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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 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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Which Defensive Component Is More Important: A Shutdown Corner Or A Dominant Pass Rusher?

Over the years, the NFL has changed. Gone are the days of a physical brand of football and in are the passing attacks that invade our television screens each and every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. And with that, more teams are trying to build defenses to stop these high-powered offenses. And going forward, many may look at the model of the Seattle Seahawks, who shut down the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But what component is most needed for a good defense: a dominant pass rusher or a shutdown corner?

richard sherman posing

Richard Sherman is considered by many the best cornerback in the NFL. He has size, smarts and competes on every single play against whoever lines up in front of him. He is considered a shutdown corner in the NFL. More often, teams tend to avoid the elite corners and by doing so, they eliminate the amount of field the rest of the defense has to cover. And with the quarterback having a smaller field to work with, that creates smaller windows for the quarterback to throw the football into. Because of those smaller windows, opportunities are created for other players to make plays. Another benefit of having a shutdown corner is it gives the defense a free defender to roam the field. That free player could be used in a couple of different ways. He could be used as a blitzer to put additional pressure on the quarterback. And even by bringing an extra man on the blitz, your coverage is still sure because of the elite defender manning one side of the field. Another use of that extra defender is as additional help for the other defensive backs. If that elite defender needs no help, then you can rotate the defense towards the weaker side to provide additional help. And with more defenders in a smaller space, those small windows become microscopic.

robert mathis

But not to be outdone, dominant pass rushers definitely have a huge effect on the game. A lot of them come with the rare combination of size, speed and power all wrapped up in one. Guys like Robert Mathis of the Colts and Demarcus Ware of the Broncos wreak havoc on opposing offenses each and every game with their myriad of moves. Of course if an elite pass rusher is present, there is always a game plan to try and make him less effective. Those plans usually include a running back, tight end of another offensive lineman going over to help another player block him. When running backs and tight ends help offensive linemen block, that makes for less weapons the offense has to take advantage of the defense. It also allows for linebackers to get more depth in their coverage, making for tougher windows to throw through. If an additional offensive linemen is helping out, then other defensive lineman get more favorable matchups, making for even more problems for an offense. But not all offenses like to double pass rushers. And when single coverage happens, most pass rushers can take full advantage of the offensive lineman. When that happens, the quarterback has less time to get the football out to his playmakers. An elite pass rush takes the pressure off defensive backs because of the lessening of time. You could argue that some pass rushers make defensive backs look better than they are because of the pressure they create.

Both dominant pass rushers and shutdown corners have a huge effect in the NFL by today’s standards. More offenses are passing at higher clips and defenses have to have a chip on their side as well. Deciding which chip you want on your side is what makes it so hard. So, which one are you taking to start your defense?

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

Denver Bolstered Their Defense, But Is It Enough?

The Denver Broncos were completely embarrassed when they lost in the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks 43-8. After that bad a beatdown, many thought the window for a second Super Bowl was rapidly closing on Peyton Manning. But within 24 hours, the Broncos pumped life back into a fan base that was still down in the dumps. The signings of safety TJ Ward from the Browns, cornerback Aqib Talib from the Patriots and recently released defensive end Demarcus Ware from the Cowboys have once again positioned themselves have as Super Bowl favorites for next year. But with each signing, there are pluses and minuses abound.

aqib talib

Aqib Talib has long been one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL. Standing at 6’1, he is big enough to take on big receivers and is swift enough to take on the more shifty ones. The infusion of Talib as the top corner in Denver is a definite upgrade over anything the Broncos put on the field last year at cornerback. And when healthy, Talib can affect a whole game and take out a top receiver. But when has Talib been healthy when it counts? The last few playoff runs in New England have been forgettable for Talib. He was hurt two seasons ago in the playoffs and he also was injured in the AFC Championship game on this play:
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The hit may or may not be deemed dirty in your eyes, but the fact remains that in big games, Talib has been seen more exiting the field then commanding it in big games. Committing $26 million guaranteed (highest ever for a cornerback in NFL history) to Talib was definitely overpaying for his services a little bit. But for their sake, he better make it through the season.

demarcus ware

Ware was an unexpected bonus on the Broncos’ free agent spending spree. The big-time pass rusher from Dallas was cut loose after not agreeing to restructuring of his contract. It was thought that he was going to be bid on by every competitive team out there needing an additional boost. But Ware made it known who his main choice was pretty quickly. Ware said he wanted to speak to Denver first and and the rest was history. Ware signed a three-year, $30 million ($20 million guaranteed) deal with the Broncos. Ware’s presence brings one of the top active pass-rushers in the NFL to a defense that did not even have ten total sacks in 2013. His pressure will cause havoc on teams when he is out there. But like Talib, he has suffered through some injuries. The difference between Ware and Talib is that Ware missed the playoffs along with a few games. And in the games he played in last year, he was still not as effective as he has been his entire career. At 31 years old, you cannot expect Ware to all of a sudden start to get healed from his prior injuries. The best use they could get out of him would be to have him in there for 60%-70% of the snaps so he can stay out of harm’s way and be ready for the playoffs. Ware is a talented man, but he is starting to show wear and tear that happens when a guy is starting the backside of his career. It should be interesting to see how they use his talents and how his health holds up.

tj ward

But Ware and Talib were not the only ones to fill a need for the Broncos. Denver had some serious issues at safety last season. Their issues were so bad that they were still trying to zoom in on a starting safety heading into the last weeks of the regular season. By signing safety TJ Ward to a four-year,$23 million($14 million guaranteed) contact, that gives Denver a hard-hitting safety that knows what he’s doing in the defensive backfield. He is a tone-setter with his energy and his hard hits. But the same aggression that helps him may hurt him. Ward is known to lay the lumber and draw a flag or two based on the NFL rules on player safety. He could get a personal foul at the wrong time and cost them a game. Another issue with Ward is his coverage skills. He can hit people, but in space he can get himself in a little trouble. Ward can cover some people, but he definitely is at a disadvantage when he has to cover a receiver out in space. He will benefit from the presence of Talib out there and will handle business in stopping the run for the Broncos. But it will be interesting to see what scenarios he finds himself in during the 2014 season.

All three signings bolstered a defense that needed more difference-makers. Now the challenge is to see if these three can take the Denver defense to another level and help them win their third Super Bowl. By all accounts, they seem to be up for the challenge. But we will shall see what happens as the 2014 season starts and progresses.

For sports, follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

NFL Thursday Showcase: Thanksgiving Special

We all have a lot to be thankful for. For some its family. For some, its friends. For some, its the fact that they were able to wake up today. And for some, Thanksgiving football is what most are thankful for. Without any further, here are my breakdowns for the NFL’s Thursday Thanksgiving specials!

Green Bay vs Detroit
The Packers travel to the Lion’s Den to take on the Detroit Lions. The Pack have been almost invincible this year behind the firepower of their offense. Well, this week, QB Aaron Rodgers and the boys face the front four of the Lions, led by DT Ndamakong Suh. In order to slow the Lion’s front four down, the Pack must run the ball well. That means James Starks(if he plays) or Ryan Grant will have to run with conviction and punish the Lions where their weakest: in the run game. Once the run game is established, expect Rodgers to hit his plethora of WRs all over the field.

The Lions found a running game last week with newly signed Kevin Smith. But the thing is, they were playing against the Panthers, who have been pretty bad against the run. The challenge this week will be if the Lions can run this week. In their spread formations, they must attack the gaps in the Pack’s defense, especially when the Pack is spread across the field when the Lions go to 3 or 4 WRs. If the Lions aren’t able to run, then Lions QB Matt Stafford has to carry the offense, and that won’t work with the likes of CB Charles Woodson, OLB Clay Matthews and crew on the other side. I think the crowd and the atmosphere will be electric in this game, but the Packers will prevail because of their unbelievable offense and some huge key stops. The 1972 Dolphins keep the champagne on ice for another week.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Detroit 27

Miami vs Dallas 
The upstart Dolphins head to the Big D to take on a Cowboys team sitting in first place in the NFC East. The Dolphins have got solid play out of veteran QB Matt Moore. Moore must continue to play well this week because the pressure of the Cowboys defense will be after him. The Dolphins must continue to find creative ways to get the ball in the hands of RB Reggie Bush. He has really picked it up the last few weeks and can be extremely dangerous with the ball. I expect the Dolphins offensive line to have a few problems trying to keep Cowboys OLB Demarcus Ware out of the backfield. He will make some plays, but as long as the Dolphins can keep him under control, that increases the Dolphin’s chances to leave Dallas a winner.

The Cowboys have had tremendous play out of QB Tony Romo. He’s been hitting receivers in stride and making plays by keeping scrambling outside the pocket. Romo will have another great game if the Dolphins don’t put any pressure on him. Expect the Dolphins to have their secondary tested because they have been the weak link of this defense. Miami will keep this game close for a minute, but expect Dallas to eventually overwhelm the Dolphins.
Prediction: Dallas 31, Miami 17

San Francisco vs  Baltimore
The 49ers head east to take on the Baltimore Ravens. This game should be PHYSICAL! Leading the 49ers into town is QB Alex Smith. Sure, the running game has been outstanding so far, but eventually teams will stack the box against Frank Gore and the San Francisco Gold Rush. Smith must make some plays in the passing game in order to loosen up the Ravens’ D. If that can happen, the 49ers will have some lanes created due to Raven defenders backing out of the box. Also, it should be interesting to see if LB Ray Lewis plays. If he plays, his energy alone will take the Ravens to the next level.

QB Joe Flacco has been very inconsistent. Some of the inconsistencies are because of the lack of commitment to the run game. Well, this week doesn’t get any easier. The 49ers will play physical, smart defense against the Ravens and will be stingy against the run. If this is the case, expect the Ravens to at least attempt to run the ball some. That will put the Ravens outside the realm of predictability. If the Ravens aren’t able to run the football to at least make the 49ers respect that threat, then Flacco will be running for his life behind his offensive line. Expect a tight, physical, intense game. And in that type of game, the toughest team wins. And the toughest team is the 49ers. Expect them to impose their will on the Ravens as the game goes on.
Prediction: San Francisco 23, Baltimore 17

Thanks to all who have read my blog for today. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

#SportsBlogMovement

The Defensive MVP Is…..

Who’s the Defensive MVP so far in the NFL? Is it San Francisco LB Patrick Willis? Is it Dallas OLB Demarcus Ware? Well, I’m gonna throw another name in the hat: Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. I know a lot of you are collectively saying “Are you serious?”. But if you look at the rise of the Houston Texans defense, then you would understand.

Last year, the Houston Texans were a laughing stock on defense. They couldn’t tackle, make plays or do anything to help their offense. As a result of that, QB Matt Schuab, RB Arian Foster and crew had to outscore teams to win. And as a lot of people know, they didn’t make the playoffs playing that style. As a result of the that, the defensive coordinator was fired and former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips was brought in.

Some were trying to figure out how his 3-4 scheme would work in Houston, a team that has run a 4-3 for its entire existence. Those “some” included me as well. I was wondering how they would use Mario Williams. Well, we see what has been created by one of the best defensive minds in football. Wade has taken basically the same parts from last year, give or take 2 or 3 players, and made them the third best defense in the NFL and that’s huge. Last year they were 30th in total defense.

Another telling stat of the Phillips effect is the pass defense. Last year, CB Kareem Jackson was getting torched. It seemed like he had a big bullseye on his back and teams were attacking him religiously. But he wasn’t the only problem. The pass defense for this team was last in the NFL. Fast forward to this year and the Texans have added corner Jonathan Joseph from Cincinnati and they also added S Danieal Manning from Chicago. This pass defense is now ranked fifth against the pass. That’s a tremendous improvement.

Wade has proven that not only are players important, but coaches are just as important. Now he does have some new challenges ahead of him with the loss of Williams and Manning, but I’m sure Phillips will find a way. Phillips was ridiculed a lot as a head coach, but his defensive mind should never be questioned. Wade Phillips is the Most Valuable Defensive Person in the NFL.

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