Tag Archives: AFC East

“Too Good to Be True?”

Joe Flacco (pictured above) and the Ravens gutted out a major Week 1 victory on the road against the highly touted New York Jets. Will Flacco play better next week against AFC North rival, Cincinnati?

  At the end of  Week 1 the Pick’em challenge scoreboard reads: 

TheSportsKraze:   8                      CV3:  9 (realize Chad picked the Ravens to win by 1 last night) 

The marquee matchup of this Week 1 of football was the Monday Night Showdown in New York between two big time contenders in the AFC, the Jets and the Ravens.  Both of these teams are considered favorites not only within their respective divisions, but in the conference as a whole.  Each team had outstanding off seasons, bringing in key acquisitions to squads that already made the playoffs last year.  The Jets picked up Antonio Cromartie, LT, and Jason Taylor.  While the Ravens brought in two big time receivers in TJ Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin.  There is one major concern though in my eyes that could hold both of these teams back from Super Bowl glory…  

Isn’t there a show called Monday NFL Quarterback?  Last night was not an example.  

Mark Sanchez was absolutely horrific last evening.  Now I realize the Jets are generally a run first team.  A team that likes to play old school, smash mouth football.  Winning games with a strong rushing attack and superb defense.  And that is fine, even though the League is in the midst of the pass happy era.  A team could still win with an average passing game if they had a superb defense and rushing attack.  Well the Jets without question have the tools defensively.  I mean wow did they put on a show last night.  But how about the former USC Trojan in the pocket?  

Sanchez went 10 for 21 for 74 yards.  This is not pee wee football.  This is the NFL.  A quarterback should be throwing for nearly 74 yards a quarter.  Now I realize that he was playing against the vaunted Ravens defense and all of jazz.  But Mr. GQ was playing in front of a big time home crowd with many weapons at his disposal such as Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Shonn Greene.  He also has former Steelers number 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes at his disposal (hopefully soon).  Also, I realize that Mark is still just in his 2nd year.  Maybe he could be entering the Sophomore slump?  Well not really, considering he did not have a big time rookie year, so it would not be considered a slump.  My one major suggestion for Sanchez is to start throwing to his tight ends more.  I realize that Dustin Keller let him down on last night’s big 4th down play late in the 4th quarter in one of the most bonehead plays I have ever seen.  But give the guy a break.  He had just been summoned by Ray Lewis, the ultimate hitmaker.  A reliable tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend.  Sanchez better improve fast, or this team will not have a prayer at making a run deep into the playoffs.  They will be able to survive on their defense in most games, but against tough contenders like the Ravens, Sanchez will have to perform better than last night.  

Now speaking of young quarterbacks.  The Ravens have a young gun of their own at the helm in Joe Flacco.  Now I will admit, I was thoroughly disappointed by the former Delaware stud last evening.  When you look at Joe, you just feel like he has the look of a big time NFL quarterback.  He possesses that  big time NFL “swagger,” for lack of a better term, which is so hard to explain to somebody who is not a fan of the game.  Last night, Flacco went 20 of 38 (which isn’t horrible), for 248 yards.  He did throw an interception as well.  Now, by no means, was Flacco as bad as Sanchez.  But I along with most football fans hold higher expectations for Joe.  We expect him to do more out there each week than Sanchez.  Partially because he has to with an aging Ravens defensive core.  And in all seriousness, this guy has arguably the most weapons around him of any QB in the League.  He has 2 big play receivers in a Anquan Boldin (now a big play guy and no longer a possession) and Derrick Mason.  He has the 2nd best possession receiver in the game at his disposal in TJ Houshmandzadeh (after Wes Welker).  Todd Heap is a very seasoned tight end who has always been a major threat in the passing attack.  Plus he has a monster 3 headed rushing attack to fall back on in Rice, McGahee, and McClain.  The guy has no excuses.  And sure his team escaped last night against a very tough team on the road.  For this team to make a Super Bowl run, he will have to play much better.  I recommend Flacco develops a deep bond with his new possession guy in TJ Houshmandzadeh and continues to work on his chemistry with tight end Todd Heap.  

Both of these quarterbacks have the luxury of playing on teams with big time defenses and solid rushing attacks.  But in today’s game, you have to at least demonstrate a mediocre passing attack to advance deep into the playoffs.  Who would you rather have at QB, Flacco or Sanchez?  Which of these teams could make a run to the big game?  

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.  

-TheSportsKraze  

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“NFL Week 1 Fun”

Arian Foster stole the show in Week 1 rushing for 233 yards and helping the Texans shock the Colts (Foster is now number 23).

The first Sunday of the NFL season is always unpredictable, wacky, fun all in one.  It is always a weekend filled with excitement.  Full of mysteriousness.  And most of all, full of people sitting on their couches all day.  Following this enigmatic day, the scoreboard reads: 

TheSportsKraze:  8               CV3:  8 

There were few storylines that really caught my eye on the weekend.  

-Who is Arian Foster?  

First of all the Houston Texans monumental upset of the Indianapolis Colts.  Going into the 17th matchup of these franchises, Houston was 1 and 15 all time against the defending AFC Champion Colts.  When was the last time you can remember Peyton and the Indianapolis offensive juggernaut losing in Week 1?  And how about the pass happy Texans getting the job done on the ground.  When looking at some initial statistics you would be astonished.  Matt Schaub, who threw for over 4700 yards last season threw for 107 today, not to mention he threw an interception.  Peyton Manning threw for 433 yards and 3 TDs.  But the real story of this game.  How about Mr. Arian Foster?  The guy just blew up rushing for 233 yards (2nd most all time in an opener behind OJ Simpson) and 3 TDs.  Foster is a 2nd year running back out of Rocky Top (Tennessee) that rushed for 257 yards and 3 TDs all year in his rookie campaign.  Well he just ripped the heart out of the defending AFC Champs on Day 1.  Could the Texans be on the verge of breaking the Colts stranglehold on the AFC South this year? 

-The Steelers take care of business without Big Ben. 

Pittsburgh won their first of four games without their starting quarterback today over a very tough Falcons team.  Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward came up big for the Terrible Towels and took care of Week 1.  I will admit that I thought that the Steelers would lose this one without Roethlisberger.  But with inspired play from Ward and Mendenhall on the offensive side of the ball, and Bryant McFadden leading the charge on the defensive side of the ball (15 tackles today, 12 solo), this team could survive this month-long stretch in decent shape. 

-Welcome back Michael Vick? 

This was the best Michael Vick has looked in years.  The guy played inspired football and almost brought the Eagles back against a very tough Packers team.  Starter Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion in the 2nd quarter, and the electric Michael Vick came to the rescue for the fighting city of Philadelphia.  He rushed for over 100 yards and threw for 175.  Should Vick start over a healthy Kolb next week?  Coach Reid definitely has some thinking to do.  It was nice to see the playmaker back in action bringing back some of the memories of the old glory days (in a weekend where his alma mater took their worst loss in school history). 

-Are the 49ers a pretender? 

Many, including myself picked the 49ers to win the ultra weak NFC West.  Well today, they took a good old-fashioned butt whooping from a divisional rival.  San Francisco came out smoking but then had a rough end to the first half and continued to get worse as the game progressed.  Frank Gore’s rushing attack was non-existent.  Alex Smith threw 2 interceptions.  And I could go on.  Vernon Davis was the only bright spot on the day for the 49ers.  Where is that amazing defense we have been hearing about all off-season and theat newly improved offense?  Are the 49ers contenders or pretenders? 

-Blinded by the hype? 

Another team that thoroughly disappointed was the Cincinnati Bengals.  This team looked to still be playing a preseason game until the 3rd quarter of this one.  And a Patriots team, that definitely has a chip on their shoulder due to the talk of the Jets being the favorite in the AFC East, steamrolled Cincinnati.  The only bright spot for the Bengals on this day was Chad OchoCinco and glimpses of a big time aerial attack.  Sure Carson threw for 345 yards.  But what happened to the smash mouth, run first Bengals (now I realize they were behind so they needed to throw).  Palmer threw the ball 50 times today.  Cedric Benson only had 15 carries.  The real show in this game was the reunited amazing connection of Wes Welker and Tom Brady.  These guys picked up right where they left off following Welker’s knee injury.  The best slot receiver in football had 8 catches and 2 TDs.  Are the Patriots a Super Bowl contender? 

-Is Chris Johnson Superman? 

Chris Johnson picked up right where he left off at the end of last year.  On this day, he led his Titans to an easy victory over an overmatched Raiders team.  Johnson compiled 142 rushing yards and 2 TDs.  And once again broke loose for a big time run of 70+ yards.  The guy is outstanding and looks to only be getting better.  The rest of the League needs to beware of Chris Johnson. 

-Can Roy Williams catch a break in Dallas? 

So in one of the most sloppy games I have ever seen in my life, the Redskins began the Mike Shanahan/Donovan McNabb era with a victory over the rival Cowboys.  The Redskins went 0 and 6 in the vaunted NFC East last season and were ecstatic to get that monkey off their shoulders in Week 1.  Since the arrival of Williams in Dallas, things have progressively gotten worse as he went from being a big time pick up to a guy that fans in Dallas booed consistently.  Once again Roy had a modest evening, of 3 catches for 21 yards, but on the last play of the game, he had appeared to come up with the catch that probably would have won the game for the Cowboys (barring an extra point attempt).  Roy’s heart had to be pounding.  Then he and the rest of Cowboy nation saw a yellow flag on the field.  Alex Barron, the Cowboys 6th year (1st with Cowboys) offensive tackle out of Florida State, had done the unthinkable.  Against a weak, 3 man Washington rush, he blatantly held Redskin linebacker Brian Orakpo.  So Roy’s heroics are already all but forgotten.  Sorry Roy.  Mine as well jump on the Miles Austin bandwagon with the rest of America. 

So these are just a few stories from an amazing opening Sunday.  The NFL is back in the flesh baby. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze. 

-TheSportsKraze 

“NFL Overall Predictions”

TheSportsKraze has the Jets and Packers facing off in Super Bowl 45 on February 6th. Who do you have?

 Since Monday, I have been giving a somewhat in-depth (but not too in-depth) division by division breakdown for this upcoming year in the NFL.  It is never easy to pick the always unpredictable and parity filled League. But I am pretty confident in my picks and very excited for the first game come September.  

In summary, here are my NFL overall predictions: 

AFC East:  New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills (in order of predicted finish) 

AFC East Champion:  New York Jets 

The Jets have had the best off-season of any team in the League.  They made a phenomenal run last year all the way to the AFC Championship game.  This team is better than last year’s squad and hungry to go all the way.  It all starts with capturing the AFC East Crown.  This team will be very fun to watch on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” television series. 

AFC West:  San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders (in order of predicted finish) 

AFC West Champion:  San Diego Chargers 

The Chargers have been holding court in the AFC West for well over 4 years now.  And why would it change this year?  Sure they need to figure out what the deal is with star receiver Vincent Jackson, but there is no reason why these guys should not capture a 5th straight West title.  The loss of LT may sting locker room morale, but look for the Chargers to possibly meet up with their old franchise player come playoff time. 

AFC South:  Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars (in order of predicted finish) 

AFC South Champion:  Indianapolis Colts 

Peyton Manning and the Colts have owned the AFC South for nearly a decade now.  This team is not only talented, but they are mentally tough, led by the game’s best quarterback.  Expect the Indy boys to make another deep run as they ride their star for yet another year. 

AFC North:  Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns (in order of predicted finish) 

AFC North Champion:  Cincinnati Bengals 

It is TO Mania at Georgetown College where the Bengals are holding training camp.  This team has both a strong offense and defense.  The Bengals possess the deepest and most talented team of the Marvin Lewis era.  Can they repeat as AFC North champs for the first time in my lifetime?  You better believe it as America gets to witness the “Ocho/TO Show,” aka  the  “Carson Palmer Show.” 

Wildcards:  Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots 

The Ravens in my opinion are one of the top few teams in the entire AFC.  They just unfortunately share a division with another one of the top couple of teams, the Bengals.  Finally, the Ravens have a receiving corps that makes this team have a solid offensive attack to go along with their always scary defense.  The Patriots are the Patriots.  They are not the most talented team this year, but they are led by the best coach in the game and the best big game quarterback in the game.  Expect these guys to have a solid year, but an early exit from the playoffs. 

AFC Championship:  New York Jets defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 

The Jets will knock the Bengals out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.  Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and the Jet’s secondary will be up to the challenge of stifling the Bengal’s very talented receiving corps. 

NFC East:  Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles (in order of predicted finish) 

NFC East Champion:  Dallas Cowboys 

So what if Dez Bryant does not want to be hazed by his teammates?  The guy has big time potential to help out an already strong passing attack led by Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and Tony Romo.  Could the Cowboys make this Super Bowl a home game?  We will find out come February 6th. 

NFC West:  San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams (in order of predicted finish) 

NFC West Champion: San Francisco 49ers 

Okay, so this is one of the weakest conferences in the entire NFL.  But the 49ers look to finally be somewhat back.  Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and the entire San Francisco Bay area will be very proud to see these guys make the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade (8 years). 

NFC South:  New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (in order of predicted finish) 

NFC South Champion:  New Orleans Saints 

The party on Bourbon Street is still going on from last year’s Super Bowl Championship.  Luckily for the Saints, most of the team has been kept intact.  Expect Drew Brees to lead these guys to another outstanding season. 

NFC North:  Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions (in order of predicted finish) 

NFC North Champion:  Minnesota Vikings 

This division has two of football’s best at the top.  Brett Favre (if he returns), will get the better of his former team in the regular season.  All eyes should be on the dates of October 24th and November 21st as these two powerhouses go head to head.  But watch out for the Packers come postseason time as they steamroll their former franchise player. 

Wildcards:  Green Bay Packers, New York Giants 

The Green Bay Packers are in my opinion the best team in the NFC.  They just have to deal with the second best team, the Minnesota Vikings, before their quarterback gets tired.  So these guys will be ready to roll come playoff time.  The Giants participate in football’s best conference top to bottom.  I just feel like they are the team who will find their way out of the 3 team battle between Philly, Washington, and themselves for 2nd place in the East, and the 2nd Wild Card spot. 

NFC Championship:  Green Bay Packers defeating the New Orleans Saints 

Revenge will be sweet for the Cheeseheads as they see Brett once again come up short of making his first appearance in a Super Bowl since 1997.  Will Brett go for it again in 2011-2012?  This game though will be an absolute aerial assualt, but the Packer’s ability to defend will help them come out victorious in a nail biter over the defending champion Saints. 

Super Bowl Prediction:  New York Jets defeating the Green Bay Packers 31 to 28. 

This will just be an absolutely outstanding game in all aspects, as football’s two best teams battle it out in Cowboys Stadium.  Expect Darrelle Revis to come up with some big time plays and help stifle the Packer’s amazing aerial attack.  Rex Ryan will make the whole media aspect of this game quite entertaining.  New York will go nuts. 

So there you have it.  Those are the predictions from TheSportsKraze for the upcoming NFL Season/Postseason. 

Let me hear your thoughts on what should be an outstanding year in the NFL. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze. 

-TheSportsKraze

“AFC East Preview”

Mark Sanchez may have taken Tom Brady's spot as the "pretty boy" quarterback in the AFC East. The Jets are the pick of TheSportsKraze to take the divisional crown.

NFL Training Camp is right around the corner.  Which means that the NFL regular season is just about a month and a half away.  So let the madness begin.  I will not be giving Fantasy Football projections.  I can simply leave that up to ESPN and all the other websites.  But I will weigh in with my thoughts on each division and pick a winner.  But also please realize that these picks are coming just before or during the beginning of training camp.  Training Camp is always full of injuries.  So take that into consideration.

AFC East:  Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots (alphabetical order)

This has been a division that traditionally is the Patriots and then everyone else.  Well with the brilliance of Rex Ryan down the stretch last year, and the amazing off-season the Jets have had, the AFC East is not just the Patriots and everyone else.  It is the Patriots and the Jets, plus a solid Dolphins squad.  This is a very intriguing division for many reasons.

First of all you have 3 of the coldest weather places in the NFL.  Buffalo, New England, and New York all have bitterly cold and snow filled winters.  This really plays a large piece of what happens down the stretch.  Then of course there is beautiful Miami which will probably never see snow during our lifetime.

Buffalo Bills (4th):  So lets start at the bottom of the division.  I have the Buffalo Bills finishing last as they did last year.  With the very probable loss of Terrell Owens, who is not nearly what he was at the age of 37, this team really has no big time players.  Their most recognizable names are WR Lee Evans, LB Paul Posluszny, and S Jairus Byrd.  Their quarterback Trent Edwards had a very weak year last season in which he did not play in 7 games and threw more interceptions than touchdowns.  Never a good sign.  Their running back combo will consist of hot-shot rookie CJ Spiller and savvy veteran Marshawn Lynch.  Though I feel Spiller has a ton of upside, this team will struggle so much in the passing game, that teams will be able to throw 8 or 9 guys in the box at all times.  Spiller will be good for a rookie, but playing in Buffalo as a running back will be very tough due to the extreme cold and lack of a passing game. 

Miami Dolphins (3rd):  The team I have finishing 3rd in this division is the Miami Dolphins.  Now Miami is a solid team.  Though they finished 7 and 9 last season, they did lose their final 3 games.  So they were right in the thick of the playoff race for the majority of the season.  Miami made a great offseason pickup in nabbing Brandon Marshall.  Marshall is one of the game’s very best receivers and will add a much-needed possession and deep threat combo guy to the Dolphin’s offensive repertoire.  They also possess possibly the best left tackle in the game in Jake Long.  Not to mention they have a very solid 2 headed monster at running back in Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.  The NFL has become a League where you must have 2 strong backs to be successful.  One very strong featured back with the lack of a compliment does not typically translate to success anymore in the NFL.  The only thing that will really hold this team back in my eyes is their mediocre at best quarterback in Chad Henne.  Sure he will have a great rushing attack to lean on and a big play receiver in Brandon Marshall, but the Patriots and Jets will both have very strong defenses and should really confuse the former Michigan star.  Not to mention Miami has a mediocre at best defense led by Kendall Langford and Randy Starks on the line. 

New England Patriots (2nd):  My pick to finish in 2nd in the AFC East is the New England Patriots.  Yes the Tom Brady, 3 time Super Bowl winning Patriots.  And first of all lets put to rest the rumors of turmoil between Brady and Patriot’s ownership.  These are false and will have no affect on the team.  The Patriots will be tough this  year.  And you better believe they are looking for redemption after their embarrassing playoff loss at the hands of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and the Baltimore Ravens.  The Patriots will once again be led by a phenomenal passing attack which features Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and a “should be” healthy Wes Welker.  All reports are saying that the best possession receiver in the game “should be” healthy for the Patriots Week 1 battle with Cincinnati.  Now the Patriots are a team that featured a stellar offense last season and also a fairly strong defense.  They are led by possibly the best preparation coach in the game in Bill Belichick.  Belichick is the Peyton Manning of coaches when it comes to preparing his team for games.  This team probably only has one somewhat noticeable weakness.  And that is their running back corpse.  Laurence Maroney has never really panned out as expected and he will be joined by Sammy Morris to provide the Patriot’s one-two punch (I do realize they have old man river Fred Taylor as well).  Now I also realize that it is tough for running backs in New England due to the fact that they throw so much.  But neither of these guys have given Bill much reason to have confidence in them.  Look for this team to nab a wildcard, but also realize that I do not see them making a Super Bowl run.  The Patriots are beginning to remind me of the San Antonio Spurs of the NFL.  They are a team that will make the playoffs and will always be dangerous due to players like Brady and the great coaching of Belichick, but their glory days seem to be behind them. 

New York Jets (1st):  I have the New York Jets finishing in 1st.  Yes, I realize that this is the AFC East.  A division that has been owned by the Patriots for around a decade.  But the Jets on paper appear to have the best team in football.  They are a team that shocked the world in last year’s playoffs by advancing all the way to the AFC Championship Game.  They appear to have dramatically improved from last year on paper.  This team had the best defense in the League last season and I do not see any reason why they will not be right near the top again this year.  Their defense will be led by the best corner in the game in Darrelle Revis, a very talented linebacking corpse led by Calvin Pace and David Harris, and of course the defensive mastermind that is Rex Ryan.  In addition, their offense should be better.  Not just simply because Mark Sanchez has a full year of experience under his belt, but because they brought in a big time playoff experienced receiver in Santonio Holmes to play alongside Braylon Edwards.  Also they picked up a seasoned veteran running back in LaDainian Tomlinson to help groom the very talented former Iowa Hawkeye, Shonn Greene.  In addition, I forgot to mention that they even made upgrades to their already stellar defense with the likes of Antonio Cromartie and Jason Taylor.  You better believe that this Jet’s team is the real deal.

Many are saying it is Super Bowl or bust for the Jets this year.  And this seems to be a fair statement.  Expect the Jets to gain the AFC East crown on the way to another deep playoff run.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportskraze.

-TheSportsKraze