MLB
Cincinnati vs. Chi Cubs 04/18/2014 02:20 PM
MLB
Toronto vs. Cleveland 04/18/2014 07:05 PM
ML: CLE (-142) Total: 8
MLB
Milwaukee vs. Pittsburgh 04/18/2014 07:05 PM
ML: MIL (-102) Total: 7
Forgot Password?
Back
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 12:23 AM
2013 NFL training camp preview: Minnesota Vikings

July 3, 2013 5:12 PM ET

Few expected the Vikings to make the playoffs in 2012. Do they have more surprises in store? Few expected the Vikings to make the playoffs in 2012. Do they have more surprises in store?

Minnesota surprised much of the NFL world by making the playoffs last season, and coach Leslie Frazier hoisted himself off the hot seat by leading the Vikings to a 10-6 record.

Depending on how quarterback Christian Ponder plays, Minnesota could have the chance to battle with Green Bay for the NFC North title or the Vikings could fall back into the basement. If the latter happens, we might not see Frazier or Ponder around for much longer.


Key changes


Minnesota surprised most observers by scratching out a 10-win season in 2012 and taking one of the wild card playoff spots in the progress. But that roster looks a little different than the one the Vikings will showcase in 2013.

Perhaps the biggest loss to the team was when the Vikings traded receiver Percy Harvin to the Seahawks for multiple draft picks. A big talent loss for sure, but it might be a relief (at least, somewhat) for a Minnesota squad that had to put up with a player who clearly was unhappy with his Vikings contract. Still, no matter. Harvin won’t be an easy player to replace, but Minnesota certainly tried in signing another top-notch receiver.

The Packers' loss was the Vikings' gain when it comes to receiver Greg Jennings. After he turned down a reported $10 million per year before the 2012 season, Jennings only played half the season because of multiple injuries. Instead of re-signing with Green Bay, the Vikings offered him a $9 million-per-year deal that he accepted. We're not sure how much the nearly 30-year-old Jennings has left, and if Jennings continues to fall off, Christian Ponder had better hope Minnesota's 2013 first-round pick, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, makes a huge impact immediately.

Following the news that the team signed former Chiefs starter Matt Cassel to back up Ponder, Minnesota took Joe Webb out of the quarterback rotation and made him a full-time receiver. But this way, if Ponder can't play -- and he missed five games in 2011 -- the team has a legitimate quarterback in Cassel who’s proven he can win games, albeit not in a while, in this league.

During free agency, the Vikings did a nice job of keeping tackle Phil Loadholt, fullback Jerome Felton and receiver Jerome Simpson, but Minnesota let go of Antoine Winfield. And it appears the Vikings screwed up the chance to keep the still-quality cornerback. All because they didn't feel he was worth his $7.5 million salary and because they thought they might convince him to re-sign at a lower price. The problem was that Winfield was so upset with the move that instead, he signed a deal with Seattle and upgraded what was already one of the top secondaries in the league. Without Winfield, Minnesota signed former Lions cornerback Jacob Lacey.


Position battles

Middle linebacker is the most important job that seems open for competition. Minnesota signed former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, who will probably have the best chance to earn the starting role. The Vikings have also said that Bishop could play at one of the outside linebacker spots. But if Bishop sticks in the middle, he might have to compete with Audie Cole and Erin Henderson -- who reportedly has bulked up his weight in order to make the move from weakside linebacker.

And actually, the weakside spot is open as well. If Bishop doesn't work there, look for Marvin Mitchell to compete with Gerald Hodges and Tyrone McKenzie for that job. For the nose tackle position, Letroy Guion, last year’s starter, will have to hold off Fred Evans to keep his spot.


Bubble watch

You have to wonder what the Vikings want to do with backup running back Toby Gerhart. He's entering a contract year, but he's also coming off the worst season of his career. Minnesota likes his pass protection, but at this point, he's nothing more than a third-down back who averaged 3.4 yards per carry last season. There have been reports speculating that Gerhart could be used as trade bait once training camps open, but the problem with that from Minnesota's perspective is that if Adrian Peterson leaves with an injury, there are no other proven commodities at running back. Gerhart's mediocrity might simply be a better option than the unknown.


Veterans in jeopardy

For now, all indications are that defensive tackle Kevin Williams will keep his starting job for the 2013 season. But there's a reason Minnesota took Sharrif Floyd in the first round of the draft, and it's likely not to play a backup role to Williams, who will be 34 by the time his contract expires at the end of 2013. It's also possible that the team could move Williams to nose tackle if Floyd proves impossible to keep off the field. One thing to remember: Williams still can play, as evidenced by his No. 9 defensive tackle ranking last season by Pro Football Focus. Either way, it's not difficult to forecast that Williams' time in Minnesota is limited.

Left guard Charlie Johnson, who already had to restructure his contract in the offseason after his disappointing 2012 season, could face a release if he can't win that starting job.


Unheard-of-guy to watch

Josh Robinson will attempt to replace the cornerback that Pro Football Focus ranked No. 1 last season, Antoine Winfield. And if that's not enough, Robinson, who will be asked to play the slot cornerback spot, has never done so before. "This is all new to me,” he told reporters during the offseason. “... I really don't have any game-time experience with it. I think it's something I'll learn eventually. We'll see." Sounds pretty confident, eh? The bad news: When quarterbacks threw at Robinson's receiver last year, their rating was 106.5.


Biggest concerns

While many see young quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert as being unworthy of a starting job, Christian Ponder -- who, like Gabbert in Jacksonville and Jake Locker in Tennessee, is entering his third year in the league after being drafted in the first round -- has more job stability. Though Ponder certainly hasn't been great, he helped lead Minnesota to the postseason last year and certainly made improvements from his rookie season. But if the Vikings don't play well in 2013, there have been reports that his job will be in trouble, especially with Matt Cassel as his backup.

And if Cassel does eventually take over Ponder's job, Minnesota will have plenty of questions at that position moving into the future. If it's not Ponder, the Vikings might have to head back into the draft to find their next franchise signal-caller. Ponder isn't a concern yet, but he hasn't made those kinds of questions go away, either.


Something to prove

While watching Jared Allen play last season, you had to wonder if you were seeing the decline of one of the best defensive ends of the past half-decade. After recording a total of 44.5 sacks from 2007-09, Allen has failed to crack the 12-sack mark in two of the past three years. Of course, you could say, "hey dude, he had 22 sacks in 2011!" and you'd be absolutely right. But in 2012, he seemed to disappear for long stretches of time.

Plus, he's coming off an offseason of knee and shoulder surgeries, though neither is supposed to threaten the beginning of the regular season. Allen managed 12 sacks with a torn labrum last season, but you have to believe that his advancing age won't help keep him healthy. Allen hasn't been asked to take a paycut, but he said if the Vikings mentioned it, he would refuse to do so. The fact this is even a topic might motivate Allen as he enters the 10th year of his career.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 12:25 AM
Finally, training camps are here; now, here's what we want to know

July 18, 2013 6:38 pm ET

Dallas and Miami open training camps this weekend, and hallelujah. Maybe now we can move the conversation past Colin Kaepernick, the Pouncey brothers and DUIs.

A year ago, it was Bountygate that served as the back story to the season. Now it's the New England Patriots, Tom Brady, the receivers they don't have and the backup quarterback they do.

Neveretheless, there are story lines galore waiting to be played out this summer, and here's an idea of what to expect:

TEN BURNING QUESTIONS

1. What's going on with the Cleveland Browns? I'm not talking about their quarterback, head coach or Trent Richardson. It's owner Jimmy Haslam, who's under the magnifying glass, and that might be OK if it weren't the FBI doing the magnifying. Haslam swears he has no intention of selling the team, but it might not be his call -- particularly if a federal investigation uncovers evidence that implicates him.

2. Does Philip Rivers get back to winning? Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Rivers needs to "get back to basics," and I don't know about that. I think he needs to get back to protecting the football, and that doesn't happen if the Bolts don't protect him better with their running game, offensive line, tight ends, something, anything more than they've done the past two seasons. Rivers is a terrific quarterback ... when he gets time to throw. So give it to him.

3. When does RG3 return, and how long does it take him to find his mojo? Robert Griffin III said last month "without a doubt" he'd be ready for the start of training camp, and that's next week. But someone tell him there's no prize for getting back early. Some Redskins were quoted as saying they were "astonished" with his recovery, which is great. But this isn't a race, and this isn't Adrian Peterson. What's important is that Griffin does what he did not a year ago -- return only when he's healthy.

4. What happens to the read option? Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin called it "the flavor of the month," and while that seems extreme I found others who tilted in his direction. What seems apparent is that no one will be caught by surprise this season. Defensive coordinators spent the months huddling with collegiate coaches, hoping to discover how to defend the read-option and pistol and believe they have a handle on the scheme. "Just my opinion," said Cinncinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, "but if you're a disciplined football team you're going to play it OK."

5. Are the New England Patriots on the elevator going down? That seems to be the prevailing opinion, and it's easy to see why. Brady turns 36 next month and just lost four of his top five receivers from last year, including Wes Welker. And the fifth? That would be tight end Rob Gronkowski, and no one knows what to expect after four surgeries. So the Patriots did some heavy subtraction. What they didn't lose was Brady, and look what happened in 2006 when his best receiver was Reche Caldwell. The Patriots went to the conference championship game and were within a minute of the Super Bowl. As long as Brady's around, the Pats aren't headed south.

6. How much will San Francisco miss Michael Crabtree? They gave tight end Vernon Davis turns at wide receiver at minicamp. Does that answer the question?

7. What does New England do with Tim Tebow? Something the Jets did not: Give him a chance. I don't care where it is. The Patriots will find a role for him, and, just a hunch, it won't be quarterback.

8. How much better is New Orleans with Sean Payton back? Let's see, they were 13-3 with him in 2011; they were 7-9 a year later. That should put Atlanta on alert. While the Falcons have been loading up this offseason, so has New Orleans. It has its head coach back. The NFC South is a two-team race, with the Saints pushing the Falcons to the wire.

9. How will Chip Kelly's offense translate to the NFL? Not sure. One thing we do know, though: His players will be in shape. Kelly runs practices as if he were late for dinner -- with several drills going at once and all at a frantic tempo. Does that make the Eagles better? Nope. It just makes them a vastly improved fitness class. But I don't care how fast the Eagles practice; I just care how carefully they protect the football. Over the past 32 games they committed 75 turnovers, and look no farther when you wonder what happened to this franchise.

10. Who rediscovers winning first -- Oakland, Buffalo or Cleveland? The Raiders are the early favorite to make the first choice in the 2014 draft, and what's new? They've had top-10 choices in eight of the past 10 years (two of which they traded). But when do they get out of the bunker? Before Buffalo? Probably not. Cleveland? You tell me. All three teams have uncertain situations at quarterback, and that explains why they are where they are.

MY FIVE FAVORITE TRAINING CAMPS

This list took direct hits when the Cards moved out of Flagstaff, and the Giants abandoned Albany. They're part of a movement that has teams doing what seems sensible -- namely, running all practices at their own facilities. Fortunately, not everyone is there yet.

1. St. John Fisher College (Buffalo), Pittsford, N.Y. -- Everything is so accessible -- players, coaches, staff, facilities, you name it -- and the Bills are accommodating. Plus, you're a five-minute drive from the Erie Canal and the picture-postcard village of Pittsford.

2. Green Bay Packers at Nitschke and Hinkle fields -- Imagine a place where kids take the adults to work. You don't have to. Go to Lambeau Field, put your child on a bike and point him toward practice. He may come home with Aaron Rodgers.

3. San Diego Chargers at the team facility -- What can I say? It's San Diego.

4. The Oakland Raiders in Napa -- It's out the back door of the Marriott, so there's nothing extraordinary about the immediate surroundings ... until, that is, you start tooling up Route 29. Then you'll wish the Raiders trained here year round.

5. St. Vincent College (Pittsburgh), Latrobe, Pa. -- When the Steelers say they train on campus they're not kidding. They practice in the middle of the school, and their workouts are perfect for viewing -- good for the hordes of fans who make the drive.

FIVE (OK, SIX) PLACES TO CHECK OUT WHILE YOU'RE GOING

1. Pagliai's in Mankato, Minn. Stop by for the lunch special, then pick up a T-shirt when you leave. If these guys were in New York City, there would be no lines outside Lombardi's or Grimaldi's.

1a. Tav on the Ave, Mankato, Minn. It's not often you find two sure things in one training-camp stop, but that's what happens in Mankato. When I think of my favorite sports bars, this makes the cut easily.

2. Oxbow Public Market in Napa. It's on First Street and offers everything from wine to burgers to gourmet foods to raw oysters to Three Twins Ice Cream to Todd Humphries' Kitchen Door. In short, there's a choice of great food in an inviting venue. If you can't make it to the Oxbow district, stop in at the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin' Bar-B-Q in downtown Napa and order the BH beer-can chicken. Warning: Bring friends or one helluva appetite. It's an entire chicken, and at $24.50 it's a bargain. Honest.

3. The Coal Tower in Pittsford, N.Y. If you haven't heard of this place, you haven't been paying attention. One reason to go to Pittsford is to see the Bills; another is to eat at the Coal Tower. Absolutely one of the best places on the planet. Nice people. Great food. Decent prices.

4. Big Dipper Bar-B-Q in Apalachin, N.Y. -- So it's 45 minutes from the Jets in Cortland. I go after every practice. You should, too. Trust me, you'll be happy you did. I've eaten a lot of BBQ chicken in my life and never, ever, ever had anything better than what's alongside Route 17. Plus, if you're still hungry after you're finished, there's an ice-cream stand across the parking lot.

5. Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Q in Coronado, Cal. -- Notice a trend here? Yep, it's the ribs and chicken that keep me coming back. Plus, you're directly across the bay from downtown San Diego. The view is terrific; the food is better.

FIVE QUOTES YOU CAN BANK ON

1. "Aaron Hernandez is not part of this football team." -- New England coach Bill Belichick, on his former tight end.

2. "As I told you before, I'm in no rush to name a starting quarterback." -- Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly, on who starts at the most important position.

3. "I'm just trying to make this team." -- Tim Tebow, on his role with New England.

4. "It will take care of itself. I'm not concerned." -- Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, on a contract extension.

5. "I'm not here to talk about the Steelers. -- Cincinnati linebacker James Harrison, on his former team.

FIVE GUYS WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE

1. Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford. He just got the big bucks. Now it's time he puts up the big numbers. He did that two years ago, and the Lions reached the playoffs. He tailed off dramatically last year, and they were 4-12. The Lions go only as far as Stafford takes them, and it's time he jacks up those numbers from a year ago -- particularly the victories.

2. San Diego running back Ryan Mathews. The Chargers traded up to make him the 12th pick of the 2010 draft, and Mathews hasn't lived up to expectations. Sure, he's been decent when he played, but he's missed 10 games in three seasons. New coach Mike McCoy has been supportive, saying Mathews is "the guy," and that's great ... except look at the competition: Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown? I'd hope he was "the guy." I'd also hope he stays in the lineup because then he might prove to be more than "an average back," which was how he recently described his career. You know something? He's right.

3. Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Bucs surrendered a high draft pick to acquire him, then signed him to a whopping contract that pays Revis $16 million per. One hitch: None of it is guaranteed, which means it's pay-as-you-go. That means Revis must prove he's worth it, and that's not an issue for him. He believes so much in himself that he jumped at the deal. Still, he's coming off a torn ACL, though the Bucs say he should be ready for Opening Day. OK, fine. But people aren't sure how effective he'll be, wondering if "Revis Island" is still in business. Revis has nothing to prove to himself, but he might to the Jets -- namely, that they made a big mistake letting a premier corner walk in the prime of his career. If so, he doesn't have to wait long. The Jets open with Tampa Bay on Sept. 8.

4. Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker. The Titans made a commitment to him when they made him the eighth pick of the 2011 draft, but they just hedged their bets by adding Ryan Fitzpatrick as his backup. Yeah, I know, the job belongs to Locker, but I know several quarterback coaches in this league who think Fitzpatrick presses him.

5. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. He's good enough to get the Texans to the playoffs. We know that. But can he take them deep into the playoffs? That's something that must be answered. Quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell says Schaub needs to play better in "crunch time." GM Rick Smith said he needs to play better in big games. After watching Schaub flounder in last season's Monday night litmus test vs. New England -- or even the playoff defeat of Cincinnati -- I'd have to agree.

TEN ROOKIES TO WATCH

1. Philadelphia quarterback Matt Barkley. When I stopped by the Eagles in early June, I took an informal poll of local writers, asking them who starts for the Eagles in Week 17. The verdict was unanimous: Barkley.

2. Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy. He was the best running back in the draft, but he wasn't the first back chosen. He wasn't the second or third, either. Instead, he lasted until the 61st pick, and there's a division of opinion why. Some people said clubs were scared off by injuries; others said it was his lack of "passion" for the game. All I know is that Green Bay is the team that had Aaron Rodgers fall in its lap after 23 others passed, and look what happened there.

3. St. Louis wide receiver Tavon Austin. He was the most explosive player in the draft, and fireworks are something St. Louis hasn't had since Kurt Warner left town. Finally, the Rams find someone to play catch with Sam Bradford.

4. San Diego linebacker Manti Te'o. He was a tackling machine for all but one game last year. Unfortunately, that one game not only was his last; it was the most important one of the season. So which is he: The Heisman Trophy candidate or the guy who disappeared vs. Alabama? We're about to find out.

5. N.Y. Jets quarterback Geno Smith. Once we talked about him challenging Mark Sanchez. Now there's a report that he might serve the same role as Tim Tebow, which was no role at all. You can't make this stuff up.

6. Denver running back Montee Ball. Team exec John Elway compared him to Terrell Davis, saying the guy is "a gem," but slow down. He hasn't had a single carry. Davis ran for more than 2,000 yards in a season and punched Elway's tickets to two Lombardi Trophies. I understand Denver has been looking for a young running back for years, but let's give Ball a chance to exhale.

7. Buffalo wide receiver Robert Woods. He wasn't the best receiver in the draft, but he was one of its most productive. Buffalo was lucky to find him in the second round, and nobody should be happier than Stevie Johnson. Maybe, just maybe, Buffalo found another receiver to take the heat off him.

8. San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen. The Chargers need offensive linemen like Mission Beach needs shade. So they took one with the first pick, then passed while they chose Te'o and Allen. I agree that Allen shouldn't have lasted until the third round, but where are the pass blockers Philip Rivers needs? Allen better be good. Real good.

9. Detroit defensive end Ziggy Ansah. He's been described as "boom-or-bust," which is how scouts labeled Jason Pierre-Paul when he was drafted -- and that turned out OK. "He does it all," said defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. He may have to.

10. Oakland cornerback D.J. Hayden. I know he's talented. I also know his medical history, and that scared off potential suitors. But the Raiders spent their first pick -- the 12th overall -- on someone who nearly died a year ago, and talk about risk. It's impossible not to root for the guy, but it's also logical to ask: Why were the Raiders willing to gamble? "Because nothing's changed there," one scout told me. I don't believe it.

FIVE COORDINATORS IN THE LINE OF FIRE

1. Monte Kiffin, defensive coordinator, Dallas. He coaches the 4-3 Tampa-2. He has 3-4 material. Plus, he's been away from the NFL for four seasons. Tell me how this works.

2. Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator, New Orleans. This is his third job in four years, and it's his most challenging. The Saints weren't just bad on defense in 2012; they were historically bad, hemorrhaging a league-record 7,042 yards.

3. Marty Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator, N.Y. Jets. His head coach is a lame duck. There's a mess at quarterback. There aren't enough playmakers. There's no high-profile back. In short, he just drew the short straw. Keep that motorcycle running, Marty. You might want to leave practice again.

4. Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator, San Diego. He's in charge of putting Philip Rivers back together again, and that's going to depend on his left tackle and running game -- neither of which distinguished themselves in 2012. Whisenhunt was a great hire for these guys. I mean, look what he did with Kurt Warner. He could do the same for Rivers ... if he finds someone to protect him.

5. Billy Davis, defensive coordinator, Philadelphia. The Eagles stunk last year, and no one stunk more than a defense that went through two coordinators, ranked 15th in yards and tied for 29th in points and dead last in takeaways (13). So Davis comes in with an advertised presnap 3-4 that might look different once the ball is in play, and here's hoping something's different. The Eagles were downright unwatchable for too much of last season.

10 STORYLINES TO FOLLOW

1. What's next for Miami. The Dolphins are desperate to win again and spent lavishly in the offseason to get there. One problem: They still have to pass Tom Brady and New England, and good luck there. Miami believes Ryan Tannehill is a franchise quarterback and just bought him what it believes is a franchise receiver in Mike Wallace. Wallace can stretch the field and will catch a lot of bombs. But he'll drop them, too. I saw it happen too often in Pittsburgh.

2. Bill Callahan as the Dallas playcaller. Giving him this job wasn't Jason Garrett's idea; it was Jerry Jones who made the call, and I can see why. The Cowboys need to be more balanced, making more use of the run and DeMarco Murray. But with Tony Romo more involved in game-planning, I don't know if that will happen. What I do know is that Romo can't survive if the Cowboys ... OK, Callahan ... don't dial Murray more often.

3. What Marc Trestman does for Jay Cutler's career. The Bears brought in Trestman from the CFL because he not only knows the passing game, he excels at it. Remember when the Oakland Raiders were a playoff team? Yeah, I know, you need a time machine. Well, Trestman was the offensive coordinator, and he threw so much then -- 65 times in the 2002 road opener vs. Pittsburgh -- that he turned Rich Gannon into a league MVP and the Raiders into a Super Bowl club. It worked then. Can it work now? Logic says it should. The question, of course, is: Can Trestman draw something out of Cutler others could not? Cutler's future depends on it.

4. The Baltimore Ravens' defense without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and more than half the starting lineup from Super Bowl XLVIII. There are some people who think they'll be better, and I'm one of them. One reason: The bar isn't high, with the Ravens ranking 17th overall in defense and tied for 12th in scoring defense. Another: They have Terrell Suggs for an entire season, and while he may not be the same player he was two years ago he'll be better than he was the second half of 2012. Still another: They get their best defensive back, Lardarius Webb, back. And then there's this: Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens should send thank-you notes to Dumvervil's agent and the Denver Broncos.

5. Who quarterbacks Philadelphia. Michael Vick said he'd like it resolved before training camp. DeSean Jackson seconded that nomination, then said he's pretty sure it will be Vick. But it's what Chip Kelly says that matters, and he says he's in no rush to make a decision.

6. The impact of Andy Reid and Alex Smith on Kansas City. The Chiefs had a league-leading 37 turnovers last year, tying them with Philadelphia and the New York Jets. Reid coached the Eagles, so there's no guarantee the spigot gets turned off except ... except they just hired a quarterback who rarely makes mistakes. Smith had 10 turnovers the past two years en route to a 19-5-1 record, and I'll take my chances with that -- especially on a 2-14 team that had six players named to the Pro Bowl.

7. How RG3 changes his game after last season's knee injury. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan insists he has no intention of changing the Washington offense to protect his quarterback, saying "the zone read is something I feel, in the long run, helps the quarterback." There's no doubt it helped Washington last season, but it didn't help RG3. He spent the offseason recovering from a serious knee surgery. My guess is that the Redskins don't have Griffin take one-fourth of the carries as he did last year; teach him the wisdom of sliding; introduce him to the sidelines; school him on when and where to throw the ball away and encourage him to stay in the pocket. Does that mean he stops running? No. When you have someone like RG3 you take advantage of his talent. But you do it wisely. Using him as a pass receiver was not wise. Neither was playing him on one leg.

8. The role Gregg Williams plays in Tennessee. After Bountygate, the expectation was that Williams was finished in the NFL. Not so fast. Tennessee re-hired him, and he's working as a senior defensive assistant to coordinator Jerry Gray. Anyone who knows Williams knows he'll have an influence on the Titans' play, which will be aggressive, with ample pressure calls and corner blitzes.

9. The NFC West. San Francisco and Seattle are the prohibitive favorites, but beware of St. Louis. The Rams quietly are putting together a strong team that last year not only had the best division win-loss record in the NFC West but never lost to the 49ers. Now they've added an explosive receiver (Austin) and franchise left tackle (Jake Long) to the offense, with the expectation that Sam Bradford takes a giant leap forward.

10. How Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos handle Super Bowl expectations. The feeling at the end of last year's regular season was that Denver was the best team around. Then Rahim Moore happened. So the Broncos start all over -- this time with Wes Welker and without Elvis Dumervil -- and the expectation is that they're the team to beat in the AFC again. The reason: Peyton Manning is another year removed from his neck surgery, and he was good enough last season to finish as the MVP runnerup. Anything less than a Super Bowl will be disappointing for Denver, just as it was last year.

FIVE QUARTERBACK DERBYS TO WATCH

1. Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith. Sanchez is confident he'll be the starter, and the more I hear about Geno Smith the more I think he might be right. Now there's a report out there that the Jets are considering using Smith in the role they reserved for Tim Tebow last year. Except, there was no role. They acquired Tebow, then didn't know what to do with him. That's not what I'd call encouraging for Smith.

2. Christian Ponder vs. Matt Cassel. Ponder is the starter, and Cassel is the backup, OK? In fact, GM Rick Spielman says he believes Ponder was as responsible as Adrian Peterson for the Vikings' playoff run last year, but that doesn't make sense. Peterson was the league MVP. There's a feeling in some circles that Minnesota signed Cassel to push Ponder and serve as the safety net they could've used last year. Maybe. I'd just keep my eyes on this one.

3. Kevin Kolb vs. EJ Manuel. When you're a team that hasn't gone to the playoffs since 1999, hasn't had a winning season the past eight years and spent the past five as a division doormat, change isn't just good, it's downright necessary. So Buffalo rolls out two new faces at quarterback and hopes one of them does what Ryan Fitzpatrick, J.P.Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, you name it, could not -- namely, win more than he loses. Manuel is the logical choice because the Bills spent their first draft pick on him. When you're coming off a 6-10 season and trying to energize the fan base, you don't spend your first pick on a backup. You expect him to start.

4. Blaine Gabbert vs. Chad Henne. This is supposed to be a make-or-break year for Gabbert, but I'm waiting for that separation between him and Henne. With a new GM and head coach, Gabbert is running out of security blankets. But the truth is: The team is invested in Gabbert, and he's the one with a future. Maybe. I expect he wins the job, but I don't expect he's the quarterback here a year from now.

5. Josh Freeman vs. himself. He's in the last year of his contract, and the Bucs are in no rush to extend him. More than that, they drafted Mike Glennon. Take the hint, Josh. It's now or never.

FIVE HEAD COACHES WHO NEED TO STEP IT UP

1. Rex Ryan, N.Y. Jets. He can outrun the bulls in Pamplona, but can he outrun the Bills in Buffalo? He better. He's in the last year of his contract, with a new GM and a roster short on playmakers. Oh, yeah, he's also working on his third offensive coordinator in three years and his second defensive coordinator in two. It's a mixed up, muddled-up, shook-up mess for Rex, with the expectation that he's the first to get cashiered.

2. Jason Garrett, Dallas. First, Jerry Jones talks about a "window of opportunity" that is closing. Then he takes away Garrett's play-calling, installing Bill Callahan as the guy diagramming snaps. Garrett is 21-19 as a head coach, never made the playoffs and never won more than eight games in a season. His window of opportunity is closing, too.

3. Jim Schwartz, Detroit. Yes, he put the Lions back in the playoffs. But that was two years ago. He's 22-42 overall and won no more than four games in two of his four seasons as head coach. I like Schwartz, too, and the attitude he brings to his team. But attitude is one thing, winning is another, and it's time to put the Lions back in black.

4. Ron Rivera, Carolina. He was pardoned a year ago when the Panthers made a second-half rally to win six of their last 10 starts. But his GM, Dave Gettelman, didn't hire Rivera, and that's never good for a coach's longevity -- especially when that coach is 13-19. He either wins or else.

5. Mike Munchak, Tennessee. He did a marvelous job in his first season, then succumbed to gravity. Not only did the Titans finish a disappointing 6-10, they allowed 30 or more points in half of their games. Now Munchak must prove himself all over again. The Titans loaded up in the offseason to take the pressure off quarterback Jake Locker and put it on running back Chris Johnson, but make no mistake: The pressure is on the head coach.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:12 AM
AFC East Preview

July 17, 2013


The AFC East has been owned by the Patriots over the last decade, but the hits offensively in New England may slow down the attack. Obviously the Pats still have Tom Brady under center, but an injury to Rob Gronkowski, the release of Aaron Hernandez, and the loss of Wes Welker to the Broncos takes away plenty of weapons for the defending division champions. New England fell one game short of the Super Bowl last January, while splitting each of its final 12 games against the spread.

The remainder of the division is up in the air with the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills each trying to take that next step. However, Miami made significant free-agent moves in the offseason to help Ryan Tannehill in his second season at quarterback, which include wide receivers Mike Wallace (from Pittsburgh) and Brandon Gibson (from St. Louis). The Dolphins continue to be the most inconsistent ATS team over the last four seasons, compiling a 33-31 record, while failing to post an above .500 record since winning the division in 2008.

New York qualified for a pair of AFC Championships in Rex Ryan's first two seasons (2009-2010), while the Jets have been grounded recently with an 8-8 record in 2011 and just a 6-10 finish in 2012. Under Ryan, the Jets continue to underachieve in the role of a home favorite, posting an 11-15 ATS record since 2009, as New York may be laying points at Met Life Stadium up to four times this season.

The Bills have lost double-digit games for each of the previous four seasons, while picking up a last-place schedule in 2013. Buffalo stunk it up as road underdogs last season, putting together a 2-6 ATS record, including four losses by at least 10 points. Former Florida State standout E.J. Manuel is expected to start at quarterback following Ryan Fitzpatrick's roller-coaster campaign, as the ex-Harvard signal-caller was released after the season.

September Games to Watch:

Carolina at Buffalo - Week 2: The Bills have split each of their last 10 home games against the NFC since 2008, while dropping contests to the Rams and Seahawks in 2012. Buffalo won and covered four of six home contests in the favorite role last season, including double-digit routs of the Chiefs, Jaguars, and Jets. Carolina closed the last campaign with covers in five of its final six games, including outright 'dog wins at San Diego and New Orleans.

Miami at Indianapolis - Week 2: The Colts escaped past the Dolphins, 23-20 as short home 'dogs last November, one of six road losses for Miami. The Dolphins will be playing their second road game in as many weeks after their season opener at Cleveland. Miami begins a four-week stretch in Week 2 of facing upper-tier quarterbacks by taking on Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Joe Flacco in successive weeks.

New England at Atlanta - Week 4: The Patriots lost three of four games against the NFC last season, including defeat to eventual conference champion San Francisco in December. New England is expected to be listed as a road underdog, as Bill Belichick's club owns a terrific 7-1 ATS record since 2009 when receiving points away from Gillette Stadium.

N.Y. Jets at Tennessee - Week 4: This isn't exactly a prime matchup on that week's card, but it's a rematch of an ugly Monday night contest last December from Nashville. The Titans slipped by the Jets, 14-10, the start of a three-game skid for New York to close the season. The Jets actually wrap up September with three non-playoff teams from last season (Buccaneers, Bills, and Titans), while the schedule toughens up in October with matchups against four playoff clubs from 2012.

2013 Win-Loss Projections
School 2012 Record 2013 Win Total (LVH) Predicted Over/Under
New England 12-4 11 ½ UNDER
Miami 7-9 7 ½ OVER
N.Y. Jets 6-10 6 ½ OVER
Buffalo 6-10 6 ½ UNDER

Week 1 Best Bets (courtesy of LVH Hotel and Casino):

-- Dolphins -1 ½ at Browns
-- Buccaneers -1 at Jets
-- Patriots -6 ½ at Bills (PASS)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:15 AM
NFC West Outlook

June 13, 2013

The Hall of Fame Game to open the NFL preseason is just around the corner, less than two months away. The NFL draft, free agency, and injury reports from mini-camps steal the spotlight in the summer but the April release of 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 NFC West this season, a division that made a lot of noise in the NFC last season with the 49ers and Seahawks both among the final four in the conference.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals were 4-0 to start the 2012 season including wins over Seattle and New England. Arizona won just once the rest of the way, finishing 5-11 and featuring the second worst point production in the NFL. The collapse led to a coaching change with Bruce Arians taking over for Ken Whisenhunt despite Whisenhunt taking the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl just a few years prior. The quarterback situation has been a huge problem for the Cardinals in recent years and veteran Carson Palmer was acquired to address that need but there are still many question marks for this team.

Arizona will be the clear 4th place team in this division in most predictions with a lot of stability with the three other franchises. Arizona will face daunting travel this season with a 750 mile trip to San Francisco as the shortest journey of the season and the Cardinals will play four games in the Eastern Time zone including two of those games on the second of back-to-back road game sets. Drawing Philadelphia and Detroit with the 4th place schedule does not appear to be a great advantage for Arizona and with all four NFC South teams on the slate it will not be easy to improve on a 3-9 NFC mark from last season given how tough this division will be. The Cardinals along with the rest of the NFC West will face the four AFC South teams and even though that includes two 2012 playoff teams that is a relatively favorable draw and will present games with Jacksonville and Tennessee, though the Cardinals have the misfortune of both of those games being on the road. Arizona was just 1-7 on the road last season and this year the road schedule will provide the easier opportunities for wins as none of the five out of division road games will come against a team that had a winning record last season.

That means a challenging home slate however with Carolina, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Houston visiting Glendale. Arizona will open with three of the first four games of the season on the road and even through none of the first five opponents made the playoffs last season it will be a tough way to start the season for a team in transition. There are some positive pieces left behind on this roster but overall it does not appear that a quick turnaround season will be possible for the Cardinals through this schedule unless this team is ready for day 1 and can take advantage of a somewhat softer September slate on the road.

Arizona Cardinals 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .520
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (five home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 13,691
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 1 (one Thursday)

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl last season and this team should be one of the favorites in the NFC in 2013. The 49ers will face an unbelievable amount of travel miles but they do face only seven true road games with a game in London. San Francisco will also play the key division road games with Seattle and St. Louis early in the year, getting the home games in the second time around which is generally considered more favorable. There are tough games ahead with both Green Bay and Washington as part of the 1st place schedule along with all four NFC South teams on the slate but the Falcons and Packers both have to travel to San Francisco. Five of the seven games against 2012 playoff teams will be at home so while there are some very tough games ahead for this team, most of the toughest games are at home.

The schedule will open with a bang however with four of the first five opponents being playoff teams from last year and the one foe that was not is a short week Thursday night road game against St. Louis, a team that handled the 49ers well last season. San Francisco could definitely face a rough start to the season including games with Green Bay and Seattle in the first two weeks and with a still young quarterback that has never opened the season as a starter, there could be some early trouble. San Francisco does have a softer slate in the middle of the season but there are three games in the Eastern Time zone and the final three home games of the season will be challenging with division games with St. Louis and Seattle and then a big NFC Championship rematch with Atlanta in the second to last game of the regular season.

Overall the road schedule is favorable in terms of the caliber of opponents and even though the travel to London is substantial, the 49ers will face a Jacksonville team that they will be heavily favored over. It will not be shocking to see the 49ers take a few early losses but this is a team that could provide value in the middle of the season and still deserves to be considered among the elite teams in the league, though matching the records of the past two seasons is not a given and this will not be an easy division to win.

San Francisco 49ers 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .520
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (five home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 19,428 (includes 5,354 miles for a game in London)
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2 (includes a neutral site game in London)
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, two Sunday night, two Monday)

Seattle Seahawks: Seattle ended up as one of the top statistical teams in the NFL last season and the Seahawks were very close to making it to the NFC Championship game led by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. The race in this division is expected to come down to Seattle and San Francisco and while the Seahawks snag a schedule with a slightly lower 2012 win percentage than San Francisco, it is likely a tougher overall slate. Seattle will play a very difficult set of road games and historically the Seahawks are not the same team on the road, including going just 3-5 last season while a perfect 8-0 at home. Seattle faces four 2012 playoff teams on the road but also draws tough road games against the Panthers, Rams, and Giants and the toughest games from the NFC South and AFC South draws will be on the road. Seattle also has to play three separate sets of back-to-back road games which can be especially daunting considering there are no short trips from Seattle. In each of those three instances the second of the two games is the longer trip and could be a spot to fade the Seahawks.

Seattle opens the home schedule with its biggest game, hosting the 49ers and the home slate from there on is pretty favorable with Minnesota as the only winning team from 2012 faced in the final seven home games of the season. Another perfect record at home is very possible for this squad but even matching the 3-5 mark on the road from last season would be a solid accomplishment. Seattle certainly has the potential to meet last year’s 11-5 mark and considering this team was +167 in point differential last year the sky is the limit. The road slate is challenging however and if San Francisco can withstand its first month gauntlet the 49ers may be in a better position to take the division title again, forcing Seattle to another road-heavy path in the playoffs should they get there.

Seattle Seahawks 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .516
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (two home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 17,548
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 4 (one Thursday, one Sunday night, two Monday)

St. Louis Rams: While the Rams face long travel for all three division venues their central location does provide an edge in this division, facing far less travel overall than the other three foes. St. Louis was a bit of a surprise team last season with a 7-8-1 mark following up a league-worst 2-14 mark in 2011. One thing most forget that in this division that produced two of the final four teams left standing in the NFC, the Rams featured the best division record going 4-1-1, getting wins against both Seattle and San Francisco at home. The Rams were much less impressive statistically and incredibly this team won four times without scoring 20 points last season as the defense was sharp at times but overall not consistent.

St. Louis is a team that some will view as a possible breakthrough team in 2013 but the schedule is not overly favorable, particularly with a very tough road slate. Five of eight road games are against 2012 playoff teams and games at Dallas and at Carolina are not exactly cupcakes. Drawing Dallas and Chicago in the 3rd place draw illustrates how tough and deep the NFC is right now and the Rams have not displayed an overly tough home field edge, going just 4-4 last year. The big home game with San Francisco will come on a short week after two marquee road games and the home game with Seattle also comes after back-to-back road games which will make it tough to deliver a division sweep at home again this season. The Rams play three sets of back-to-back road games this season which will be a great challenge and they also play the top two AFC South teams Houston and Indianapolis on the road.

St. Louis does have a few favorable early season home games with Arizona, Jacksonville, and Tennessee visiting but overall this is a very tough schedule that is tied for the second toughest in the NFL according to 2012 win percentage. The Rams look like a competitive team that is capable of a few upsets but it will not be easy to take another step forward this season and finishing around .500 is likely the destination for the Rams. The early season schedule with four brutal road games and home contests with the 49ers and Seahawks in the first eight weeks may make a slow start likely and a step back season certainly a possibility if there are any unforeseen setbacks with injuries.

St. Louis Rams 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .539
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (two home, five away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,698
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thursday, one Monday)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:16 AM
AFC West Outlook

June 5, 2013


The Hall of Fame Game to open the NFL preseason is just two months away! The NFL draft and injury reports from mini-camps steal the spotlight in the summer, but the April release of 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 West this season. This division appears to be Denver's to lose, but there always seems to be a few surprises in the NFL each season.

Denver Broncos: After starting the 2012 season at 2-3, Denver rattled off 11 consecutive wins to close the regular season, tying Atlanta for the best record in the NFL. The only record that mattered was 0-1 however, as Denver was knocked out of the playoffs at home in a wild overtime game at home against the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. Usually first-place teams are dealt a difficult schedule the following year, but Denver has the lowest 2012 win percentage for its 2013 opponents in the entire NFL. That simplified approach to determining strength of schedule has many faults, but Denver certainly resides in a division that presents a great advantage over most of the other contenders in the NFL. San Diego and Kansas City are both going through coaching changes, while the Raiders are still a young team in flux with a second-year head coach. None of those three teams has had a winning record in either of the past two seasons. Denver went 6-0 last season in its division games with an average margin of victory of 17.5 points and the Broncos will likely be heavy favorites in each matchup again, as five of those six games will be in the second half of the season.

Denver again opens with a couple of big games right off the bat, opening the NFL season by hosting Baltimore and then traveling to New York in Week 2, facing the last two Super Bowl champions in the first two weeks of the season. Things soften considerably from there with early season meetings against two more teams in transition, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, with both of those games at home. In drawing the NFC East and the AFC South teams, there is significant travel ahead for the Broncos and two huge games with Indianapolis and New England will both be on the road. The Broncos close the season with four of the final six games of the season on the road, but it seems unlikely that Denver will be stuck in a tight division race barring a serious injury issues. It might make it tough to wrap up a protected top-2 seed if the Broncos should be caught in a tight race as games late in the year on the road might be difficult, even in this division. Overall, Denver fans should be thrilled with this slate, but a lot of things still have to go right to have back-to-back 13-3 seasons.

Denver Broncos 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .430
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (two home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,849
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 5 (two Thursday, Two Sunday night, One Monday)

Kansas City Chiefs: It was a disastrous and tragic season for the Chiefs on and off the field last season, but with veteran coach Andy Reid taking over and still plenty of holdover talent, Kansas City will be a candidate for a significant improvement. After going just 2-14 last season, there is nowhere to go but up and the Chiefs have a schedule that will afford many opportunities to find wins. In only one of the first nine games of the season will the Chiefs face a 2012 playoff team and they will face fellow teams in coaching transitions in two of the first three weeks. Kansas City also has five of the first eight games at home, which could afford an opportunity for a promising start to the season. Kansas City incredibly went 0-12 against the AFC last season and 0-6 within this division and had a bevy of other unflattering numbers including not leading in regulation at any point in the first eight games of last season. The Chiefs also had 37 turnovers last season, a simply astounding number and with the Chiefs losing five games by 10 points or less, it was a big factor that greatly impacted the season.

Adding Alex Smith and improving the offensive line should help in that regard and the schedule will present opportunities especially early in the year. The late-season schedule is much more difficult with two games against Denver in the span of three weeks as well as both games with San Diego late in the year. The Chiefs also must face Washington and Indianapolis in December, so Kansas City will likely need to get its wins early in the year to make a big leap in the standings. Ultimately the results for the Chiefs will depend on improving within the division and being able to get wins against Oakland and San Diego after going 0-4 in those games last season. With a reasonable slate, it is hard not to imaging the Chiefs showing an improved record this season, but a potential promising start could likely fade late in the year.

Kansas City Chiefs 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .473
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (three home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,977
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 1 (one Thursday)

Oakland Raiders: Oakland has significant travel ahead with two trips across the country to New York as well as trips to the Midwest. The Raiders will also face two sets of back-to-back road games with long travel in the span of five weeks. Oakland will only face five games against 2012 playoff teams all season and only three of those games are out of the division. Being the third-place team from this division last season features the disadvantage of playing the Steelers and Jets, perhaps a less favorable duo than second-place San Diego will face and the long travel particularly in the second half of the season could take a toll on this squad.

Oakland opens up with very tough games early in the season with 2012 playoff teams in three of the first four weeks of the season, although with home games with Jacksonville and San Diego as well as a trip to Kansas City in the first six weeks of the season, it would not be a shock to see the Raiders at 3-3 entering an early Week 7 bye week. If the Raiders do not have that kind of a start, it could be another rough season as the schedule is challenging in the middle before closing with five of the final six games of the season against teams that did not make the playoffs last season. The home meeting with Denver in Week 17 could also be an opportunity for a win as the Broncos have a good chance to be locked into a playoff spot and potentially resting players at that point in the season. Oakland won just four games last season, but this was an 8-8 team in both 2010 and 2011 and getting back into that range might be a possibility especially with two teams in this division going through a coaching transition, leaving the Raiders as one of the more stable teams in the group, though that may not last.

Oakland Raiders 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .469
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (three away, two home)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 15,298
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thursday, one Monday)

San Diego Chargers: After several years in a row of seemingly underachieving, the Chargers finally pulled the plug on the Norv Turner era. San Diego will go through a major transition this season, but in this division, the opportunity may be there to avoid a big step back. San Diego was even in point differential last season despite finishing just 7-9 and the Chargers had very good defensive numbers last season. Five of the nine losses came by seven points or less and the Chargers played two close games with division champion Denver despite losing both of those games. The Chargers went just 3-5 at home last season so that is a big area of concern and an easy way to find improvement, through San Diego will have a challenging home slate this season featuring four 2012 playoff teams plus the Cowboys and Giants. That does mean that San Diego will also have a very weak road schedule and the Chargers will get to play six of the first seven road games of the season against teams that had losing records last season before a Thursday night road finale late in the season at Denver.

San Diego does play two sets of back-to-back road games and those games could be made trickier by the first leg being in the east coast in both instances, making for taxing travel. San Diego will open the season Monday night at home against Houston and then face a short week with a long trip to Philadelphia so a slow start would not be a surprise for this team, even if the schedule grades out favorably on paper. San Diego will have the potential to close the year strong with four of the final five games of the season at home although several teams will be thrilled to visit San Diego in December to escape cold conditions at home. San Diego has not been that far from being a playoff caliber team in recent seasons, but the big changes coupled with a schedule that starts out tougher than it finishes could spell more disappointment in Southern California.

San Diego Chargers 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .457
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (four home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,477
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 3 (one Thursday, two Monday)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:18 AM
AFC South Outlook

May 18, 2013


The NFL draft is still the focus this time of the year but the recently released 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 South this season. This division will likely be considered the weakest in the NFL by many but with fairly favorable schedules all around the records may not reflect that. These teams will all face a lot of travel miles which could take a toll on the results as Houston looks for a third straight division title.

Houston Texans: Based on win percentage from last season the Texans have the sixth weakest schedule in the NFL and the second weakest of any division champion from 2012. Houston faces long travel with every road game being at least 795 miles away but that is a problem for Houston every year given how far spread out this division is. Houston will play all three division road games in the final four weeks of the season and the final two home games are hosting New England and Denver for a very tough finish to the season. Houston will also have a tough start to the season with a brutal early set of games with Baltimore, Seattle, and San Francisco consecutively starting in week 3. Houston will play seven games against teams that won at least 10 games last season as the overall strength of schedule is brought down with two games against Jacksonville, a team that went 2-14 last season.

Houston also draws all four AFC West teams along with the rest of the division. Houston will play two games in the Pacific Time zone and four games in the Eastern Time zone so there are some challenges with this slate and the travel. While there are several games where the Texans will play as heavy favorites it will likely be a more difficult slate than the team faced last season even with the division as a whole looking like one of the lighter groups in the league. Houston still should be considered the favorite in this division and they have a schedule that is very similar to what Indianapolis faces but the difference between those two teams last season was much greater than the one-game difference in the standings indicated. Houston was 115 points superior in point-differential compared with the Colts last season and the Texans were 6-2 in road games, a record they could certainly repeat with this year's road slate, even with some tough games early in the year.

Houston Texans 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .473
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (four home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,654
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 4 (one Thursday, Two Sunday night, One Monday)

Indianapolis Colts: After the Colts went 11-5 last season for a great turnaround behind rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, there will be many projecting a division championship this season. By 2012 winning percentage the Colts have the third weakest schedule in the NFL and there are only six games against 2012 playoff teams. There is some significant travel on this slate however with three road trips to the western part of the country in addition to long trips to Jacksonville and Houston. The AFC South plays the AFC West teams which is certainly an advantage and the Colts draw Denver at home in what will obviously be a game that captures the nation's attention with Peyton Manning returning. The second place schedule brings tougher than they might sound games with Miami and Cincinnati however, compared with the fourth place slate the Colts dealt with last season in the turnaround.

The coaching staff also loses Bruce Arians who led Indianapolis for most of last season while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia. That storyline certainly helped to bring the team together last season and not having that focus could be a possibility this year. Indianapolis was 11-5 despite being -30 in point differential last season as this was a team that won nine games by seven points or less and this was not a particularly impressive statistical team. Luck was asked to do a lot last season and while he delivered in some big 4th quarter moments his overall numbers were not efficient and he could face a sophomore slump with the league having a whole off-season to break down his film. This division draws the very tough set of NFC West teams and the Colts will have a tough time going 7-1 at home again having to host teams like Seattle and Denver just in the first half of the season. The Colts are a good candidate to start strong however with home games the first two weeks and losing teams from 2012 in three of the first four games. The schedule in the middle of the season looks daunting and a slight step backward is likely in 2013 as this team was fortunate to win 11 games last year.

Indianapolis Colts 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .461
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (three home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,977
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 4 (one Thursday, two Sunday night, one Monday)

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars will certainly be spending some time in the air this season with several incredibly long trips adding to the challenges for a team with a new coaching staff, an unsettled quarterback situation, and coming off an ugly 2-14 season. Jacksonville opens the season with four of the first six games on the road with three of those six games in the western part of the country and all four games as a part of two back-to-back road trips. Jacksonville has winnable games in the first two weeks with Kansas City and then a trip to Oakland but it will be a great challenge in the next six games leading up to a week 9 bye. Jacksonville gives up a home game to play in London where they will face the 49ers and the only break in that scheduling is that San Francisco must make significantly further travel.

There are some opportunities in the second half of the schedule, playing Tennessee twice, as well as games with Arizona, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Even with the loss of the home game and the long travel this is a schedule that a contending team would envy with nine games against teams that had a losing record last season. Three of the final four games of the season are also at home and while the Jaguars are not expected to be in the playoff mix this is a team that could finish with some positive momentum. If the Jaguars fail to win in the first two weeks however things could get very ugly for this squad and by midseason placing a call to the Tim Tebow camp to sell some tickets might be a reasonable idea. It would not be a surprise if the Jaguars improve by several games this season however as there are a lot of games where Jacksonville should feel like they can win even for a team in transition.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .508
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (two home, four away, one neutral)
Miles Traveled for 9 road/neutral games: 15,748 (includes 3,996 miles to London)
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 1 (one Thursday)

Tennessee Titans: The Titans started out last season 1-4 to finish up 6-10 overall with no wins over teams that made the playoffs. This will be a critical third year for head coach Mike Munchak as well as quarterback Jake Locker as this team needs a rebound season. This is a division where a quick turnaround is possible as the Colts proved last year and Tennessee may be a candidate to take a positive step this season. The Titans do have a tough start to the season with back-to-back road games in Pittsburgh and Houston to open the year but then there are three straight home games against losing teams from 2012. Long trips to Seattle, Oakland, and Denver will be on this slate and the Titans have to play three straight road games late in the year with two of those games out west.

The Titans have five home games against losing teams from 2012 and getting to play four games against teams that made a coaching change could also provide opportunities. Having to play the Steelers and the Jets as part of the third place draw is less favorable than most years but overall this is a slate where the Titans can have some success. Improving in the division will likely make of break the team however after Tennessee went 1-5 in division games last season. The Titans will likely need to find a way to at least split with the Texans and Colts to have a shot at making a move upward this season. The early stretch of home games will be critical for the Titans as they host the Chargers, Jets, and Chiefs in succession starting in week 3. They need to win those games to offset very tough games in the rest of the first half schedule to make sure that the season does not turn into a disastrous one.

Tennessee Titans 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .488
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (three home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,477
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3 (including a back-to-back-to-back set)
Primetime Games: 1 (one Thursday)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:20 AM
NFC South Outlook

June 12, 2013

The Hall of Fame Game to open the NFL preseason is just around the corner, less than two months away. The NFL draft and injury reports from mini-camps steal the spotlight in the summer, but the April 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 NFC South this season. Atlanta ran away with this division last season, but all four teams look like potential playoff teams this season.

Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta had the best record in the NFL last season along with Denver and while the Falcons finally did win a playoff game, they will be remembered more for blowing a substantial lead in the NFC Championship game. All three NFC South opponents went just 7-9 last year, but all three Atlanta regular season losses came within the division. The NFC South figures to again be a very competitive division race after all four teams went 3-3 in the division last season. The Falcons alternated home and road games the entire way through last season en route to a great record and the top seed in the NFC, but this year they will face two sets of back-to-back road games and a couple of long trips late in the season with games in Phoenix, Toronto, Green Bay, and San Francisco. Being the only team in the NFC South that has to play Green Bay is certainly a disadvantage and the South will face off with the NFC West, meaning games with both Seattle and San Francisco. The AFC East draw does look promising at this point and the Falcons will face New England at home early in the season for a Week 4 Sunday night game.

The Falcons will only play two road games against teams that made the playoffs last season, but they are both late in the year in difficult circumstances. The final four weeks of the schedule are very difficult overall for the Falcons, so it is unlikely that this team will coast to a top seed in the conference this season. Atlanta also has an early Week 6 bye week which could magnify the difficulty of the December slate. The end results of the season for the Falcons will likely come down to the division games as they will not likely be able to produce a 10-0 mark outside of the division again with this schedule. Another 3-3 season in this division might mean missing the playoffs this year as the Falcons will play four games outside of the division against teams that would be considered in the top elite tier of the league. All signs point to a drop in record for Atlanta this season with a much tougher schedule in a division where there may not be much separation between the top and the bottom. Atlanta would still be a championship contender if they get into the playoffs but it will be a tougher regular season path.

Atlanta Falcons 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .504
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (three home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,317
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2 (includes a neutral site game in Toronto)
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, two Sunday night, two Monday)

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers were a popular pick to make a big rise last season after a strong finish to the 2011 season in Cam Newton’s rookie year. Carolina opened the year 1-6 for a great disappointment, but with wins in the final four games of the season, Carolina did finish 7-9 to improve by one game from the previous season. In year three for Newton and head coach Ron Rivera, the expectations will be higher this season and a push towards the playoff might be needed to avoid some big changes. Carolina has been dealt the most difficult schedule in the league according win percentage from last year as they catch a tough break, technically finishing in 2nd place in the NFC South last season and drawing the Vikings and the Giants as opposed to the 3rd and 4th place teams that New Orleans and Tampa Bay will face.

Carolina does draw an early Week 4 bye week which does not look ideal, but it will split up a tough early schedule with three of the first five on the road and the two home games coming against the Seahawks and Giants. While Carolina is capable of a big step forward season, this is a squad that could again struggle early in the year and see the tide turn against itself internally. November will also be a brutal month for the Panthers with games against Atlanta, San Francisco, and New England in consecutive weeks. The Panthers will play five straight games against teams that did not make the playoffs last season after that, but it is far from an easy stretch as two of the games will be against New Orleans, a team that will be ready for Carolina after the Panthers took both games last season. Carolina will likely be an exciting team that can compete with anyone and will be capable of upsets, but another mediocre season is probably the most likely result with a difficult schedule and a division that is not getting any easier.

Carolina Panthers 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .543
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (three home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,996
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thursday, one Monday)

New Orleans Saints: The Saints had a brutal off-season prior to last season and it showed with a 0-4 start to the year. The Saints were competitive the rest of the way and put up huge offensive numbers, but the defense allowed historic yardage numbers. New Orleans has made a lot of roster and administrative changes, but it should be a much smoother start to the season in 2013 with head coach Sean Payton back on the sidelines. The Saints also draw a reasonable starting schedule with only two games against 2012 playoff teams in the first 10 weeks of the season. There are some tough games on this schedule including road games at New England and at Seattle, but the third-place draw brings in Dallas and Chicago and the AFC East draw presents opportunities for wins. New Orleans is just two years removed from a 13-3 season, so this is a team that is capable of a quick turnaround back to the upper echelon of the NFC and while this is far from an easy schedule it might play out better than the slates that the chief division foes will face.

There are three sets of back-to-back road games on the schedule, including a brutal trip from Atlanta to Seattle in back-to-back weeks, but that difficulty is minimized a bit with the first game coming on a Thursday and the second game coming on a Monday. Overall, the road schedule is very difficult for the Saints as only one opponent finished worse than 7-9 last year. The Saints could get some early season momentum as they have perhaps the most favorable first half schedule in this division and they also have the latest bye week in the division. No slate in the NFC South is easy this season and ultimately New Orleans will need to improve in the divison, starting off with a huge opening game with Atlanta at home that could dictate the direction of the season. Overall, the Saints look like a serious threat to be in the playoff mix if they have a strong first month and can get quickly acclimated to the new defensive scheme.

New Orleans Saints 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .539
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (two home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,052
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 4 (one Thursday, one Sunday night, two Monday)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers made an early splash last season starting out 6-4, before losing five of the final six games of the season to fall to 7-9. Getting to 7-9 and a three-way tie in the bottom of the NFC South may prove to be a big advantage this season, as Tampa Bay earned the fourth-place schedule for the 2013 season through ‘losing’ the tiebreakers. That advantage is pronounced given the draws of Philadelphia and Detroit versus the teams the rest of the division has to face from the NFC North and NFC East. Tampa Bay will play a team that finished with a losing record last season in six of eight home games this season and while the road schedule is more difficult, five of the eight games will be against teams that had losing records in 2012. By last season’s records, Tampa Bay has by far the weakest schedule in this division, but they will need to keep pace with this strong group of teams as it will not be easy to go 3-3 in the division again like last season when they caught a few teams by surprise early in the year. Tampa Bay does draw both New England and Seattle on the road for long trips and difficult environments, but getting a more favorable set of home games as a result should pay dividends.

Tampa Bay made very aggressive moves to address issues in the secondary this offseason and in this division with three explosive offensive attacks that should be money well spent as an improved pass defense would be very beneficial. Tampa Bay was just -5 in point differential last season, as this was a team that scored more than 24 points per game. Seven of last year’s nine losses came by eight points or less, so this is a team with a serious dark horse possibility in the NFC picture. This should be the most favorable schedule in this group of teams in the NFC South, far from a sure sign of success, but the opportunity will be there for the Buccaneers to make some noise this season and play itself into the playoff mix. That said with all four teams looking viable, someone will fall short of those goals and the Buccaneers certainly have less stability in key spots than the other teams that play in this division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .500
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (two home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,587
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:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:21 AM
NFC North Outlook

April 27, 2013


The NFL draft gets all the attention this week, 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 NFC North in this schedule preview. The Minnesota Vikings made a big splash in the first round of the draft, but a daunting travel schedule is ahead for Minnesota this season. The Bears may have the most favorable schedule in the group, but a team in transition may not be able to take advantage. The schedule should point to a rise for the Lions and perhaps a small drop for the Packers in the NFC North, but time will tell if there will be enough of an impact to shake up the standings.

Chicago Bears: The Bears were 10-6 last season, but with another late-season collapse a bold coaching change was made. 57-year old CFL veteran Marc Trestman was certainly not a hire that many fell in love with and while he will inherit a team that can compete right away, there also will be elevated expectations for a first-year coach and a first-time NFL head coach, especially one that has been away from the NFL for almost a decade. Few 10-win teams get a 3rd-place schedule the following year, so the opportunity for the Bears to have early success is there. The 3rd-place games bring the Saints and the Rams and those are games Chicago will probably need to take if the playoffs are to be a reality as the NFC North draws the NFC East and AFC North teams for a rather difficult overall slate ahead.

Chicago will play four of the first six games at home, which could be very helpful for a team in transition. They will host 2012 playoff teams in the first two weeks, but Cincinnati and Minnesota are not as fearsome as some of the other playoff caliber teams in the league. The Bears are saddled with three separate sets of back-to-back road games this season, but compared with the rest of the division, Chicago has a favorable slate of road games with only one game outside of the division against a team that made the playoffs last season. Chicago also gets to play its Monday night game with Green Bay coming off a bye week and with a favorable late-season slate, another collapse is not likely this season. Chicago closes the season hosting Green Bay, but has Dallas, Cleveland, and Philadelphia in the three weeks prior to the finale. Chicago will not play a single game outside of the Eastern and Central time zones as the travel miles are among the lowest in the league. Overall, the Bears have the most favorable schedule in the NFC North and while repeating a double-digit win season in a coaching transition is a difficult task, Chicago has a good shot to move back into a playoff position this year if they can get off to another strong start.

Chicago Bears 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .502
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (four home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 3,476
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 3 (one Thursday, two Mondays)

Detroit Lions: With three 10-win teams from 2012 in the NFC North, the Lions are facing one of the toughest schedules in the league based strictly on last year’s results. After breaking into the playoffs in 2011, the Lions suffered a huge decline last season with a 4-12 record including losing each of the final eight games of the season. Despite being 4-12, the Lions were only outscored by an average of just four points per game and this is a talented team that could be a strong candidate for a rebound season. Given the climate in the locker room and the general sense of immaturity on the roster and starting with head coach Jim Schwartz, a scenario on the other end of the spectrum is certainly a possibility as well. Detroit failed to win a single game within the division last season, so that will be an obvious area where the Lions need to improve. Ford Field also saw the Lions go just 2-6 in home games despite an offense that was very productive, scoring over 23 points per game on average.

By finishing fourth in the division last year, the Lions are the only NFC North team that has Arizona and Tampa Bay on its schedule and that is certainly an advantage given the overall depth of the NFC and the teams that the rest of the division has to face in those match-ups. Detroit does have three sets of consecutive road games on the schedule this year and the Lions could know early how the season will turn out having to play four of the first six games of the season on the road. The late-season schedule is challenging with the Ravens, Giants, and Vikings in the final three weeks, but the Lions do get a bye week before their road meeting with the Bears and the three division home games come in relatively favorable spots on the schedule. Both of the big primetime games for the Lions will also be at home. The Lions certainly look like a team that should improve on last season’s ugly record, but whether they will improve enough to buy this coaching staff another season remains questionable in a very tough division.

Detroit Lions 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .539
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (four home, three away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 5,125
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thanksgiving, one Monday)

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings bolstered their roster with three first round picks and coming off a surprising 10-6 season and a trip to the playoffs, Minnesota might look like a team on the rise. The Vikings will be dealt one of the tougher schedules in the NFL, as they will play just seven home games by virtue of facing Pittsburgh in London. The road schedule is truly difficult as after the opening game at Detroit, Minnesota’s remaining seven road games will all be against teams that finished 8-8 or better last season. In the AFC North, draw the Vikings have road games against Baltimore and Cincinnati, the top two teams from that division last season and they will also have to play at Seattle in the second place NFC draw. There are winnable home games outside of the division with Cleveland, Carolina, and Philadelphia all visiting the Metrodome, but an early Week 5 bye could add to a challenging second half of the season schedule. Minnesota also plays its two biggest division road games, at Chicago, and at Green Bay in the second of back-to-back road games this season.

The Vikings open up with back-to-back road games in the division at Detroit and at Chicago and in late November, they have a brutal set of road games at Seattle and at Green Bay in back-to-back weeks. The home meeting with Green Bay will be a big Sunday night game for the Vikings, but it comes on the heels of a Monday night game in New York, giving the Vikings long travel and a short week for one of the biggest games of the season, while the Packers get to host the Browns leading up to that game. Minnesota went 4-2 in the NFC North last season and it will likely take a similar mark for Minnesota to flirt with the postseason again. With Chicago in a coaching transition and Detroit coming off a dreadful season, it is possible for Minnesota to maintain its place but the Vikings were a team that snuck out several narrow wins last season to sneak into the playoffs and a step-back season is probably a more likely scenario with this slate.

Minnesota Vikings 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .516
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (two home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 11,365 (includes 4,280 to London)
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 3 (one Thursday, one Sunday night, one Monday)

Green Bay Packers: The Packers will be the favorites to win the NFC North for the third straight season this year and Green Bay will likely be one of the popular picks to win the Super Bowl again. The Packers stumbled to an 11-5 finish last season and ending up in the #3 spot in the NFC playoff picture proved to be too difficult as Green Bay saw an early playoff exit for the second year in a row. Green Bay was the highest-scoring team in this division last season but in the playoffs the defense showed glaring concerns with an embarrassing loss at San Francisco to end the season. Green Bay will open the season where they left off with a Week 1 match-up at Candlestick Park, a contest they lost in during the opening week last season as well. Having to play San Francisco as well as Atlanta with the first-place schedule is certainly a challenge for the Packers and overall it is not an easy slate for the green and gold. The first four road games of the season will all be against 2012 playoff teams and Green Bay will only play one road game against a team that had a losing record last season, the division game at Detroit in early December.

In the AFC North draw, the Packers get road games against the Super Bowl champion Ravens as well as the Bengals and the Packers will also have to play a road game against another recent nemesis, the New York Giants. The Packers have gone 15-1 at home the last two seasons and that is a run that could continue with a relatively favorable home slate, though there are just four games against losing teams from 2012 on the schedule the whole season. Green Bay will not have to play consecutive road games at any point in the season which is a favorable break in the schedule, especially compared with the rest of the division but the closing schedule is tough with a gauntlet of big national games with Atlanta, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Chicago as the final four opponents. The Packers also will play four road games in the Eastern Time zone as well as the opener in the Pacific Time zone for some lengthy trips. Green Bay will have its work cut out for it this season and the door may be open for a surprise in the NFC North, although none of the other three teams appear poised to make that leap.

Green Bay Packers 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .533
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (three home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 6,785
Back-to-Back road game sets: 0
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thanksgiving, three Sunday night, one Monday)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:23 AM
AFC North Outlook

May 8, 2013


The NFL draft steals most of the attention in April and May but the recent release of the NFL schedules is more telling factor in the potential results this season. Take a look at the four teams in the AFC North in this schedule preview. This has been a competitive 3-team race in recent years and the North could again be a very competitive division with the Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers still standing out ahead of the Browns. The difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs could be very thin in this division and the schedules will play a pivotal role.

Baltimore Ravens: The defending Super Bowl champions will face a tough slate in 2013 drawing Houston and Denver outside of the division and also having to battle all four NFC North teams. The AFC East draw softens the slate a bit potentially but the Ravens have the fifth toughest schedule in the NFL based on the 2012 win percentage of its opponents and by far the toughest slate in the AFC North by that measure. The season opens with a huge Thursday night game in Denver in a rematch of the epic playoff game from last season and the Ravens have several big games early in the season, with games against the Broncos, Browns, Texans, Packers, and Steelers in the first seven weeks. Baltimore only plays two games outside of the Eastern Time zone and the travel overall is pretty reasonable relative to the rest of the league. While there are some tough games late in the season four of the final six games of the season are at home and the Ravens will only play one road games outside of the division against a team that made the playoffs last season.

In the NFC draw the two NFC North playoff teams (Packers Vikings) from last season will both visit Baltimore and the Ravens also get to host New England in the AFC East draw as those pairings worked out favorably. The Ravens were just 10-6 last season despite the championship run so this was not a team that dominated in the regular season and with this slate a similar record is more likely than a record that would propel the Ravens to the top of the AFC. A fall to outside of the playoff picture is also possible if the Steelers rebound for a better season and the Bengals remain a very tough foe in the division.

Baltimore went 4-2 in division games last season and it will be tough to do better than that given the strong rivalries and home fields in this group as the AFC North was one of just two divisions that did not feature a team with a losing home record last year. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh could make up some ground on the Ravens and a letdown season after the championship is certainly possible. Baltimore does benefit from having most of the toughest games at home however, unlike the situation for Pittsburgh.

Baltimore Ravens 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .535
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (five home, two away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 5,553
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 4 (two Thursday, one Sunday night, one Monday)

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have busted into the playoffs the past two seasons though they have not picked up a playoff win since 1991 and Boomer Esiason was still under center. Cincinnati appears to be headed towards being a consistent playoff contender however after being a consistent doormat for many years with a great young nucleus of talent. Cincinnati actually had the best point differential in this division last season, better than the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens and sights on a division title are realistic. The schedule for the Bengals this season lines up most of the toughest games at home but it may be a slate that is more difficult than it looks at first glance.

The challenge for Cincinnati this season will be surviving the first month of the season as the early season schedule is very tough. The Bengals open at Chicago and while the Bears are in a transition season with a new head coach, expectations are high and the Bears have a lot to prove. The next two games are at home but the Bengals host Pittsburgh and Green Bay. In Week 4 the Bengals are at Cleveland in a big rivalry game and then in Week 5 the Bengals host New England. That could be a five-game set that derails the goals for the season or brings the Bengals to the forefront of the AFC. Cincinnati plays non-playoff teams in five of six games in the middle of the season and will get three of the final four at home to close the year.

Five of eight home games for the Bengals are against 2012 playoff teams and the road schedule may be more difficult than the numbers imply as the Bears, Steelers, and Chargers should be viewed as playoff caliber teams even though they missed the postseason last year. Cincinnati won five games by seven or fewer points last season and it may be a season of close calls again this year with the line between being back in the playoffs and missing out being a thin one in a very competitive division.

Cincinnati Bengals 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .508
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (five home, one away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 5,446
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 3 (one Thursday, one Sunday night, one Monday)

Cleveland Browns: In this division it will be tough for the Browns to move up and the 2013 schedule does not offer Cleveland great opportunities. Cleveland has gone 1-7 on the road each of the past two seasons and the Browns line up an incredibly difficult road schedule this season, facing five 2012 playoff teams. Two of the road games against non-playoff teams will come in the second of back-to-back road games and another 1-7 road season is certainly a possibility. The Browns are the only team in the division to draw Kansas City and Jacksonville which is certainly an advantage but the Chiefs could be a candidate for quick improvement and that matchup will also be a second straight road game for the Browns.

Cleveland will travel very few miles this season which could boost the chances of improving the season road record as the Browns won’t play a game outside of the Central or Eastern Time zones. Another edge the Browns may have in the schedule is that there is an opportunity for Cleveland to get off to a strong start this season with four of the first six games at home and three of those home games coming against fellow losing teams from 2012. A strong start could build some confidence for this team and the Browns won the home meetings with both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati last season as they may be able to take another step towards closing the gap in the division with the top three teams.

The Browns were just 5-11 last season but they were only outscored by just over four points per game on average for the season and the defense was respectable allowing 23 points per game. Cleveland has such a tough road schedule this season that major improvement seems unlikely but the Browns could produce a strong record at home with most of the favorable matchups coming in Cleveland. Getting into playoff position seems like a long shot but the Browns could be a team that sees a slight improvement and could even flirt with a .500 record should things fall favorably with the schedule being a factor in the improvement.

Cleveland Browns 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .492
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (two home, five away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 3,990
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3
Primetime Games: 1 (one Thursday)

Pittsburgh Steelers: After a disappointing and injury filled 2012 season the Steelers seem like an appealing candidate for a bounce back season. Pittsburgh had one of the best defensive teams in the NFL last season but managed to go just 8-8 on the season, missing the playoffs and sliding into the third place slot in this division. Getting to play Tennessee and Oakland in the 3rd place draw is favorable and the Steelers will only play seven true road games with a trip to London in Week 4. Pittsburgh will play most of its toughest games on the road with a home schedule that only features two playoff teams, the two teams that made the postseason from the AFC North last season. Pittsburgh faces a slate that features the same 2012 winning percentage as Cleveland’s 4th place schedule which could make Pittsburgh a candidate to rise to the top of this division. Pittsburgh did lose three times at home last season but this is also a team that historically has been able to win on the road with some success as well.

Pittsburgh will have several very tough road matchups and the road games at New England and at Baltimore will both come in the second of back-to-back road games. Pittsburgh does close with three of the final four games of the season at home which could help a late playoff push if needed though a challenging
Week 16 game at Green Bay is ahead and that game follows up a possible Sunday night tilt with the Bengals. The road game at Baltimore is not only the second of back-to-back road games it comes on the heels of a division game with the Browns and will be on a short week with a Thursday night time slot so the Steelers might have a hard time improving on their 3-3 division mark from last season as several division games come in difficult spots on the schedule.

Pittsburgh is a team that could make a rise in the standings with improved health but there are some pieces missing from the great Steelers teams of years past. Another season teetering right on the edge of the playoffs either way is likely the result in 2013 again with the challenging road schedule ahead although this could again be a division where 10-6 is good enough to take the top spot.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .492
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 7 (two home, four away, one neutral)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,585 (Includes 3,725 to London)
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 4 (one Thursday, two Sunday night, one Monday)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment
Pfile Nickname cnotes
  • Posts:22239
  • Followers:29
07/20/2013 02:24 AM
NFC East Outlook

May 14, 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 NFC East this season. This group of teams will be featured heavily in primetime games as usual and another tight division race could be in store. This division has seen all four teams win a division title in the last four years and another change at the top is likely this year.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have not had a winning season since winning the NFC East in 2009 and after back-to-back 8-8 seasons in the first two years under Jason Garrett, the stakes will be high this season. Dallas will face long travel as usual this season, playing in a division with no nearby geographical rivals, but overall the Cowboys have to like how the slate has lined up this season. The East teams will have to play a strong group of NFC North squads, but drawing the AFC West should be an advantage compared with the rest of the conference. Based on win percentage from last season, Dallas will actually draw the weakest schedule in the NFC East, but none of the four teams will play a slate that collectively features a winning record from 2012. Dallas only plays three teams outside of the division that made the playoffs last season and all three of those games will be at home.

Only once will the Cowboys have to play back-to-back road games and Dallas gets a late-season bye week which could help with some of the tougher games in the final weeks. Dallas has a bye week prior to a huge game with the Giants, while New York will play Sunday night with the Packers to set up a favorable situation for the Cowboys for that game and most of the divisional match-ups will line up somewhat favorably. There are certainly some tough games ahead, but there are many winnable road games although there is a bit of an advantage to the third-place slate with St. Louis and New Orleans on the schedule. Dallas has the slate it needs to break through with a winning season, but like last year, this division could be tightly contested and it will be difficult for a Wild Card to emerge from this group. Dallas was just 4-4 at home last season and that is a mark that needs to improve for the 2013 season to go better than the past two years.

Dallas Cowboys 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .480
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (four home, one away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,060
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thanksgiving, Three Sunday Night, one Monday)

New York Giants: The Giants went from Super Bowl champions to missing out on the playoffs with a very inconsistent 2012 season. At times, New York looked like one of the elite teams in the NFL, but the Giants lost to several marginal opponents as well. New York finished +85 in point differential last season for by far the best mark in this division and New York will be a candidate for a rebound season. Finishing second in this division instead of first leaves Atlanta and San Francisco off the schedule and the games with Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, and Minnesota will all be at home. The Giants play six games against 2012 playoff teams, but only the division game at Washington is away from home as all of the toughest games will be at the Meadowlands. Given the recent track record with the Giants often performing better away from home, that may not be a great thing, but New York was 6-2 in home games last season and just 3-5 on the road.

New York opens the season with three of the first four games on the road and this team will feature some late night travel with three Sunday night games lined up. The Giants will log some miles with a notable game out in San Diego late in the season that might be taxing as it will be a second straight road game, but New York also catches some breaks, getting Minnesota on a Monday night after playing the previous Thursday, essentially getting almost a second bye week in that situation. This is a Giants team that scored at least 35 points six times last season and the scoring potential of this squad is near the top of the league. New York was 8-4 against NFC teams last season as the Giants struggled playing the AFC North last season and getting games with the AFC West is a break this year, especially with the Denver meeting coming at home. While New York took a lot of heat for its defense last season, the Giants allowed the fewest points in this division last season and this is a team that was not far away from the playoffs and will be a threat to rise back to an elite level this year.

New York Giants 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .480
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (five home, one away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 7,999
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, three Sunday night, one Monday)

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are coming off a 4-12 season, but with Chip Kelly moving to the NFL, Philadelphia will be an intriguing team to watch this season. This has been among the most disappointing teams in the NFL the past two seasons, but there is talent on this squad and there will be opportunities to improve on an ugly 2-10 record in NFC games and a 1-5 mark in division games. Despite being the fourth place team in this division, the Eagles will be saddled with one of the tougher slates based on getting most of the toughest games on the road. Philadelphia opens with four of the first six games of the season away from home and they will have to play a dreaded set of three straight road games early in the year. Travel to Denver and Tampa Bay is involved in that set with a short trip to New York in the middle. The benefit of having a tough road schedule is that the Eagles will only play one home game all season against a team that made the playoffs the previous year and with the fourth place slate drawing Arizona and Tampa Bay is certainly better than the alternatives.

The Eagles do have to play in Oakland and Green Bay in back-to-back weeks for more long travel, but four of the final six games of the season will be at home. The bye week is in Week 12 comes in the last possible week and a late bye week may not be favorable for a team in transition. The Eagles also will play all three divisional home games in the span of five weeks in the middle of the season, which could be a challenging emotional stretch of games. Philadelphia also has a very tough early season schedule and for a team with a new offensive scheme and a lot of new players in key spots that could lead to another rough start to the season. The Eagles certainly are capable of improving on the 4-12 mark from last season, but a big jump to playoff contention is probably a reach with a schedule that is challenging. There are no easy road games on this slate and this is an Eagles team that went just 2-6 at home last season.

Philadelphia Eagles 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: 9,564
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3 (including one back-to-back-to-back set)
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thursday, one Monday)

Washington Redskins: The Redskins were a great story last season led by Robert Griffin III, who as a rookie took this team to playoffs with a division title. Washington paid a price for the success, however, with Griffin needing major surgery and his health is certainly a question mark entering the season. Washington was only +48 in point differential last season despite being 10-6 and the Redskins have to play a first place schedule which means games with Atlanta and San Francisco in addition to the tough draw with the NFC North. Washington has to play the two NFC North playoff teams from last season on the road as well as traveling to Atlanta. Washington has two western trips going to Oakland and Denver this season and overall there is a lot of travel involved on this slate. Washington does get to play the Eagles in Week 1, which might be in advantage with Philadelphia in a transitional year, but a tough early game at Green Bay waits in Week 2. Washington will have an early Week 5 bye, which may not be ideal for a team that was feeling the wear and tear of the season by the time the playoffs came around last year. Washington is drawing five primetime games this season and two Monday night games will create short weeks before critical home games with Chicago and New York.

The Redskins also close the season with two very tough road games with games at Atlanta and at New York in the final three weeks. Washington has some opportunities on the schedule early in the year with five of the first six games of the season against teams that did not make the playoffs last year, but Washington draws a road game at Denver in the AFC West draw and overall this looks like the toughest slate in this division. While Washington made great strides last season, this is a team that could be in line for a fall back to the pack after winning several close games last year and benefiting from a fourth place schedule to make that jump. If Griffin has trouble staying on the field it could even turn into a severe fall for the Redskins.

Washington Redskins 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .498
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (one home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,888
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, two Sunday night, two Monday)
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
0 0
Post Comment