NFL 2017-2018 Preseason Schedule

 

By: Will Stevenson

Can you feel it? Just imagine the droughts and sounds of the NFL season. Two-a-days, minicamps, veteran camps, seven on seven drills, torn acl’s, Non-contact injuries, position battles, and most importantly: Expert analysis of guys in shorts.

There are countless things that could irritate a football fan, but actual football isn’t one of them. So between now and the first preseason game, we have months to comb through every team, transaction and predict who will do what when the season rolls around. It will be exciting to see how the top drafted rookie quarterbacks find their footing on teams that made the playoffs last season: Chiefs and Texans. We all know how the preseason goes: Stars play in one or two games for a few series, then the backups. I also have an interest in fringe plays attempting to made rosters within the new safety guidelines for special teams.

So let us take a look at the preseason schedule. The competition will be early as starters make their way off the field after a few possessions, but don’t let that deter you from consuming the whole game. Position battles, overall team health, sheer talent, and a basic understanding of the team’s philosophy will be on display. So it’s not the Pro Bowl, but it’s damn near close for those first few series.

Not need to worry. Football is own it’s way, and it starts with the Hall of Fame Game on August 3rd with the Cowboys and the Cardinals.

 

 

NFL/Hall of Fame Game – AUGUST 3
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET NAT. TV
Thurs Aug. 3 Dallas Cowboys vs Arizona Cardinals 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM NBC
WEEK 1 – AUGUST 9-13
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET
Wed Aug. 9 Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 10 Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Friday Aug. 11 Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Friday Aug. 11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Friday Aug. 11 San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs 8:00 PM (CT) 9:00 PM
Sat Aug. 12 Tennessee Titans at New York Jets 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 12 Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams 6:00 PM (PT) 9:00 PM
Sat Aug. 12 Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals 7:00 PM (MST) 10:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 13 Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts 1:30 PM (ET) 1:30 PM
Sunday Aug. 13 Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM
WEEK 2 – AUGUST 17-21
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET NAT. TV
Thurs Aug. 17 Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 17 Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM ESPN
Friday Aug. 18 Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans 2:00 PM (CT) 3:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys 6:00 PM (CT) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 New York Jets at Detroit Lions 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 19 New England Patriots at Houston Texans 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Sat Aug. 19 Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals 7:00 PM (MST) 10:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 20 Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:00 PM (ET) 4:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 20 New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM
Monday Aug. 21 New York Giants at Cleveland Browns 8:00 PM (ET) 8:00 PM ESPN
WEEK 3 – AUGUST 24-27
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET NAT. TV
Thurs Aug. 24 Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 24 Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Friday Aug. 25 New England Patriots at Detroit Lions 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Friday Aug. 25 Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM CBS
Sat Aug. 26 Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 New York Jets at New York Giants 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams 5:00 PM (PT) 8:00 PM CBS
Sat Aug. 26 Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Sat Aug. 26 Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos 7:00 PM (MT) 9:00 PM
Sunday Aug. 27 Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans 12:00 PM (CT) 1:00 PM FOX
Sunday Aug. 27 Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins 4:30 PM (ET) 4:30 PM FOX
Sunday Aug. 27 San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM NBC
WEEK 4 – AUGUST 31
DAY DATE VISITOR HOME LOCAL ET
Thurs Aug. 31 Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers 6:00 PM (CT) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets 7:00 PM (ET) 7:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 New York Giants at New England Patriots 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7:30 PM (ET) 7:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints 7:00 PM (CT) 8:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs 7:30 PM (CT) 8:30 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos 7:00 PM (MT) 9:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM
Thurs Aug. 31 Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers 7:00 PM (PT) 10:00 PM

Each AFC North Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

 

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help.  Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks.  Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player.  I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the AFC North:

  1. antonio-brownPittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers have a rapidly improving defense, one of the top offensive lines in the league, and a trio of offensive play-makers who are able to dominate any given game on any given weekend.  They have had success in drafting Artie Burns in the first round as he has improved greatly over the season and has high upside as the future lock down #1 corner for the team.  Their receiving corps were weaker this year than it could have been, but that is partially due to Martavis Bryant being suspended for the season, but he is likely to return for next season as long as he doesn’t mess up again.  Their biggest weakness on defense is at inside linebacker next to Ryan Shazier.  Lawrence Timmons has been a great leader for the Steelers for years, but his play on the field doesn’t reflect his leadership.  He is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason so the team might not bring him back and the linebackers under him don’t have the necessary speed to cover sideline to sideline that is needed in today’s NFL.  If they grab a strong coverage linebacker here, then the Steelers defense can go back to living up to the standards of the Steel Curtain.
  2. cj-moselyBaltimore Ravens- The NFL is losing possibly the greatest receiver to ever have a Napoleon complex this year with Steve Smith retiring.  Throughout his career he has been one of the toughest and quickest to anger players in the league which has also made him one of the most fun players in the NFL over his career.  Now the Ravens still have their qb in Joe Flacco and there is already a known formula for a successful offense built around him.  They need a receiver who can stretch the field and either catch long balls or cause defensive pass interference penalties and they have that in Mike Wallace.  They need a running game that can produce yards on the ground, but also able to produce in the short passing game and the combination of Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon provides that for them.  And finally they need a big guy in the mold of an Anquan Boldin to make the tough move the chains type of catches, which is something the team is severely lacking.  At tight end they have a high round pick in Maxx Williams who just plain hasn’t been able to produce.  At wide receiver they have a Breshad Perriman who has had to deal with injuries, but is best suited for the same role as Mike Wallace who is just plain better in that role.  This draft is deep at tight end so I’d like to see them go in that direction so they can go back to playing Ravens football on both offense and defense.
  3. aj-greenCincinnati Bengals- Oh how the almost mighty have fallen.  Before this season, the Bengals had made it to the playoffs for 5 consecutive seasons only to lose in the first round.  In 2015 they started out even better than normal and looked poised for a first round bye until Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury.  Then they ended up losing both their #2 and #3 receivers in free agency so they had to replace them with Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell who worked fairly well at their spots.  But there is another player they lost during the offseason who they weren’t able to replace, and that was their former right tackle Andre Smith.  Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher combined to play terribly at right tackle all season for the Bengals.  This led the team from having one of the top offensive lines in the league to having one in the middle of the road.  If they can add a top offensive tackle prospect this year who can end up eventually developing into a left tackle since Andrew Whitworth is in the last few years of his career, then the Bengals can once again find themselves in the playoffs, and maybe even making it past the first round.
  4. danny-shelton                        Cleveland Browns- The Browns have 3 studs in place on their roster who can be trusted to be good next season, left tackle Joe Thomas, corner back Joe Haden, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.  Those are the only 3 guys who are safe in their spots on the entire team as long as none of them are traded away.  This means that their biggest need will be whoever the best player they can get is.  If I were the Browns, I wouldn’t take a quarterback first overall to stick them behind an offensive line with one great piece and 4 average at best pieces with no true receiving threats, little to no running game, and a defense that wouldn’t be able to hold onto a lead.  So I think the biggest need for the Browns is a pass rusher who will be able to make the rest of their defense better.  They are moving to more of a 4-3 scheme with Greg Williams as the defensive coordinator, so with Danny Shelton stuffing the run on defense, an edge rushing defensive end who can also play the run would be able to help boost the play of their defensive backs in the pass game and help their limited linebackers in the run game.  This probably won’t make them a great team quickly, but it will likely give them their best shot at a franchise quarterback in the 2018 draft.

Previous articles in this series: AFC East

I seriously think you should jump on this wave!

By Lawrence Edwards

OK, before I get started let me tell you that this isn’t a fad that will quickly fade out, nor is it a get rich quick scheme. It’s simple, I am not forcing you or trying to persuade you to do anything. I just want to share with you something that I know sports enthusiasts every where will enjoy and offer you the opportunity to be apart of something or get ahead of everyone else on a trend that is about to take the world by storm. From Football to Cricket we have something every sports will fall in love with. You have two options: Affiliate or Player. I will go in to great detail about both and most importantly the coming of a game changing sports app by United Games that is going to absolutely blow your mind!

Now what we are talking about here is an app that will let you enjoy your favorite sport interactively while watching the game. This app is going to bring a new dynamic way of playing of enjoying sports. It’s not just going to focus on the major sports but every sport.  The point is to get everyone to enjoy sports better, not just the people who have time for drafts and 4 different fantasy leagues or the ones who are good at selecting the right combination of players in order to enjoy the experience.

Now, as I previously mentioned you have two options to join this wave, either as a player or an affiliate. If you want to just be one of the first to enjoy the experience of this game changing app then sign up as a player for free. You will be a pre-registered player and once the app launches within the next 5 weeks you can begin enjoying your interactive sports experience and start earning some rewards and points. I don’t know about you but once I started playing fantasy football and basketball, the game became THAT much more interesting to me. I began to pay attention to things that I didn’t before. This interactive app will award every real sports fan the same experience but much better – did I mention that some of EA Sports former developers are building this thing? – Get ahead of the trend, this app is coming and it’s going to change the way we enjoy sports forever and it will be the first of it’s kind, share it with your neighbors, share it with your family, if they love sports, chances are they will love this!

Now if you are interested in becoming an affiliate of United Games and getting the opportunity to not only get ahead of the trend but earn some money while doing it, then this the route you want to go. Now let me tell you this isn’t a pyramid scheme or something wild like that, if you don’t want to be an affiliate then you don’t have to. We aren’t trying to recruit people for money, we are just offering an opportunity to earn some income based off of people just playing the game. Now when this was brought to me a few weeks ago I had my initial negative thoughts. I was told that I can become an affiliate for free, feel it out see if I like it and if I do I would have to pay a one time fee of $30 to stay an affiliate and $9.99 a month to maintain my affiliate site and if I don’t just simply cancel no harm done. Now I’m no easy person to convince to join things, so I did my own research before I agreed to sign up for anything. Now I hate selling things, I’m terrible at it, so the fact I didn’t have to sell a product and it was an app – I’m a huge tech junkie – helped me decide to really read up on it. So I did my research and found that this app could really be something special and I don’t have to pay my fee until the app launches in 4-5 weeks at the time of this writing. I figured, what can I lose? I can jump on board playing a new fantasy app and maybe earn some money while doing it. Every time you share the app and someone signs up, whether as an affiliate or a player, and starts buying or earning tokens, you get a piece of the pie, NICE! Another selling point for me was the fact that in order for you to earn income you have to fill out tax form 1099. That right there let me know it was legit. Now United Games is offering this opportunity only up until the app launches in 5 weeks. Once it goes live, the affiliate opportunity will be no longer offered. You will only be able to download and use the app.

Whether you sign up to be a player or an affiliate I can assure you that this app is going to change your sporta experience. The point of this blog is to get the word out that a Giant is coming and to offer, what I believe to be a grand opportunity to be apart of the next big thing. If you like what you heard here today feel free to drop a comment, email me (lawrence.edwards115@gmail.com) or if you got here through my Facebook link, just shoot me a DM and I will happily send you a link to be an affiliate or a free player so you will be all set to go when the app launches. Once you click the link there will be more information for you to read through to get an even better understanding. You’re going to love this!

Here is a one page info sheet you can look at to get more information. Feel free to contact me with questions.

 

Baltimore Ravens 2016 Preview 

Sports Elite


By Micheal Hester

In the past decade or so, the Baltimore Ravens have been consistent when it comes to reaching the playoffs. In 2015, it was one of the few seasons they didn’t. The 2016 NFL season will present its own set of challenges for Charm City’s birds but these are a few bold reasons why the Ravens can reach the postseason and even make a run in 2016.

1. A Healthy Joe Flacco.

Throw out whether Joe Flacco is elite or not, now’s not the time for that debate. What he is, when he’s healthy, is dangerous. With additions to the offensive line, we could see the 2014 Flacco return (3,986 passing yards, 27 TDs, 91.0 passer rating) With a new (verbal) commitment to running the ball again, that will also relieve pressure from Joe and open up the play action game. The future of the Ravens’ offense could be a bright one.

2.Offensive line makeover/Passing game.

First round offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will be tasked with being one of 5 to open up the rushing lanes for running backs Justin Forsett, Javarious Allen, and Kenneth Dixon. They’ll also have a even more important task of protecting their franchise quarterback. Alongside Marshal Yanda, this line could propel itself to being one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. In the passing game, you have the addition of deep threat wideout, Mike Wallace. Wallace’s speed and his (one-trick only) specialty is beating his defender on go-routes with his speed, a perfect receiver to match Flacco’s rocket arm. One bright spot of the Ravens’ offense in 2015 was the emergence of receiver, Kamar Aiken. Add in a healthy Steve Smith, Sr. coming back for his 16th NFL season and a hopeful debut season for 1st round draft pick, Breshad Perriman and the Ravens’ offense should have the weapons to put up points in bunches.

3. Defense.

The Ravens have been famous for their defensive units the past decade plus, but the days of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. That, however, doesn’t mean that the Ravens 2016 defensive unit shouldn’t be a force. With the return of Terrell Suggs, his veteran leadership will be key. Jimmy Smith had a poor 2015 season but will be looking to for a bounce back season. Add in the addition of former San Diego All-Pro safety Eric Weddle in the secondary and the Ravens’ defense should have a nice mixture of both youth and veteran presence in their unit.

9-7 or 10-6 are realistic predictions for this Ravens team if they stay healthy for the most part.

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2016 NFL Season Preview and Predictions

By Brian Jones

For football fans everywhere there are certain points on the football calendar to look forward to and tomorrow is definitely one of them as training camp for all 32 teams gets underway. Before the first official whistle gets blown, however, I’m going to make some bold predictions and give some random opinions on this upcoming season. The Road To The Super Bowl officially starts tomorrow and only one team will win it all. Here is how I believe things will shake out, starting with the AFC and NFC West Divisions (all divisions in predicted order of finish with record):

AFC West

Oakland Raiders (11-5)

Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)

Denver Broncos (7-9)

San Diego Chargers (4-12)

No, that’s no typo and yes, I have Oakland winning 11 games and the division. Seriously. The Chiefs have key injuries on both sides of the ball, a game manager at quarterback and key injuries from players on both sides of the ball. The Chargers are still a mess unto themselves and the Broncos are deciding if Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez or Trevor Simian will be their starting quarterback this season (Von Miller can’t do it all). It all adds up to Oakland taking this division and making their first playoff appearance in 13 years.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (12-4)

Seattle Seahawks (11-5)

Los Angeles Rams (6-10)

San Francisco 49ers (1-15)

So we got 2 teams that’ll contend for home field advantage and the Super Bowl, one team that’ll contend for pride and little else and one team what will likely be the league’s doormat this season. Seattle and Arizona will fight to see who wins the division while the Rams will look the part of a competitive team but have Jeff Fisher still leading them down the wrong path. Meanwhile, can San Francisco win a game this season (they have a chance to go 0-16)?

NFC South 

Carolina Panthers (10-6)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

New Orleans Saints (7-9)

Carolina ran away with the division and the NFC last season and still have the pieces in place to make another Super Bowl run as one of the NFL’s more competitive divisions continues to rebuild. Atlanta’s late season nosedive still has me concerned and New Orleans is in a bit of a transition on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay’s successes will hinge on Jameis Winston and his continued development. With everything considered, Cam Newton and Carolina win the division with little trouble this season.

AFC South

Houston Texans (11-5)

Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)

Tennessee Titans (6-10)

This division could go one of 3 ways – the Colts, Jags or Texans could win the division crown. Houston has the most talent and better overall roster (on paper) and they are the pick here. Andrew Luck can’t stay healthy and is turnover prone while Jacksonville has the pieces to win but may not be ready. Tennessee is still rebuilding and won’t be in the division basement for long. Texans should win the division for the second straight season but don’t at all be surprised if Indianapolis or Jacksonville find a way to pull it off.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (11-5)

Minnesota Vikings  (11-5)

Chicago Bears (7-9)

Detroit Lions (5-11)

Another division with 2 playoff caliber teams and 2 doormats. Minnesota is a few players away from becoming a Super Bowl contender while Detroit and Chicago both have gunslingers at quarterback with Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler…but both teams have marginal defenses and little else to fall back on. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers and that, along with a championship-caliber roster, will keep Green Bay in the driver’s seat in the division but Minnesota will be there all season to contend for the division crown.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)

Cleveland Browns (4-12)

This division is about hard-hitting defenses and explosive offenses and this season will be no different. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco should recover from his ACL injury while Pittsburgh will bring back a healthy roster after injuries hampered them down the stretch last season. Both teams have the defenses and overall talent to win it all in 2016. The Bengals lost a lot of talent in free agency and didn’t do much to replace it. That will show this season as the Bengals will take a step back. Browns fans may want to have the Cavaliers’ championship parade on standby because there’s not going to be a lot to cheer about in Cleveland as another rebuilding project gets underway.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

New York Giants (9-7)

Washington Redskins (7-9)

Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)

Yes, you read that correctly, I said Dallas will win 10 games and the division. Until Kirk Cousins can beat a team with a winning record you can put much stock in Washington’s chances this season. The Eagles are in a full rebuild now so don’t expect much from them either. The Giants made upgrades on defense and possibly have Victor Cruz returning on offense but if Dallas can stay healthy and keep Tony Romo in one piece that will be enough for them to win the division this season.

AFC East

New England Patriots (13-3)

New York Jets (8-8)

Miami Dolphins (6-10)

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

This was the easiest division to predict. Most think that since Tom Brady is suspended for four games the rest of the division will get off to a fast start and take advantage, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. The Jets have all the pieces and no quarterback while the Dolphins don’t have enough talent to keep up. Buffalo has the talent but can Rex Ryan do enough with it to save his job? How will things play out? Brady comes back, plays angry on the way to 13 wins, league MVP and another AFC East division title in his pocket.

So there it is, my fearless predictions on how this season will play out…but before I wrap this up here are my predictions on how the championship games and Super Bowl will play out:

AFC Championship: New England over Houston 35-27

NFC Championship: Arizona over Carolina 38-33

Super Bowl LI: New England over Arizona 37-27 (Tom Brady wins MVP)

I’m aware that most, if not all, of what I’ve laid out here may  or may not come true (that’s why they’re called predictions)…but just to be fair we’ll revisit this the Tuesday after the regular season and the Tuesday after the Super Bowl to see how right (or wrong) I was. Football is FINALLY back and this season promises to be another good one full of big games, interesting storylines and excitement that only the NFL can provide. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things play out this season.

Run, Ravens, Run. 

Written by Micheal Hester

It’s well-known in football that a quarterback’s best friend is a good rushing offense. A dominant run game can propel an average quarterback into new territory, numbers-wise. Put a good run game behind an elite quarterback and your offense is so much more lethal. Take Dallas, for example, in the 2014 season. Dallas’ offensive staff committed to creating a powerful, punishing run offense and it led the way to a 12-4 season. Along with that record and a playoff run, Tony Romo, coming off of a back surgery the previous season had the best season of his career, going neck-to-neck with Aaron Rodgers for the best passer rating that season.

During the 2015 season, the Ravens’ run offense wasn’t terrible but it was nothing to brag about either. Although they ranked 26th overall in rushing yards, which is terrible,  John Harbaugh has repeatedly stressed the importance of getting the run game fired up for the 2016 season. Question is: do the Ravens have the running backs to get it done?

Charm City’s beloved birds will more than likely go with a running back-by-committee approach in 2016, with veteran rusher Justin Forsett leading the charge. 

Forsett doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body, only eclipsing 1,000 yards once in his lengthy career. And he’s only two years removed from his 1,266 yard/8 touchdown season back in 2014, where he averaged 5.4 YPC (yards per carry) Not to mention, he’s a durable back. His 2015 season ending injury was a freak accident (Broken arm on a tackle from Rams’ DT, Aaron Donald) But en-route to having his season cut short, “J-Force” was likely on his way to having another 1,000-yard season, cut short at 641 yards and only 2 touchdowns. 

Ravens’ run game is zone blocking based, where Forsett thrives in. As a matter of fact, all of the Ravens’ backs (with the exception of Hall of Fame-bound Trent Richardson) are zone scheme backs. When Forsett went down for the season, rookie Javorious “Buck” Allen stepped in and had a decent season, especially in the passing game. 45 receptions for 535 yards and 2 TDs, and 514 yards on the ground. Buck Allen had fumbling issues, which is an issue he’ll need to work on if he wants a bigger role in Baltimore’s backfield in the upcoming season. 

Baltimore also drafted Louisiana Tech lighting rod-of-a-running back, Kenneth Dixon. Scouts compared Dixon to former Ravens’ rusher, Ray Rice. Almost the same build, great hands, speed, agility and vision, not to mention he’s another rusher that can run in the zone blocking scheme. Where all 3 of those running backs lack is in the power department. Neither 3 have the size and power to crash the gap up the middle and bulldoze their way to 1st downs to keep the chains moving, or against stacked boxes near the goal line for touchdowns. 

That’s why the Ravens hope this is the year Lorenzo Taliferno actually stays healthy. Taliferno has shown flashes of being someone special for the Ravens’ offense. A 225lb zone scheme back, the Ravens’ are keeping their fingers crossed for him. If Lorenzo stays healthy, and since the Ravens’ offense doesn’t use fullback Kyle Juszcyk as a ball carrier. Juszcyk is actually a vital part to the Ravens offense, not just the run game but since Kyle has only carried the ball a handful of times in his NFL career, we don’t expect him to get it much more in 2016, which is why he is not really mentioned in this article.  We can expect the Ravens to turn to either Taliferno, Terrence West  (another power back on the roster) or Trent Richardson, if he’s healthy at any point going into the upcoming season to get the power run game going. 

So here is a much-too-early prediction for the Ravens’ backfield: three backs going into the season. J-Force leading the way, Buck Allen as the #2 running back, and either Taliferno, if healthy or Dixon at number 3. With the addition of first round tackle, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, who’s garnering much praise from the coaches for his mauling blocking style, and one of the best in the game Marshall Yanda, Baltimore’s run offense should take off with the right commitment to the run. As Joe Flacco returns from an ACL tear in 2015, Charm City’s birds needs to find inspiration in the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and “run the rock” with their multi-headed backfield. 

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Comeback Kids 2016: Tony Romo vs. Joe Flacco. 


It’s a tale of two gunslingers from opposite conferences. Two quarterbacks who are the helm of their teams, and who also had their 2015 season cut short by injuries. Two quarterbacks who will should be on the radar of every defense they’ll be facing in 2016. Who will bounce back the strongest and light up the skies in 2016: Tony Romo or Joe Flacco?

Joe Flacco…

The Charm City birds are always considered a playoff contender when Joe is healthy and playing at his best. The strong-armed Delaware gunslinger has been the subject of “elite or not” debates for a few years now. (Not many quarterbacks can go 11 TDs/0 INTs en-route to a Super Bowl victory, but that’s old news now) With a career TD/INT ratio of 162-102, there’s no doubt that Joe is capable of having another solid season. 2014, his numbers looked like this:

27 TDs/12 interceptions

3,986 yards

91.0 passer rating.

All that within a run-first offense. Not to mention, completing the 2nd most single-season passes in his career that year (334 completions out of 554 attempts) 2015 wasn’t so generous to Joe. After seeing his team get depleted by injuries before suffering a ACL tear of his own in week 11 vs. the St. Louis Rams, Joe did manage to put up a respectable 14 TDs/12 INTs, 2,791 yards and a 83.1 passer rating.

Tony Romo…

Say what you want about “America’s Team” quarterback, but the numbers don’t lie. Like Flacco, his numbers alone put him in the elite tier of active quarterbacks. (Seriously people, the numbers is the only realistic way to compare players to others. Not just rings and popularity) 2015 was the worst season of Romo’s career, and the first one he’s had a passer rating below 90.0. 5 TDs/7 INTs, a 79.4 passer rating. And two collarbone breaks to top it all off, a season to forget. But the year before, 2014, was the best of his career. Records were set. 133.7, highest passer rating in the month of December, highest in NFL history. 113.2 passer rating on the season, next to Aaron Rodgers. 3,705 yards. MVP candidate. All proof that Tony is still capable of destroying defenses when healthy. (Key: when healthy)
New Additions, New Year.

Both of these quarterbacks are locked and loaded for 2016. With the Ravens drafting top-tier offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens are looking to protect Flacco better and get back to establishing the run with their 3-headed backfield: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen and rookie, Kenneth Dixon. With veteran All-Pro receiver, Steve Smith returning from injury and the addition of speedy deep-threat, Mike Wallace, the Ravens’ offense is to put up big numbers again.

On the flip side, heading south toward Dallas, the Cowboys drafted possibly the best running back prospect in years: Ezekiel Elliott. The addition of “Zeke” helps Romo in several ways, the more obvious ones are: running the ball and keeping his arm fresh. Two, having an addition lineman in the backfield with him. Elliott’s blocking is said to be the best among any running back coming out of college in years. Add in the fact that the deadly, All-Pro receiver, Dez Bryant is healed and healthy after his foot injury last season. And the two addition to the backfield, former Redskin bell cow Alfred Morris, paired with arguably the best offensive line in the entire league. It’s not ridiculous to think that Romo can have a repeat of his 2014 season.
So, which gunslinger will have the best comeback season in 2016: Joe or Tony? You choose.

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