We are single digit days away from NFL KICKOFF!!! This season will be phenomenal and it has several storylines worth exploring. Aided by a bevy of issues that have surfaced since the Super Bowl (the spike in retirements due to concussions, off field crimes, the un-ending deflategate saga), the league has been able to once again remain relevant during the offseason. But with the preseason over, it’s time to focus on 2015, and put the offseason drama behind us.
-Will this be the end of the Madden curse?
Second year New York Giants receiver, Odell Beckham Jr, is the latest player to grace the cover of the famous Madden football game. While the notoriety and respect gained is quite an accomplishment for such a young player, the supposed curse that comes with it is worth noting. Former Rookie of the Year, quarterback Vince Young, graced the Madden cover following his Pro Bowl rookie season. The year he was placed on the cover, he injured his quadriceps twice. He became a backup to Kerry Collins and was never the same player that led the Texas Longhorns to a BCS Championship.
Let us not forget 2012 cover athlete, running back Peyton Hillis, whose rise to fame with the Cleveland Browns came when he moved from being a blocking fullback to a dual-threat running back. He amassed over 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards during the 2010 season and was expected to be the new mold of running back; a hybrid of physical between the tackles bruiser and agile pass catcher. The 2011 season (his season on the cover) was a bust for Hillis, as he only played 10 games and was limited to 500 rushing yards. He floundered around the league after that and now remains unsigned. Add the likes of quarterbacks Michael Vick and Daunte Culpepper, running back Dorsey Levens, and it is a cautionary tale of injuries that derail players post-Madden cover. Beware Beckham Jr, beware!
2,500 Rushing Yards for Adrian Peterson? Really?
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson recently stated that he hopes to rush for over 2,500 yards in 2015. In a league that emphasizes the passing game, Peterson would have to be force-fed the ball at an unimaginable clip to achieve that feat. He has averaged around 24 rushing attempts per game over the course of his career. His career yards per attempt stands at 5 yards a carry. Peterson would have to carry the ball 500 times to amass 2,500 rushing yards. There is no way in hell he gets close to 400 carries, let alone 500! With that being said, he has rushed for 2,000 yards in 2012, when he averaged 6 yards a carry. If he can average 6 yards per carry for an entire season he would reach his goal with 416 carries. Does that still sound far-fetched? The powerful running back carried the ball 348 times just a few years ago. If we consider the fact he only played one game last season, Peterson will be a refreshed 30 year old athlete with a chip on his shoulder. He will be looking for redemption after sanctions stemming from a child abuse case where he brutally “whooped” his 4 year old child.
Year of the Rookie Wideouts: Part 2?
Last season, rookie wide receivers tore the league up. The five receivers selected in the 1st round of the 2014 Draft were led by Buffalo Bills’ Sammy Watkins, selected with the 4th pick. His 977 receiving yards on 65 receptions would make any GM proud. Then you have the special case of New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. Only playing in the final 12 contests, he gained 1,300 receiving yards, to go with 12 touchdowns. Tampa Bay Bucs’ wide receiver Mike Evans and Carolina Panthers’ receiver Kelvin Benjamin both had 1,000 yard seasons. With 5 other rookies gaining over 600 yards receiving, it validated the notion that the NFL is now a passing league. The 2015 Draft saw six receivers selected, headlined by Amari Cooper, formerly of the Alabama Crimson Tide and now with the Oakland Raiders. Can this new class of receivers with the likes of Indianapolis Colts’ Phillip Dorsett and Philadelphia Eagles’ Nelson Agholor maintain the momentum?
Peyton Manning will be Available for more Papa Johns Commercials after this Season.
I think this will be the last season for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. He is still a top level signal caller going into the season but unfortunately, this will be his swan song. Over the past two years he has regressed in arm strength. Manning has never been mistaken for having a rocket arm, but after neck surgery, he is extremely limited in that department. Having already passed Brett Favre for all time passing touchdowns, he will easily eclipse Favre for the all time passing yards record by mid-season. With the NFC stacked with perennial Super Bowl contenders in Green Bay and Seattle, the Broncos Super Bowl prospects are dwindling, even if they do make it through the AFC. The Broncos are no closer to winning the Super Bowl than they were two years ago when the Seattle Seahawks massacred them. Bow out gracefully Mr. Manning, Papa needs you.
What “D” word?
Can we please allow some real defense this year? The league has cracked down on helmet to helmet hits and thus has made defenders leery of tackling. Defenders often have to take time to adjust or contort their body so that they do not risk hitting the opposing players above the shoulders. This has caused a lack of excitement in the game. Moreover, the fines that players receive due to illegal hits is preposterous. The NFL is taking unnecessary precautions to ensure player safety. The league may be garnering all time highs in profits and viewership, but that does not negate the fact that a lack of good defense makes for lopsided contests. The referees have been conditioned to throw a flag whenever an offensive skill position player is hit near the chest or above or when a quarterback starts to complain. Maybe I’m old school but just let the men play the game! As evidenced by the rash of retirements this offseason, these players aren’t forced to play and are able to walk away when they want. If they want to risk their health for the love of the game and financial prosperity then let them.
Super Bowl or Bust.
Some teams have been at the poker table far too long. They have been watching other teams collect their money and leave. Instead of folding and just walking away, some teams have held pat, taking loss after loss until they are down to their last few chips. There are a few teams that are all-in for this season and if they do not advance in the playoffs they will retool or implode. The Green Bay Packers are one team I think may do a defensive overhaul if they can’t get over the hump this year. The team has to be pleased with their offensive talent led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers but the defense started the purge a few years ago. They have recently let go of defensive backs Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson, along with linebacker A.J. Hawk. The Julius Peppers Experiment must show promise this season in order for him to stay around, and the resurgence of linebacker Clay Matthews must continue, who just a few years ago had J.J. Watt-esque stock. The aforementioned Broncos have made all the requisite changes on defense to be a contender but may fall short due to the lack of strength in Manning’s arm. If he can’t deliver this season, I think President of Operations John Elway may be forced to let go of the 5 time NFL MVP. Other teams that could make changes are the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals.
Another season is about to begin. I know the fans are ready. I hope the NFL is too.