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All Bets Are Off As NFL Season Starts Second Half 4

Posted on November 08, 2013 by Dean Hybl
With a 9-0 record to start the season, Alex Smith has the Kansas City Chiefs pointing in the right direction.

With a 9-0 record to start the season, Alex Smith has the Kansas City Chiefs pointing in the right direction.

With the NFL season now officially past the mid-point, there has been quite a lot of unpredictability. Some based on off-season player and coaching changes and some that can be attributed to injuries and on the field successes and failures.

So far no team has benefited more from adding a new player and a new coach than the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith have proven to be a great combination as the Chiefs have gone from two victories and the first overall draft pick in 2012 to nine wins and counting in 2013. Granted their success is due as much to their defense and running game as it is to Smith, but he has definitely provided the stability needed under center. Reid has also proven that leaving Philadelphia was the right tonic he needed to get back to his role as one of the best coaches in the NFL.

In a league where 12 teams have either four or five victories after nine weeks (either eight or nine games depending on whether the team has already had their bye week), one or two players can make a huge difference.

A week ago the Green Bay Packers seemed poised to take control of the NFC Central and solidify themselves as a Super Bowl contender. One of the big reasons for that was the play of rookie running back Eddie Lacy. Lacy ranks in the top ten in the NFL with 596 yards rushing in his first seven games. However, after All Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collar bone early in their Monday Night loss to the Chicago Bears, the Packers are now considered a long shot to overcome the loss of their quarterback and make the playoffs.
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Rodgers Has A Day, Manuel Shocks Panthers: Week 2 NFL Headlines 1

Posted on September 18, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Week 1 had a lot, but Week 2 might have it beat. There was everything from a weather delay (those 49ers) to four last-second wins, of course some interesting quirks mixed in and who could forget about the Manning Bowl. Here are your Week 2 NFL headlines.

Aaron Rodgers was the top performer in Week 2.

Aaron Rodgers was the top performer in Week 2.

Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass in his 50th consecutive game as the Patriots beat the Jets, 13-10, to open the week on Thursday Night Football, but was also below a 50-percent completion rate for the first time since 2009. He now sits just four behind the all-time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. New England forced four turnovers and now have at least one in 29 straight games, the longest since the Eagles did that between 2003-04. The win gave the Pats 12 straight victories over division opponents, which is the longest current streak in the league, according to Elias. The only other time the Patriots began a season 2-0 with both wins by three points or less was in 1999. They won this one despite having more punts (11) than first downs (9) – the first time that has happened in the Bill Belichick era. Julian Edelman had 13 catches, but just 78 yards. That is the third-fewest yards in a 13-catch game in the Super Bowl Era. Brady improved to 6-0 in his career in games played on a Thursday.

Cordarrelle Patterson tied a team record with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Vikings fell to 0-2 with a 31-30 loss to the BearsAdrian Peterson had 100 rushing yards and has just 193 through two games. He had only 144 last year, however. After doing so nine times last season, the Bears scored their first defensive touchdown of 2013 with an interception return from Tim Jennings in the win. Their 10 defensive touchdowns since the start of last year are the most in the league. Devin Hester had 249 kick return yards in the win, setting a new franchise record. Jay Cutler hit Martellus Bennett on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left in one of four games to be decided in the final seconds. Bennett became the fourth player in Bears’ history to catch a touchdown in each of his first two games with the team.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 335 yards in the first half alone as the Packers got out to a 24-0 lead and topped the Redskins, 38-20. Rodgers finished the game 34-of-42 with a career-high 480 yards – tying the Packers’ record. In so doing, he became the first NFL quarterback to record 480 yards passing and throw four touchdowns with no interceptions since Y.A. Tittle in 1962. James Starks had 132 yards rushing and became Green Bay’s first 100-yard rusher since 2010.  They won their eighth straight home game and their 21st of 22. Washington fell behind 24-0 after two quarters and have now been outscored 50-7 in the first half this season. The Pack now rank second in the NFL with 66 points scored. The Broncos, who are first, have scored 66 points in the second half. Read the rest of this entry →

Season In Review: 32 Storylines From The 2012 NFL Regular Season 0

Posted on January 03, 2013 by Andy Larmand

It’s been a good one and I’m sure I speak for everybody when I say we’re all sad to see it go, but the 2012 NFL season has provided us with exciting finishes, triumphant record-breaking performances, comebacks, winning streaks, losing streaks and of course, replacement officials. Disappointments, pleasant surprises, rookies leading their teams to the playoffs and unspeakable tragedy have all left their marks on the past 17 weeks as well.

Here are 32 of the biggest stories – one about each team – from the 2012 regular season of NFL football.

Ryan Lindley watches as Janoris Jenkins (left) scoots into the endzone, returning another Arizona pass for a touchdown.

Flew into a wall: Cardinals QB Ryan Lindley watches as Janoris Jenkins (left) scoots into the endzone, returning another Arizona pass for a touchdown.

Arizona Cardinals (5-11, 4th in NFC West): Normally, when you lose nine games in a row, that’s the biggest story of the year. That was not the case for the Arizona Cardinals this year, however. Following the rib injury to starting quarterback Kevin Kolb in Week 6, things went from bad to worse in the desert as the Cards spiraled from a 4-0 first place team all the way to the bottom of the NFC West. Arizona’s quarterbacks, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer, were three big reasons why. In that time frame, they combined to go 1-9 and throw 18 interceptions to just three touchdowns. A five-game stretch even resulted in Lindley throwing more touchdowns to opposing teams via interception returns (four) than he threw to his own receivers (zero). A few of the trio’s passing highs included 74, 72 and 64 yards. It probably didn’t help that All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had just 20 catches for 213 yards and no touchdowns in the final seven games of the season. Either they will trust that Kolb will return healthy next season or one would think they spend their first-round pick this spring on a competent quarterback. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired by the team on ‘Black Monday.’

Atlanta Falcons (13-3, 1st in NFC South): The Falcons went 13-3 in 2012 and locked up their second straight No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, but that’s not really news – at least not until they actually do something in the playoffs. Matt Ryan improved his home record to 33-4 in five NFL seasons, but that wasn’t even the biggest thing, in my opinion. For the sixth consecutive season, Roddy White played in all 16 games (hasn’t missed a game in his eight-year career) and put up what would seem like Pro Bowl worthy numbers. He did not make it, however, but teammate Julio Jones did. White had 13 more catches and 153 more yards than Jones on the season. Interesting. In fact, White has finished out of the top 10 in receiving yards just once in the last six seasons (2009). In the last six seasons, he has ended up ninth, eighth, second, 13th, fourth and eighth in the NFL in receiving. He has gone to just three Pro Bowls, however, including one due to an injury of another player. The biggest story out of Atlanta this season may just be the fact that one of the most productive receivers in the league from year to year was snubbed from the Pro Bowl after once again bringing that consistent level of exceptional play. Should he be mad? Yes.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 1st in AFC North): It was kind of a tale of two seasons for the AFC North champion Ravens. They began the year 9-2 and were in the driver’s seat in the division as well as in good position in the hunt for a first-round bye. Then came injuries, however. Already without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Terrell Suggs, All-Pro Ray Lewis tore his triceps in Week 6 and was out for the rest of the regular season. In Week 7 against Houston, Suggs would return. Their success in the last few seasons shows the importance of those two players to the team. As if the Lewis wasn’t bad enough, cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL in the same game and he, too, was lost for the year. Lewis is slated to make his return this weekend, but without these three players all on the field in the second half of the year, Baltimore went from a 9-2 team to one with an average 10-6 record. Should they face an early exit in the playoffs, these injuries will have likely given them their death sentence as the up-and-down offense can’t really be counted on.

Buffalo Bills (6-10, 4th in AFC East): As one of the most disappointing teams of 2012, the Buffalo Bills were projected by some to be contenders in the AFC East and perhaps even make the playoffs. That illusion was quickly lost, however, after the team began the year with a 3-6 start, including a 48-28 loss to the Jets on Opening Day. They finished 6-10 at the bottom of the division for the fifth straight year. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in 13 consecutive seasons. Of the six teams that they did beat on the year (the Chiefs, Browns, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Jets), not one of them had a winning record. In fact, they had a combined record of 27-69. The defense, which was supposed to be solid with the addition of Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus in his second year, gave up 45-plus points four times on the season as the Bills finished 31st in the league in rush yards against, allowing 145.8 per game. C.J. Spiller did have a solid season as he finished eighth in the league with 1,244 rushing yards, but a knee injury to Fred Jackson really ended up hurting the offense, which finished 19th in the league in total yards. Buffalo fired head coach Chan Gailey on Monday.

Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles this season, but the Panthers still finished below .500.

Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles this season, but the Panthers still finished below .500.

Carolina Panthers (7-9, 2nd in NFC South): For the third straight year the Panthers finished under .500, but for the second straight year they had a dynamic rookie on the field with them. As the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, linebacker Luke Kuechly not only led the team in tackles, but he led the entire league. He finished the season with 164 while also picking off two passes, recovering three fumbles and deflecting eight passes for the 10th-ranked defense in Carolina. He was not selected to the Pro Bowl, however. Kuechly was so impressive that he may have even slightly overshadowed the sophomore season of Cam Newton, who was just the third quarterback ever to lead his team in rushing yards in a season. With the two of them as their foundation, the future looks bright in Carolina if they can build around them. They could return to the playoffs as early as next year for the first time since 2008.

Chicago Bears (10-6, 3rd in NFC North): You can have a good beginning. And you can have a good end. But if you don’t have a good middle, most of the time, success is not on the horizon. The Chicago Bears found this out the hard way in 2012 as they became just the second team since 1990 (out of 53) to miss the playoffs after starting a season 7-1. Unfortunately for them, they lost five of their next six before finishing the season with two straight wins, but by then, it was too late. Jay Cutler‘s injury had a bit to do with it, but ultimately the offense they put out on the field could not get it done in the second half of the year as they averaged just 17.3 points per game in the final eight weeks of the season. Chicago has now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons with their only playoff run ending in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual champion Packers two years ago. Head coach Lovie Smith was fired on Monday in a very surprising move that could ultimately result in more bad than good for the team.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6, 2nd in AFC North): The Bengals are going to the playoffs for the seconds straight year behind their talented second-year playmakers Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Green really made a leap in his second year as he finished 10th in the league in receiving yards (1,350), tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns (11) and seventh in receptions (97) while making his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He even had a stretch early in the season in which he caught a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games. His 84.4 yards per game also cracked the top 10 in the league. As the team’s biggest name on the offense, Green continued to put up monster numbers even when drawing the best coverage schemes from opposing defenses. His 164 targets in 2012 were tied for fifth in the league behind five of the best receivers of this generation. Green came up seven catches shy of breaking the record for the most receptions by a player in his first two NFL seasons as Cincy opted to rest most of its starters in their season finale. He has a chance to be the most productive receiver in Ohio since Chad Johnson.

Cleveland Browns (5-11, 4th in AFC North): In a backfield that featured two rookie starters in quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, the Cleveland Browns were not able to avoid a second straight last place finish in the AFC North, but did win one more game than they did last year (four) if that’s any consolation. Richardson broke Jim Brown‘s franchise record for most rushing yards in a season by a rookie with 950 and also scored 12 total touchdowns. He started every game he appeared in and went over 100 yards three times before being forced to miss the team’s final game with an ankle injury. Weeden also missed the season finale with a shoulder injury. In 15 games at quarterback, he was 297-of-517 passing for 3,385 yards and threw 14 touchdowns. If both of them can come back healthy next year and the Browns can put some other pieces of the puzzle together, they look to be able to contend in the tough AFC North in 2013. Head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert were both fired by the team on Monday.

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Peterson Comes Up Just Short, Cowboys Miss Playoffs: Week 17 Storylines 0

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Andy Larmand

The final week of the 2012 NFL season was just as good as the first 16 were. With 16 division matchups on the schedule, it had it all: shutouts, blowouts, third-string quarterbacks, elimination games, records being chased and of course another opportunity for Tony Romo to choke. (He did). For the last time in 2012, your storylines from the week that was in pro football.

Eight would have been great: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson came up eight yards shy of tying the single-season rushing record, but his Vikings are heading to the playoffs.

Eight would have been great: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson came up eight yards shy of tying the single-season rushing record, but his Vikings are heading to the playoffs.

Adrian Peterson came within eight yards of tying and nine of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record, but with time running out in the game, Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal to break the tie  and send the Vikings to the playoffs, ending Peterson’s regular season. Minnesota defeated the Packers, 37-34, for their first win against their division rivals since 2009. The loss also ended Green Bay’s 12-game division winning streak. Peterson did become just the seventh running back to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a season as he concluded the regular season with 2,097 yards on the ground. The Packers had won nine straight regular season finales before the loss. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns in a game for the fourth time this year, including two to Greg Jennings. Walsh added to his NFL record with his 10th field goal of 50-plus yards on the season. Peterson finished the season with seven 150-plus rushing games, tying the NFL record. Minnesota has made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Packers, who finished the regular season at 11-5 and the Vikings, who finished 10-6, will play each other on Saturday in the Wild Card round.

The good news: the Colts won their regular season finale. The great news: Chuck Pagano was back on the sidelines to coach it. J.J. Watt failed to get any sacks and finished two shy of the NFL single-season record as the Texans lost to the Colts to fall all the way to the third seed in the AFC, missing the bye they had been in position for all season long. Watt finished with 20.5 sacks on the year. Houston has never won at Indianapolis – now 0-11 all-time with the 28-16 loss on Sunday. A career-long 70-yard TD pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton on 3rd & 23 all but sealed the win for the Colts. Deji Karim returned a second-half kickoff 101 yards for Indy, their longest return since 1973. Andre Johnson tied the career record of 10-reception games set by Wes Welker last week with the 18th of his career. Reggie Wayne now has at least three catches in 64 straight games, extending his NFL record. The Colts became the seventh team to improve by nine wins in just one year, going from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 in 2012. Houston finished 12-4 after losing three of its last four games and will host the Bengals in the Wild Card round, while the Colts will travel to Baltimore.

The Chicago Bears have made a little history of their own as they became just the second team since 1990 to miss the playoffs after starting the season with a 7-1 record despite beating the Lions, 26-24, in Detroit and finishing with a 10-6 record. They have now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Matt Forte did rush for 1,000 yards for the third time in his career. The Lions finished a disappointing 4-12, but Matthew Stafford shattered the previous record of 691 pass attempts in a season and finished with 727. Calvin Johnson caught five balls for 72 yards and came up 36 yards short of the first ever 2,000-yard receiving season. It broke his streak of eight straight 100-yard receiving games and four straight 10-catch games, which were both NFL records. He finished the season with an NFL record 1,964 receiving yards. Chicago fired head coach Lovie Smith on Monday after a 3-5 end to the year and that has apparently prompted kick returner Devin Hester to consider retirement.

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A Week For The Record Books: Week 16 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Week 16 gave us plenty of gifts right before Christmas including playoff clinching performances, records being set, quarterback controversies and of course a little Tim Tebow. Like always, it was fun to watch and even more exciting for those lucky enough to be in fantasy championship games.

The Falcons became the first team in the league to reach 13 wins as they got the best of the not-so-mighty Lions, 31-18, to open the week on Thursday/Saturday/Monday Night Football. While their performance was certainly appreciated in Atlanta, it was probably overshadowed around the rest of the country as Calvin Johnson broke the 17-year receiving yards record previously held by Jerry Rice with 11 catches for 225 yards on the night. He surpassed Rice’s record of 1,848 yards and now has 1,892 with one game to go and a real shot at becoming the first ever 2,000-yard receiver. On top of that, Megatron also set NFL records with his eighth straight game of 100-plus receiving yards and fourth straight with 10-plus catches. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record for the most passing yards in a game (443) without throwing a touchdown.

No. 1: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a season with 225 in his team's loss to the Falcons Saturday night.

No. 1: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season with 225 in his team’s loss to the Falcons Saturday night.

Atlanta did clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the win. Their two big targets, Roddy White and Julio Jones combined for 15 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns. White had 100-plus yards and two TD catches in the 1st half alone – the second time he’s done that in his career. Jones now has at least five catches in five straight games and has a touchdown catch in four out of five. Matt Ryan continued his dominance at home as he threw four TD passes and set a new career-high with 31 on the year, tying the Falcons single-season record. He completed his first 12 passes of the game and dating back to last week, had completed 22 straight – a Falcons record – while also tying another career-high with the four touchdown passes. With one reception, Tony Gonzalez has caught a ball in 194 straight games. The Falcons improved to 13-2 and the Lions fell to a disappointing 4-11.

Steven Jackson entered Sunday’s game against the Bucs needing 91 yards for his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, but only got 81 as the Rams won the game 28-13. Rookie Janoris Jenkins returned another interception for a touchdown – his third of the year, which tied the rookie record set back in 1981. Josh Freeman tied the Bucs’ career record for TD throws with 77, but also threw four interceptions in his second consecutive game. He also now holds the Bucs’ single season passing yards record with 3,843 through Sunday. Sam Bradford was not sacked at all for the first time in 31 games. St. Louis improved to 7-7-1 and Tampa fell to 6-9 with their fifth straight loss.

Greg McElroy made the first start of his NFL career as the Jets hosted the Chargers in a battle of disappointing AFC teams. It was the first time since 2009 that Mark Sanchez had not started a game for New York and they looked pretty good on offense to start, driving for two early Shonn Greene touchdown runs. San Diego would come back, however, behind two touchdown passes from Philp Rivers, including one to Antonio Gates, who now stands alone as the Chargers’ all-time leader in touchdown catches with 82, and hand the Jets the loss, 27-17. San Diego sacked McElroy 11 times in the win – the most by a team since 2007. McElroy was the second quarterback since the merger to be sacked 11 times in his first start. The Jets fell to 6-9 and Chargers improved to 6-9 with the win.

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Memo to Buffalo Bills Fans: Don’t Give Up on Fitzpatrick Yet 2

Posted on December 09, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

Ryan Fitzpatrick has experienced both ups and downs since taking over as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.

Many Buffalo Bills fans were quick to jump on the Ryan Fitzpatrick bandwagon after he won the starting position from Trent Edwards. Many of the same fans are also the first to throw him under that bandwagon, after his first bad game in seven starts. The focus on drafting a franchise quarterback is on again in Bills Country, after being muted for a while as the Harvard quarterback created offensive numbers not seen in Buffalo since the early days of Drew Bledsoe’s ill-fated tenure. Fitzpatrick joins Bledsoe, Johnson, Losman, and Edwards on the scrap heap of premature faith blown up.

It is true that by his performance against the Vikings in the 31-14 debacle in the MetroDome (oh, excuse me, “Mall of America Field”) Fitz took a step backwards. But was it simply that—a step backwards after six consecutive brilliant and inspired performances– or is it more that he was playing over his head for a while and the Vikings game exposed the man behind the curtain?

It is certainly true that Fitz’s play in Minnesota often resembled that of his predecessor, derisively dubbed “Captain Check Down” by Bills fans, when he made little dump passes after being unable to find any targets downfield.  Yes, he may have seemed intimidated by the Minnesota defensive line at times, and his fumble on the Minnesota one yard line was less than we have come to expect from Fitzpatrick’s leadership since he assumed the starting role.

You can’t blame Bills fans for being quick to judge, the moment the first little hole pops up in the blue superhero tights. It is a self-defense mechanism often observed in people who have been burned in relationships a series of times. The more often people are burned in love, the more quickly they anoint the new squeeze as the love of their life, but in turn the more quickly they dispatch said person after the first crack in the veneer is spotted. Falling fast is usually followed by falling hard. Read the rest of this entry →

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