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Cowboys Seek to Stay Afloat Without Romo and Suspended Defenders as 2016 Season Opens 0

Posted on September 10, 2016 by Chris Kent

The questions for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be on defense. With defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy

DeMarcus Lawrence leaves a void on the defensive line for Dallas.

DeMarcus Lawrence leaves a void on the defensive line for Dallas.

Gregory along with linebacker Rolando McClain all facing at least four-game suspensions due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the unit projected to have some weak links. Lawrence and Gregory are each suspended the first four games while McClain is suspended the first 10 games. This is the second straight year that McClain has been suspended as he missed the first four games of the 2015 regular season, also due to substance abuse violations.

While the defense will have to weather the storm with some new faces acquired from the draft and free agency, the offense has a glaring absence. Tony Romo. Again.

Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra in a preseason loss at Seattle on Aug. 25. It is the fourth time in his career that he has sustained a back injury and it is the second straight year that the veteran pro bowl quarterback will miss multiple games with an extended absence. Romo will be out anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks from the time of the injury. Romo missed 12 games in 2015 due to two fractures of his left (non-throwing shoulder) clavicle, an injury he has sustained three times in his career dating back to 2010.

The Cowboys now turn to Dak Prescott, a rookie fourth-round draft pick out of Mississippi State. Prescott was impressive in the preseason during which he went 39-for-50 for 454 yards, 5 touchdowns, and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 137.8. He also showed his versatility by carrying the ball seven times for 53 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Read the rest of this entry →

Johnny Manziel Going Back to … College? 0

Posted on September 08, 2016 by Scott Huntington

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The latest twist on the Johnny Manziel rollercoaster is probably the least-expected one to date. The Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick quickly flamed out of the NFL due to substance abuse problems, but he’s now in the news for a more positive reason. Instead of generating another worrying headline about his personal demons, Johnny Football is reportedly re-enrolled at Texas A&M as a student.

Regardless of how you feel as Manziel as a player or a person, this is good news for the 23-year-old, who won the Heisman Trophy as Texas A&M’s quarterback in 2012. There were serious fears about Manziel’s health — so bad that his own father told ESPN that, “Hopefully he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses.” Going back to the school could be the best thing for him.

The Downward Spiral

Manziel left Texas A&M before finishing his degree, as he was seen as a promising draft pick who would likely go in the first round. That came true with his selection by the Cleveland Browns. The 2014 draft was the peak of Manziel’s career, and it was all downhill for the next two seasons. Read the rest of this entry →

Romo Endures for Dallas Despite Injuries 3

Posted on September 06, 2016 by Chris Kent

Tony Romo has been beaten and battered throughout his career with injuries. At 36, the veteran quarterback is in the twilight of his playing career. The 2016 season – which kicks off Sept. 8 – will be Romo’s 14th season in the league and his 10th full season as the starter for the Dallas Cowboys.

Romo is tackled by Seattle's Cliff Avril during a preseason game on Aug. 25. Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra on the play.

Romo is tackled by Seattle’s Cliff Avril during a preseason game on Aug. 25. Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra on the play.

Romo suffered a compression fracture of the L1 vertebra in a preseason loss at Seattle on Aug. 25 when he was tackled from behind by the Seahawks’ Cliff Avril as he was going into a slide. Romo stayed down and immediately reached for his back before walking off the field on his own power after trainers attended to him on the field. This was the worst thing that could of happened to Romo and the Cowboys as Romo – although tough and still a very capable player – is fragile. This is the product of many injuries that the four-time pro bowler has been victimized by during a career full of injuries.

Specifically, the injuries and re-injuries to both his back and left clavicle have caused him to miss 24 games over the last six seasons during which Dallas has gone 6-18. Since 2010, Romo has suffered four back injuries and three fractures of his left (non-throwing shoulder) clavicle. This has left him more vulnerable to open hits by unblocked defenders and blitzing linebackers. Romo’s first back surgery was in April of 2013 to remove a cyst. He had another back surgery that December to repair a herniated disk that he suffered in a game where he lead the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win at Washington.

Romo goes down during a game in 2010 against the New York Giants with what was the first break of his left collarbone.

Romo goes down during a game in 2010 against the New York Giants with what was the first break of his left collarbone.

Back in 2010, Romo broke his left clavicle for the first time in a home loss to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football on Oct. 25, the team’s sixth game of the season. He missed the rest of that season as Dallas was 1-7 at midseason, fell out of the playoff race in early December, and finished just 6-10. Read the rest of this entry →

2016 NFL Preview: Will Defense Rule Again? 0

Posted on September 05, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Few would be surprised if the NFC Championship again comes down to the Carolina Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals.

Few would be surprised if the NFC Championship again comes down to the Carolina Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals.

Despite all the talk that an NFL team must have a top-level quarterback and offense to be competitive, the reality is that 11 of the 12 playoff teams in 2015 (all except for the Washington Redskins) ranked in the top half of the league in scoring defense.

The Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos were especially reliant on their defense as they finished 19th in the NFL in scoring offense, but allowed the fourth fewest points in the league.

Whether the Broncos can repeat that pattern in 2016 will certainly be put to the test as their offense could struggle. With Peyton Manning making TV commercials (and cupcakes) and Brock Osweiler off to the Houston Texans, the Broncos are giving the quarterback duties to former 7th round pick Trevor Siemian, who has played in one NFL regular season game and is yet to throw a pass in an official game.

The defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers also had a great defense in 2015 (ranked 6th in points allowed), but they also had the best quarterback in the league and scored an NFL-best 500 points. If Cam Newton continues to play at an MVP level and the defense can overcome the loss of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, look for them to again be the team to beat in the NFC.

Below are five additional interesting storylines to follow in 2016:

Has the Window Closed for the Green Bay Packers?
Since winning Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season, the Green Bay Packers have made five straight playoff appearances, including a 10-6 record a year ago. However, with the exception of the 2014 season when they had the Seattle Seahawks on the ropes in the NFC Championship Game, they have been unable to get past the divisional playoff round.

With 32-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers entering his ninth season as the starter and other key veterans closing in on the latter stages of their careers, the Packers may be nearing the point where their chances to win another championship in the near future are narrowing.

There was a time when it seemed that Rodgers had his pick of great offensive weapons. However, last season the preseason loss of Jordy Nelson exposed a lack of receiver depth and Rodgers seemed to be a victim. He posted the lowest completion percentage of his career and the fewest passing yards of any full season since he became the starter in 2008. His 92.7 quarterback rating was also the lowest of his career.

After being sacked only 28 times in 2014, Rodgers hit the dirt 46 times a year ago, which could have contributed to his struggles. It will be crucial for the Packers to shore up the offensive line and give Rodgers more time to work his magic.

With Nelson back this season and Eddie Lacy looking for a rebound season after struggling with his weight a year ago, it will be interesting to see if Rodgers returns to the top of the league statistically or if he will continue a slight decline.

Last year the Green Bay defense ranked 12th in points allowed, sixth in passing defense and 21st in rushing defense. While Green Bay’s success is generally dependent on Rodgers and the offense, they will go only so far if the defense struggles.

Will the Cincinnati Bengals Ever Win a Playoff Game?
The Cincinnati Bengals have reached the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, including the last five in a row. However, each trip has concluded with a loss in the wild card round and most of the losses haven’t even been close. Read the rest of this entry →

NFL Preseason Has Different Focus Than In Past Eras 0

Posted on August 26, 2016 by Dean Hybl
The NFL Preseason used to include an exhibition game between the NFL Champion and a team of NFL rookies.

The NFL Preseason used to include an exhibition game between the NFL Champion and a team of NFL rookies.

While we could fill pages with what is different about the NFL today compared to 40 years ago, during this time of the year one noticeable difference is how preseason games are handled by the teams and viewed by fans and the media.

Exhibition games have been part of football history since the very beginning of the NFL. For many years, some of the NFL teams would play exhibition games against non-league teams. From the 1930s through the mid-1970s, the NL Champion played an annual exhibition game against a team of college all-stars who were beginning their rookie season.

Preseason exhibition games amongst league teams became more standard in the 1950s and have continued in similar fashion for the last 60+ years.

Because low player salaries meant that many players had offseason jobs, for many years the preseason schedule was seen as crucial to helping players get in shape and prepare for the upcoming season.

It was not uncommon for starters to play a majority of the time during preseason and often how a team performed during the preseason was seen as a precursor towards whether they would be successful in the regular season.

In some cases, the preseason also served as an opportunity for teams to exact revenge for previous results.

After the Kansas City Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers and Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi commented that the Chiefs would be an average team in the NFL, Chiefs coach Hank Stram used the next preseason as an opportunity to exact some frustration and send a message to the NFL.

Because the NFL-AFL merger called for exhibition games between the two leagues, the Chiefs treated their 1967 exhibition game against the Chicago Bears like an act of war. The Chiefs pummeled the Bears 66-24 to let the NFL know that the AFL was filled with more than just second tier teams. Read the rest of this entry →

Questions Are Abundant For AFC Contenders 0

Posted on August 10, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Even though Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the season, the New England Patriots are still the pick of many to reach the Super Bowl.

Even though Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the season, the New England Patriots are still the pick of many to reach the Super Bowl.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

According to Top Sports Betting Sites, even the absence of starting quarterback Tom Brady for the first four weeks of the season isn’t enough to knock the New England Patriots out of their familiar role of favorite to win Super Bowl 51.

Even though the Patriots lost last year to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game and Tom Brady recently turned 39 years old, many still believe there is enough left in the tank for the Patriots to propel them to their seventh Super Bowl appearance since 2000.

One potential reason for that has little to do with the Patriots themselves. Of their top AFC competitors, most have just as many question marks as the Patriots, if not more.

The defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos begin the 2016 season with a huge question mark at quarterback. Though Peyton Manning spent most of last season as a caretaker, rather than game-changing quarterback, he did provide experience and stability during their Super Bowl run.

The primary candidates for the position this year include former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, Northwestern University product Trevor Siemian and first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

Though Sanchez once led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games, his recent history has not been anywhere near as impressive. His final years in New York are best remembered for the infamous butt-fumble and he spent last season as a backup in Philadelphia.

Siemian got into one game last season for the Broncos while Lynch could be the quarterback of the future after being selected with the 26th pick of the 2016 draft out of Memphis.

While Denver certainly rode Von Miller and their strong defense to the championship last year, they cannot expect another Super Bowl season if there quarterback play is again unspectacular. Read the rest of this entry →

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