NFL defensive records

Are all career defensive records in the NFL unbreakable?

Records are meant to be broken, right? Well maybe not in the National Football League.

Since its inaugural season in 1920, the NFL has seen countless defensive records broken, most recently in 2012 when Ed Reed broke Rod Woodson’s record for career interception return yards. After looking at all of the current records, I thought it would be fun to see which records will be broken next, and which will remain untouched.

With the continuous decline in the average career length of players, it seems that many career defensive records may stand the test of time. According to Statista.com, the average NFL player’s career is just 3.3 years, and a player with at least one Pro Bowl selection is 11.7.

After looking at each defensive record, i’ve found that each record holder spent at least 13-years in the NFL and started a minimum of 169 games. There are only four active defensive players in the NFL that have served such a tenure, hence why these career records continue to stand.

Career Interceptions

NFL defensive records

Paul Krause is a Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the Washington Redskins (1964-67) and Minnesota Vikings (1968-79). (Photo by christopherapage.com)

Career leader: Paul Krause (81)

Active leader: DeAngelo Hall (43)

Krause is a Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the Washington Redskins (1964-67) and Minnesota Vikings (1968-79). Over his 16-year career, he had 81 interceptions, including two seasons with double-digits, which is something that no active player has even done once. What makes this even more impressive is that he played during an era where NFL teams played 14-game seasons, opposed to 16.

The NFL’s active leader in career interceptions is DeAngelo Hall, who is expected to make his return to the field this Sunday for the Washington Redskins. In his 14-year career, he has amassed 43 interceptions. The most he amassed in a season was six, which was a mark he reached twice (2005, 2010). Hall’s career is coming to a close, and he stands no chance of reaching 81 interceptions. So are there any other active players that can eventually catch Krause?

Not likely. Richard Sherman has the most interceptions for a player under 30 years old with 32 in 103 games. Sherman is unlikely to reach this mark as he has only eight interceptions in his last 39 games, opposed to the 16 interceptions he had across a 32-game span from 2012-13.

A decrease in Sherman’s interception totals may be correlated to his increasing reputation as one of the leagues lockdown corners. Quarterbacks won’t throw the ball to Sherman’s man enough for him to come anywhere close to Kraus.

The young defensive back that stands any chance to match Kraus’ interception totals is Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs. Peters has played in only 39 games, but has already totaled 17 interceptions. If he continues his 0.44 interception per game pace for another decade, he would pass Krause in his 13th season.

Only time will tell if Peters has what it takes, although one can assume that quarterbacks will stop throwing the ball to his side as his lockdown reputation continues to develop.

Career Interception return yards

Career leader: Ed Reed (1,590)

Active leader: DeAngelo Hall (838)

According to the New York Times, New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick referred to Ed Reed as “the best weak safety (he’s) seen since (he’s) been in the National Football League.” He added, “Every time you break the huddle, that’s who you’re looking at.”

Reed, also known as the “Ball Hawk,” ranks first in NFL history in career interception return yards with 1,590, and is seventh in career interceptions with 64. His net of nearly 25 yards per interception return puts him in a category with only Deion Sanders as one of the most dangerous returners in NFL history.

This record may seem unbreakable, although the aforementioned Marcus Peters could technically pass Reed if he were to intercept 52 more passes and continue his 23 yards per interception return pace. Although it may be improbable, it is not impossible.

Career Interceptions returned for a touchdown

NFL defensive records

Hall of Famer Rod Woodson holds the record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown with 12. (Photo by Solecollector.com)

Career leader: Rod Woodson (12)

Active leader: Aqib Talib (10)

Now this is a record that can be broken. Hall of Famer Rod Woodson holds the record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown with 12, although 31-year-old Aqib Talib is just two house calls away from matching Woodson’s mark.

Talib has had at least one pick-six in seven of his ten seasons. Talib is a vital part of the Denver Broncos “No Fly Zone” defense, and he should have no problem intercepting a handful of passes throughout the rest of his career. I would not be surprised to see Talib holding this record by the end of his career.

Career sacks

Career leader: Bruce Smith (200.0)

Active leader: Julius Peppers (151.0)

Bruce Smith, who has 200 sacks over his illustrious career, has been the NFL’s sack king since surpassing Reggie Whites’ mark of 198 in 2003. It took Smith 19 seasons and 279 games to reach this mark.

The active sack leader is Julius Peppers, who has 151 sacks through 16 seasons and 242 games. With Peppers’ retirement imminent, it is clear he is not a threat to break the record.

Including Peppers, there are only four active players in the NFL with over 100 sacks: Dwight Freeney (123.5), Terrell Suggs (119) and Elvis Dumervil (102.5).

In my estimation, there are only three active players that have a chance to sniff Smith’s record. An honorable mention is Khalil Mack, as he is one of the league’s premier pass rushers. Because he is already 26 years old (which isn’t old) and has only 34.5 career sacks, it will be a stretch for him to reach Smith’s 200 sack mark.

The most likely candidate to break this record is the 2015 Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. In his seven-year career, he already has 80.5 career sacks and is averaging about 0.85 sacks per game. If Miller were to continue this pace, he would need to play in just over 141 more games to break Smith’s record. The likelihood of Miller playing nine more seasons at an elite level is unlikely, although he could improve his current sack pace if he stays healthy in his prime.

J.J. Watt was on pace to contend Smith’s record after recording 76 sacks in 83 games, posting a rate of .92 sacks per game, but was thrown off track due to injuries.

Watt missed most of the 2016 season and will miss the remainder of the 2017 season, causing his chances of catching Smith to continue to dwindle. If Watt returns healthy for the 2018 NFL season and continues his torrid sack pace, he would need to play for another eight seasons to contend with Smith. As an injury riddled 28-year-old, it seems unlikely Watt will become the sack king.

The other active player who may one day approach Smith’s sack record is Joey Bosa. The 22-year-old has a total of 19 sacks in just 20 games, giving him an insane .95 sacks per game. If he were to continue this pace for 13 seasons, he would approach Smith’s mark. Bosa will need to stay healthy and hungry for over a decade, which is something that very few players are capable of in today’s NFL.

Career Fumble recoveries

NFL defensive records

Rod Woodson holds the record for career fumble recoveries for a defensive player with 32. (Photo from NFL.com)

Career leader: Rod Woodson (32)

Active leader: Julius Peppers (18)

This record seems to be the least likely to be broken, ever. Recovering a fumble is incredibly difficult as many different factors affect a situation, including positioning, hand eye coordination and luck.

Rod Woodson holds the record for career fumble recoveries for a defensive player with 32. Woodson spent 17-seasons in the NFL and recovered at least one fumble every year.

The active leader in career fumble recoveries is Julius Peppers with 18, although no other defensive player in the NFL has half as many fumble recoveries as Woodson. This record may in fact never be broken.

Career Forced fumbles*

Career leader: Robert Mathis (54)

Active leader: Unknown

I understand forced fumbles is not an official NFL statistic, and unofficial numbers prior to 1991 were not recorded, although it should be.

According to Sportshoopla.com, unofficially, Robert Mathis is the NFL’s leader in career forced fumbles with 54. Unfortunately, because this stat is not officially calculated by the NFL, a list of active players’ career forced fumbles are not available, forcing me to believe this record will not be broken until the NFL begins to officially count the stat.

Career safeties

NFL defensive records

Jared Allen holds the NFL record for career safeties with four. (Photo by Genevieve Ross)

Career leader: Jared Allen, Doug English and Ted Hendricks (4)

Active leader(s): Calais Campbell, Leonard Floyd and Junior Galette (2)

This record may seem breakable since safeties are extremely uncommon. According to Ken Belson of the New York Times, one safety occurs every 14.31 games. Also, no player has ever recorded more than one safety in a single game.

There is a tie between three players for this record, the most recent being Jared Allen, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons. He recorded them all in just three seasons (2008, 2009, 2011).

Leonard Floyd seems like the most likely of the group to break this record, as he is half-way there and just 24 years old, but this record may be unbreakable due to the lack of safeties that occur.

So, are all career defensive records unbreakable? No, but clearly some records stand a chance of never being broken.

Did I miss any record-breaking candidates, or did I disrespect a legend by saying their record is breakable? Only time will tell, but let me know your opinions.

 

Featured image from SB Nation

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2017 AFC West division preview

2017 AFC West division preview

The NFL regular season is finally here. The season opener is tonight and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-18 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 AFC West division preview.

4: Los Angeles Chargers

2017 AFC West divison preview

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

Last season: 5-11

Strength of schedule: 3

The Chargers are heading in the right direction. Being in the AFC West is really the only thing holding them back.

When you look at the Chargers defense there is plenty to love. The defensive line is going to be terrifying to opposing offensive lines. Joey Bosa, Brandon Mebane, Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram are going to cause nightmares. This front will dominate games and make the rest of the defense better.

The linebacking corp has a lot of questions to answer but won’t be required to be a special unit because of how good the defensive line and the secondary are. The secondary of the Los Angeles Chargers is one of the most underrated in the entire league. Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett are one of the best corner tandems in the NFL and helped the Chargers give up only 242.9 yards per game through the air.

As long as the offense doesn’t turnover the ball at the same rate as last season the Chargers defense will improve this season and make the team better as a whole. An improved defense can help Los Angeles close out games as they finished 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less.

Philip Rivers led this offense to some impressive numbers but the turnovers really hurt them. Rivers threw 21 interceptions on the season and the team averaged 2.2 turnovers per game. Despite the high volume of turnovers, the Chargers averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers threw for 262.4 yards per game even though he lost his best receiver Keenan Allen early in the season. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers, and the rest of the Chargers offense, to a better 2017.

Turnovers weren’t the only problem with the Chargers, they struggled to run the ball. Los Angeles only managed to accumulate 94.4 yards on the ground. They can do much better with Melvin Gordan and a healthy offensive line.

Even with all the improvements the Chargers have made, they won’t see the results in the win column. They have the third hardest schedule in the league and it is because of their difficult division.

Prediction: 8-8 (2-4), wildcard candidate

losses: @Den, KC, @NYG, @Oak, @NE, @Jax, @Dal, @KC

3: Denver Broncos

2017 AFC West division preview

(Photo Credit: Gregory Payan/Associated Press)

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 1

When I predicted that the Broncos would finish third last season most called me crazy, some even called me dumb. Then the Broncos struggled and fell to third in the AFC West. The same will happen this season because Trevor Siemian is still going to be the signal caller. Even if he ends up being replaced, Paxton Lynch wouldn’t do much better. The Broncos will be wasting away their defense yet again this season.

Denver needs to run the ball more often to help Siemian. The Broncos only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time last year. As a result, the Broncos averaged 92.8 rush yards per game. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles need to remain healthy so that the running game can take off.

Another problem with the Broncos offense is their line. Denver lost Russell Okung but his injury history makes the loss manageable. To improve upon the unit the Broncos drafted Garrett Bolles. Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and will have to be the anchor that gets this unit going. The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game.

Last season the vaunted Bronco defense struggled to stop the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. The addition of Domata Peko should help solve this issue. The rest of the defense is still loaded. Von Miller helped lead the Broncos to 42 sacks as a team, good enough for third in the NFL. Denver still only managed to allow 18.6 points per game. Expect them to maintain this standard and give up anywhere from 17 to 20 points per game.

The defense will continue to be earth shattering against the pass but without being able to stop the run they can’t remain elite. The lack of a running game and no real threat throwing the ball means the Broncos are in for another difficult season. They also have the hardest schedule in the NFL. The defense is the only chance this team has at making the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), wildcard candidate

losses: Dal, @NYG, @LAC, @KC, @Phi, @NE, @Oak

2: Kansas City Chiefs

2017 AFC West division preview

(Photo Credit: David Eulitt The Kansas City Star)

Last season: 12-4

Strength of schedule: 2

As is every year, Andy Reid will have his team in playoff contention. The Chiefs have a great defense that will lead the way. The offense is typically average but will have a few more playmakers this season. If the Chiefs can navigate the second hardest schedule in the league, they will make the playoffs as a wildcard team.

Alex Smith receives backlash but led the Chiefs offense to the 13th best offense in the NFL averaging 24.3 points per game. Kansas City didn’t do anything great but did things consistently.  They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game).

The injury to Spencer Ware will force Kareem Hunt to be the workhorse but he is fully capable. Similar to the rest of the offense, the offensive line is ranked in the middle of the pack. Tyreek Hill will be so explosive that he will open up the running game and the middle of the field for Travis Kelcie. Alex Smith will be more than a game manager this season as a result.

The real strength of the Chiefs is their defense. Kansas City only gave up 19.4 points per game despite losing top defenders Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston. What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. Kansas City will build upon this.

The Chiefs will continue to play Super Bowl caliber defense and the offense will be much more explosive. The second toughest schedule is what will cause problems, that and the emergence of the Oakland Raiders. Chiefs will likely make the playoffs but not win the division.

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

losses: @NE, @Hou, @Oak, @Dal, @NYG, @Den

1: Oakland Raiders

2017 AFC West division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com)

Last season: 12-4

Strength of schedule: 4

Here come the Raiders. After a decade of sitting in the gutter, the Raiders are finally built for success. The only thing holding back Oakland from a Super Bowl is health.

Heading into this season the Raiders offense is poised to be one of the top units in the NFL. Derek Carr has completed 60.9 percent of his passes and thrown for 81 touchdowns to just 31 interceptions in his career. Carr still has Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to throw the ball out to. They also added tight end, Jared Cook. Cook is a dangerous threat but can’t stay healthy.

The Raiders also signed Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. Lynch took a season off so he should be fresh to continue his beast mode persona this season. Oakland averaged 26 points per game last season and will be somewhere around that mark this season. As long as they stay healthy they will have one of the best offenses.

To make it to the Super Bowl the defense will have to step up their play. The Raiders defensive along gave up 24.1 points per game. Oakland struggled in giving up yards as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.

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

Oakland must improve in getting to the quarterback. They ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins have to be better for the silver and black to get to the big game.

The Raiders are poised for a great season. They won 12 games last season and won’t win that many because of the difficult schedule. Still, 11 wins will be enough to win the division and set the Oakland Raiders up for a possible Super Bowl Run.

Prediction: 11-5 (4-2), division champion

losses: @Den, @Buf, @Mia, @KC, @LAC

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Featured image courtesy of https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/08/25/afc-west-preview-chiefs-broncos-chargers-raiders

NFL top 100 players 2017: 10-1

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the final installment, containing players 10-1.

10. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by nj.com)

Beckham Jr. gets a lot of press for his antics, but he produces at a Hall of Fame level so far in his career. His 2016 season was no different as he recorded 101 receptions for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Giants have other offensive weapons that should take off pressure from Beckham Jr. Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall were brought in this offseason and Sterling Sheppard had a solid season in 2016. With so many targets, Beckham will likely face a little bit less attention than in previous years.

He wants to be the most paid player in the NFL and with a good season in 2017, he can be the top paid wide receiver in the league at the least.

Comments: “Some love him, the rest hate him but what you can’t deny is that he is a stud on the field. He is also one of the most exciting players to watch. Ranked at 10 seems perfect for Odell and I can’t wait to see what he does this season as he has started to put together a career that could one day head to Canton.” -Matthew Hagan

9. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

David Johnson (Photo by latimes.com)

He was little known of Norhtern Iowa and the Cardinals didn’t even want to draft him as they preferred other running backs. That hasn’t stopped Johnson from becoming one of the premier running backs and players in the NFL. In 2016 he rushed 1,239 yards had 879 receiving yards and finished with 20 total touchdowns.

Johnson can do it all and is entering his second full season as the top back in Arizona. The rest of the offense wasn’t particularly productive, but Johnson made the most of an average offensive line and a struggling quarterback. This season Johnson will continue his progression and have an impact on the game in a variety of ways.

Fantasy football shouldn’t be used to judge real football most of the time, but there is a reason he is going in the top three of most drafts.

Comments: “He is a complete back and has thrived behind a line that isn’t great. If he doesn’t pick up his yards on the ground he will get the ball thrown to him. He has a chance to have another good season as the focal point of the Cardinal offense.”-Joe DiTullio

8. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

NFL Top 100

Aaron Donald (Photo by masslive.com)

Donald is by far the best interior lineman in the NFL and has been the best player on a lackluster Rams’ team for years now. This is all despite being in the NFL for only three years. Last season he finished with 47 tackles, five passes defended and eight sacks.

His best asset is his quickness off of the snap. He continually is the first one to make his jump at the snap of the ball and that is not something that will diminish in 2017. One thing to be weary of is that Donald will play more defensive end this season in the Rams’ new 3-4 defense. With Donald’s skill he should be able to make the adjustment and continue to be one of the top ten players in the league.

The 2017 season may not be too kind to the Rams, but Donald will continue to perform.

Comments: “Aaron Donald is unblockable just put on the tape. He hasn’t gotten the love because the Rams have been horrible. Donald is a top 3-5 player and once the Rams become relevant, people will soon realize that ranking him eighth is just not good enough.” -Matthew Hagan

7. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Ezekiel Elliot (Photo by wfaa.com)

Elliot does benefit from a great offensive line, but he had a great season for a rookie in 2016. He rushed for 1,631 yards and had 16 total touchdowns. Those stats are especially impressive when taking into account that he only played 15 games because Dallas rested their starters for their season finale to stay healthy for the playoffs.

The thing that will hold Elliot back is his off the field issues. This list was compiled before rumors had started about a possible suspension. If he is on the field Elliot is going to be one of the most productive backs in the league. He has a great offensive line and enough natural talent that he will be shine. Even if he has a sophomore slump and does a little worse than 2016, he is still going to have an excellent season.

If Elliot is suspended it may hinder his rating on this list, but he will still be a great player for the games that he does play in.

Comments: “Elliot does benefit from a great offensive line, but most great running backs do. His vision and athletic ability make him elusive. Going into year two, he will have another big season if he can stay on the field.”-Joe DiTullio

6. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Von Miller (Photo by usatoday,com)

His ability to sack the quarterback is what makes Miller such a great player. 2016 was no different for Miller, as he finished the season with 13.5 sacks, 78 tackles, three passes defended and three forced fumbles.

If Miller plays at least 15 games in a season, the end product is 11 or more sacks. He constantly harasses quarterbacks and will do so again in 2017. The Bronco defense will be strong again in 2017, with the strengths being the secondary and the pass rush. The secondary will be helped by the pass rush getting after the quarterback, forcing him to make bad decisions. Miller and the pass rush will be aided and gifted with a few coverage sacks this season.

Miller will make his sixth Pro Bowl and be the best player on one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2017.

Comments: “Miller and Mack could easily be flip flopped. Miller is surrounded by better talent on defense, which elevates him. Despite that Miller would rack up double digit sacks for any team in the NFL”- Dylan Streibig

5. Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Khalil Mack (Photo by raiders.com)

Mack, like Miller, is this high on the list because of his ability to get after the quarterback. His ability to do so has landed him on two straight All-Pro first teams. Last season he recorded 11 sacks, 73 tackles, five forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, three passes defended, one interception and one touchdown.

He is entering his fourth season in the NFL and big things are expected of him, especially after he had 15 sacks in 2015. Mack doesn’t have the luxury of a good secondary, so he needs to get to the quarterback quickly for most sacks. The defense will likely not be too improved in 2017, which means Mack will need to continue to produce at an elite level.

He is entering his prime, so there is no reason not to expect Mack to have a great season in 2017.

Comments: “Khalil Mack is the best player in the NFL. That’s right, I said it. Mack is the only player in NFL history to be named an all-pro at two positions and that is enough proof for me. When you can split the time between two positions and be that great at both you are the elite of the elite. Mack is going to have a huge year. I expect close to 20 sacks this season.” -Matthew Hagan

4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Antonio Brown (Photo by sbnation.com)

Like a lot of players in this top ten, Brown came from humble beginnings in the NFL and had to work his tail off to get this far in his career. He was a sixth round pick in the NFL Draft and has made the Steelers happy to have drafted him. In 2016 he had 1,284 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

The yards were down last season, but the touchdowns were up, which still made him very productive. Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to play this season after contemplating retirement, will help Brown greatly. A good offensive line and Le’Veon Bell will help keep the offense balanced. Martavis Bryant is coming off of suspension and should draw some attention away from Brown. Brown’s touchdowns may go down as a result, but he should have more yards.

Brown’s work ethic is great so unless quarterback play drops off completely, expect him to be a top receiver in the NFL.

Comments: ” Four straight seasons with 100+ catches says it all. Opponents know the ball is going to Brown and still can’t stop him”- Dylan Streibig 

3. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Julio Jones (Photo by atlantafalcons.com)

Jones is the ultimate matchup problem in the NFL and is the reason why the Falcons’ offense is so dynamic. He makes Matt Ryan a better quarterback. Last season he not only helped the Falcons get to the Super Bowl, but had 1,409 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

The 2017 season should be another great one for Jones. Ryan is back at quarterback coming off of his best season yet. The offensive line is also good and two good running backs are running behind it. Mohammed Sanu and Austin Hooper provide decent targets to take the pressure off of Jones. Even if all these things weren’t in place for Jones, he would still be a great player in the NFL.

With Jones on an offense, a defense has to make him the main focal point of their game plan because he is so talented and productive.

Comments: “Jones is the ultimate mismatch. He could be higher on his list and it wouldn’t be too surprising. He makes the Falcons’ offense so good. He makes Matt Ryan a better quarterback. If you are picking players in a schoolyard draft, Jones is going to be one of the top picks no question.”-Joe DiTullio

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

NFL Top 100

Aaron Rodgers (Photo by nytimes.com)

For some reason Rodgers has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years, but he is still an elite quarterback. In 2016 he threw for 4,428 yards and a league best 40 touchdowns. Rodgers is very reliable, while still putting up big numbers with an interception percentage of just 1.1% last season.

Rodgers has had to undergo a lot of changes with his offensive personnel the last few years. Ty Montgomery has had to switch from wide receiver to running back which has gone decently well. Offensive lineman have come and gone, but the unit is still good. Jordy Nelson has dealt with injuries, but is back to form, while Randall Cobb has regressed. Davante Adams stepped up last season, which is encouraging. The Packers also signed Martellus Bennet to give Rodgers a very good tight end target. He has done a lot more with a lot less in past years and will put up good numbers in 2017.

Rodgers ranks second on this list, but with another good season and a possible retirement/regression from the person at the top spot, he can claim the best player in the league title.

Comments: “Rodgers would make an uninterested person, interested in football. He is that good. He buys time with his legs and has the accuracy down the field to make unbelievable throws. He only has one Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a couple more before retiring.”- Joe DiTullio

1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Tom Brady (Photo by wbur.com)

Brady is 40 years old, but still is at the top of his game and the top of this list. He has showed no signs yet of taking a step backwards. His 2016 season was shortened by the “Deflategate” suspension, but he still had a great season. In the truncated season he threw for 3,554 yards and just two interceptions on his way to leading New England to its fifth Super Bowl Championship.

Protecting the football is also one of Brady’s strengths as he only threw two in the 2016 regular season. This season, the offense got better. They added Brandin Cooks to their receiving corps, to go with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Rob Gronkowski also figures to come back and be dynamic if he can stay healthy. The offensive line has played well only allowed Brady to be sacked 15 times in 2016.

With no signs of regression and more talent on the team, Brady holds on to the number one spot on this list.

Comments: “I have a problem with Brady at one. Yes, he has accomplished amazing things and has been the best quarterback of all-time, but this list is suppose to be predicting the upcoming season. At his age, Brady will not be the best player in the NFL in 2017.” -Matthew Hagan

NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 20-11

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NFL Free Agency

Early NFL Free Agency: Sneaky Good Moves

The game of quarterback musical chairs is snagging the headlines early in NFL free agency like every year. If you do not have a quarterback who is at least competent, you have no chance in this league. However, every position matters. Here is a look at some sneaky good moves in the beginnings of the free agent frenzy.

Phil Dawson: Arizona Cardinals

Phil Dawson

Photo: sportsoutwest.com

Yes folks, a kicker. Arizona lost five games by one possession and tied another during last year’s seven-win campaign. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed 11 combined field goals and extra points. These things are not entirely unrelated.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Phil Dawson missed just four total kicks for the 49ers. As crazy as it sounds, this may be a pivotal move in Arizona’s quest to return to the postseason in 2017.

 

 

 

Ronald Leary: Denver Broncos

Ronald Leary

Photo: hngn.com

Whoever winds up taking snaps for the Broncos next year will have much more protection. This is a heck of a start. Leary did not allow a sack while starting 13 games in Dallas last year. He has been a stalwart on the best offensive line in football since 2014.

Denver’s ability to sack the opposing quarterback in recent years is well documented. In 2016, the Broncos had just two more total sacks than their opponents. That is crazy considering the Broncos have both Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Poor offensive line play is also one of the reasons Denver struggled to break 50 rushing yards in a game for parts of 2016. Do not be surprised if center Matt Paradis is the only starting offensive lineman that returns in 2017. Last year’s free agent offensive line signings of Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung proved to be disastrous for Denver.

To become legitimate Super Bowl contenders again, the Leary signing needs to be the first step in another massive offensive line overhaul in Denver. The Broncos have also added former Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson to the fold.

A.J. Klein: New Orleans Saints

A.J .Klein

Photo: zambio.com

As long as Drew Brees is in town, the Saints will always be able to score. However, they have finished outside the top 25 in total defense for three straight years. While a single player will not change that, Klein is a step in the right direction.

Playing behind Luke Kuechly limited Klein’s snaps in Carolina. When he did see the field, he was reasonably productive. Klein took part in 137 tackles in Carolina despite starting just 23 games in four seasons. Additionally, three years and $15 million is a fairly cheap price to pay a 25-year-old contributor from a division rival.

           

 

Kevin Zietler: Cleveland Browns

Kevin Zeitler

Photo: stripehype.com

It is no secret that the Browns need work everywhere, and the offensive line is no exception. Zietler was one of three early moves the Browns made up front. The former Bengal is now the highest-paid guard in NFL history.

While the contract numbers are eye-popping and the Browns have an alarming tendency to screw things up, signing a guard from a division rival who has given up just 11 total sacks in five seasons is never a bad move.

March is all about basketball. However, the NFL’s version of March Madness is certainly worth continuing to keep an eye on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Will (and Won’t) Decide Super Bowl LI

Much of the hype leading into Super Bowl LI has centered around the two quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. It is understandable considering that Brady and Ryan threw for over 60 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions combined in the regular season. However, Super Bowl LI will not be won or lost by either quarterback.

Both quarterbacks and the offenses they pilot have scored with such ease this season that it is difficult to imagine either offense being shut down completely. In many matchups like this, the two great quarterbacks cancel each other out. Ryan is just a one-year kind of great for now and Brady is a best-of-all-time kind of great. They have both exhibited greatness all year long though. Each quarterback will “get theirs” so to speak.

So, it is wise to look beyond the quarterback position when trying to determine which team will snatch glory on Sunday. The same can be said of receivers and tight ends. They are tied directly to the quarterbacks. As good as guys like Julio Jones and Julian Edelman are, they will not decide the game.

As unsexy as it is, this game will be decided along the offensive line. That unit for each team has a tough task of it. However, the improvement up front is the single biggest reason why these teams are where they are.

Super Bowl LI

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

The Patriots fell one game short of the Super Bowl last year because Tom Brady wore Von Miller, Malik Jackson and others as accessories in the AFC Championship Game. He was sacked four times and hit several others.

After the season-ending loss, longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was lured out of retirement and back to New England.

You cannot put offensive linemen on your fantasy football team. Scarnecchia’s impact has gone largely unnoticed, but has been massive. Despite very little change in terms of personnel, New England’s offensive line ranks top five in fewest sacks allowed this year.

Better offensive line play has also allowed the Patriots’ plethora of running backs to be more consistent as both rushers and receivers. Containing NFL sack leader Vic Beasley will be top priority for this unheralded but very solid group.

For the Falcons, signing long-time Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack was the origin of their fairy tale season. The whole offensive line gelled around the four-time Pro Bowler. Even though they are middle-of-the-road in terms of sacks allowed, the Falcons offensive line has given Matt Ryan enough time to author an MVP-caliber season.

Super Bowl LI

Photo Courtesy of 4thandgoal.com

More importantly, the Falcons are the most balanced offense in football. They are top five in both rushing and passing. Many of the skill positions on Atlanta’s offense are the same as last year. Their sudden emergence as a Super Bowl contender can be traced to the offensive line improvement.

Super Bowl LI Prediction

The only way to slow down either of these offenses is to pressure their respective quarterbacks. As already outlined, this is easier said than done. The Falcons defense has more name value in terms of pass rushers with Beasley and Dwight Freeney.

There is something about New England’s defensive unit as a whole. They give up their fair share of yards, but are the league leaders in the only category that really matters. New England gives up under 16 points per game. Based on that, as well as experience, the Pats will find a way to get ring number five for Brady, Bill Belichick, and the entire franchise.

NE 30, ATL 24

 

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Franchise Analysis – Denver Broncos

Entering the 2016 season, the Denver Broncos had one question: “Who will take over for the legendary Peyton Manning?” One could argue that the question still remains. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback, but not capable of overcoming below average running back and offensive line play. Other than the quarterback position, where else do the Broncos need to improve to make another run at a Lombardi Trophy in 2017?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Broncos failed to pick up where they left off in the 2015 season. Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler both contributed to an offense that ranked 19th in points and 16th in yards. The offense dropped to 22nd in points and 27th in yards this season. Who carries the blame for such a decline? We’ve already outlined the quarterback regression, but let’s take a closer look.

Trevor Siemian proved he has limitations this season. Will the Broncos be able to elevate his play by improving his supporting cast this off season (Courtesy of; DenverBroncos.com).

If it wasn’t apparent last year, it should be now. Peyton Manning covered up a lot of holes on this team last season. Even in his diminished state, Manning’s mind and control of the offense allowed him to put the Broncos in the best play possible on every snap. When Manning played, he accounted for 16 of the 39 sacks allowed. He was able to call plays that wouldn’t ask the offensive line to block for four to six seconds. He was able to minimize the impact that his average to below average linemen had on the passing game.

Even with an upgrade at the left tackle position from Ryan Clady to Russell Okung, the Denver Broncos still struggled. The biggest hole in this starting unit was the right tackle Donald Stephenson. Using Pro Football Focus player rankings, Stephenson was rated as the 77th best tackle out of 78 qualified players. Stephenson was also rated as the worst pass-blocking tight end in football. No quarterback can have success when one of his tackles is constantly getting beat.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

One aspect of the Denver Broncos that was never in doubt, was their defense. As a whole, they ranked 4th in both points and yards allowed. The unquestioned strength of this defense is their secondary. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. provide this defense with incredible flexibility. Talib is able to match up with the top tier receivers on the outside and Harris can lock down even the best slot receivers. When a defense doesn’t have to roll coverage to a player or exchange responsibilities in the secondary, they can focus on rushing the passer.

Sylvester Williams had a down year defending the run. Will the Broncos look to upgrade the nose tackle position, or hope Williams will bounce back in 2017? (Courtesy of; Predominatelyorange.com)

When Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the emerging Shane Ray are able to rush the passer, this defense is suffocating. However, they must get better at stopping the run. This defense, despite their greatness, was 28th in rushing yards allowed. In their 3-4 defense, the nose tackle must be able to occupy double teams and keep linemen from blocking linebackers. Sadly, Sylvester Williams was unable to do that. Williams ranked as the 106th best interior defender against the run out of 117 qualified players. Denver must upgrade their nose tackle in their base defense if they hope to have more opportunities to rush the passer in 2017.

Divisional Analysis

The best way to ensure a spot in the postseason is to win your division. What does this team need to ascend back to the top of the AFC West?

Clearly, Denver needs to have more production from the quarterback position. However, that doesn’t mean the position needs an upgrade. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback and can absolutely play better with an improved supporting cast. They also have their 2016 first round pick, Paxton Lynch. What Siemian lacks in talent, Lynch has. With these two players on the roster, they don’t need to try and upgrade the position.

Outside of the right tackle position, Denver could benefit greatly by upgrading their tight end. In 2016 we saw Carson Wentz be productive with an average at best collection of receivers. While they may be better than my analysis, they certainly aren’t as talented as Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders. What allowed Wentz to succeed? He had a receiving first tight end that worked the middle of the field in Zach Ertz. Given that this team isn’t great in pass protection, an upgrade at tight end will allow whoever is starting to get the ball out of their hands quicker.

Some options in the draft include David Njoku from Miami, Gerald Everett from South Alabama, and Evan Engram from Ole Miss. I know I didn’t include O.J. Howard, but I don’t think Denver will use their first round pick on this position and Howard most likely won’t be available in the second round. If Denver wanted to use a day two or three pick to address this position, they could select Tyrone Swoopes from Texas or Eric Saubert from Drake University.

We talked previously about their lack of production from their nose tackle. Given the importance of that position in the 3-4 defense, they need to bring in another player. Given John Elway’s track record of acquiring defensive free agents, I could see them going that route instead of the draft to address this need.

PostSeason Prospects

There are certain criteria that can translate into post season success. Where did the Denver Broncos stack up to the rest of the league in 2016?

It’s almost incredible that this team won nine games and didn’t finish inside the top 20 at any of these critical criteria. What’s most telling is their third down conversion ranking. It goes beyond just third down. This statistic gives you an idea about their success on first and second down. Because they struggled so much to run the ball effectively on first and second down, they often faced longer third down attempts than most NFL offenses. Also, if you can’t convert on third down, you won’t have prolonged drives. Thus, their ranking of 28th in Time of Possession.

This defense is unbelievable. Despite having a bottom third offense, the Denver defense was top 10 in every relevant defensive metric. Of course, they were not good against the run. No team can just run the ball for four quarters. When teams put the ball in the air, most of the time, it fell incomplete or in the hands of a Broncos defender. If they can just be an average team against the run in 2017, they will find themselves in the post season.

2017 Predictions

There’s no reason to doubt that John Elway will address their needs this off season through the draft and free agency. I think they will absolutely find a way to get more production out of their quarterback, whoever it is. I do want to say, under no circumstances should they try and acquire Tony Romo. Yes, Romo is talented. He’s better than every quarterback on that team, but he isn’t a good fit. Putting an injury-prone quarterback, who’s older than 30, behind a suspect offensive line is foolish because they will have to give up substantial defensive assets to acquire Romo.

This team cannot sacrifice their defense to support their offense. Elway and company will do everything possible to put their team in the best position possible. Overall, I think it will be enough to get them back into the playoffs. I believe the Denver Broncos will finish 11-5 and second in the AFC West and enter the 2017 postseason as a Wild Card.

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Despite Miller Megadeal, Broncos Remain Setup for Long Term Success

Super Bowl MVP Von Miller cashed in huge Friday and avoided the franchise tag dilemma. The six year $114 million deal with $70 million in guarantees makes Miller the highest paid non quarterback in league history.

von miller

Photo from foxsports.com

As a Broncos fan, I agree with a lot of the conventional wisdom that has emerged. Yes, this is way too much money for a linebacker. However, John Elway and the rest of Broncos brass had no choice.

Miller bet on himself by not signing a long term deal prior to last season and hit the jackpot. 11 sacks in the regular season. Also, Tom Brady and Cam Newton are likely still seeing Miller in their nightmares after what he did to them during the playoffs.

Had Miller sat out the 2016 season and eventually ended up playing elsewhere, it would have been impossible to replace him. He is a once in a generation type of talent. The Broncos were in a tough spot here. This was the best possible outcome for all involved. I have no issue at all here with Miller. Any player must get what they can while they can. Good for him.

Contrary to popular belief, Miller’s megadeal does not hurt Denver’s ability to pay other players at all, at least not right now. The Broncos have some good young talent still playing on rookie deals. Also, while playing financial chicken for the better part of a year with Miller, Elway got long term deals done with two other key defensive pieces, linebacker Brandon Marshall and defensive end Derek Wolfe. As much as most media outlets want you to believe Denver’s roster is not set up for the long term, you have to dig deeper. Let’s take a look.

    • Running back C.J. Anderson- 25 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Wide Receiver Demaryus Thomas- 28 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Linebacker Von Miller- 27 years old, under contract until 2022
    • Linebacker Brandon Marshall- 26 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Defensive end Derek Wolfe- 26 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Cornerback Bradley Roby- 24 years old, under contract until 2018
    • Cornerback Chris Harris- 27 years old, under contract until 2021
    • Safety T.J. Ward- 29 years old, under contract until 2018
    • Cornerback Aquib Talib- 30 years old, under contract until 2020

 

photo from broncos planetbroncos.com

photo from broncos planetbroncos.com

No other team in the league has that kind of proven talent locked up in the long term. Assuming everyone stays healthy, Denver will continue to compete for titles for at least another five years. They need serviceable quarterback play from Mark Sanchez in the short term, and franchise level quarterback play from Paxton Lynch in the long term. The organization has put both in the best possible position to deliver. There is also optimism that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will get a long term deal done to stay with the reigning world champions. The speedster is entering the final year of his deal.

John Elway continues to find ways to stretch a dollar better than any executive in sports. At this rate, he may be remembered as a better executive for the Broncos than he was a quarterback, and that is really saying something.

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Gary Kubiak Doesn’t Get Enough Credit

I make no secret of the fact that I am as big a Broncos fan as you will find anywhere, I always have been. The “experts” are predicting doom for the reigning Super Bowl champions this year. At first glance, I get it. Peyton Manning, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan are all gone. No one knows what the future holds for Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, but most expect a deal to get done. Even with all that, one key piece of last year’s championship puzzle has gone nowhere, head coach Gary Kubiak.

Laugh at me all you want. The guy can flat out coach. When the quarterback situation got murky last year, he was steady as the sun. He calmly named either Manning or Osweiler the starter each Monday. I feel it really helped the whole organization to know which direction they were going early in the week. Not only did Kubiak have the stones to pull Manning when things got ugly a little over halfway through the season, he had them to put Manning back in the lineup when Denver needed a spark in a key regular season finale against San Diego. Not many coaches would have made either of the moves.

He knew exactly what he had all year long, a great defense, above average ground game, and limitations at quarterback… No matter which one it was. Two videos from the NFL’s YouTube channel drive this home perfectly. Just a snippet from each is all you need. In the one below, early in the Super Bowl, Kubiak says something to his staff about getting Manning easy throws. He knew he was not dealing with the Manning of five years ago, and planned accordingly.

The next one from the second half is similar. There is a part after Denver recovers a fumble deep in Panthers territory with a chance to salt the game away. Kubiak doesn’t get caught up in the moment or giving Manning a spectacular sendoff. He immediately says “let’s just go run run run” By dancing with what brought him there, he and the Broncos gave Manning the ultimate sendoff.

When you dig deeper, Kubiak’s track record speaks for itself. He was John Elway’s backup for eight years before getting into coaching. He has four Super Bowl rings. He was 49ers quarterbacks coach in 1994, Broncos offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998, and of course last year, also with the Broncos. He was also the first coach to lead the Houston Texans to the playoffs. However, the work he did in the mid-2000s is what really stands out.

Kubiak and his good buddy then Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan were the subject of league wide mocking when the Broncos signed quarterback Jake Plummer to be their starter in 2003. Plummer went from talented draft bust to Pro Bowler, leading the Broncos to three straight playoff berths, including the AFC title game in 2005. The bootleg heavy, run/play action first offense suited Plummer perfectly. He earned the nickname “No Mistake Jake.” Expect Kubiak to roll out something similar for this year’s Broncos. I know folks will laugh at the phrase “no mistake” being mentioned in the same breath as likely Broncos starter Mark Sanchez, but Plummer was viewed much the same as Sanchez is now prior to coming to Denver.

photo from nj.com

photo from nj.com

photo from cbssports.com

photo from cbssports.com

Kubiak’s offense is all based on getting the ground game going. During his stint as Broncos offensive coordinator, Kubiak had four different 1,000 rushers. Given that and the fact CJ Anderson really stepped up late last year, I feel pretty good about that. Throw in a revamped offensive line and I feel even better. Oh, by the way the defense is still really good.

Well, there you have it folks. That is my argument. My fandom plays some role, you all can decide how much. I think 11 wins is very realistic for the defending champs, am I crazy?

 

 

Johnny to the Broncos?

Johnny Manziel is not going to Broncos, people. But it was reported that Johnny was living with Von Miller. So less just wonder for a second if Manziel actually did sign Manziel…

Gregory Shamus/ Getty Imagesj

Gregory Shamus/ Getty Images

If the Broncos don’t get Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kaepernick is not willing to take a pay cut, why not look at signing Johnny Manziel? Manziel will be around his fellow Aggie Von Miller and head coach Gary Kubiak. Manziel will be under one of the great GM’s in the NFL, John Elway. I am pretty sure the off the field stuff will be handled in house. And even if it can’t be handled in the locker room, GM Elway will know how to talk to a fellow quarterback.

It also makes sense financially. Instead of getting Fitzpatrick at $11 million a year or Kaepernick at $7 million a year, you can get Manziel at a lower rate since he risk. The Broncos could also sign him to a contract for less years than if they drafted a quarterback in the late first round. Then use that pick to get a defensive tackle to replace Malik Jackson, someone like a Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. Or a linebacker to replace Danny Trevathan, someone like Leonard Floyd from Gerorgia. Either one of those picks can help Denver in the long run for any quarterback under the center.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

And even on the field Manziel has shown he can quarterback in this league. And with a better team he will not be asked to try to “wreck the league”, he will just be asked to play within himself and within the system. He does fit into this Kubiak offense. Kubiak loves the zone run game and a mobile quarterback. So Kubiak will even be able to throw in some zone read play to keep the defense on their toes. With the weapons already in Denver, any quarterback will improve throwing the Bronco wide receivers.

Do I actually think Manziel will get picked up from the Denver Broncos? Probably not. But it could happen, I think.

Super Bowl 50 Storylines

Well at least I got one half of the Super Bowl 50 match up right. The matchup is set and on February 7th the champions of the NFC, the Carolina Panthers, will face the champions of the AFC, the Denver Broncos.

Let’s start first with the Carolina Panthers.

This is the second time the Carolina Panthers franchise will be playing in the Super Bowl. They last played in Super Bowl XXXVIII, where they played the New England Patriots and lost in stunning and devastating fashion. They lost the game 32-29 by a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri on the last drive of the game manufactured by Tom Brady.

But this 2015 Carolina Panthers team is not that team. This team has that Championship Swagger. That actually starts with the Head Coach Ron Rivera. Coach Rivera was a player on the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl winning team. You all remember them, right? The Super Bowl Shuffle, doesn’t ring a bell? Rivera will be head coaching his first Super Bowl game on the 7th of February in Santa Clara, California. And he has coaching experience at Super Bowl when he was the Defensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears in their last Super Bowl run. His team is riding high after their drumming of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.

The Panthers offense is led by Cameron Newton, the probable NFL MVP this year. Mr. Newton wants to be the first Heisman trophy-winning QB to win the Super Bowl since Jim Plunkett led the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XV. Cam also could be the only QB to ever win a junior college national championship, a NCAA national championship, and a Super Bowl championship. Newton is also playing to be the 3rd African American QB to win the Super Bowl in the whole history of the NFL. The first being Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII for the Washington Redskins. Russell Wilson is the second African American QB to win the Lombardi Trophy. Wilson won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks.

Most importantly he, his team, and the Carolinas just want to see the Panthers win their first Super Bowl in the team’s history. If the Panthers win this Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons will be the only team in the NFC South to not win a Super Bowl game.

The Carolina defense is led by LB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly has led the NFL in tackles since his rookie season in the league.

The Panthers D is strong on all three levels. The defensive line features pass rushers like, Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy. The defense is hopeful they can get Jared Allen back from his foot injury that sidelined him for the NFC Championship Game. The D-Line also features space eaters like Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei at the defensive tackle spots.

The linebackers are led by Kuechly and season veteran Thomas Davis, which is battling a broken arm. Their starting rookie linebacker, Shaq Thompson, will play their strong linebacker.

The secondary is led by shutdown corner, Josh Norman, and by ballhawking safety Kurt Coleman. These young DB’s will lean on seasoned veteran DB, Charles Tillman, on how to handle the biggest stage they have every been on.

On to the AFC side.

The Denver Broncos franchise has been to the Super Bowl quite a bit of times but has only won two Lombardi Trophies. Those trophies were won by their current GM, John Elway. He and the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII in Elway’s last season. If Denver wins, it will be their third Lombardi Trophy.

With that 3rd title they will have the 4th most Super Bowls by a franchise. They already have the most appearances (8) and the most losses (5). The last time we saw the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl they got crushed by the Seattle Seahawks by 35 points in Super Bowl XLVII.

This Denver team has some of the same faces but they have a new coach. Gary Kubiak will also be head coaching in his first Super Bowl Game, but he was the Offensive Coordinator for the two Denver Super Bowl teams. His team barely survived the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. They had to defend a 2-point conversion to win the game 20-18.

This Denver offense is led by the “Sheriff”, Peyton Manning. His season hasn’t been his best by far, but he will be able to play in Super Bowl 50 for a chance to get his 2nd Super Bowl Ring in four tries. His two rings would match GM John Elway and his little brother, Eli Manning. With this win, Peyton will be the 12th multi-Super Bowl Ring winning QB. But unusually Peyton’s team’s strongest side of the ball is the defense.

Denver’s defense is super talented on every level as well. Their defensive line has stars like Derek Wolfe as the defensive tackle and Sylvester Williams as the nose ackle in their 3-4 defense.

And “4” in that 3-4 is maybe the best linebacking crew in the NFL. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan are the inside linebackers and DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are the outside linebackers. And the rookie Shane Ray will also see the field a favorable amount on the field.

Denver also has one of the best backfields in the game. They have shutdown corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. who made a great play on 4th and 1 in the AFC Championship game. Bradley Roby will also see some time at nickel corner. Their hard hitting safeties in the middle of the field are T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Their backups, Josh Bush and Shiloh Keo, also bring the wood.

Prediction: I am a completely torn between these two teams. I am as old as the Carolina Panthers. I was born in 1995, so were the Panthers. I am a native Carolinian and I am an African American, so I would love to see Cam win one. And on the other hand there is Peyton Manning. I would love for him to win his second ring. I couldn’t decide so…I flipped a coin. It landed on heads, so I am picking the Carolina Panthers. As much as it pains me to go against Peyton Manning, I am. The Carolina defense will get to Manning around 3-5 times and the pressure will make Peyton turn the ball over. Cam will be dancing on the field with the Lombardi Trophy and put an exclamation point on his and his team’s 18-1 season. I can’t go against the Panthers again this postseason.

#KEEPPOUNDING