Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon: Le’Veon Bell Waits and Waits… And “Who Can Kill a Child?”

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Published on : January 11, 2017

 

Welcome back to Roger Pretzel’s Haunted Dungeon. In this spooky sanctum I’ve poured over all the replay tape to come up with my favorite NFL play of the week. Then it’s straight back to the projector to unspool a film you may have not been aware of…

 

The lights have dimmed, the cauldron bubbles, and the bats roost above.

 

Wild Card Weekend: Le’Veon Bell waits… and waits for the opening on huge day

 

Watch: HERE

 

Le’Veon Bell had an amazing day on Sunday, busting down the field for 167 yards and the Steelers postseason single game rushing record. Out of all of Bell’s great moments in making the Dolphins’ defense look goofy and flatfooted, it’s this brilliant play in which Bell shows us why he’s top tier.

 

Bell puts a lot of trust in his offensive linemen as he waits for what seems like an eternity behind a black and yellow human wall before taking advantage of an open hole and breaking off 15. In watching most of the games this Wild Card Weekend, this play felt so much different from the majority of run plays I saw where guys with jitters were happy to just run into amped up defenses for a couple yards (this of course discounts Thomas Rawls, who took the Lions straight to shed with an impressive streak of power running).

 

Bell shows bonkers vision as a back and his acceleration is simply bananas. Let’s go Steelers.

 

Wild Card Weekend: Who Can Kill a Child?

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Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador
Released: 1976

 

Definitely my favorite “evil kids” movie of all time. Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s Who Can Kill a Child? comes on strong with a provocative opening credit sequence depicting politically charged stills of wounded and dead children caught in war zones. But after that it’s a slow buildup to mayhem as a massively pregnant gal and her partner look for a little R & R on an island her beau had enjoyed visiting as a youth.

 

Despite a few kids running around, the town seems completely deserted and the tension mounts as the mystery unfolds. Meanwhile, the island’s moppet inhabitants become increasingly and disturbingly hostile.

 

child0011

 

A masterful sense of tone combined with a genuine 70’s grindhouse feel make this picture unforgettable as director Ibanez Serrador gleefully perverts the innocence of children in a sickening crockpot of menace to a point where the tykes are gleefully shooting guns at adults and turning their hapless elders into piñatas.

 

The picture’s astounding complexity is starkly laid out in a moment in which two boys are inspecting the mutilated corpse of a naked woman: it’s not the horror of violent death that attracts them, but instead it’s the novelty and taboo of her bare body that inflames their youthful curiosity, even in this most perverse of settings.

 

child0041

 

Of course our heroine’s advanced pregnancy provides for some built in tension, as well as some good philosophical grist for the mill in terms of the film’s message. The explosive final efforts of the couple to save themselves from the pipsqueak mob are worthy of the hysteric plateaus of The Last House on the Left (1972), and there’s a twist towards the end that sounds ludicrous on paper but is really quite effective in its unrelenting insanity.

 

The Children of the Corn end up looking like a bunch of candy-asses next to this murderous gang of li’l rascals. This is another one of those pictures that I can’t recommend highly enough.

 

image-w1280

 

The trailer: 

 

 

Disc available for rental on Netflix and available for purchase on Amazon.

 

 


NFL Halfway way report for 2016

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Published on : November 3, 2016

 

 

NFL Week 8 is in the books are we are officially halfway through the 2016 season. Damn, things are moving fast. Don’t blink because the postseason is around the corner. Let’s look back at the first part of the year and see what we’ve learned so far.

 

The Standings

The quickest and most superficial way to know a squad is by looking at their record. Who did they beat? Who did they lose to? Was it at home or on the road? These are all telling bits of information. Your current division leaders are:

 

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys (6-1)

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons (5-3)

NFC West: Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1)

 

 

AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

AFC East: New England Patriots (7-1)

AFC South: Houston Texans (5-3)

AFC West: Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos (both 6-2)

 

With Brady back under center, the Pats are the best team in the league. They are the first to 7 wins and should be the favorite in every game for the next 8 weeks. The Cowboys are the only other 1 loss team and they lead the only division where all members have a winning record. The NFC East is finally playing some good football. Houston and Minnesota both seems like crews that could get pushed out of their current standings. The AFC West should be a three horse race going down the stretch as Kansas City starts to string wins together. Stats aren’t everything but number of wins is still huge in the playoff picture.

 

Surprises

One of the biggest shockers of the year has to be the Oakland Raiders. The 6-2 record is nice but it’s the 5-0 on the road that makes you double-take. They are on track for their first playoff appearance since 2003. The second longest postseason drought in football (only the Bills have been waiting longer). I hope they get there. Either by winning the AFC West or locking up a wild card spot.

 

 

How awful the Carolina Panthers are. They are 2-5 and last in the NFC South. Talk about a Super Bowl hangover. I don’t think anyone, including Cam Newton saw that coming. Their D is weak, Cam is getting lit up and nothing is clicking.

 

The Cowboys getting it done with rookies at QB and RB in Dak Prescott and Ezekial Elliot. Enough with the Romo talk. Prescott is winning, you don’t mess with success. Let Tony ride the bench for awhile. Maybe he can come back during the playoffs just time to to throw an interception.

 

How average the Packers look. They are 4-3 but have lost to every team over .500 they have played. Eddie Lacy is on IR, they can’t run the ball and defenses aren’t giving Rodgers all day to throw. This football giant seems very killable.

 

Less Surprising

The Jacksonville Jaguars still suck. Many talking-heads hyped the Jags in the preseason as some sort of dark horse. Their offense (mostly through the air) worked last year and they drafted all these great defensive players but it’s not that simple and this franchise is still years away. Also, what’s with the jerseys in the photo below? They look like the knock-off/unlicensed NFL uniforms from Any Given Sunday.

 

 

The Steelers are good. Even without some of their stars, this roster steps up and fills holes. They started without RB Bell because of a suspension, then QB Roethlisberger got hurt, but Pittsburgh keeps winning. Look for them to make another playoff run.

 

Everyone on San Diego is hurt. I can just save this part and copy-paste it next year because it’s the same story every time. Tons of talent and potential, awful luck and injuries leaves Phillip Rivers in a hole fighting for his life. One almost has to wonder, what would the Chargers look like healthy? A bizarre and perverse thought. Don’t linger on it.

 

The Colts can’t stop anyone. They are wasting QB Andrew Luck. Every game, Luck is forced to throw it downfield because they are playing from behind. Great for fantasy, not for reality. Kind of reminds me of Matthew Stafford. Anyway, Indy needs to shore up both sides of the line and spend some draft picks retooling the whole defensive unit.

 

 

The best part about all of this is there is still time. 8 games is a lot. Go 6-2 over the second half and you may just be in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened. At this moment, I can only guarantee maybe 5 teams will make it. That leaves plenty of spots for your team. All they have to do is get hot.

 

Playoffs?

 

 


NFL Quarter Season Awards

Written by :
Published on : October 4, 2016

 

 

The 2016 NFL season is a quarter of the way through. Some teams have started slowly, others have flashed brilliance, but all are looking to improve. Let’s glance around the league and hand out some hardware for standout performances both good and bad. These are your 2016 NFL Quarter Season Awards. Or the Quarties as the kids call em.

 

Rookie Award

For the youngbloods who have gone above and beyond their draft status expectations and helped their team in a major way. And the winners are-

 

NFC: QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Many rooks have done well in the NFC this season but none more than Wentz. He is 66 of 102 in attempts for 64% completion percentage. 769 passing yards, 5 TD’s and ZERO turnovers. Beyond a taking a few unnecessary hits, he has played mistake free and has his Eagles 3-0 after their bye week. The future is bright in Philly.

 

AFC: QB Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots

 

He’s only played a few games but this third round pick looked like a pro in his first start. Give Bill Belichick his credit for getting the kid ready but he played with poise and confidence. Oh yeah they beat a solid Houston Texans team 27-0. The Texans were undefeated before that. He lost his second start to the Bills but continues to grow plus there isn’t another AFC rookie that really deserves it.

 

Ageless Wonder Award

In football, 30 is considered old. That’s tough to type because I’m 31. But once you crack that milestone, father time really starts catching up. A few amazing athletes laugh in the face of time and keep kicking ass well past their management created expiration dates. This award is for them.

 

NFC: WR Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens

Steve is ancient in football years at 37 but through 4 games he leads the team in catches, yards and targets. His 281 receiving yards just edges out another oldie but goodie, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Larry is only 33 and sits at 280 yards. It’s amazing these guys refuse to slow down. I hope Smith can keep up his pace and crack 1,000 yards on the year.

 

AFC: RB DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers

 

33-years-old and doing work. With Le’Veon Bell suspended (again) the first 3 games of the season, the starting running back job went to Williams. He made the most of his time racking up 258 rushing yards, 2 TD’s and zero fumbles in 3 full starts. That’s good for 86 yards a game. Not bad for over the hill. DeAngelo also managed a rushing TD in game 4 with Bell back in action.

 

MVP

This is the award for the best player in the league. Not the best player on the best team. But the single most elite performer playing the game.

 

NFC: QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Matty Ice is killing it right now. Easily the best stats of any quarterback in the league. His 4 starts have seen him rack up crazy video game numbers. 1473 passing yards, 11 TD’s and only 2 INT’s. 368 yards per game is nice but it’s the over 70% completion percentage and few turnovers that have the Falcons flying high at 3-1 and first in the NFC South.

 

AFC: RB Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns

 

The team is 0-4 but at no fault of Crowell. He is running hard. His 394 rushing yards on only 61 attempts is good for 6.4 yards per carry. Which is epic. Crowell also has scored in 3 of 4 games. Maybe if the Browns want to win then they should feed Isaiah the ball. He hasn’t had more than 18 attempts in a game.

 

The Worst

Like the MVP but in reverse. The Anti-christ of playing well. The bottom of the barrel. Pray your name isn’t listed below.

 

NFC: WR Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Tate used to be a huge part of the Lions’ offense. He posted career years playing with Matt Stafford but is off to a dreadful start. He hasn’t topped 41 yards in any game and only has 14 catches and zero TD’s. He is on pace for 56 catches. For reference, he had 99 and 90 catches the last two years. And he is dropping the ball and running the wrong routes. What happened to this guy?

 

AFC: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets

 

Fitz is only completing 55% of his passes and has 4 TD’s and 10 INT’s. There is nothing else to say about this. He should have never trimmed his beard.

 

The Best

This is for the best units in the league.

 

NFC: Minnesota Vikings Defense

The hands down, greatest D in the league. They average only 9.5 points allowed per game. They swarm on tackles and have playmakers at every level. This unit is the main reason the Vikings are 4-0. If they keep playing like this then a Super Bowl appearance doesn’t seem out of the question.

 

AFC: Denver Broncos Defense

This crew is giving up 16 points a game but is once again leading the way in the AFC West. This franchise is undefeated in 2016 trying prove they don’t need Peyton Manning to be dominate. It honestly doesn’t matter who is under center as long as Von Miller and company keep up their intensity.

 

 

That’s it for the Quarties. Congratulations to the winners. Unless you won the Worst award. Better luck over the next weeks. Till then, champagne kisses and caviar cars.

 

Glitz.

 

 


Preseason Questions for all 32 NFL Teams

Written by :
Published on : August 17, 2016

 

 

The sports gods have answered our prayers and brought NFL football back to us mortals. Huzzah! It’s only preseason action but it’s better than nothing. These early practice games are great because they give us a chance to see the team for the first time. Naturally, many questions will bubble to the surface about each squad. Will this rookie make an impact? Will this player stay healthy? Who will win the starting the job? There is tons of buzz out there but these are the big questions facing each NFL team. Find your favorite franchise below and see what they are dealing with.

 

AFC North

Browns – Can RGIII stay on the field for 16 games and be the QB Cleveland needs to move forward?

Steelers – Can this team stay healthy and out of jail?

Ravens – Will the defense improve enough to make them competitive again?

Bengals – Can Andy Dalton be the guy who takes them deep into postseason? Or just win one single  playoff game?

 

 

AFC East

Patriots – Can New England survive Tom Brady’s four game suspension under Jimmy Garoppolo and still win the division?

Dolphins – Will this squad ever play up to their potential?

Bills – How will Tyrod Taylor fare under center in his second year?

Jets – With Fitz back at QB, can the Jets score enough points to win games?

 

AFC South

Colts – Which Andrew Luck will we see? 2014 or 2015?

Jaguars – Is this the season everyone wakes up and believes in the Jags passing attack?

Titans – Tons of new pieces, how will they all work together?

Texans – Is Brock Oswieler really the guy?

 

brock osweiler

 

AFC West

Broncos – Will Mark Sanchez butt-fumble in Denver?

Chiefs – How long will Jamaal Charles last?

Chargers – Can anyone on the team stay off Injured Reserve?

Raiders – Can the Raiders finally get out of their own way?

 

NFC North

Lions – Can the o-line hold up so Stafford finally has some time?

Packers – Is Eddie Lacy too fat?

Bears – Why is Jay Cutler still there?

Vikings – Can AP carry them to another division title?

 

 

NFC East

Cowboys – Who will get hurt first: Tony Romo or Dez Bryant?

Giants – Is Eli Manning still good?

Eagles – What is the identity of this team? Seriously. And don’t say Sam Bradford.

Skins – Can Kirk Cousins keep up his play from the end of last year?

 

NFC South

Saints – Does Drew Brees have any tricks left up his sleeve?

Panthers – How does Cam respond to losing the Super Bowl? Is there any hangover?

Falcons – Can the defense figure out how to stop anyone?

Buccaneers – Bucs took a kicker in the 2nd round of the draft, how many misses before fans freak out?

 

 

NFC West

Cardinals – Is David Johnston really all that? And a bag of chips?

Niners – How much of a mess will the offense be under Chip Kelly?

Seahawks – Is this the year they start throwing Jimmy Graham the ball?

Rams – Can Todd Gurley keep up his dominance? Or will opposing defenses finally figure out how to stop him?

 

Real-deal NFL games are only a few weeks away. So close, I can almost taste it. The regular season starts Thursday, September 8th. Until then, let’s enjoy the rest of the preseason and hope no one gets badly injured. Leave any questions you may have in the comments.

 

Are you ready for some football?

 

 


A case of the Mondays: Buffalo Bills style

Written by :
Published on : May 18, 2016

 

Everybody knows that Mondays suck. It’s a trope as American as obesity or gun violence. But this past Monday was especially painful for the Buffalo Bills. The day started with a press release from the team about their first-round draft pick, Shaq Lawson. The defensive end out of Clemson entered the draft with some questions surrounding his right shoulder. When the Buffalo Bills selected him 19th overall, the team was sure that the injury, which he originally suffered in 2013 and has nagged him since, would not prevent him from missing anytime this season. The Bills planned on cleaning up the injury, via surgery, next offseason, and having him start on their defense this year.

 

 Bills’ fans are going to have to wait a little longer to see Shaq put on that jersey.

 

Well, they were wrong about that. During rookie minicamp, Lawson re-aggravated the lingering shoulder injury while performing a swim move on a training dummy. Not while making contact with another player, or making a tackle, but rushing past a training dummy. So yesterday the talented defensive end, who was going to play the rush linebacker role in the Rex and Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense, had surgery on said shoulder. The team said that he could continue to play through it but they don’t want to risk making it worse. It’s said the timetable for Lawson’s return is five to six months, which would get him back on the practice field around October. For a first round pick on a team with some question marks, that is a serious blow. If that’s not a case of the Mondays, I don’t know what is.

 

But wait, there’s more…

 

On this very same Monday, the Bills announced that their talented wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, has been dealing with a small broken bone in his foot. Apparently he had surgery three weeks ago to insert a screw and nobody knew about it until now. This is yet another setback for the young wideout who has a ton of potential but has been plagued by injuries for most of his short career.

 

The timetable for Watkins’ return is much shorter than the one for Lawson, and the team expects him to be ready for training camp, but it’s never good to hear about foot issues at a position that depends on speed and athleticism. It’s been rumored that Watkins may have suffered a Jones fracture, which is the same injury that kept Kevin Durant off the court for an entire season. Even if he is ready for training camp, which seems doubtful, he will not be anywhere near game shape due to the amount of rest that he will need to properly heal his foot.

 

 Can he do this on a broken foot? We think not.

 

This was a serious case of the Mondays for the Buffalo Bills and you can’t help but feel a little sorry for them. Two of their most exciting young players got bit hard by the injury bug. Could it have something to do with the fact that both of them played at Clemson? Probably not but it’s definitely an odd coincidence. Either way, if they hope to compete with the Patriots in the AFC East and save Rex Ryan’s job, they are going to need both of them to come back strong from these injuries. If they don’t then there’s a good chance you’ll see me talking about some of their future cases of the Mondays brought on by losses on Sundays.

 

 


Will the Patriots let someone else win for once?

Written by :
Published on : January 17, 2016

 

 

By now I can only assume that everyone else outside of New England is as tired as I am of seeing the Patriots win. It’s like, c’mon guys we get it, you’re the great dynasty of our generation and have arguably the best quarterback in the history of the game, but why don’t you give someone else a chance to win for once? We all know that won’t happen because Brady and Belichick are Sith Lords, and Sith Lords aren’t accustomed to ceding power to the forces of good.

 

In all seriousness, this team is ridiculous on just about every level. The reigning Super Bowl Champions beat the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday in a game that was not as close as the final 27-20 score indicated, and advanced to their fifth straight AFC Championship Game. That’s right, five straight. That ties the record for consecutive conference championship appearances. And if they can beat the Broncos or Steelers next week, which seems highly likely if you ask me, then they will go to their seventh Super Bowl in the last fourteen years.

 

 The Chiefs were outplayed and overmatched on Saturday

 

That’s just gross. Give it a rest guys. There are plenty of other teams out there who have never won a NFL Championship. Why not let someone else in on the fun? Winning is fun right? I wouldn’t know, I’m a Lions fan. It looks like a lot of fun when you do it. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.

 

Maybe even let the Browns win something for once. They might be the one other franchise that is as maligned as my beloved Lions. Like us, they’ve never won the big game, or even been to it for that matter. Both the franchises have been around since before the Super Bowl even existed and somehow have never gone to one. How is that even possible? The only other teams that haven’t been to Super Bowl are the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, and those franchises have only been around for 39 years combined. The Browns and Lions? They have brought shame to their fans for a combined 156 years. Sure they won some championships back in the pre-Super Bowl, caveman era of pro football but that doesn’t matter anymore. Come February 8th, 50 Super Bowls will have gone by without the Lions or Browns making an appearance.

 

 How many championship trophies does one man need?

 

So I beg you, New England Patriots, please just let someone else win for once. I know it’s hard when you have a sick defense, a living god at the QB position, a human touchdown machine at tight end and the best coaching in the NFL, but aren’t you tired of winning yet? It’s got to be getting a little old. So if you can find it in your cold, dead, New England hearts to share the wealth a little bit, the rest of the football loving world would really appreciate it. Until then I’ll just sit here in my den of shame and be happy that the Packers lost.

 

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: AFC West

Written by :
Published on : September 5, 2015

 

This season’s AFC West promises a grueling divisional battle between a Broncos team that may be on the decline and a solidly improved Chiefs defense. Meanwhile, Oakland is looking for a new start with a potentially impressive QB/WR connection, and though you shouldn’t sleep on the San Diego Chargers, you know you will anyway.

 

Let yourself go as we gaze into this hazy quartz sphere…

 

Oakland Raiders:

 photo oaklandraiders copy_zpshxurehnc.jpg

 

Who do you like better as a second year quarterback in a hurting franchise, Blake Bortles or Derek Carr? It’s a trick question. They’re both promising, and they’ve both got a long way to go. I think Carr has the edge at the moment due to having Amari Cooper as a target. I try not to get too excited about any draft prospect before I see them in the regular season (which has been nearly impossible with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston on hand in the preseason), but with Cooper it’s hard not to think that the Raiders made a wise decision.

As far as the coaching switch-up goes, it’s tough to get too excited about Jack Del Rio. That said, it can’t get any worse than Dennis Allen’s attempt to bring Oakland back from the brink. The dude tried, and it just didn’t work. It does help to have a guy like Justin Tuck in the locker room though. Sure his production has declined pretty significantly from his glory days in New York, but you’ve got to imagine he’s worth the contract for his ability to mentor the younger guys.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

As with so many other teams on the lower rungs of the NFL’s ladder, this one has some new talent that it needs to mold properly in order to start winning. This is the definition of a building season, and the Raiders are once again destined to remain at the bottom of the AFC West, even if Del Rio’s strategies take hold. At least we get some new Khalil Mack highlights.

 

Denver Broncos:

 photo denverbroncos_zpsj9y7wmvl.jpg

 

The NFL’s eternal bridesmaids return this season with some elephant-in-the-room-questions regarding Peyton’s continued high level of production, his health, and his age. These are questions worth asking but I don’t see Manning losing much steam this season. He’ll remain a class-A quarterback, but what about next season? What about the season after that? There’s gonna come a day (sometime soon) when Manning’s going to have to hang up the cleats, giving up the game he loves in favor of pursuing his other passion: endorsements.

I’m also a little concerned about the departure of John Fox. I know Kubiak has a history with the franchise but it’s not like the Broncos exactly suffered under Fox’s reign. Sure, there was an embarrassing Super Bowl drubbing at the hands of the Seahawks, but I find it hard to give up on a top tier coach for one loss, even if it is in THE game. Hey, remember when Danny Trevathan dropped the ball before the end zone on a guaranteed pick-six against Baltimore in the 2013 season, resulting in an automatic touchback? I started paying attention to him after that mostly because of schadenfreude, but was soon impressed by how good a player he actually is. I love that defense in Denver. They’re as fun and dynamic as the offense is methodical and boring.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

A strong season will be marred by a few hiccups in adjusting to Kubiak’s return. It’s a strong possibility Denver doesn’t make the playoffs, which will cause that overly earnest fan-base to go apoplectic. This is a team currently in decline, even if that decline is almost imperceptibly gradual.

 

San Diego Chargers:

 photo sandiegochargers_zpsjys5xbok.jpg

 

The Chargers are a weird team because they’re sort of a non-factor when you look at the league as a whole. It’s strange because they aren’t a “bad” team, and they usually finish the season with an over .500 record, or something close to it. The Chargers are also a team for which that hoary old “any given Sunday” adage was invented for: it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t take the Chargers for granted. It’s not entirely surprising when they make the playoffs, and it’s even less so when they don’t, but something is missing here. For all of Phil Rivers’ manic facial expressions and gnashing of teeth, this is a team that seems to suffer strongest from a lack of heart. They’re the vanilla pudding of the NFL: good, but unremarkable.

Rivers is the rock here and his contract extension was much deserved, but it seems like he’s got an ever shrinking coterie of talented receivers to throw to, and all the while the running game has remained stagnant. Gates does a great job bucking body image norms (even in the position of tight end), but his age is going to lead to a drop in production that I think we’ve already seen a preview of. There’s a bad stereotypical comparison to make with the SoCal locale they play out of, with a relaxed and lackadaisical attitude. Obviously the players and coaching staff don’t feel that way, but looking in from the outside, it’s hard to believe that this is a club with a strong work ethic or culture.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Rivers will be reliable as ever, but he can only do so much. The run game continues to struggle and the Chargers win just enough games to satisfy fans with another .500 or over season. Keep an eye on that defense though, they’re good and they may start to develop the kind of identity this team sorely needs.

 

Kansas City Chiefs:

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I love Andy Reid and I don’t care who knows it. I love his comeback with the Chiefs after leaving Philadelphia, bruised, broken, and disgraced. Along with Reid, we’ve got another guy with something to prove in QB Alex Smith. He was let go by the ‘Niners, despite playing quite well, in favor of a shinier new model (though I’m guessing plenty of 49ers fans would be happy to have Smith back over Kap at this point). Justin Houston turns an already great d-line into arguably the league’s most terrifying and amped up pass rush. While it’s certainly not the best look to call yourself “the LeBron James of the NFL,” Jamaal Charles’ point is well taken in that he is one of the NFL’s premier running backs. C’mon Jamaal, let’s not forget that LeBron’s favorite athlete is Calvin Johnson!

There are some potential concerns here with a lack of big play receivers, and Charles was hung up with some injuries last season. For a team that doesn’t throw many touchdowns, I’m curious to see if Maclin will be used as a deep threat option, modifying the Chiefs’ game-plan somewhat.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

I think the division goes to the Chiefs this year. It’s going to be a tooth and nail street fight with Denver, and it’s going to get nasty. Even if the Broncos do edge them out of divisional champ status, they definitely still make the playoffs in the wildcard spot. The defensive front continues to dominate and the offense grounds, pounds, and stays consistently productive.

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: AFC South

Written by :
Published on : August 21, 2015

 

This season’s AFC South promises a strong showing from the Colts despite Pagano being under extra post-season scrutiny, a Texans team itching to break into the big time, and a group of Jaguars and Titans still searching for an identity.

Simmer down. I’m trying to listen to the danged old ball…

 

Houston Texans:

 photo houstontexans_zpsdtpcwqvw.jpg

 

The Texans certainly have the potential to pop-off this season. A healthy Jadeveon Clowney alongside the indomitable monster that is J.J. Watt is going to provide for one of the best pass rushes in the league. And let’s not forget the addition of big man Vince Wilfork. Veteran Andre Johnson’s departure doesn’t hurt so much with the ascendency of DeAndre Hopkins, and Cecil Shorts could blossom under a new system. But the big offensive questions remain: can anything get accomplished at the QB position, and can Arian Foster stay healthy? Unfortunately it looks like the latter has already been answered with a pre-season groin injury, but there’s still hope in the backfield with Alfred Blue.

The QB question is much tougher. I like how Bill O’Brien is working with Hoyer and Mallett equally, but unless Mallett makes some amazing moves in the pre-season, I think it’s a no brainer to give the job to Hoyer. The guy’s got more starting experience, and while not being a top-tier quarterback in any capacity, I think he’s a lot better than he gets credit for.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Another solid year for the Texans with more scratches in the W’s column than L’s. The offense will just squeeze by, propped up by a defense that will surely put the fear of God into every quarterback they come across. The good times don’t roll on forever though as a costly divisional loss or two at the hands of the Titans or Jaguars leads to a repeat of last year’s near miss of the wildcard slot.

 

Tennessee Titans:

 photo tennesseetitans_zpsd2wnvfb3.jpg

 

Ken Whisenhunt was my top man for the job in Detroit when Jim Schwartz was given his walking papers, but with a frightful 2-14 record last year for his coming-out-party, I’m thinking Jim Caldwell is looking pretty good right about now. Obviously it’s not all Whisenhunt’s fault, as he came into a team that’s seemed to struggle in every department, hell, every facet of the game.

Second overall pick Marcus Mariota has a lot of expectations weighing on him coming into his rookie season. I love the draft call and think he’ll be a great fit with this team… eventually. It would be foolish to think that Mariota is gonna turn this Titanic around, especially with the limited weapons at his disposal. I could see Mariota and Kendall Wright achieving some chemistry together, and am super curious to see if veteran Hakeem Nicks boosts the offense or simply phones it in.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Mariota makes a difference, especially with the fire under Whisenhunt’s ass. The Titans improve gradually around their new QB and the whole thing begins to jell. David Cobb and Bishop Sankey will share most of the touches, creating an unspectacular, but reasonably effective run game. The Titan’s aren’t contenders yet, and they won’t be by the end of the season, but with a little luck they will manage to escape a repeat of having the worst record in the NFL.

 

Indianapolis Colts:

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Indy’s at the top of the heap in the AFC South and it looks like it’s going to remain that way for at least another year. Andrew Luck is killing it, and T.Y. Hilton, perhaps the best deep threat receiver in the league, got resigned this offseason. The Colts finally have a bit of stability in the backfield with Frank Gore. Sure, Gore’s lost a bit of his speed and he’s not going to get as many touches as he used to, but his instincts are still good, and he still has that battering-ram toughness that makes him so fun to watch and so frustrating for defenses. He also has the coolest nickname in the league (The Inconvenient Truth). In any case, one would be hard pressed to say that he’s not a huge step up from Trent Richardson, who I mistakenly thought was really going to make a go of it with the Colts.

With the Indy chumping it the past few years of playoffs, questions about Chuck Pagano’s competency are being raised. I think it’s a issue worth talking about, and the buck stops here, but I think it’s difficult to peg those losses, no matter how spectacular, on a guy who regularly racks up winning seasons for his team. Plenty of teams would be so lucky as to have Chuck Pagano as their head coach.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

The offense is there, but the defense will continue to have trouble keeping up with the other side of the ball. The divisional situation gives the Colts another free ticket to the playoffs where they once again lose a heartbreaker. Questions will continue about Pagano’s coaching. He’s out of Indy in the next three years.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars:

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I like Blake Bortles, and not just because of his funny name. I like his arm when he’s on the run and I like his release. There’s plenty of room for improvement, and I think we’re going to see some of it this year. Julius Thomas was a nice off-season present for a guy in need of quality receivers, but let’s be honest, I think plenty of teams will be comfortable double teaming Thomas in the red zone while leaving Marqise Lee open. I like the multiple options at running back, and I think Bernard Pierce makes the roster and has an impact.

Something I’ve noticed: I never see a dude in just a Jaguars hat or jersey. It’s always an entire outfit with hat, jersey, shorts, and even team color sneakers. Just on the street. Just walking around. Crazy people like that deserve to see Julius Thomas succeed with his new team.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

The most exciting games for the Jags this year will be divisional matchups, particularly against the Titans and Texans. Jacksonville has a solid shot at spoiling Houston’s playoff dream, and leaving Tennessee in the dust. The crystal ball says both these things happen. The non-divisional games on the other hand will be mostly losses with a tough schedule for a team in transition.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: AFC East Predictions

Written by :
Published on : August 6, 2015

 

The AFC East promises another season of domination from the whiney, albeit victorious Super Bowl champs in New England, along with a rejuvenated Buffalo, a front office in Miami that’s literally gambling on it’s future, and a sad sack Jets crew in need of some meaningful leadership.

The visions… They are upon me!

 

New England Patriots:

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Let’s not pretend for one second that Tom Brady’s four-game suspension (should it hold up in court) affects New England’s season one iota. Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the better backup QB’s in the league and he’s got an arsenal of lethal weapons at his disposal. The Patriots fate doesn’t lie in the hands of Tom “The Unicorn” Brady, beautiful and mythical though he may be, but instead lies tightly clenched in the fists of its head coach. That’s right, the super-villain intellect and flinty heart of Bill Belichick is what keeps this team winning more than its fair share of games, and until he hangs up the hoodie for good it will continue that way like clockwork.

I’m curious to see if Brandon LaFell continues to improve and eventually wins the contest to become Brady’s “go to” receiver over Julian Edelman. Also, one of my favorite stories of last year’s playoffs was the miraculous resurrection of LeGarrette Blount from a shamed pariah to a clutch grinder, running with a chip on his shoulder.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

The Pats breeze into the playoffs, probably making it all the way to the Super Bowl. They lose the big one in another heartbreaker, as they’ve done about the same amount of times as they’ve won. Blount will disappoint without the fire to his feet, possibly leading the way for Jonas Gray (Michigan boy, just saying). Overall the run game will be a mixed bag, while the pass game will be frighteningly effective. Gronk’s gonna rack up a bazillion touchdowns, so get him for your fantasy team. My magic crystal ball, no matter how cloudy, feels utterly unnecessary in this case.

 

 

Buffalo Bills:

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This is one of the teams I’m most excited to watch this season. The introduction of a new, flashy, and often obnoxious, coach is just what a morose fan-base needs to shake out the cobwebs. The real story here though is the math equation of Rex plus Jim Schwartz, equaling the greatest meeting of NFL antiheroes in recent memory. It’s like if Bill Cowher and Jim Harbaugh got together, or Bill Belichick and the Devil ran a team.

You kind of know what you’re getting with a Bills ticket: solid defense and a committed and formidable running game. That’s only going to get amplified with Rex onboard, and I think it may ultimately be a detriment to making the team more well rounded. Sammy Watkins isn’t going to single-handedly turn around EJ Manuel’s career, and why would Manuel risk making himself look bad when he can hand the ball off to Shady?

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Ryan and Schwartz are characters for sure, but they’re characters worth paying attention to. If anyone can breathe life back into this franchise (without, you know, lots of wins) it’s Rex. The Bills will win more games this season, despite some serious weaknesses that will hurt them in the long run. The good news is that in the short term, talk of an impending move out of Buffalo will stop, and a proud team can continue playing in a town that deserves football.

 

 

Miami Dolphins:

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There’s a spending spree going on down in Miami, and head coach Joe Philbin has been talking like he’s got something to prove. Yet, all the big words, and wheeling and dealing smacks of desperation. Miami’s not in the running for Super Bowl and these moves may create a “laugh now, cry later” effect. For the fans, the addition of Ndamukong Suh should be thrilling, and he’ll be worth the money, but let’s face it: no game has ever been won or lost on the shoulders of one player, especially not a defensive tackle.

Tannehill is a solid quarterback who has that increasingly rare attribute of consistency at the position, but the flip side is that he’s consistently above average, and almost never brilliant. I did look over the Tannehill contract and it’s not as crazy as some have suggested, but again, it’s another example of the money piling up for a team that’s going to have some financially lean years to deal with sooner than later. With Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller in the backfield you’ve got another argument for consistency, and that’s a good thing.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

I think Philbin’s going to partially get his wish with a roller coaster season that defies the workman-like nature of many of its players. When they win, they’ll crush it, and when they lose the team will collapse utterly, with Suh as the lone man trying to hold down the fort. At the end of the day they’re going to end up with an above .500 season, but it’ll be a frustration for Philbin and fans alike when the playoffs remain definitively out of reach.

 

 

New York Jets:

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I am not envious of Todd Bowles. The guy is coming into a broken organization, with a presumed starting QB that is a poor decision making machine (who also yells back at frustrated fans), and a veritable hornets’ nest of injuries, arrests, and contract disputes. What I question most is the decision of the head office to hire a defense expert when the Jets ain’t exactly dying in that department. It’s the offense that needs the most work.

I don’t think it would be a terrible idea to start Ryan Fitzpatrick over Geno Smith and work a more ground-based, short passing game. Brandon Marshall is going to be a huge addition to this team, but like Eric Decker learned, you gotta have someone that can throw you the ball. There’s a chance that the one/two punch of Marshall and Decker can make some fun things happen no matter who slings, but… but… Exactly. Let’s also not forget that hell hath no fury like Rex spurned: those two divisional games between the Jets and the Bills are going to be absolute bloodbaths.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

More hurt for Gang Green with another losing season. Bowles is the silver lining as he works out a new identity for the team. The best to hope for is a year of productive adjustments, learning, and system jiggering, and then come back next year as a contender with a serious purpose.

 


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