Jun 212013
 

Darrelle Revis13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 389 points scored, 13th in points, 9th in yards (10th passing, 15th rushing)
2012 Defense: 394 points allowed, 23rd in points, 29th in yards (32nd passing, 1st rushing)

Key Additions
CB Darrelle Revis, S Dashon Goldson, WR Kevin Ogletree, DT Derek Landri, LB Jonathan Casillas, T Gabe Carimi, RB Brian Leonard, RB Jeff Demps, TE Tom Crabtree, TE Zach Miller, DT Andre Neblett, CB Michael Adams, CB Jonathan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, T Akeem Spence, DE William Gholston

Key Losses
S Ronde Barber, TE Dallas Clark, G Derek Hardman, DT Michael Bennett, DT Corey Irvin, DT Roy Miller, CB EJ Biggers, DB Brandon McDonald, T Jeremy Trueblood, WR Arrelious Benn, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Quincy Black, RB DJ Ware

Why 2013 will be better
Lavonte David and Mason Foster lead a talented front seven on defense. With the best run defense and the worst passing defense in the league last season, it wasn’t hard to figure out where the Bucs would spend their energies in the off-season. Enter Revis and Goldson, who immediately improve a porous secondary by a lot, and who will serve as anchors for Eric Wright and Mark Barron. Adding Banks brings in depth with a ball-hawking corner. Suddenly a defensive liability looks much improved as long as Revis is healthy, and the Bucs defense promises to be one of the better units in the league. On offense, the line was riddled with injuries in 2012, yet still performed as a top ten offense. With a healthy and deep offensive line, Josh Freeman should have plenty of time to find favorite weapons Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Adding Ogletree is a solid move. Doug Martin had a fantastic rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as catching 49 passes out of the backfield.

Why 2013 will be worse
Freeman has been a model of inconsistency so far in his NFL career, and this is a make or break season for him in Tampa. Glennon is arguably one of the best quarterbacks from a thin quarterback draft, but isn’t ready to take the team over just yet. So the Bucs will live and die this season on a signal-caller who is 11-20 as a starter over the past two seasons with 43 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions. With Dallas Clark gone, the Bucs are thin at tight end, where Luke Stocker is the best choice among few options. Otherwise, the Bucs have a deep roster and appear ready to compete.

Outlook
If we can assume that Josh Freeman simply serves as a neutral force, the Bucs appear prepared to challenge the Falcons and Saints in the NFC South. However, quarterback play is a significant predictor of team success, and the Bucs could go in either direction as a result. They ended 2012 losing five of their last six games, but have dramatically improved their pass defense, assuming Revis returns to a level close to what he played at with the Jets. If the offensive line stays healthy, this team should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Their window appears to be anywhere from seven to ten wins, but I’ll set the over/under at nine.

Jan 062013
 

Rat's Awards ImageOur next to last award acknowledges the game’s offensive difference-makers. Adrian Peterson had an amazing season running the ball and seemingly willed the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs after a horrific 2011 campaign. Peyton Manning returned from a one year hiatus and multiple neck surgeries and looked to be in mid-career form as he led the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 record. Tom Brady was, well, Tom Brady and once again put up numbers that most quarterbacks can only dream of. Calvin Johnson had monstrous numbers in receiving yards, and Robert Griffin III breathed life back into the Washington Redskins franchise. Those were just some of the amazing offensive exploits for 2012 in the National Football League.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Our nominees in this category included Tom Brady (NE), Drew Brees (NO), Robert Griffin III (WAS), Calvin Johnson (DET), Andrew Luck (IND), Marshawn Lynch (SEA), Peyton Manning (DEN), Doug Martin (TB), Adrian Peterson (MIN), and Matt Ryan (ATL).

3rd Place – Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Ho hum. Another year, another 34 touchdown passes versus only eight interceptions. Brady threw for 4,827 yards as the Patriots won the AFC East yet again with a 12-4 record. And, as happens almost every season, Brady aired it out with seemingly a different receiving corps each week, as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Julian Edelman all lost significant time to injuries. Through thirteen NFL seasons Brady remains the model of consistency for NFL quarterbacks, yet he is still tough enough to regularly grind out short first yard runs to keep the chains moving.

2nd Place – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
We’ve noted Manning’s exploits in the Comeback Player of the Year piece, but the stats are worth repeating given the fact that he missed all of last season with multiple neck surgeries. Manning threw for 4659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while leading the Broncos to a 13-3 record. He finished sixth in passing yards, third in touchdowns and co-led the league in completion percentage. So much for being washed up.

Adrian PetersonWINNER – Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Nine yards. That’s all that separated Adrian Peterson from the single greatest rushing season in NFL history. Peterson ran for 2,097 and 12 touchdowns, plus 217 receiving yards and one touchdown through the air. Even more impressively, Peterson did this even when other teams built their defensive game plans to stop him. He ran for 210 and 199 yards against the Packers in two games, for 182 yards against the Seahawks’ stout defense, for 212 yards against an improved Rams’ defense, and 262 yards in two games against the Bears. And all of this following a torn ACL and MCL, coupled with a highly inconsistent quarterback, makes Peterson our clear choice for this award.

Jan 052013
 

Rat's Awards ImageThis year’s crop of offensive rookies promise to reshape the futures of franchises in Indianapolis, Washington, Seattle, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay as we move toward the 2013 season. While Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were expected to compete for this award, it was the surprising Russell Wilson who took away a near certain job from Matt Flynn in Seattle and put the Seahawks on the map.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The nominees for this award included Luck, Griffin, Wilson, Matt Kalil (MIN), Doug Martin (TB), Alfred Morris (WAS), Trent Richardson (CLE), Ryan Tannehill (MIA) and Brandon Weeden (CLE).

3rd Place – Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts didn’t suffer much in the transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. In fact, other than a lost 2011 season and the end of the Colts’ reign in the AFC South, there seems to be little difference in the overall performance of the team, despite a rookie quarterback, a lack of a running game (still) and a change in defensive philosophy. Luck finished the season with 4374 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while leading the Colts to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. Only Luck’s proclivity for throwing interceptions prevented him from placing higher, but Luck is clearly set as the next franchise quarterback in Indianapolis.

2nd Place – Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. The 75th pick in the 2012 draft was expected to hold the clipboard for Matt Flynn, and instead displaced Flynn and led the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. As the year has gone on and the coaching staff has grown more comfortable with Wilson, he has become an even greater threat, running the Read Option offense and demonstrating that he is a threat to run or throw. Wilson finished the regular season with 3118 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 489 rushing yards, and four rushing touchdowns.

Robert-Griffin-III1WINNER – Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Talk about a game changer. Robert Griffin III turned around a long-suffering franchise in the nation’s capital, leading the Redskins to a 10-6 record and the first playoff game since 2006. Although Griffin had plenty of help from Alfred Morris, it was his double barreled threat of running and passing that opened up defenses and allowed the Redskins to put together the top rushing attack in the league this season. When Griffin was hurt, fellow rookie Kirk Counsins proved his worth, insuring that momentum towards the playoffs wasn’t halted. But there is little debate that it was Griffin’s prowess that set this team on fire this season, and Griffin seemed to mature before our eyes on the field, learning the lessons that previous running quarterbacks have been unable to grasp. Griffin finished the season with 3,200 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, only five interceptions, and he ran for another 815 yards and seven touchdowns.

Week 14 Recap

 Posted by
Dec 102012
 

Week 14 offered us some amazing individual performances while also managing to make the playoff picture a bit murkier. The AFC division winners are all but set, as is the fifth seed, but the sixth seed became more competitive when both the Steelers and the Bengals lost on Sunday. In the NFL, Atlanta blew an opportunity to wrap up a first round bye, while the NFL wildcard race become more ferocious, and the NFC East is promising a pitched battle in the season’s final few weeks.

Here is our Week 14 recap:

Nov 212012
 

This week’s power rankings show some stability at the top of the rankings, with the exception of the Bears taking a dive after getting pounded by the 49ers on Monday night. We expect that even the most fervent Bear’s fan would recognize that Jay Cutler would have made little difference on Monday and, given the performance of the Bears’ offensive line, he might well have left the field on a stretcher. The bottom of our rankings saw some shifting, thanks to a gutsy Jacksonville performance  against Houston, another poor performance by the Chiefs, and another lousy outing by the Raiders. As always, feel free to heckle or agree below.

Week 11 Power Rankings

1. Houston Texans (9-1, U) – That may have been a little close for comfort on Sunday, but the Texans gritty comeback win keeps them atop our rankings this week

2. San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1, +1) – Up one spot after dominating the Bears on Monday night; the Niners appear to have a keeper in Colin Kaepernick

3. Atlanta Falcons (9-1, -1) – They overcame six turnovers to win against the Cardinals, but that was not their most impressive outing of the season

4. New England Patriots (7-3, U) – It’s amazing what a fine line it is between a close game and a 35 point blowout; handling the loss of Gronk will determine their playoff seeding

5. Baltimore Ravens (8-2, U) – We’re not sure that anyone should be overly impressed with beating a Ben-less Steelers squad

6. Green Bay Packers (7-3, U) – Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to have gaudy statistics to lead the Packers to a win; this team could be dangerous in the playoffs

7. Denver Broncos (7-3, +1) – Speaking of dangerous in the playoffs, watch out for this team

8. New York Giants (6-4, +1) – Does the players-only meeting signal a turning of the corner, or is this team lacking the magic?

9. Chicago Bears (7-3, -2) – They were the worst one loss team in the league, then the worst two loss team; are they now the worst three loss team in the league as well?

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, U) – Barely hanging on in our top ten after a dismal outing against the Ravens; is Plax the answer?

11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, U) – Winning on the road at Miami would help separate Seattle from pretenders

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4, +2) – Doug Martin is doing wonders to revitalize Josh Freeman’s young career

13. New Orleans Saints (5-5, +2) – Can the Saints’ defense stop enough teams to make their way to the playoffs? The 49ers promise a stiff challenge on both sides of the ball this Sunday

14. Minnesota Vikings (6-4, -1) – They might be visiting Chicago at just the right time to steal a win

15. Indianapolis Colts (6-4, -3) – After allowing 59 points to the Patriots and executing poorly in all three phases of the game, a visit from the Bills might be just what the doctor ordered

16. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5, +3) – Contests against the Chiefs and the Raiders promise to get the Bengals back into the hunt

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-5, +1)– If the Cowboys were playing anyone but the Browns, they lose that game

18. Detroit Lions (4-6, -2) – At the beginning of the season I thought their lack of discipline on defense would set them back, but a lack of consistency on offense isn’t helping either

19. Arizona Cardinals (4-6, -2) – Linebacker Daryl Washington thinks they can win six straight; try one in a row to start

20. Washington Redskins (4-6, +1) – Impressive win over the Eagles has the Redskins hopeful they can stay out of the NFC East’s basement

21. San Diego Chargers (4-6, -1) – Norv Turner is changing his resume paper from powder blue to more of an earth tone; he’s also leaving off the past several seasons as Head Coach of the Chargers

22. Buffalo Bills (4-6, +4) – Our big mover of the week after a good showing against the Dolphins

23. Tennessee Titans (4-6, +2) – There is still time for Jake Locker and the Titans to make it an interesting wildcard race

24. St. Louis Rams (3-6-1, -2) – After a good showing against the 49ers, they didn’t show at all against the Jets

25. Miami Dolphins (4-6, -2) – Miami fans need to come to terms with the fact that their team is more than just a quarterback away

26. New York Jets (4-6, +1) – Once again, the Jets do just enough to convince their fans that all might be ok, at least for one week

27. Cleveland Browns (2-8, +1) – Fat Jesus is right; Pat Shurmer needs to be fired

28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7, -4) – Speaking of coaches that need to be fired…

29. Carolina Panthers (2-8, U) – And speaking of teams that are more than just a quarterback away…

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9, +2) – Another moral victory helps a team escape from our basement

31. Oakland Raiders (3-7, -1) – Is Al Davis still running this team? Is it too soon to ask?

32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-9, -1) – Let speculation begin that Romeo Crennel will be the Patriots’ defensive coordinator next season

Week 11 Recap

 Posted by
Nov 212012
 

It was a wild week in the NFL in Week 11, as three teams blew double digit leads to drop games late or in overtime. The Patriots and Broncos both stayed on a roll, and both lost a key player for several games. Meanwhile, the 49ers and Bears offered contrasting views of teams operating with backup quarterbacks, and the Bengals gained in the playoff race while the Lions continued to find a way to lose.

Here’s the Week 11 recap:

Nov 142012
 

Through ten weeks, there is one thing for certain; there is no dominant team in the NFL this season. Just when we thought the Falcons might make it a couple of more weeks without a loss, they fall to the Saints. The Texans took care of business against a tough Bears team, but the 49ers flopped against the Rams, salvaging a tie in a game they should have lost. The Patriots won, but not without great drama, and the Steelers struggled against the hapless Chiefs, escaping only because of a penalty. The Giants look pretty bad at this point in the season, but they always look bad at this point of the season. As a result, our power rankings fluctuated mightily this week.

Here are our Week 10 Rankings:

1. Houston Texans (8-1, +1) – The Texans rolled into Soldier Field and took care of business; how will they do against a team with a better offense?

2. Atlanta Falcons (8-1, -1) – It was a game they could have won, but no real harm done to the Falcon’s ambitions

3. San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1, U) – The Niners are still a favorite in the NFC, but they need to demonstrate some consistency; Quarterback Concern #1 of the week, though Alex Smith might be ready to return

4. New England Patriots (6-3, +2) – The win over the Bills was not an impressive win by any stretch of the imagination, but the Patriots are on a three game winning streak and now hope to improve their beleaguered secondary with the move of McCourty to safety and the acquisition of Aqib Talib

5. Baltimore Ravens (7-2, +3) – Still not convinced their defense will hold up against better offensive teams, but their schedule makes the division title looking like a good bet

6. Green Bay Packers (6-3, +1) – Can they play the second half of the season the way they finished the first?

7. Chicago Bears (7-2, -3) – Quarterback Concern #2 of the week; even though the Bears would rather have their defense on the field all game, the Bears with Jay Cutler are better than the Bears without Jay Cutler

8. Denver Broncos (6-3, +2) – Manning and the Broncos getting better every week; this is a dangerous team if their defense holds up

9. New York Giants (6-4, -4) – The Giants are just out of sorts right now and Eli is playing without confidence; is this is this a real problem or do they just have the rest of the league exactly where they want them?

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3, -1) – Quarterback Concern #3 of the week; the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger are better than the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger

11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, U) – This team just stubbornly refuses to go away

12. Indianapolis Colts (6-3, +1) – Playoffs? You’re talking about playoffs? Yes, they really are

13. Minnesota Vikings (6-4, -1) – Solid win over the Lions means the Vikes are legitimate playoff contenders; that will hold up as long as Adrian Peterson does

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4, +4) – Doug Martin looks like a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate; Bucs looking like a legitimate threat

15. New Orleans Saints (4-5, +8) – They probably should have been ranked higher last week, but we will correct that now that they took out the Falcons; playoffs still appear unlikely

16. Detroit Lions (4-5, -2) – Just when the offense starts waking up, the defense lets them down

17. Arizona Cardinals (4-5, -2) – You know what a bye week is? In this case, it could just be a week between losses

18. Dallas Cowboys (4-5, +3) – Another team trying to steer its way back into the playoff race; beating the Browns would help, though it’s exactly the kind of game they are capable of losing

19. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5, +3) – Just when we get ready to write them off, they spank the Giants and thrust themselves back into the playoff picture

20. San Diego Chargers (4-5, -4) – The Norv Turner watch is now officially on; a loss to the Broncos just might be the end of his run

21. Washington Redskins (3-6, -4) – They are building a good base for the future; but it’s not a team that is going to make waves this season

22. St. Louis Rams (3-5-1, +4) – What a difference an Amendola makes

23. Miami Dolphins (4-5, -4) – At least when they got pummeled by the Titans they didn’t have Tony Sparano fist-pumping after the field goal like it was a major accomplishment

24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6, -4) – Quarterback Concern #4 of the week, though in this case Nick Foles looks like an improvement over Michael Vick; the Reid and Vick eras are coming to a close in Philly

25. Tennessee Titans (4-6, +4) – Jake Locker and Chris Johnson are doing their best to try and get this team back to respectability

26. Buffalo Bills (3-6, -1) – This team is its own worst enemy

27. New York Jets (3-6, -3) – If the Jets are lucky, they can put themselves in a position to draft Matt Barkley, another USC quarterback who is less accurate and less athletic than Mark Sanchez

28. Cleveland Browns (2-7, -1) – They even lose ground in a bye week

29. Carolina Panthers (2-7, -1) – Who would have thought that offensive production was going to be their primary problem this season?

30. Oakland Raiders (3-6, U) – They are one Carson Palmer away from being hapless

31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-8, +1) – They finally got a lead against the Steelers, and should have had a victory; moral victories don’t count for much, but this was a huge improvement

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, -1) – It’s like they’re not even trying; expect some big-time house cleaning in the off-season

Nov 052012
 

Week 9 saw the Atlanta Falcons tip the Dallas Cowboys and bring their record to 8-0. Although the Falcons are unlikely to run the table, they have a very favorable chance at a first round bye and hold a one game advantage for home field throughout the NFC playoffs. Charles Tillman alone is keeping the Chicago Bears in striking distance, though he had plenty of help from his teammates in their blowout of the Tennessee Titans.

Here is your Week 9 recap:

  • Norv Turner keeps his job for another week as the Chargers roll over the Chiefs 31-13 behind a solid defensive effort and a good night from Philip Rivers
  • Broncos edge Bengals 31-23 as Peyton Manning rallies with three touchdown passes; Eric Decker has 8 catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns
  • Ravens beat Browns 25-15 behind Ray Rice’s 98 yards in a game that the Browns lost as much as the Ravens won; the game spoils a 105 yard rushing effort by Trent Richardson
  • Packers on right track and Cardinals on wrong one as Green Bay pounds Arizona 31-17; Rodgers under 50% completion rate, but still puts up four touchdown passes
  • Texans dismantle Bills 21-9 in the return on Mario Williams; Arian Foster runs for 111 yards and a score
  • Andrew Luck sets rookie passing record with 433 yards in Colts’ 23-20 win over the Dolphins; Donnie Avery and TY Hilton both tally more than 100 receiving yards in the win
  • Lions impressive in second straight game as they rout the Jaguars 31-14; Mikel Leshoure runs for three touchdowns in the second quarter as the Lions find a running game
  • The Bears crush the Titans 51-20 as Charles Tillman forces four fumbles, Brian Urlacher grabs a pick six and Jay Cutler connects with Brandon Marshall for three touchdowns
  • Panthers sack RG3 four times as Carolina beats a sloppy Washington team 21-13; Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams stay classy in win (not)
  •  Doug Martin rushes for franchise record 251 yards as Buccaneers hold off the Raiders 42-32; Carson Palmer (414 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT) schizophrenic in loss
  • Seahawks power past Vikings 30-20 as Marshawn Lynch rushes for 124 yards and Russell Wilson throws three touchdown passes; Adrian Peterson rushes for 182 yards and two touchdowns in defeat
  • Steelers rally to edge Giants 24-20; Isaac Redman runs for 147 yards and a touchdown and Eli Manning has a woeful passing day
  • Falcons beat Cowboys 19-13 to stay perfect; Michael Turner rushes for 102 yards and a score and Matt Bryant connects on four field goals in the win
  • still to come: Eagles @ Saints

Week 8 Recap

 Posted by
Oct 292012
 

Another Sunday, another wild slate of games in the NFL. The theme of this week’s outcome is job security, or in some cases the lack of job security for key coaches and players. There’s still half a season left to play, but some themes are beginning to take shape.

Here are your results from Week 8:

  • The Buccaneers whip the Vikings 36-17 and show that they may not yet be a serious playoff threat, but are a dangerous team to play; Doug Martin has a huge game with 135 yards rushing while Josh Freeman is effective in throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns
  • Da Bears edge the Panthers 23-22 with late rally in ugly win on a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould; Ron Rivera edges closer to the door depite a game effort from Carolina
  • Yes, it was played in the slop, but Norv Turner’s job security hangs by a thread after the Browns upset the Chargers 7-6; Trent Richardson runs for 122 yards in a solid outing
  • Matthew Stafford finally looks like Matthew Stafford for a week as the Lions edge the Seahawks 28-24 behind 352 yards and three touchdown passes by the Lions’ quarterback; Jim Schwartz moves off of the hot seat while Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch look good in last minute loss
  • The Packers struggle against the Jaguars’ defense but emerge with a 24-15 win; Blaine Gabbert outduels Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers earns the win
  • The Dolphins help edge Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez closer to finding a new color with a convincing 30-9 win; Reggie Bush wins the war of words and the game; perhaps the Jets should be apologizing to their fans
  • Andy Reid and Michael Vick updating their resumes after Matt Ryan and Julio Jones team up to whip the Eagles 30-17; Falcons now 7-0
  • Ben Roethlisberger, Jonathan Dwyer, and swarming Steelers defense halt RG3 and the Redskins 27-12
  • Patriots light up the Rams 45-7 as Brady is sharp and Ridley surpasses 100 rushing yards again; defense improved as both teams head into bye week
  • Andrew Luck and Vick Ballard connect for beautiful game winning touchdown in overtime as the Colts beat the Titans 19-13; so much for thinking that Matt Hasselbeck would claim the starting job back from Jake Locker
  • Raiders top the Chiefs 26-16; Brady Quinn’s reign lasts twelve and a half minutes while Darren McFadden rushes for 112 yards
  • Giants win a wild one as the Cowboys commit six turnovers in a 29-24 loss; Jason Garrett and Tony Romo now 3-4 and will no doubt evoke some reactions from Jerry this week
  • Broncos crush Saints 34-14 behind big performances from Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, and DeMaryius Thomas; worst defense in the league just gets worse for the Saints
  • still to come: San Francisco – Arizona