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The Return of Wes

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

2 catches for 20 yards.

It may not seem like much, but those numbers mean one thing: Wes Welker is back. He only played one series in the Patriots second preseason game (beating the Falcons 28 to 10) but it marked his first live game action since his horrendous knee injury against the Texans in week 17 of last season.

So called “experts” were sure that this injury would have devastating effects on Welker. Many questioned whether he would be able to play at all in the 2010 season. Some even thought that his career might be in jeopardy, primarily because his unique stop-and-go playing style would seem to take more of a toll on the knees and cause more of a problem than for the average NFL player trying to come back from an injury.

But on Thursday night, what we saw was not a player who had any trace of a limp, any difficulty making cuts and getting off the line, or any hesitance or fear to take a hit. We saw typical Wes Welker.

Randy Moss may get more touchdowns and long passes, but at this point, Wes Welker is the best receiver on the Patriots. He is Tom Brady’s security blanket. Whenever he needs to, Brady get unleash a quick throw to Welker for a guaranteed 7 or 8 yards. He is never afraid to take a hit, and he has a passion for winning as strong as anyone on the Patriots (and the NFL).

Wes Welker will win the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year, and he will be a pro bowler every year for the next 5 years, at least.

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Brett Favre Retires (for now)

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Brett Favre has announced today that he will not be returning to the Vikings next season. Yes this is big news, but let’s just say we’ve been here before. The result of being “the boy who cried ‘I’m retiring’ ” is that no one will take you seriously. As Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said of the news, “It’s like believing in Santa Claus. You get gifts, but you ain’t seen Santa Claus,” he said. “We’ll see what happens … If he does retire, congratulations. It’s a well-deserved retirement. But if he does come back, we’ll be gunning for him the same way.”

I’m sure most of the NFL and the entire country feels this same way. This time, however, I’m inclined to believe Brett. Unlike last off-season, Favre is coming off a great season. He threw 33 TDs and only 7 ints, (as opposed to his previous year with the Jets when he led the league in picks) and he led the Vikings all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Granted he single-handedly cost them a trip to the Super Bowl with his egregious late 4th quarter pick, but I think he reached a level last year that set the bar awfully high. I don’t think he can be anywhere near as good as he was last season, and I think Brett realizes this too. Everyone likes to go out on a high note. At times it seems unlikely that Favre cares an awful lot about his credibility, but surely he knows that backing out of retirement for a third consecutive year would create a public backlash that even he could not recover from.

In the end, this move is the best thing for the Vikings as well. It’s quite unlikely that Sage Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson will be able to equal Favre’s 2009 output, but this closure lets the Vikings move on and look towards the future. It’s never a good situation to be strung along and wondering each year if it will be your quarterback’s last. The Vikings need someone for the long-haul who can be the facilitator to all of the great talent around him.

In the meantime, I will not officially believe Brett until he is talking before a podium at Canton, Ohio…and even then, I’ll remain skeptical.

NFL Predictions

July 29, 2010 Leave a comment

With training camp getting underway, now is the perfect time to unveil my 2010 NFL predictions. I will give you plenty of more detailed NFL analysis quite frequently, but for now I’m just going to spew the raw prognostications on this page. Feel free to comment and criticize.

AFC East: Patriots

AFC North: Ravens

AFC South: Colts

AFC West: Chargers

AFC Wild Cards: Texans and Jets

AFC Champions: Patriots

NFC East: Cowboys

NFC North: Packers

NFC South: Saints

NFC West: 49ers

NFC Wild Cards: Vikings and Bears

NFC Champions: Packers

Super Bowl: Patriots 27 Packers 24

Individual Awards

MVP: Aaron Rodgers

Offensive Player of the Year: Andre Johnson

Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis

Head Coach of the Year: Mike Singletary

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dez Bryant

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Eric Berry

My Love/Hate Relationship with Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate Column

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Every year Matthew Berry releases his annual Love/Hate column for the upcoming fantasy football season. http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/football/ffl/story?page=nfldk2k10tmrlovehate

Here is my take on his predictions

Guys I Agree With

Love

Jamaal Charles – He made a big impression going into this season with his 259 yard 2 touchdown game against the Broncos in Week 17 to end last season. He is not a big or powerful runner, which could mean he’ll lose precious goal line carries to newcomer Thomas Jones. However, Charles’ combination of speed and quickness, and his ability to use his blockers well makes him a legitimate starting back. In 2001, another relatively unknown and undersized back got his chance to start with the Chiefs. His name was Priest Holmes and he went on to score a record-breaking 27 touchdowns in his third season in Kansas City. I honestly think that Jamaal Charles has just as much potential, but unfortunately not as good an O-line.

Greg Jennings – Jennings’ numbers were down a bit last year, but he is still one of the most reliable receivers in the NFL. He’s had well over 1000 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons, and I expect his TDs to be up a lot from only 4 last year. Aaron Rodgers has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and as his top receiver, Jennings will be a top 5 receiver this year and for years to come.

Joe Flacco – Flacco is only entering into his third year in the NFL, and he already seems like a wily veteran. With a solid O-line and rushing attack, he often has little pressure on him and is able to make the plays that are asked of him. Last year he was an always reliable but rarely outstanding fantasy quarterback. This could change this year due to his added experience and the addition of Anquan Boldin. Boldin is one of the best at getting yards after the catch and turning a 7 yard come back into a 40 yard TD. He is a huge boost to any QB, provided he stays healthy.

Tony Romo – Romo has proven that he has what it takes to put up big numbers year after year. While I don’t think he’ll be able to count on the same type of huge numbers from Miles Austin, Dez Bryant is a rookie with definite big play potential.

Felix Jones – Whenever he’s been healthy and on the field, Felix has found ways to makes plays and get into the end zone. I’m banking on the hope that God doesn’t really hate Felix Jones that much, and he’ll have his first completely injury free year.

Shonn Greene – Many picked him as a sleeper last year, and it never really panned out. Much of the reason for this was another stellar year for Thomas Jones. With Jones gone, Greene is in the driver’s seat. He definitely showed flashes of greatness in the playoffs against Cincinnati and San Diego, and Rex Ryan loves to have a tough, physical running game.

Calvin Johnson – Calvin Johnson has always had the speed and athletic ability to be one of the league’s best receivers. The difference this year is that he might actually have a quarterback who can get him the ball. Matthew Stafford did not have the greatest of rookie seasons, but he definitely showed progression. His gutsy comeback against the Browns showed me that he has the desire to be a leader and winner for the Lions. Johnson and Stafford will continue to reap the benefits of each other’s development for many years, as will the city of Detroit.

Ryan Matthews – I’ll admit that I’ve never seen Ryan Matthews play. However, with LT gone and the Chargers spending a first round pick on Matthews, I would wager that they’ll find ample use for him. Darren Sproles is still there and will undoubtedly make his fair share of big plays, but he will never be a 20 carry a game back. The Chargers have a great offense, and if Matthews is on the field, he would be hard-pressed not to put up some pretty solid numbers.

Santana Moss – Moss is a speed guy. He is great at getting down the field. For most of his career his quarterbacks have been Chad Pennington, Mark Brunell, and Jason Campbell. Not exactly the league’s top gun-slingers. Enter Donovan McNabb. McNabb loves to let the ball fly, and I think he and Moss will play well together. Moss reminds me a bit of Desean Jackson, and while he may no longer have that type of speed, if he could perform to even half the level that Jackson did last year, that would be a big improvement.

Hate

Carson Palmer/ Chad Ochocinco – To me the success of the Bengals was somewhat of a fluke last year. Everything came together very well for them in the regular season, only to fall apart in the playoffs. Ochocinco is following in Terrell Owens footsteps in that they both had their own reality show and they are both well past their prime. Palmer is still an above average passer, but I don’t think he has very many weapons at his disposal.

Kevin Smith – After a solid rookie season, Smith definitely took a step backwards last season. With Jahvid Best entering the picture in the Detroit backfield, Smith could soon be struggling to get on the field.

Guys I Disagree With

Love

Matt Forte – Similar to Kevin Smith, Forte had an excellent rookie season and a horrendous sophomore season. While I wouldn’t doubt an improvement over last year’s dismal 4 touchdown performance, I think that the Bears want to be a pass first offense. Jay Cutler may have struggled last season, but I think they are willing to let him take the reins and try to get his groove back.

Fred Jackson – I like Fred Jackson. Whenever I see him play I am always impressed by his tough running and deceptive speed. If he gets the majority of carries in Buffalo I think he will put up solid fantasy numbers. However, I think his job could be in jeopardy to one C.J. Spiller. While many think that Spiller will be used sparingly and mainly as a third down back, I think otherwise. I’ve watched him at Clemson absolutely shred the usually tough defense of my Boston College Eagles. We’ve seen rookie running backs such as Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson take the league by storm in their rookie seasons, and I think Spiller can be almost as good, thus relegating Jackson to the role of a Chester Taylor or LenDale White.

Dwayne Bowe – Bowe is a good receiver. There is no denying that, but he has no help around him. There is no Tony Gonzalez to distract the defense and no reliable quartback to get him the ball. Bowe will be the main focus of defenses, and he will have a frustrating season.

Jerricho Cotchery – Cotchery as some talent, but he is a perennial under-achiever. In the middle of last season, the Jets traded for Braylon Edwards and this offseason they signed Santonio Holmes. What do you think that says about how high they are on the receivers they had? Cotchery may find some open space when defenses are distracted by these other targets, but I think Edwards, Holmes, and Dustin Keller will all put up better fantasy numbers than Cotchery.

Hate

CJ Spiller – See Fred Jackson

Greg Olsen – Matthew Berry says that Mike Martz offenses don’t use the tight end much, but I don’t buy it. Cutler will me passing a lot, and Olsen is a fast, athletic target. He could be a go-to-guy in the end zone.

Brandon Marshall – Yes he’s recovering from an injury, and yes his quarterback is Chad Henne. In order took make up for those things, you would have to be one of the best receivers in the league, and that’s just what Marshall is. Kyle Orton is a pretty mediocre quarterback, and Marshall was still able to put up his best season yet last year. He has the speed and size to get open, the hands to catch any ball, and once he gets it he has the strength and quickness to get some serious YAC. I’d say behind Andre Johnson, Marshall is arguably the best receiver in the NFL.

Donovan McNabb – McNabb’s greatest years are well behind him, but he can still play. Even when he’s not at his best, McNabb still manages to put up solid numbers year after year. A change of scenery could throw him off his rhythm, but I happen to think it will motivate him, and he will play this season with a fire that we have not seen from him in some time.

Here’s a Few Guys of My Own that Berry Didn’t Mention

Love

Visanthe Shiancoe – Last year he emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous tight ends, and it was no fluke. Shiancoe will continue to get open and make plays. I think it’s likely we’ll see a better year from Adrian Peterson and not quite as good a season from Sidney Rice, and both of these things would benefit Shiancoe.

Steve Smith (NYG) – He his coming off a break out year as well. I think he will continue to develop in his role as a number one wideout and continue the impressive trend he started last season.

Lawrence Maroney – I have been wrong about him so many times before. He has always shown that glimmer of potential that keeps us all going along for the ride and putting up with numerous fumbles and tackles for loss. Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris were starting to look their age last season, so Maroney should get a chance, but it will be his last one. This is truly a make or break year for him, and I say (hopefully) he finally gets it done and develops some constancy.

Hate

Maurice Jones Drew – He is coming off a season that lived up to the early first round selection that he was in almost every league. But I don’t think he can do it by himself again. David Garrard is getting old quickly and the offensive line is among the NFL’s weakest. Week 16 last year, the Jaguars game to New England in a must win game, and were absolutely shut down by a very mediocre Patriots defense. I think teams are finally learning how to contain and even shut down MJD.

Steven Jackson – He’ll get more than his fair share of opportunities, but the problem is his team is so bad that it won’t make much of a difference. The Rams will struggle to put up 17 points a game this year, and while Jackson could get 25 carries a game, he will only put up a handful of 100 yard games and very few TDs.

Brett Favre – Assuming his does indeed return to the Vikings, I think his time has finally run out. Not to say last year was a fluke, but there is no chance he puts up those kind of numbers again. I think this interception total will be way up from last year, and I think that Minnesota will make the switch at around Week 6 when the team is struggling at 3-3.

Analyzing the Odds: Super Bowl 2011

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment

If you’re like me you are already looking ahead to the NFL season. Here’s my take on Sportsbook’s odds for the Super Bowl.

The favorite is the Colts at 7 to 1. Not hard to figure as they are always in the mix, but they couldn’t get it done last year and I say it’s unlikely that they will be quite as good this time around. They were relatively injury free, allowing them to flirt with perfection for a second time. Will this be the year that Peyton Manning finally drops off? As a Patriots fan I’ve been waiting for this to happen, but he always seems to come out looking as good as ever. Biased as I may be, I do not think this is a good bet.

The longest odds are a tie between Cleveland, Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis, Carolina, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City. All are 100 to 1. Of these teams, the Browns are somewhat intriguing to me. They won their last 4 games of the last season, with a defense of no-names playing very well. Jerome Harrison showed flashes of greatness, including a double-take inducing 286 yard, 3 TD game against the Chiefs. (With Jamal Lewis gone, Harrison is definitely someone I would want on my fantasy team this season) Also, Josh Cribbs has replaced Dante Hall and Devin Hester as the most dangerous player in the NFL. He is the ultimate game changer. Not only can he take any punt or kickoff to the house, they use him in the wildcat to great success. All this said, I would not bet on the Browns. They will not win the Super Bowl but I do think they could be in the mix for a wild card spot as the season winds down.

But enough about the Browns. Here are some teams that I actually would bet on.

Patriots and Saints: 10 to 1. The Saints won it last year and there’s no reason they won’t be just as good this season. If you watched the Patriots with any regularity last year, you probably noticed that they really weren’t that good. The running game was not nearly as good as it was for Matt Cassel 2 years ago, the defense was pretty bad throughout, and Tom Brady just didn’t look as sharp as he’s always been. Nevertheless, they still won the division before getting absolutely embarrassed at home by a much better, much tougher Ravens team. With Brady being 2 years removed from his knee injury and a young defense that has no where to go but up, the Patriots should be back as a perennial contender to win it all.

Best Value: Houston Texans 40 to 1. Each of the last 2 seasons the Texans have been on the verge of wild card berths, only to just miss out. This season I think they definitely get in and could even challenge the Colts for the AFC South. The Texans have arguably one of the best offenses in the NFL. I think Andre Johnson is hands down the league’s best receiver and Matt Schaub very quietly led the league in passing yards last year. They definitely need more consistency out of Steve Slaton, who had a huge sophomore slump after his strong rookie season. Defensively they still have to improve, but leaders like Demeco Ryans and Mario Williams provide a solid foundation. So be like me and turn $2o into $800 on the shoulders of the Houston Texans.

Future Wager
Bet $20.00  to Win $800.00
Date Team Line
Odds to Win 2011 Super Bowl XLV – Arlington Texas
02/06/11 Houston Texans 40/1
20:00 ET