Tag Archives: Atlanta Falcons

What Tampa Bay is Getting with Dirk Koetter, If He’s Named The Buccaneers Head Coach

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the only team to the play fast and loose with their head coaching position, but the Glazers have certainly made some eyebrow-raising moves since winning the Super Bowl with Jon Gruden thirteen years ago. It began with Gruden, currently ESPN’s color analyst for Monday Night Football, being shown the door after consecutive 9-7 seasons, and there’s been a folly of errors with the Bucs top job, including the questionable dismissal of Lovie Smith earlier this week.

The team’s improvement to 6-10, from 2-14 in Smith’s first season, apparently wasn’t enough, so the core of Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston, and Mike Evans will get their marching orders from a new leader when mini-camps and OTAs begin later this year. We’ve heard rumors from the ridiculous to the absolutely reasonable, so you can rule out Alabama head coach Nick Saban, but there are other candidates not named Dirk Koetter interviewing for a job they like won’t be offered when it’s all said and done.

Say what you will about the Rooney Rule, I personally understand the spirit behind it, but I don’t feel the mandate for a minority candidate interview fulfills its purpose, nor do I feel its necessary, given how much we’ve evolved since Art Shell was hired in 19891Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928. It’s difficult to put a name to this, and I don’t care to insult the man, but with Koetter being the in-house favorite, we’re going to label Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin as the Rooney Rule candidate.

It isn’t fair to Goodwin, available to interview during the Cardinals’ bye week, but all parties involved can get something out of this. Best case scenario, speaking to supporters of the Rooney Rule, Goodwin blows them away, and gets the job. Under this scenario, Koetter walks, which is something of a wash, because Goodwin will certainly want to be the architect of the offense, in his first steps away from the shadow of Bruce Arians, aka “The Quarterback Whisperer”. Bottom line: This is an interview Goodwin deserves, but many will see it as a farce, and only the ones in the room will ever really have a feel for how legitimate the process is.

Until Cam Newton started to make Riverboat Ron Rivera’s offense tick, the strength of Carolina’s game is what you see when the Panthers don’t have the football. Sean McDermott has been coordinating that defensive unit since 2011. Give him credit for knowing how to utilize Luke Kuchely, and how to disrupt in the trenches, his defense is the reason they sit on the 1-line in the NFC as we enter the playoffs. He’s a candidate, but he’d have his work cut out for him with the 7th-worst scoring defense in the game, and that was in Year 2 of Lovie Smith.2This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.

I could get hit by a bus, but I’ll probably be home for dinner.

Barring a very genuine surprise, the former Arizona State head coach will be promoted by the Tampa Bay brass from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach very soon, but they have to complete the process. Honestly, what does it hurt to talk to viable candidates, even when you’re 99% of the direction you want to go? In Jacksonville, Atlanta, and now Tampa Bay, Dirk Koetter has received a lot of praise for the way he calls an offensive game for whoever was featured on the Jaguars offense from 2007 to 2011, for Matt Ryan, and for the very talented Jameis Winston.

One area of concern remains; there’s a big difference between being the Skipper and the First mate. The Glazer family, Jason Licht, and everyone involved with this rumored decision to put Koetter in charge of the show are willing to make a leap that no has dared to attempt since failing to elevate the Arizona State over six seasons3Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.. Koetter put a few players in the NFL, most notably Terrell Suggs and Zach Miller, but the Sun Devil football program never could conquer the Pac-10 on his watch.

He may be another Norv Turner, a guy who is brilliant until he gets the big whistle and a challenge flag, but I have to commend the Buccaneers commitment to stability for Jameis Winston, even if you might want to denigrate them for pink-slipping Smith after two seasons, and just one with the services of Winston. After all, you usually hear about the head coach/quarterback tandem more than the chemistry between the signal caller and the OC.

You might hear conversations about Brady and Weis, McDaniels, and O’Brien, but none of them roll off the tongue like Brady & Belichick or Belichick & Brady do. Things tend to change over time. Maybe under the guidance of Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith, he understands the head coaching role better now, as well as the NFL game. There’s a precedent for that with the aforementioned Belichick. He didn’t get it done with the Browns, spent more time with Bill Parcells, and quickly took the Patriots to the promised land with his first second chance. I might believe Josh McDaniels was on the verge of that, but he’s got some work to do if he ends up in Nashville.

If any of these jobs were easy or “good”, there probably wouldn’t be vacancies, so they’re all difficult undertakings. Keep in mind, there are no exclusive rights to Koetter’s service, despite the Bucs being his current employer. He’s talking to San Francisco and perhaps Philadelphia, but probably isn’t the favorite to land either of those jobs. The move makes sense, and honestly, Goodwin and McDermott are logical targets, but potentially giving Jameis Winston the same voice for the foreseeable future carries a value that can’t be matched. Sun Devil fans won’t believe they’re watching the same guy when they see the pewter, orange, and red on their screen on Sundays.

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1. Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928.
2. This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.
3. Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.

Down By Contact: Sunday Postgame Week 16

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Chris Green and Jeff Rich are back once again to wrap up all of the early week and Sunday afternoon action in the National Football League.  Before the sun rose on Sunday morning in the east, the Lions knew they were in and the Browns knew they were out.  The Saints, Falcons, and Panthers all knew what they needed to do in their pursuit of an NFC South division title, and Bears fans would need to embrace the end of the Jay Cutler Era in Chicago.

The Vikings game in Miami probably flew under the RADAR a little bit, but proved to be one of the more thrilling games of the week.  The Jets and Patriots are on opposite ends of the terrible/great spectrum, but that never seems to mean anything when they face off.  Joe Flacco did his best Derek Anderson impression.  The Steelers end their playoff drought, and our most promising game of the day in North Texas ended up being a dud for the casual fan, but a great day for Steelers fans.

The Players

Chris Green – @cgrn731
Jeff Rich – @byJeffRich

Down By Contact #3: It's Almost Over

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Some NFL teams know that they’re in.  Some know that they’re out, but many players and coaches around the league don’t know whether or not they can make plans for January just yet.  Our focus this week was all about who is jockeying for playoff position, and in some cases, it’s all about survival.  Mike Burgermeister is back once again for the Cheddar Bay segment; this time he’s joined by Jeff Geisinger, better known as “HitTheHorns” in Cheddar Bay circles.  Jeff approaches picks carefully and it shows in the results.

We also welcome Alex Squires back to the podcast.  Alex focuses on Fantasy Football for More Than a Fan, but he is truly a jack of many trades, and wears whatever hat he’s asked to wear.  Alex and Jeff Rich discuss a few Fantasy stars from Week 15, analyze a few players you might want to have in your Fantasy Championship, and then just go wherever the wind takes them in the conversation.  Note to fans, Johnny Manziel might not be your option at quarterback, but you never know.

The Players

Jeff Rich (host) – @byJeffRich

Mike Burgermeister – @603_brown
Jeff Geisinger – @HitTheHorns
Alex Squires – @ASquiresFF

Monday Night Football, Where 5-8 Doesn't Add Up

Some things just don’t add up. Sure, after Monday night’s contest at Soldier Field, the Bears, Saints, and everyone else in the NFL had played 14 games, but the logic with numbers stops there. In New Orleans and wherever else Saints fans might reside, they watched their 5-8 team on Monday Night Football, with the hopes their beloved Saints would jump the 5-8-1 Panthers for the division lead in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the hometown crowd just hoped Jay Cutler and the 5-8 Bears wouldn’t embarass their city on national television.

Cutler hasn’t been much of a favorite with the home crowd, or any crowd, except maybe the Green Bay crowds, since being traded to the Windy City in 2009. Under Lovie Smith, he was just expected to be better than Rex Grossman or whatever other void has lined up under center for the Bears this century. In other words, he just needed to do enough to let the defense win them ball games. Now, enter offensive-minded Marc Trestman, add Cutler’s favorite weapon from his Denver days, plus a big physical receiver, and the role has changed. Nobody was asking for leadership from the Vanderbilt product, just good quarterback play and an attitude that reflects the opposite of what you might consider a douchebag.

The Bears haven’t gotten that, but they also haven’t had a losing season, since going 7-9 in Cutler’s first year with the team. It’s for that reason and possibly a legitimate fear of not being able to upgrade the position that a decision was made to commit to Cutler for the next seven years after his contract expired at the end of last season. It didn’t take long for what we assume would be buyer’s remorse to kick in with Cutler’s play in 2014, even if mitigated by key injuries in his supporting cast. The Bears wear their 5-8 with shame, while their fans look to the NHL, NBA, and Major League Baseball chapters in town for some sports salvation.

Meanwhile, the Saints are far enough removed from both their World Championship run of 2009 and the scandal that plagued in 2012 that they have both expired as factors for the 2014 Saints. They did, however, still enter their Monday Night game with an identical 5-8 record to the Bears, who are, by every definition of the word, broken. However, hope springs eternal in the Bayou, as there hasn’t been a more perfect year than this to be medicore, or even slow, out of the gate in the NFC South. Entering play on Monday, the division was a collective 17-37 in the Win-Loss Column.

There’s no criteria to flex out of Monday Night football, but if there was, this was the one to kick to the curb. Maybe someone could have sold you on the idea that the Saints weren’t as bad as their sub-500 record might have suggested, but it’s countered by Chicago is probably worse than their 5 wins might insinuate. The Bears might have stolen a few and New Orleans probably gave a few away, but the bottom line is, you are what your record is. Come to think of it, both of these teams were ranked in the bottom 5 of many pertinent defensive categories across the National Football League. You expect teams like this to lose more games than they’ve won, but somehow the Saints still control their own destiny to host a playoff game.

It only took two plays from scrimmage from each team to demonstrate to anyone who has dismissed either participant in Monday’s game that they’ve done so with merit. Cutler’s first pass was ridiculously incomplete, and in a “I should probably tell everyone I was throwing the ball away, only I wasn’t throwing it away” kind of way. His second pass was picked off. The Saints didn’t fare much better. After a nice run to move the chains, Drew Brees hit his tight end, Jimmy Graham for another first down, inside the 10, but didn’t protect the football and the Bears defense had quickly bailed Cutler out for his first mistake of the night.

The two teams stalemated for 15 minutes, but the Saints opened up the scoring in the second quarter, and eventually took us to the fourth quarter with, really, a less than impressive 24-0 lead. The Bears did salvage some points to go through the motions, but ultimately looked exactly as sloppy as you might have expected in a 31-15 defeat. There’s out-of-order, there’s dysfunctional, and then there’s the 2014 Chicago Bears. They host the Detroit Lions next week, and you can expect to see some empty seats. You can also expect a lot of talk about eating eight figures in guaranteed money that Bears ownership might decide to eat just to rid themselves of another six years of the headaches that #6 brings to the table and the locker room.

It’s a different story for Sean Payton‘s team, going forward. As tough as the sledding has been for the Saints, they know that they’re in the playoffs with wins at home against Atlanta, and in Week 17 at Tampa Bay. They won’t even need the win over the Bucs if the Browns beat Carolina and they hold serve against the Falcons, but it gets a little messier with a loss to Atlanta, who also controls their own destiny at 5-9. If the Saints do win their last two games against their division rivals, they would finish 8-8, like a handful of division champions before them, and it’s a non-story.

If the Saints lose in Week 16 or 17, we’d have our second playoff team with a losing regular season record ever, whether it’s a 7-9 team or the 7-8-1 Panthers. On the bright side for the NFC South, at least the Saints know all too well that a team with a losing record isn’t doomed to be one and done in the postseason. In 2010, the 11-5 Saints visited the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks as the top Wild Card team in the NFC, and left the emerald city with a 41-36 defeat, which prematurely began their off-season.

It’s funny how we talk about trends early in the year, as soon as Week 2 or 3 sometimes, and how doomed a 1-2 team might look when stacked against teams of the same record historically. You might think a Week 15 battle of 5-8 would spell doom a little more boldly, and for the Bears it does. In this case, the winner is sitting pretty, and 6-8 equals 14 games just the same, but it just doesn’t add up. I’m not sure it ever will.

Attention Browns: Feed the Crow

Fans want the Browns to “Feed the Crow.” With Ben Tate gone, there is more room for both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell to grow and show the coaching staff, the city of Cleveland and the entire NFL just what they can do.

As I wrote last week, I noted that with Josh Gordon coming back, he would help in many more ways than with the ball in his hands. A special talent like that has to be accounted for. That’s why I propose the Browns begin to start truly giving the reigns to Isaiah Crowell and let him run until he pukes.

In the last two games, Isaiah Crowell has played 63% offensive snaps, sporting a 7.73 yards per carry average. This, compared to Terrance West, who has played 26% snaps on offense the last two weeks with a 3,89 YPC. So, it seems the Browns are beginning to trend towards a Crowell takeover. However, in the game against Atlanta, West led with 14 carries and one reception, with Crowell getting twelve carries.

Ben Tate who? Now, I liked Ben Tate as an offseason signing for the Browns and wanted him coming out of Auburn. However, he has been riddled with injuries his entire career and has been ineffective in most games this season—most notably his -9 yards on two carries against the Houston Texans.

To be fair, the running game has been more off than on ever since losing Alex Mack for the season. Also, without Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron on the field, teams have been able to stack the box, taking away the running game and daring Brian Hoyer to defeat them with his inconsistent passing. With Gordon back (and hopefully Cameron soon), the Browns will need to throw less and pound the ground more, with teams loosening their grip of the line of scrimmage.

Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme has been built around a strong ‘X’ receiver (Josh Gordon, Pierre Garcon, Andre Johnson) that opens doors to all other players on offense, namely the running back. In Washington, we saw 6th round pick Alfred Morris reap the benefits and has now made a name for himself, as well as undrafted Arian Foster. Shanahan has been quoted saying he “would love for one of the [Browns running backs] to step it up and separate himself from the others.”

Crow2Well, Kyle, I believe Isaiah has stepped it up. This isn’t to say that Terrance West isn’t a good running back. I believe he is, but Crowell has shown special burst, vision and all around talent that it takes to be a #1 running back in the NFL. He was very impressive against the Falcons—albeit one of the weaker defenses in the NFL. Crowell’s 12 carry 88 yard day was highlighted by his Marshawn Lynch Beastmode-esque 26-yard touchdown in the third quarter, giving Cleveland a 23-14 lead.

With as much as I have stated the return of Josh Gordon will help the running game, the same is true of an effective running game having positive effects for the pass game. Kyle Shanahan seemingly now has a balanced offense.

Let’s go back to Kyle’s time in Washington one more time to illustrate what a balanced Kyle Shanahan offense brings. In 2012, Alfred Morris rushed for 1,613 yards on 335 attempts while Pierre Garcon caught 68 balls for 633 yards in 10 games (foot injury). Then, in 2013, a healthy Pierre Garcon caught 133 passes for 1,346 yards while Morris rushed for 1,275 yards on 276 carries. Pairing Shanahan with a bonafide ‘X’ receiver and a true #1 running back has proven to yield positive results.

Crow1

The big difference between Washington and Cleveland is, while Washington was effective on offense in 2013, it was their defense that let them down time and time again. That has not been the case for the 2014 Cleveland Browns.

The Browns have found their #1 running back in a Kyle Shanahan offense that just welcomed back the reigning receiving yard champion. I think it is time for the coaching staff to officially feed the Crow and for us, as Browns fans, to buckle up. It is going to be one hell of a ride the last five games of the season.

The Browns next game will prove to be a difficult one, with the Bills defense playing very solid football, terrorizing opposing offenses.

Feed the Crow. Go Browns.

Not Quite Instant Analysis: Browns Beat the Falcons

It’s official. I think I can safely say it without fear of being wrong. This is the most conflicted that I’ve ever felt following a win that moves the Browns to 7-4. To be fair, my hastily done research indicates that this exact scenario has only happened once in all of my time as a Browns fan, but still.

A quick aside, here. I brought up Pro Football Reference to do said research, and this is only the fourth time we’ve hit seven wins since the return. I could have told you that if I thought about it for a second, but that’s essentially the entirety of my time as a Browns fan. At least the time that I can remember. And seeing the misery of that time on my screen just now really hit home. Four times we’ve hit seven wins. Four times. That should not only remind you of how pathetic and depressing the last twenty years have been, but also just how rare and significant hitting this win total is.

Ok, back to today. Back to me being conflicted. I think that’s the appropriate reaction. The Browns earned no style points in beating the Falcons on the road, but they hit that rarely seen seven win mark. They stumbled their way to a victory, but they earned a victory nonetheless. They had some awful plays mixed in with some awful decisions, but they won the game. They won the game and they moved to 7-4, while maintaining their standing right smack in the middle of both the division and wild card races.

You know, the more I think about it the more I’m not feeling that conflicted at all.

I’ve seen so many Browns teams that have lacked talent, that have lacked quality play, and that have had lifeless incompetents roaming the sidelines. I’ve seen those teams blow leads and get blown out. I’ve seen seasons end in October, while others never even began. I’ve rationalized far too many blunders as developmental and I’ve taken solace in more “small victories” than I care to remember.

Did Brian Hoyer play great? No. No, he didn’t. Did Mike Pettine look like the newest incarnation of Pat Shurmur before the half? Yes. Yes, he did. But did the Cleveland Browns fold up shop and pack it in after some crushing plays late in the game? Did the team find a way to lose like has been the custom around these parts for over a decade? No. No, they didn’t.

I know that the flavor of the week in Cleveland is going to be yet another round of Hoyer vs. Manziel. I may have only been on this planet for twenty seven years, but I am well versed in these kinds of things. I know my hometown all too well. To that I say, have at it. Have fun fighting yet another installment of starting quarterback versus backup quarterback. Is Connor Shaw still on the roster? Maybe you can throw him into the mix, too. I know what we’re in store for, and I know that it’s a complete waste of time.

Hoyer certainly did not have his greatest game today. There were missed throws and there were, obviously, the three interceptions. I’m sitting out this fight, but if I weren’t, I would not fight anyone on those points. What I will say, though, is that for all of his struggles, Brian Hoyer went out and drove the Browns down for a victory. When it came down to it he came up in the biggest of ways. And people are going to call for his job all week. People are going to call for the replacement of the guy who has guided this sad sack franchise to a record of 7-4 with the fifth fourth quarter comeback of his short career.

I want to see a better performance out of him just like everybody else. But I think it’s absolutely insane to want to change starting quarterbacks at this juncture. It’s also completely futile because there’s no way that the team is going to make a change at that position while they’re fighting for a playoff spot. But hey, have at it Cleveland. Maybe Washington will cut Colt McCoy and we can take this inane quarterback debate to another level.

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest. As a not so smart man sitting at a bus stop eating chocolates once said in a movie, that’s all I have to say about that.

Back to game that we just saw. The game that we just won. I felt coming in, and it may come across as a captain obvious type statement, that this was the biggest game that the Browns had played since they visited the Bengals late in 2007. I’m sure you all remember that one. It’s where the Browns could have clinched a postseason berth but Derek Anderson decided to crap the bed and get in the way of that whole playoffs thing. I had no idea exactly how the Browns would respond to this kind of game, especially against a talented Falcons team fighting for their own playoff lives in their home stadium.

The result ended up being just enough to win. It wasn’t domination like we saw earlier this year against the Bengals or the Steelers. It wasn’t a complete debacle like we saw against the Texans or Jaguars. It was a hard fought, somewhat clunky win on the road against a first place team. The style points certainly weren’t there, but they don’t have to be. All the Browns need to do is win. That’s what they did today, and that’s what we should all be excited and talking about.

You know what that game was? It was The Godfather: Part 3. Stay with me here. It was highly anticipated, we were hoping for a tremendously good performance out of it, there were some great parts but it was also almost unwatchable at times, and it ended just the way we needed it to. That’s it! I not only coined a phrase, I found an accurate way to relate this Browns game to a movie! That was a Godfather: Part 3 game. Try and poke holes in that rationale. Go on, I dare you. I feel like I could go down this rabbit hole and try and figure out who was each character. Maybe another time. I have to work in the morning and still have to change the cat litter, take out the trash, and switch the laundry.

I’ll have to apologize for not breaking down the X’s and O’s. As always, if you’re looking for that you’ve probably come to the wrong place. Just know that Paul Kruger is proving me wrong, Joe Haden is proving a lot of other people wrong, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin continue to be incredible acquisitions, the two rookie running backs are fantastic, and Josh Gordon deserves all the exclamation points. Also, our special teams continue to need work and I still don’t think we’ve had a meaningful kick return all season. How’s that? Good enough?

It’s on to Buffalo for the Cleveland Browns. They will (maybe) venture into the snow covered region of Western New York next Sunday and will find themselves smack dab middle in the chase for the playoffs. Will it be another Godfather 3 game? Will it be a blowout? Will it be 2-0 game in a blizzard? I have no idea, and I don’t care as long as the Browns end up with another win. Hoyer and Manziel could collectively tear both of their ACLs while tripping over each other getting off the team bus and a newly signed Ken Dorsey could start at quarterback. I don’t care as long as they win. Although, in that scenario, I’d have to seriously wonder about that whole curse thing. But I’d be squarely behind Ken Dorsey. I’d be the biggest Ken Dorsey fan in the world. Not sure how I got to talking about Ken Dorsey, but I’m going to go and relish in this victory. And knock out those chores.

(Please don’t have Ken Dorsey be our starting quarterback ever again)

Fantasy Football and the NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan – Ryan is coming off of a season in which he attempted a career-high 651 passes and threw 17 interceptions, also a career-high. He still topped 4500 yards to make it his third consecutive year in which he finished in the top 5 in passing yards. With a horrible defense and a lack of a running game, Dirk Koetter should look to let Ryan continue to air it out, and with a healthy Julio Jones, Ryan should sniff around 4500 yard and 30 touchdowns this season.

Roddy White – White caught only three touchdowns last year, while averaging a career worst 11.3 yards per reception. With a lot teams looking to key in on superstar Julio Jones, I look for him to bounce back this year after receiving a four year, $30 million dollar extension in the off season.

Julio Jones – Jones played in only 5 games last year and he went over 100 yards receiving in three of them – and 99 yards week five against the Jets. If his now twice surgically-repaired foot can hold up, Jones should be a shoe in for top-5 fantasy WR status being the clear-cut featured wideout in an offense that will be playing in a lot of shootouts.

Steven Jackson – Jackson is still listed as the starting, goal-line, and third down back on the Falcons depth chart. He has already missed time in camp with another hamstring, and rookie Devonta Freeman is proving that he is capable of running between the tackles. I would be very weary of selecting the 31 year old, touchdown dependent tailback as he hasn’t proven he is able to remain healthy over the course of a full NFL season anymore and with a youth movement at the position lurking in the shadows.

Devonta Freeman – Although he is still listed as the Falcon’s number 4 running back on the depth chart, Freeman is clearly the most talented pure runner of the group. If and when Steven Jackson misses time, Freeman should be thrust into an early-down role with Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith continuing their roles as COP and passing down backs.

Harry Douglas – Douglas is coming off of a breakout season in which he racked up 85 receptions for 1067 yards and two touchdowns. Now while he was able to amass those numbers playing as and every down WR with Julio Jones on the shelf, there should be plenty of balls to go around in 2014 giving him a bit of a WR3 appeal, but he would become a must-own player is Jones or White were to miss any time.

Levine Toilolo/Bear Pascoe – There is no Tony Gonzalez here. Both of these tight ends are much better blockers than receivers and should offer very little fantasy value. I would recommend looking elsewhere instead of trying to talk yourself into thinking one of these bums can fill Gonzalez’s shoes.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton – Cam quietly had a real nice year last year after his sophomore slump of a 2012. He completed 61% of his pass attempts and threw 24 touchdowns – he did record career lows in both rushing yards(585) and rushing touchdowns(6) – that being such a big part of Newton’s fantasy appeal there is a bit of concern in that regard. If his surgically-repaired ankle is as good as the Panthers are saying it is Cam should look to make more plays with his feet this year with his go to guy, Steve Smith, off to Baltimore, and Carolina’s glaring lack of offensive weapons outside of Newton.

Kelvin Benjamin – Rookie wideouts rarely make too much of an impact from a fantasy perspective. Benjamin may be an exception though, not the rule. He reportedly has formed as outstanding relationship with Cam Newton and will operate as Carolina’s clear-cut number 1 WR. At 6’ 5” and 240 pounds, and with very little talent behind him at the position, Benjamin should expect to be force fed the football and on that volume alone is in the high-upside WR3 conversation.

Jason Avant/Jerricho Cotchery – I think we all know what these guys are. They are both strictly possession guys that at this point in their careers leave a lot to be desired athletically. Both could flirt with 50 catches since they’ll probably be Cam’s third and fourth reads in an offense that is devoid of any proven star power at the WR position, but neither is on any kind of fantasy radar.
Greg Olsen – Olsen is coming off of a 2013 campaign in which he caught a career-high 73 balls for 816 yards and 6 touchdowns. He will remain Cam Newton’s go-to-guy when he needs to move the sticks in third and intermediate situations, and should also see plenty of red zone targets. He is a low-end TE1.

DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart/Mike Tolbert – The Carolina Panthers have been going at this RBBC for a long time now and have inexplicably been shelling out cash left and right to its underwhelming RB group. Deangelo Williams seems to be the best bet for touches in standard scoring leagues, though I don’t like him as anything more than a RB3/4, and Tolbert should be the guy in TD heavy leagues considering he should see more goal-line chances than any of the other running backs. As far as Jonathan Stewart, I am still not convinced that he is an actual person, either way for me the fact remains that the best running back on this team is playing quarterback.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees – This guy is an absolute machine. Brees has topped 5100 passing yards and 40 touchdowns each of the past three seasons. He is sitting out preseason games because of a mild oblique injury, but more so just because he doesn’t need preseason games; the guy knows what he is doing. Brees promises to put together another sparkling year and remains a slam dunk top-3 fantasy quarterback.

Jimmy Graham – At the start of 2013 Graham was playing at a level unlike any other we have seen. Through the first 5 games he recorded 37 receptions for 593 yards and 6 TD. That is a nice season for most TEs. He sustained an injury, played through it, but was held catchless by Aqib Talib in week 6. Graham failed to find that record setting form he enjoyed in games 1-5 playing with a bad wrist, but still went on to catch 86 balls for 1215 yards and 16 TDs. He remains the clear cut number one TE in fantasy, and in my opinion the number one overall pass-catcher in fantasy, if I really had to I could make a strong case for taking Jimmy Graham number one overall in fantasy drafts.

Marques Colston

Marques Colston – Last season Colston failed to top 1000 receiving yards for the first time since 2008, a season in which he only played 11 games. I look for the veteran wideout to bounce back and have a nice season this being, being in the conversation for 1000-1200 yards and 7-10 touchdowns as teams will try to shut down Jimmy Graham, try being the operative word. Colston is a steal in the seventh round.

Brandin Cooks – This rookie jitterbug of a receiver has been the talk of the town in most fantasy circles, with a new report about Cooks making waves and turning heads at Saints camp surfacing seemingly every day. Although he projects as a prototypical slot receiver – Sean Payton likes to use both Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham in the slot – I don’t foresee a lack of opportunity for Cooks. The Saints have made it clear that the want to get the ball in the dynamic speedster’s hands one way or the other. He could catch around 60-70 balls and handle another 15-25 carries, while also returning a punt or two here and there. Cooks is a WR3 that could bring WR1/2 value to your fantasy team.

Mark Ingram – Ingram has looked like a beast in the preseason so far. He has been working as the starter and has been running with authority, slashing through holes, and punishing defenders as he finishes his runs. Now I’m sure this sound all too familiar for those of you who bought your ticket to the Mark Ingram hype-train last year, and I really cannot blame you for your continued skepticism as Ingram hasn’t proven he has what it takes to shoulder the load as the Saints feature back. Whereas I am probably higher than ever on Ingram’s seasonal outlook, I still couldn’t bring myself to roster him as anything more than a RB4.

Pierre Thomas – Thomas seems to be the forgotten man in New Orleans’s three-headed monster of a rushing attack, with a lot of the preseason hype being reserved for Khiry Robinson (we’ll get to him) and the aforementioned Ingram. Not for me. With the Saints being a pass-first offense and Darren Sproles heading to Philly, I expect Thomas to build on his 77 catch season a year ago. Drew Brees loves throwing to his running backs and Thomas has proven that that is a role he was capable of taking on. He is the back to own in PPR formats, hands down.

Khiry Robinson – Robinson showed pretty well in limited action as a rookie last year, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Robinson’s role in this year’s Saints offense promises to be increased, but I am still unsure of shape it is going to take, with Ingram looking to operate as an early-down option and Thomas handling passing-down and long-yardage duties. My guess would be that he will take bites out of a little of both, though it remains to be seen just how big of bites. There is definitely some late round flier appeal here in deeper leagues, but we will probably just have to wait and see what kind of role the second year back carves out for himself.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josh McCown – Even though journeyman signal caller lit it up last year to the tune 13 touchdowns and just 1 interception in 8 games spelling the injured Jay Cutler, I down think anyone outside of a 16 team, 2 QB league is seriously considering drafted him. Although much like in Chicago last year McCown has two enormous targets on the outside, the Buc’s woeful offensive line doesn’t project to allow McCown to operate efficiently enough. Coupling that with him no longer being under the wing of 2nd year, quarterback whispering head coach Marc Trestman, puts the 35 year old off of any sensible fantasy radar.

Doug Martin – The Muscle Hamster averaged 23 touches per game in his first to NFL seasons, on his way to a sensational rookie outburst, followed by a lackluster sophomore year that ended abruptly in week 7 with a season-ending shoulder injury. I do not expect Lovie Smith to allow that kind of usage for him to continue. Martin remains one of the true anomalies in fantasy football for me this year, even though rookie Charlie Sims – who projected to be Dougie Fresh’s direct backup – is going to miss the first three months of the season, the Buc’s still plan to rotate backs in behind Martin to keep him fresh. We can still see Martin easily handling 14-16 touches per game in this run-first offense, but that massive volume was what had Martin in the number 2 overall pick conversation last year.

Vincent Jackson – Jackson as really reanimated his career in Tampa Bay. In two seasons with the Buc’s the veteran has compiled a 150-2608-15 line while staying healthy and playing in all 32 games. Given that V-Jax has put of those numbers with the likes of Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon, there is no reason to believe that he cannot do much of the same with Josh McCown. Although I do expect a bit of regression with Jackson now 31 years old and a physical freak of a rookie looking to take targets away and make a name for himself, he should remain a serviceable WR2.

Mike Evans – This number 7 overall pick has all the measurables you want out of a big time NFL wideout, going 6’ 5” 230 pounds, with a wingspan approaching 7 feet. He is another one of these converted basketball players with great size and strength and incredible high-pointing ability. Like almost all of these former hoopers in the NFL, Evans is very raw and is a certainly going to struggle with the language, speed, and route conceptuality at this level early in his career. If he figures it out sooner rather than later Evans can be a WR4 that offers WR2 upside.

Brandon Myers – Myers received a 2 year $4 million contract from the Bucs this past offseason, looking to bolster their TE corps a bit. I am not sure how successful they were in that as the slow, in-line TE promises to be part of a TEBC with pass catching specialist Tim Wright and rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins being far more athletic and explosive than the 28 year old.

That’s it, that’s the NFC South and its impact on Fantasy Football. To see the all of the conference Fantasy Football Forecasts, check out my author profile!

Follow me on twitter@ASquiresFF or email me with Fantasy Football questions!

Athletes Have the Right to Be Stupid, and We Have the Right to Not Care

June and early July have certainly had their fair share of “regular world meets sports world” moments. The case of Aaron Hernandez in Boston is the easiest example of an athlete acting stupid in a real world situation. The second and less obvious sports-related example happened Saturday night after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in suburban Orlando. You might be wondering the sports connection, so here they are, Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White made two tweets on his thoughts on the verdict:

https://twitter.com/roddywhiteTV/status/356247239594749952

Roddy White Tweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neither is appropriate for anyone, but particularly for someone who represents the Atlanta Falcons and the National Football League.

Later in the same evening, Mike and Maurkice Pouncy posed with each other wearing hats that said ‘Free Hernandez’, in reference to Aaron Hernandez, who is currently in jail and is a former teammate of theirs from their time at the University of Florida.

As offensive and derogatory as these tweets and pictures are, all three certainly have the right to express their feelings about both subjects. None of the three, however, has the expectation of First Amendment protection, and I expect that if the league itself doesn’t fine or suspend, their respective teams will, regardless if the sanctions aren’t publicized.

I know this might be shocking, but these three people aren’t the only idiots who acted out this week. Search on Twitter and Facebook for other references, and you’ll see plenty of less famous people doing similar things.

I’m not here to defend these guys, but to remind you, and mostly myself, that these guys are real people as well as Americans and have the same rights to express themselves as you and I.

For the record, I don’t follow any of the three on Twitter or Facebook, but I generally don’t follow athletes because they have nothing interesting to say.

So, I’ll renew this question that I’ve asked many times before. Are we asking too much from our athletes? Would you go to any of these people for moral advice over your priest or rabbi? I wouldn’t.

Another question: are athletes not supposed to express their support or frustration for friends and family? I’ll guess that there a lot of people who are related to Hernandez that don’t believe he’s guilty, and I’ll guess there are plenty of athletes who are one side or the other about Zimmerman.

These athletes have the right to act stupid, and we certainly have the right to call them out about their opinions, but to suggest they need to keep their mouths shut and stick to sports is not only offensive, it’s inappropriate. Sports isn’t what makes most of us money, but we feel free to express our opinions on it, so why aren’t they allowed to speak about issues outside of sports?

What’s easier than telling them how stupid their remarks are? Easy, doing what you do when normal people say stupid things – don’t care.

Athletes have the right to be stupid, and we have the right to not care.

Browns Fans and Media Continue Ignoring Facts and Revising History

by Ryan Isley

As I have said many times, the slogan for the city of Cleveland – at least when it comes to the sports teams – should be “Cleveland: City of Revisionist History.” This past weekend was no exception.

On Sunday as the Atlanta Falcons were playing the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was having one hell of a day. In the first quarter alone, he had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Then he opened the second quarter with a highlight grab for his second touchdown of the game, putting the Falcons up 17-0.

As this was all happening, Twitter was blowing up from Browns fans who were harping on the fact that the Browns traded the No.6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to the Falcons, allowing the Falcons to draft Jones. These same people were killing the Browns for making the trade because of how good Jones is – he has become one of the best receivers in the league in just two seasons.

Of course, I can’t blame this all on Browns fans. Some of them are just repeating what they hear or read from some of the Cleveland media. Instead of actually forming their own opinion, some fans constantly rely on the media to feed them their opinions and then take that as the gospel. The media knows this and continues to use their power in what some would call an irresponsible manner.

Do I like Julio Jones? Absolutely. Do I realize how great he is and also how great he might become? Of course I do.

But I also try to deal in facts as much as I possibly can. And sometimes people get the facts and their interpretation of the facts a little confused. That is why I want you to take a deeper look with me into that draft day trade of 2011 between the Browns and the Falcons.

The fans and media did get one thing right: The Browns did trade that pick and the Falcons did draft Julio Jones. Other than that, they like to ignore the facts that don’t fit their argument.

Here is how the trade that allowed the Falcons to draft Julio Jones breaks down:

Falcons receive:

  • Browns first-round pick (No.6) in 2011

Browns receive:

  • Falcons first-round pick (No.21) in 2011
  • Falcons second-round pick (No.59) in 2011
  • Falcons fourth-round pick (No.124) in 2011
  • Falcons first-round pick (No.22) in 2012
  • Falcons fourth-round pick (No.118) in 2011

As we all know, the Falcons used the No.6 overall pick to select Jones.

The Browns then traded the 2011 first round pick from the Falcons in a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs to move up to No.21 and draft Phil Taylor. In the deal, the Browns also gave up their third round pick (No.70 overall). With the No.59 overall pick, the Browns selected Greg Little and then they took Owen Marecic with pick No.124.

Moving ahead to the 2012 NFL Draft, the Browns used that first-round pick (No.22) they received from Atlanta to draft Brandon Weeden, who started the first 15 games of 2012 at quarterback before missing the season finale with an injury.

Before selecting Weeden, the Browns again pulled off a trade in the first round. This time, however, they moved up in the draft to take Trent Richardson. To ensure that Richardson would be available, the Browns found a trade partner in the Minnesota Vikings, who had the No.3 pick while the Browns were sitting at No.4.

In order to keep other teams from getting that No.3 pick, the Browns and Vikings agreed to the following deal:

Browns receive:

  • Vikings first-round pick (No.3) in 2012

Vikings receive:

  • Browns first-round pick (No.4) in 2012
  • Browns fourth-round pick (No.118) in 2012
  • Browns fifth-round pick (No.139) in 2012
  • Browns seventh-round pick (No.211) in 2012

Do you notice anything? Look closely. Ok – I will give you a hint: look at the fourth-round pick the Browns included in that trade. That’s right…it is the same pick the Browns received the previous year in the Julio Jones trade.

So the result of the trade that Browns made with the Falcons is that the Browns took Phil Taylor (a starter on defense), Greg Little (the leading pass catcher on the Browns in 2011 and 2012), Brandon Weeden (their starting quarterback) and used one of the picks in the trade that brought them Trent Richardson (their starting running back).

And don’t forget – the Browns used their 2013 second-round pick in the 2012 Supplemental Draft to select Josh Gordon. While the pick used to take Gordon was not from the Jones trade, the Browns probably don’t use that pick if they select Jones in 2011. All Gordon did was lead the Browns in receiving yards, touchdown catches and receptions of 20+ yards as a rookie, becoming their most explosive playmaker at the wide receiver position. All of this came after Gordon hadn’t played a down of football since 2010.

If you want to rip the Browns for trading the pick, you have to give them some credit for what they brought back in return. That isn’t a bad haul for a team that needed pieces, not a piece. And that was one of the differences between the Falcons and the Browns going into that 2011 draft – the Falcons were looking for a specific piece while the Browns were still trying to build a core.

Another issue is that Browns fans seem to think that Julio Jones would have had the same impact in Cleveland that he has had in Atlanta. While that is positive thinking, it is also quite delusional.

Remember – the Browns selected Weeden with one of the picks they received in that trade. Without drafting Weeden, the Browns would have still been starting Colt McCoy at quarterback. The number one complaint about McCoy? He can’t throw the deep ball with accuracy. How exactly is Jones supposed to have an impact if the quarterback can’t get him the ball deep – one of the best parts of Jones’ game? This is something the Falcons do with regularity and they can do this because Matt Ryan throws a beautiful deep ball. In fact, Ryan had 30 more completions in 2011 of 20+ yards than McCoy (57 to 27).

If McCoy can’t throw the ball deep and has a weak arm, the Browns would either have needed to still bring in a quarterback that could utilize the wide receiver and get the best out of him – like Ryan has done in Atlanta – or risk wasting Jones as they continued to allow McCoy to develop. And the Browns would have needed to do this without the advantage of having an extra first-round pick in 2012.

But then again, the fans and media would probably just tell me the Browns could have had Julio Jones and Robert Griffin III. As I said – “Cleveland: City of Revisionist History.”

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at [email protected]