. Some saw this optimism and have thought that it is time to give Jim Caldwell more time. Well, those that don’t want that better hope that does not happen. Detroit fans and ownership, don’t be fooled by the finish of that team up there. They still have a ton of issues there and keeping Caldwell is not going to help fix those issues at all.

Chip Kelly-Learn how to play well with others

Chip Kelly almost completed his third year of coaching the Philadelphia Eagles when the plug was pulled on him by the organization this week. Aside from some of the questionable moves he made as the general manager this season, it was his icy relationship with people around him that helped get him fired in Philly. He reportedly would not even speak to players in the building, often leaving them feeling uncomfortable. He more than likely will receive another shot at some point (at the college level or in the NFL). But in order for him to succeed, he has to learn to value the people around him. He apparently did not in Philly. If he is able to learn that along with other things, then he could be successful in his next go round.

San Francisco 49ers- Change your course

The team has had issues all season long. Of course most of those were linked to the departures of their head coach after the 2014 season and the loss of players to retirement. But even more than that, the team just seemed like it just could not get any form of consistency all year long. For them, the consistency needs to start with what direction they will be going in. This was obviously not what the 49ers expected and this was unacceptable in their eyes. The stability starts from the top and it will be interesting to see what they do to stabilize this team and get better.

Chicago Cubs-Seize the opportunity

The Chicago Cubs were a team that many expected to not be ready to achieve until the 2016 season. But they surprised everyone this past season and made it to the National League Championship Series. They lost the game, but they were ahead of schedule. And this offseason, they acquired a few pieces to help take them to the top. The thing that Cubs fans have been waiting on forever is a championship. And this year is their best chance to do it. The best thing for them to do is take advantage of this opportunity when it presents itself. If not, this chance could pass them by quickly.

Pete Rose and Major League Baseball-

Time and time again we hear about Pete Rose and whether or not he should be in the Hall Of Fame. Well, he was denied again and the argument ensued as to why he should or should not be in the Hall. Well, both sides need to come together and make this happen one way or the other. Rose has to come clean about everything and Major League Baseball has to value an all-time great before he passes away. At some point, Major League Baseball has to let him in. And while Major League Baseball is trying to take the moral ground, they may want to take a look at how they conveniently looked the other way during the Steriod era. I bet that would change some viewpoints there on all those taking that moral compass out involving Major League Baseball.

 

2015 has come to an end and 2016 is now upon us. And all of us have great dreams of making things happen in this new year. And some of us even made resolutions. Hopefully for these teams, players and people, they make some changes within themselves to make this year a great one for themselves.

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Ranking The NFL’s Five Undefeated Teams

The NFL has had a lot of inconsistencies this season. One week a team can look like a contender and the next week they look like they don’t even belong in the playoffs. But there have been five teams that have escaped unscathed so far despite the ebb and flow of the NFL. Those teams are the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots. All five teams have managed to take care of business despite sometimes being in tough situations. All of these teams will more than likely not go undefeated, but which of them is the stronger team of the undefeated? Let’s take a second to rank each undefeated team. Let’s start with number five.

Photo courtesy of The Denver Post

Photo courtesy of The Denver Post

5) Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos are undefeated this season and it has become a usual feeling to see them doing well. Defensively, the Broncos are scary good with two lockdown corners, two incredible pass rushers and a linebacker crew that underrated. Offensively, the Broncos are making a transition to Gary Kubiak’s offense and that has been painful to watch at times. But even with that, they have found a way to make it happen when it matters the most. The Broncos have employed the Orange Crush and some think they will get better as the weeks go on. But there has to be some concern about Peyton Manning and the offense. Manning has made big throws when his team needs them, but he has also made some inexplicable mistakes unbecoming of Manning. And as the season goes on, it gets cold in Denver. And we all know that Peyton is not the best performer when it gets cold. Couple that with the Denver running game still trying to get it figured out and that could mean some issues for the Broncos come playoff time. If indeed this is Peyton’s last season, he will need to pick it up if he wants to end it on a high note. For now, they have to be the last-ranked undefeated team in this grouping.

Photo courtesy of The Charlotte Observer

Photo courtesy of The Charlotte Observer

4) Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have started 5-0 for the first time in their franchise history. Defensively, the Panthers survived the loss of superstar linebacker for three games and did not miss a beat. Defensive back Josh Norman has been spectacular in coverage for them in a contract season. And offensively, Cam Newton is making the plays for his team to win games every single week. They are playing very well on both sides of the ball, but the offensive limitations for the Panthers could hurt them. The loss of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a knee injury before the season was a huge blow to the Panthers offense. With him gone, the only weapon in the passing game that scares teams is tight end Greg Olsen. The veteran tight end has been excellent despite receiving extra attention from defenses. That may be something they can get away with in the regular season. But in the postseason, the Panthers will need someone to step up. Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess has all the tools to step up and be that other target Cam needs, but he has been inconsistent catching the football. Other than the Panthers passing game, all other aspects on offense and defense are solid. It will be interesting to see how they grow throughout the rest of the season.

Photo courtesy of Democrat And Chronicle

Photo courtesy of Democrat And Chronicle

3) Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have come out with some fire this season. Quarterback Andy Dalton is playing like he has something to prove this season. And to go along with the offense, the Bengals are also holding their own defensively. The most impressive moment of the season for them had to be the comeback in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks. And the thing that is interesting about this team is they are not dependent on AJ Green to have big games every week. It is hard to find holes in this team with the way they are playing. But like all teams, there is something they are missing. The Bengals have given up the second-most points of the undefeated teams. In the past, it was very hard to make it happen versus Cincinnati. This year teams have been finding a little bit more success. The Bengals defense is talented, but they have to make sure and tighten it up as the season goes on. Offensively, running back Jeremy Hill has been struggling to get going. The Bengals are surviving without him producing a lot, but they will need him to get going in December and January to fulfill their championship aspirations and win that first game for the combo of Dalton and head coach Marvin Lewis. Time will tell if they can get these issues resolved. But this team has some work to do.

Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

2) Green Bay Packers

Green Bay has come out this year just as impressive as they ended the season (despite the loss in the NFC Championship game). The defense has been better at all levels, led by linebacker Clay Matthews and his versatile play. And offensively, Aaron Rodgers is again playing like a MVP. Even with the loss of one of his best wide receivers, he still is making it happen and the Packers are still over 27 points per game. But even with all the great things, there are some things they need to work on. One noticeable thing is the offensive line. Too many times, Rodgers has had to be creative and avoid the rush. Some of that can be attributed to the pressure that comes. But other parts of that are linked to protection breakdowns. The Packers may face some issues if they don’t get that taken care of come playoff time even though Rodgers is their quarterback. Another issue offensively is health at the wide receiver position. They lost Jordy Nelson in the preseason for the year and many of their receivers have been dinged up. Rodgers makes it happen still in spite of that, but you need your best wide receivers on the field when the time comes to make a run. But even with these issues, the Packers have been able to look great this season. However, in order to win the title they must work to shore up those weaknesses.

Photo courtesy of The Boston Jam

Photo courtesy of The Boston Jam

1) New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have come out like a team possessed. They have scored the most points of any team in the NFL and they have been very solid defensively in each and every win. Some would say they are primed for a great run at repeating as champions. With Gronk in a groove catching the ball, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman running their short routes to perfection and the rotation of running backs playing well, there is no reason to think this offense will slow down anytime soon. Add to it the fuel that Tom Brady is playing with (Deflategate) and it looks like the defending champs are out to make a statement. But defensively, there lies one issue. The Patriots did not want to pay their starting cornerbacks from last season, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. As a result, Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan have been holding it down at the cornerback spots. Both have been doing their best, but they are not the best set of corners. In the playoffs, expect these two to be attacked and that could harm them. But with the offense they have and the defensive mind in Belichick pulling the strings defensively with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, they can cover them up with the pressure they bring and the disguises they make. Overall, it looks like the championship is theirs to lose.

These ranking could change as time goes on, but the Patriots are handling business. Each one of these teams has a great shot at making the championship game, but there are some things that both have to sure up or learn how to hide well. Whatever team does so will have the best chance at winning the trophy. It shall be interesting to see what the rest of the season holds for these five.

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