What is Next for Tony Romo?

Following last Sunday’s thrilling win in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys made it official that rookie quarterback Dak Prescott will remain the starter over long time signal caller Tony Romo. Prescott deserves a ton of credit for giving the Cowboys no choice, but Romo is the fascinating part of the story. Barring an unforeseen injury, he has likely thrown his last pass in Dallas. What lies ahead for one of the NFL’s most polarizing figures in terms of performance?

 

Romo seemed to indicate that he is healthy and wants to keep playing in a very classy statement to the media on Tuesday. His .600+ career winning percentage will make him a hot commodity to the many quarterback needy teams in the league. Whether it comes via trade or his release from the Cowboys, several destinations are being thrown around by fans and media alike. I have narrowed the list to five. Two bad ideas and three more sensible options.

 

Bad Ideas

Cleveland- At the very least Romo would bring them to instant respectability, but Romo is 36 with a lot of miles on his body. It is reasonable to speculate he would want to go to a team that is ready to win now. No matter who the quarterback is, the Browns are at least three years away from being contenders. He is not Peyton Manning. He cannot turn them into contenders all on his own. If he has a choice, Romo should avoid Cleveland like the plague.

Denver- This would not be a bad idea for Romo because Denver is loaded with talent. However, it makes no sense for the Broncos organization. All you have to do is listen to one of Gary Kubiak’s press conferences to know that the entire organization is coaching the hell out of two young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Also, they are staying quietly competitive while doing it. Bringing in Romo for a few years would make all the time and effort invested in the two youngsters a waste. The Broncos do not do business that way. Unlike when they brought in Peyton Manning a few years ago, the Broncos have other viable options on the roster and seemed pleased with their progress.

Best possible fits

49ers- This is a long shot, but could be a better fit than people realize. As is the case with the next two teams, San Francisco’s quarterback for 2017 is not on their roster, barring a miracle. While I am very bullish on the University of Miami’s Brad Kaaya, the 2017 quarterback draft class is underwhelming. A veteran like Romo will have his share of suitors.

photo from Miami Herald

photo from Miami Herald

 

The 49ers are in the middle of a dismal season. The quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert has been so bad that it makes the rest of the team look awful. Neither quarterback can distribute the ball to the skill positions. Thus, they are last in the league in time of possession, and the defense is on the field for well over half the game. Unsurprisingly the defense is in the bottom five of every major statistical category. Romo could at least keep the offense on the field. Who knows what the defense or the rest of the team would look like with capable quarterback play? No, an injury prone 36-year-old quarterback probably isn’t the best fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive system, but as far as I can tell that “system” is hot garbage. Maybe Kelly looks in the mirror and decides to change things, but I doubt it.

NY Jets- This makes a lot of sense. Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall still have some big plays left in them. The front seven on defense is as good as you’ll find anywhere. All the Jets need is someone to not make the game changing mistakes that their quarterbacks have made this year. Say what you will about Romo, but he can certainly get a team to the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success of last year appears to be a one year wonder. The young signal callers in New York do not seem to be ready yet. Romo would make this team an instant contender.

Chicago- This would be another ideal fit. Chicago appears destined to move on from Jay Cutler. That weak draft class may force them to bring in a veteran like Romo. It’s unlikely they would hitch their wagons to current veteran backup Brian Hoyer. John Fox is rebuilding that defense. If given one more year, his track record says he will get it done. The Bears have three solid young running backs that could be a quarterback’s best friend. Also, the addition of a guy like Romo may be enough to convince troubled star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to stick around long term.

photo from nfl.com

photo from nfl.com

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Rays of Hope For Every 0-3 Team

Three weeks into the NFL season, the playoffs are likely a pipe dream for fans of the four 0-3 teams, but I am going to do something I do not normally do, be an optimist. Here are rays of hope for each winless team.

Browns (they play hard) – Believe me, I am the last guy that will ever believe in “participation trophies” and “moral victories” in sports. The fact is the Browns have been and will be overmatched in every game they play this season. Despite that, they have been in each of their three games almost right to the wire. They missed three field goals in their overtime loss to Miami on Sunday. It does not take a rocket scientist to do that math. They have some really nice speed on offense. Terrelle Pryor has taken to wide receiver like a duck takes to water. He has made at least one big play in each game this season. It also helps the new head coach Hue Jackson is an eternal opti

photo from en.wikipedia.org

photo from en.wikipedia.org

mist, a necessary quality when you are the head coach of the Browns. The quarterback carousel will continue to hamper this team. However, I do not know who will be, but Cleveland will upset the apple cart for some contending team out there this season.

 

Saints (Brees gives them a chance in every game) – New Orleans has scored 30+ points in two of their three games. Yet, they remain winless. I do not care how slanted towards offense the rules are, that should never happen. It looked like they were playing about six guys on defense Monday against Atlanta. At one point, they gave up touchdowns on five straight drives, but that is not the fault of their quarterback. Drew Brees threw for 376 yards, three scores, and just one interception Monday night. There is not a coach in this league who would not take that every week from their signal caller. Assuming Brees remains himself, they have a shot to finish .500 and can beat anyone. The question is can the defense get stops with any kind of regularity and will the current regime stay in place beyond this season?

Bears (they have the right coach) – This was my sleeper playoff team in 2016 (ridiculous I know). Their season has been disaster from the word go. 15 of 53 players have already spent time on the injury report. Quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Jeremy Langford, and linebacker Danny Trevathan are all on the shelf for an extended period of time. The Bears now have guys in key spots that just are not ready for an NFL field yet. This can happen when you have a young roster they gets hurt by injuries. The good news for Bears fans is John Fox. He inherited dumpster fires in both Carolina and Denver. He had both franchises back in the playoffs within two years, including reaching the Super Bowl once with each. This is only year two for Fox in Chicago. Granted, it is going horribly wrong, but no man can turn water into wine. The key for the Bears franchise is to give Fox is enough time to build the team he wants. In the modern NFL, this is no given. Hopefully the Bears will realize how poorly firing a coach and his staff every two years has worked out for organizations like the Browns and Raiders in recent years.

photo from sportsmockery.com

photo from sportsmockery.com

Jaguars (I still like the offense) – This was the toughest team to come up with a positive for. Blake Bortles was supposed to lead this franchise back to relevance in 2016, but it has been more of the same. With Bortles, Alan Hearns, T.J. Yeldon, Julius Thomas, and Allen Robinson, there is still plenty of young talent on offense that excites me. Unlike the Bears though, I believe Jacksonville does not have the right coach. Ever since Gus Bradley got there, they have been plagued by incredibly slow starts. Since he took over in 2013, they are at the bottom of the league in first quarter points. The Jags always seem to make a push, but it is hard to win many games when you are down by multiple possessions in the first quarter every week. The players have shown flashes of talent while creating their trademark late game drama. Thus, I am not ready to blame them yet Bortles threw for over 30 touchdowns last year. Someone has to take the blame for all the good numbers and talent not resulting in wins. It will not be long before Bradley takes the fall. Interestingly, he plays in the London game this week. Head coaches have been fired after poor performances in the London game each of the last two years.

photo from zambio.com

photo from zambio.com

 

If you are a fan of one of these teams, I hope this has brightened your day.

2016 NFL Predictions

The preseason is finally over and the attention of fans can shift to the season opening Super Bowl rematch on Thursday. However, for those of us who really think we know what we are talking about, there is one order of business left, making official predictions for the upcoming season. Unlike most, I will pull these out after the season and either gloat or own up to it. I will give division winners and wildcards in each conference with brief explanations. The piece will end with my official 2016 Super Bowl prediction.

AFC Division Winners:

East: Patriots- Yes, they are a bit more valuable with Tom Brady missing a quarter of the season. Rather than winning 13 games, they may win just 11. The Jets, Dolphins and Bills are not getting anywhere close to that number.

West: Broncos- I will be the first to admit the quarterback situation is far from great, but it does not need to be. There is too much talent everywhere else on the roster for them not to be really good again. As long as Trevor Siemian does not lose games for the Broncos, they will win a lot of them.

North: Ravens- They were my Super Bowl pick last year. Injuries and close losses made that look really stupid. However, everyone is healthy, and thus, I am drinking the Kool-Aid again this year. Also, the free agent additions of wide receiver Mike Wallace and safety Eric Weddle suited team needs perfectly.

photo from baltimoresun.com

photo from baltimoresun.com

South: Colts- Honestly, I have no clue here. Every team in this division got better, with the possible exception of Houston. The issue is everyone was awful last year. Jacksonville is a year away. The Colts and Andrew Luck are the only somewhat proven commodity. That is the only logic I have.

AFC Wild Cards:

Chiefs- Until they find a way to start beating Denver twice a year, they are not winning the division. Despite that, their fundamentally solid, hard-nosed brand of football will continue to serve them well in 2016.

Bengals- This is process of elimination. Apart from the Pats, the rest of the AFC East is garbage. The same can be said for the entire AFC South, but someone has to win it. The AFC West is not getting three teams in. Realistically that leaves the Bengals and Steelers. Cincy’s defense gives them the nod in my book.

NFC Division Winners:

East: Cowboys- They were my Super Bowl pick prior to the Romo injury. That will likely cost them home field in some level of a playoff game, but I am done with the Giants after all the blown leads last year. The Eagles are a mess and I do not buy Washington’s dink and dunk offense. Assuming Dak Prescott can ride their stout run game to a few wins, Romo should be back in late October. Nine wins should do the trick in this division.

West: Seahawks- What is Seattle NOT really good at? They really hit their stride last year before running into the buzz saw that was Carolina. Russell Wilson is still in his prime. Thomas Rawls may actually be a backfield upgrade over the now retired Marshawn Lynch and only Denver has a better defense in the entire NFL.

photo from feelgrafix.com

photo from feelgrafix.com

North: Packers- The best days of the Aaron Rodgers era are long gone, but he along with a healthy Jordy Nelson should be enough to carry them to a division title, but it may be the last for this core of players. They started to slip ever so slightly last year.

South: Panthers- They cannot possibly be as good as last year. The law of averages just will not allow it. They do not really have much on offense other than Cam Newton. This team wins mostly on the strength of its defense. That will continue in 2016. Though Tampa Bay is really improving, I just cannot see anyone else in this division being a real threat right now

NFC Wildcards:

Bears- The defense was so bad last year that no one realizes that Jay Cutler had one of his best seasons as a pro. Most of his weapons are back and John Fox went out and got two fantastic linebackers to sure up the defense, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. Everyone has their sleeper team each year, the Bears are mine.

Cardinals- With an ageing roster, their best chance to win it all was probably last year, but Carson Palmer and the rest of the Over the Hill Gang should still sneak into the playoffs.

There you have it folks… Read ‘em and weep. I will take the Ravens over the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. I am ready for some football…. Are you?

If I Was a Betting Man…

I do not encourage gambling in any way. However, something was released yesterday that I thought would make for a great speculative article. Online sportsbook Bovada.lv released its projected win totals for all 32 NFL teams. So, I’m going to take a look at five teams and play a little over under with their projected win totals. These will be just a few teams whose numbers jump out at me.

Chicago (7.5 projected wins, over)- All John Fox does is turnaround bad teams in a hurry. He did it in Carolina and Denver, and he is at it again with the Bears. It is strange to say that the defense is the problem in Chicago, but that certainly was the case last year. They lost seven games last year when they scored 20 or more points. They finished 6-10. Fox knows what he is doing as he heads into year two.

The Bears signed two of the most underrated linebackers in football in free agency, Jarrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. Fox coached Trevathan in Denver. He was the unsung hero of that defense last year. Both guys have a nose for the football and are tackling machines. They will make the defense a lot better from day one.

Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffrey have become one of the most dynamic quarterback wide receiver duos in the league. Combine all this with a workable early schedule, and I say Chicago will be in the mix for a playoff spot this year.

Photo from usatoday.com

Photo from usatoday.com

Philadelphia (7 projected wins, under)-With a new coach and well-documented confusing quarterback drama, I see no way for them to reach seven wins. Things get even bleaker when you consider that the division rival Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins are loaded with offensive talent, and the Eagles made no significant changes to a defense that was in the bottom five against both the run and the pass last year. The Eagles traded up to pick second overall in the draft this year. I suspect they may be picking one spot higher next year, and will not have to trade to get it.

Baltimore (8.5 projected wins, over)- When healthy, they have one of the best offenses in the league. Last year though, no one was healthy. Quarterback Joe Flacco and ageless wonder wide receiver Steve Smith both missed most of last season with injuries. By the time December rolled around, they were literally signing quarterbacks and wide receivers off the street and starting them to finish out the year.

The one thing they really could have used was a wide receiver to stretch the field and go deep. They will be getting two. Former Steeler wide out Mike Wallace may be the best deep-threat in football. The Ravens snatched him up in free agency. He has somewhat disappeared after leaving Pittsburgh a few years ago, but Baltimore is a perfect fit. Flacco throws one of the best deep balls I have ever seen. There is also last year’s first-round pick Breshad Perriman who sat out all of last year due to injury. He has the speed to be an instant impact player. The defense is average. If the offensive personnel pans out, that is all they will need to be.

Carolina (10.5 projected wins, under)- This is more about the law of averages than anything else. This team lost just two games last year, including the Super Bowl. They won seven games by a single possession. That is the kind of thing that evens out the following year. Outside of Cam Newton, their offense should not scare anyone. Also, the defense is just a little bit more vulnerable with the unexpected loss of shutdown corner Josh Norman to Washington. They will still be very good, but will take a step back.

Photo from usatoday.com

Photo from usatoday.com

Minnesota (9.5 projected wins, under)- Mike Zimmer is a great coach and Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Fame running back. That does not change the fact that this team will go as far as young quarterback Teddy Bridgwater takes it. He still has not shown me a lot. As seen in last year’s playoff loss to Seattle, he lacks the arm strength to effectively throw through cold and windy conditions. Thus, I obviously do not think he is the long-term answer in Minnesota. They ranked 31st in passing offense last year. Adrian Peterson and that defense cannot do all the heavy lifting forever. Bridgwater is going to have to win them some games on his own this year, but I do not think he can do it. With Chicago poised to take a step forward, someone in this division has to take a step back. I think it will be Minnesota and to a lesser extent, Detroit.

Well, there you have it folks. Use this advice at your own risk. Let the endless speculation and second-guessing begin.

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