Chicago Bears

The one NFL team no playoff contender wants to play

With the ninth week of regular season play already started, separation is starting to take place  in the NFL when it comes to who will be fighting for a playoff spot late in the season and who will just be playing for pride. There is one team out there that no playoff contender should want to deal with.

While stranger things have certainly happened, the playoffs are probably out of reach for the Chicago Bears who sit at 3-5 as they enjoy their bye week. However, this team is among the most improved since the start of the season. Here is why they are poised to at the very least play spoiler as we roll towards this season’s stretch run.

They finally have an identity on offense:

Are the Bears limited on offense with rookie Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback? Of course. The second overall pick has not completed more than 14 passes in any of his four starts. Despite that, knowing your limitations and playing to your strengths can count for a lot in this league. Bears head coach John Fox knows this better than most coaches. He won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback.

The best thing about the Bears offense was always the Jordan Howard led ground game. Turning to a rookie quarterback, forced Chicago to become more reliant on that. For some reason, the Bears were intent on throwing the ball all over the place with Mike Glennon under center to start the season. Granted, the Bears were trailing a lot, but averaging 35 pass attempts per game with a quarterback like Glennon is not a formula for consistent winning. A quarterback change caused a light bulb to come on for the entire organization,

Howard has had fewer than 20 carries just once in Trubisky’s four starts. Rookie Tarik Cohen has come from nowhere to give the Bears one of the best backfield combos in football. Chicago now has the fourth ranked rushing offense in the NFL.

It is also important to remember that the modern NFL is a pass happy league where even average quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins throw for 4,000 yards. Thus, when a run based team like the Bears comes along, it is a difficult style for defenses to adapt to. Jacksonville is having some success this year with a similar formula. This style is not flashy, some may even call it boring, but it has given opponents fits for the last month.

Another thing a run heavy offense has allowed the Bears to do is limit turnovers. Looking at just the quarterback position, Glennon was responsible for six turnovers in the first four games of the year. In the last four, Trubisky has accounted for just two.

Turnovers are not the only negative plays Trubisky is helping to avoid, he is far more mobile than the much older and taller Glennon. He has been able to create something out of nothing and scamper to avoid sacks. Sometimes, an incomplete pass is not so bad. Apart from a terrible throw at the end of the game in his first start, the added element of Trubisky’s mobility has served him and the team well.

Having played only a handful of games in college, Trubisky is still prone to rookie mistakes, but there are things like bootlegs in the clip below from the NFL YouTube channel. Those were not in the playbook with Glennon.

 

The defense is playing well:

When healthy, the Bears defense has played well the last three years under Fox, but that has been rare. So far so good for the Bears defense in 2017. They rank 12th in rush defense. Over the last two games, Drew Brees and Cam Newton led offenses have been held to 23 combined points. In fact, Chicago defeated the Panthers on the strength of two defensive touchdowns by rookie Eddie Jackson.

Eddie Jackson

Photo: Chicago Tribune

There are very few things that are always true when it comes to NFL football. However, if you run the football, stop the run on defense, and limit turnovers, you will always have a chance to win. The Bears have a .500 record in Trubisky’s four starts. The two losses are by one possession. All but two of Chicago’s remaining games feature opponents that are realistically in the playoff hunt. As long as the Bears keep doing the three things mentioned in this paragraph well, contending teams should be very worried about playing them.

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Adam Gase

To fix the Dolphins, Adam Gase needs to look in the mirror

Following Thursday night’s embarrassing 40-0 loss to the Ravens, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase criticized his team’s effort and called the offense “a joke.”

While it is refreshing to hear an NFL coach speak with that kind of honesty, calling out the players may or may not prove to be effective. Gase himself is a large part of the problem in Miami.

What Gase is doing isn’t working

Gase was brought to Miami for his first head coaching job with the “offensive guru” label after being a key mind behind the Peyton Manning led Broncos offense, as well as guiding Jay Cutler to his best statistical season in 2015 with Chicago.

Adam Gase

Photo from espn.com

However, that offensive success has not followed him to Miami. The Dolphins ranked 24th in total offense last year and are dead last so far in 2017. Moreover, it was Gase who brought Jay Cutler out of retirement to save the day when Ryan Tannehill went down prior to this season.

 

To say that has not worked out well is an understatement. The Dolphins woeful offensive numbers are due in large part to the fact that Cutler is averaging just 165 passing yards per game this year. Cutler missed Thursday night’s debacle due to injury.

That means we have now seen Gase’s passing offense be ineffective with Cutler, Tannehill and Matt Moore. None of those guys are elite quarterbacks, but they are not terrible either. The players are no doubt partly at fault, but at some point Gase needs to swallow his pride and change his system.

The good news

Despite the lack of a passing offense, Miami has managed to stay more than competitive under Gase. Last year, Jay Ajayi came out of nowhere to rush for over 1,200 yards and carry the Dolphins to the playoffs.

Adam Gase

Photo from palmbeachpost.com

This year, Ajayi’s production has dipped a bit, but he is still the best thing the offense has going for it. The defense has stepped up and is ranked inside the top 10. Miami has scored more than 20 points in a game just once. Yet, the Dolphins still have a winning record and are very much alive in the playoff race. If this team can ever find a way to have just an average offense, they would become a force to be reckoned with.

The future

Jay Cutler will be back next week when Miami takes on Oakland. Only time will tell if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The NFL is even more wide open than usual this year. Every team in the AFC has at least two losses.

Miami’s ability to be a factor as the season wears on hinges on the offense not being awful. That responsibility falls on Gase just as much as the players.

John Fox won four division titles in four years with the Broncos and was fired. Gase wishes his track record was half that good. If the offense does not improve, and the losses start piling up, it is naïve to think Gase’s time in Miami will last much longer.

 

Featured image from si.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

 

John Fox

NFL preseason coaching heat check

NFL coaches on the hot seat is a topic that fans and media alike never seem to stop talking about. NFL preseason is a good time to take an inventory of coaches that could be in trouble if the upcoming season goes poorly.

The NFL never stops surprising us. Thus, the coaches mentioned here are by no means the only ones that might be relocating in 2018. These are just the situations that jump off the page immediately.

Dead men walking

John Fox

John Fox is a hugely underrated coach who has engineered massive turnarounds and deep playoffs runs everywhere he has been. Everywhere except Chicago, that is, as he is just 9-23 in two seasons with the Bears. These days, coaches rarely get more than three seasons to be awful in the same spot.

Unfortunately for Fox, the front office has given him his worst Bears roster yet. The already murky quarterback situation was only made messier by the surprise drafting of rookie Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick. Outside of running back Jordan Howard, there just is not much talent on this roster.

There are a lot of projects. Fox does not have time for projects. Despite going 3-13 last year, Chicago did not make much of an impact in free agency and only ended up with five draft picks.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: nydailynews

It is not entirely his fault, but this is not the recipe for the kind of turnaround Fox needs to keep his job. Right or wrong, the head coach is always the first to go.

Todd Bowles

Minus the established track record, Fox and Todd Bowles are in very similar spots. Bowles is 15-17 in two seasons with the Jets.

With a quarterback race that features Bryce Petty, Josh McCown and Christian Hackenberg and a receiving group in which no one has caught 60 career passes, a winless season is very realistic for the Jets. No coach survives that. Bowles will likely land on his feet as defensive coordinator somewhere in 2018.

Not likely, but not impossible

Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer is one of the most respected coaches in the game. He had the back story of assistant coach who paid his dues in the NFL for almost two decades before getting a shot to be a head coach.

However, the reality is that Zimmer is slowly becoming Rex Ryan without the brash and bold guarantees. The defense has always been elite during Zimmer’s time in Minnesota. It even carried them to a 6-0 start last year.

Much like Rex Ryan’s teams though, the offensive side of the ball just is not very good. They have never ranked inside the top 20 in total offense under Zimmer. Even in 2015 when Zimmer’s Vikings reached the playoffs, they were 31st in passing offense.

Rex Ryan has a 61-66 record with four playoff wins as an NFL head coach. He’s now a commentator for ESPN. Zimmer is 26-22 without a playoff win. If Zimmer does not figure out the offensive side of the ball this year, his record will creep closer to .500 and he could join Ryan at ESPN.

Adam Gase

Two weeks ago, Gase would not have been in any article like this. He did an outstanding job in leading the Dolphins to the playoffs last year in his first season.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: espn.com

However, bringing his favorite pupil Jay Cutler out of retirement to save the day after the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is pretty bold. Yes, Cutler had his best statistical season when Gase was his offensive coordinator with the Bears in 2015, but that team still managed only six wins. Last year, Cutler only started five games due to injury and poor performance.

Cutler’s lack of passion for the game of football has always been painfully apparent. Despite a wealth of natural talent, he is only led a team the playoffs once and has losing record as a starter.

He will no doubt fill the stat sheet with touchdowns and interceptions in Miami. Even so, there is nothing to suggest that he will fare any better than original backup quarterback Matt Moore in terms of winning games.

Gaze really stuck his neck out for Cutler. It is only a one-year deal. Even so, if the experiment blows up in his face and muddies the future of the quarterback position in Miami, ownership having a quick hook would not be all that surprising.

Unique Situations:

In addition to the four coaches mentioned above, 2017 is also a big year for several coaches that have been with their current teams for many years. Marvin Lewis, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano have all experienced significant success in their current coaching stops. However, they all missed the playoffs last year.

Some of them are on a streak of unsuccessful seasons. They have all done great things for their respective franchises over the years and have immense respect of ownership. Thus, I cannot see any of them getting fired. If the upcoming season goes poorly though, a mutual parting of ways is certainly possible.

 

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC North division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC North division preview.

4: Detroit Lions

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit:https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 21

The Detroit Lions made the playoffs on the back of Matthew Stafford and it was barely enough. Detroit’s defense was bad considering the little amount of time they spent on the field. The schedule is relatively easy but the Bears, Vikings and Packers all made vast improvements.

As mentioned previously, the Lions’ defense is bad. They spent the second fewest amount of plays on the field at just 60.2 per game but ranked 13th in points (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). Stafford and the rest of the offense kept the defense off the field and they still couldn’t stop a nosebleed.

A great defense starts with a fearsome defensive line. Ezekiel Ansah is not healthy yet and without him, there is no legitimate pass rusher. Haloti Ngata is well past his prime and will not be able to hold down the fort in the middle. The linebacking corp is young and will be starting a rookie linebacker. There is potential but a rookie linebacker isn’t going to turn this defense into a world beater.

Detroit’s secondary is led by Darius Slay and Glover Quin, both are great players who don’t get enough credit for how good they are. The problem is they can’t cover for eternity and without a pass rush something bad will transpire.

With a below average defense, the offense will be expected to carry the team yet again. Stafford proved he could do that but how long can he continue to do so without a running game to balance out the offense? The Lions did not have a running back carry the ball 100 times. None of their running backs ran for more than 360 yards. Opposing defenses won’t have to spend more than five minutes preparing for the Lions’ running game.

The passing attack is missing a true number one receiver. Golden Tate is not a true number one and Marvin Jones is barely a number two receiver. Somehow, Matthew Stafford still makes it work. This year his shoulders will not be able to make up for all the team’s deficiencies. Due to a below average defense, a one-dimensional offense and an improved division, the Lions struggle mightily.

Prediction: 3-13 (0-6), miss the playoffs

3: Chicago Bears

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 3-13

Strength of schedule: 19

The Bears were ravaged by injury last season. They also struggled in close games, going 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. Many believe that had they remained healthy they would have been a better team. Unfortunately for Bears fans, the team didn’t really agree with that because they hit the reset button by moving on from Jay Cutler and signing Mike Glennon and trading up for Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears may be talented but could be in for a rough 2017.

There is no question the Bears possess one of the most talented offensive lines in the entire league. The line is so good it is ranked fifth by Pro Football Focus. Jordan Howard benefited the most from this solid unit, rushing for 1,313 yards in his rookie season. There is no reason the Bears can’t duplicate this success on the ground this season.

The problem with the Bears’ offense is in the passing game. Mike Glennon is not the guy and has looked shaky in the preseason. Mitchell Trubisky has shown some flashes, although it has been against backups and vanilla defenses. Trubisky has also looked best on rollouts in which he only has to read half of the field. Good defensive coordinators will be able to minimize his ability over the course of a 60-minute game. Trubisky may be the guy of the future, but this season the Bears are not in a position to succeed due to their quarterback situation.

Bears’ fans should be optimistic about the defense. They are fast and athletic, a typical John Fox defense. The front seven is good and highly underrated. Leonard Floyd has looked outstanding and will be playing alongside Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Wille Young, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, all of which are big time players.

The only question for the Bear’s defense is the secondary. Former first round pick Kyle Fuller seems to be in the doghouse with coaches. Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara are the starting corners. Both have been too inconsistent to really know how they will perform this season. The current safety tandem of Adrian Amos and Quinton Demps also have a lot to prove. Eddie Jackson will likely end up in the starting lineup by seasons end.

The Bears are in a tough division with the Packers and Vikings. Chicago may not be admitting it but they are still rebuilding. The defense is coming together but a questionable secondary will hurt them. The bread and butter of the offense will be the running game but quarterback play will leave much to be desired. The Bears are on the right track but will have another long season before getting where they want to be.

 

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

2: Minnesota Vikings

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 27

It is very hard to fathom how the Vikings finished 8-8 considering everything they had to endure last season. Franchise quarterback goes down on a non-contact injury. An injury so bad that Teddy Bridgewater said he could have lost his leg. Adrian Peterson played in two games and his Vikings’ career was abruptly over. Minnesota also lost approximately 500 offensive linemen. Okay, not that many but you get the point.

The Vikings are led by their extremely talented defense. Defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter have the talent and ability to combine for 30 plus sacks. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks can defend the run and the pass due to how fast and athletic they are.

The secondary is led by Harrison “The Hitman” Smith, arguably the most underrated player of the last 20 years. Smith can do it all from playing the pass, coming up and making a tackle in the run game or even blitzing and sacking the quarterback. He is a true swiss army knife that Mike Zimmer gets everything out of.

Xavier Rhodes is also a top three corner and is disrespected around the league outside of Minnesota. I can put countless stats of how good he is, but all that needs to be said is record breaking Odell Beckham Jr. got shut down so badly that he said football wasn’t fun anymore after facing Rhodes.

Minnesota’s defense is a top three unit and anything less would be a huge disappointment to both the fans and head coach Mike Zimmer.

Offensively, the Vikings have some work to do. The offensive line was in shambles last season, paving the way for the worst rushing attack in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. Minnesota has a new look offensive line with Riley Reiff, Nick Easton and Mike Remmers. Rookie interior lineman Pat Eflein may also get an opportunity to contribute this season. If the offensive line can be an average NFL unit, the Vikings will become extremely dangerous.

Longtime franchise cornerstone Adrian Peterson is gone. Latavius Murray was signed and Florida State’s all-time leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, will look to replace the Viking’s greatest running back. The two are more than capable and Minnesota will have an improved rushing attack.

Football minds outside of Minnesota say their receiving corp is weak but Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen are more than capable of both topping 1,000 yards. Paired with Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings have more than enough weapons to have a top 15 passing attack. Sam Bradford will continue to protect the football and this offense will be leaps and bounds better than it was last season.

With one of the easiest schedules in the league, a top three defense and a much-improved offense the Vikings will be in contention for a playoff spot.

Prediction: 10-6 (4-2), wildcard candidate

1: Green Bay Packers

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 10-6

Strength of schedule: 18

There are two words on why the Packers deserve to be the favorite in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers. Despite not having a running game and a secondary that most colleges wouldn’t start, Rodgers was still able to carry the Packers to the NFC Championship.

This team goes as far as Rodgers can take them despite their deficiencies. Green Bay has a wide receiver who has converted to running back and will most likely lose his spot to Jamaal Williams during the season. When that happens the Packers offense will improve.

Green Bay is a lock to make the playoffs, they have made the postseason for eight straight seasons and nine of the 11 seasons that McCarthy has been in charge.

Rodgers has been given plenty of offensive weapons to throw the ball to. Jordy Nelson is a top five wideout and Davante Adams had a breakout season in 2016 catching 12 touchdowns. Randall Cobb seems like a forgotten man but is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Health is the only thing capable of holding him back. The Packers also improved their tight end position by adding Martellus Bennett. Rodgers has been set up to succeed in the passing game and can throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.

The Packers Achilles heel is on the defensive side of the ball. Green Bay’s secondary got torched in the NFC Championship game. Davon House, Quinten Rollins, Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have a lot to prove this season.

Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are the known studs at linebacker but Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan are more of the question marks who must step up if this team wants to become a Super Bowl contender.

The Packers will make the playoffs because that is what they do under Mike McCarthy. It helps to have Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback too. Green Bay will make the playoffs, and likely win the division, but must watch out for the Vikings who will be on their tail.

Prediction: 11-5 (5-1), division champion

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.fanpointsports.com

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

Featured image from miamidolphins.com.

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Super Bowl series: NFC North

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC North

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the third edition, Super Bowl Series: NFC North.

Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Green Bay was awfully close to winning the Super Bowl last season but lost in the NFC Championship game. Atlanta completely dominated the game and won 44-21. The Packers offense is good enough to propel the team to consistent runs at the Super Bowl but if the Packers want to recapture the magic of 2011, the defense must improve.

Calling the Packers offense good is somewhat of an understatement. Green Bay was fourth is scoring last season averaging 27 points per game. The Packers offense scored a lot of points but was very one-dimensional. The passing attack ranked seventh (262.4 yards per game) and the running game ranked 20th (106.3 yards per game). Packer fans can thank Aaron Rodgers for how much he has carried this franchise.

Rodgers has been historically amazing. He has the best touchdown to interception ratio of all time at 4.12. The next closest is Tom Brady with 3.0. He also had 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.

If the Packers want to win Super Bowl LII, Aaron Rodgers must continue to put up these gaudy numbers. The impressive stats include 4,000 or more yards in six of the past nine seasons, 30 or more touchdowns in six of the last eight seasons and a career record of 90-45. If you take out 2013 in which Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone, it looks even more magnificent.

There is consistent evidence that the passing attack in Green Bay will flourish and the Packers added tight end Martellus Bennett to help Rodgers even more. Last season Green Bay’s tight ends combined for 64 receptions, 683 yards and three touchdowns.

Bennett had 55 receptions, 701 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots, and that was while sharing time with Rob Gronkowski. Bennett is a major upgrade that can help the Packers in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

Improving the running game will also be key in the Packers winning Super Bowl LII. Green Bay was ranked 20th, as mentioned earlier, and they lost two starting offensive lineman from last season, TJ.. Lang and JC Tretter. Losing Lang may not be as a big of a blow as most would think. The Packers struggled running to the right and ranked 25th in the NFL with 18 negative run plays to his side.

Green Bay also drafted running back Jamaal Williams out of BYU. Williams had a quietly outstanding senior season, rushing for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 234 carries. If the right side of the line improves at run blocking and Jamaal Williams can make an immediate impact, then the offense can become unpredictable and lead the Packers to a Super Bowl victory.

The Packers offense can’t do it completely alone. Green Bay was really good at stopping the run and getting sacks last season. The run defense ranked eighth, allowing 91.7 yards per game and sixth in sacks with 40.

Green Bay’s ability to stop the run is a bit deceiving though. Opposing teams only ran the ball 39.7 percent of the time on Green Bay because it was so easy to pass on them. The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense giving up 269.2 yards per game. This must improve if the Packers want to get to the Super Bowl.

Let’s face it, with Aaron Rodgers on your team a Super Bowl is always within reach. If Green Bay can have an unpredictable offense and improve its pass defense, then the Packers can get over the hump and win Super Bowl LII.

Detroit Lions

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Detroit had what most would say was a surprising season last year. They finished 9-7 but had they beat Green Bay in week 17, then the Lions would have won the division.

The Lions got bounced out of the playoffs by Seattle 26-6. Matthew Stafford has yet to win a playoff game in his career but there is a small possibility they could win their first ever Super Bowl this season.

The Detroit defense was nothing spectacular but not horrible either last season. They ranked 13th in points allowed per game (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). If the Lions want to contend for a Super Bowl title, they must win the division and earn home playoff games.

Accomplishing a division title means beating Green Bay and shutting down Aaron Rodgers. Detroit needs to become a top-five pass defense and improve on their 10 interceptions from last season in order to become the kings of the North. Creating turnovers will make it easier for Matthew Stafford and the offense. Detroit should embrace bringing back the pain of the black and blue division.

Offensively, the Lions struggled to finish with points. They had the 11th ranked passing attack with 259.9 yards per game but ranked 20th in points scored per game (21.6). Stafford threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns but it wasn’t enough scoring. The running game held the team back averaging 81.9 yards per game, which was third-worst in the NFL.

Similar to Green Bay, Detroit needs to stop being one-dimensional. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang should provide some assistance to the running game but Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick must also step up. If these two backs can combine for a minimum of 1,500 yards, there is a good chance the Lions will be good enough to win the division.

With the 18th-easiest strength of schedule heading into the season, the Lions can steal a few wins on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford. If they want to really become Super Bowl contenders, they must stop the pass and create more turnovers. Along with improving defensively, the Lions need to run their way to a division title.

Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Minnesota was looking like a serious Super Bowl contender through five games last season. The Vikings started 5-0 before the wheels eventually flew off. Minnesota then went 3-8 to stumble to an 8-8 record. Interestingly enough, the Vikings are much closer to winning a Super Bowl than most would care to admit.

The Vikings are a true defensive beast in the black and blue division behind defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. Despite having a historically bad offense, the Vikings defense still had an impressive 2016-17 campaign.

Minnesota ranked sixth in points allowed per game (19.2), third in pass yards allowed (207.9), fifth in sacks (41) and third in total yards allowed despite ranking 20th in rush defense (106.9).

There isn’t much the Vikings need to improve on defensively. Replacing nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn is the biggest concern. Mike Zimmer has a long history of success with secondaries, so Vikes fans need not to worry on who Zimmer chooses. The Vikings could improve their run defense as well, but most of the issues come from defensive tackles like Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joesph dealing with on and off injuries.

The offensive side of the ball is where the Vikings need to step up. The offensive line was one of the most injured in the NFL and the Vikings lost both Matt Kalil and Andre Smith in free agency. Minnesota signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to compensate for those losses. The running game was the worst in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. The Vikings didn’t have a single run go for over 40 yards.

Minnesota wasn’t that great passing the ball either. The Vikings ranked 18th with 239.8 passing yards per game. Due to the bad offensive production, the Vikings struggled to put up points averaging just 20.4 per game.

Not everything about the Vikings offense was miserable. There was flashes of greatness last season. Sam Bradford broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a single season by completing 71.6 percent of his passes.

The offense also improved after Norv Turner resigned midseason. Before Turner resigned as offensive coordinator, the Vikings were averaging 221.4 passing yards and 71.8 rushing yards per game. In the nine games with Pat Shurmur in charge of the offense, the Vikings averaged 254 passing yards and 78 rushing yards per game. Shurmur knows how to play to Sam Bradford’s strength and that bodes well for the Vikings moving forward.

Minnesota already has a championship-caliber defense. The defense can carry them to a lot of victories but to get to a Super Bowl the Vikings must improve their offense in all phases. If the Vikings can break the top 15 in both rushing and passing, along with staying healthy, then not only can the Vikings win their first Super Bowl, but they can win it in their home stadium.

Chicago Bears

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://www.chicagotribune.com)

The 2016-17 Chicago Bears lost 13 games for the first time since 1969 when they went 1-13. It was a nightmare year in which the Bears were ravaged by injuries. Chicago placed 19 players on injured reserve which was the most in the NFL.

The Bears also were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. The 3-13 record didn’t truly reflect the team’s talent.

John Fox is ready to take the Bears to the next level. In his second season with Carolina, he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In his third season with Denver, he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. As he enters his third season with the Bears, he could do the same.

The Bears can’t win a Super Bowl behind Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky. They can, however, win a Super Bowl behind their defense and running game. With an entirely new roster of quarterbacks, it will be hard to predict how good the Bears offense can be.

The running game should be their bread and butter. Jordan Howard ran for 1,313 yards on 252 carries in just 12 starts as a rookie. The Bears are projected to have the fifth-best offensive line this season according to Pro Football Focus. If it pans out, the Bears will be able to run the ball with success thus taking the pressure off whoever ends up playing under center.

The passing game will remain a mystery. Mike Glennon has only started 18 games in his three-year career and has a record of 5-13 in those games. Rookie quarterback and second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky is likely to see some action this season as well.

The receiving corp is full of potential with Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Kendell Wright. It is unlikely all of them make the roster but aside from Kevin White, all have shown optimistic flashes of skill throughout their career.

If the Bears want to win Super Bowl LII, it is going to be because of their defense. Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Leonard Floyd will create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. The secondary should improve with the additions of Quinton Demps and Prince Amukamara. Amukamara loves to play aggressively and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense he will be able to.

It is going to take a lot for the Bears to make the Super Bowl. The chances are small but there is always a chance. Chicago’s defense needs to become a Monsters of the Midway defense again for them to get there. They also need Jordan Howard to improve his performance from last season. Lastly, Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky need to be spectacular. If the Bears can do all of this, they can win Super Bowl LII.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC North. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC East

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/10/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-north/

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017: A reliable fantasy option?

Demaryius Thomas had one of his worst seasons of his NFL career last season. Thomas is a big receiver who has the whole package. Thomas runs a 4.41 40-yard dash, stands 6-foot-3, 229 pounds and has great hands. He uses his body to get after the ball and has progressed into a top target for the Denver Broncos.

But last season we didn’t see the Demaryius Thomas we are used to seeing.

The Demaryius Thomas we know would have double digit touchdowns and week in and week out would be a big factor in the Denver offense. Is Thomas still reliable as a top fantasy player? Is it his fault for his struggling 2016 season? Thomas is still a top talented receiver but poor quarterback play has made Thomas questionable as a reliable fantasy player.

Early Career

Thomas was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. From 2010-2011, he was a non-fantasy factor as he was still developing as a receiver in the NFL. He only started seven games in the two-year span and had 40 and 79 fantasy points in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Combining those two year stats are still less then what he did in 2012 and also in his disappointing 2016.

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow (Photo: Denver Post)

Part of the lack of early production is similar to what Thomas struggled with last season: poor quarterback play. In 2010, Kyle Orton had a solid campaign with over 3,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But one bad game against the Arizona Cardinals led to Tim Tebow taking over for the last three games.

2011 really started the inconsistency of quarterbacks in Denver. Orton struggled in the first four weeks and was replaced again by Tebow and never took another snap. Tebow finished the season with the lowest passing completion rate in the NFL, reaching 50 percent in just four of his 14 games.

Thomas did thrive towards the end of the season as he emerged as Tebow’s favorite target. He would end the season setting a franchise-record by leading the Broncos in both receiving and targets over the final seven games.

The dominance with Peyton Manning

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Demaryius Thomas and Peyton Manning (Photo by:lightningrodsports.com)

Thomas’ production with Peyton Manning was crazy. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Thomas finished fifth, second and second respectively among all receivers in fantasy points. In those three years, he had over 200 fantasy points in those seasons during Manning’s prime with Denver.

He had at least 10 touchdowns per season from 2012-14 and as well as over 140 targets, 90 receptions and well over 1,400 yards in each of those three years. He was clearly a fantasy beast while Manning was Manning. It could be also because the Broncos finally went back to orange jerseys instead of those horrible navy blue jerseys.

In 2015, Manning struggled with injuries and had to give way Brock Osweiler for nine games, yet Thomas still performed well. He still saw 176 targets, 105 receptions and 1,304 yards. He did only finish with six touchdowns but still ranked 13th at wide receiver in 2015.

The production was still there for Thomas as he used his size to his advantage to catch the ball and rack up targets and yards. One key factor that could have led to the decreased production was the coaching staff changes. In 2013 and 2014, Thomas thrived with offensive coordinator Adam Gase and head coach John Fox. Fox and Gase were let go after 2014 but Thomas still produced with head coach Gary Kubiack and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in 2015.

2016

In 2016, Thomas saw a lot of change before, during and after the season. Manning retired and Osweiler left for the Houston Texans. Before and during the season there was always a quarterback controversy between Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. Kubiack missed a game early in the season with concerns over his health which led him to retire after 2016.

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian (Photo by: USA Today)

Thomas had 90 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns on 145 targets in 2016. He also had seven games with double digits in fantasy points in standard leagues. Thomas finished as the 16th wide receiver by posting consistent but not flashy games, averaging 67 yards and 5.6 receptions per game.

Most of the decline was due to poor quarterback play, and that isn’t expected to get much better this year with either Siemian or Lynch as the starter. Last season, Siemian struggled with injuries and Lynch didn’t develope the way the Broncos expected him to. The Broncos passed for an average of 230.3 yards per game last season, tying them for the 11th least passing yards per game in the league.

One of Siemian’s most noticeable flaws as an inexperienced quarterback was taking unnecessary hits by holding onto the ball too long. The Broncos are trying to work around that habit by upgrading his protection. They signed offensive tackle Menelik Watson and offensive guard Ronald Leary, while also drafting offensive tackle Garrett Bolles with their first pick in the draft.

This also helps the run game they will try to use more as they have C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles. Last year the Broncos averaged just 92.8 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per carry, good for 27th  and 28th in the league.

2017 prediction

Is Thomas still an effective receiver? Thomas still has plenty of upside as a No. 2 fantasy receiver or a very high-end flex player if the quarterback play is consistent. He’s working on five years in a row of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. One reason he could bounce back is the return of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who left Denver in 2012 when Thomas broke out.

He has the potential to still be a bonafide WR1 especially as he is now healthy from a hip injury. He is still a WR2 or a flex option as I mentioned previously.

 

Featured image from sportsglory.com

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Tony Romo

For Some Teams, Not Signing Romo is a Bigger Risk Than Doing So

Despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones not sounding fully ready to move on, reports emerged earlier this week that quarterback Tony Romo will be released. Assuming these reports are true, the market for the often injured 36-year-old quarterback is not being viewed correctly. For three teams in particular, he would not be a risk, but rather a lifeline.

Before we get there, let’s trim the field a little bit. By his own admission, Romo only has two or three years left. Thus, being part of a total rebuild in Cleveland or San Francisco is out of the question. Carson Palmer is coming back in 2017 for another season with the Cardinals. The Broncos continue to articulate their commitment to Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

The Jets and Bills are hoarding young quarterbacks in the hopes that one might stick. Adding a veteran like Romo just does not seem to be on their radar, but perhaps it should be.

All these teams seem poised to either stand pat, add a quarterback through the draft, or look for a longer-term solution in free agency. If he is released and not traded, the teams that should be beating down Romo’s door are as follows.

Bears: Chicago is not as far away as last year’s 3-13 record suggests. They lost six games by one possession. Despite not being highly thought of by fans, John Fox is actually a heck of a coach. He got to a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and won a division title with Tim Tebow.

Jay Cutler John Fox

Photo: twitimes.com

The organization seems poised to move on from the temperamental enigma that is Jay Cutler. Romo is the kind of upgrade Fox needs to improve upon his 9-23 mark with the Bears and keep his job beyond this year.

 

Pair Romo with emerging running back Jordan Howard and an improving defense that ranked seventh against the pass last year, and the playoffs are not a stretch. Romo has roots in Illinois. The same can be said of Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be a fallback option for the Bears. Regardless, Chicago will likely add a quarterback at some point in the draft as well.

Texans: These next two teams would be tricky from a financial perspective, but I am not an accountant. It took winning a playoff game with Brock Osweiler for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to receive confirmation from ownership that he would return in 2017.

O’Brien is a fine coach who had nothing to do with the ridiculous $72 million contract Osweiler was given. Rest assured though, O’Brien will take the fall if quarterback play continues to hold the rest of this championship caliber roster back. A completion percentage under 60 and more interceptions than touchdowns should be enough to give up on Osweiler after one year, despite his contract.

Romo would bring quarterback stability to Houston, something the franchise has never had. If he gets hurt, the Texans would be right back where they are now. However, at least he would offer a potential off-ramp from the path to nowhere they are on with their current quarterback options.

Vikings: I am on an island here, but Minnesota is loaded. With guys like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes on defense, the Vikings are a notch below the 2015 Broncos. The defense cannot win a title by itself, but a slightly more balanced Vikings team would be lethal.

After his devastating training camp injury last year, questions continue to linger about Teddy Bridgewater’s future. Mike Zimmer seems strangely stubborn about sticking with Sam Bradford. Granted, the Vikings did give up a lot to bring him in. As good as his record completion percentage and four to one touchdown to interception ratio made him look last year, there is one very important thing Bradford has never done all that well: win games.

sam bradford

Photo: foxnews.com

In 78 career starts for three different franchises, Bradford has posted a winning percentage of 41 percent and has never lead a team to the playoffs. In the words of a very wise Canadian songstress, “that don’t impress me much.” Yes, football is the ultimate team sport. However, the blame has to start going on the quarterback and not the supporting cast.

After fading down the stretch behind Bradford last year and putting up only nine points in a home playoff loss with Bidgewater the year before, Zimmer needs to start winning big quick or whispers will start about his job security. With the talent on this roster, a healthy Romo makes the Vikings instant Super Bowl contenders. Sticking with Bradford makes Zimmer being unemployed within two years a virtual certainty.

Understandably, there is real skepticism about Romo’s ability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has not done so since 2014. Even so, for these three coaching staffs under varying degrees of pressure to win now, his career winning percentage (61 percent) makes him a chance worth taking. In fact, recycling average veteran or unseasoned young quarterbacks that will get them nowhere is a much bigger risk.

 

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Forget the Players, The NFL Needs to Start Protecting Its Coaches

While focus will soon shift to the playoffs, much of this week’s NFL news always centers around NFL coaches. The league has gone to great lengths in recent years to better protect its players. In many ways, that crusade has gone too far. However, when discussing the resignation of Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak with friends this week, an alarming statistic was brought to my attention and inspired this article.

Four of the 32 NFL head coaches who started the season were hospitalized at some point during the season. Think about that for a second. If any other job had 1/8 of its employees hospitalized within a four-month span, it would be all over the news as one of the most dangerous jobs in America. However, because America loves the NFL and there are only 32 head coaching jobs to go around, few people think of it in that way.

The specifics of each health situation are no one else’s business, but it is worrisome if you dig a bit deeper. The average age of the four coaches hospitalized this year is just 58. In Kubiak’s case, it was his second health scare earlier this year that served as the catalyst for his retirement from coaching at just 55. I think we would all like to have a relatively clean bill of health and lots of life left to live in our 50s and early 60s.

Sadly, this is becoming less and less the case when it comes to NFL head coaches. Along with the health scares of Kubiak, Mike Zimmer, Bruce Arians, and Todd Bowles, Bears coach Jon Fox has also missed time over the years because of health.

2016 also saw the sudden loss of former longtime Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green. Green died of a heart attack at just 67. The numbers do not lie. The health of current and former NFL coaches is slowly becoming a real problem.

NFL coaches

Photo courtesy of fox9.com

While the high-pressure job of being an NFL head coach certainly is not the sole cause of any health issue, you do not need to be a doctor to arrive at the conclusion that it is very likely a contributing factor.

I am by no means an NFL insider, but I follow the league as closely as anyone. The pressure these coaches are under is gigantic. All 32 teams have rabid fan bases and snarky media that call for a coaching change, sometimes after almost every loss.

The job becomes even more challenging when one considers things like endless travel, occasionally unrealistic expectations of ownership, trying to maintain a family life, the amount of money involved in the modern NFL, and 31 other teams that want to win it all just as badly. While no one’s life is on the line, it has to be a real pressure cooker to say the least.

Some casual fans out there might wonder why a coach does not simply just leave the office or “take a break” when it all becomes too much. The answer is simple. First, that is simply not the way NFL head coaches are wired. Second, I assure you that for every minute a coach does not spend in his office, there’s another one that is in his hopped up on coffee at 3 AM preparing for battle. That is simply the nature of the beast.

I am not sure what can be done to combat this issue, but I certainly hope that Roger Goodell and his staff start looking into it. I came up with two suggestions. The current collective bargaining agreement severely limits the amount of live practices a team can have over the course of a season. This is certainly well-intentioned, but it has hurt the quality of the on-field NFL product in a big way.

NFL coaches

Photo courtesy of dynastyfootballwarehouse.com

It is reasonable to speculate that it also may be hurting the coaches. Less live practice means more time spent in a classroom style setting looking at film, teaching, and instructing. Any current or former student of anything can attest to just how sedentary this lifestyle can be. It certainly is not a healthy one. While it will never happen because the league is terrified of more serious injuries and lawsuits, a return to more live practices would actually be beneficial for all parties. Meaning, the fans, players, and coaches.

Another possible remedy could be to have an unaffiliated medical professional travel with each team solely for the purpose of checking on the welfare and health of the coaching staff. The rationale behind this is similar to that of the unaffiliated neurologist that assesses players for concussions and is the sole judge as to whether a player can return to a game.

The reality is the coaches grind and compete just as hard as the players. They need to be saved from themselves too. Again, I am not on the inside. For all I know, something like this may already exist, but I doubt it.

We all love football and the teams we support. Sometimes, it is easy to forget there is more to life. Thus, the next time you call for your team to fire its head coach, realize how hard their job is. The coaches are working as hard as we fans are rooting. A coach may lose games and get fired, but the issue is never a lack of effort.

 

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Keeping Marvin Lewis is not as Crazy as it Sounds

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of their first truly disappointing season in many years. They will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. It is no surprise that many fans and analysts are calling for head coach Marvin Lewis to be removed. However, it was all but confirmed Tuesday that Lewis will be back for his 15th season next year.

There is certainly a case to be made that it is time for a change, but it is a case that has been made a thousand times over. While nothing will be certain until after Sunday’s season finale, it certainly does not look like a change is coming. That is not a bad thing for the Bengals organization, and here is why.

Perspective

Bengals fans and media outlets are so quick to forget how bad things were before Lewis arrived in Cincinnati back in 2003. From 1991-2002, the franchise was the epitome of a laughingstock. The Bengals record in that span was an astonishing 55-137. Everything was wrong with the franchise. Bad coaching hires, horrible drafts, and the cheap ownership of Mike Brown were all problems.

The last of those deficiencies have not changed. As a native of Cincinnati, going to games back then was still fun, but mostly sad. To this day, mikebrownsucks.com is still running. Games were just a sobering reminder of how far behind Cincinnati was from the rest of the NFL.

Worst of all, the Bengals lost a significant chunk of fans in the younger generation. Many kids (including myself) became lifelong fans of other teams. It is impossible to overstate the amount of work Lewis had to do when he took the job.

Photo courtesy of mikebrownsucks.com

Photo courtesy of mikebrownsucks.com

Mike Brown is infamous for having a Jerry Jones level of control over the franchise, but Jones has been very successful despite down years. There are many stories as to just how little power Bengals head coaches had before Lewis.

In 1998, the Saints offered their entire draft to the Bengals in order to trade up to take running back Ricky Williams. Brown overruled his coaching staff and held firm to select quarterback Akili Smith. Smith played in just 22 NFL games.

Somehow, Lewis immediately seemed to have more power than his predecessors. Starting with Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, the Bengals drafts immediately improved. Thus, the on-field product was not far behind. Cincinnati went from 2-14 to the playoffs in just three years.

Given what he walked into, Lewis took the Bengals to the playoffs seven times during his tenure. That is nothing short of remarkable, regardless of what his team does when it reaches the playoffs.

The Playoff Failures Are Mostly Not His Fault

Speaking of the playoffs, the big knock on Lewis is his 0-7 playoff record. No denying that is bad, but here is my question- Of his seven playoff games, which ones was Lewis supposed to win? I came up with one, maybe two.

I was unable to find the betting lines for those seven games, but I did look at the rosters at the time those games were played. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same. In almost every case, the Bengals have the weaker roster. The loss to San Diego following the 2013 season is the only real shocker. Even that one does not bother me much. No team is immune to having a bad day at the worst possible time.

The Bengals may have won the 2005 wild-card game against Pittsburgh had Carson Palmer not gotten injured, but that is debatable. It takes a special coach to win playoff games with the less talented roster. A coach deserves no blame whatsoever for losing to better players. Make no mistake, while Brown values the input of Lewis, Brown still has the final say over player personnel decisions.

You Cannot Coach Common Sense

Photo courtesy of si.mmqb.com

Photo courtesy of si.mmqb.com

Cincinnati’s most recent playoff loss deserves its own section. Anyone reading this remembers the shocking fumble and ensuing drive that was aided by 30 yards of penalties on a single play. This allowed Pittsburgh to kick a chip shot field goal to extend Cincinnati’s playoff heartbreak.

To blame Lewis for this particular meltdown has always been amusing to me. Lewis is a football coach, not a babysitter. There is not a coach in this league that should have to tell their players not to head hunt or make contact with the opposing coaching staff in the final minute of a one possession playoff game. No coach makes a point of saying that, the assumption is that it is obvious. Unfortunately for Lewis, some players are just dumb.

Lack of suitable replacements

Unlike most NFL job openings, if Cincinnati were to become open, the pantry is not bare. Meaning, the Bengals are just a few tweaks away from winning in a big way. I simply don’t believe that a young first-time head coach like Matt Patricia or somebody else is more qualified for this situation than Marvin Lewis.

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

Several teams have made coaching changes in hopes of going from good to great. While transitions like Jon Fox to Gary Kubiak do happen, they are more of the exception. Situations like Rex Ryan to Todd Bowles are far more common. If Cincinnati could lure in a proven winner like Jon Gruden, that is a whole different ballgame, but that is about as likely as me becoming the next pope.

Additionally, the Bengals have hired names like Bruce Coslet and Dave Shula in the past. Considering all roads still lead back to Mike Brown, can this franchise be trusted not to botch another head-coaching search? I am not so sure.

While the frustration regarding Lewis is understandable, the risk in removing him far outweighs the reward. He has been able to win on a relativity consistent basis with the Bengals. Not many coaches can say that.

If he keeps putting his team in the mix most years, the Bengals will eventually get over the hump. Replace him with the wrong guy, and they could fall off a cliff… Again.

 

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