Pay Stafford his money

Written by :
Published on : August 4, 2017

 

 

Lions training camp is underway and the team is looking to get back to the postseason for the third time in four years. This is a big change from the days when Detroit was bottom-of-the-barrel looking up at the playoffs. And quarterback Matthew Stafford is a big reason for this recent success. Because of that, management is working on getting Matt a new contract extension to lock up the young gunslinger for the next half decade. This is the move to make. The Lions need to open their checkbook and pay Matthew Stafford the big bucks he deserves.

 

Haters are going to say Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game yet so he doesn’t deserve $25 million+ per season. Or he throws too many interceptions. Or that Tom Brady isn’t even making that kind of money. Or that he sucks and Detroit needs to move on from him. These type of statements drive me crazy because they are so misguided. Talents like Matthew Stafford do not come around that often and the Lions are lucky enough to have drafted him, the franchise cannot afford to let a commodity like that walk away.

 

Embed from Getty Images 

 

The truth is, the NFL has a quarterback shortage. There are about 10-15 good to great QBs and 32 teams so you do the math. Most GMs are always looking for the next brilliant single caller. But they aren’t there. For comparison, Derek Carr was just given a 5 year/$125 million deal. Carr has never won a playoff game either. This just proves that the rate for a quality man under center has gone up. Carr helped set the price point. So forget all that talk about who is making what. All these numbers are going to shoot up. Stafford just happens to be next in line to get paid.  

 

Brady’s pay was cut because of the suspensions he was going to face. This allowed the team to pay him less in salary and give him most of his money via bonuses and performance incentives. Plus Tom is one of those guys that is already so rich that he doesn’t want to hamstring the rest of the roster with his huge contract. Keeps them so damn competitive. And in terms of interceptions, Stafford threw 10 picks in 2016. His fewest in 6 years. Also the 4th lowest total for QBs that played all 16 regular season games. Speaking of playing all 16 games, Matt was done that the last 6 years as well.  

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

On to the good stuff. Matt Stafford or as some of my buddies call him, Dad Stafford or Matt Dadford, has thrown for over 4,000 yards in all of the last 6 years. That’s bonkers. He is only 29-years-old but has a wealth of game management experience. Stafford is one of the best clutch players we’ve seen since John Elway. To date, Stafford has 28 comebacks in the 4th quarter or overtime. This is the guy you want to have with the ball in his hands. Plus the dude has a straight cannon. One of the best arms in the league. Hands down. Let’s not forget his legs either. Not known as a mobile guy but he routinely makes plays with his feet. AKA, the total package.

 

Matt Stafford is a recent father. He is maturing, becoming the leader the Lions needs. It’s time to reward him for all his growth and hard work. In the immortal words of John Malkovich’s character in the film Rounders:

 

Pay that man his money

 

Talk is that the contract could be worth somewhere around $30 million a year. That’s wild but Stafford earned every penny of that. And when he wins a Super Bowl, it will look like a real good deal.

 

Cash money.

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: Super Fun at the Superdome

Written by :
Published on : December 16, 2016

 

 

The annual Lions road game/road trip continues. Year five of the pilgrimage finds the Michigang ditching the cars for plane tickets as my friends and I travel down to New Orleans for a matchup with the Saints at the Superdome. Let’s get inside the famous facility for the best live sporting event I have ever witnessed in this installment of the SBS Stadium Series.

 

A noon kickoff means the crew and I arrived to Champions Square outside the arena around 10am with Lions Mardi Gras beads around our necks and as many Coors Light as our pockets could hold. Despite some grey skies and light rain, the place was jumping. Tons of vendors, booze, all manner of snacks, a raffle and even a live band. It was a great atmosphere.

 

champions square

 

We toured the fan zone, destroyed various meats on sticks and took in all the outside had to offer. Later, we discovered a promotional Bulleit Bourbon table where they offered free mini shots of whiskey. You heard right, free whiskey. This could never happen in Detroit. People would kill each other. We hovered around the Bulleit table getting as many samples as we could. RJ and Joe even traded hats in effort to disguise themselves for extra shots. Totally worked. Needless to say, we all felt pretty good.

 

Michigang NOLA

 

We join the masses and head inside. Ramps, escalators and stairs later, we find our row in the 600 level AKA the nosebleeds. But the awesome thing about the Merceded-Benz Superdome is that there are no bad seats. Even at the tippy top, you have amazing views of the field. It’s just like TV but with no commercials!

 

image2 (3)

 

We settle in with fresh beers and watch the dope intro for each squad. Credit where credit is due, the Saints intro is HYPE. The video, the fog, the shower of gold sparks, the giant flames. It’s wild and really sets the tone. No wonder people love watching this team. The house lights come up for the coin toss and I finally have a chance to look around. That’s when I noticed that the roof looks an awful lot like the Death Star.

 

superdome deathstar

 

Kickoff. Saints get the ball first and go three and out after the Lions bring pressure and force a fumble that Brees recovers and throws away. They punt and Stafford gets his first chance with the ball. Lions drive and settle for a field goal. It is at this moment, the man in front of us turns around. He is a porky pig looking father of three, in a black Saints polo. He mimes a kitty cat licking and cleaning himself. As if to say to us, we aren’t Lions but tiny house cats. Needless to say, I was not happy about this act of aggression. Side note, why would you provoke this crew when you are at the game with children? Does he not know that I am loco? For reference, here is a picture of the back of his pumpkin, I mean head.

 

Superdome dad

 

I’m an adult, so I use my words and we move on. More football, the Lions keep rolling and we share nachos and some frozen drinks. The chant “8-4!” becomes our calling card for every first down or anything positive. And for the first time all year, the Detroit Lions have a lead at the start on the 4th quarter. It felt like I was on a wave that was growing and growing. The sensation was incredible. Then the dagger, on 3rd and 10 at the Detroit 34 yard line, Stafford hits Golden Tate who rumbles for a 66 yard touchdown. We explode.

 

Some excessive dancing causes an armed police officer to issue a warning to one of the crew. As soon as the cop leaves, the Saints fans next to me start apologizing, saying they are sorry someone snitched on us for cheering. They praise our enthusiasm and seem genuinely happy for us. This sentiment becomes a theme, where almost every opposing fan we meet for the rest of the trip was super friendly and complimented us on a well played game. I’ve never seen such a thing. The Lions win 28-13 and we “8-4!” our way out of the stadium. It was pouring outside but we didn’t care. Can’t rain on this parade.

 

superdome rain win

 

We don’t know that dude in the Lion suit, he just joined us for a bit. “One of us!” “8-4!”. Honestly, it was the best sporting event I’ve ever seen. It was an exciting game, that we won. Plus it was big for our team’s playoff chances and I got to share it with my best buddies in the breath-taking Superdome with nicest home town fans a traveler could ask for. New Orleans is a class town with wonderful people. Visit once and you’ll fall in love. Guaranteed.

 

NOLA

 

 


Building the Perfect Quarterback

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Published on : December 1, 2016

 

What makes a good QB? Physical gifts? High game IQ? killer instinct? Most would say the greats have all of these qualities. Let’s play Weird Science and build our own perfect quarterback by hacking up the existing NFL stars and stitching them into one marvelous creature. And then we can dress him and name him and teach him the playbook. Some quick guidelines, only current NFL players and can’t use any player twice. Alright, let’s start from the feet up.

 

Legs – Cam Newton

The one of best rushing quarterback in the league. He isn’t just strong and fast but he has shown some real illusiveness in the open field. With these wheels, my monster will always be able to roll away from pressure and scramble for drive-extending first downs.

 

Body/Frame – Ben Roethlisberger

This dude is a beast. A giant beast. He routinely shakes off pass-rushers and uses his body to help keep the play alive. This is an excellent frame to build on. Plus it doesn’t feature tons of tattoos so you can pick your own terrible ink. Bonus!

 

Arm – Matt Stafford

 

One of the strongest around. Can make all the throws. Even those side arm ones that Lions fans love so much. In terms of strength to accuracy ratio, Matt is top tier. I’d love to see all 32 starters line up and chuck the ball for distance. My guess, the deepest throws would be from Flacco, Newton and Stafford. Maybe Winston.

 

Heart – Tom Brady

Tom is the lion king. The roaring heart of a champion. He has the rings but that’s not what I’m talking about. Look at him on the sidelines when things aren’t clicking. He is pissed. He hates losing and he let’s everyone know. This is the muscle that pumps the blood of a winner. Plus, I hear he is a tender lover. Don’t ask how I know.

 

Head – Drew Brees

Calm, calculated and a master of the system. The perfect brain to run my Frankenstein. I just hope he doesn’t make my perfect quarterback do Wrangler jean commercials. What are we? Brett Favre? Who will sell any product, anyone has. Seriously, does Brett need cash or something?

 

Beard – Ryan Fitzpatrick

 

This is a no-brainer. This is also the only part of Fitzpatrick I’d let near my perfect quarterback. I was almost nervous putting him here thinking that the beard could make my QB throw interceptions but that’s crazy. Beards don’t do anything but make women think you’re cool. And sexy. And interesting.

 

This quarterback would be unstoppable. Unless he played on a team with no O-line and had zero running game. Because no one can succeed in that environment. Let me know how I screwed up in the comments below. There is no way you all agree with me.

 

Igor.

 

 


Re-Drafting the First Round of Fantasy Football after Week 3

Written by :
Published on : September 29, 2016

 

Hindsight is 20-20. If only we knew what we know now, back then. It would all be so different. If only we could go back in time and change things. This season saw a new trend from many fantasy football experts who suggested selecting wide receivers early and that the era of running backs first was over. I didn’t buy that and pushed for the classic RB heavy draft strategy. 3 games may not seem like much but when the playoffs start week 14 then 3 games is a huge chunk. Only time will tell who the real winners are.

 

So we’ve re-picked the first round based on the stats and info collected over the first 3 weeks. Here is your new top 12. All scoring is from ESPN standard fantasy leagues (non PPR). This is not the list of the top 12 scorers because that would be almost all QB’s and that’s not how people pick when you only start one quarterback.

 

1. RB David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

217 rush yards and 3 TDs. 169 receiving yards on 17 targets. Johnson is the most important piece of the Arizona Cardinals’ offense. If he stays healthy then he should be a top back for the whole year. If you had a chance to draft this guy and didn’t, then you suck.

 

2. RB DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans

 

When he left the Cowboys and tanked with the Eagles, many thought he was done. Well he is running hard in a system that feeds him the ball. He has 245 rushing yards and 1 TD plus 132 receiving yards and 2 TDs. That’s over 125 yards average of total offense per game.

 

3. RB LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots

Easily one of the biggest surprises. For reference, LaGarrette was selected with the #99 pick in my very competitive and informed league. Blount’s 298 rush yards and 4 TDs top the NFL. He is a true fantasy diamond in the rough. Plus he has a great name.

 

4. WR Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

Jones only has 2 TDs so far but his 408 receiving yards are over 100 yards higher than the next guy on the list. He has the best start, in terms of yards, for any Lions player ever. Including the late, great Calvin Johnson. People wondered how Detroit would replace Megatron and I think we have an answer.

 

5. RB Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

 

Not the Atlanta ball carrier that most took early but he is the one to own so far as Coleman has outproduced Freeman 49 to 39 in overall fantasy points. On less touches I should add. Tevin’s 3 TDs in the last outing gave owners a monster stat line.

 

6. RB Matt Forte, New York Jets

Another familiar face in a new place. Age and years of heavy workload in Chicago scared most away from Forte. If you were smart or lucky enough to look past that then you found an RB1 somewhere in the mid rounds. AKA a total steal. 261 rush yards and 3 TDs with 67 receiving yards.

 

7. QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

The first quarterback on the new board. No one predicted this. Not even Matty Ice himself. He is currently the #1 overall scorer in fantasy with 70 huge points. That’s 23.3 points per game on average. That is epic in terms of production and consistency. All that with only one turnover.

 

8. WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Only the second wideout on this revised list. Evans has been beastly with young QB Jameis Winston looking for him early and often. Mike Evans is 5th among WRs in yards at 301 but second in targets with 38 and has 3 TDs. No reason to see this pace slow at all. Evans is a must start each week.

 

9. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Drew’s team is 0-3 but you wouldn’t know from his stats. He already has over a 1,000 yards passing which leads the league and is tied for the lead with 8 TDs. The Saints defense sucks and can’t stop anyone so Brees should be launching it down field plenty to play catch up. These numbers should continue to balloon.

 

10. RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers

With touchdowns in all 3 games (4 overall), Gordon, has become the steady force the Chargers have been searching for. This is what they hoped for when they drafted him. The most impressive stat for Melvin is that he hasn’t scored less than 13 points in any contest.

 

11. QB Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions

 

Very similar numbers to Brees and Ryan. Stafford has 985 passing yards, 7 TDs and 2 INTs. Matt is the 3rd overall in scoring and ahead of such superstars as Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. All who were taken way before the Lions QB. Look for Stafford to keep hooking up with Marvin Jones for big gains.

 

12. RB Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers

Not a sexy pick but Hyde keeps rumbling along and picking up yards. 225 rushing and 4 TDs is nothing to sneeze at. Only 2 points in week 2 but sandwiched around performances of 2o and 24 points gets him the last spot of our round one re-draft.

 

 

See any patterns other than guys whose name starts with M? Most of these dudes were not considered first round talent. Shows what you know. Big names missing that dominated many draft boards are Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Odell Beckham Jr, Julio Jones, Ezekiel Elliot, Adrian Peterson (IR/RIP), Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman. A special shout out to Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams who is the fourth highest scoring back in the league. I did not put him on the list as Le’Veon Bell is set to return and take his place, therefore he isn’t worth drafting in this new mock first round. But valiant effort so far. Cheers.

 

This order is sure to jumble itself in another 3 weeks of play. But the lesson is that #1 RB that gets a full workload is still the most valuable commodity in fantasy. The NFL is a throw first league and backs who snag a few catches a game, get 10-15 carries and goal line touches are worth their weight in gold. If you disagree, let me hear it in the comments.

 

Trade Bait.

 

 


It’s not time for the Lions to panic just yet

Written by :
Published on : September 24, 2016

 

 

Last Sunday’s loss to the Titans was a sloppy mess that was brutal for fans of the Lions to endure. There were many factors that contributed to the heartbreaking 16-15 score, and it might be easy for some to give up on the 2016 NFL season. As one of the more battered and abused fanbases in the league, the people can turn against the team on a dime. It’s a defense mechanism that helps fans stop the pain before it gets too bad.

 

I’m here to try and quell that urge and tell you that it’s too early to panic. Last week’s game was bad, but the NFL season is long and even the best team’s have games like the one the Lions had against Tennessee. In a 16 game season, 1-1 after two games isn’t the worst position to be in. There are reasons to be encouraged with this team, and reasons to believe that the team can move on from the loss and still compete. Here are a few of them.

 

This Sunday is a whole new game

The amount of penalties in last Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans was enough to make a Lions’ fans head spin. Same goes for the injuries. It was so Lions that it hurt. Eventually the hurt got so bad that the team lost. They still should have won in spite of all the adversity, and had the chance to do so, but they couldn’t seal the deal, and all the penalties and injuries certainly weren’t helping.

 

 

These teams were playing some very sloppy football, but the refs in this game also had their heads up their own asses on a few occasions. Both teams benefited from some bad officiating at one point or another. The Titans got a gift when an Eric Ebron touchdown was called back on a make believe offensive pass interference call. The Lions got to keep the ball when the refs twice failed to notice Lions fumbles that were recovered by the Titans, instead calling the plays dead. The Lions need to clean their play up to be sure, but fans also need to realize that things like holding happen on every single NFL play. Officials will not normally call the game like this and there will be many crews that will be more apt to let the teams play and decide the game between themselves.

 

As for the injuries, it was a bad, bad day for the Detroit Lions. The worst thing to happen was the Ameer Abdullah injury. He was forced to have surgery on his foot this week and the team placed him on IR. He is eligible to return in time for the Jaguars game on November 20, but the team hasn’t indicated if they believe that is possible and it doesn’t seem likely. The team also lost Ziggy Ansah for an undetermined amount of time with a high ankle sprain, but the real hit was to the linebacking corps.

 

The team was already without DeAndre Levy who missed the game with another mystery injury (quadricep), then they began to drop like flies. By the time Kyle Van Noy and Antoine Williams had gone down with injuries, the only two linebackers left were Tahir Whitehead and a guy I’ve never heard of named Thurston Armbrister. The team was forced to move Brandon Copeland off the line and was obviously hampered by it.

 

 

The truth is that while these injuries are a concern, every team in the NFL has to deal with them and it’s better for some of these to happen now rather than in November or December. If the team can continue to play .500 ball while getting healthy, they can finish out the season and push for a spot in the playoffs. You never want to get injured but luckily it looks like none of them, except Abdullah’s will be too long term.

 

The offense is good enough to keep the team competitive

It was a sloppy game where the Lions left points on the field via penalties or poor play, but still, the offense has looked pretty solid this season. Especially the offensive line. Pro Football Focus has them graded out as the third best line in the league through the first two weeks. I know that doesn’t really mean anything but it sounds nice and I like saying it. But for real, this line has looked pretty good. There have been some shakey moments in pass protection from guys like rookie Taylor Decker, and I’m pretty sure Laken Tomlinson will never be all that good (certainly not good enough to justify a 1st round pick), but the early returns on this group are good overall.

 

 Taylor Decker has been solid in his first year.

 

The big boys up front are opening up holes and keep Matt Stafford upright for the most part (5 sacks given up). The fact that this group is gelling only means good things for the Lions and this offense. With Travis Swanson finally playing up to his potential and Larry Warford and Riley Reiff owning the right side of the line, the run game should continue to excel. Even in Ameer Abdullah’s absence.

 

Aside from the proficient play of the offensive line, another reason to be optomisitic about the offense is the emergence of Theo Riddick as a quality runner. He has always been a threat in the pass game, with his ability to get open and make defenders miss in the open field, but never before has he looked good rushing the ball. He’s seeing the holes that his line is opening up and making defenses pay with agility and speed. The fact that the Lions gave him a new contract on the eve of the season means they believe in his ability as a complete back. You don’t give a guy almost $13 million over three years if you think he is solely a pass-catching back. Theo Riddick will make the the loss of Ameer Abdullah a little easier to deal with and the run game should be decent at worst.

 


With a competent run game and Matthew Stafford continuing to have thrive in Jim Bob Cooter’s system, this offense will keep the team competitive. Eric Ebron has looked great, and was the team’s best receiver last week. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones won’t continue to drop the football and the passing offense should be one of the better ones in the league this year. If the defense can hold it together and be decent, this team will be in every game this year. And if you can get that far, there’s always a chance in the NFL.

 

Especially when you consider my next point.

 

The NFC North is up for grabs

 

As we talked about early, the NFL season is still very young. Nothing is getting set in stone after week 2 and the NFC North is still wide open. The Bears were never really a threat, and with the loss of Jay Cutler that’s even more true. But the two teams that everyone picked to be playing for the division title, the Packers and Vikings, have got some serious issues of their own. Because of those issues, if the Lions can manage to avoid a total implosion, they have a chance to be playing for the division come December.

 

 Did the Vikings season go down with AP?

 

On August 29, the Minnesota Vikings were the favorite pick to win the NFC North. Then things began to seriously unravel. Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the year and the team quickly made a move to acquire Sam Bradford. He may not be the best quarterback but he certainly isn’t terrible and has looked okay through two games. But the injuries have continued to pile up and now running back Adrian Peterson and starting left tackle Matt Kalil are likely done for the year. The defense is great but it’s unclear if the offense can weather the storm of injuries it has faced. Because of that, the Vikings are no longer a lock to take the division.

 

As for the Green Bay Packers, they too have some issues to deal with. In week 1, they almost fell to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars and in week 2 they lost to the aforementioned Vikings. The offense doesn’t look great. Receivers aren’t getting much separation and Jordy Nelson doesn’t look like he has quite returned to pre-injury form yet. Another person who hasn’t looked quite like their old self is QB Aaron Rodgers. Stretching back to last season, there looks to be something wrong with him. He hasn’t surpassed 300 passing yards in 11 games and has gone 14 straight contests with a sub-100 passer rating. Long story short, this team is flawed, just like the rest of the teams in the NFC North.

 

 If Aaron is on tilt, the Lions have a chance.

 

Tomorrow’s game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field will be an important one. Both the Lions and the Packers are still getting their acts together. If the Lions can pull out a win on the road in Green Bay for the second year in a row, then they will be in a very good position to contend for the division. If they lose, see above. It won’t be the end of the world and there will still be a chance to contend for the division. It’s early in the season and there’s a long way to go.

 

 


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?

 

 


Marvin Jones or Golden Tate, who will have the bigger year?

Written by :
Published on : August 9, 2016

 

 

The new-look receiver corps for the Detroit Lions has fans of the team full of uncertainty. For years, Calvin Johnson was the ultimate safety blanket in the passing game. He made quarterbacks and fans alike feel all warm and safe and scared away the monsters under our beds. But now he’s gone and he’s never coming back. It’s time we get over it and look towards the future.

 

Thankfully, the team has two very talented guys catching the ball who can help us forget Megatron and all the good times he brought to us. Fans around Detroit are already familiar with one of those guys and his name is Golden Tate. He came to the team via free agency from Seattle in 2014 and has been as solid as they come for the last two seasons. With a knack for catching everything that comes his way, his relationship with Matt Stafford should ascend to new heights as he is the heir-apparent to the role of go-to-guy.

 

The team, however, was not content to put all of their hopes into the hands of one man alone. As far as they were concerned the job of filling Megatron’s cleats was far to big of a burden for Tate to shoulder all by himself. New GM, Bob Quinn, acted quickly and snagged the consensus best receiver on the market in Marvin Jones. By adding Jones to play across from Golden Tate the Lions now have some of the surest hands in the game, something that Matt Stafford has definitely not had throughout his career.

 

With two quick, athletic, sure-handed receivers vying for catches the Lions passing game should recover nicely from the loss of Calvin Johnson. The pieces to be successful are there but I beg the question, who will have the bigger year, Marvin Jones or Golden Tate.

 

Mr Jones

 

Much like how Golden Tate really took off once he left Seattle, I believe that Marvin Jones is going to have huge year in his first campaign outside of Cincinnati. Getting out of AJ Green’s shadow will give him a chance to be the focal point of the passing game (along with Tate), and put his skills on a stage unlike any he has yet seen. Matt Stafford should be very happy that management went out and got Jones because the guy can do it all. Contrary to one uninformed analysts opinion, Marvin Jones has some of the best hands in the NFL. He dropped only 1.9% (2 out of 103) of his catchable targets last season according to sportingcharts.com. That’s better than guys like Calvin Johnson (2.7%), Demaryius Thomas (5.1%),  Dez Bryant (6.9%) and Odell Beckham Jr (3.2%).

 

So the kid can catch, but what else does he have in his bag of tricks?

 

A lot, actually. He is a complete receiver who runs great routes at all depths and is more of a deep threat than most people give him credit for. He tracks the ball very well, and more often than not he is able to get behind the defender. If he gets a clean release he is gone but he is also able to fight through jams from opposing corners. I expect to see some deep touchdowns between him and Stafford this season. As far as shorter passes are concerned, he catches everything that comes his way. He definitely doesn’t have the agility or elusiveness of Golden Tate, but if he gets the chance to try and outrun the defense, the Lions are going to be putting 6 points on the scoreboard. Signing Marvin Jones was the best thing the Lions could have done to try and compensate for the loss of Calvin Johnson and he will have a career year in 2016

 

Prediction for the 2016 Season: 87 receptions, 1168 yards, 9 touchdowns.

 

 

Golden Child

 

Lions’ fans already know what they have in Golden Tate. He is a monster after the catch and his ability to make defenders miss is unparalleled in the NFL. Every time I watch him I’m amazed at how he is able to get out of the most precarious situations on the field. The dude can flat out ball. And if his ability to get out of tackles and gain yards after the catch wasn’t enough, he has some of the best hands in all of the NFL. He catches everything. He only dropped 3 of his 90 catchable targets last year, which is pretty good when you consider the heat that Matt Stafford regularly puts on his passes. The Lions have had issues with drops in the the past and management has clearly made fixing those issues a priority in recent years.

 

Last year with Calvin Johnson playing in all 16 games and half a season worth of garbage offense under Joe Lombardi, Tate’s production took a bit of a dive from the year before. In 2015, he had 90 receptions for 813 yards and 6 touchdowns, but in 2014 when Calvin Johnson was clearly unhealthy he amassed 99 receptions for 1,331 yards. He may have come in with less touchdowns in 2014 (4) but that seems like a fluke. When called upon, Golden Tate is very productive. Marvin Jones is more of a deep threat to be sure, but Golden Tate’s versatility and his rapport with Matt Stafford can’t be understated.

 

Prediction for the 2016 Season: 101 receptions, 1368 yards, 11 touchdowns.

 

 Expect to see a lot of this in 2016.

 

I foresee a very successful year for the Detroit Lions offense with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate leading the charge at wide receiver. Matt Stafford should thank his lucky stars (and his front office) that he has two guys who are so talented in so many different ways. Both of these guys are going to have the best years of their careers, with Golden Tate emerging at his quarterback’s favorite target. He will just edge out Marvin Jones in all of the important statistical categories due to his familiarity with Stafford,  but both will be important in helping the Lions’ passing game be one of the better ones in the league.

 

 


The Detroit Lions offense will be fine without Calvin Johnson

Written by :
Published on : July 24, 2016

 

 

We gon’ be alright.

 

 

After many months, I have stopped mourning the loss of another Hall of Fame (fuck you if you don’t agree) Lions player who retired far too early. Now that I have had time to process the loss of Calvin Johnson, I’m here to tell all my fellow Lions fans that things will be okay, and despite popular opinion, the Detroit Lions offense is going to be alright.

 

I don’t aim to diminish everything that the man known as Megatron meant to the team and the city of Detroit, but in the game of football you need to deal with these kind of things. If you don’t adapt, you die. And I think that the Lions are very much alive right now. Before you jump all over me and say that the Lions are a five win team, just hear me out…

 

The Offensive Line

Last year the Lions offensive line was a mess. They haven’t had a decent right tackle since Gosder Cherilus, and that’s debatable. We’ve signed a succession of veritable turnstiles at the position, who aren’t worth naming, ever since. The center position has also been bad for a few years now, because of the lack of development by Travis Swanson. When two of your five starters in the unit are liabilities it means that you aren’t going to run the ball very well and, more importantly, your quarterback is going to get destroyed. The only thing that could make it worse would be having a system of blocking that is ill-suited for your personnel group. The Lions had that too. It was a mess.

 

 Seems like just yesterday Taylor was on the podium with Goodell, now he’s getting work at LT.

 

This offseason, the Lions finally got serious about adding some talent along the offensive line. It started by adding Geoff Schwartz, who has had a nice career, when healthy, and has the versatility to fill in at multiple spots. After that, they addressed the tackle position, much to the joy of the fanbase, by adding Ohio State tackle, Taylor Decker in the first round of the draft. The team also added a little fire under the ass of Travis Swanson by drafting Graham Glasgow out of Michigan in the third round. Both of these young monsters of the Big 10 will be on the team for years to come but it is Decker who will have an immediate impact.

 

I figured he would earn his bones at right tackle and eventually supplant Riley Reiff on the left side, but it seems as though the team might try him out at left tackle from the jump. People have been saying for a long time that Reiff is more suited to play on the right side, so if Decker really is good enough to play on the left side from the start, the Lions could be looking very good along the offensive line. He is an absolute mauler in the run game that will open up some big holes for Ameer Abdulah from day one.

 

But perhaps even more significant than the solid additions to the roster is the continued development of….

 

Cooter-ball!

When Jim Caldwell was hired and brought in football legacy Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator, hopes were high in Motown. It became clear very early on that something was not working, and in my opinion, Lombardi should have been shown the door prior to that second season, regardless of the playoff appearance. After that terrible start last year, he was finally given his walking papers mid-season. The team promoted QB coach, Jim Bob Cooter, to fill the play-calling void and the team very quickly started to turn things around. Gone was the slow developing, precision passing game from New Orleans and in its place was something more tailored to our QB, a man who is definitely not Drew Brees and should not be forced to try to become him.

 

 The man himself.

 

More important than any change in play-calling was the fact that Jim Bob Cooter wisely scraped the entire offensive blocking scheme. It was very apparent that our group of big guys could not run Joe Lomardi’s complex, zone blocking system. There were too many times early on last season when guys were left blocking no one, while three defensive linemen were busy making Stafford eat the turf. The change to a power-blocking system, where our guys were allowed to hit the guys in front of them, greatly benefited the offense.

 

After the Lions week 9 bye last year, the offense, and especially Matt Stafford, really started to take off. Interceptions were down, and completion percentage and yards per carry were up. In the second half of the season, Stafford was a top QB in the league and the team wasn’t turning the ball over. And it’s because of these things that Jim Bob Cooter, the man with the best name in football, was asked to return and bring the Detroit Lions’ offense to the next level. With a full offseason under his belt, I believe Cooter-ball is going to be a household name very soon.

 

The Other Weapons

The Detroit Lions aren’t strangers to making due without Calvin Johnson. For the last handful of seasons, he has been injured quite often. There were times when he would be used merely as a decoy or miss games altogether. The team has been forced to adapt in those situations, and most of the time they have done a pretty good job. A recent successful situation that comes to mind is the 2014 season. For much of the season Johnson was obviously hurt and probably should have missed more games than he actually did. The thing is that Matt Stafford might have been a better quarterback with Megatron missing or limited. It forced him to go through his progressions completely and spread the ball around. He wasn’t able to automatically revert to throwing up jump balls to the best receiver in the game and instead had to find the best option on the field among one of his other weapons. And he didn’t have very many.

 

 Look for Golden Tate in an end zone nearest you this year.

 

One weapon that he did have, and leaned on heavily, was Golden Tate and this year he will be a main focal point once again. Tate is as sure-handed as they come and is a big play waiting to happen once he has the ball in his hands. We’ve seen what he can do and we know he is capable of great things when the offense is clicking, but he isn’t the only one on the roster who can make big plays. The Lions also added Marvin Jones, formerly of the Bengals, to take the spot opposite Tate and (try) to fill the void left by Calvin. He is a complete receiver coming off of his best season and is only 26 years old. While some people think that the Lions overpaid for him, he was the consensus-number one at his position in free agency, and the Lions had a need. I applaud the decisiveness of new GM Bob Quinn. Jones is more of a deep threat than people give him credit for and has some of the surest hands in the league, along with Golden Tate, which is good when you consider the Lions’ other two big weapons on offense.

 

The team has some other hopefuls at wide receiver in TJ Jones, Jeremy Kerley and Andre Roberts but much of the season depends on if running back Ameer Abdullah and tight end Eric Ebron can step up their game. As Ameer Abdullah showed on his very first touch in the NFL, he is an explosive runner who can find the end zone on any given play. He should have a huge season behind that revamped offensive line as long as he can overcome his fumbling problem from last year. Eric Ebron has all the physical tools to be a monster of a tight end, but he needs to continue to develop and stop making mental mistakes (like dropping the ball). I personally think that both of these guys will come into their own this year and help the Lions’ offense be among the best in football.

 

 With the holes created by the Lions this coming season, Abdullah will get a chance to work his magic.

 

Have no fear, Lions fans, Calvin Johnson’s retirement may be sad, but it is most certainly not the end of the world. In similar fashion to Barry Sanders, who retired in 1999 following a 5-11 season, we were all blindsided by the departure of an offensive juggernaut. But the Lions followed up the Sanders retirement with a trip to the playoffs, and I think the team can do it again. Along with a defense that is welcoming back DeAndre Levy and still has mastermind Teryl Austin calling the shots, this offense is going to continue to develop. And once they hit their stride, Cooter-ball will reign supreme in the National Football League.

 

 


Detroit Lions 2016 Win/Loss Predictions

Written by :
Published on : June 20, 2016

 

 

Last season was a disappointing one for the Detroit Lions. The team came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in the first half of their week 1 matchup against the Chargers, and then promptly fell flat on their faces. They started off 1-7, but managed to finish 7-9 by overhauling their offense midseason. They could have easily had two more wins and possibly made the playoffs, but last second insanity against the Seahawks and Packers killed those hopes.

 

This season the team is looking to build off of the second half of last year and keep improving. A full offseason in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, improvements along the offensive line, and the return of DeAndre Levy should have the Lions looking better than many people in the national media are giving them credit for. Here is my 2016 Win/Loss Predictions for the Detroit Lions.

 

Week 1 @ Colts

The Colts were pretty awful last year, especially on defense. In my opinion, they didn’t really do enough to fix that. They do still have Andrew Luck, but they also have an aged Frank Gore slated to start in the backfield. Luck keeps the game interesting but I think the Lions have an advantage in defense, which gives them the edge. The Colts offense will have a good day, but the Lions will get just enough stops to come out on top. The Colts defense on the other hand will have huge problems containing the Lions offense. Lions win, 37-31.

 

Week 2 vs Titans

There are some folks out there who are pretty high on the Titans. They have some nice pieces on offense but with Mike Mularkey as head coach this team is going nowhere. They will fold under the pressure of that home opener Ford Field crowd. The defense will come up big and DeAndre Levy will have a pick 6. Lions win, 45-28.

 

 Look out for Levy in this one.

 

Week 3 @ Packers

The Lions are lucky to once again get to travel to Green Bay before winter has had a chance to wrap its freezing cold hands around the neck of that godforsaken wasteland of cheese. While that definitely helps their chances, I’m not sure the team will get as lucky this year as they did last year. It will be a hard fought battle, but I think Green Bay gets this in a close one. Lions lose, 27-24.

 

Week 4 @ Bears

Big thanks to the NFL for sending my favorite team to play their two biggest rivals consecutively on the road. The Bears are much improved, but luckily the Lions have their number in the last handful of years. The streak continues. Lions win, 17-16.

 

Week 5 vs Eagles

The Lions obliterated the Philadelphia Eagles last year on Thanksgiving. By that time of year, Detroit was starting to put it together on offense, and the Eagles meltdown was in full effect. Philly will still be recovering from what Chip Kelly has done to them. Lions win, 21-6.

 

Week 6 vs Rams

I’m not sure what the Rams plan on doing at quarterback just yet, but they could present some problems for the Lions. Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald are beasts and could very well both be in the running for OPOY and DPOY. I think they give the Lions enough trouble to hand them their second loss of the year. Lions lose, 24-17.

 

Week 7 vs Washington

I know Washington was a playoff team, and have some good pieces all over the field. But I find it hard to believe that Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins are going to have sustained success. The Lions will be sharp after getting worked extra hard in practice following their loss at home to the Rams. They come out on fire and win handily. Lions win, 28-10.

 

 Look for a win against Washington.

 

Week 8 @ Texans

The Texans always have a scary defense with JJ Watt out there. They will be the big difference here and will give the Lions trouble all game. The Lions offensive line will be much improved but there aren’t many answers for JJ Watt, who will have 2 sacks. Lions lose, 24-14.

 

Week 9 @ Vikings

The Vikings are definitely the darlings of the division this season. Most people seem to think that they will challenge the Packers for the NFC North title. I think they are pretty good too, and they are definitely going to be a tough test for the Detroit Lions in Minnesota for this matchup. Lions lose, 28-27.

 

Week 10 BYE

 

Week 11 vs Jaguars

The Jaguars should be pretty solid this year, but on the road in Detroit, a win won’t be likely. Ameer Abdullah goes off in this one for 120 yds rushing and 2 TDs, while adding 60 yds receiving. Blake Bortles will also throw interceptions to both DeAndre Levy and Glover Quin. Lions win, 34-13.

 

 Look for Ameer Abdullah in the end zone in this one

 

Week 12 vs Vikings

Watching the Lions on Thanksgiving is a long tradition. I’ve seen many Turkey Day loses through the years, but as of late they have really shown up. I’ll be damned if I call them to lose this year, even if it is against the infallible Vikings. Lions win, 14-12.

 

Week 13 @ Saints

The Saints had an AWFUL defense last year, and Drew Brees started showing signs that he might be past his prime. I’m flying across the country to go to this game so my boys better show up, and get some vengeance for that 2011 playoff loss! Lions win,  21-9.

 

Week 14 vs Bears

Lions rule, Bears drool. Jay Cutler throws three interceptions. The streak continues for another year. Suck it, Chicago. Lions win, 45-6.

 

Week 15 @ Giants

The Giants are the first of two consecutive road games against the NFC East, a division that was truly awful last season. In typical Lions bad luck fashion, I believe the NFC East will be much improved in 2016. The Giants threw around some serious money in free agency and I think that by this time it will start to pay dividends, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Coming off of a big win over the hated Chicago Bears, I think the team is in for a big letdown. The offense has trouble and Eli Manning frustrates the defense all day. Lion lose, 31-17.

 

 Eli will rule the day in week 15

 

Week 16 @ Cowboys

The Detroit Lions return to the “House that Jerry Built” for the first time since getting worked over by the refs in the 2014 Wild Card game. The team is going to come out hot and I see early touchdowns from Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron. Then things will slow down as the Cowboys adjust. In the second half things will get a little hairy for Detroit and the ‘Boys will take the lead. Dez Bryant catches a late touchdown. Lion lose, 28-24.

 

Week 17 vs Green Bay

This will be a game that decides whether or not Detroit heads to the playoffs as a wild card team. Teryl Austin is going to have the Lions defense totally fired up and I envision Ezekiel Ansah having a monster game. Ziggy will get to the quarterback three times, including a late one that seals the game for Detroit on 4th down. Lions win, 17-14.

 

The Lions will be the #6 seed in the NFC at 10-6.

 

 

This is my prediction for the Detroit Lions. It’s quite a bit more positive than most of the win/loss predictions I’ve seen for the team, but I think it’s totally realistic. Most people seem to underestimate the amount of talent on the team. This is a solid squad that has improved both lines and should be able to control the trenches. Playoffs here we come!

 

 


Champ and Chump: Thanksgiving Day Edition

Written by :
Published on : November 28, 2015

 

 

After having a bye week last week, the Champ and Chump column returns for a festive edition to celebrate the best and worst performances from the holiday. While we all were filling our plates and stuffing our bellies, some athletes were filling the boxscores and stuffing their stat sheets while others imploded like the famous turkey from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Hopefully we all found many things and people to be thankful for during the holiday, causing us to feel like a champ. But after passing out from a tryptophan overdose from the delicious turkey or entering a food coma by forcing one more piece of pumpkin pie down our throats, we too may have found ourselves feeling like a chump. Let’s take a look who takes home the prestigious honors for this holiday edition of Champ and Chump.

 

 

Champ: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson

It was like the good ol’ days for Stafford and Johnson on Thanksgiving.

 

While the Detroit Lions’ season appears to be all but over, they earned themselves a 3-game winning streak when they routed the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving in Detroit 45-14, and are mathematically still in the playoff hunt, though it may require them to win out. However, with the way that quarterback Matthew Stafford played, maybe anything is possible. It was refreshing for Detroit fans to seemingly have their Lions turn back the clock to when the Stafford-Johnson connection was one of the most lethal combos in the National Football League. Stafford finished 27-38 for 337 yards and 5 touchdowns without turning the ball over. Calvin caught 8 of those balls for 93 yards but most importantly hauled in 3 touchdown passes while dominating the Eagles’ secondary. It could be too little too late for the Lions, but for this one day, they can feel like champions and for the last 50-some years, that’s the closest they have ever been to being one.

 

Honorable Mention:

Luke Kuechly- Kuechly picked off Tony Romo twice, returning one to the house for a touchdown to go along with 7 tackles, anchoring the stout Panther defense in a win over the Cowboys

Denzel Valentine- Notching his second triple-double of the season already, Valentine led the Michigan State Spartans to a victory over the Boston College Eagles finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Chris Warren and Jared Brownridge- Both in losing efforts, Warren ran for 276 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Texas Longhorns against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Brownridge put up a John Wooden Classic tournament record 44 points against the Arizona Wildcats, but his Santa Clara Broncos fell in overtime.

 

 

Chump: Chip Kelly

More like “Chump” Kelly as of late.

 

The Philadelphia Eagles handed the keys to Chip Kelly to build a champion a few years back and now in his third season, the Eagles are yet to even win a playoff game. After going 10-6 in his first two years, Kelly changed the offense completely this year by acquiring Sam Bradford and dealing away Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, who seemingly fit his offense well, before the team signed former Cowboy DeMarco Murray. So far the makeover has not been pretty as the Eagles lost their third straight and fell to 4-7 on the season. While the offense is hardly the only problem (the defense has given up 45+ points in consecutive weeks to average to below average opponents), it is supposed to be Kelly’s forte. While it has only been three seasons, and Kelly currently has a winning record with the Eagles, his scheme doesn’t seem to really translate to the NFL, and many people feel his job very well may be on the line. In a whacky year in college football with many big programs set to be looking for new coaches, I can’t help but feel like Chip returning to the PAC 12 and leading the Trojans in Southern Cal would be a perfect fit.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Tony Romo- Finished with just 106 yards and 0 touchdowns while throwing 3 picks (2 returned for touchdowns) in a loss to the Carolina Panthers before fracturing his collarbone, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.

Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray- With both their teams losing on Turkey day, neither running back was able to get anything going for their respective teams. McFadden finished the day with just 11 yards on 10 carries and Murray found a little more success reaching 30 yards on 14 carries.

Wichita State Shockers- The Shockers took the world by storm a couple years back when they entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated before falling in the 3rd round, and last year had just four losses during the regular season. Already this year, the Shockers find themselves at 2-3. They have finally outgrown that slipper and we may just have a new Cinderella story come March.

 

 


Fantasy Football Saints, Sinners and Sleepers: QB Edition

Written by :
Published on : August 15, 2015

 

“Here we lay bare the souls of those who play the game for our entertainment. We praise the saints, condemn the sinners, and root out the sleepers who can help your fantasy football team stay on the righteous path.”

 

The first installment of Saints, Sinners and Sleepers will explore the quarterback position heading into the 2015 NFL season. These are the best of the best, the worst of the worst and some of the most underestimated in their field. The following players can help you gain entry into the pearly gates of a fantasy football championship, or send you to the seventh circle of a losing season. Heed the words you are about to read, and know that it is truth.

 

Saints

Number 12 will be giving opposing defenses trouble once again this season.

 

Aaron Rodgers– The best quarterback in the NFL is also your best option in fantasy football this year. He and Andrew Luck are just about neck and neck, but Rodgers is much more of a proven commodity. He has been slinging the pig skin with pinpoint accuracy for years now, and doesn’t look to be slowing down. Despite some nagging injuries last season he managed to throw for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns. He can make plays on the ground as well as through the air, and with a running game led by Eddie Lacy, he’ll have less pressure on him and more defenders in the box than in recent years, which should translate to some big play opportunities. He is a perhaps the biggest saint among QBs in the world of fantasy football and can do no wrong this year if he is your starting quarterback.

 

Andrew Luck- The football chucking ogre in Indy will be carrying his team once again this year and that means lots of yards through the air and touchdowns. In the last few seasons, the Colts have left a lot to be desired in the areas of running game and defense, and this year doesn’t seem to be any different. Hoping that an over the hill Frank Gore can resurrect the ground game seems like a long shot and they just didn’t add enough pieces to improve a bad defense. Once again, the Colts will be trying to hang 50 points a game and outscore their opponents. For owners charmed enough to land Luck this is great news and there’s no reason he can’t come close to the 4,791 passing yards and 40 touchdowns he racked up last season. He is still a very young saint with room to improve on his already very good numbers. If he is still available in the end of the first round then draft him.

 

Ben Roethlisberger- The Steel City has been fortunate to have Big Ben as their quarterback for the last decade. He has helped them win two Super Bowls, and is coming off of his best season yet, statistically speaking. His 67.1 completion percentage, 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns were all high points in an already impressive career. Oh yeah, he also has arguably the best receiver in the game, Antonio Brown. These two are just hitting stride together and should be a potent combination for years to come.  If that wasn’t scary enough, Le’veon Bell will back after he serves his two game suspension and will have defenses stacking the box and leaving plenty of room for Ben to work miracles. The offense in Pittsburgh is going to score a ton of points, and if Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy he will be a true saint as your fantasy football QB, helping you win it all.

 

Sinners

Expect more of this if Ej Manuel takes the field for the Bills.

 

Whoever starts in Buffalo- Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor; it’s all garbage. The three QBs combined for an astounding 1,263 yards, 8 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season. Compound their collective ineptitude with new head coach, Rex Ryan, who is notorious for staunch defense, strong running game and terrible quarterback play, and you have a recipe for an awful passing attack. I don’t think this really warrants further explanation, but they are bound to live up to their reputations as bums. No matter who wins the starting job, they are sinners and should be banished to the depths of fantasy football hell. Should you be unfortunate (or stupid) enough to end up with them on your roster, don’t say you weren’t warned, and may God have mercy on your soul.

 

Whoever starts in Houston- When Arian Foster went down with a gruesome groin injury in the opening days of training camp, life got considerably harder for whichever QB comes out on top. The two guys vying for the starting job are Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, and neither of them should have fans down in Houston very excited. Mallett passed for 400 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in three games with the Texans last year. Hoyer actually gave fans up in Cleveland a fleeting moment of hope last season, only to collapse in the second half of the season and finish with 3,326 yard, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Without their starting running back to keep opposing defenses occupied, you can be sure that both of these guys will see the field at some point, and will perform poorly when they do. DeAndre Hopkins can only do so much to cleanse these sinners and mask their deficiencies. Avoid them at all costs.

 

Whoever starts in Cleveland- This committee thing is becoming a common theme for the QB sinners, but hear me out. Gone are Brian Hoyer, a troubled but talented Josh Gordon and pass-catching TE Jordan Cameron, and in their place are Josh McCown, Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe. None of these names are scaring anyone and the fact of the matter is that Josh McCown and his competition, Johnny Manziel, combined for 2,381 yards, 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last year (Manziel contributed zero touchdowns to that total). Neither of these guys have ever given the indication that they were any good at the pro level. If you draft either of these sinners you are either desperate or crazy, and guaranteed to a fantasy football season full of pain and despair.

 

Sleepers

The number 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft will be putting up some numbers this year.

 

Jameis Winston- It’s never all that smart to put your faith in a rookie QB in fantasy football, but you could do a lot worse than former Heisman winner and national champion, Jameis Winston. Having two stud wide receivers, in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, to help ease the transition to the big leagues doesn’t hurt either. There will be interceptions for sure, but look for Winston’s talent to shine through often. Leading to good numbers in his first season under center in Tampa Bay.

 

Matt Stafford- It’s hard to consider Matt Stafford a sleeper at this point considering the fact that he has put up some very big numbers at times. Passing yards have always been fairly easy for Mr. Stafford but he has been inconsistent and had issues with interceptions at various points throughout his career. That changed last year with the arrival of head coach Jim Caldwell, and Stafford threw the fewest interceptions in any of his seasons as a full time starter. Stafford was much more careful than in years past and even seemed to be going against his gunslinger instincts. As a result, touchdowns were down along with interceptions. Look for Caldwell to give his young QB a longer leash and allow him to sling the ball downfield to the bevy of weapons at his disposal this year.

 

Derek Carr- The young quarterback in Oakland did an admirable job in his debut season for a Raiders team that was not very good, passing for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns. With the addition of Amari Cooper, look for Derek Carr to improve vastly over the course of the 2015 season. Cooper is a game changer and will be an easy target for Carr, and I see them connecting for at least 12 touchdowns this season. Opposing secondaries will learn very quickly that they must key in on the rookie wide receiver out of Alabama, leaving Carr plenty of opportunities to spread the ball around, and build on a strong rookie campaign.

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: NFC North Predictions

Written by :
Published on : July 29, 2015

 

With the rise of the Lions from laughingstock to “that team no one believes in,” combined with a schizophrenic Vikings squad and a Bears crew struggling to hang on to mediocrity, the NFC North has gotten a little goofy. Besides the Packers no other team is currently considered a viable Super Bowl threat.

But I’m a Lions fan, and the NFC North is my home sweet home, so I’ll be following it much closer than the guys who actually get paid to write about it. Granted, the people who get paid to write about it are professionals as opposed to a disgruntled old crank who talks to his cat.

Enough pretense! The visions are taking substance…

Minnesota Vikings:

 photo vikings_sbs02 copy_zps1tbp8x9j.jpg

The good folks in Minnesota love Teddy Bridgewater, and I can’t blame a fan base hungry for a franchise quarterback, but I found it a little irksome that the media fawned over this kid from the get go. It happens all the time in a hype-fueled profession, but I wish some of these guys could be held accountable for their big mouths. At least put them in a dunk tank or something with Brett Favre throwing footballs over his shoulder at the target. I saw a lot of potential in Bridgewater, but I also saw a lot of kinks that needed ironing out. He can scramble and hit some good passes on the run, but for all those nifty highlights, there were costly interceptions as well.

The return of Adrian Peterson in purple and gold surprised me. I thought the reconciliation to this uncomfortably troubled marriage was possible, but I wasn’t counting on it. Hey, the crystal ball is cloudy after all. Now that AP is back in the game, I’m fascinated to see what happens. I don’t care how good he is: age and expectations are going to be a factor.

The crystal ball says:

Teddy’s gonna have a decent season, but he’s more of a long term threat than a breakout stud. Talking Heads will continue to praise him to high heaven until the last fourth of the season when they turn on him and ask whether or not he’s any good. He’ll stay the same, continuing to grow and improve unless he proves injury prone. Adrian Peterson will have a solid season, keeping his hyperbolic god-like status, but he’s going to be eclipsed on the stats sheet by some of the hungrier young guys.

Chicago Bears:

 photo bears_nfc_zpsihxng6qh.jpg

Da Bears are hurting right now, and I think there’s an inevitable degree of soul searching going on in the organization regardless of the coaching change. John Fox is certainly going to liven things up as much as he can. Fresh blood will flow, the slate will be cleaned, but there’s no getting around the elephant in the room: Jay Cutler’s competency, commitment, and the club’s decision to stick it out with him. Personally, I’m not as down on Cutler as many people are, but I do feel that his remaining presence in Chicago has metastasized into an untenably toxic relationship. Even if they win a few more games this season with Cutler, the team’s long-term success is going to be in the hands of their next quarterback. And let’s not act like a break with the Bears would be bad for Cutler: he could gracefully transition to a lower-tier team and play with a squad that would actually appreciate him. Not the worst way to play out the rest of your career.

The crystal ball says:

Another abysmal year for Soldier Field’s finest. There’s little hope in restructuring and re-growing without faith in your lynchpin. Chi-town will spend a year taking its losses while John Fox settles in and shows off what he has to offer.

Green Bay Packers:

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Green Bay is easily the least fun team to pontificate on in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is currently in top form with a rock solid team behind him. I won’t be surprised if this group keeps on clicking and humming along together, giving opposing NFC North fans fits. The crew is well-oiled, well-managed, and has that “cool factor” of playing in an open stadium during the rudest of Midwest winters. You can certainly criticize The Pack when it comes to the league as a whole, particularly that they don’t deal well with unexpected loss, but in the NFC North, this is the team that everybody wants to dethrone.

The only real worry is keeping Rodgers healthy. We’ve seen in the past how this team has collapsed without its sometimes-mustachioed heart on the field. If I were Mike McCarthy, I would be spending an inordinate amount of time working with that O-line on QB protection.

The crystal ball says:

A clear division victory for The Cheeseheads, with Detroit and possibly Minnesota nipping at their heels. However, the entire house of cards collapses if Rodgers misses four or more games.

Detroit Lions:

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Like last season, Detroit has a great chance of giving the Packers a run for their money, but it’s not going to be easy. Detroit is currently a team full of potential and unanswered questions. I’d love to see the defense as dominant as it was last season, a tall order considering the loss of Ndamukong Suh. Yet the return of Stephen Tulloch and acquisition of Haloti Ngata are hard to dismiss. Of course I’ll be watching that offensive line closest. It’s the single factor in Stafford having as productive a season he did in his INT-happy, record-breaking slinger days, though he’s likely to have a more disciplined system that actually wins games this time around.

The run game is going to be the x-factor. I love Joique Bell, but he can’t carry the team like a Marshawn Lynch or a Jamaal Charles. He gets you three yards on a 3rd & 2, and punches his way into the end zone in short yardage situations, but he’s not going to break off 15 yard chunks with any regularity. And sure, there’s Theo Riddick and a very “maybe” George Winn. I’m hopeful for Ameer Abdullah, but I also think there’s a lot of bluster and hype for the second round pick.

Crystal ball says:

Detroit has so much talent on the roster, but also has trouble putting it together. I see the defense not being as strong as last year, but staying damn close to that caliber thanks to the prior season’s proof of concept. The offense is going to pop more this year in the passing game, but the running game will remain blue-collar. Green Bay has a good chance of winning both games vs. the Lions, but the really exciting divisional games are going to go down with the Vikings. The division title will most likely go to Green Bay, but the Lions will make the wild card slot and head to the playoffs for the second year in a row.

 

 


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