Sunday, January 27, 2013

Welker Out In New England

With unfortunate big-game drops adding up and his free agency looming, Wes Welker may have caught his last meaningful pass from future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. After six very successful seasons in Foxborough, could it be time the staunch New England Patriots and Welker part ways? We think so.

By the start of the 2013-2014 NFL season, free-agent wide receiver Wes Welker will be 32-years old. Despite playing in 14+ games in each of his eight seasons, the Patriots would still be committing themselves to someone who isn't young anymore. Can you remember the last time the Patriots made a player the highest paid at his position, when they were over 30-years old?!?! A second-straight season tagged as franchise player would push Welker's salary from $9.5 million in 2012 to $11.4 million in 2013. If the Patriots wanted to pay Welker nearly $21 million dollars over two seasons, they would have made that offer to him at the end of last season.

What is Welker's real value?!? True, with Wes Welker the Patriots know what they're getting; 112 receptions, 1,244 yards receiving, and 4 to 9 end zone trips
per season. However, let's not pretend like the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick weren't trying out their 26-year old wide receiver/return man/utility offensive weapon Julian Edelman to fill the Welker shoes for the first three weeks of the seasons, it was obvious. We're not saying that Edelman is Welker, but with an increased work-load, couldn't he be a cheaper similarly effective player?

In 2012, the Patriots weren't really able to display their two tight-end attack with both (under contract) heavy hitting tight-ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski sustaining injuries and missing considerable time this season. Drafting both running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in 2011 seems to have worked out and given them a running attack that is pretty solid. An all-world signal caller, healthy pass catching tight-ends and two consistent running backs, wouldn't we all agree that the Patriots offense is not going to be noticeably different without Welker.

All this being said, when it comes to the New England Patriots and their now seven-season Super Bowl drought, is the offense what the organization and the fans should be most concerned about? When mid-season acquisition, cornerback Aqib Talib, goes down in the AFC Championship the Ravens jumped all over the New England secondary. The most dominant franchise of the last twenty years was hinging their Super Bowl hopes on a cornerback they acquired midway through the 2012 season, a cornerback with a lengthy history of off-the-field issues and marginal NFL success. Yet somehow, Wes Welker should be their main priority?

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Update: NFL Draft Chatter

With two weeks to go, we've got to find something to fill up our time. A slew of NFL prospects have descended upon Mobile, Alabama for the Senior bowl, so we're going to get after it with some NFL Draft chatter!

Get After It!

Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame What could be a better week to discuss the draft prospects of Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o?!? 2013 Hasn't been a good year for Te'o. He looked terrible during the BCS National Championship game. Te'o missed tackles, got roughed up by each of Alabama's NFL ready interior offensive linemen, and rarely looked like the player who was invited to New York as a Heisman finalist. If that wasn't bad enough, the scandal involving his supposedly deceased 'girlfriend', has exploded onto the front pages burying all other headlines this past week, including the NFL Conference Championship games taking place today. Without going into the
awkward, embarrassing, and superbly sorted details, Te'o basically carried on a committed relationship with a woman he'd never met in person. A woman who was part of a hoax to dupe the star linebacker as she faked her own death earlier this past fall leading everyone from South Bend to Honolulu to believe that Te'o was playing with a deeply emotional burden for the remainder of this season. Here's the point, you've read this far about Manti Te'o and we've yet to talk about how well he played during his time at Notre Dame. Smoke weed, get bumped to the second round of the draft. Have an online-girlfriend who fakes her own death, get bumped to . . . sorry, there hasn't been a precedent for this. He was incredibly consistent throughout his career in college, and will probably be a solid pro, but we don't believe he belonged on stage with Johnny Maziel and Colin Klein, the hype is absolutely bigger than the skill. Te'o should be a top inside linebacker taken, but I doubt we are talking about anything but his poor play in the National Title game and his off-the-field scandal going forward.

Teams targeting: Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, and Pittsburgh Steelers

Giovani Bernard, RB North Carolina Sometimes you've got to get while the gettin' good. Two-year Tar Heel rusher Giovani Bernard is splitting from Chapel Hill with everything going his way. In back-to-back seasons, Bernard was fairly consistent rushing for 1,200+ yards and hitting the endzone 12+ times in both 2011 and 2012. Back in early October, the sophomore gashed Virginia Tech for 262-yards averaging 11.4 per carry, putting the ACC on notice. By years end Giovani Bernard would be named to the 2012 ALL-ACC 1st team as a running back and as a return specialist on special teams. In our opinion, Bernard can be likened to the quickness and explosive speed of rookie running back and fellow ACC alum, David Wilson, who came on late in his rookie season in the Giant backfield. Bernard has the potential to be the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, with open field speed and the ability to break-free in space, expect more than one team with a running back need to jockey into position to select him.

Teams targeting: San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Atlanta Falcons

Stepfan Taylor, RB Standford The Cardinal senior is a brusier of a running back destined to be a three-to-four down back at the next level. While North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, and Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle have the highlight tapes, Stepfan Taylor is the steal of the running back class. His role in the Stanford offense increased each year, from getting eighty more carries and sixteen more receptions in 2012, to hitting the endzone on the ground 13 times this season, Stepfan was a monster piece of Stanford's recent success onto the National stage. Taylor measured up close to six-feet and just under 220 lbs. at the Senior Bowl on Monday, given him the NFL size he'll need. Playing in the same offense as four-players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft's first 50 selections, Taylor's game was dramatically under looked. Even with the loss of offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, the Stanford running back averaged nearly five-yards per carry again this season. 153-Yards vs. USC, 161-yards vs. Oregon, and 189-yards vs. California, it's safe to say Stepfan Taylor has the ability to put up major numbers on Saturdays, now it's time to see how he'll fair on Sundays.

Teams targeting: New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Green Bay Packers

Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas The Longhorn defensive back is either 1 or 1A when it comes to the safety position. His last two years in Austin have been for sure standout years. Watch ten minutes of film on the 6'1" safety out of Brownwood and three things are for sure: (1) He's got tremendous closing speed. Just ask West Virginia speedster Tavon Austin, who got chased down by Vaccaro on an end around earlier this season. (2) He's an absolutely fantastic tackler who always seems to be in the right position to break down the ball carrier. At one point we even saw him take down Heisman finalist Colin Klein, who has ten pounds and four-inches on the Texas safety. And (3) he can seriously hit. Ole' Miss quarterback Bo Wallace felt that pain when he chose to keep the ball on an option and got lit up by the Texas safety who came out of nowhere to drop the hammer. In an NFL where offenses like San Francisco's 'pistol' offense has lead them to the Super Bowl and more athletic quarterbacks like Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin, and of course the 49ers Colin Kaepernick are taking over, NFL teams will need tacklers and bruising defensive backs like Kenny Vaccaro to make their presence felt. Expecct an NFC East team to make an early move for a player like Vaccaro.

Teams targeting: Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys

Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State When it comes down to Xavier Rhodes, people are only going to question the conference he played in. Here's what I have to say about that; He never played against SEC speed as did his counterparts, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and Alabama's DeMarcus Milliner, that's it. Look, Rhodes is a terrific player with a ton of ability. The Florida State defense gets a ton of pass rush headed by All-American Bjoern Werner, and defensive backs like Xavier Rhodes really benefit from that. That being said however, he has a knack for playing close to receivers and making plays on the ball as soon as it goes up. He's a very intelligent player who took to Mark Stoops' defense as well as any other. We're not trying to down play the player, but the jury is still out and we look forward to seeing how he'll develop over the next few months and move up draft boards after the combine.

Teams targeting: New York Giants, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans

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Previously Broken Down: December 29th, 2012

Da'Rick Rogers, WR Tennessee Tech
Barrett Jones, OL Alabama
Johnthan Banks, DB Mississippi State
Alec Olgetree, LB Georgia
Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chip Weekend: Pick 'Em!

Baltimore(4) @ New England(2) - AFC Championship

It's the #Rayoffs in Foxborough, Massachusetts, what could be better?!?!? I can think of one thing; Manning vs. Brady. Unfortunately, the match up that seemed predetermined heading into the postseason took a slightly different turn last weekend. The Baltimore Ravens and fifth-year quarterback Joe Flacco had other plans as they shocked the Denver Broncos and their all-world signal caller Peyton Manning. The 6'6" Flacco continued his postseason assault by completing eighteen passes for 331-yards. Through two-games, Flacco has remained interception free while tossing five touchdown passes. Sure to have earned him major money this offseason as he hits free-agency, Flacco's work isn't done just yet.

The New England Patriots meet Flacco in the AFC Championship, the seventh time the Patriots have reached this point while in the Brady/Belichick era. The Patriots pushed aside any doubt that their earlier 40-spot on the once vaunted Texans defense was a fluke. Brady and Co. tuned up Houston one more time hanging another 40+ points on Houston and sending the Texans packing. In typical Patriot fashion, they overcome the early departure of tight-end Rob Gronkowski due to injury and non-primary rusher Shane Vereen finds the end zone three times and gives both the Baltimore Ravens and the eventual NFC Champion just another weapon to try to defend.

The Ravens and Patriots are no strangers to each other and more than one firework is going to go off in Foxborough on Sunday. As the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick attempt to take their third shot at a fourth Super Bowl Championship since 2002 the Ravens are attempting to complete the career of no-doubt Hall of Famer, linebacker Ray Lewis, with a second Super Bowl Championship. Time to put our money where our mouth is; Vegas obviously has an issue with our man Joe Flacco, and by issue I mean Vegas has a problem with the 1-4 finish the Ravens ended the regular season with. Patriots advance, but we'll take the points. Ravens +8

San Francisco(2) @ Atlanta(1) - NFC Championship

Has anyone stopped talking about Jim Harbaugh and his mid-season call to replace serviceable quarterback Alex Smith with what has become the face of the 49ers in second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick?!?! Has there ever been a more disrespected top seed than the host Atlanta Falcons?!?! That pretty much sums up all the analysis you've heard up till now, however, we're here to tell you something slightly different.

Falcons 5th-year quarterback Matt Ryan, accurately nick-named 'The Mattural' has not only won his first playoff game as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but also led the Falcons to a 13-win season, a franchise which seemed to be in dis-repair when he showed up in the ATL. Who says it isn't his time? Correct me if I'm wrong, but he did complete two monster passes to put his field goal kicker in position to win last weeks playoff game against a Seattle team coming off six straight wins, right? Ryan and the Falcons posted thirteen wins as previously mentioned with a rushing attack that ranked just twenty-ninth in the league, so they've go to be doing something right. Twenty-two game winning drives in five seasons? 33-6 at the Georgia Dome? Yep, keep doubting the kid.

Then again, the Falcons will be playing a team that just deflowered the Packers 45-31. A nasty, terrifying defense. A game changing second year quarterback with unlimited talent. A head coach who will stop at nothing to ensure his team advances to the next level evidenced by his mid-season Kaepernick change. All that being said, don't Falcons fans deserve this? The Mike Vick years being a wash, the tough losses to Green Bay and New York in recent years, haven't the Falcons paid the piper? While I'd never want to see Patrick Willis looking ofr me in a dark alley, we're still going out on a limb here. F*ck the points, Falcons outright. Falcons +4

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Before The Big Dance

With everything out of the way and nothing lying in front of us but The Big Dance between (1) Notre Dame and (2) Alabama, there is still some clearing of the air that needs to be done. From coaches thinking about leaving to coaches doing some leaving, from players on the rise to players at the celing. As a mixture of the NFL and the NCAA collide . . .

Let's get after it!

Is Andy Reid in KC a wise choice?

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has survived not one but two four-win seasons, with his illustrious 79-80-1 head coaching record in play, even he is held in somewhat high-regard amongst his peers. To answer your question however, I absolutely think recently (as recent as Monday) fired Eagle head coach Andy Reid is a safe move for the Kansas City Chiefs. For every Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, there are twenty Steve Spurrier's and Nick Saban's whose coaching styles just don't work at the next level. Caveat Emptor on Chip Kelly.

Was O'Brien ever leaving Penn State?

6'4" 212 lb. Christian Hackenberg is the consensus top quarterback recruit in the country and Penn State is coming off an 8-4 season, so no, I'm not surprised that first-year Nittany Lion head coach Bill O'Brien isn't leaving Happy Valley for Cleveland. Oh, and that's be the biggest a**hole jump by a head coach in the history of collegiate athletics, especially after Hackenberg and a dozen-or-so other recruits agreed to take O'Briens word that he was at State College of Pennsylvania for the long haul.

After the Cotton Bowl are we finally fans of 'Johnny Heisman?'

Aggie super-quarterback Johnny Manziel may not be next-level, but he's pretty damn good at this level. The answer is yes, we are definitely fans of Manziel at LynchyRightNow. Look, you'll hear it more than once over the next few days, Manziel didn't miss a beat from the moment his 'star' took off on the night of December 8th to the moment he strolled onto the field at Cowboys Stadium on Friday night. He's as advertised. He's a leader. He's flat out exciting to watch. Manziel torched the Oklahoma Sooners in a 41-13 laugher. Two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, over 500+ yards of total offense, all against a legitimate Top 20 team from a BCS conference. Now just one question remains, over-under on additional Heisman Trophies?

Which player improved his NFL stock most during 'Bowl Season?'

This is a two-way tie for us.

(1) Georgia QB, Aaron Murray The under-sized Bulldog quarterback needed to follow-up his solid play in the SEC Championship with a good performance in the Capital One Bowl. His poor play earlier this season on the road against South Carolina, just 11 of 31 passing, coupled with rough outings vs. LSU and in the Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State last season had begun to define Murray as a soft big-game quarterback. Murray walked out of Orlando after throwing five-touchdown passes and leading Georgia to a 45-31 victory over Nebraska with that signature win. Finishing his junior campaign in electric fashion just might push Murray toward the NFL foregoing his final season in Athens.

(2) South Carolina DE, Jadeveon Clowney I'm no different than anyone else in terms of rapid reaction. When I say that Jadeveon Clowney's bone crunching hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in the final minutes of the Outback Bowl was the greatest college football defensive play I've ever seen, I'm serious. Now Clowney is just two-years removed from high school so he won't be eligible to bolt Columbia, SC for the NFL just yet, but barring an injury it's going to be difficult for NFL teams to forget that hit and his play as a sophomore. We firmly believe that the reigning SEC Defensive Player Of The Year and Ted Hendricks Award winner (best defensive end in the country) winner is going to be in line to clean-up nearly every defensive player award in college football at this time next year.

Which college coach would you like for an NFL team?

Without hesitation, it'd be current Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. He's one of our favorite coaches in college football and you can tell the players around him would run through a brick wall for the guy. Strong has coached all over college football from Oxford, Gainesville, and Columbia, to College Station, South Bend, and now Louisville. This is a guy who had to wait his turn for more than enough time to get a shot at running a college football program he could call his own. This season, his third at Louisville, Strong led the Cardinals to a BCS bowl victory over Florida in upset fashion. With next-level coaches, we are looking for two distinct attributes; (1) Can you get buy-in and (2) Are you okay with 'them' being bigger than you? Strong does both of those things.

Finally, Who you got on Monday night?!? 'Bama or the Irish?

I don't see Notre Dame getting waxed that's for certain. You know all the parties, Notre Dame has a very good defense that doesn't give up points easily, in fact they give up the fewest points amongst defenses in college football (10.3 ppg). They're elite, most notably holding the Stanford offense to just 13-points, a Stanford offense which includes 1,500 yard rusher Stepfan Taylor in the backfield. That's the type of attack that the Irish will face on Monday night.

The Alabama offense averages close to forty-points per game with not one but two running running backs who have both eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy pound defenses changing speeds and driving the ball up field, with a loaded offensive line in front of them. Junior quarterback AJ McCarron remains to play close to flawless football, tossing only three interceptions this season, two of which came in the Crimson Tide's sole loss to Texas A&M. The legend that has become linebacker Manti Te'o will have his hands full leading the Irish defense against an Alabama team that has become pretty comfortable playing on the games biggest stage. I'm going to go against popular opinion, I like the Irish in a tight one!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wild Card Weekend

Happy New Year! In just a few days we're tumbling right into the Wild Card Round of the NFL postseason. Three rookie quarterbacks, three of the games premier rushers, the most elite receiver in the AFC, 'discount-double check,' and of course Joe Flacco. No rest for Minnesota and Washington, both punching their postseason tickets on the final day of the regular season. No time to recover for the reeling Houston Texans who watched their 1st round bye slip away in Indianapolis this past weekend. They've all got to turn around and get right into it, and so are we.

Let's get after it! (with picks!)

Cincinnati Bengals At Houston Texans (4:30 PM Saturday - 1/5) The outcome of this one will be completely up to how the Texans respond to losing both the top seed in the AFC & the previously mentioned first-round bye on Sunday. If the Texans put everything behind them and get back to being the team that was beating Denver, Baltimore, and Chicago early in the season, then a game in which they don't struggle against Cincinnati would help them regain their confidence. However, if they allow Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and the Bengal offense to do what they want as New England, Indianapolis, and Minnesota (all playoff teams) have done over the last month, then they'll be just another team who just can't get it done when it actually matters.

Our Pick: Don't take the Bengals lightly, they aren't just the lucky team who gets a Texans team on skates. The Bengals showed something to us all when they won at Pittsburgh just two weeks ago with their playoff lives on the line. The Texans really haven't looked good since mid-November. It just looks bad, the blowout losses to Green Bay and New England paired with that loss in Indianapolis and we really like this Bengals
defensive line to get after it. Bengals +4

Minnesota Vikings At Green Bay Packers (8:00 PM Saturday - 1/5) With four wins in December, everyone knows the Packers are preparing themselves for the playoffs. Even free-agent to be Greg Jennings, back from injury after missing eight games, is looking solid after a 120-yard performance in the regular season finale. That being said, their defense just got gashed by Adrian Peterson
for 199 yards rushing on 34 carries on Sunday. Yes he was chasing a record, and yes he was in front of a Metrodome crowd that was rocking, but the Vikings rushing attack swarmed Green Bay again and again. If the Packers want to make another deep postseason run, they're going to have to force young Viking quarterback Christian Ponder into mistakes that they can convert into points on the board.

Our Pick: Ponder is going to have to be play near flawless and stay away from getting rattled while playing a postseason game in Green Bay. The Packers super-bowl winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers has stayed virtually under the radar this entire season. He's recorded more touchdown passes than both Brady and Manning, with no rushing attack to boast of, and an offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked the most in the NFL this season. Still we never mentioned him for MVP. Rodgers rolls and so do the Packers. Packers -7.5

Indianapolis Colts At Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM Sunday - 1/6) If not for the Texans, we'd be talking about how horrible the Ravens have looked going into the postseason. They've fired their offensive coordinator, turned the play-calling over to a first-time play caller, lost four of their final five games heading into the postseason, and took starting quarterback Joe Flacco out so early in Sunday's game to get rest, that we don't even know what to expect from him. On the other coin you have the Colts. Galvanized by their head coach Chuck Pagano's season-long battle with cancer, the Colts have nearly everyone in this country rooting for their season to continue. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has led this Colts team to an 11-5 record, ten more vicotires than they had a season ago.

Our Pick: This dream story ends for the Colts, Andrew Luck, and Chuck Pagano this week in 'Charm City.' The Baltimore defense doesn't miss opportunities and in his rookie season Andrew Luck has thrown eighteen intereceptions while watching opposing defenses drop another seven! In the postseason, turnovers make the difference. Unless Andrew Luck can keep from turning the ball over, I don't see how Indianapolis' 29th ranked rushing defense is going to be able to contain Ray Rice. Baltimore wins, but won't cover. Colts +6.5

Seattle Seahawks At Washington Redskins (4:30 PM Sunday - 1/6) No team is as hot as the Seahawks and their rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson and Co. have won their last five straight and seven of their final eight, and are doing it in convincing fashion. The problem is, Seattle won't be able to play any games in the postseason in the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks finished the
regular season 8-0 when playing at home and just 3-5 when playing on the road. Now headed to Washington in front of a crowd that is more than excited to be there, it's going to get real tough for Seattle, especially after seeing them run all over Dallas last weekend.

Our Pick: As exciting as RGIII has been this season, he's banged up and not the player that was barn storming the NFL earlier this season. The Redskins coaching staff has their work cut out for them if they think they're just going to stop power running back Marshawn Lynch and sew up a victory. The Seahawks are the favorite, despite tehir W/L record away from Seattle, that just goes to show you how much respect they are getting around the league and from fans. Russell Wilson is smart and staying away from interceptions and mistakes, I'm confident he's going to win the battle of the rookie quarterbacks. Seahawks -3

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