cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/20/2013 02:26 AM

AFC East Outlook

May 1, 2013

The NFL draft gets all the attention in the spring, but the recent release of the 2013 schedule can be a more telling factor in how a team will fare next season. Take a look at the four teams in the AFC East in this schedule preview. This certainly looks like New England’s division to lose, but the Dolphins look capable of a step forward season that could make the race more competitive. The Bills and Jets have many question marks, but could have opportunities ahead as the schedule ratings for this division are manageable.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills were a team that many expected to break into the playoff picture last season with a favorable schedule, but it was another losing season and big changes were made in Buffalo. The Bills have taken some heat for its draft class with E.J. Manuel being considered a reach by many in the middle of the first round, but the Bills will snag a fourth-place schedule in 2013 and could exceed expectations that are grounded with the transition to head coach Doug Marrone. Buffalo will only play five games all season against 2012 playoff teams and only the season finale at New England is on the road among those five games. Buffalo does surrender a home game to play a game in Toronto and that will be an early December match-up with Atlanta this season. While the Bills do not face any west coast travel and will play seven of eight road games in the Eastern Time zone, there are a lot of miles ahead for this team.

The Bills will make three separate trips to Florida to face all three franchises in the Sunshine State and also face a long trip to New Orleans. The Bills have to travel to Miami and New Orleans in back-to-back road games and then will have a set of three games in a row away from home in December, going from the Toronto game to back-to-back games in Florida at Tampa Bay and at Jacksonville. The Bills get to play four of the first six games of the season at home, but those will be against very tough opposition, facing New England, Carolina, Baltimore, and Cincinnati in those home contests. None of the first seven road opponents featured a winning record last season, as six of the eight road opponents this season had a losing record in 2012. Looking strictly at win percentage from last season, the Bills have by far the easiest schedule in this division but they are also the only team with a coaching change to deal with. The long travel and challenging home slate will likely make it tough for the Bills to improve on last season’s 6-10 mark in this transition season.

Buffalo Bills 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .473
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (three home, one neutral, one away)
Miles Traveled for 9 road/neutral games: 6,394
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 1 (one Thursday)

Miami Dolphins: Miami has certainly made some noteworthy moves and the fan base should be optimistic for the 2013 season. Ryan Tannehill certainly showed enough promise last season to expect good things in the future and the Dolphins finished the year as one of the best defensive teams in the AFC, allowing less than 20 points per game. By finishing 7-9 last season, the Dolphins moved ahead of the Jets and the Bills in the division and a second-place schedule is waiting, getting games with San Diego and Indianapolis. Strictly by win percentage from last season, Miami has the eighth-toughest schedule in the NFL and by a substantial margin the toughest schedule in the AFC East. The Dolphins will face three of the first four games of the season on the road and as usual the Dolphins will accumulate a great deal of travel miles this season.

Seven of eight road games will be at least 800 miles away for the Dolphins. Miami will also play four of its six division games in the final five weeks of the season including both meetings with the Jets coming in December. Miami will only play two road games against teams that had winning records last year as most of the toughest games will be at home including visits from Atlanta and Baltimore for the first two home games of the season. Miami might be favored in the opening week at Cleveland, but the Dolphins should be an underdog in the next four games before an early Week 6 bye, so it will be important for the Dolphins to be ready for a difficult first month of the season. Miami could have its best results late in the season as seven of the final eight games will be against teams that did not make the playoffs last season with the lone exception being the home date with the Patriots. The first few weeks could tell the story for the Dolphins as a slow start could spell trouble but a few early upsets could propel this team to playoff contention.

Miami Dolphins 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .520
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (four home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,977
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 3 (one Thursday, two Monday)

New England Patriots: Until the rest of the division improves, New England will continue to get relatively favorable schedule paths each season, despite typically finishing as a first-place team. Being the only team in the AFC East that has to play both Denver and Houston is a big disadvantage, but the Patriots do not have to play themselves twice like the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets have to, basically canceling out the first-place schedule disadvantage. New England only has to play five games against teams that made the playoffs last season, but four of those games will be on the road this year for the Patriots for a tougher wrinkle in the slate. Two of those games will come in the second of back-to-back road games with substantial travel involved as well.

While the home slate for New England is favorable, there are several marquee games, hosting New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Denver for a tougher home schedule than the win percentage numbers might indicate. The Patriots certainly deserve to remain the overwhelming favorites in this division through this schedule, but the path ahead for New England to be a top seed in the AFC might be tougher than it first appears. There is substantial travel ahead and several difficult road games that come in less than ideal spots on the schedule, having to play road games against Atlanta and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks as well as having tough road games at Carolina and at Houston sandwiched around the huge home game with Denver. New England’s AFC championship game rematch with Baltimore will come in Week 16 and it will the second of back-to-back road games after a long trip to Miami. The key for New England will be maintaining its dominance in the division as going 6-0 in the AFC East games again would likely keep the Patriots in the hunt for a bye in the playoffs.

New England Patriots 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .508
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (one home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 7,128
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, three Sunday night, one Monday)

New York Jets: Coming off distraction-filled and very disappointing season, the Jets will face tremendous pressure again in 2013, with employment with the team likely on the line for Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez, assuming Sanchez remains the starter over rookie Geno Smith or other candidates. The Jets will face a difficult first half schedule with three road games against 2012 playoff teams and big marquee home games with the Steelers, Patriots, and Saints. The five-game stretch from early October to a Week 10 bye week will be especially tough and this team will certainly be a candidate to have imploded already by that time. If the Jets can get through the first nine weeks with a respectable record, there could be a chance to make a run in the second half however. The Jets only play one 2012 playoff team in the final seven weeks of the season and there will be several winnable home games on the schedule late in the season including hosting two warm weather teams in December which could be a big advantage.

While the Jets travel the fewest miles in this division, the road slate is very difficult with four games against 2012 playoff teams, and not just playoff teams, three of those teams were in the conference championship games last season. The Jets will need a hot start to have a chance and that could be difficult given the fragile quarterback situation and a lot of new personnel likely in key roles. New York opens at home against Tampa Bay in what could be a critical game for both teams to define what direction the season will go. In Week 2, the Jets face a short week with a Thursday game in Foxboro and then will have winnable games with Buffalo and Tennessee in Weeks 3 and 4. The Jets might need a 3-1 start to have a chance to be close to .500 after the October gauntlet and that first few weeks could dictate the season in New York.

New York Jets 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .496
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (one home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 5,121
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thursday, one Monday)

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/21/2013 01:55 AM

Team by Team Training Camp Updates

AFC East

Eagles agree to terms with No. 4 pick Lane Johnson
Colin Kaepernick, Manti Te'o have top jersey sales
No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan signs rookie contract with Miami
Santonio Holmes not sure whether he'll start camp on Jets PUP list
Report: Patriots release WR Donald Jones

More

AFC North

Sharpe: Ravens made big mistake letting Boldin get away
NFL training camps are here; now, here's what we want to know
Ex-NFL RB Ricky Williams hired to coach college running backs
Run the running backs: Bring back 300-carry workhorses
'Hard Knocks' to continue after HBO agrees to extension

More
AFC South

Just Because: Gary Kubiak looked incredible in 1982
NFL training camps are here; now, here's what we want to know
Colts TE Weslye Saunders suspended eight games for PED violation
Run the running backs: Bring back 300-carry workhorses
Maurice Jones-Drew learns lesson: Never joke about fantasy football

More

AFC West

Colin Kaepernick, Manti Te'o have top jersey sales
Sharpe: Ravens made big mistake letting Boldin get away
Raiders' best bet for new stadium may be to partner with 49ers
NFL training camps are here; now, here's what we want to know
Run the running backs: Bring back 300-carry workhorses

More
NFC East

Eagles agree to terms with No. 4 pick Lane Johnson
Colin Kaepernick, Manti Te'o have top jersey sales
Giants S Will Hill suspended four games for second straight season
Redskins ask judge to dismiss lawsuit stemming from Bountygate
Watch: Dez Bryant could save the Cowboys

More

NFC North

Colin Kaepernick, Manti Te'o have top jersey sales
Sharpe: Ravens made big mistake letting Boldin get away
PHOTO: Bears QB Jay Cutler wears 1980s-themed outfit for charity
NFL training camps are here; now, here's what we want to know
Run the running backs: Bring back 300-carry workhorses

More
NFC South

Bucs trade CB Eric Wright to 49ers after reported arrest
Sharpe: Ravens made big mistake letting Boldin get away
NFL training camps are here; now, here's what we want to know
Ex-NFL RB Ricky Williams hired to coach college running backs
Run the running backs: Bring back 300-carry workhorses

More

NFC West

Colin Kaepernick, Manti Te'o have top jersey sales
Bucs trade CB Eric Wright to 49ers after reported arrest
Sharpe: Ravens made big mistake letting Boldin get away
Raiders' best bet for new stadium may be to partner with 49ers
Report: 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks won't be charged with assault

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/23/2013 11:09 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: New Orleans Saints

July 3, 2013 4:07 PM ET


In a season rocked by Bountygate fallout, the Saints finished 7-9 in 2012. In a season rocked by Bountygate fallout, the Saints finished 7-9 in 2012.

The Saints have their coach back. After a year banished by the league for his role in "Bountygate," Sean Payton is back on the sidelines.

He just might be the biggest acquisition in the NFL this year. Payton is the NFL's best play-caller, an aggressive, cocky coach who isn't afraid to take chances. Without him last year, the Saints seemed rudderless. Now Payton is back, refreshed and ready to get back to trying to win a Super Bowl.


Key changes

The defense will be different as well. Rob Ryan takes over for Steve Spagnuolo and will implement a 3-4 style, and a defense with a swagger. The only problem is that Ryan's defense requires good pass rushers off the edge and there is none that stand out on the Saints roster. Payton and Ryan will certainly amp up the attitude on the field, and at the team facility. That should help get them back to competing for the division title.

The Saints will still be a pass-first team with Drew Brees running the show, and most of the principles are back on offense. They do need to replace left tackle Jermon Bushrod.

The defense will have a lot of new faces starting, including free agent corner Keenan Lewis and rookie first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro at safety. The secondary really struggled in 2012, so those two could play huge roles.


Position battles

With Bushrod gone, the left tackle job will come down to Charles Brown and rookie Terron Armstead and former first-round pick Jason Smith. Brown has been somewhat of a disappointment since being a second-round pick three years ago and Armstead is from tiny Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Smith has impressed in his work with the team. He busted out for the Rams as a high first-round pick, but he has some ability.

Vaccaro will get on the field somewhere. So does he beat out Malcolm Jenkins or Roman Harper? My guess is that it will be Harper, who struggles in coverage. In Jenkins and Vaccaro, the Saints would have two rangy safeties.

Veterans Jonathan Vilma and David Hawthorne are expected to battle for one inside linebacker spot. Both battled injuries last season and Vilma had to deal with the fallout from his role in Bountygate.


New schemes

The change to the 3-4 will make for a much more aggressive approach to playing defense. Ryan has sometimes over-complicated things, which can put his defenders in some bad positions. But the Saints play with the lead a lot, which could play right into his aggressive style. Look for more attacking with linebackers and secondary people on blitzes.


Bubble watch

Even though both Will Smith and Harper took pay cuts, they are by no means assured a spot on the roster. They have to show something in camp. They aren't the type of players who go from starter to bench player. They would likely go from starter to getting cut.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Second-year defensive tackle/end Akiem Hicks flashed some talent as a raw rookie in 2012. He has good size and is a powerful man who should play a huge role in the Saints trying to improve their run defense.


Biggest concern

It has to be the pass rush. Ryan's defense is keyed by the outside rushers and the Saints have already lost Victor Butler, who was expected to be a big part of the pass rush, to a season-ending knee injury suffered in OTAs. That means Junior Galette and Martez Wilson have to come up big as pass rushers.

Left tackle is also a big concern, no matter who starts. But the thing with Brees is that he is one of the best at feeling the pressure, so that will help whoever starts.


Something to prove

It's Payton. He has to show that the year off was good for him. He has changed his body and seems to be a changed man. He has to show that the year off is a good thing, and not something that will hurt the team.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/23/2013 11:12 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

July 3, 2013 1:33 PM ET


Tampa Bay finished 2012 at 7-9, tied with the division-rival Panthers and Saints. Tampa Bay finished 2012 at 7-9, tied with the division-rival Panthers and Saints.

When Greg Schiano took over as coach of the Bucs last year, he instilled a culture of discipline and structure, something that was badly needed. But a young coach who has the rules and discipline he has must be careful that he doesn't continue to push too much. He might need to lax some of the things he did last year, even if he seems to have this team headed in the right direction.

The big issue now is quarterback Josh Freeman. He threw for team highs in touchdowns and yards last season, but he and Schiano don't exactly have a warm, fuzzy relationship. The team has not signed Freeman to a new deal, even though he's in the final year of his contract, which is telling. Freeman could be on a one-and-done year, especially with Mike Glennon being drafted in the third round.


Key changes

The Bucs spent big in free agency in 2012, but their big addition this year was a trade to land corner Darrelle Revis from the Jets. It's a risky move since Revis is coming off an ACL injury, but if he is healthy the Bucs will have a top-level secondary, especially with the free-agent addition of safety Dashon Goldson from San Francisco. But coming off an ACL, thinking Revis will simply be the same -- which was the best cover player in the league -- is just an assumption.

The Bucs also traded to get former first-round pick Gabe Carimi for their offensive line. He will add some depth.

One major staff change is John McNulty coming over as quarterbacks coach from Arizona. Schiano wanted to hire McNulty as offensive coordinator when he took the job, but the Cardinals declined his request to leave last year. So when the Arizona staff was fired, Schiano brought him in as quarterbacks coach. But there are some who think that could mean trouble for current offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan down the road. Is McNulty the next coordinator?


Position battles

Roy Miller was a big part of the Bucs' top-rated run defense in 2012, but he is now in Jacksonville. That means a battle to start will be waged by fourth-round pick Akeem Spence, Gary Gibson and Derek Landri. My gut is that Spence will find the way to win that job.

The battle for the strong-side linebacker spot will be fought by a handful of players including Dekoda Watson, Adam Hayward, Jonathan Casillas and Najee Goode. Quincy Black, who was the starter there, had to retire for medical reasons. Goode is a player who can run, which the Bucs love.


Bubble watch

Myron Lewis, a fourth-year corner from Vanderbilt, who looks the part but never has played to the expectations, could be the odd-man out in the secondary with the addition of Revis and Banks.


Unheard of Guy to Watch

Get to know Spence. He has a chance to be a special player. I was shocked that he lasted until the fourth round. Playing next to Gerald McCoy, he should get a lot of single blocks. Spence could be this draft's Geno Atkins. High praise for sure, but he is talented.

Biggest concerns

Who provides the pass rush is a common theme in the NFC South. But the Bucs have two young defensive ends in Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. They just have to keep them on the field. Clayborn is coming off an ACL injury. His health will be guy to this team improving on defense.

Another key is the growth of Freeman. I think he has the talent to be a quality NFL starter for a long time. But he is not Schiano's guy. And sometimes coaches like their own guy. This is a huge season for Freeman.

Who plays tight end? Is it Luke Stocker or Tom Crabtree, who signed as a free agent from Green Bay? Neither is a great down-the-field threat, which will hurt the Tampa Bay offense. Dallas Clark gave them more in the passing game last season.


Something to prove

It's no doubt it's Freeman. He was the team's first-round pick in 2009 and has some good moments, but the inconsistency has impacted how the team feels about him. If he struggles early, it could go downhill quickly. Schiano has already said that Glennon is a guy he likes a lot.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/23/2013 11:15 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Carolina Panthers

July 3, 2013 3:01 PM ET

The Panthers have a solid quarterback, and must now complete on the rest of the puzzle. The Panthers have a solid quarterback, and must now complete on the rest of the puzzle.

Former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is the new head coach in Cleveland, which means quarterbacks coach Mike Shula takes over running the offense. Expect a more conventional approach on offense with Shula.

He will try and keep quarterback Cam Newton in the pocket more, which is the right thing to do. Newton has grown as a passer and he needs to be able to do more of it. Even as big as he is, he needs to be more of a pocket passer. He's more than capable of that.


Key changes

All 11 starters return on offense, which helps. To help liven up the passing game, the Panthers did sign veteran receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon as free agents. They will battle for the No. 3 receiver spot. Most of the new player additions will be on defense. First-round pick Star Lotulelei will be an immediate starter at defensive tackle, a position that really hurt the Panthers last year. In the secondary, the Panthers signed a group of veterans in corners D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence and safety Mike Mitchell. The pass defense has to be better, especially since they have such good edge rushers.


Position battles

The battles to see who starts at corner should rage all through training camp. Florence and Moore will be in the mix along with Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman, a second-year player the Panthers really like. It isn't a strong position -- no matter who wins the jobs.

The starting running back job will again be up for grabs in a fight between Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Both are overpaid for what they've given the team, but one has to start. Both have ability, but their numbers aren't as good as their paychecks.

Look for second-round pick Kawann Short to push Dwan Edwards for the starting job next to Lotulelei. Short is a powerful player with a lot of potential.


New schemes

A more conventional offense will mean less of the read-option for Newton, which makes sense. It's time for him to play in the pocket. Look for more push to throw the ball down the field and get away from all the gimmicky stuff.


Bubble watch

Safety Haruki Nakamura was a 13-game starter in 2012, but he lacks the range that teams need from their safeties nowadays. With the addition of some younger players, he could go from starter to off the roster, although he can help on special teams.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Robert Lester was a starter on those good Alabama defenses that keyed their National Championships. But he was not drafted. He doesn't have great speed, which hurt. But he has done a decent job so far for the Panthers and could be in the mix to battle for the starting safety job opposite Charles Godfrey.


Biggest concerns

Who plays corner? Chris Gamble retired, which leaves an open competition heading to camp. Whoever starts has to be better than what was on the field last season. With two good rush ends in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, the secondary doesn't need to be great -- just better.

Can they transition to a more pass-heavy offense under Shula? I think they can. Newton has the tools and they have some good weapons outside. They do need a third receiver to step up, which is why Hixon could be key. Also keep an eye on Joe Adams.


Something to prove

Veteran linebacker Jon Beason has been plagued by injuries, playing just five games the past two seasons. When he's on the field, he's a heck of player. But he has to stay there. He has to show that the injury bug is behind him. He's had three surgeries in 17 months. That's a lot of overcome.

The Panthers regressed in 2012, but look for this team to be better in 2013 if they can improve on the defensive side of the ball. Newton could be ready for a huge season.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/23/2013 11:17 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: New Orleans Saints

July 3, 2013 4:07 PM ET

In a season rocked by Bountygate fallout, the Saints finished 7-9 in 2012. In a season rocked by Bountygate fallout, the Saints finished 7-9 in 2012.

The Saints have their coach back. After a year banished by the league for his role in "Bountygate," Sean Payton is back on the sidelines.

He just might be the biggest acquisition in the NFL this year. Payton is the NFL's best play-caller, an aggressive, cocky coach who isn't afraid to take chances. Without him last year, the Saints seemed rudderless. Now Payton is back, refreshed and ready to get back to trying to win a Super Bowl.


Key changes

The defense will be different as well. Rob Ryan takes over for Steve Spagnuolo and will implement a 3-4 style, and a defense with a swagger. The only problem is that Ryan's defense requires good pass rushers off the edge and there is none that stand out on the Saints roster. Payton and Ryan will certainly amp up the attitude on the field, and at the team facility. That should help get them back to competing for the division title.

The Saints will still be a pass-first team with Drew Brees running the show, and most of the principles are back on offense. They do need to replace left tackle Jermon Bushrod.

The defense will have a lot of new faces starting, including free agent corner Keenan Lewis and rookie first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro at safety. The secondary really struggled in 2012, so those two could play huge roles.


Position battles

With Bushrod gone, the left tackle job will come down to Charles Brown and rookie Terron Armstead and former first-round pick Jason Smith. Brown has been somewhat of a disappointment since being a second-round pick three years ago and Armstead is from tiny Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Smith has impressed in his work with the team. He busted out for the Rams as a high first-round pick, but he has some ability.

Vaccaro will get on the field somewhere. So does he beat out Malcolm Jenkins or Roman Harper? My guess is that it will be Harper, who struggles in coverage. In Jenkins and Vaccaro, the Saints would have two rangy safeties.

Veterans Jonathan Vilma and David Hawthorne are expected to battle for one inside linebacker spot. Both battled injuries last season and Vilma had to deal with the fallout from his role in Bountygate.


New schemes

The change to the 3-4 will make for a much more aggressive approach to playing defense. Ryan has sometimes over-complicated things, which can put his defenders in some bad positions. But the Saints play with the lead a lot, which could play right into his aggressive style. Look for more attacking with linebackers and secondary people on blitzes.


Bubble watch

Even though both Will Smith and Harper took pay cuts, they are by no means assured a spot on the roster. They have to show something in camp. They aren't the type of players who go from starter to bench player. They would likely go from starter to getting cut.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Second-year defensive tackle/end Akiem Hicks flashed some talent as a raw rookie in 2012. He has good size and is a powerful man who should play a huge role in the Saints trying to improve their run defense.


Biggest concern

It has to be the pass rush. Ryan's defense is keyed by the outside rushers and the Saints have already lost Victor Butler, who was expected to be a big part of the pass rush, to a season-ending knee injury suffered in OTAs. That means Junior Galette and Martez Wilson have to come up big as pass rushers.

Left tackle is also a big concern, no matter who starts. But the thing with Brees is that he is one of the best at feeling the pressure, so that will help whoever starts.


Something to prove

It's Payton. He has to show that the year off was good for him. He has changed his body and seems to be a changed man. He has to show that the year off is a good thing, and not something that will hurt the team.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/23/2013 11:20 PM

2013 NFL training camp preview: Atlanta Falcons

July 3, 2013 4:28 PM ET


The reigning AFC South champs could make another playoff run if they improve on defense. The reigning AFC South champs could make another playoff run if they improve on defense.

The Falcons were 10 yards away from a Super Bowl last year, but couldn't get it done in the NFC Championship Game late against San Francisco. But coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan won their first playoff games with the organization to help ease some of the pressure.

The Falcons were the top seed in the NFC, only to lose at home when they blew a big lead against the 49ers.


Key changes

The big change on offense will come with Steven Jackson coming over as a free agent running back to take over for the plodding Michael Turner. The Falcons are excited about Jackson's ability to amp up the running game and be more of a factor in the passing game than Turner was last season. The only other big changes on offense are on the offensive line. Right tackle Tyson Clabo was released, which means second-year player Lamar Holmes or Mike Johnson will step in and start. Holmes is a big, athletic player who has the tools. If he wins the job, Johnson could push Garrett Reynolds at right guard.

Second-year player Peter Konz moves from right guard to center to take over for veteran Todd McClure, who retired. Tight end Tony Gonzalez also said he was retiring after the 2012 season, but he was talked into returning for one more run. The defense, which was improved under first-year coordinator Mike Nolan last season, has replaced defensive end John Abraham with Osi Umenyiora, a signing from the Giants. Umenyiora had just four sacks last season, so he has to be better. First-round corner Desmond Trufant is expected to be an immediate starter, and they need better play from that spot this season. This is still a talented roster, one capable of pushing for a title again.


Position battles

The right side of the offensive line will be a camp battle all the way through. During offseason work, it was Johnson at right tackle and Reynolds at right guard. But I get the impression the Falcons would love to see Holmes win the right tackle job since Johnson is more of a guard.

The nickel corner job will likely be a battle between third-round pick Robert Alford and veteran Robert McClain, who played well in 2012. Alford has a ton of athletic ability, and flashed it during OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons would love to get on the field. McClain is a fighter who won't go down easily.

The fourth and fifth defensive ends will be a camp battle all summer long. There are a lot of bodies in the mix, and the Falcons hope one or two can emerge as pass-rush threats.


New schemes

Don't expect a lot of change on either side of the ball. The offense, under coordinator Dirk Koetter, was much more aggressive in 2012 than in years past. Koetter likes throwing down the field, which plays to the strength of the team with Matt Ryan and his weapons. Jackson should help the passing game on early downs. He will get most of his action in the passing game, which is a change for that spot. On defense, Nolan is as creative a coordinator as there is in the league. He had to scheme up a lot of things to compensate for some iffy spots on defense. One thing he has to concentrate on more this year is the read-option. The Falcons play a lot of read-option teams in 2013. Also look for more 3-4 looks at times.


Bubble watch

Veteran corner Dominique Franks could be in trouble with the drafting of Trufant and Alford in the third round. Franks has also helped in the return game, but he didn't offer much. For the most part, this is an easy roster to figure out and not a lot of veterans will be in trouble come August.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

The Falcons let Abraham walk in part because they like second-year player Jonathan Massaquoi. He is a pass rusher from Troy who they think can have an impact on passing downs. He isn't big at 265 pounds, but he has good speed off the edge. He is expected to be in the rotation.


Biggest concerns

Even with the signing of Umenyiora and the drafting of two more defensive ends, the pass rush remains the biggest concern. How do they get to the quarterback on a consistent basis with their down four? Nolan loves to blitz, but he also was forced to do more of it than he would have liked last season. That led to some blown coverage in the two playoff games. They had particular trouble with the tight ends. The linebackers have to be better in coverage.


Something to prove

It's Umenyiora. He had double-digit sacks in 2010, but hasn't come close to that type of play the past two seasons. He has to give the Falcons something off the edge. If he can't get it going, the Falcons will have problems defending the pass. The Falcons have loved his work this offseason. He was the first guy in the workout room most days.

The Falcons were 10 yards from a Super Bowl, but you'd never know it by the preseason hype. Don't sleep on this team. They are talented and they have a quarterback who can get them to a Super Bowl. It all depends on the defense. Can it take an even bigger step forward?

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/27/2013 10:59 AM

AFC's most important players: NFL betting breakdown

Not one player makes a team, especially in football. However, there are some clubs out there that would begin to crumble if one key cog was ripped from the clockwork.

NFL.com columnist Adam Schein highlighted these talents in his recent lists of the NFL’s “Most Important Players” for the 2013 season – revealing not just the best or most valuable guys on the roster but “identifying the guy who needs to achieve - and overachieve -- for the team to reach its potential.”

While these players are indispensable to their teams, oddsmakers and most football bettors don’t quite feel the same. We asked sportsbooks and some of the sharpest NFL handicappers in the country to set estimated point values for each of Schein’s selections, according to their impact on the pointspread if they were to sit out game.

Here are the “Most Important Players” in the AFC and their estimated value to the pointspread:

Elvis Dumervil, LB Baltimore Ravens

Point value: 0.5-1 point

Why so valuable: Baltimore is hoping Dumervil can spark a defense that lost its heart and soul, Ray Lewis, to retirement.

Mario Williams, DE Buffalo Bills

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Schein points to the hiring of new head coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, saying those two could spark the great potential in Williams.

Andy Dalton, QB Cincinnati Bengals

Point value: 2-6 points

Why so valuable: Schein believes Cincinnati could be a contender and just as easy miss the playoffs. It all depends on Dalton and his maturity and poise in the competitive AFC North.

Joe Haden, CB Cleveland Browns

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: On a team lacking talent, Haden is one of the lone bright spots – despite his troubles – and will keep opponents honest when picking on the Browns weak stop unit.

Montee Ball, RB Denver Broncos

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: The Broncos need a ying to Peyton Manning’s yang and the rookie out of Wisconsin could become a force in first year.

Andre Johnson, WR Houston Texans

Point value: 1-2.5 points

Why so valuable: The Texans are in the Super Bowl hunt but losing Johnson would expose their lack of depth at receiver. Without him making plays, defenses can tee off on Arian Foster and the running game.

Antoine Bethea, FS Indianapolis Colts

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: The love affair with Andrew Luck overshadows just how important Bethea is to the Colts success. Schein sees big things from him in during his second year in Chuck Pagano’s defense.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jacksonville Jaguars

Point value: 2-3 points

Why so valuable: Needs no real explanation. If he’s healthy and motivated, bettors may be able to stomach the Jaguars.

Eric Fisher, OT Kansas City Chiefs

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: The Chiefs drafted the rookie lineman No. 1 overall to protect their big offseason addition, Alex Smith, and pave the way for RB Jamaal Charles. They need Fisher to adapt to the pro game quick.

Lamar Miller, RB Miami Dolphins

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Reggie Bush is gone, so keeping the heat off QB Ryan Tannehill and giving the Miami attack any balance falls on Miller.

Chandler Jones, DE New England Patriots

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Schein says injuries stopped the Patriots from seeing just how good Jones could be in his rookie season. New England will score but it needs to hold its own on defense to stay among the contenders.

Santonio Holmes, WR New York Jets

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Whether it’s Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith throwing the passes, Holmes will be on the receiving end of most of them. “If on his A-game, two to 2.5 (points) in that offense,” says Aron Black of Bet365.com.

Darren McFadden, RB Oakland Raiders

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Schein says McFadden’s health could be the difference for the Raiders, giving them a true game changer. Black says McFadden could be worth as much as 2.5 points if he returns to form.

Troy Polamalu, SS Pittsburgh Steelers

Point value: 1-2 points

Why so valuable: Polamalu has lost a step but is still being counted on to pick up the slack for Pittsburgh defense. “I might have stretched it giving him as much credit as I did in these ratings,” says Covers Expert Bruce Marshall.

Philip Rivers, QB San Diego Chargers

Point value: 4-5 points

Why so valuable: Schein points to the laundry list of injuries around Rivers and the coaching change for his downfall over the past two seasons. This could be a make-or-break year for him in San Diego.

Andy Levitre, OG Tennessee Titans

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Levitre’s work on the o-line is vital to RB Chris Johnson getting back to 2,000-yard rushing seasons.
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cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/27/2013 11:00 AM

NFC's most important players: NFL betting breakdown

One player does not make a team, especially in football. However, there are some clubs out there that simply wouldn't be as good if one key cog was ripped from the clockwork.

NFL.com columnist Adam Schein highlighted these talents in his recent lists of the NFL’s “Most Important Players” for the 2013 season – revealing not just the best or most valuable guys on the roster but “identifying the guy who needs to achieve - and overachieve -- for the team to reach its potential.”

While these players are indispensable to their teams, oddsmakers and most football bettors don’t quite feel the same. We asked sportsbooks and some of the sharpest NFL handicappers in the country to set estimated point values for each of Schein’s selections according to their impact on the pointspread if they were to sit out game. Bettors could find some hidden value if one of these "MIPs" misses time during the upcoming 2013 NFL season.

Here are the “Most Important Players” in the NFC and their estimated value to the pointspread:

Larry Fitzgerald, WR Arizona Cardinals

Point value: 2-3 points

Why so valuable: Weapons are few and far between in the desert and the Cardinals’ best chance of finding paydirt begins and ends with Fitzgerald.

Steven Jackson, RB Atlanta Falcons

Point value: 0.5–2.5 points

Why so valuable: Schein says Jackson could be the best offseason addition and gives Atlanta a closer in the fourth quarter. Oddsmakers and cappers did differ on his value to the spread though.

Luke Kuechly, LB Carolina Panthers

Point value: 0.5-2 points

Why so valuable: The Defensive Rookie of the Year is already the backbone of the Panthers defense, a stop unit that needs to improve if it is going to compete in the NFC South.

Jay Cutler, QB Chicago Bears

Point value: 3-6 points

Why so valuable: Everything is riding on Cutler this season. The Bears offense doesn’t work without him, even more so now that new head coach Marc Trestman is calling the plays.

Tony Romo, QB Dallas Cowboys

Point value: 3.5-6 points

Why so important: Every minute up until his ill-timed blunders, Romo’s been among the best passers in the league. Schein says without Romo, the Cowboys would have won only six games.

Ndamukong Suh, DT Detroit Lions

Point value: 0.5-2.5 points

Why so valuable: If Suh plays to his potential, the Lions could have one of the nastiest defenses in the NFL. Aron Black, of Bet365.com estimated Suh’s value as high as 2.5 points “if playing with his head on straight, which is a big question mark.”

B.J. Raji, DT Green Bay Packers

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Raji was slowed by injuries in 2012 and the defense crumbled around him. If Green Bay is going back to the Super Bowl, the stop unit has to be better.

Greg Jennings, WR Minnesota Vikings

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Jennings replaces Percy Harvin as the Vikings’ No. 1 passing threat but Minnesota has the same problem: keeping its top receiver healthy. Jennings needs to be threat down field to keep the heat off RB Adrian Peterson.

Will Smith, LB New Orleans Saints

Point value: 0-1 point

Why so valuable: The Saints switch to the 3-4 and Smith goes from DE to LB. A quick and easy transition will pave the way for the defense.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE New York Giants

Point value: 1-2 points

Why so valuable: New York bettors could really see JPP’s true value if he’s not recovered from offseason back surgery. His presence in the pass rush can bail out a shaky secondary.

Jason Peters, LT Philadelphia Eagles

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Peter’s absence was felt on the offensive line and in order for Chip Kelly’s new offense to gain traction, they need their LT on the field.

Vernon Davis, TE San Francisco 49ers

Point value: 1-2 points

Why so valuable: Without Michael Crabtree, Davis will take on more of the receiving load on top of being Colin Kaepernick’s safety net.

Percy Harvin, WR Seattle Seahawks

Point value: 0.5-1.5 points

Why so valuable: Not only does Harvin give Russell Wilson a deep threat but the troublesome speedster stretches defenses and opens it up for Marshawn Lynch to go beast mode.

James Laurinaitis, LB St. Louis Rams

Point value: 0-2 points

Why so valuable: The Rams defense ranked in the middle of the road, allowing 21.8 points per game in 2012. The Road Warrior’s son is the best chance of improving in the competitive NFC West.

Darrelle Revis, CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Point value: 1-2.5 points

Why so valuable: Revis is “the” shutdown corner in the NFL when 100 percent but most are holding their breath after he missed 2012 with a knee injury. “If he stays healthy and performs, he’s in the ‘best in league’ argument at the position,” says Black.

Brian Orakpo, LB Washington Redskins

Point value: 0-1.5 points

Why so valuable: The Skins defense took a slide after Orakpo went down in Week 2. While D.C. is all about RG3, Washington needs to be able to stop somebody if they want another playoff appearance.
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cnotes Posts:23634 Followers:32
07/28/2013 09:19 AM

Most popular NFL prop bets of the offseason

One of the best ways to scratch that football itch in the offseason is betting on the long list of available NFL props.

From the top QBs to which WRs and RBs will rack up the most yards, football fans can wager on just about anything and anyone in the NFL. We talked to sportsbooks to see which props and players are drawing the most action as NFL training camps kick off:

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos – Total Passing Yards (Under 4,750.5)

Even with the addition of Wes Welker and another camp to fine tune timing with the receivers, prop bettors expect Manning to throw for less than 4,750.5 yards in 2013. Last year, in his first season with the Broncos, Peyton posted 4,659 passing yards.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys – Total Passing Yards (Under 4,725.5)

There was a coup in Arlington this offseason, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ripping the playbook out of head coach Jason Garrett’s hands and leaving the offense to Bill Callahan. That could lead to less deep looks for Romo and a more balanced attack. Dallas is even utilizing a pistol offense in camp this summer.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks – Total Rushing Yards (Under 1,475.5)

With Russell Wilson’s expanded role in the offense after such a great rookie campaign, prop bettors are expecting a swing in the offense. Seattle added speedster Percy Harvin and the ground game could suffer. Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards, so oddsmakers are already adjusting for a demotion.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings – Total Rushing Yards (Over 1,750)

So what is “All Day” going to do for an encore? After flirting with the single-season rushing record, Peterson isn’t expected to get close to the 2,097 yards he rumbled for last year. But bettors believe he’ll at least get more than 1,750, with 82 percent of this prop’s action leaning over.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – Most TD Passes

Rodgers connected for 39 TD passes in 2012 and had 45 throws find pay dirt in 2011. He’s involved in as many as eight QB-versus-QB matchups for most TD passes and is drawing the major of action in most of those props. Rodgers is a 3.5-TD fave over Tom Brady, a 1.5-TD fave vs. Drew Brees and a 7.5-TD fave against Eli Manning.

E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills – NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Action on the former FSU star has move Manuel from +1,200 to +600 to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. Buffalo has a QB battle on its hands with Manuel trying to win the No. 1 gig over Kevin Kolb. Rams rookie WR Tavon Austin is the RoY fave at +300.

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