SB 50 Takeaways

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By Stefan Anderson

Usually, I am able predict who I think can win the Super Bowl each year but this year I had tough decision to make between The Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. After many days of deliberating. I began comparing the teams’ two contrasting styles. I began to believe the Broncos had the edge with defensive front 7 and a better offensive unit, but something would not allow me to bet against Cam Newton after his MVP performance this season.

Ultimately a scrappy 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win, crowned the Broncos as the champs. While the match up was not as enticing as some expected, we were able to witness somethings that were not foreseen.

Peyton’s Final Game: Winning the Super Bowl only helped cement Peyton Manning’s HOF resume and solidified that he is a top five quarterback of all time. Previously, I stated that Manning was fighting the inevitable ending of the career and could not return to the glorious player he once was. But Manning returned after missing seven games due to injury and returned in a new role as a game manager. Prior to his injury, Manning was responsible for 17 interceptions, but since has only thrown interception and completing over 50% of his passes in route to his 2nd super bowl win. Manning reached title as possibly the best game manager we’ve ever seen heading to potentially his last game.

MVP: Despite the great season Newton had his spectacular run was halted when faced with the league’s top defense. But it goes to show how good he really was this season, with 45 total touchdowns without a true deep threat and a 1,000 yard rusher, they still managed to have a 15-1 record with a trip to the Super Bowl. But without that help last night, Newton showed how great that he has played and the helped need to win.

Defense Wins Championships: The cliché statement proved to prevalent as the top ranked defense conquered the top ranked offense. Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and the front seven of the Broncos clogged every gap and rushed Cam Newton all night long. Newton has hit 13 times, forced to a horrific 16.9 QBR on 18-44 passing night.

Could either team return to the big dance? Carolina has a chance to return granted that they will be motivated after having that great season, will reach where they need to if they can find another target for Cam Newton as Kelvin Benjamin returns. Denver whether Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning is under the center, can return but will have to defeat a furious Tom Brady and Co.

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Quarterback Carousel

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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 :NFC

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By Stefan Anderson

Let’s continue our preview our 2015-2016 season preview with looking at the NFC conference.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals- The Cardinals look to continue after their 11-5 season in 2014-15. Arizona came out striking during the first half of the season but was unable to sustain that momentum when Carson Palmer fell to injury. The Cards roster was depleted, but still remained competitive but didn’t have enough to win the NFC. Coming into this season , Arizona addressed a major problem by signing RB Chris Johnson to help open up their rushing game which suffered a league’s worst 3.3 ypc. Johnson redemption alongside Andre Ellington could help out the Cards. Although they lost Antonio Cromartie, they still have two of the best young DB’s in Patterson and Mathieu.

St. Louis Rams- St. Louis has rebuilt through the draft over the past few seasons, acquiring talent after talent, and now have one of the emerging rosters in the NFL. The Rams have found some success in the run and game their great defensive line that was led by Robert Quinn. But the Rams have not been able to air out the ball completing just over 60 percent of their passes, with Nick Foles in the starting role, the former Philly starter has a lot to prove after failing to reach the same success after his 1st successful season with the Eagles.

San Francisco 49ers- The 49ers have witnessed a roster overhaul after the leaders like Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, Michael Crabtree and HC Jim Harbaugh have left. Harbaugh was a part of the re energizing the franchise a few seasons and now the 49ers are getting ready to be under the leadership of Collin Kapernick. I expect the Niners to become a team that passes more after Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin get to reunite with speedy backs Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush.

Seattle Seahawks- The Seahawks return from that nightmare of Super Bowl 49, and look to bounce back to the greatness they have shown in the past two seasons. Seattle returns with a brand new weapon in Jimmy Graham to help solve their red zone issues and boost their 22 passing TD’s to a higher number. The top defensive unit has lost their coordinator and could lose their SS Kam Chancellor if contract issues are not settled, which will damage the “Legion of Boom”. The Seahawks can return to the same form but would prefer to have Chancellor alongside Sherman, Thomas and newly added Cary Williams.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: After the injury to Kevin White and trading Brandon Marshal, Chicago will now revert an offensive that allows for shorter passes and specializes in taking what the defense gives them. The new system implemented by Coach Fox and his staff will help to reduce Jay Cutler’s 19 interceptions thrown. As well Coach Fox  will help to improve the leagues 31st ranked defense in his 3-4 scheme.

Detroit Lions: Detroit will posses the same high quality offense as shown over the past few seasons with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and QB Matthew Stafford, but their offense will need some support from their running backs after finishing 30th in the league. Losing Suh will will be tough bu the Lions have found a solid replacement in Haloti Ngata to keep  their top tier rushing attack alive.

Minnesota Vikings: The return of Adrian Peterson and other additions will help boost Teddy Bridgewater into a prominent QB. On the defensive side the DB core of Newman , Exum Jr, Smith and Rhodes will play a huge part if t the Vikes look to have success this season.

Green Bay Packers: The loss of Jordy Nelson will be detrimental to Green Bay this season, but if there is one QB I trust to figure out a way it would be Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers still has two of his favorite targets Adams and Cobb, will be reuniting with former WR James Jones. The Packers front 7 contains talent with Peppers, Raji and Matthews spearheading it, but will have to contain the run if they want to make an impact after allowing over 4 ypc to opposing teams..

 NFC South

Atlanta Falcons- Last season, Atlanta struggled tremendously on the defensive side of the ball, allowing the most rushing TD’s and passing yards will not help your team no matter how good your offense is. The answer to solving that problem, get the Defensive Coordinator of the top ranked Seahawks as your head coach. Dan Quinn will find a way to revitalize Atlanta’s defense. They have switched their offense to west coast system and on defense moved to a 4-3. Atlanta’s air assault will keep them alive and if the defense plays on the same accord they can fight for playoff position.

Carolina Panthers- The Panthers are looking forward to having a healthy Johnathan Stewart , after the RB has failed to play a full season for over four years. Carolina will need Stewart’s effort to help score more than 10 TD’s especially after suffering the loss to top wide out Kelvin Benjamin.  The defense will continue to play solid under the leadership of Luke Kuechly and veterans Roman Harper and Charles Tillman. It would interesting to see Carolina win the division three years in a row.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs will now have their franchise QB in Jameis Winston, two good wide outs in Evans and Jackson but will look to the company of RB’s to help lead them. Tampa Bay was only able to put up 85 ypg on the ground and Doug Martin and co. will have to step up their efforts in order to improve from last season. Alterraun Verner , Gerald McCoy and the rest of the Bucs defense will have a better chance of succeeding with a better offensive unit and look to expand on their 25 turnovers caused last season.

New Orleans Saints-The Saints have seen some pieces go but look to bounce back this season after revamping some positions. The Saints were able to add Brandon Browner and Jarius Bryd to their secondary to help defend after giving up 250 ypg in the air. Drew Brees will now have Mark Ingram as his feature back and a great backup in CJ Spiller to help replace what Darren Sproles once brought. Look for Brandin Cooks to see more action after the loss of Jimmy Graham and the Saints could return to the dynamic they were seasons ago.

NFC East

New York Giants- The Giants have a gem in Odell Beckham Jr, but the return of Victor Cruz will essential for the G-Men. Protecting Eli Manning from being sacked will be a priority, Manning was dropped nearly 30 times last season. The Giants will have to secure their secondary which has been brittle over the past few but hopes that Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara can stay on the field for New York.

Dallas Cowboys- The Cowboys return to seek more and reach the Super Bowl after falling short last season. The Cowboys have lost rushing leader Demarco Murray and now have a carousel of backs with Darren McFadden and Joesph Randle and newcomer will have to replace the effort Murray brought last season. On the defense end, Dallas has lost one of its primary defensive backs in Orlando Scandrick, but the return of Sean Lee and addition of Greg Hardy will keep the Cowboys amongst the elite.

Washington Redskins- Washington will now operate under Kirk Cousins and will not change the dynamic of the offensive but gives the Redskins a better option at QB. The Redskins hope to improve and open up the run game with Alfred Morris. The Redskins have a solid defense but will have guard receivers better but the addition of Deshon Goldson should help to patch up the problems in the secondary.

Philadelphia Eagles- Chip Kelly and Co. have made numerous move to create the team that can live up to the expectations. Philly has a good amount of RB’s and QB Sam Bradford who is under contract season and wants to make a statement after being down from injuries. The only concern for the Eagles would be their depth at WR. The Eagles however brought in a lot of bodies in that defensive back to help to move up from the bottom of the league in passing defense. The additions of Walter Thurmond,Malcolm Jenkins and Byron Maxwell will pivotal  for the Eagles success.

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.

Breaking Barriers

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By Jazmine August

It seems like the idea of women in sports has been the buzz around the business over the last few weeks. Starting with San Antonio Spurs assistant coach, Becky Hammon, serving as the team’s NBA Summer League  head coach, a first in men’s professional sports history. But Hammon didn’t stop there, she led the team to a championship during the tournament.

Women have been involved in sports for decades, from the league offices to reporting from the sidelines but we are now seeing women break into the coveted society of coaching men’s professional sports.  Just two weeks after Becky Hammon broke headlines, the Arizona Cardinals named Dr. Jen Welter to their coaching staff throughout training camp and the pre-season working with inside linebackers. In a recent interview Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said, “Coaching is nothing more than teaching” and believes that,  “One thing I have learned from players is, ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, man, I’ll listen.’ I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her”

And these women are more than qualified. Becky Hammon played 16 years in the NBA, was named WNBA All-Star six times, two-time  All NBA first team and two-time Olympian with the Russian national team. Dr. Jen Welter has not only played 14 seasons with the Women’s Football Alliance, but she holds a masters in sports psychology and a doctorate in psychology all while winning two gold medals playing for Team USA in the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in 2010 and 2013.

But before there was a Becky Hammon and a Dr. Jen Welter, there was Stephanie Ready, the first female assistant coach of a men’s professional team. She was named assistant coach of the NBA D-League now defunct team the Greenville Groove and she help lead them to a D-League Championship in the 2001-2002 season. Not only is Ready a woman which is a minority in the world of professional sports but she is a black woman. In an interview with on NBA.com, Ready states that “there were lots of sleepless nights up late watching video, writing scouting reports and doing game prep” but she added that “I did everything the right way and worked my tail off.”

Stephanie Ready is now gearing up for her 12th season as the Charlotte Hornets sideline reporter. She has also covered the NBA and WNBA playoffs and the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament for ESPN. Ready says that “being a double-minority if you will because I’m African-American and a woman in the sports industry, you have to really be conscientious of how you get to where you are and (again) who came before you”

Women like Stephanie Ready, Becky Hammon and Dr. Jen Selter who are blazing the path for young women with a deep affinity for sports inspire me to even believe that I can make my mark in this male dominated world. I know who’s shoulder’s I stand on.

Lone Star

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By Stefan Anderson

Holdouts from training camps and franchise tags have been prevalent in the National Football League ever since it was introduced. But the disputes between the franchises and their players that “deserve” their contracts never go on a positive note.
“As much as I love football…on my beautiful babies… I apologize #cowboynation but I will not be there if no deal #fact”, Dez Bryant stated from his twitter handle @DezBryant on Monday.

The latest case happens to star the Dallas Cowboys and their all-pro wideout Dez Bryant. Which seems to be absurd, noting how Jerry Jones spends on his franchise. But the conversation begins now that Bryant has stated he will not report to training camp if a deal is not completed.

The Cowboys are looking to use their franchise tag option which withholds Bryant from becoming a Free Agent and pays the wide receiver over 12 million dollars. But it will cost Dallas even more if they fail to meet the need of their most important player.

Dez Bryant has serious market value and would make a splash if he jumped into the Free Agency pool, I mean which team wouldn’t want arguably the best WR on their roster? Not many.  With concurrent injuries of Tony Romo and the departure of their once premier back in Demarco Murray, who else would propel the Dallas offense?

Knowing how much Jones spends on his amazing sporting complex and the 11 million dollar gamble taken on Greg Hardy, who is playing is still in limbo with his current suspension. It would only make sense of the Cowboys to figure a way to pay their premier playmaker.

Now witnessing, Cincinnati promising A.J. Green a contract following the end of his rookie contract and the same with Denver doing the best to secure their main target in Demaryius Thomas, on the fence but has still offered 12 million a year.

It is imperative that Dallas finds a way to recapture its star or its going to be some long seasons in Dallas, as he could throw up the “X” elsewhere.

Its Finally Over.. What Now ?

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By Stefan Anderson

Nearly two weeks after the newest talent of the NFL was added to their respective rosters, we still have to discuss Deflategate. But now that the verdict has been set, we can now FINALLY put that D-word, to rest.

The faculty of the New England Patriots will have to now live with their decision they made and face the punishments handed down by the NFL. As the NFL and NFLPA made their verdict to punish the Super Bowl Champs with a list of penalties that include:

  • Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games
  • The team was fined $1 million
  • Have to forfeit their 2016 first-round draft pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017
  • Patriots employees who tampered with the air pressure, John Jastremski and James McNally were suspended indefinitely.

With the Pats already known for Spygate, and their inability to cooperate with the Ted Wells investigation, the NFL and its brass wasted no time and made sure they could hit New England where it hurt.

The loss of Tom Brady could be significant because we have never seen Jimmy Garoppolo, but the Patriots used their 2nd rounder just two years ago to acquire the Eastern Illinois product. New England and the coaching mastermind of Bill Belichick have shown that can a hard rock into a gem , in 2008 they had backup and Buffalo Bills frontrunner Matt Cassell lead NE to a 11-5 season during Tom Brady’s absence.

The question remains now is the “Golden Boy” Tom Brady’s legacy in jeopardy after the suspension and investigation. And the answer is NO, Brady is one of (if not) the best quarterbacks we have seen this decade, and there is no concrete evidence that proves he actually tampered with the footballs after his noncompliance with the Wells investigation.

Brady’s suspension will be dropped down to less than 4 games after he makes his appeal to the NFL. When the Michigan alum, returns it shall scary for all opposing as he will play with a chip on his shoulder that everyone portrays him as a cheater. If the suspension time does not get lessened then his return versus, the showdown with the Colts in Indianapolis in Week 6 will be one for the ages.