Tag Archives: Mario Williams

From Pretender to Contender, and Vice Versa

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Could Robert Griffin III (pictured above) help transform the Redskins from a pretender into a contender? Our very own Jeremy Powers thinks so.

By Jeremy Powers

The football season is upon us. Put a smile on your face.

Tonight, the Giants travel to the Jerry Jones Dome to revive the rivalry that received plenty of media attention as is typically the case this offseason.

I can’t wait to see which teams will take a step back and which teams will rise from the ruins and contend for a playoff birth. Let’s look at a recent example, shall we.

Last season, Tampa Bay stepped back from a ten-win season in 2010 to a 4-12 record and a last place finish in the NFC South. Ouch, talk about the opposite side of the spectrum. The Bucs were a pretender last season.

Cincinnati, who won four games in 2010—reached the playoffs with rookies leading the way on offense. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green made a formidable duo and the Bengals defense was stout all season long leading the team to a 9-7 record. The Bengals were a contender last season.

This season I expect some of the same parity that we see every season in the NFL. I see a few teams emerging as playoff contenders and some teams falling straight into the depths of their respective divisions.

Contender:

The Washington Redskins were 5-11 last season. Drafting Robert Griffin III is a huge upgrade at quarterback over Rex Grossman and John Beck that will result in two more wins minimum. Not to mention the addition of Pierre Garcon as a big-play threat. Washington’s defense is quite impressive on paper as well. Playing in a 3-4 base defense, the Redskins linebackers will lead them as veteran London Fletcher powers a group that also starts second-year guy Ryan Kerrigan, and All-Pro Brian Orakpo. I think the Redskins get to 8-8 this season, which puts them in the hunt for a wild card spot. Continue reading

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2012 NFL Power Rankings: Beware of the Chicago Bears

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Are Jay Cutler (pictured above) and the Chicago Bears poised for a big year in 2012? Our very own Wesley Kaminsky thinks so.

By Wesley Kaminsky

The NFL off-season always seems too long, doesn’t it? In an off-season dominated by Tim Tebow and the New York Jets, it’s that other team in New York who are the reigning Super Bowl champions. They shocked the NFL world a season ago, getting hot at the right time, beating the likes of the Packers, 49ers, and then eventually the Patriots. That takes guts.

With teams such as the Packers, 49ers, Bears, Saints, and Falcons, just to name a few, the NFC is becoming a powerhouse. I didn’t even touch on the NFC East.

In the AFC, the Patriots look like the clear-cut team to beat, as they added more weapons to an already lethal offense and revamped their defense.

Can the Ravens finally get over the hump? Will Peyton Manning return with a vengeance?

These questions will be answered in due time. Continue reading

Throwback Saturday Part XV

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Andre Ethier (pictured above) was a main reason for the Dodgers solid start in 2011. The real cause for LA's mild success though by the end of the season was Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

By Josh Kramer

We have hit the 15th week of “Throwback Saturdays.”  It has been fun taking a trip down memory lane every Saturday.  What was happening on April 28, 2011? How about on April 28, 2010?  Let’s find out.

One year ago..

Loan Bright Spot in Dodgertown

Here is a snippet..

The Los Angeles Dodgers have not exactly had a story book season thus far.  Really not much has gone right on or off the field.  Surprisingly though, the team has not completely flopped.  Or at least not yet.  Sitting at 13 and 13, they are still in 2nd in the NL West. With a run differential of -16, they are not exactly competitive every night.  They either win big.  Or they lose big.  A weak run differential normally catches up with a team as they get a couple of months into the season.  So the odds do not look to be in LA’s favor.

But there has been one lone bright spot in Dodgertown. That bright spot is not Kobe Bryant, though his courage and amazing toughness is a shining light in that city.  Say hello to Los Angeles Dodger’s star right fielder, Andre Ethier.  Ethier has been simply phenomenal this season, and is a main reason why the Dodgers are currently playing 500 baseball.  Without him, the entire ship may have already sunk on this season even just 26 games in (To finish reading this post, click this link). Continue reading

NFL Week 6 Predictions

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. No wide receiver has been better through the first five weeks of the season than Calvin Johnson (pictured above). The Lions top target has been simply unstoppable and has led his team to its first 5 and 0 start since 1956.

By Josh Kramer

Detroit is undefeated.  The 49ers are cruising in the NFC West.  The “Dream Team” is a nightmare.  And the Jets are currently in the midst of a three game losing skid and struggling for dear life.  These are some of the reasons why you have to love the NFL.  Nobody ever knows what is going to happen next.

As has become the tradition, we are once again having “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge.”

The participants this season are as follows:

TheSportsKraze (TSK) (defending champion)-Josh Kramer-Founder/Editor-In-Chief of “TheSportsKraze” and former ESPN intern.

CV3-Chad Vordenberge-An elite high school wide receiver and a very successful business owner.

CB-Craig Baker-A former collegiate baseball player and current special education teacher.

DC-David Clark-A dedicated sports fan who was coached by TheSportsKraze on his fraternity flag football team.  After playing for TheSportsKraze, he has developed a slow but steady motivation to show his coach who the real pick’em champion is.

After Week 5, here is the scoreboard.

CB-50

TSK-52

CV3-52

DC-46

Week 6 Slate: Continue reading

Week 6 NFL Power Rankings

Photo courtesy of sports.gearlive.com. After Jim Harbaugh (pictured above) did the unthinkable and rebuilt the Stanford football program, he is at it again. Only this time, at the professional level.

By Wesley Kaminsky

What if I told you in the beginning of the season that by week six, the Lions would be 5-0, and the Bills and the 49ers would be 4-1? Would you have called me crazy? I would have called myself crazy.

That’s what is so great about the NFL though, you just never know. Yet here we are, five weeks gone, and all these teams are surprising everyone. Matthew Stafford is transforming himself into an elite quarterback, Fred Jackson has become an MVP candidate, and Jim Harbaugh has completely turned around the 49ers.

It wasn’t long ago that all three of these teams were lost and unsure of what direction to go. It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. Continue reading

Food for Thought 10-11-2011

Photo courtesy of withfriendship.com. Philadelphia Head Coach Andy Reid (pictured above) is not the happiest man as we head into Week 6. Can the Eagles turn it around?

By Josh Kramer

It is safe to say that the sporting world is booming right now.  Most of the major players are in play, and even the ones that aren’t (the NBA), are still making headlines.

Here are the main items that have caught my attention.

Super Bowl or Bust?

It is no secret that both the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles were two teams expected to not only make the playoffs, but also to possibly play in the big game.  Lately though, things have gone on a downward spiral in a hurry for both heavily hyped teams. Continue reading

“AFC South Preview”

Superstar quarterback Peyton Manning is looking to lead the Colts to a 9th consecutive playoff appearance.

Though I would love to talk about the TO Show arrival in Cincinnati, I will hold off and continue with my NFL Divisional previews.  This is another division where 3 teams could easily win 8 or more games.  A division that features a Colt’s team looking for redemption, a Titan’s team looking to continue to roll, and a Texan’s team still trying to get over the hump.

AFC South:  Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans (alphabetical order)

Jacksonville Jaguars (4th place):  I do see the Jacksonville boys ending up in the divisional cellar for the 3rd consecutive year.  This team is not terrible by any means, but playing in the AFC South is no easy task.  The Jaguars feature a middle of the road offense and a fairly sub par defense.  In this division, a weaker defense will get lit up by a team like the Colts.  Jacksonville has still not adjusted to the new look “pass first” NFL.  Garrard is a decent quarterback, but Jacksonville has not shown enough confidence in the guy, which in my eyes has led to him struggling the past couple of years.  Do not expect to see Garrard have an over 100 passing rating as he did in 2007.  Now Maurice Jones-Drew has developed into one of the League’s elite running backs, but there is no compliment for him.  There is no dual running back threat, plus the receiving corps is not the best, led by Mike Sims-Walker.  Do not expect to see this team come out victorious in shootouts with teams like the Colts.  Then on the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars feature one of the League’s weakest secondaries and do an okay job at stopping the run.  Can Daryl Smith at linebacker lead this unit to respectability?  You better believe the loss of savvy veteran John Henderson is going to hurt.  I do not expect this team to win more than 7 games, but I could see them stringing together 5 or 6 victories.

Tennessee Titans (3rd place):  Who cares if Jeff Fisher and the Titans are suing Lane Kiffin.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone wants a piece of USC right now?  This team has a strong offensive attack that features possibly the best mix of run/pass in the League.  This is a differentiating factor that this team has in their repertoire.  They can both run and pass the ball, and not just do one or the other in desperation.  The Titans got off to a horrific start last year and fought their way back into contention behind the former Texas Longhorn, Vince Young.  Expect this team to wake up from hibernation much earlier this year.  We all already know about the Chris Johnson show.  Last year’s League leader in rushing yards.  Also, we know that this team has a compliment for Chris in Lendale White.  Lendale  truly pounded  the rock on the goal line reminiscent to how the old bus (Jerome Bettis) used to do it in Pittsburgh in the 2008 season.  Maybe Tennessee will return to this tactic if Chris doesn’t score from 70 yards out every game?  But this team is definitely lacking a number 1 receiver.  Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are solid, but neither is ready to be a number 1 receiver on a playoff team.  Also do not be surprised to see former USC standout Damian Williams making some noise at the 3rd receiver spot towards the end of the season.    But the real question is can this team’s defense hold their opponents in check?  Most directions point to no.  The loss of their defensive leader Keith Bullock will really sting on a defense that was already reeling.  I feel that overall team defense and the lack of a number 1 receiver will cost this team a playoff spot barely.  I see them finishing 8 and 8 or 9 and 7 though, but coming up just short.  Next offseason they will need to get a number 1 receiver and improve the defense to really make a run at this thing.    

Houston Texans (2nd place):  For a 4th consecutive year, I see these boys falling just short of their 1st playoff appearance in franchise history.  I feel like this team is definitely good enough, but drawing the NFC East is the deciding factor that will prevent them from advancing on.  The Houston Texans have a fairly punishing defense led by DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing (Cushing will miss the first 4 games due to suspension though).  Easily one of the top 5 linebacking units in the League though.  They also have guys like Mario Williams on the line who can really play.  Do not be surprised if this team finishes in the League’s top 5 at stopping the run.  The question is can their secondary do as well as their front 7?  Offensively, this team has developed into one of the League’s elite.  They fit the League mold of being a pass happy team.  They have one of the most dangerous aerial attacks in the NFL led by their superstar Andre Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub.  This guy may be the best receiver in the  AFC or the entire NFL.  Can Kevin Walter step up as a big time number 2 threat to relieve some of the pressure off of Andre?  I feel the play of Walter in the 2 slot could really make or break this team’s playoff chances.  He needs to produce much better than he did last season.  The Texans also have a solid running back in Steve Slaton, but will truly miss the production of Ryan Moats.  Though this is a pass first team, it is truly a mystery who is going to step up and be the 2nd back.  If Brian Cushing was not suspended for the first 4 games, and they were not matched up against the NFC East, I would have this team finishing 10 and 6 or 11 and 5 and easily claiming a Wild Card.  I think they are very close to the Titans and they should finish within a game of each other.  But I do see them coming out 9 and 7  and falling just short of the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts (1st place):  The boys from Indianapolis will make the playoffs for the 9th consecutive year.  The legendary career of Peyton Manning will continue to roll.  This team still has the capability of putting up big numbers offensively, though last year the flash seemed to have disappeared.  The Colts really did not blow opponents out, but did just enough to win.  And believe me, Indianapolis was fine with their 14 and 2 finish and appearance in the Super Bowl.  Their plus 109 point differential was only 5th in the League, even though they had the most wins.  I mean who really cares though?  Peyton Manning does as good or a better job than any other quarterback in managing the game and spreading the ball around to all of his targets.  He does not necessarily have the best targets anymore, but in Michael Jordanesque fashion, he turns them into stars.  Guys like Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark have really reaped the benefits.  Who had ever heard of Garcon or Collie before last year?  Joseph Addai is one of the League’s best running backs at doing what he needs to do to help his team win. He will not blow you away with his numbers, but he will do just enough.  Also look for Donald Brown to carry more of the load than he did last year as he enters his 2nd season in the NFL.  Then you look at the Colt’s defense and you have guys like Bethea, Session, hopefully a healthy Bob Sanders, and I could go on.  The Colt’s defense last year typically bent, but did not break.  And was a key in the 14 win season.  Expect more of the same style this year. Also do not sleep on stars like Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett.  This is a solid defense that has the luxury of playing on a team that features Peyton Manning offensively.  There are no dramatic changes to this team from last year’s AFC Champions.  These guys are just tough and they know how to win.  Never question Peyton Manning’s ability to win games.  Expect to see these guys make another deep run in the playoffs.

So there you have it, another year with the Colts on top.  But also do not sleep on the Texans susprising some people and sneaking into the playoffs.  If they did not have to play the NFC East this year, I would definitely have the Texans as a Wild Card team (sadly they play the NFC East).  Should be a fun year in the AFC South.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze