Quarterback Carousel

carousel

By Stefan Anderson

Just over a ¼ way through the 2015-16 NFL Season and the quarterback play has been tremendous thus far. With Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady at the forefront for the MVP award, the league has been on notice for the QB.

Show and Prove

But there are two quarterbacks who are making their distinction known this season after speculations have placed them in the “good but not good enough” category. Andy Dalton of Cincinnati Bengals and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, not only lead two of the six remaining undefeated teams but have done so in fashionable manner.

Dalton, coming into his fifth season, where quarterbacks normally sink or float, is showing that he is poised to take the Bengals to the next level. Throughout his five games this season, Dalton leads the NFL in passing yards with 1,518 and 3rd in QB rating only behind Rodgers and Brady.  Trailing by 10 going into the final period, Dalton put together his toughest performance Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks, putting Cincy on his shoulders as they forced OT and eventually won their 5th game of the season.

Ryan, who is second in the passing yards with 1,456 has had his struggles with turning the ball over but has been able to help keep the Falcons alive when needed. Atlanta has forced comeback wins against NFC East foes Washington, Philadelphia and New York.  Despite the help of rookie running back Davonta Freeman and superstar wide out Julio Jones, Ryan is still in the driver seat leading his team to victories.

Both sitting at 5-0, Ryan and Dalton are showing that they could make the change this season. But to withstand the pressure of being elite is tough, but they are certainly taking the proper steps.

Insurance Policy

Having a valuable backup quarterback is a commodity in NFL and many teams take that guy with the clipboard for granted until their star QB is down. Matthew Hasselback and Ryan Fitzpatrick have shown that patience is a virtue and despite the obstacles it may come with to always be prepared for the opportunity.

Hasselback, once lead Seattle to the Super Bowl in 2005 and has yet to see a start since 2012. With Andrew Luck sitting for the Colts, Hasselback came in and helped Indy reach two wins when it seemed as if their season was hanging on a thread. Hasselback’s 495 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions show the importance of being ready.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is known as a solid quarterback but once who is also turnover prone, but in his tenure with the Jets has shown to a good fit. With the injury to Geno Smith and the reconnection of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, Fitzpatrick has found his resurgence and has New York sitting at 3-1.  Fitzpatrick has the opportunity to compete this season with the Jets top ranked defense and weapons on the offensive end , the Harvard alum could taste the postseason for the first time in his 11 year career.

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.

You vs Him

By Stefan Anderson

As the summer begins to wind down and the fall is set to begin shortly, in comes a lot of excitement. Especially with the upcoming NFL season beginning on September 7th.

Hardcore fans, “Hardcore” in my best Steve Ballmer fans are ready to see their favorite teams line, casual fans are happy to see their sport return for wings and celebration and fantasy lovers are doing their pre-drafts in preparation for the upcoming fantasy draft season.

But fans are not the only one making the adjustments for the opening weekend, teams are also. With the half of the preseason played for most team, many are still having their position battles weekly through practice and the live action of the games. Questions are being answered about personnel and position are being filled but there a few teams that are still asking a major question; Who is our starting QB ?

The Jets, Browns and Vikings are some teams will that are searching for that answer for that question for the following weeks.

 jets

New York Jets:  Drafting Geno Smith and losing Mark Sanchez to injury it appeared that the franchise would be heading in a forward direction with Smith at the helm. But during his rookie season, Smith often struggled as most rookies do with recognizing the defense and all with a lack of a receiving core to catch passes that project failed.

Gang Green, who is speculated to be under its last year(s) with the charismatic Rex Ryan, looks to put together a contending team bringing some offense weapons that include Michael Vick, who was brought in to give Geno Smith the blueprint to run  Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, after Vick flourished in the past years. With one quarterback trying to write the last pages in his book and another looking to make his first page, Smith and Vick are in a quarterback duel to see who will win New York’s starting position.

Throughout the preseason, Smith has seen more action as the starter with the first offense and has more stats but both him and Vick have looked equally successful in their limited time.

Who Starts Week 1: Vick will be the starter based on experience, but look of Geno to earn back his starting spot mid-season because of Vick inability to stay healthy.

Johnny Manziel

Cleveland Browns: A franchise that quarterback situation is a prime example of what direction they are heading. Cleveland has been in a tough division, AFC North, but the brass of the team has not made the right steps for their franchise to receive the success they need. Coach after coach, losing season after losing and not to mention quarterback after quarterback, Cleveland continues to search for their answers.

The Browns under Mike Pettine now look to go forward with their first round draft choice Johnny Manziel and last year starter Brian Hoyer. During the preseason both QB’s look inconsistent with their check downs and reads with the first offense. Hoyer who has only seen 18 starts in five season including the three starts with the Browns last season, doesn’t have much more experience than Manziel and one of the reasons this quarterback competition will continue until the end of preseason.

Who Starts Week 1: Hoyer wins the job based on his reps with first team, Cleveland who hold some of the roughest fans will dethrone Hoyer out of the job and Manziel will be praised whether he wins or ultimately loses as they do often in Cleveland.

minnesota

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are amongst new stadium relocating from their dome, and now will face the exterior facts that reside in Minneapolis. Adrian Peterson continues to be a reliable source of offense but cannot continue to be the only offense provided for the Vikings this season. Defense begin to lock in more and more on Peterson to shut down their run offense and with the inconsistent quarterback play it makes it easier for defenses.

The Vikings seen over three quarterbacks behind the center last season, and attempt to fix that dilemma.  With newest draftee Teddy Bridgewater and former starter Christian Ponder sparring each other for the starting position in Minnesota.

Who Starts Week 1: Bridgewater becomes the starters and withholds the job based on the mobility and the added dimension he can bring possibly running an  read option offense and bring a sense of youth to the outdated offense in Minnesota.

The quarterback controversies are just some of the story lines to look forward to for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. These teams are in search of postseason luck and the ability to contend once again.  Should be interesting to see how everything pans out.