NFL week 2

The NFL is underway and the teams that faltered in week one tried to avoid an 0-2 start. Teams that earned a first week victory attempted to carry over that momentum and remain among the undefeated.

Statistically, starting 2-0 has proven to be an important piece in making the playoffs. Since 1990, 63 percent of teams that were undefeated after the second week have advanced to the postseason.

Here’s how the week unfolded.

Jets        10

Patriots 13

A slow start by Tom Brady and plenty of dropped passes by the Patriots’ young receivers made this one closer than it should have been.

Panthers 23

Bills        24

Rookie EJ Manuel got his first win as a pro. Do the fans in Buffalo finally have a reason to cheer?

Browns    6

Ravens 14

Although the defending Super Bowl champs walked away with a win, they failed to impress and showed that they are not the team from a year ago.

Vikings  30

Bears   31

A game winning drive from Jay Cutler gave the Bears the win and put their division rival in a 0-2 hole to start the season.

Cowboys 16

Chiefs     17

A win by the Chiefs gave them a 2-0 start. They have already matched their win total from 2012.

Redskins 20

Packers  38

Second year QB Robert Griffin III continued to struggle as Aaron Rodgers had a career high 480 yards passing.

Titans    24

Texans 30

The Super Bowl contender Texans needed overtime for the win. Their slow start gave the impression that the AFC south may be more wide open than previously thought.

Dolphins 24

Colts        20

An official Mike Wallace sighting in the Dolphins offense helped lead the Dolphins to their second straight win to start the year.

Chargers  33

Eagles       30

A career-high passing day from Michael Vick wasn’t enough to overcome three TDs from Eddie Royal.

Rams        24

Falcons    31

A 68 yard interception return by former Giants star Osi Umenyiora stretched the score to 21-0 for the Falcons, a lead that was too much for the Rams to overcome.

Lions         21

Cardinals 25

The new Bruce Arians regime was able to secure their first win of the year behind a 1 yard TD run by Rashad Mendenhall with under two minutes left to play.

Saints         16

Buccaneers 14

A last minute field goal defeated the Bucs for the second straight week after Drew Brees and company put together a 54 yard drive to get in scoring position.

Broncos    41

Giants        23

Older brother Peyton bested Eli Manning for the third time in as many tries as the Giants fell to an 0-2 start.

49ers           3

Seahawks 29

In the first matchup between the NFC West rivals, the Seahawks showed why many consider them the best team in football.

Jaguars     9

Raiders   19

In the battle to decide the worst team in the NFL, the Jaguars made in abundantly clear they are in a category all their own.

Steelers  10

Bengals  20

Big Ben and the Steelers completely lacked effectiveness offensively. This win by the Bengals could be the official beginning of a new king of the AFC North.

After all was said and done week two, 75 percent of the league’s teams have at least one loss. Of the eight teams that are 2-0, four did not make the playoffs last year.

True turn arounds, or just flukes? Time will tell.

Dolphins Get Morehead in a Blowout

Following back-to-back road losses to FCS scholarship programs, the Jacksonville Dolphins returned home to the friendly-confines of D.B. Milne Field and torched the Morehead State Eagles on a blistering afternoon, 69-19.
The Dolphins (1-2, 1-0) offensive outburst was led by running back Orlando Thomas, redshirt sophomore, who had a career day.
Thomas ran for 176 yards and two scores on just 10 carries. Until Saturday, Thomas had just 14 carries for 57 yards in his Dolphin career.
Behind the arm of Kade Bell and the legs of Thomas, the JU offense erupted for 719 total yards of offense and scored a home-record 69 points. Thomas’ first blow to the Eagles was an 84-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that began to break the game open.
Up 31-16 at the half, the JU defense forced an immediate three-and-out to start the third quarter and Adrian Riley handled the rest. Riley took the punt 75 yards in for the score to continue the relentless Dolphin attack.
Bell then later connected with Riley on a nine yard touchdown pass, further extending their commanding lead. Bell finished the day 18-34 for 276 yards and three touchdown passes.
With the win safely put away, Dolphins coach Kerwin Bell turned to sophomore QB Stephen Hughes to seal the game in the fourth. Hughes not only did just that, but he was successful in doing so. The backup QB passed for 78 yards and a TD while completing eight of 10 passes.
Up next, the Dolphins remain home to take on Warner University (Fla.). The Royals come into the game 0-3 following a 61-0 pounding by the Mercer Bears.
As long as the Dolphins do not overlook the Royals, Warner should provide a decent tune up for what proves to be a much harder test the following week when the Dolphins host Butler. The game is slated to begin at 1 p.m. at Milne Field.

Week 3 NFL roundup

Week three is the point where NFL teams should be separating themselves into classes. The elite usually go to 3-0, the middle of the road teams will have at least one win, and the bottom feeders end up winless.

Is this year any different? Take a look at these scores and see how it is shaking out.

Chiefs     26

Eagles     16

Andy Reid seems to be onto something as the Chiefs have already surpassed last years win total.

Texans     9

Ravens    30

In all three of Houston’s games they have looked shaky, Sunday the Ravens took advantage of that and walked away victorious.

Browns    31

Vikings      27

The Trent Richardson trade got all the buzz for the week in Cleveland, but this week they’ll be talking about win number one.

Giants        0

Panthers   38

An 0-3 Tom Coughlin team is almost unheard of. Has the head coach lost this team and his touch?

Packers    30

Bengals     34

A wild game filled with turnovers falls in Cincinnati’s favor. At 3-0 are the Bengals the real deal?

Rams            7

Cowboys   31

Cowboys get this one in blowout fashion as Romo looked like a 100-million dollar QB.

Lions            27

Reedskins   20

RGIII continues to struggle as the Lions get their first win ever in D.C.

Bucs           3

Patriots   23

New England is starting to look like New England again as Brady has found a rhythm with young receivers.

Cardinals    7

Saints          31

Cardinals may have to eventually accept that Carson Palmer has seen better days.

Chargers    17

Titans          20

Lockers throws a TD at the end to win this one, Titans may be for real.

Falcons      23

Dolphins    27

Dolphins, at 3-0, are the biggest surprise early on in the league.

Bills    20

Jets      27

The battle of rookie QB’s goes Geno’s way as Manuel fails to lead a game winning drive.

Colts    27

49ers    7

Even though the Colts are good, this has to be the upset of the week because of how one-sided it was.

Jaguars        17

Seahawks   45

Everyone saw this coming, what was shocking is the depth that Seattle showed their roster has.

Bears       40

Steelers   23

The Steelers looked as bad as any team in the league in this one, Tomlin needs to right the ship.

Raiders     21

Broncos    37

Peyton Manning is completely healed form his neck surgery and teams need to respect that he is back.

If history holds true, we can expect the Giants, Steelers, Vikings, Jaguars, Redskins and Buccaneers to miss the playoffs and should see the Patriots, Dolphins, Chiefs, Broncos, Bears, Saints and Seahawks to cruise to the postseason. The middle ground teams are looking to get it under control and battle to fill the remaining spots.

Can one of the winless teams get it together and make a push? Will one of the undefeated teams stumble and come up short? It’s only week three let’s hope the season isn’t that predictable.

Dolphins Survive at Campbell: Football Improves to 3-4

Back under center for the first time in about a month, Dolphins QB Kade Bell returned with a vengeance throwing for four touchdowns on the way to a 52-45 Jacksonville victory over PFL foe Campbell.

The Fighting Camels of Campbell (1-5) came out firing, scoring easily on the Dolphins (3-4, 2-2) defense and looking nothing like a 1-5 team.

For the Camels, their defense would prove to be their kryptonite as JU matched every Campbell score with one of their own.

Bell connected with Andrew Robustelli twice and Yeovanti Williams once for touchdowns on the way to a 28-24 halftime lead for the Dolphins.

JU opened up the second half with 24 unanswered points including another touchdown pass from Bell, this one to D’Andre Randle, pushing the lead to 52-31.

As the fourth quarter began, the Dolphins nightmarish late-game defensive woes continued. The Camels roared back into the game behind running back Kurt Odom.

Odom hauled in a 30-yard touchdown on a trick play from the Campbell offense. He then broke another short pass for a 50-yard touchdown with just two minutes to play.

Within striking distance of tying the game late, Campbell lined up to attempt the onside kick trailing 52-45. On the kick, a Camels player touched the ball before it traveled the necessary 10-yards giving the Dolphins the ball back with a chance to seal the victory.

With a minute left on the clock, the Dolphins faced a crucial third-and-two. With the game on the line, Ulysses Bryant got the call and cut off a 15-yard run to seal the Camels fate and another Dolphins victory.

Bell was 17-of-33 on the day passing for 251 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Bell added another 34 yards on the ground for 285 total yards.

Bryant led the rushing attack, racking up 120 yards, none bigger than his 15-yard first down run late to seal the win.

Next up, the Dolphins return home to face the Davidson Wildcats (0-7, 0-4) for JU’s Homecoming game. The game is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. from D.B. Milne field.

JU Athletics Weekly Wrap-Up

Womens’ Golf vs UNF

Photo Courtesy of: JU Dolphins Athletics

On Sept. 3, the Jacksonville University women’s golf team played 18 holes against in-town rival the University of North Florida at the Tournament Player’s Championship Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

JU marked up a 3-3 tie against North Florida in the couples tournament and stroked up a 6-5 lead later in the singles.

Teeing off in the morning on the front nine of Dye’s Valley, UNF took a 2-1 lead with the alternate shot style. Wasting no time in getting started on the back nine of the course, the switch to best ball suited JU well, as the Dolphins responded by winning two of the three available points, according to judolphins.com.

Natalie Schmett etched the first point of the afternoon on the board with a 5-3 victory over Emelie Alpe. Schmett was three-under on the front nine and had little trouble securing the victory on the back. Off the tee at the same time, Morgan Matchett was locked into a more difficult battle with Kelly Aylwin, but the JU newcomer won the 13th, 14th, and 16th holes to turn a match that was all even through 12 into a 3-2 success.

Even still, UNF came back to tie the event with a 3-2 win of their own. With everything still up in the air, play would be suspended due to lightning strikes in the area.

The Dolphins are to play in two weeks, competing in the Minnesota Invitational.

Women’s Volleyball vs Charleston Southern

The Dolphin volleyball team improved to 4-0 last Thursday as they went up against Charleston Southern inside the Swisher Gym.

The first home game for the Dolphins tipped of at 7 p.m. with a packed crowd, including some of our other own student athletes.

“It was great seeing a lot of our student-athletes here supporting us in our first home match,” said Michelle Collier, head coach. “In the beginning of the match we said no one was going to outwork us on our home court and I think we played really hard and deserved the win.”

Playing hard was exactly what the Dolphins did, recording a .483 hitting percentage in only 3 sets to win the match.

Key plays that set the pace for much of the night belonged to Kylie Jacob, Emily Laskelle, and Gabriela Roman contributing five kills each. Taylor Nyquist also made an impact finishing with 10 kills.

The Dolphins look continue their good play throughout the weekend matching up against Mississippi Valley State and Florida Atlantic on Sept. 7.

Women’s Soccer vs UGA

Photo Courtesy of: JU Dolphins Athletics

JU women’s soccer team fell to the University of Georgia in a heated overtime battle this past Friday in Athens, Ga.

In 99 minutes the Dolphins had many problems but a point wasn’t one, until the Georgia Bulldogs kicked through the 0-0 tie with an overtime goal, ending the match 1-0.

Though the Bulldogs outshot JU 26-9 on the night, the Dolphins (2-2-0) didn’t go without their chances, according to judolphins.com. A cross from Adriana Rodrigues came in to Sarah Moghadas late in the first half for the best scoring opportunity of the match up to that point, but the shot sailed high and kept the match scoreless at the break.

The Dolphins, though scoreless, were not without spirit and drive as they continued to press harder towards a goal.

“I’m extremely proud of the fight and intensity we played with tonight,” said Brian Copham, head coach. “We matched up with a very good Georgia team and we responded extremely well to playing a team of this caliber. Despite the loss, there are a number of positives that we can take out of tonight. I hope we can take those things and continue to match tonight’s intensity on Sunday and in the weeks ahead.”

JU will try to pick things up as the team visits Georgia State Sept. 8, the last opponent of the weekend.

JU Football vs J’ville State

Photo Courtesy of: JU Dolphins

The Dolphins football team recorded it’s second loss of the season as Jacksonville State ran through JU 48-13 last Saturday at Burgess-Snow Field.

JU allowed their opponent to take a lead in the second quarter, according to judolphins.com. Jacksonville State’s Troymaine Pope scored two touchdowns giving the Gamecocks a 14-7 lead near the end of the first half.

JU kicked in 3 points by Dylan Lynch at half time leaving the score 14-10 but the Dolphins quickly unraveled as the Gamecocks outscored them 24-0 in the third quarter alone.

JSU was not done, that momentum carried on as the Gamecocks scored on their first few possession in the second half to build a 38-10 lead and take advantage of the game. Included in the 17-0 spurt was a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The Dolphins play Morehead State next Saturday at 1 p.m. at D.B. Milne Field.

Volleyball vs Mississippi Valley and FAU

A double header for the Dolphin volleyball team ended in double victories as they beat Mississippi Valley State and Florida Atlantic this past Saturday in the Swisher Gym.

The Jacksonville University volleyball team continued its torrid start to the 2013 season, winning two more matches on Saturday to improve to 6-0 on the season, according to judolphins.com

The first of the two matches started at 10 a.m. against Mississippi Valley as they fell to the Dolphins in a 3-0 series.

Kylie Jacob ended up with a match high 12 kills along with an impressive .625 hitting percentage.

The second match began at 6 p.m. against Florida Atlantic with a closer match series of 3-1 in favor of the Dolphins.

Gabriela Roman was the notable name of the night as she led her team to a comeback victory with an offensive advantage batting in a total of 14 kills.

The Dolphins are set to face three teams this upcoming weekend in the FIU Invitational.

Women’s soccer @ Georgia State

After falling to Georgia the JU women’s soccer team snagged a win at Georgia State last Sunday before returning home to Jacksonville.

Scoring the first and final goal of the game the Dolphins took care of the remainder with quality defense.

“The credit really goes to our defense today,” Copham said.” It was a team effort and everyone played well in that aspect of the game.”

As the half moved along overtime seemed to be a likely possibility for the two teams with the score still 1-0, but with Dolphin Sarah Sierra making saves the outcome would stay in favor for JU.

“We put six backs in at different points and they stayed well-organized and limited Georgia State’s dangerous chances throughout the contest,” Copham said. “Sarah (Sierra) came up with some great saves and dealt with some dangerous crosses as well.”

With a loss and a win in the state of Georgia, the Dolphins look to end their record against Georgia teams on a good note as they face Georgia Southern on Sept. 13.

JU Suffers Second Loss In As Many Weeks

Photo Courtesy of: JU Dolphins

For the second-straight week, the Dolphins football team hit the road to take on another tough FCS non-division opponent. Jacksonville University headed to Jacksonville, Ala. to take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in what turned out to be a lopsided contest throughout much of the second half.
JU (0-2) drew first blood on a one-yard touchdown pass from Kade Bell to Dorian Guy. After trailing 7-0 at the conclusion of the first quarter, the Gamecocks (2-0) scored twice on the back of running back Troymaine Pope. Pope ran the first one in from five yards out and the second from three yards, giving JSU a 14-7 lead.
Dolphins’ place kicker Dylan Lynch added a 29-yard field goal to cut the Gamecock lead to just four at 14-10. The field goal was set up by an eight play, 63 yard drive that was fueled by 48 all-purpose yards from Orlando Thomas.
JSU’s offense stormed right back down the field adding one more score making the half-time score 21-10. The Gamecock’s dominance continued in the second half as they scored on their first three possessions taking a commanding 38-10 lead on their way to a 48-13 stomping of the Dolphins.
Despite the loss, Dylan Lynch became the all-time leader in field goals made at JU. The record came on his 29-yard attempt in the second quarter. The previous record holder was Donovan Curry (2006-2009) with a mark of 14 made field goals. With his two in the JSU game, Lynch now has 16 for his career.
Next up, the Dolphins play their home-opener against Pioneer League opponent Morehead State (0-2). The Eagles come into town following a 67-13 beat down at the hands of Youngstown State.

NFL Preview: A Rundown On The 2013 Season

The preseason is over, rosters have been trimmed to the league mandated 53 players and fans are ready for the 2013 NFL season. All the while, non-fans are dreading the countless hours of coverage they will have to endure and bracing for water cooler conversations that are as confusing as the Pythagorean Theorem.
If you fall into the fan category, enjoy this time of year; all teams are equal and the sky is the limit. Having 32 even teams only lasts a week and so does the positivity it brings.
If you are among those that are simply waiting for the season to pass so office talk can return to the normal Vampire Diary discussions, then this article is for you. These picks of every division winner and every playoff team gives you the ammunition you need to carry your own weight in those awkward NFL conversations that leave you puzzled.
The AFC North is arguably the most talented division in the league, and is home to the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens and perennial playoff contenders, the Pittsburgh Steelers. This year expect to see a shake up at the top as the Ravens take a step back after losing eight starters from last year’s roster and the Steelers continue to search for a suitable running back to replace Rashard Mendenhall.
Taking the AFC North crown will go to the Cincinnati Bengals finishing at 10-6. The Steelers will earn a wild card berth at 10-6 as long as the ground game finds stability.
The AFC East has long been ruled by the New England Patriots with the remaining members of the division on the outside looking in come playoff time, do not expect that to change.
Despite losing all his starting receiver targets from a year ago, to injury, free agency and possible lengthy prison sentences, Tom Brady will carry the team to an 11-5 record and take the division again this season. Although the Dolphins have started to right the ship in Miami, there is still plenty of work to do to before they are in the playoffs and second in the east will have to suffice this year.
The AFC South went through a changing of the guard two years ago when Peyton Manning missed the season to injury and was allowed to depart Indianapolis for Denver. The Houston Texans quickly became the team to beat for the division crown. This season will be no different.
Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will lead one of the most potent passing attacks in the league, yet again, and Pro Bowl running back Adrian Foster will continue to be in the elite category of tailbacks. An 11-5 record will take a third consecutive division title back to Houston and a 9-7 record will make the Colts runners up in the division and claim a wild card spot in the playoffs.
In the AFC West there seems to always be uncertainty. The Broncos will stabilize the division this year and establish themselves as a truly elite team. The addition of Wes Welker will give Peyton Manning yet another weapon and a 12-4 record will earn them a division title.
The addition of Eric Fisher at left tackle, bringing in Alex Smith at quarterback and a healthy Jamaal Charles will make the Chiefs the most improved team in football and give them a second place finish within the division.
The NFC North has the potential to be among the elite divisions in the game. The Packers are consistently mentioned among the best the NFL has to offer, the Bears and Lions are seemingly on the cusp of becoming consistent contenders, and the Vikings are one solid Christian Ponder season away from a deep playoff run.
Look for the Packers to take the division crown again with a 13-3 record as Aaron Rodgers has an MVP caliber season utilizing youth in the receiving core and the backfield. The Lions addition of Montell Owens and Reggie Bush in the backfield will be enough to earn second in the division, but not enough for a wild card spot.
In the NFC East, mediocrity seems to be contagious, and all the teams have it. Consistently overconfident Dallas, post Andy Reid Philadelphia, the New York team with the other Manning and hobbled RGIII led Washington will all hover around the .500 mark this season.
Both finishing at 9-7 the Redskins and Giants will have to rely on tiebreakers to decide the division champ and being that they will split the season series, common opponents will be the deciding factor. The Giants ultimately take the division and playoff spot.
The NFC South is home to two of the league’s most high-powered offenses. The Saints and Falcons were both in the top ten in the league in yards gained last season and this year will be no different.
The Saints 11-5 record will win the division this year with the return of Sean Payton and an overhauling of the defense, they will once again be mentioned with the best. The Falcons 10-6 will give them a second place finish and a wild card spot in the playoffs.
Certainly one of the most exciting divisions in the NFL, the NFC West is home to two of the league’s budding young quarterbacks. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers both led their teams to unexpected deep playoff runs and gave new instilled faith that the pistol offense can and will work long-term in the NFL.
At 12-4 the 49ers will win the division on their way to the second best record in the NFC and the league. Seahawks fans, rest easy, a 10-6 finish will be good enough for a playoff berth.
In the playoffs expect the San Francisco 49ers to weather the storm and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, where they will square off against, and defeat, the Denver Broncos.
Now as the season gets underway all of my picks will seem to be coming to fruition, and for the first month you may seem like an NFL guru. Undoubtedly though, the teams I feel will fall flat on their face will stabilize and make a run and severely alter people’s perception of your football prowess; this too shall pass.
In the end, the Lombardi Trophy will end up in San Francisco and you will appear to be a savant of sorts. You’re welcome.

JU Football Preview: A Look at the 2013 Team

A new school year means many things but most importantly it means that college football is back. That same notion rings true for your Jacksonville Dolphins.
JU returns to action after a 7-4 2012 campaign in which the Dolphins went 5-3 in Pioneer League play finishing tied for fourth place, a sub-par finish as for the standard Dolphins fans have come to know in the Kerwin Bell era.
The way I see it, this is an entirely new slate for the Dolphins and Coach Bell will have the team ready to go out and win week after week and eager to prove that they are a formidable opponent on the PFL schedule.
First up for JU on the 2013 schedule was perennial contender Delaware. The Dolphins took the trip up the east coast to Newark to take on the Blue Hens last Thursday, helping to open up the college football season.
JU seemingly had their way with Delaware in the first quarter, putting up a 14-0 lead thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Kade Bell. However, the Dolphins could not sustain the relentless offensive attack and a defense that flustered opponents last season was taken advantage of on the ground by the Blue Hens running attack.
Considering the task at hand was a difficult one for JU, they put up a fight throughout the game but Delaware came out stronger in the second half and outlasted the Dolphins for a 51-35 victory.
The JU passing game, led by Bell and former tight end turned receiver Andy Robustelli, kept the Dolphins in the game all night long but wasn’t enough to keep it any closer without the presence of a running game.
Next up for the Dolphins, they will head west to Alabama to take on Jacksonville State. JSU proposes another tough challenge for the Dolphins as their opening non-conference games usually do, but look for JU to learn from their mistakes from the Delaware game and apply them to this match up.
At the end of the day, I think JSU will have too much fire power for the Dolphins, especially if the JU defense plays how it did against the Blue Hens. If the running game doesn’t factor into the game at all, the score might get a little lopsided in Jacksonville State’s favor.
Following the opening two game road stint, the Dolphins return home for three games, two of which are PFL match ups. First up, JU opens up its home stand with Morehead State. JU handled Morehead rather easily last year defeating them 38-16. I like the Dolphins to again defeat Morehead St. and get off the losing streak behind their home crowd.
Next up, JU hosts Warner University in a non-conference match up. Not much to go off of on this one but if Kade Bell and the offense can put up points as they did against Delaware then they should have no problem with Warner thus getting back to .500 at 2-2.
The final game of the three-game home stand brings Butler to town. Last year, Butler scored late to beat JU 19-16 ultimately ending the Dolphins hope at a PFL title. JU hurt itself down the stretch with sloppy play and penalties and I look for JU to give Butler a little payback.
Following the home stand JU gets back on the road to take on Drake and Campbell. Both games set up for a possible Dolphins victory. Last year JU lost by a field goal to Drake at home in the finale, leaving a bitter taste in their mouth for the off season. The week prior JU was able to defeat Campbell with ease by a score of 40-14. I like the Dolphins to take both contests as long as the defense can hold up.
JU then returns home for their Homecoming game against Davidson, a team they defeated last year by a score of 34-24 in a back and forth match up. The Dolphins should have defeated Davidson by a wider margin and with the development of their offense from a season ago I think they will do just that.
Next up the Dolphins hit the road to face Marist, and as they did a year ago, I believe JU will put away the Red Foxes and continue their winning ways.
JU closes out the season against two first-year programs, on the road at Mercer and finally at home against Stetson. With the amount of success the Dolphins have had over the years and if everything goes well, I don’t see anyway either of those teams could pull off the huge upset. I like JU in both of those, thus ending their regular season 9-0 and 8-0 in PFL play putting them in the driver seat for the PFL FCS playoff bid. This marks the first season in which the PFL receives an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
So baring any injuries and if everything theoretically goes well, I think the JU defense will have just enough to help thrust the offense over its opponents, giving the Dolphins one of its best seasons in program history and the PFL’s first ever automatic playoff appearance.

10 Bold Predictions for the NFL Offseason

Illustrated By: Matthew Martin

Here we stand, just about two weeks removed from Super Bowl XLVII, arguably one of the best Super Bowls ever played to date.
Now we’re left with no football for quite some time aside from the scouting combine and this April’s NFL Draft. The off-season can be one of the most exciting moments for fans or some of the most dismal times depending on the outcome of the previous season and the outlook on the season ahead.
I personally don’t see how you could not enjoy the off-season in any sport. Players change teams, icons and legends retire, and the free agent frenzy gets under way.
Off-seasons hold zero certainty for just about everyone beside the bonafide stars of the league. After all, even though sports are just games, they are also a business.
This past week on my radio show, I sat down and tried to figure out 10 things that may or may not ensue over the next few months. I thought about what fans may expect, what certain teams and players may expect and what everyone with any interest in the league may presume is about to happen.
After sitting down and thinking about all of that, I thought about 10 things that people may not see coming. All of these are obviously predictions that I sense could come throughout this off-season and I’m not by any means saying these are going to happen.
My first prediction is that the Redskins Robert Griffin III, who tore his anterior collateral ligament in the playoffs, will be back and ready to go for the first game of the regular season. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson went through a similar procedure a year ago and came back as good as ever. RGIII has a tremendous work ethic and has a phenomenal physique. If anyone can do it he can.
Does anyone really think the Chiefs are going to stick with the quarterbacks they have that led them to a 2-14 finish in 2012? I do. Matt Cassel put up ridiculous numbers in his full year as a starter in New England. If the Chiefs retain wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, all of their offensive skill players stay healthy throughout the season and they solve their offensive line problems, watch out. Under new head coach Andy Reid’s system, I see big things for Cassel, like 3,500 passing yards and 25 touchdowns big.
2013 will finally be the year that the Packers land a threat in the backfield. Reggie Bush is available, the Giants recently released Ahmad Bradshaw and Carolina has two backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart who could be starters if they weren’t on the same team. Perhaps my biggest stretch of them all would be the Packers trading for Tennessee’s Chris Johnson. Tennessee was rumored to be contemplating releasing the once All-Pro running back. Fact of the matter is Green Bay needs a running threat. As of now, when game planning for the Packers it’s all pass. If they add a dynamic running attack, they should be crazy good.
Now that San Francisco has Colin Kaepernick, there is no real need for Alex Smith, right? Why have two starting quarterbacks on one team. Despite all of that, I believe that Alex Smith will remain out by the bay. Just one catch, he will be a member of the Oakland Raiders. Despite popular belief amongst NFL fans, the Raiders are a decent football team. Darren McFadden can be an all-time great running back and the receiver core in Oakland is pretty good as well. One more receiving threat wouldn’t hurt but let’s face it; they’re a hot commodity these days. A game manager such as Smith would be a great improvement from Carson Palmer, who was interception-happy during most of his time in Oakland.
Jets fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The Jets front office finally moves Tim Tebow ending Tebow-Mania in the Big Apple. So now, without further ado, I introduce you to your starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Yes the ‘Sanchize’ will remain the Jets starter after all the embarrassment of the 2012 season.
Does everyone remember the Drew Brees saga of a few years ago? Brees’ contract was up, he wanted a deal that he deserved and the Saints front office was slightly indifferent on the figures of the deal. So Brees held-out. Well get ready cause it’s about to happen again, except this time it’ll be Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco holding out. Flacco is an unrestricted free agent and is deserving of an incredible pay day. I don’t see him being the highest paid QB in the league, but he definitely deserves to be paid like one of the best because he is one of the best. If the Ravens opt to slap the franchise tag on Flacco, I can see him willingly hold out to get the deal he deserves, just as Breed did.
“Tom Brady completes the pass to Wes Welker.” This statement has been a fixture of NFL telecasts that have featured the Patriots for years now. I hope you’ve heard it enough for a life time because the only time you may hear it ever again is the Pro Bowl. Miami and St. Louis are the two most talked about destinations for Welker but I believe there is a third possibility that may put a bit of fear in opponents. The Houston Texans are in need of a receiving threat opposite Andre Johnson. Johnson isn’t getting any younger, nor is quarterback Matt Schaub, so the time for them to win is now. Welker would make the Texans in my opinion the best team in the AFC.
Ed Reed just won the Super Bowl. He is a perennial pro-bowler and one of the best safeties in the league. With Ray Lewis retiring, he is the new leader of the Ravens defense. That is if he doesn’t sign with the Patriots instead. Reed is a free agent and one of many the Ravens have to try and resign. During the Super Bowl media days, Reed sang praises for Pat’s coach Bill Belichick. If Reed were to change teams and depart from Baltimore this off-season, I can’t see him going anywhere but New England.
Trading your team’s best player never makes sense. There are odd incidences where he may be a locker room disturbance, he’s just not meshing with the team, or he’s just a princess. In the Jets case, Darrelle Revis is without a doubt their best player. So why in the world would they want to trade him? If for some reason the Jets do trade Revis, I see him going to the 49ers or the Broncos. Both teams biggest weakness, especially come the playoffs, was their secondary.
As far as individual fan bases who have been through a lot lately, I’d say the loyal Jaguars fans have been through a little too much. Rumors of their team being moved to a different city, the Maurice Jones-Drew debacle of 2012, and their new logo that looks more suited for a video game rather than an NFL franchise, all have Jags fans skeptical of what’s to come next. As if all of that weren’t enough, I don’t see the Jaguars doing anything through free-agency. New general manager David Caldwell has said he’s content with sticking with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as their quarterbacks for 2013. At this point it looks like the Jags will look to improve through the draft, a lost art as of lately.
So those are my predictions. Some bold, some far-fetched and some that you may just not want to believe. No matter what happens, we can all breathe easy that come September we will all be glued to the TV on Sundays for football.
I leave all of you with this thought. If you are a Dallas, New York Giants, Washington, Arizona, San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, or Kansas City fan, pay close attention to the release of the 2013 schedules. All the teams I just listed are set to travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Philadelphia Eagles. I mention this not because I sense the Eagles will be a force to be reckoned with but because the last four Super Bowl champions (Baltimore, New York Giants, Green Bay, and New Orleans) all have one thing in common. They all were the Eagles opponent for their home opener the past four years. So if you’re a fan of one of the teams set to face the Eagles in Philadelphia this year, start hoping that you’re the first home opponent, because if history is set to repeat itself, you’re next in line to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Blackout Bowl

Illustrated By: Matthew Martin

Between all of the front-page headlines and hype in the two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, you would’ve thought we were gearing up for the game of the century.

Now, just days after the final seconds ran off the clock, people have been wondering if this was in fact the best Super Bowl ever.

Super Bowl XLVII (47) showcased the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens and the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. It also had brothers John Harbaugh (Ravens) and Jim Harbaugh (49ers) going head to head in the coaching battle.

Along with the “Har-Bowl” media craze, there was endless talk of the retiring Ray Lewis and if he would go out a champion.

Perhaps one of the biggest stories leading up to the game and especially now that it is over, is the contract situation of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

An unrestricted free agent now that the season is over, Flacco, who was named Super Bowl MVP (Most Valuable Player) after completing 22-of-33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns and a QB rating of 124.2, is in need of a new deal and a large one at that.

After comments where Flacco said he believes he is one of the “elite” quarterbacks in the league, his play this year, especially in the postseason, may have solidified those comments as he threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in four games this postseason, defeating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks.

Put all of the stories, contract talk and tributes for Ray Lewis aside and there was still a game to be played. Come Sunday night, after the two-week layoff, both teams took the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La., to battle for the Lombardi Trophy (the trophy awarded to the winning team of the Super Bowl).

Baltimore struck first with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to wide receiver Anquan Boldin down the middle, similar to the one he scored against the Patriots in the AFC title game.

The 49ers would answer on their very next possession as kicker David Akers connected on a 36-yard field goal.
Ahead 7-3 after one quarter, the Ravens forced a fumble that led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Dennis Pitta to make it 14-3 Ravens. On the 49ers very next offensive play, Ravens safety Ed Reed intercepted the Colin Kaepernick pass, giving the Ravens the ball inside 49er territory.

The Ravens couldn’t capitalize on the good field position as the drive stalled on the 14-yard line.

When it looked like the Ravens would settle for three points and take the field goal, coach John Harbaugh called for a fake field goal to try and catch his brother Jim’s defense off-guard. Place kicker Justin Tucker took the snap and rushed to the left but came up a yard shy, turning the ball over to the 49ers on downs at the 6-yard line.

Following a 49ers punt and the two-minute warning, Flacco and the Ravens went deep, hoping to add to their lead before halftime as Flacco hooked up with Jacoby Jones for a 56-yard touchdown giving the Ravens a 21-3 lead.

The 49ers put three more points on the board as the half expired on an Akers 27-yard field goal.

Following a less then stellar first half, Jim Harbaugh was hoping his 49ers could come out and get a stop to try and turn the momentum a bit and get back into the game. Jacoby Jones and the Ravens wanted none of that as Jones took the opening kick off 108 yards for a touchdown, tying an NFL record.

With the Ravens leading 28-6 and the game looking all but over, the unthinkable happened. The lights inside the Superdome, without a second’s notice, shut off. With no trace or signs as to why this happened, the lights remained off for 34 minutes.

As the game resumed, the 49ers appeared to have found themselves forcing a Ravens punt and going down the field as Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree on a 31-yd pass for a touchdown cutting the score to 28-13.

After another Ravens punt that barely made it to midfield and a return by Ted Ginn Jr. to the Baltimore 20, the 49ers added another touchdown as Frank Gore ran in for a 6-yard score, putting the 49ers within eight points, 28-20.

After a Ravens fumble in their own territory, the 49ers failed to advance the ball and were forced to set up for a field goal. Akers missed his first attempt at a 39-yard field goal but a running into the kicker penalty got the 49ers closer and Akers nailed the 34-yard attempt cutting the score to 28-23.

Heading into the fourth and final quarter of play, the Ravens found themselves with their backs against the wall and on the verge of being the heal of the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Just over two minutes into the quarter, Tucker connected on a 19-yard field goal getting the Ravens a bit more breathing room making the score 31-23.

Kaepernick, as he has all postseason long, made some big plays marching the 49ers down the field on the back of a 32-yard completion to Randy Moss and a 21-yard rush by Gore. Kaepernick capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run. The 49ers then went for a two-point conversion in hopes of tying the game and gearing up for a sprint to the finish. The Ravens were able to hold off the 49ers from completing the two-point attempt and were clinging to a two-point advantage.
On the very next drive, Flacco did what he had been doing all year, he orchestrated a crucial drive for the Ravens who needed to get some of the momentum back on their side. Flacco got Baltimore into field goal range and Tucker was good on a 38-yard attempt to put the Ravens up 34-29.

Once again the 49ers marched down the field getting in striking distance almost immediately after getting the ball back. The 49ers had a first and goal from the 7-yard line and looked like they were ready to take their first lead of the game.
The Baltimore defense flipped a switch and appeared to gain some of the mojo of the Ravens defenses of old, and came up with a goal-line stand for the ages forcing a fourth and goal from the 5-yard line.

On fourth and goal, Kaepernick dropped back and looked right and tried to hit Crabtree who was tied up with the Baltimore defensive back and the ball landed slightly out of his reach. Jim Harbaugh was pleading for a holding call, but the referees were letting them play as a foul easily could’ve been called on both players.

Baltimore took over form their own five-yard line and was held in check forcing them to punt from their own end zone
Wisely instead of putting the ball in the speedy and dangerous Ginn Jr’s hands, Baltimore punter Sam Koch scrambled around in the end zone knocking about 10 seconds off the clock and taking a safety giving the 49ers two points.

On the ensuing free kick, Ginn Jr. was able to sneak past a couple would-be tacklers before being taken down around midfield as time expired, giving the Ravens their second Super Bowl title since 2000.

Big brother John outlasted little brother Jim, Flacco proved his worth and the legend and future hall of famer Ray Lewis went out on top. A storybook ending for a record book career.

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