The NFL is wildly popular in America for many reasons. One of the biggest is that it is the only mainstream American sport where it is not all that uncommon for a team to go from really bad to really good in a very short amount of time. The Super Bowl champion Eagles as well as the Jaguars finished at the bottom of their respective divisions in 2016 before winning them last year.
Also, it is not like teams like the Bills and Saints were on everyone’s radar as far as contending last year either. Still, the worst to first turnaround is most impressive. There are three teams with a realistic shot at doing what the Eagles and Jags did last year.
Denver Broncos: The AFC West is pretty unique headed in to 2018. It is not difficult to imagine any one of the four teams winning it, or finishing last. A lot depends on whether or not two-time defending division champion Kansas City misses a beat in the transition to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The former first-round pick is basically a rookie apart from a throwaway start at the end of last season.
The addition of Case Keenum gives the Broncos some long-sought and much-needed stability at the quarterback position. Even if he regresses closer to the player he was prior to last year in Minnesota, he is certainly an upgrade over what Denver put on the field at that spot last year. Only Cleveland had more turnovers than the Broncos in 2017. A quarterback carousel was not the only reason for this but was certainly the biggest factor.
If Keenum only raises the turnover numbers to the middle of the pack, Denver will be a much better football team in 2018. A defense that was top five in both rushing and passing yards allowed last year got younger and hungrier with the addition of Bradley Chubb up front and the departure of Aqib Talib at the back end.
The Broncos also spent another offseason taking a big swing at improving the offensive line. They are counting on veterans to stay healthy and youngsters to improve. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas saw their production drop off last year, but Keenum showed last year he can get the ball to talented wide receivers. With the improvements made and the question marks that surround their division rivals, the Broncos could be in for a very quick turnaround.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are going to win the NFC West this year. They won five games in a row once midseason acquisition Jimmy Garoppolo was inserted as the starting quarterback to finish out the season. This included defeating three playoff teams. The most impressive showing was putting up 40+ points on a Jacksonville defense that carried that team to within an eyelash of the Super Bowl.
Everyone has been singing the praises of the Rams all offseason long. However, the Jared Goff/Sean McVay offense took everyone by surprise last year. Whenever that happens, defensive coordinators always adjust the next year. Then, the offense either readjusts or never gets back to where it was. The same thing happened with the Wildcat offense in Miami as well as the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys. The Wildcat vanished almost as quickly as it appeared and this year will be the moment of truth for Prescott as an NFL quarterback.
For the Rams, this is the year where the offense regresses a little bit. We will see what Goff and McVay come up with in 2019. Los Angeles added some very splashy names on defense.
However, when you put that many strong personalities on one side of the ball, it is going to backfire. Los Angeles is a horrible place for guys like Talib and Marcus Peters to go. Their previous teams could not wait to unload them and it wasn’t because they are not good football players. To think those guys are going to be on their best behavior in Los Angeles is just plain dumb.
Seattle’s roster is a complete mess outside of Russell Wilson and Arizona is starting over as a franchise. Neither team will be a factor in the division race. San Francisco’s roster outside of Garoppolo is not full of household names.
The former Tom Brady understudy completed 67% of his passes and went 5-0 as a starter for a team that had won one game without him. Imagine what the 49ers can do with an entire off-season to build around their franchise quarterback.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has proven to be one of the league’s finest quarterback gurus in recent years. What those two are capable of doing together is flat out scary. The small sample size for Garoppolo is worrisome, but his toughest challenge should be being thrown on the field with last year’s awful team. He passed with flying colors.
Houston Texans: This one probably has the most ifs attached to it, but it is very intriguing. Prior to getting injured last year, then rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson had Houston looking like Super Bowl contenders. He threw 16 touchdown passes in one month and went toe to toe with Brady and Wilson on the road.
Blake Bortles is still Blake Bortles. If the Jacksonville defense is even slightly less dominant than it was last year, that team will take a step back. Tennessee has similar limitations at quarterback with Marcus Mariota. You can only go so far ranked 23rd in pass yards per game.
If Watson can stay healthy on offense along with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on defense, it is sure going to be fun to see what this team is truly capable of. The Colts are capable of a similar turnaround in the same division if Andrew Luck stays healthy.
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The Dallas Cowboys have recently released the 29-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant. Bryant is now in search of a new team. Whether it is getting revenge on his former team or taking less money for a better shot at winning a Super Bowl, Bryant is moving forward with the next chapter in his football career.
There are a handful of teams that could be good fits for Bryant for many different reasons. Here are a few teams that could help him get back on track.
Dez Bryant and Tony Romo (Photo from Wallsdesk.com)
Before we do that, we have to discuss Bryant’s production over the years. In his eight-year career, he has 531 receptions with the Dallas Cowboys that translate into 7,459 yards total and 73 touchdowns. He averages 14 yards per reception and every 7.29 catches he makes goes for a touchdown.
Before Dak Prescott arrived in 2016, he had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He was arguably a top-five wide receiver in all of the NFL and had four of his five best receiving years overall with Tony Romo at the helm. Basically, the Dallas Cowboys are drastically different with Prescott.
In 2012, (Tony Romo’s best statistical season), Bryant had the most receiving yards in his career to date and his third-most touchdowns. Romo threw the ball 648 times that season. In Dak Prescott’s two-year career, he has only thrown it 949 times. Dez’s declining statistics also has to do with a consistent run game. Ezekiel Elliott entered the league with Prescott in 2016. He has yet to have a season with less than 983 rushing yards.
In Bryant’s career season in 2012, DeMarco Murray only rushed for 663 yards and only 4.1 yards per carry. In one of Bryant’s most statistically underwhelming seasons (the first year with Elliott and Prescott), Elliott ran for over 1,600 yards and Prescott only threw for eight yards per attempt. The Dallas Cowboys are trending away from throwing it downfield and utilizing Bryant’s size.
Just knowing Bryant’s personality after all these years, he is going to immediately try to get back at the Cowboys for releasing him. The Giants or Redskins may not be the best fit for him, but it could be a place he lands due to scheduling.
The Redskins made a big move this offseason by getting Alex Smith. They have the cap room and are looking for a little help for Jamison Crowder to free him up a little.
The best NFC East fit for Bryant, if he chooses to go that way, would be the Redskins. They have the salary space to afford him, and he could slide right back into a possible No. 1 wide receiver role. And of course, he would get a shot at playing Jerry Jones and the Cowboys twice a year.
San Francisco 49ers
There is plenty of reasons to believe in Jimmy Garoppolo. Marquise Goodwin has shown that he needs a little help at times. With Goodwin’s speed, Bryant could complement him well and play a nice counter role. He would yet again be a No. 1 wide receiver, and he would get a shot at jumping on board with an improving team that is hungry for the playoffs.
Bryant’s personality matches up well with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags seemingly need a wide receiver to take the reigns and be the guy. Blake Bortles would love throwing to Bryant and his large frame. He would instantly go to a contender and a team that would pay him pretty well. The Jaguars are committed to spreading both the pass and the run out, and Bryant could get back to catching at least 10 touchdowns for the first time since 2014.
This one is a no-brainer. Bryant would be extremely close to his hometown. He would instantly jump into a No. 2 receiver role and take lots of pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins and draw single coverage. He would have tons of targets and could carve out a great role alongside another great wide receiver. It is one of the rare opportunities where Bryant will get to play in front of his hometown friends and family and could get paid pretty well.
New England Patriots
After an offseason where the Patriots lost multiple offensive starters, including wide receivers in Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, the Patriots would love to add another redzone asset for Josh McDaniels’ offense.
The Patriots are a team that invites different personalities. They gave Randy Moss one of his best statistical seasons and created one of the best offenses in NFL history with Tom Brady at the helm. Even though that feels like a lifetime ago, Brady is still the guy in Foxborough, and he would love to throw passes to Dez Bryant.
Only time will tell where Dez Bryant lands.
Featured image from Sports Illustrated.
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The 2018 NFL Draft is over a week away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Jacksonville Jaguars 2018 NFL Draft profile.
Blake Bortles (Photo by usatoday.com)
Jacksonville has completed the franchise turnaround with a 10-6 record and an AFC South title. In the playoffs, they were able to beat the Bills and Steelers before falling to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. All things look good heading into 2018 for the Jaguars.
The defense was one of the best in all of football, as they allowed just 16.8 points per game, which ranked second in the NFL. They have stockpiled talent through the draft and free agency to be good on all three levels of the defense. The secondary features one of, if not the best corner pairings in the league with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church are solid safeties that can cover up any mistakes.
Paul Posluszny decided to retire, but the linebacking core still has Telvin Smith and Myles Jack, who were both fantastic last season. With a stacked defensive line, which includes Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr., they have earned the nickname “Sacksonville”.
On offense, Blake Bortles has drawn a lot of hate but played well in the playoffs to earn his keep. Adding as much support to Bortles as possible would be a smart use of their draft picks. He will be without Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, who left in free agency and will need some new targets to throw to this season.
Luckily, the running game was the best in the league last season with Leonard Fournette leading the way. The offensive line is solid and they even signed Andrew Norwell to play guard for next season.
With a great defense and a solid offense, the Jaguars should look to add players in this draft who can help them get over the top to win a Super Bowl.
Picks and needs
The Jaguars have seven picks in the draft. They traded their fifth-round pick to the Bills as a part of the deal to acquire Dareus. An extra seventh-round pick was added from Cincinnati.
First Round (1 pick): 29
Second Round (1): 61
Third Round (1): 93
Fourth Round (1): 129
Fifth Round (0):
Sixth Round (1): 203
Seventh Round (1): 230, 247
Quarterback- The Jaguars signed Bortles to three more years. They clearly believe in him a little bit, but not enough to make him the franchise quarterback. Another quarterback should be taken to back him up and develop in case Bortles’ play falters. Currently, Cody Kessler is the only other quarterback on the roster.
Wide Receiver- Donte Moncrief was signed, but more is needed at the position. Robinson and Hurns departing leaves Moncrief with Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Jaelen Strong and Rashad Greene. They need a true number one receiver as well as more playmakers. Supporting Bortles with better receivers is a good way to find out if he’s worthy of a longer deal.
Tight End- Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul were signed, but they had fewer than 500 yards receiving between the two of them last season. This isn’t a high-priority need, but if they can snag a viable prospect in the middle to late rounds of the draft, it would benefit them greatly.
Offensive Line- Cam Robinson didn’t have the greatest season as a rookie left tackle. Hopefully, he can improve in year two, but if he can’t, he could be a candidate to move to guard. They either need a tackle or guard, but need to decide what they are doing with Robinson and make a draft selection accordingly.
Cornerback- Aaron Colvin left in free agency and D.J. Hayden was signed to be a slot-corner specialist. He hasn’t played the greatest the last few years, so a backup plan might be needed if he doesn’t work out.
Linebacker- With Posluszny retiring, Blair Brown will step into the starting lineup. He played decently last year when given the chance, but depth needs to be added behind him.
Courtland Sutton (Photo by windycitygridiron.com)
Pick No. 29: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
To address the wide receiver need, the Jaguars can take one at the end of the first round. Sutton is a bigger outside receiver who put up a lot of production at SMU. He uses his size to make plays on 50/50 balls and is a deep threat. He has struggled against good competition but didn’t get too many opportunities playing in the AAC.
Pick No. 61: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
The Jags already have the best rushing offense in the NFL, so when addressing the offensive line they can find a tackle that specializes in protecting the quarterback. Rankin can develop into a good left tackle, which could afford Robinson to move inside.
Pick No. 93: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
More support for Bortles comes in the form of an athletic receiving tight end. Gesicki had a really good combine and can be brought in to help Bortles, while developing into an all-around tight end behind Paul and Seferian-Jenkins.
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After an invigorating seven games where Deshaun Watson set the football world on fire he deserves to be the first quarterback taken. Leading the NFL in touchdowns with 19 through 7 games while playing as a rookie is no small feat, in fact, it’s almost unheard of.
2nd Overall, Chicago Bears – Myles Garrett, DE
Actual pick – Mitch Trubisky, QB
With no quarterbacks worthy of the second overall pick left, the Chicago Bears settle for the best player available and take the most talented player in the draft. Garrett was limited last year by injuries but when he was on the field he showed the special talent that made him first overall last year. He had seven sacks and a forced fumble in just 11 games played last season.
3rd Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Alvin Kamara, RB
Alvin Kamara splits two Green Bay defenders for a big gain. Photo by Sports Illustrated
Actual pick – Solomon Thomas
Sure, this is early for a running back, but with Alvin Kamara in the fold it opens up a lot of options for Kyle Shanahan to exploit in his offensive attack. Kamara had 1,500 yards from scrimmage while spliting time with Mark Ingram and as the year progressed he appeared to take the mantle of starter from Ingram as well.
4th Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars – Patrick Mahomes, QB
Actual pick – Leonard Fournette, RB
Yes, I know that Leonard Fournette had a great year and rushed for over 1000 yards. However, he was injured for three games and this seems like the perfect time for a team loaded with talent to grab a very talented quarterback to compete with and later replace Blake Bortles.
Worries about Juju Smith-Schuster’s long speed are no longer a problem after he was shown to be a blazer last season, even scoring a 97 yard touchdown where he outran the whole Lions’ defense. He would step in and make an immediate impact for the Titans.
6th Overall, New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB
Actual pick – Jamal Adams, S
The Jets get the best corner in the draft with the sixth pick, Lattimore, a lockdown corner who will help sure up the Jets defense for a long time. Lattimore was a big part of the reason the Saints defense jumped from 31st to 10th in scoring defense and 32nd to 15th in passing yards allowed. He could have a similar impact with the Jets.
7th Overall, Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S
Actual pick – Mike Williams, WR
The Chargers needed a safety and luckily the best one fell into their lap at 7th overall. Adams is a safety that you can keep single back or move him up into the box and either way he will make an impact.
8th Overall, Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook, RB
Actual pick – Christian McCaffrey, RB
Cook had a very promising rookie season for the Vikings until his season-ending injury. Cook looks to be the best running back left in this draft in terms of running and catching out of the backfield. Some would say that Kareem Hunt belongs here but I believe Dalvin Cook has a higher ceiling. He would provide the Panther’s offense with what they thought they were getting when they drafted Christian McCaffrey.
9th Overall, Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Actual pick – John Ross, WR
The Bengals deal with their biggest problem on offense by drafting a big guy to help them win in the trenches. Ramczyk would shore up a line that was terribly leaky last season which caused many of their offensive issues. They allowed 40 sacks last season and had the second worst rushing attack in all of football last season. With most of the issues coming from the offensive tackle position it makes this pick easy.
10th Overall, Kansas City Chiefs – Mitch Trubisky, QB
Actual pick – Patrick Mahomes, QB
The Chiefs wouldn’t have traded up for anything else, they still need a rookie to develop behind Alex Smith and they get theirs in Trubisky. He had some promising moments in his first year as a starter, but clearly still needs the right situation to thrive. Andy Reid is a play calling magician and a quarterback whisperer if he cant make Trubisky work, no one can.
11th Overall, New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White, CB
Actual pick – Marshon Lattimore, CB
The New Orleans Saints needed defensive help and with Lattimore off the board, they grab the next best corner in White. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the second best corner in the league last year, the Saints are getting some serious value.
12th Overall, Houston Texans – O.J. Howard, TE
Actual pick – DeShaun Watson, QB
With all the potential quarterbacks worthy of a first-round pick gone, the Houston Texans go with someone who will help out the running and the passing game in O.J. Howard.
13th Overall, Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR
Actual pick – Haason Reddick, LB
The Cardinals finally find someone to pair up with the great Larry Fitzgerald to create a truly dominant receiving duo. Davis struggled with injuries in year one but started to come on towards the end of the season. Year two will be a more accurate measure of where he is developmentally, he lands here with the Cardinals based on potential.
14th Overall, Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Barnett, DE
Derek Barnett sacks Dak Prescott. Photo by Hunter Martin
Actual pick – Derek Barnett, DE
Barnett was the right choice for this team. That, coupled with the fact that there are no glaring needs on Philadelphia’s roster make Barnett the perfect choice. Edge rushers are the second most important position on the team and with Barnett in line for an even bigger role in 2018 this pick seems like a huge success.
15th Overall, Indianapolis Colts – Cam Robinson, OT
Actual pick – Malik Hooker, S
The Colts are a team with many holes, none of them as poor as the offensive line, which is truly offensive to football fans. They draft Robinson and he can help keep whoever is quarterbacking the Colts (hopefully Andrew Luck) safe for years to come.
16th Overall, Baltimore Ravens – Cooper Kupp, WR
Actual pick – Marlon Humphrey, DB
It feels like the Ravens haven’t had a competent receiving corps in years, drafting Cooper Kupp to play with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace might give them the firepower they need on offense. Kupp had 865 yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie and really helped elevate the Rams recieving corps.
17th Overall, Washington Redskins – Kareem Hunt, RB
Actual pick – Jonathan Allen, DE
Hunt would add a new layer to the Redskins already multifaceted approach. He might just be the piece that could have made the Redskins’ offense elite. Hunt finished with almost 1800 yards from scrimmage on the season as the focal point of the Chiefs attack and earned the rushing title with 1327 yards in his rookie season.
A crazy athlete that also fills an important need in the Titans defense. Foster would step in and be an immediate starter in Tennessee’s defense. His range is his biggest asset and would help a Titans defense that struggled with its linebacking corps in 2017. His only downside has been off the field issues.
19th Overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Solomon Thomas, DL
Actual pick – O.J. Howard, TE
A slightly below than expected season performance from Thomas causes him to slip until here. That being said, the Buccaneers would run this pick up to the table. The talent and potential have made him a top-five prospect and he fills a need on Tampa’s desolate defensive line.
20th Overall, Denver Broncos – Malik Hooker, S
Actual pick – Garrett Bolles, OT
The Broncos look to keep their defense at the top of it’s game with this pick, which truly solidifies Denver’s defense. Hooker is a safety with incredible range, he has the ability to truly shut down the middle of a football field.
21st Overall, Detroit Lions – Christian McCaffrey, RB
Actual pick – Jarrad Davis, LB
The Lions need a running back. The last time a running back rushed for 100 yards on the Detroit Lions was Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving, in 2013! Lion’s fans know this after hearing it in pretty much every game last season. McCaffrey is a good pick at 21st overall and although he made less of an impact than expected in year one he still has the talent that made him the eighth overall pick last year.
22nd Overall, Miami Dolphins – Haason Reddick, LB
Actual pick – Charles Harris, DE
Reddick is a really good player who would get some playing time almost immediately in Miami, they definitely need him. After playing defensive end in college he gained attention by showing that he can also be an inside linebacker in the NFL. He would be a great fit for the Dolphins with their need for both a pass rusher and a linebacker.
23rd Overall, New York Giants – Garrett Bolles, OT
Actual pick – Evan Engram, TE
The Giants take steps to help out Eli Manning by drafting an offensive lineman. Needs meet best player available again.
24th Overall, Oakland Raiders – Gareon Conley, CB
Actual pick – Gareon Conley, CB
The Oakland Raiders had a huge hole at cornerback, Conley is a over 6 feet tall and showed immense potential in his time at Ohio State. The Raiders wouldn’t let this opportunity slip by.
25th Overall, Cleveland Browns – John Ross, WR
Actual pick – Jabrill Peppers, S
Ross did not have a good first year in the NFL but he will surely develop in year two and his speed is a huge asset. After all he does have the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine ever. The Cleveland Browns seem like the team that would draft him here.
26th Overall, Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, DE
Actual pick – Takkarist McKinley, DE
The Falcons made the right pick as far as I’m concerned, McKinley looked good last year and seems to fit the scheme well.
27th Overall, Buffalo Bills – Jonathon Allen, DE
Actual pick – Tre’Davious White, CB
Jonathan Allen slipped on draft day because of health concerns, now he’s slipping again because of them. Jonathon Allen looked good last year but how long can he stay healthy? You can’t make an impact if you’re not on the field.
28th Overall, Dallas Cowboys – T.J. Watt, OLB
Actual pick – Taco Charlton
T.J. Watt showed explosion at times last year, I just don’t believe he was as consistent as I would have liked, but, despite that, and his size concerns, he rose two spots. The Cowboys were disappointed by Taco Charlton last year they wouldn’t be disappointed with this pick. I believe Watt could be an effective pass rusher for the Cowboys.
29th Overall, Cleveland Browns – Marlon Humphrey, DB
Actual pick – Deshone Kizer, QB
Marlon Humphrey is a big, fast, and strong corner. His biggest question mark was his ball skills but his two interceptions last season in Baltimore showed that it probably will not be too much of a problem.
30th Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers – Shaquill Griffin, DB
Actual pick – T.J. Watt, OLB
Shaquill Griffin showed off some real potential in his rookie season earning himself the corner spot opposite Richard Sherman. He would be a great asset for Pittsburgh to have as they reshape their defense.
31st Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Evan Engram, TE
Actual pick – Rueben Foster, LB
Engram is not the best at blocking, but he is a good reciever, with good hands and good speed for a tight end. Exactly the kind of player coach Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch would want to add to his team.
32nd Overall, New Orleans Saints – Marcus Williams, S
Marcus Williams misses a tackle in the NFC Championship game. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Actual pick – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Williams has shown to be a great fit in the Saint’s defense, a good tackler who makes good decisions (except that one play in the NFC divisional round). Why not take the same guy since he worked out so well.
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This offseason has already seen the making of a memorable one for history. Big crazy trades and free agent signing has set an overcast in the journey to the upcoming NFL Draft. One signing, in particular, would be the San Francisco 49ers acquisition of Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman. Sherman, whose season was cut short after an Achilles injury in week 8, agreed to a contract worth up to $39.15 million dollars for three years, three days before free agency opened up. But there has been some controversy surrounding the deal itself and Sherman’s role in it. It is reported that Sherman himself handled the negotiations without the representation of an agent.
Some questions now have surfaced to why Richard Sherman would go this route and the future of players handling their own affairs pertaining to contracts. Some see this as the future of the league while others see this as Richard Sherman’s ego getting in front of his talent once again. Sherman has been critical of how agents operate and encourages a path for players to be more proactive in these areas. However, the same can be said about the team he signed to minutes after he was released, comprised a deal that many have criticized.
First, let’s talk about the contract. Richard Sherman has signed a deal that is worth $39.15 million dollars. The key word is “worth”. Most NFL contracts, like other sports and management positions, are worth a dollar amount. Most of the money to be earned is tied up in incentives, bonuses and allowances. Sherman’s deal includes $3 million dollars in full guarantees, $7 million in practical guarantees and up to $9 million in earnings baring injury during the 2018 season.
In an offseason where the value of individual prospects and a team’s desire to certain prospects have set an unprecedented amount of money for their acquisitions, this deal doesn’t seem to make much sense. This could be a fault towards Sherman who essentially worked out the deal himself. This contract is purely based on Sherman’s ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level. However, this opens a door for other players. Sherman, who is also a Stanford grad, is a key player in the NFLPA and knows how the business works. If players are to take the same route, they too might be able to capture some control in the debating process.
Players ultimately have all the power. They decide whether to take deals or leave hem on the table. Agents look to give them the best deal possible. In return, this could leave the player losing the ability to play for a favorable destination. Not saying that players aren’t sitting at the negotiation table but what Richard Sherman did, extends the amount power a player has.
Because of this, the player is able to negotiate a deal that they might feel is good for them. Most agents meet with teams with a hardline offer and it doesn’t really dip or bend from there. Plus with the ability of players to sit out, this pretty much twists the hands of management into submission. Most teams now have tried to stay away from hardline offers as they have led to some of the worst deals. Kirk Cousins suffered from franchise tag-itis because of The Washington Redskins horrible deal with Albert Haynesworth. As other teams have been ultimately forced to give in to player demands. If players want to take slashes in their guaranteed money in favor of being placed with the team that they desire to be on, then they should have that power.
What makes this deal seem sour is the subject at hand, Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman anchored one of the best defenses in five years that led to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. With the right defense, Richard Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the National Football League. With that being said he should be paid accordingly to his value. Looking at this contract, it seems that he is selling himself a bit short. For example, as an analogy, Richard Sherman believes he should get $10 million dollars a year. Team A is willing to give him $10 million dollars and Team B is willing to give him $15 million dollars.
Your value isn’t the price tag that you put on yourself but rather how much someone is willing to pay. Despite his wishes, Richard Sherman is worth $15 million dollars in actuality. In comparison to the deal made in reality, Sherman would never see those $15 million dollars. If he never talks to Team B, it would be impossible. The idea of him not talking to other teams is quite depressing. He would never fully exercise the potential of the deal. This could be a downside for players who really want to play for a particular team and might be blindsided by their “wants” when they should focus on what should be owed to them.
At the end of the day, Richard Sherman has to accept or decline a deal. This particular deal is what he wanted and it is what he got. Other players in the future may not be so lucky. Determining a players’ value really depends on a broad spectrum. It’s not a discussion with a team who only really seems to benefit themselves and not the player. Despite this, a lawyer never acts as a legal representation for himself and a doctor doesn’t examine herself.
Agents are there to work out a deal. They know more about the process and are able to twist numbers and squeeze out the best deal possible. If that means shelving off between 1.5% to 4% in earnings so be it, there is no such things as a free lunch. In the future, negotiations should be left to agents as most believe that one would never let Sherman walk away with that deal. Sherman’s deal isn’t bad at all for other cornerbacks.
However, for an all-pro player, that gravitates a brand presence and is arguably the best cornerback in the league, it’s a terrible one. This contract is a deal for players that are on the cusp of proving themselves. For Sherman, he doesn’t have to. Despite suffering an injury and turning 30 years old in a matter of days, Richard Sherman has already proved his worth. A contract suited for someone who hasn’t is deplorable in his situation.
Fortunately, Richard Sherman got the deal he wanted. He went to the team he wanted and is in the best situation for himself. He’s happy and everyone should. More than likely, the deal will mature to be a wise one. It also might open the doors for other players to follow. On the other hand, if it flops, it would be a disaster and cemented as “pulling a Richard Sherman”. Who knows? Only time will tell.
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1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Green Bay Packers
6. New York Giants
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Arizona Cardinals
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tennessee Titans
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Houston Texans
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Washington Redskins
19. Detroit Lions
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Denver Broncos
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Los Angeles Chargers
25. Los Angeles Rams
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
27. Indianapolis Colts
28. Buffalo Bills
29. San Francisco 49ers
30. Chicago Bears
31. Cleveland Browns
32. New York Jets
The 2017-2018 NFL season was anything but ordinary. It shifted from stories permeating of the last season. With those stories that molded political arguments and orchestrated the foundation to likes of humanity. This season touched hearts of survivors of this years unprecedented natural disasters and also filled the Twitter mentions of our beloved president. This year was a year to talk about not only for the sport of football but also the moral fiber of our society.
Simply, sports are not just sports. An argument appeared this year during the season. This year like the last, was highlighted by the many protests started by Colin Kaepernick. During a rally in Alabama, President Trump made some indecent remarks pertaining to the protest of players kneeling during the national anthem and flag. These comments created a dissolution among players and the leagues fans.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Some backed up the president believing that the protest were disrespectful to our armed forces. Others felt that the players were standing up against injustices in this country that the anthem contradicts and are not true for every citizen. And even others took no position on either side but agreed that the protest were well within the rights of the players. In an attempt to preserve the notion of free speech, across the NFL, teams united in a protest by kneeling or locking arms in unification before games or not attending the national anthem and flag bearing at all.
While some saw the protest as an act of defiance, not only to the president of the United States but to our country as a whole, some even saw the protest as illegitimate and did not stand for what Kaepernick originally kneeled for. While Kaepernick was kneeling to bring awareness to police brutality and racial divisions, the players were kneeling for their right to protest and protection of their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the craze did lose its originality as the notion of Kaepernick’s arguments have yet to be discussed.
Many were critical of the NFL’s involvement in political fashions and wanted players to just play citing “football is just a sport”. The problem with that is football is not just a sport. Sports are never just seen as a collection of over sized men and women competing in gladiator like feats for a trophy. Sports have been able to bring people together. Football was never just a sport, not in America. Football itself has embodied the very grit and passion of what it is to be an American.
What football means
In the digital age, football has spread to consumers across the globe and in almost every house in our nation. Players now have platforms and are looked as icons, heroes, and even moral leaders. If you don’t believe it, ask JJ Watt. Ask Benjamin Watson. Or ask Greg Olsen about philanthropy.
Sports are part of the platform to give back, uplift individuals and inspire future generations. You want proof? Remember when New Orleans natives watched their football time emerge from the ruins of their torn city and bring a title to avenge their will after Katrina. Or how an NBA championship can uplift a city after from a fifty year championship drought to embodied the strength of Cleveland. Or even this year, when Hurricane Harvey ravaged, displaced and destroyed lives in Texas, Houston natives were able to see their beloved baseball team bring home a championship and use the achievement as a beacon of hope.
Sports have been politicized since its very birth. The policies and rights bestowed upon each and everyone of us has given us the ability to watch, appreciate, and participate in sports and should never be questioned.
There is no discussion that should over shadow the celebration of champions. The Philadelphia Eagles have now joined the list of 52 teams to have been able to label themselves as world champions. For a long time coming, this achievement gave the franchise its first world title and the city of Philadelphia its first championship since the 2008 World Series where the Phillies were crowned victorious.
The ups and downs in this season did not falter the Super Bowl champions even when starting quarterback Carson Wentz went out with an injury. Orchestrated by a swagger unlike any other team in the NFL, the squad welcomed Nick Foles in the starting lineup as he led them to a historic run in the playoffs. During the Super Bowl, with no surprise, the Eagles were seen as underdogs as they faced the defending Super Bowl champions. The New England Patriots, like many others, saw this matchup as a dynasty solidifying opportunity.
Thirteen years ago, the Patriots took the hearts of many Eagles fans as they beat them 24-21. A win that many saw to be spectacular, taking down a squad lead by Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. However, this team was not the 2004-2005 Eagles. This team was heralded by a forgotten star in Torrey Smith, a mid season pick up in Jay Ajayi, and a backup quarterback in Nick Foles. Pitted against a team that mirrored the leagues greatest teams assembled of all time, the Eagles never cowered from its opposition. After beating the the Patriots by a score of 41-33, the Eagles brought home their first championship in franchise history.
A team that no one predicted to even compete for a title this year, hoisted the Lombardi trophy on February 4. To spice up the pot even more, at center stage, a player that had been sidelined under the play of an MVP candidate, Nick Foles, held the Lombardi trophy in one hand and the game’s MVP in the other. Of course the Eagles are winners and truly earned it after an incredible season.
AP Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Offensive Player of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
Assistant Coach of the Year: Pat Shurmur, OC, Minnesota Vikings
Bridgestone Elite Performance Play of the Year: Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs “Minneapolis Miracle,” divisional round, Minnesota Vikings
FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Year: Carson Wentz, QB,
Philadelphia Eagles and Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Deacon Jones Award: Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road Award: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year: Philadelphia Eagles
Salute To Service Award: Andre Roberts, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
There is no hiding this. For the second year running, to no surprise, the Cleveland Browns are the biggest losers of the year. To be frank, 0-16 is down right deplorable. After a year prior that the team went 1-15, the make up of this season didn’t seem any better. Mid-season reports around the organization had suggested that the franchise was looking forward to upcoming draft and ending the season despite only being five games into the schedule. The Browns have a chance to change a few names and numbers on the jerseys this off season but don’t count on it holding any weight. There is no player that will magically turn the tide for the team. The culture is now stuck in conundrum that leaves their fan base with more questions of doubt than accolades to take pride in.
How the Browns are going down the road in the future, the next generation of Browns fans will be Bengals fans, not like that is any better. Changes have to be made from the top if players are going to rally and motivate themselves. Something is going to have to change in Cleveland if change for the good is to come. For a franchise that has lost so much it has to believe in something first to fight for.
NFL Final Standings
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New England
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Los Angeles Chargers
12. Houston Texans
13. Seattle Seahawks
14. San Francisco 49ers
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. Baltimore Ravens
18. Detroit Lions
19. Buffalo Bills
20. Dallas Cowboys
21. Oakland Raiders
22. Washington Redskins
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24. Chicago Bears
25. Cincinnati Bengals
26. Miami Dolphins
27. New York Giants
28. Arizona Cardinals
29. Denver Broncos
30. New York Jets
31. Indianapolis Colts
32. Cleveland Browns
Class of 2018 Hall of Fame Inductees
This year of football is in the history books. The off-season will guide us to a new year as questions mount for the future. What will come the NFL Draft? Will Colin Kaepernick play on a team next year? Will the NFL and NFLPA come to a solution to keep the league open? Fortunately, 2017 was all the glitz and glamour and also the grit and grime of our world. Despite records showing a drop in viewership for the league, those problems don’t come from the sport specifically. The NFL is a dynamic league that grows each and every year. A few policy changes and rule adjustments should get the NFL back in shape. Above all, for longtime dedicated fans, 2017 was a year to remember but also a foundation for what 2018 has to come.
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The Patriots Vs. Jaguars AFC Championship game was a great matchup with many great things to offer. There was the greatest QB of all time. A young, exciting, up-and-coming Jacksonville team, an exciting fourth quarter comeback, but as viewers watching from home, all of those things were greatly enhanced by something else- the commentary of Tony Romo.
The AFC championship game marked the end of Romo’s first season in the booth after being the franchise leader for the Dallas Cowboys for many years. After many questioned why CBS would give the number one job to a player with no previous experience in the booth, we now see what those CBS executives saw last summer.
Romo has been a polarizing figure throughout his entire professional career. His tenure with the Dallas Cowboys will not be remembered for having one of the highest career passer ratings of all time. Nor will he be remembered for all the fourth quarter come-backs he created contrary to the “chocker” label he carried throughout his career.
What Romo will be remembered for is for never bringing a Lombardi Trophy to Dallas where the expectations are always Super Bowl or bust, even if they’ve only won two playoff games in the last 20 years.
Regardless of how you feel about Tony Romo as a player though, you have to admit he is one hell of an analyst. Or you don’t. Some people hate his style. They hate the enthusiasm with which he announces the happenings on the field. They hate that he can explain how and why things are about to happen on the field. They hate the fact that he found so much success so early on. Most of these people are the same ones who think that Tony was a sub-par Quarterback in the league.
We call these people “haters”. It doesn’t matter how good Romo is or can become as an analyst, they refuse to relinquish their hate of the superstar QB. Let’s go over some reasons why Romo may already be a top five announcer in the NFL.
Romo brings a wealth of knowledge rivaled by very few, but along with that he also brings recent on the field experience. He know’s most of the players, coaches and schemes in the league very well, but even that may not be his greatest asset.
The reason why America has fallen in love with Romo this season is because he brings unrivaled enthusiasm to his play call! He brings the best energy and passion along with professionalism to his broadcast.
Romo is excellent at being able to combine all these things into his commentary like no one else in the sport. Does he tell you what’s going to happen before it happens? Sometimes. Does it rub some people the wrong way? yes.
Overall though, most of us enjoy it because it shows us what to look for and why. He’s also eager to tell us, as his audience about it, his boy-ish spirit comes out with every play and is very refreshing. There’s not many other commentators out there with commentary highlight videos on youtube, especially not rookie commentators.
Romo has already earned the respect of most of the NFL community, including the New England Patriots head coach, one Bill Belichick.
During an interview with Henry McKenna from Patriots Wire, the living legend head coach had this to say: “Very inquisitive guy with a good history of the game,” Belichick said. “He asks a lot of questions about when I was with Giants or the 70s or the 80s or Tom Landry and so forth. He’s pretty knowledgeable for a player that wasn’t in that era. He knows a lot about it. He’s obviously read and studied itHe sees a lot of things, a lot of fine points of defensive scheme or a play that I’d say a lot of guys that I talk to don’t. And (he) asks about those: ‘What was that guy reading on this? And why’d he do that? What was this guy’s job on this play?’ Something that was kind of subtle. He picks up on those things. He asks a lot of detailed, coaching, technical questions that you don’t get from a lot of those meetings. He’s good. I’ve enjoyed working with him.”
Any player or former player would be honored to be spoken so highly of from such a prominent figure in the league.
No matter how you feel about him, Romo is going to get better with time. The longer he spends in the booth, the more he’ll grow accustomed to the job and learn the small things that have made the great commentators so great. So here’s to Romo’s first season as an NFL commentator, may his voice stay high-pitched, his passion strong, his knowledge vast, and may we get a Romo commentated Super Bowl in the near future, because no matter what the haters say, that would be a win for everyone.
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After an epic championship weekend, which included a come-from-behind victory from Tom “The GOAT” Brady, as well as a flawless performance from Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, we are set for a Super Bowl XXXIX rematch between New England and Philly.
In that game 13 years ago, the Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21. With a chance to win the game, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was picked off by Rodney Harrison with less than 20 seconds to play. This was one of three interceptions that McNabb threw. Eagles star wide receiver, Terrell Owens, who was dealing with a severely sprained ankle and fractured fibula, had nine catches for 122 yards.
Patriots celebrating during Super Bowl XXXIX (Photo from Patriots Life)
Tom Brady threw for 236 yards with two touchdowns, and no turnovers. Patriots receiver Deion Branch was rewarded Super Bowl XXXIX MVP after an incredible 11-catch, 133-yard performance.
Now, in 2018, Tom Brady remains behind center for New England, and the Eagles are the biggest Super Bowl underdogs since 2009 in Super Bowl XLIII, when the Arizona Cardinals were seven-point underdogs to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Philadelphia opened as a 5.5-point underdog at The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. Keep in mind that the betting favorite has won 33 of the previous 51 Super Bowls.
This will be New England’s 10th Super Bowl appearance and the Eagles’ third. The Westgate SuperBook claimed that had Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz not gotten injured, the game would be pick ‘em. Anyways, here are eight statements to get you ready for the big game.
1. Nick Foles is coming in hot
Even though Wentz was playing at an MVP level, let’s not sleep on Nick Foles. In the NFC Championship game against the Vikings, Foles played the best game of his career. The 29 year old from Arizona, who was recruited by Georgetown, Baylor and Texas to play college basketball, threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 141.4. In the second half alone, Foles went 11-for-11 with 159 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect QBR.
On the season, Foles is now 8-1, the one loss coming in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys. He joined Joe Montana as the only other quarterback to complete 75 percent of their passes in back-to-back playoff games. He is the only quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 100 in his first three career playoff games. Let’s see how he stacks up against the other quarterbacks New England has faced in the Super Bowl during the Tom Brady era.
QUARTERBACK RATING DURING PLAYOFF RUN (GOING INTO THE SUPER BOWL)
2. This is the Patriots second best offensive team during Brady’s eight Super Bowl appearances
It will be hard for any team to match the production of the 2007 Patriots, but this year’s team finished second in points and first in yards. They were also third in red zone scoring percentage (TD), touchdowns per game and points per play, fourth in yards per play and fifth in yards per pass. All this without one of Brady’s top targets, Julian Edelman.
Going into the AFC Championship game, the Jaguars had allowed just 169.9 passing yards per game. Without Rob Gronkowski, Brady had 138 in the fourth quarter. Translation, they can overcome anything.
3. Penalties could be the deciding factor
As seen in the AFC Championship game, the Patriots don’t get too many penalties. Against Jacksonville, New England suffered just one penalty for 10 yards, while the Jags had six for 98 yards. Only one percent of the time is there an 88-yard discrepancy in penalty yards, and of course, it happens for New England in its biggest game.
Also, in the last seven years of the playoffs, only twice has a team been called for one penalty or less. This happened on Sunday, as well as seven years ago, in favor of, you guessed it, the Patriots.
While New England finished with the second fewest penalties per game, the Eagles had the 10th most penalties called against them.
4. If the Patriots are losing in the second half, they will probably come back and win
After being down by 10 with less than nine minutes to play against Jacksonville, Brady proved why he is arguably the most clutch athlete to ever step on Earth. Sunday’s win meant the Patriots are now 3-4 in the last 10 postseasons when they are trailing by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. During that span, the rest of the NFL is 3-70.
5. This is one of the best defenses New England has faced in a Super Bowl during the Brady/Belichick era
Never bet against this man (Photo from Business Insider)
The Eagles allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league this year, as well as the fourth fewest total yards. They also caused the fourth most turnovers. Four appears to be the magic number, as they allowed the fourth fewest points in the league.
The only teams the Patriots have faced in the Super Bowl during the Brady-Belichick era that finished higher in points allowed were the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2014 Seattle Seahawks.
6. The Eagles can run, and the Patriots might struggle defending it
The combination of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, mixed in with a little Corey Clement, was lethal this season. Philadelphia finished with the third most rushing yards per game at 132.2. They also averaged 4.5 yards per carry, which was tied for third in the league.
New England is tied for 30th in opposing yards per rush and 22nd in opposing rushing first downs per game.
7. Both quarterbacks have yet to tHROW AN INTERCEPTION in the playoffs
All be just two games apiece, both Nick Foles and Tom Brady have done an excellent job of taking care of the football. Since 2014, when Nick Foles does not turn the ball over, he is 13-2. During that same span, Brady is 35-7.
8. Jimmy G is getting paid
We know that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be appearing in their eighth Super Bowl together, which is twice as many as any head coach-quarterback combo. We also know that Brady will be the first 40-year-old QB to start a Super Bowl.
Those facts are cool and all, but what about the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is getting paid to watch this game? If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Garappolo will earn $191K. If they lose, he will get $135K. Must be nice.
Featured image by Wtok-Tv
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There has been many downs in the short career for the four-year quarterback out of UCF. This year was filled with a few ups that have seemingly defined the potential of Bortles going forward.
This Sunday, he steps into the biggest game of his life as his team prepares to play against the defending Super Bowl champions. With no surprise, the odds are heavily against Bortles and the Jaguars.
The presumed MVP, Tom Brady, left the finishing touches of a spectacular season, going 35-for-53 with 337 yards and three touchdowns in a win last weekend against the Tennessee Titans. The defense stepped up too, limiting the Titans to 65 combined rushing yards.
The Patriots look to capitalize on an impressive win, entering the last pit stop towards Brady’s eighth Super Bowl appearance. However, standing in his way is a young and unchallenged, but unfazed team in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars’ last playoff appearance was 10 years ago. They have turned into a team that sports a young, but hungry coach in Doug Marrone. Marrone has orchestrated one of the best defenses in franchise history, a runaway Rookie of the Year candidate in Leonard Fournette and an offense led by the franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles.
Coming off of a 10-6 record and winning their first AFC South Division championship, Jacksonville is as confident as ever rolling up in Foxborough, facing the most storied franchise in the last two decades. But many are doubting them.
Facing the largest odds in these playoffs, most of which lands on Bortles, the strength of the team comes from its backfield. Unfortunately, on Sunday, it faces its toughest challenge yet when it comes up against the Pats.
If the Jaguars look to pull off the upset this Sunday, the pressure lies behind the arm of Blake Bortles. He’s coming off an impressive season, throwing for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. His efforts only amounted to the league’s bottom half of total passing. However, with the combination of a great running game and a poised Bortles under center, the odds could be in Jacksonville’s favor. All fingers point to Bortles to be counted out once again. Fortunately, this is not the first time he been counted out.
From his high school career to the pros, Bortles has been seen as the guy who others seem to feel will come in second or the “other guy.” During his playing career as the starting quarterback for the Oviedo High School in Florida, Bortles was one of the starred prospects in the area. Locally, Bortles was praised for leading his high school team to a playoff berth in his senior campaign. He finished his career with a county record of 5,576 passing yards and 53 touchdowns.
However, Bortles’ game was outshined by his cross-city rival Jeff Driskel, who was named ESPN’s No. 1 high school quarterback prospect and 10th overall on ESPN’s 150 top high school prospects in the class of 2011.
Driskel, who was heavily recruited by the nation’s top universities, eventually accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Florida to be the next featured quarterback after the decorated career of Tim Tebow. T
he nation’s eyes were on Driskel as Bortles wasn’t even recruited to play quarterback. Many schools, including Tulane, Purdue, Colorado State and Kansas State were all interested in the prospect, but none of which wanted the recruit at his respected position. Wanting to fulfill his aspirations of playing quarterback at the Division I level, Bortles eventually committed to play at the University of Central Florida, less than five miles from his high school campus.
Bortles’ start at UCF was difficult, again being seen as the second guy, this time to his fellow freshman. He regularly lost time behind starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who led the Knights to a 10-3 record in the 2010 football season.
With Godfrey’s play reminiscing the best true freshman performance since Daunte Culpepper, Bortles was seen to be on his way to exiting the program. Reports around the school’s athletic program suspected that UCF head coach, George O’Leary, was contemplating using the 6-foot-5, 210-pound freshman as a tight end going forward. However, these allegations were put to rest at the beginning of the 2011 season with Bortles backing up the starting position.
Photo by Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE
During the season, starting quarterback Godfrey had trouble mixing the chemistry with the younger core group of the team. During this time, Bortles had standout performances in the time he was given against Charleston Southern, BYU and SMU. Despite a 5-7 season for the Knights, Bortles threw for 958 yards and six touchdowns, which solidified his starting position as the quarterback for the upcoming season.
In 2012, Bortles started all 14 games for the Knights, leading them to a 9-4 record and a bowl win in the 2012 Beef O’Bradys Bowl. Bortles won MVP, throwing for 271 yards with three touchdowns on a 76 percent completion rate.
Bortles went on to finish the season with 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 144.5.
Despite a breakaway season for Bortles, he was not touted as one of the nation’s top players. Before the 2013 season, Bortles had failed to make any top 100 list of prospects for the upcoming draft. Not allowing it to get to him, Bortles led the UCF Knights to an 11-1 season (its best record in school history until this past season) and captured the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship. He threw for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns with a 67.8 percent completion rate for the year.
Bortles concluded the season leading UCF to its first major bowl bid in the BCS era, facing the eighth ranked Baylor Bears in the 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. He went on to throw for 301 yards and four touchdowns. He also added a rushing total of 93 yards in pursuit of UCF upsetting Baylor 52-42. Bortles was named the game’s offensive MVP.
(Photo by Matt Kartozian, USA TODAY Sports)
Despite not being on any NFL Draft prospect lists at the beginning of the season, reports had shown that Bortles had quickly risen up the draft boards, even at one point showing that the junior could be the first pick in the entire draft. Bortles would then forgo his senior season at UCF and went on to become the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Jaguars.
Over the years, the Jaguars have slowly and steadily made additions to its team in efforts to surround a franchise quarterback. The team lacked depth and experience. They also lost the former top pick Justin Blackmon, and its 2011 draft pick, Blaine Gabbert, was struggling.
Jacksonville made a desperate attempt to free up the base. They lost acclaimed running back Maurice Jones-Drew in the offseason and traded away Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers.
Bortles, whose career reflects those immense changes, struggled as a rookie as the Jaguars limped through a disdainful season, falling to 3-13. Bortles only threw for 2,908 yards and 11 touchdowns with an abysmal 17 interceptions.
The Jaguars kept Bortles as the starting quarterback over Chad Henne, who had started the first three games of that season. The Jaguars looked to fit pieces around its young quarterback after allowing a record 55 sacks, a problem that would continue to plague them in the next season as well.
With minimal changes to the team, Bortles overcame the unfavorable predicament with a strong season, throwing for 4,208 yards and 35 touchdowns, his career best. Despite heroics from Bortles, the Jaguars struggled to find the team’s identity and finished the season 5-11.
(Photo from Jaguars.com)
The 2016 season brought on problems, but ultimately a focus for the Jaguars. Allowing the of rest of the team to follow, the franchise led towards fortifying its defense, bringing in newcomers like Malik Jackson and Prince Amukamara. They used draft picks on Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and UCLA’s Myles Jack, both have shown to be cornerstones of the defense. Jacksonville also added Dante Fowler Jr., who was drafted the season prior, but was lost to a season-ending ACL injury.
Unfortunately, Bortles had a setback for the year and was seen as the root of Jacksonville’s problems. In the beginning of the 2017 season, fans argued that Henne should be restored as starter over Bortles with reports of the franchise in consideration of doing so. However, after a 3-13 season and the firing of Gus Bradley, new head coach Doug Marrone started his tenure with a clean slate and went along with Bortles being the starter for the season.
Armed with an ambitious franchise and a talented offense to complement a tenacious defense, Bortles put up his most efficient season, helping the Jacksonville Jaguars set up its first winning season in 10 years. They captured the AFC South divisional championship and a playoff berth. But as always, the critics returned.
In the Jaguars’ Wild Card matchup with the Buffalo Bills, Bortles threw just 87 yards on 12-for-23 passing. He threw a one-yard pass to Ben Koyack late in the third quarter for the decisive score. Despite pulling out a win, Bortles misfired on many passing attempts, feeding fuel for doubters. Some of which called his performance “awful,” along with both teams’ performances being “unwatchable”.
Questions mounted as Bortles and the Jaguars went up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many believed that the Steelers and the New England Patriots were destined for a showdown in this upcoming AFC Championship game, counting out the Jaguars to put any doubt in that vision.
However, the Jaguars never faltered and never trailed in the game, beating the Steelers by a score of 45-42. Bortles put up 214 passing yards on 14-for-26 passing and delivered a touchdown in the fourth quarter to hold back Pittsburgh to set up a date with the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship.
With no surprise, the Patriots are favored to win this Sunday against the Jaguars. Despite a slow start to the season, the Patriots have cashed in on everyone’s predisposed notions of its return to the Super Bowl. They garnish a veteran all-time great coach and a quarterback who looks to cement his legacy amongst the greats.
For the Jaguars, well they have, Blake Bortles. The four-year man out of UCF, whose team faces one of the largest underdog odds in these playoffs. Once again, Bortles is the second guy, the “other guy.”
Although he is coming off arguably the greatest season of his young career, he falls in the shadow of someone who outshines him. Lucky for Bortles, he’s been here before, and despite the opposition, he has a crew that looks as determined and as confident as he is.
From a far sight, Bortles looks to come in second just like he did in high school, or at the collegiate level, or even the first steps of his professional career. With that being said, it should be safe to save some chips for the Jaguars as we have seen this team reach pinnacles this season beyond their expectations. Why should this game be any different? And for Bortles, his opposition shares a familiar tune.
Some time ago, Tom Brady was a relative unknown leading a forgotten Patriots team against some of the most star-studded teams of his time, beating the St. Louis Rams heralded as the “The Greatest Show on Turf” on the grandest stage of them all and giving birth to a dynasty for the ages. Perhaps this is Bortles’ time. Though he faces a threat that is far superior than his previous challenges were, Bortles is a far more superior version of his past self. And just like before, as the world looks on for him to be second, Blake Bortles looks to finish first once again.
Featured image by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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We can only hope the NFL’s Conference Championship weekend is half as competitive as last weekend was. Three of the four games were nail biters, which made for some strange results in terms of predictions.
As has been the case throughout the postseason, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. You can see last week’s picks here.
Last week: 1-3, 3-1 against the spread.
Postseason totals: 4-4, 5-3 against the spread.
Jaguars at Patriots
Three teams have gone into New England and won a playoff game in the Brady-Belichick era, two Ravens teams led by John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco and one of Rex Ryan’s Jets teams. All these teams had one thing in common: They ran the ball and were very good on defense.
With the top ranked rushing offense and a sack happy defense that has dominated all year long, Jacksonville certainly fits that bill. This will not be a simple coronation for the Patriots. Just because the Jaguars approach to winning games is fairly bland does not mean they do not deserve to be here.
That defense will keep this interesting for four quarters. However, there are three pieces of insurmountable bad news for the underdogs. First, Blake Bortles is still their quarterback. Second, Tom Brady is the opposing quarterback. Finally, Bill Belichick is not going to run 15-yard pass plays on 4th and 1 or run an onside kick with two timeouts and more than two minutes left like Pittsburgh did last week.
One of the biggest yet simplest reasons New England has been so good for so long is they never make in game strategy calls that leave even casual fans scratching their heads in the moment. As good as they are, the Jaguars needed a lot of help to outscore the Steelers last week. New England will not be so generous this week.
Winner: New England
Good bet: Patriots (-9) NE 31 Jac 20
Vikings at Eagles
Something has to give here. These two teams have mastered the art of the playoff choke job over the years. Now one of them is going to the Super Bowl.
At this point in this season, these teams are going about winning games the same way. They both rely on their great defenses to make up for limitations at quarterback. Make no mistake, Case Keenum and Nick Foles have limitations.
Foles only threw for 246 yards last week against Atlanta. However, he did not make a big mistake that crippled the team. When you have a defense that is capable of holding what was a hot Falcons offense to just 10 points, that formula is good enough.
Photo from espn.com
Keenum tried to make that crippling mistake with his late third quarter interception that sparked the Saints comeback last week. However, he and the Vikings were bailed out by a miracle finish that was more blind luck than anything else. There is no shame in that. Every Super Bowl champion there has ever been has required some degree of luck.
What this game comes down to is both teams will try to run the ball. It is hard to imagine either having much success against two of the best front sevens in football. So which average quarterback will do a better job of getting the ball to their playmaking pass catchers?
Well, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen each caught over 60 balls in the regular season and accounted for several of Minnesota’s 10 third down conversions last week. Meanwhile, the Eagles pass catchers have virtually disappeared since Carson Wentz went out. Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery had seven catches combined last week. They need to have somewhere around seven catches each should Philadelphia struggle on the ground in this one.
Moreover, if there is a weak spot on either defense, it is the Philadelphia secondary. They got torched by the lowly Giants twice this year. There is no reason Diggs and Thielen should not carry their team to a home Super Bowl.
Good bet: Vikings (-3) Min 23 Phi 17
Featured image from chatsports.com
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