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NFL Mid-Season Top Fives

I usually do a review at the NFL season’s midpoint.  Sometimes I’ll do a preview of things to come.  This year I thought a few random Top 5 lists might be the way to go.  So, here we go…

TOP 5 QUARTERBACKS

1. Aaron Rodgers GB – I hate putting him at #1 because I hate the Packers however you can’t argue with results.  The team is 7-0, he has thrown for 20 TDs and his QB rating is 125.

2. Tom Brady NE – Tom is always in the Top 5.  While the Pats have faltered a bit going into the midway point of the season, Tom should continue to produce with the help of WR Wes Welker and his dynamic duo at Tight End.

3. Drew Brees NO – He leads the NFL in yardage and at times makes this game look very easy.  Sunday night against the Colts was an indication of that.  He has been starting to turn the ball over a lot again but when you throw the ball 40 times a game you are going  to throw a few picks.

4. Matt Stafford DET – I am not sure he’ll be on this list by season’s end but he is on it now.  He has led his team to hard fought and come from behind victories and they’re off to their best start in several decades.  He is a bit banged up and the team is starting to look more human lately.

5. Eli Manning NYG – I have to give it up to Eli.  I am usually very critical of him but he is off to a great start.  He has only thrown 5 Ints and has a QB rating over 100.  He has taken this team on his back and made big plays all season.  As a team they are good but not great.  Eli makes them better and could guide them to a division title.

TOP 5 PLAYMAKERS

1. Aaron Rodgers GB – See above

2. Matt Forte CHI – Where would the Bears be without Matt Forte?  He has almost 700 yards rushing, 400 yards receiving and 3 TDs.  He is the Chicago Bears offense.

3. Adrian Petersen MIN – He is stuck on a terrible Minnesota team and has over 700 yards on the ground at the break.  He has held on to the ball for a change and put the ball in the endzone 8 times.

4. Calvin Johnson DET – The Autobot or Decepticon or whatever the hell he calls himself is “the stud” when it comes to receivers.  This guy makes Matt Stafford that much better.  10TDs at the break says it all.

5. Wes Welker NE / Steve Smith CAR – I was torn here so it is a tie.  Wes has been everything to Tom Brady.  He leads the NFL in receptions and 2nd in yards.  1st in yardage is Steve Smith with over 800 yards at the break.  That is quite the accomplishment for a WR on a bad team with a rookie QB.

TOP 5 BUSTS

1. Chris Johnson TEN – He has gone from the NFL’s top back to 35th in rushing yards with a 2.9 per carry average.  Tennessee is struggling this season but those numbers aren’t all their fault.

2. Sam Bradford STL – From rookie phenom to a total bust out.  He only has 3 TDs, 51% completion percentage, a QB rating of 72 and a team that hasn’t won yet.  Is it all his fault?  Hard to tell but Josh McDaniels is calling the plays.

3. Peyton Hillis CLE – This guy was supposed to be the Browns 1,500 yard battering ram.  He is more like the battered ram as he has missed time for a few different reasons, one being strep throat.  Really?  He only has 211 yards on the ground, 3.5 yards per carry and 2 TDs.

4. Andre Johnson HOU – Fair or not he is hurt again and you can’t produce from the sidelines.  When on the field he isn’t producing as he only has 25 catches for only 350 yards.  He only has 2 TDs and if Houston is going to contend they need production from Andre.

5. Josh Freeman TB – I could have gone a couple of different ways with the last pick but Josh and the Bucs were supposed to be floating to the top of the division, not the bottom.  Josh consistently misses open receivers, his mechanics are off and he has already thrown 10 interceptions.  His QB rating is a sad 73.1.

TOP 5 DEFENSES

1. Baltimore – They are only allowing 13.8 point per game.  With a team offense that has struggled all season they are keeping the Ravens in every game.  They also have 19 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 3 TDs.

2. San Francisco – Who knew Harbaugh would have such a profound influence on the defensive side of the ball.  They are only allowing 16.2 points per game and sit a top the NFC West.  The Niners have racked up 17 sacks, 8 interceptions, 1 safety and a TD.

3. Cincinnati – The resurrection of the Bengals isn’t with their young TCU QB, it is with their stingy defense.  Like a switch the defense went from bad to good in one season.  They are only allowing 18.5 points per game, 14 sacks and under 280 total yards allowed per game.

4. New York (J) – The Jets have been and should continue to be a roller coaster team all season.  One thing that is pretty consistent is that stingy defense.  They have 18 sacks, 11 interceptions, 9 forced fumbles and 3 TDs.

5. Jacksonville – The roar is back in N.Florida.  They have only allowed 84 points with 14 sacks and 7 interceptions.

TOP 5 ON THE HOT SEAT

1. Andy Reid PHI – Many pre-season polls had the Eagles as the odds on favorites to win the NFC Championship and go to the Superbowl.  Currently they sit at 2-4 at the bottom of their division.  Can they turn things around, finish 10-6 and squeak into the playoffs?  It is possible but chances are slim.  Andy will be looking for work if they can’t manage more than 8 wins.

2. Steve Spagnola STL – He has certainly built a better defense.  It is improving but the offense has been incredibly inconsistent and riddled with injuries.  Is this unraveling Coach Josh McDaniels fault?  Partially, but if they can’t manage at least 6 wins (currently sitting at 0 wins), Steve will be let go.

3. Tony Sparano MIA – Tony is a fiery guy.  He is also a pretty good coach.  However, Miami is sitting at ZERO after playing the equally terrible Broncos to an overtime loss.  A coach needs to find a way to win a game like that.  The Phins have had chances to fix the offense and haven’t.  Perhaps this is more of a front office screw up but we know that if the GM goes, so goes the coach.  I can see that happening.

4. Ken Whisenhunt ARI – Ken and coaches told the GM they were a good QB away from being a playoff contender.  Well, they traded for Kevin Kolb and they sit at the bottom of an mediocre NFC West with 1 win.  If they can’t turn it around, show some progress and end up with 6 or 7 wins, look for ownership to clean house.

5. Lovie Smith CHI – Can we ever get Lovie off of the hot seat?  I don’t think so.  There is way too much talent on this team for them to struggle like they do.  It is how they are coached.  It is the scheme.  It is the lack of adjustments, poor use of time and lack of offensive knowledge.  If they finish in 2nd and get a wildcard spot his job will be safe.  If they finish .500 or less and miss than he could get the axe.

TOP 5 TO CATCH FIRE

1. CAROLINA – Their young QB will make mistakes but he is a playmaker.  Offensively this team ranks near the top of the league and the D is improving.  Not to mention they play softies in Minnesota, Tennessee and Indy.  I look for them to finish around .500.

2. CHICAGO – Despite Lovie being on the never cooling hot seat, I think the Bears are set up for a nice run.  They get the AFC West division along with Seattle, Philly and Detroit and what they get are 7 VERY winable ball games.  The Bears should be 10-4 when they get to their XMAS Day match up with the Packers.

3. JACKSONVILLE – I can’t see them making the playoffs until Gabbert gets a better feel for the offense and the speed of the pro game.  However, the running game is good and the defense is excellent.  There are 5 or 6 very winable games on the back end of this schedule.  The Jags should make a run in this poor division but my guess is they finish about 8-8 and just a game or two back of Houston.

4. DALLAS – After a tough loss to New England, the Cowboys pounded St. Louis in response.  Statistically they are a very good and balanced football team.  They have a 5 game stretch that includes Seattle, Buffalo, Washington, Miami and Arizona.  I look for Dallas to finish with 10 or 11 wins and possibly steal this division title from NY and a struggling Philadelphia.

5. FALCONS – Atlanta struggled early on and have rebounded nicely the last two weeks with wins over improving Carolina and Detroit on the road.  Offensively they are beginning to get things on track and I feel the defense will soon follow suit.  To that add games against Indy, Tennessee and Minnesota and this Falcons team should be neck and neck with New Orleans at the end of the season.

TOP 5 DUMP TAKERS

1. DETROIT –  They started 5-0 and that is great for Detroit fans.  That hasn’t happened in a very long time.  However the feeling here is the Lions bubble is about to burst.  Detroit can’t run the football and they can’t stop the run.  Teams are starting to tee off on an already banged up Stafford.  To that add games against Tebow’s Broncos in Denver, Chicago, Carolina, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Diego and Green Bay again and you have an 8-8 season at best.

2. TENNESSEE – I had hopes for this team as a dark horse in 2011-12.  Those hopes are totally dashed with the subpar performance of Chris Johnson.  The defense was shredded for the 2nd week in a row.  They do have Indy twice but the other games are Cincy, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa, Buffalo, New Orleans, Jacksonville and Houston. There is no way these guys see 8 wins, more like 6 or 7.

3. GREEN BAY – Now, keep in mind, when I say this I still think they are going to the playoffs.  When you start 7-0 you have nowhere to go but down.  The Packers are very good in areas and look invinsible to the media, but keep in mind they beat New Orleans, Carolina and Minnesota by only one score and perhaps got a little lucky in a couple of those games.  The Saints game was almost a gift.  While they are throwing the ball all over the field they are still having problems running the football.  This could be bad for Rodgers if teams can start bringing more consistent pressure.  On the other side of the ball they can’t seem to stop teams from passing on them.  The problem there is they still have games against Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Matt Stafford (twice), Josh Freeman, Matt Cassell and perhaps a more settled in Carson Palmer.  These are some big arms against a flimsy defense.  Despite this “slump” the Pack still go 12-4 and win the division but just by the hair of Rodgers chinny chin chin.

I can’t really find a #4 or #5 so I’ll go out on a limb and say San Diego and the NY Giants could run into some issues with their 2nd half schedules.  However I don’t think they’ll “dump” but I think they will struggle a bit.  San Diego should get into the playoffs and NY might struggle to make it if Dallas gets hot.

 

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NFL Draft Preview – THE QBs

This year the NFL Draft offers teams a wide variety of quarterbacks.  About 10 of them are NFL worthy however I don’t think there is a star in the bunch.  Here are my top 10 QBs in this year’s draft.

#1 MATT RYAN – Boston College 6’4″ 220

Matt Ryan

He is the best of a so-so group of QBs in this year’s draft.  Matt will be a starter in the NFL but I don’t think he’ll ever be a star.  He has a strong arm and accuracy but he will force passes and make stupid decisions.  Athletically he is very solid.  In my opinion he will look a lot like a young Drew Brees or current Rex Grossman.  One minute he’ll set the world on fire and the next he is throwing 4 INTs.  He will probably go to KC or Atlanta in the 1st Round.

#2 BRIAN BROHM – Louisville 6’4″ 225

Brian may actually have more long term potential than Matt Ryan.  He threw the ball over 470 times last season which is almost 40 attempts per season.  He is really more of an old school QB that can sit in the pocket and tear apart a defense.  The only problem is he can’t move very well.  If his offensive line has any kinks in the armor he will be dubbed David Carr Part 2.  Chicago needs a QB and may consider Brian but I think Detoit or Tampa will take a shot.

#3 JOE FLACCO – Delaware 6’6″ 230

Joe seems to have the total package.  He is a winner, has a strong arm, great touch, awesome size and decent agility.  What is the unknown with Joe?  He is from Delaware, a smaller Div. IAA school.  He has not played up to the level of comptetion his other QBs have and that will cause him to slide into Round 2.  It think the biggest key is if a good team drafts him and he can sit on the bench a couple of years he will turn into a very solid starter.  If a bad team takes him and he gets beat on his first few years than he may end up becoming a career back up.  Could be Ben Roethlisberger or David Carr.   Either way I think Atlanta or KC (the one that doesn’t get Ryan in R1) will take Flacco in Round 2.  Chicago wants him but may have to settle for another QB later in the draft. 

#4 CHAD HENNE – Michigan 6’2″ 220

 

You see Chad Henne and can’t help but think Tom Brady.  He is smart, handsome and talented.  He has the perfect size for an NFL QB.  However he is a pocket QB all the way.  He does not seem to play very well on the move.  That being said if a good coach can teach him some foot work and how to move around the pocket a little better than Chad will become a solid NFL starter.  If not he will get sacked…a lot.  Chicago may take him in Round 2 but Baltimore may nab him before their pick.  Tampa (if they pass on Brohm in R1) could also take him.

#5 ANDRE WOODSON – Kentucky 6’5″ 232

 

Andre reminds me of Culpepper when he played at UCF.  He is big, strong and has a good arm.  He isn’t the most mobile QB but he could put his head down and pick up a short first down if he had two.  The most important stat is that he took a non-winning football program and made them winners.  He could end up being a solid starter in the NFL but his poor mechanics could bring him down.  I can see Andre getting picked by the Panthers or 49ers in Round 3.

#6 JOSH JOHNSON – San Diego 6’3″ 195

How in the world can you look at 43 TDs and 1 INT as a senior and not be impressed.  This kid is a West Coast offensive product all the way.  He makes quick decisions and has above average mobility.  Not to mention he is a good kid and leader.  The only strikes against him are his level of competition and his slight build.  If a quality NFL team and coaching staff can take time bringing him along and adding 10 to 20 pounds to his frame he will be a solid starter or coveted back up for many years.  I think San Francisco will give him a long look in Round 3 as will the Chicago Bears with their second 3rd Round pick if they are still QBless.

#7 COLT BRENNAN – Hawaii 6’2″ 198

Colt has the potential to be the best QB in this class.  He has an above average arm and threw 96 TDs in 2 seasons.  You can’t ignore that no matter how badly he did in the Sugar Bowl.  Hawaii really seemed to rally around him and he was quite the leader on this squad.  Right now attitude, conduct issues and a bad bowl game took him from a late Round 1 prospect to a Round 4 gamble.  I can see the “Big Tuna” take a shot on him down in Miami with their Round 4 pick.  The Rams need an heir apparent to Bulger and they could take Colt in Round 4 as well. 

#8 JOHN DAVID BOOTY – USC 6’2″ 208

I am not sure how John David Booty slides out of the first day after that impressive Rose Bowl but he will.  He lacks arm strength.  He has been very difficult to evaluate because he is surrounded by so much NFL quality talent at USC.  At best he is an efficient, starting West Coast QB and at worst he is a 2nd string game manager.  I think Carolina or Detroit will take a shot on him in Round 4.

#9 DENNIS DIXON – Oregon 6’4″ 224

   

 If it wasn’t for the terrible knee injury Dixon suffered half way through the season he would have been picked in the 2nd Round.  He is very much like a Vince Young.  He has a very strong arm, moves around the pocket well and is tough to bring down if he decides to run.  The injury will effect where he is drafted because it was such a key component of his game.  He is also considering a career in MLB.  I see Minnesota, Jacksonville or Green Bay taking a shot on him late in Round 4.

#10 ERIK AINGE – Tennessee 6’5″ 220

Besides Peyton Manning, Tennessee/Phil Fulmer QBs have a terrible record of success in the NFL.  This will scare teams off until the mid-rounds.  Erik has good mechanics and a decent long ball.  He also has above average read and recognition abilities.  He also improved each season in Knoxville which is always a good sign.  On the downside, he might be a little physically and mentally weak.  He has been known to have lapses during games that have cost the Vols a few games.  Houston or Washington are a possibility in Round 5

Mid-Season / Late Round Dark House

Nick Hill – SIU, Sam Kellar – Nebraska, Alex Brink – Washington State 

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