2015-16 NFL Preview: AFC

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots

By Stefan Anderson

No more questions on Deflategate, No more pondering on why Marshawn Lynch didn’t receive the last carry, the 2015-2016 season is finally here. Lets preview the season starting with the AFC.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills-The Bills are looking to make a splash this season. With all the new additions and the new found comradery with HC Rex Ryan.  Buffalo has improved after trading for former rushing champ Lesean McCoy after finishing 25th in on the ground, McCoy will help in the rushing department. Handing the keys over to former Virginia Tech standout Tyrod Taylor will be interesting to watch as he now has the option of handing the ball to McCoy or passing to the likes of Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Wood, should Taylor’s transition into starting easier. Bringing back that top-10 defense from the year prior, the Bills should be able to adjust to Ryan’s Ground and Pound style.

New England Patriots- The defending champs will return to the same fashion with their offense that contains the same players, especially with Tom Brady at the helm. Despite what most think the Patriots only were 17th in passing yards allowed with Revis and Browner at corner. Now with the two corners gone, they will remain steady but all on the heels of their talented linebackers and defensive line core.

New York Jets- Now in the Todd Bowles era, the Jets have found their defense more stacked than ever before bringing back their tandem of Revis and Cromartie to help lead Gang Green back to competitive measures. The Jets have found a way to shore up their biggest weakness the passing game where they were at the bottom of the barrel at 30th, with the addition of WR’s Devin Smith and Brandon Marshall. But after the punch the Jets took at QB, can Ryan Fitzpatrick do it for the Jets?

Miami Dolphins-The Dolphins have been on the cusp for the past few years but still have not made that jump yet but have an opportunity to do so with the team they put together this season. They have given Ryan Tannehill more targets with vets Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings.  They have improved their run defense with and now have one of the scariest defensive lines with Suh, Wake and Vernon.

AFC North

Cleveland Browns- The Browns are looking forward to making progress, following their rough 2014 season and could do so but have to figure it out in the tough AFC North division. The Browns will now rely on Isaiah Crowell,a young bruiser to help shoulder the load following the departure of Terrence West. A league’s worst 12 passing TD’s is a major cause for concern but can improved with receivers Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe in the West Coast system that QB Josh McCown is familiar with and had his best season in Chicago under the system. The Browns running defense has to find away to help out after giving up 141 ypg.

Baltimore Ravens- The Ravens expect to remain the same ravens playing smash mouth football, but a few questions arise. How does rookie WR Breshad Perriman replace Torrey Smith? Does the contract make Will Hill return to the potential shown last season? And how much of the blow is that OC Gary Kubiak is gone?

Pittsburg Steelers- As you see with the Ravens, you will see with the Steelers you will get the same team year in and year out. With Bryant and Bell out to suspension will have to figure out how to help out Big Ben and Antonio Bryant on the offensive end. Health is always a major concern when looking at Pittsburg; will injuries tamper their potential success? And will we get a different defense with the absence of legendary DC Dick Lebeau, what does Keith Butler do?

Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals are reminiscent of the early 2000 Philadelphia Eagles teams, good regular season teams that cannot translate their success to the postseason. Their defense is solid on all levels and hope for the leadership of players like A.J. Hawk can help lead them further in the postseason this year. This year will also determine a lot whether Andy Dalton deserves his contract and if Marvin Lewis is the right fit in Cincy.

AFC South

Tennessee Titans- The Marcus Mariota era has begun and will he will be looking toward veterans Hugh Douglas and Kendall Wright to help support the rookie. The Titans are certainly in the rebuilding stages are a year or two away from the team they want to be. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo will be the leaders on the defensive end for a team that allowed up 27 points a game.

Houston Texans- The defensive side of the ball for the Texans is one of the best in the league, with a front 7 that features Clowney, Watt, Cushing and Wilfork. The firepower on defense is prevelant but their offensive output is not. The Texans have their playmaker Arian Foster’s health in question and the loss of Andre Johnson leaves the pressure on Alfred Blue and DeAndre Hopkins to shoulder the offensive load. Brian Hoyer has a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove as the Texans look to make progression this season.

Indianapolis Colts- The addition of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson to support the league’s best budding talent in Andrew Luck makes Indy’s offense even more explosive. The Colts were in the middle of the pack with yards allowed last season (11th), but will use the pass rushing of Trent Cole to bolster the core upfront that can improve into a Super Bowl contender.

Jacksonville Jaguars- This could be a big year for the Jags prized possession Blake Bortles as he gains more options with Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, and if Marquise Lee and Julian Thomas can remain healthy could be key for the QB’s step to the next level. Expectation should not be high for Jacksonville as they figuring out their direction as a young roster.

AFC West

Denver Broncos- The Broncos remain the same team despite the loss of possession heavy WR Wes Welker. Despite the loss the Broncos are still a juggernaut offensively and Defense full of talent. How will the switch of the Erhardt-Perkins system to West Coast system affect the team? Should be interesting and I am also excited to see the progression of CJ Anderson with the exit of Monte Ball.

Kansas City Chiefs- The Chiefs have seen their revival since the arrival of HC Andy Reid but have been the little brother to the Broncos since the arrival of Peyton Manning. The Chiefs often fail to make the big play or attack through the air. Former Andy Reid recruit Jeremy Macklin comes in to help the Chiefs make big plays.

San Diego Chargers- I expect for the Chargers to remain the same solid team with Phillip Rivers as the foreman,. The Chargers have given Rivers some targets to help them spread the field out more with additions of Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones. Melvin Gordon will also help the rushing attack alongside Branden Oliver. The abudance of DB’s will help lead the Chargers into the postseason.

Oakland Raiders- I look for the Raiders to make their next step as a rebuilding roster, they have a mixture of good young talent and veterans. The veteran defense lead by Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson will support the rising QB in David Carr. Carr will expand on his rookie season as he now has two big targets with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Oakland’s real crutch will come from how their running backs can support both the passing game and defense with solid run attempts. If all holds up the Raiders could make some noise this season.

Carpe Diem: Free Agency Winners

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By Stefan Anderson

The NFL Free Agency period has begun and many teams were put in unfortunate situations and some teams were in better positions also. With that we have seen many big names hit the free agent pool unexpectedly and some that were bound for their big pay day. Teams were who watched the Seattle Seahawks hoist up the Vince Lombardi trophy this winter were all dreaming of having their team witness the same nostalgia , following up with the champagne and confetti showers.

Although the Seahawks built their team through the conventional way of drafting the majority of their team, they also had to fill in the necessary spots with veteran free agents and players that could fit their schemes well. So far throughout the offseason, these few NFL teams have made their steps in route of righting the ship or tightening the loose on ends of their franchise by making the blockbuster and under the radar moves for this upcoming season.

  •  New England Patriots: After suffering the defeat their arch nemesis Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos during this year AFC Championship, the Pats are on their reign for dominance once again. The Pats went out and signed WR Brandon Lafell to give Tom Brady another target, while resigning one of his favorite targets Julian Edelman. The Patriots also boosted their defense by acquiring defensive backs Brandon Browner (formerly of the Seahawks) and former arch rival Darrell “Revis Island” Revis to withhold a secondary that just lost their star corner Aqib Talib.  The two aggressive corners in Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme will be a great one to watch as they try to take the Broncos from their AFC throne.
  • Denver Broncos: Still tasting the bitter taste of their Super Bowl defeat , for use of better words, the Broncos were very active this offseason adding talent to their already talented roster. After releasing their future hall of famer, Champ Bailey, GM John Elway went forward to sign defensive backs Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward to help the team’s secondary. Also on defensive they went to sign the recently cut pro-bowler Demarcus Ware to pass rush alongside Von Miller, scary site right? The Broncos continued their efforts after stacking up their defense by adding WR Emmanuel Sanders to replace Eric Decker who recently signed with the New York Jets. Still feeling the hangover of Super Bowl 48, Denver looks to return the same place and bring a championship this year instead.
  • New York Giants: The Giants looks to have a promising season against their competition and return the NFC playoffs. After a horrendous season where the fell from their prominence shown in years before, the Giants look to rebound after their free agent additions. They started on the Defensive by signing Dominque Rogers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond to help their already good pass defense that ranked 10th last season. Also on the offensive side by bringing in running back Rashad Jennings and re-signing Peyton Hillis to help one the league’s worst rushing attacks last year.
  • Oakland Raiders: Yes, I know I said the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have been one of the most active teams this offseason, under the radar but working diligently. Adding veterans with Super Bowl pedigree like Lamar Woodley and Justin Tuck to add to the defensive side of the football, the Raiders look to compete in the tough AFC West division. Also signing OT Austin Howard and resigning Khalif Barnes and also adding WR James Jones. Oakland is looking to look to acquire a QB that holster their offense this season, names like Michael Vick, Matt Schaub and Mark Sanchez are on the Raiders target list.

Carpe Diem is to urge someone to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future and these few teams have done so by becoming the NFL’s biggest winners during Free Agency.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

By Stefan Anderson

When Marshawn Lynch would not speak during this year’s media day, it made him like unprofessional and immature to the masses . But Lynch was certain in actions and had no second guessing as the Seahawks lived up to “Beast Mode” words in Super Bowl 48. The Seahawks dismantled the Broncos 43-8 in Sunday’s matchup.

Seattle’s as a whole came out from the start of the game and proved that they deserved to win the big game. Opening the game with a safety caused on a botched snap to repeatedly capitalizing on Denver errors. The Seahawks did what they did all season causing steady havoc on opposing teams offenses. After forcing nearly 40 turnovers this season, and with a 20 plus turnover to giveaway ratio this season, The Legion of Boom continued to their efforts. Initiating the record breaking Denver offense to have 4 turnovers in Sunday’s game. Forcing two fumbles and 2 Peyton Manning interceptions, including one taken the other way by Super Bowl MVP, Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks also reiterated the cliche that “Defense Wins Championships”.

On the offensive side of the ball, Russell Wilson led his offensive team on the offensive of the ball where he won the showdown that no one believed he could win against Peyton Manning. Wilson ended the game 18 for 25, 206 yards and passer rating of 123 for the big game. Russell Wilson did a great job of spreading the wealth by passes completed to 8 different targets. With the win, Wilson joins Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner as quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl in their second year in the NFL. The victory of the Broncos also propelled his coach Pete Carroll too. Carroll joined an exclusive club of coaches, being 1 of 3 coaches to ever win a Super Bowl and National Championship.

No one had Denver coming out looking like the young, inexperienced club that they had the Seahawks quoted as. Denver never at one point throughout the game showed any heart or tenacity toward playing in a championship game. This is another damper in Peyton Manning legendary career that will cemented as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and joining his rival Tom Brady, as one the greatest quarterbacks that made it to the big game lose twice and completing a fantastic season in horrible fashion. As good as the Broncos looked as the better team on paper with their record breaking season, the Seahawks showed and proved throughout the season they were the best team with their 6-2 record on the road and 7-1 record at home. Believing in Marshawn Lynch quote “I’m bout that action boss”.

Starting Point Super Bowl Picks

ImageCourtesy of Craig Kanalley 

With the big game coming up on Sunday, we have a great game with the NFC’s Champ , The Seattle Sehawks and the AFC’s Champ, The Denver Broncos. Us here at The Starting Point, have our predictions on the big game and who could win it all.

Greg Hudson – Broncos 20, Seahawks 16

 I think the Broncos defense stands a solid chance against Marshawn Lynch after shutting out Legarrette Blount and the Patriots’ running game in the AFC Championship game. My X-Factor is the weather. There’s been a lot of talk about Richard Sherman’s Legion of Boom against Peyton Manning’s all-star receiving core, but how much of an impact that battle has will depend on whether either team will be able to establish a passing game in the expected sub-freezing temperatures in the Meadowlands. A run-dominated game would be a very interesting showdown indeed.

Stefan Anderson – Broncos 28, Seahawks 20
The Broncos Rush Defense has ranked 8th in the NFL all season and only allowed 2 100-yd rushers all season. Although I believe that “Beast Mode” will earn his yards but the Broncos front 7 will contain him enough to force Russell Wilson to make plays versus Champ Bailey and that Broncos secondary. My X-Factor will be the Broncos Defense as well as Percy Harvin, who could give some that can cause damage to that Broncos secondary and change the outcome. With the temperature being the mid 20’s to 30’s for the Sunday evening matchup, I don’t see it being the “Snow Bowl”, ultimately it will be a classic grudge match between the two best teams and should be one of the best super bowls we have seen in years.
Maceo Lester – Denver 31, Seattle 27

It’s Peyton’s year, he’s been focused and determined all year he knows his legacy is on the line and he wants to go down as one of the greats. Nothing can stop him right now, he’s the x-factor he will have control of the game.
Kelsey Miller -Seattle 20 , Broncos 17
I choose Seattle because the defense is primarily the heart and soul of that team. gonna be tough to score on young healthy talent, and I feel the game will come down a field goal. Haushka has a good leg. Peyton’s gotta use Moreno because Seattle will heavily play the passing game and play option. My X Factor is Marshawn lynch. Broncos are without Von Miller so there’s a small gap in the pocket front line of the defense. Broncos secondary, Bailey and Rodgers-Cromartie will be playing the pass heavily so they have to run the ball.