On The Clock NFL Mock Draft from Fanspeak.com

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

December 19, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

The playoffs are just two weeks away, but teams are looking forward to the offseason with three contract extensions signed this week. Two of these are discussed below, along with a different player being released. As always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Denver Broncos re-sign CB Chris Harris Jr.

Part of an impending free agent class for the Broncos which features three players at the top of their positions, Harris Jr., will be staying in Denver.

With him locked up, Denver's focus now shifts to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, both poential All-Pro's this season.

A five-year deal, Harris Jr. is now signed through the 2019 season. This five-year deal is worth a total of $42.5 million an includes $24 million guaranteed, with a $10 million signing bonus. The average of $8.5 million per season makes him the 12th highest paid cornerback in the NFL.

This season, the 25-year old has played in all 14 games despite tearing his ACL in the divisional round of the playoffs last January. His snaps were limited to 39 in week one––though he did receive the start––but after that, he has missed just 40 snaps over the course of 13 games. This is very impressive for a player who is less than a year removed from a significant knee injury.

In these 14 games, he has recorded 48 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, 15 passes defensed and three interceptions. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the number one cornerback in the NFL so far this season. His consistent performance––never grading negative for a game––has him well above the competition, especially in pass coverage. In coverage, opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 47.8 when throwing at Harris Jr. This is the fourth best of all cornerbacks in the league. When the snap count is raised to over 400, he raises to the second best and is the best for cornerbacks over 750 snaps.

After playing his college football at Kansas, he went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. He made the Broncos roster out of training camp as a special teams player and has worked his way into the defense from there, earning four starts as a rookie.

A versatile cornerback, the 5-foot-10 Harris Jr. is at his best when he works in the slot. However, he has the ability to play at both left and right cornerback as well. This gives defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio many options when creating his defensive calls.

Over the last few seasons, Harris Jr. has developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL––and the most underrated. He didn't finish in the top 10 for fan votes at cornerback for this year's Pro Bowl. Absolutely deserving of a Pro Bowl spot, expect players and coaches to vote him in.

This is a great signing for the Broncos. Harris Jr. is one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. In addition, he can work all over the field, which increases his value to a defense. To sign him for just $8.5 million per season is a steal compared to what some other cornerbacks have received.

Chris Harris Jr

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

Seattle Seahawks re-sign LB K.J. Wright

Not to be outdone by the team they beat in the Super Bowl last year (Denver), the Seahawks locked up one of their key, young defensive players in Wright.

The 25-year old signed a four-year contract extension that is worth $27 million. Averaging $6.75 million per season, he is now the highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the league.

Since being drafted by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Mississippi State, Wright has started 54 of a possible 58 games.

During this time, he has played all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense. In 2011 and 2012, he started at strongside linebacker and in 2013 he moved to weakside linebacker. Mixed in have been six appearances at middle linebacker, as the linebacker corps was reshuffled due to injury.

Three of these appearances at middle linebacker came this season, when starter Bobby Wagner missed time due to a toe injury.

For the season, Wright has recorded 96 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles. Statistically, he is having a career season, as he is two tackles away from tying his career high, already has tied a career high in sacks and set a career high in forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the 12th best 4-3 outside linebacker this season.

Wright is a key component of the Seattle defense, which is one of the best in the league. His importance has only been amplified this season as his versatility has helped the team through injuries. However, he probably shouldn't be the highest paid 4-3 outside linebackers in the league. He is a very good linebacker, but he isn't the best.

San Francisco 49ers release DL Ray McDonald

Amid an accusation of sexual assault, the 49ers decided to part ways with one of their starting defensive linemen.

Local law enforcement announced on Wednesday that they were investigating McDonald on the grounds of sexual assault. With this news in hand, San Francisco decided it was best to release him.

At the start of the season, he was accused of domestic violence. These charges were eventually dropped last month after investigation and a lack of cooperation from the victim, who was McDonald's fiancée.

When this investigation was launched, there was public outcry for the 49ers to either release or suspend him until the investigation was over. At the time, the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy domestic violence cases were in full swing, bringing domestic violence and the NFL to the forefront of the news. San Francisco decided to allow McDonald to keep playing.

This season, he recorded 39 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble while starting all 14 games for the 49ers at his left end spot in their 3-4 defense. Pro Football Focus had him graded as the 11th best 3-4 defensive end in the league, on the heels of a dominant game against the New York Giants in week 11.

Signed to a five-year contract worth $20 million in 2011, the 49ers will take a cap hit of approximately $4 million, due to a restructure that occurred before the season started.

Now that there has been a second incident in the span of a few months, the team has decided to move on. Credit to the 49ers for taking a stand and parting way with McDonald now.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals sign WR Brittan Golden.
The Atlanta Falcons sign CB Ricardo Allen.
The Baltimore Ravens sign RB Fitz Toussaint.
The Baltimore Ravens sign G Ryan Jensen.
The Baltimore Ravens sign DL Casey Walker.
The Baltimore Ravens sign CB Chris Greenwood.
The Baltimore Ravens sign LS Patrick Scales.
The Buffalo Bills cut FB Frank Summers.
The Carolina Panthers cut LB Horace Miller.
The Carolina Panthers sign LB Kevin Reddick.
The Carolina Panthers sign DT Kyle Love.
The Carolina Panthers waive DT Micanor Regis.
The Chicago Bears sign QB David Fales.
The Cleveland Browns sign K Garrett Hartley.
The Cleveland Browns cut K Billy Cundiff.
The Cleveland Browns claim OT Andrew McDonald off waivers.
The Cleveland Browns cut LB Zac Diles.
The Dallas Cowboys sign DE Kenneth Boatright.
The Denver Broncos sign TE Dominique Jones.
The Denver Broncos cut TE Dominique Jones.
The Denver Broncos sign S Josh Bush.
The Denver Broncos sign TE Dominique Jones.
The Detroit Lions claim CB Josh Thomas off waivers.
The Green Bay Packers sign S Chris Banjo.
The Houston Texans sign DE Keith Browner.
The Houston Texans sign QB Case Keenum.
The Indianapolis Colts sign CB Sheldon Price.
The Indianapolis Colts waive OT Andrew McDonald.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign DT Roy Miller to a four-year contract extension worth $16.25 million.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign QB Stephen Morris.
The Miami Dolphins sign CB T.J. Heath.
The Miami Dolphins sign TE Gerell Robinson.
The Miami Dolphins waive TE Gator Hoskins.
The Minnesota Vikings cut OT J'Marcus Webb.
The Minnesota Vikings sign S Ahmad Dixon.
The New England Patriots sign TE Steve Maneri.
The New York Giants sign DT Dominique Hamilton.
The New York Giants sign G Adam Gettis.
The New York Giants sign TE Jerome Cunningham.
The New York Jets cut CB Josh Thomas.
The New York Jets sign S Rontez Miles.
The Oakland Raiders sign S Ras-I Dowling.
The Oakland Raiders sign LB Bojay Filimoeatu.
The Oakland Raiders sign CB Chance Casey.
The San Diego Chargers CB Greg Ducre.
The San Francisco 49ers sign CB Marcus Cromartie.
The San Francisco 49ers sign G Andrew Tiller.
The San Francisco 49ers sign LB Desmond Bishop.
The San Francisco 49ers sign RB Phillip Tanner.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut CB Crezdon Butler.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign FB Evan Rodriquez.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign WR Tavarres King.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign DT George Uko.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign DE Lawrence Sidbury.
The Tennessee Titans sign CB Khalid Wooten.
The Tennessee Titans sign QB Jordan Palmer.
The Tennessee Titans sign TE Matthew Mulligan.
The Tennessee Titans sign WR Rico Richardson.
The Washington Redskins cut CB Chase Minnifield from injured reserve.
The Washington Redskins sign LB Jackson Jeffcoat.

NFL Playoff Races Red Hot as Week 16 Approaches

December 18, 2014 in NFL, NFL Observations, NFL Playoffs, NFL Preview

With just two weeks to play in the NFL season, division and Wild Card races are red hot. In the NFC, nine teams are still in contention for five remaining spots while over in the AFC, 12 teams are still in the hunt for three spots.

downloadWhat has been decided in the AFC through 15 weeks is no surprise. Three teams, Denver (AFC West), Indianapolis (AFC South) and New England (AFC East) each won its division last weekend. Over in the NFC, only the surprising Arizona Cardinals have secured a playoff berth.

However, the Pats, Colts and Broncos still have a lot left to play for in the next two weeks. Both New England and Denver can secure first-round byes this week, and the Patriots can also clinch home field advantage. Arizona can clinch the NFC West, a first-round bye and home-field advantage this week. The Cards will have it earned if they can get past the red hot Seahawks at home in Arizona.

While 21 teams still have a shot to make the playoffs, some of these teams have a better chance than others. Fans and prognosticators will be keeping a close eye on what happens in the AFC North this weekend.

All three teams can clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win and some help. Cincinnati (9-4-1 vs Denver), Baltimore (9-5 @Houston) and Pittsburgh (9-5 vs Kansas City) remain in contention for the AFC North division title. The Bengals and Steelers, who meet in Week 17, are in control of their fate in the division race.

TEAM         OVERALL           DIV.    CONF.       STRENGTH OF VICTORY STRENGTH OF SCHED.

Cincinnati    9-4-1          3-2     6-4                      389                             467

Pittsburgh    9-5             3-2    7-3                      452                             429

Baltimore     9-5             2-3     5-5                      361                             467

The division has clearly benefited from playing the NFC and AFC South this season. They are a combined 12-2-1 vs. the NFC South and 10-5 vs the AFC’s version.  Playing each other this season, the division is 10-10 and are 1-4 vs the AFC East and 1-1 vs the AFC West.

Needing only a win, the Bengals have the easiest path to a playoff berth, with Pittsburgh next followed by Baltimore. Cincy locks up their fourth straight playoff appearance with a win at home Monday Night vs. the Broncos, which is easier said than done. The Steelers can also clinch a playoff berth with a win while the Ravens need a win and some help.

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + PIT loss + CIN loss OR

2) BAL win + KC loss or tie + SD loss or tie OR

3) BAL tie + KC loss + SD loss + BUF loss or tie

In the NFC, the Lions, Packers, Seahawks and Saints all have an opportunity to earn playoff berths. Detroit (@ Chicago) needs a win and a Packers loss. Green Bay (@ Tampa Bay) needs a win and a lot of help this weekend. The Seahawks @ Arizona) can earn a shot to defend their Super Bowl title with a win and six combinations of other teams winning or tying in their games. The Saints, who host the Falcons on Sunday, enter the weekend with a 6-8 record but can win the dismal NFC South win a win and Carolina Panthers loss.

KEEPING THE STREAK ALIVE:

There were five new playoff teams in 2013: Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Diego. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. For a 24th consecutive season, it appears that streak will stay alive. None of the three teams that clinched in the AFC to this point are new but in the NFC, Arizona finished 10-6 last season but missed the playoffs. According to Football Outsiders.com, the Ravens & Steelers have an 87.6 and 81.5 percent respectively of making the post season. The two AFC North teams would likely replace the Chiefs and Chargers who have a 34 and 10 percent chance according their odds.

In the NFC, the Panthers and 49ers were both playoff participants in 2013, it appears the Lions (88.9) and Cowboys (86.1) will replace them. Ironically, if the season had ended following Monday night’s game, all four division winner in the AFC would be repeat winners. In the NFC, all four would be new winners, as the Eagles, Packers, Panthers and Seahawks won their respective divisions in 2013. They would be replaced by Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans and Arizona in 2014.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

While many votes for the NFL Coach of the year award will be flying towards Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinal and rightfully so, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone should garner serious consideration. With an 8-6 record, the Bills are currently very much in the thick of the playoff hunt. Their defense may not be the best in the league statistically but it’s hard to argue they simply aren’t the best. Keep in mind their QB is Kyle Orton.

Ranked fifth overall (9th vs rush 5th vs pass) the Bills have shut down some of the league’s top signal callers this season and done so with a resounding thud. On Sunday, Buffalo defeated Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The league’s premier passer completed only 17 of 42 passes in the Packers' 21-13 loss. That was Rodgers' career-high for incomplete and intercepted passes in one game (25). It was also the first game in Rodgers' NFL career in which he threw more than one interception and no TD passes. (He was picked off twice.). It is also worth pointing out that the Packers entered the game with 19 total drops by their pass catchers this season. They had seven on Sunday in Buffalo.

Doug Marrone of the Bills deserves COTY consideration

Doug Marrone of the Bills deserves COTY consideration

Ralph Wilson Stadium has been a late-season House of Horrors for visiting quarterbacks. Since 2000, the Bills have hosted 31 games there in December and January, in which only one opposing QB passed for at least 300 yards: Tom Brady (329 yards, 2 TD, 2 Int in 2005). Bills opponents have collectively thrown more interceptions (33) than touchdown passes (24) in those games.

In Week 14 on the road Buffalo held Peyton Manning without a touchdown ending his streak at 51 games with at least one touchdown pass. Manning threw for just 173 yards and completed just 14 passes, his fewest completions in a game in almost seven seasons. He had just 13 completions against Baltimore (12/7/07). He also was picked off twice in the game against the Bills. His passer rating against the Buffalo (56.9) was the lowest in six seasons with a rating of 46.8 against Cleveland (11/30/08) the only figure worse than the one against the Bills in Week 14.

Buffalo is still in the AFC playoff hunt at 8-6 and has two significant AFC conference games left on their regular season schedule at Oakland and at New England. Though the Bills are focused on the Raiders first and foremost, the conclusion of their run through a gauntlet of perennial Pro Bowl quarterbacks in December will come in Week 17 when they face Tom Brady for the second time this season.

The Patriots won the first matchup 37-22 in Buffalo.

The last time the Bills faced three different quarterbacks with three or more Pro Bowl appearances in a four-week span was from Nov. 24, 1994 – Dec. 4, 1994, when Buffalo played Dave Krieg (DET), Dan Marino (MIA) and Warren Moon (MIN).

SPEAKING OF RODGERS:

Three of the four Packers losses have come to teams ranked in the Top 5 in total defense in the NFL. Green Bay lost to Seattle (no.1), Detroit (no.2) and Buffalo (no.5) scoring just 36 combined points in all three contests. The Packers have scored 36 or more points in a single game six times this season. Rodgers has just two TD’s while tossing three interceptions vs the tough defensive foes and while his completion percentage is 68.2 percent, he has failed to pass for at least 200 yards in any of those games.

Should Packers fans be concerned? The answer is yes—-The Lions and Seahawks will likely be in the playoffs and even if GB avoids playing them, tough defensive football is a playoff trademark. The Cardinals and Cowboys aren’t ranked high defensively but both teams have shown a propensity to shut down some potent offenses in 2014. If the Packers are going to be successful, they will need to rely on Eddie Lacey a bit more once the second season arrives. Running the ball successfully and playing tough defense is a formula that has proven to be highly effective once January arrives.

PATRIOT GAMES:

The more things change the more they stay the same in the NFL. The New England Patriots continue to roll. Remember when the Chiefs blew them out on Monday Night Football, 41-14 in Week 4? The loss dropped the Pats to 2-2 and the national media proclaimed the Brady-Belichick era finished. Since that night, New England is 9-1 (only loss to Packers in Green Bay) and have outscored their opponents 362-190, averaging 36.2 points per game.

On Sunday NE avenged an opening-day loss at Miami with a 41-13 victory over the Dolphins. With that win, New England not only clinched their sixth straight AFC East title but also set an NFL record by going 14 straight seasons without suffering a multiple-game regular-season sweep by any team. The previous record was set by Tom Landry's Cowboys from 1971 to 1983, playing in what was then a five-team NFC East.

THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE:

trianglemapThe Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a loosely defined region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The triangle's three vertices are in Miami, Florida—San Juan, Puerto Rico and in the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda.  What does any of this have to do with football you ask—nothing but it appears the triangle has moved 300 miles west and its three vertices now encompass Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Instead of ships and aircraft, the triangle now consumes the NFL teams of Florida and their playoff hopes.

The last Florida team to make the playoffs was the Miami Dolphins in 2008, who lost to the Ravens. The last Florida team to win a playoff game was the Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat the Steelers in 2007. For good measure, the Buccaneers have not won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl in 2002 and if you think that’s a long time, the Dolphins last won a playoff game on December 30, 2000 when they beat the Indianapolis Colts in overtime on the legs of Lamar Smith, who rushed 40 times for 209 yards. None of the three teams will make the playoffs this season and the three of them have a combined record of 11-31 in 2014. It is also highly likely that Miami and Tampa Bay will once again be looking for new head coaches. The Miami Herald reported that Joe Philbin has an 80 percent chance of being fired. What!!!

Speaking of head coaches, since 2000, the three teams have combined to employee 17 different sideline walkers. The Dolphins lead the way with seven. There is hope in Jacksonville as the drafted a franchise QB in last year’s draft but questions have been raised about Ryan Tannehill in Miami, whom the Dolphins selected in round one, eighth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Buccaneers are the likely leading candidate to draft this year’s hot college quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

SPEAKING OF TURMOIL:

The San Francisco 49ers continue to reel in turmoil. The Niners have released defensive end Ray McDonald, following the San Jose Police Department announcement that McDonald is being investigated for a possible sexual assault. General Manager Trent Baalke announced today the team has decided to cut McDonald. Baalke made the announcement during a Wednesday news conference at the 49ers' facility. Baalke cited a "pattern of behavior" in the team's decision to cut ties with the former third-round pick.

"I can say that we have had multiple discussions with Ray over time and there's been things that have been discussed with him," Baalke said. "And there was a plan that was put in place and this is a situation that has gone against that plan."

According to police, the woman connected with the investigation told police she was "possibly" sexually assaulted by McDonald, who has had several run-ins with the law since entering the NFL in 2007. No arrests have been made in the current investigation and no charges have been filed.

On the field, San Fran will miss the playoffs for the first time during the Jim Harbaugh era. Harbaugh is himself involved in a bit of controversy at the moment. Multiple NFL and Michigan sources had said for weeks that Harbaugh was not expected to wind up at Michigan, as the head coach of the Wolverines but in recent days at least one person familiar with his thinking said he was at least "considering it."  According to multiple reports, Michigan has made a six-year, $49 million offer to Harbaugh. The offer was earlier reported by CBS5 in Arizona.

The annual average pay of $8.17 million would make Harbaugh the highest-paid college football coach, surpassing Alabama's Nick Saban by more than $1.21 million.

The Niners offense has been less than stellar at times and fourth year QB Colin Kaepernick seems to have regressed in 2014. San Francisco ranks 27th overall in the NFL in total yards on offense with the passing attack ranking one spot lower at 28th. The former Nevada star will pass for a career high in yards this season but needs five TD passes to surpass last season’s total of 21. He’s thrown 10 INT’s, which is two more than he tossed last season and he’s been sacked 39 times in 14 games compared to just 16 in all of 2013.

ROOKIE RECEIVERS:

Four rookie wide receivers – the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr… (972), Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin (952), Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans (948) and Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins (850) – are approaching the 1,000-yard receiving mark.

Rookie WR Mike Evans

Rookie WR Mike Evans

If at least three rookie wide receivers reach 1,000 yards this season, 2014 will have the most rookie wide receivers with 1,000+ receiving yards of any season in NFL history. The 1986 season is the only season in NFL history to have two rookie receivers reach the mark – Indianapolis’ Bill Brooks (1,131) and Houston Oilers’ Ernest Givens (1,062).

PLAYERS of the WEEK:

In the AFC, Cincinnati Bengals RB Jeremy Hill was offensive player of the week. Hill rushed for 148 yards on 25 carries (5.9 average) and two touchdowns in the Bengals’ 30-0 win at Cleveland. His 148 rushing yards were the most of any NFL player in Week 15, and his two rushing scores tied for the most in the league.

On defense, Broncos CB Aqib Talib won the honor, as he had eight tackles, an interception and three passes defensed in the Broncos’ division-clinching 22-10 win at San Diego. With 4:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, Talib intercepted a short pass over the middle to help set up a 44-yard field goal by Connor Barth that gave the Broncos a 22-10 lead and capped the scoring.

Your Week 15 AFC special team’s player of the week resides in Kansas City. Former Oregon Duck RB/PR DeAnthony Thomas returned eight punts for 156 yards (19.5 average), including an 81-yard punt-return touchdown, in the Chiefs’ 31-13 win against Oakland. His 81-yard punt-return touchdown, which opened the scoring against the Raiders, was Thomas’ first NFL return touchdown.

Over in the NFC, Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant continues to show why he will cost more than owner Jerry Jones may be willing to pay. With six catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 38-27 primetime victory at Philadelphia with first place in the NFC East on the line, Bryant won the OFPOTW award. The win moved Dallas into sole possession of first place in the division with two games to play. Bryant had touchdown catches of four, 26 and 25 yards. His third touchdown gave Dallas a 35-24 lead with 12:48 remaining in the fourth quarter. He leads the league with 13 touchdown receptions, tying his career-high set last year. Since 2012, Bryant leads the NFL with 38 receiving touchdowns. He is the only player in the league with at least 12 receiving touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.

On defense, safety Glover Quinn of the Lions had an interception, a 56-yard return and three tackles, including one for a loss, in the Lions’ 16-14 win over Minnesota. The Lions improved to 10-4 and moved into a tie for first place in the NFC North with two weeks remaining in the regular season. With the Lions trailing 14-0 in the second quarter and the Vikings driving in Detroit territory, Quinn intercepted a pass and returned it 56 yards to the Minnesota 11-yard line. Two plays later, the Lions scored a touchdown to cut the deficit in half.

And on special teams, Arizona Cardinals kicker, Chandler Catanzaro converted all four field-goal attempts, scoring all of Arizona’s points in the Cardinals’ 12-6 win at St. Louis. Arizona tied a franchise record with its 11th win and is the first NFC team to clinch a playoff berth. He made field goals of 23, 44, 51 and 46 yards. It marked the second time this season he kicked four field goals in a game without a miss (Week 2). Catanzaro is the first rookie in team history to score 100 points (103).

WILL JOHNNY BE GOOD?

On Sunday Manziel was Johnny Backfoot

On Sunday Manziel was Johnny Backfoot

The Bengals spoiled Johnny Manziel's first NFL start, routing the Browns, 30-0. That was the worst shutout loss in a quarterback's first NFL start since 2000, when Spergon Wynn was the QB in Cleveland's 48-0 loss at Jacksonville. Browns fans might take some consolation from the fact that two quarterbacks who went on to successful careers with Cleveland suffered bad shutout losses in their first NFL start: Frank Ryan for the L.A. Rams in 1959 (34-0 at San Francisco), and Bill Nelsen for the Steelers in 1964 (30-0 against the Redskins). Manziel passed for only 80 yards and threw two interceptions in Cleveland's loss on Sunday. He was the first quarterback with at least two Int’s and fewer than 100 yards in his first NFL start since 2005. Again, room for optimism: The last QB to do so was Alex Smith.

*******BREAKING NEWS*******

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chicago Bears plan to start Jimmy Clausen at quarterback this week over Jay Cutler. Cutler has struggled this season in leading the Bears to a 5-9 record. In Monday's 31-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints, he threw two touchdowns but had three interceptions to bring his NFL-leading turnover total to 24. He produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8 and generated a total ESPN QBR of 6.8, which registered as his second-worst performance of the season in that category (he had a 6.0 QBR in Week 10 against the Green Bay Packers). He also was sacked seven times against the Saints.

Cutler is the highest-paid offensive player in the NFL this season at $22.5 million. Coach Marc Trestman informed him Wednesday morning that Clausen would get the start, sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 15 NFL Rewind & Monday Night Prediction

December 15, 2014 in NFL Observations

1. The Seahawks once again handled the 49ers and made their offense look miserable again.  The league’s best rivalry has become one sided and may no longer be that.     db30ff67935b92f3f6354916551afc947a6610ef76a3b154746498b2f8568f8b_large

Seattle's defense is clearly back like we have said the past couple weeks.  Only issue for them is that the Cards keep winning with a bunch of nobodies at QB.  So they still could be going on the road for the playoffs and not at their dominant home Quest Field.  I think it would be a better playoffs to see the Hawks have to win road games to repeat a Super Bowl visit.

Now for the Niners.  They started strong especially on defense but then the Seahawks wore them down and got the help of a horrible penalty.  Harbaugh has to be a goner now you would think.  It’s a mistake since this is really his only bad season but something isn't right there.  I agree with Joe Buck that I wouldn't trade for him since they have to fire him.  Then if I am a team interested, I would take my chances.  Trading for him and watching him roll to Michigan then would not be good.

 

2.  We have to discuss once again the most talked about non-productive quarterbacks in the NFL.  Ex Heisman Bros Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin both saw action on Sunday.

Manziel was named the Cleveland starter and Griffin came off the bench early after Colt McCoy exited with another neck issue.  Manziel was bad, real bad as the Browns got shut out and now are done in the playoff race.  Which makes it an easy call to keep him as the starter the rest of the way.  I haven't given up hope on Johnny but it could be an uphill ride as the Browns need to decide their future at QB.  Which is a bad spot to be in.

The Redskins are once again in the same boat with the QB position.  Griffin looked all but done by many in DC especially with his own coach.  But I liked some what I saw from Robert Sunday.  He made some plays and the Skins should have been up at the half on the call at the end zone as Griffin made a 2012 like effort.  Too many sacks taken though against the Giants and that has been the post-knee Griffin.

Side note, right or wrong, Jeff Triplette needs to go.  Too many bad calls over the year and I can't believe he is still employed.

 

3. Great effort by the defense of the Bills as they rocked Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers numbers looked like those of Manziel's or Geno Smith's Sunday.  I don't bet but I knew Buffalo plus four was a great call.  Their rush got to Rodgers and he couldn't make it happen against the Bills.  The Bills won't make the playoffs but it has to be considered a positive season for them and Doug Marrone.  They still have QB questions for the future but Kyle Orton has done a good job making them a non-doormat.

They traded their 2015 1st rounder so tanking wasn't an option to get a new QB.  Can EJ Manuel bounce back?  I doubt it but they have put together a solid defense and now have a big time playmaker in Sammy Watkins to build on.  Marrone looked like a goner in September and now you have to think he is good to go for next season.  The Pats own the division but it would be good to see someone knock them off soon.

 

4. Quick Hitters

a. Who is in first place in the NFC South?  Carolina as of now.  Crazy as Derek Anderson owns the Bucs in 2014.  Could they win this division?  Probably because anyone can now other than those Bucs.
b. Cincy, Pitt and Bmore all won Sunday so the AFC North is a battle with two weeks left.  Who I am taking to win it?  No clue because I gave up on the Bengals last week so I am going to say Baltimore.
c. Indy didn't roll the Texans at home but they won and that’s still important.  JJ Watt has been so dominant, so for Colts to beat Texans is still important no matter who the QB is.
d. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman and now he has the playoff and then draft time.  Where will he go?  I think it will be tough for the Eagles and Chip Kelly to get up to get him.  And I am not so sure Kelly would do it anyway.
e. New England and Denver won again.  It gets old saying that.

 

5. Monday Night Prediction            espnMNF

Should see some points between the Saints and Bears.  But we could also see some turnovers also.  The Saints need the game to stay in awful NFC South race.  But I think they pull a no show again and Payton and Ryan go to blows on the sidelines.

Bears 27 Saints 23

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

December 12, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

The push for the playoffs is on, with three games left for all teams. With that, teams were not very active, with just one move discussed below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

St. Louis Rams re-sign P Johnny Hekker

A valuable member of the Rams' special teams unit that has played very well this season, St. Louis has locked up their punter for many years to come.

Set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, Hekker signed a six-year contract extension worth $18 million with $9 million guaranteed. The average of $3 million per season makes him the eighth highest paid punter in the NFL. The guarantee of $9 million is the most for any specialist (kicker of punter) in history, by a solid $1 million.

Johnny Hekker

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

After going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Oregon State, the 24-year old made the Rams roster out of training camp and has held the punting job since then.

This season, he is averaging 45.5 yards per punt (16th in the league), 41.5 yards for net average (fifth), has 26 punts downed inside the 20 (second) and has the fifth-lowest return average at six yards.

In 2013, he led the NFL in net average by a wide margin. His net average of 44.2 yards was 1.8 yards more than the next best punter.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) has Hekker graded as the best punter in the league so far this season. In 2013, he graded as the second best punter and 2012 saw him ranked as the 15th best.

Perhaps the best passing punter in the NFL––he played quarterback in high school––he has completed many passes on fakes over the last few seasons. Head coach Jeff Fisher and special teams coach John Fassel love to run trick plays on special teams and Hekker allows them to execute these plays.

For his career, Hekker is 5-of-6 for 79 yards as a passer with one touchdown and a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.

With Hekker set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, a contract extension was not necessarily needed. He would have easily returned, as restricted free agents almost never leave their teams. Also, the guarantee of $9 million is a lot for a punter––even if Hekker is one of the best in the league. In the end, the Rams are keeping a top tier punter who is a key component of their strong special teams unit.

As Rich Eisen says: Punters are people too!

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals cut RB Michael Bush.
The Arizona Cardinals cut TE Matt Mulligan.
The Arizona Cardinals sign RB Kerwynn Williams.
The Arizona Cardinals sign S Chris Clemons.
The Baltimore Ravens sign TE Phillip Supernaw.
The Baltimore Ravens sign CB Antoine Cason.
The Buffalo Bills sign WR Deonte Thompson.
The Buffalo Bills waive-injured WR Mike Williams.
The Carolina Panthers cut QB Matt Blanchard from injured reserve.
The Chicago Bears waive WR Chris Williams from injured reserve.
The Chicago Bears sign WR Josh Bellamy.
The Chicago Bears sign RB Montell Owens.
The Denver Broncos sign K Brandon McManus.
The Denver Broncos waive WR Isaiah Burse.
The Detroit Lions sign TE Kellen Davis.
The Detroit Lions release RB Montell Owens from injured reserve.
The Green Bay Packers sign DT Bruce Gaston.
The Houston Texans sign LB Jason Ankrah.
The Miami Dolphins sign LB Jake Knott.
The Minnesota Vikings sign S Ahmad Dixon.
The Minnesota Vikings sign OT Carter Bykowski.
The New England Patriots sign OL Marcus Cannon to a two-year contract extension.
The New Orleans Saints waive WR Joe Morgan.
The New Orleans Saints sign WR Seantavius Jones.
The New York Giants sign LB Paul Hazel.
The New York Giants waive DT Dominique Hamilton.
The Oakland Raiders sign TE Scott Simonson.
The Philadelphia Eagles cut CB Roc Carmichael.
The Philadelphia Eagles sign S Jerome Couplin.
The San Diego Chargers cut OL Jeff Baca.
The San Diego Chargers sign P Mat McBriar.
The Seattle Seahawks sign WR Chris Matthews.
The Seattle Seahawks sign DE David King.
The Seattle Seahawks cut LB Allen Bradford.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign LB Jason Williams.
The Tennessee Titans sign OT Jamon Meredith.
The Washington Redskins sign LB Gabe Miller.
The Washington Redskins waive WR Aldrick Robinson.
The Washington Redskins sign CB Kenny Okoro.
The Washington Redskins sign LB Ja’Gared Davis.
The Washington Redskins sign LB Trevardo Williams.
The Washington Redskins cut CB Greg Ducre.
The Washington Redskins cut LB Everette Brown.
The Washington Redskins cut LB Steve Beauharnais.
The Washington Redskins sign CB Justin Rogers.
The Washington Redskins sign RB Chris Thompson.

Week 14 NFL Rewind & MNF Prediction

December 8, 2014 in NFL Observations

1. Most impressive effort of the day goes to the Super Bowl champs who rolled the Eagles at their place.

Earl Thomas

Courtesy of ICON SMI

The Seahawks again are getting it going at the right time and now can actually win the NFC West.  The defense is back to looking like the defense of the past as they shutdown Chip Kelly and the Eagles like no one has been able to other than the Packers this season.  10 times out of 10 I am taking Russell Wilson in a matchup with Mark Sanchez even if every other week we hear how Sanchez is a different QB in Kelly's system.

I have said it since Nick Foles went down, it's a decent story that Sanchez has a chance to redeem himself but he just isn't that good.  He can do more in Philly with what he has compared to his Jet days but once you put him against a solid defense or on the road in a tough environment, he will fold.  The Eagles can't go to Seattle or Green Bay with Sanchez.  Can they with Foles if he can get back?  I don't think so but it would be better odds for them.

2.  Most impressive individual effort of Sunday for me was Le'Veon Bell against the Bengals.

He completed his third straight game of over 200 yards from scrimmage which is just mind boggling.  A huge win for the up and down Steelers to get on the road in Cincy and now they control their own destiny in that crazy division.  Season saved by the Steelers in a game which also saw two 80+ yard touchdowns in it.  I don't know what to think of Big Ben and this team because they make everyone look stupid in either way by the week.

As for a team I am so unsure about, it is the Bengals.  They had a chance at home to cement a solid lead on the rest of the division and failed miserably.  Just like early in the season when you think they are contenders they lay a rotten egg.  I am done with thinking they could play with Denver or New England come January and now wonder if they even get there.  If they don't could Marvin Lewis be in trouble after a long stay in Cincy?  You would think he would have to be but you never know what Mike Brown is thinking.

3.  I hate to do it but have to bring up the Redskins because it is so easy.  On the field they put out another embarrassing performance and were shut out by the Rams 24-0.

Not a surprise due to the fact that the Rams came in playing very well especially now that they have their defense back.  But there is always so much more with the Redskins than the game.  A former respected Redskin crushed Jim Haslett to a point where you actually had to feel bad for Haslett.  Then Fletcher got into with Haslett's son which was wild.  I have to say that Fletcher probably lost his chance at the Ring of Honor or whatever they call it at FedEx.

But more importantly no one knows where this is going with Snyder, Allen, Gruden, Griffin and McCoy.  It looks like it’s a 3 on 2 handicap match where it could turn into a famous loser leaves town in the end.  Problem is the team of Snyder, Allen and Griffin own the referee and can't lose here.  But even with all the reports of that I wonder if it plays out that Gruden refuses to go back to Griffin for 2015 and is fired.  Would his friend Allen do that?  If so, it really shows how much Snyder is in on this situation.  Then again, as Redskins fan we will be continued to be screwed as long as the current situation continues.

4. Quick Hitters

a. I was surprised that Arizona bounced back against KC like they did.  Problem is that even if they make the playoffs they are going nowhere unless Kurt Warner shows up Superman style.
b. Andrew Luck's numbers were ugly but again he got the job done in the end.  Can he beat Manning or Brady finally come playoff time though?
c. The Browns need to go to Manziel now.  Hoyer is killing them in this stretch run.  The time is now to see what that clown has at the pro level.
d. Almost didn't mention the Pats this week.  Solid come from behind win in San Diego.  We did talk Luck but looking like Brady-Manning 37 next month.
e. Feel sorry for Gary Patterson and future Skins coach Art Briles but I think the committee got it correct with Ohio State as the fourth team.  59-0 over Wisconsin was crazy.  Still shocked.

5.  Monday Night Prediction        espnMNF

Another great matchup as sorry Atlanta travels to Green Bay to catch a beat down.  Unless the snow is crazy I truly expect another Packers and Aaron Rodgers first half 35-0 type game.  Good news is that Atlanta with the loss still holds first in the NFC South at 5-8.

Green Bay 46
Atlanta 14

 

 

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

December 5, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

As the NFL enters the final quarter of the season, it was a quiet week for transactions. Almost every move came from teams playing around with the bottom of their roster. One signing is discussed below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Cincinnati Bengals sign OT Eric Winston

With the Bengals in the midst of the playoff hunt, they have bolstered their offensive line by signing Winston, a veteran offensive tackle.

Andre Smith, the starting right tackle for Cincinnati, was placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps after he suffered the injury early in week 12 against the Houston Texans.

So far, Cincinnati has tried two different approaches to replacing Smith. First, they substituted Marshall Newhouse at the right tackle position. After working with this setup, left guard Clint Boling moved to right tackle with Mike Pollack coming in at guard. The latter of these two approaches worked better.

Eric Winston

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

Winston is a 31-year old veteran who is in his ninth season as a pro. He spent 2006-2011 with the Houston Texans after they drafted him in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Miami (FL). He spent the 2012 season with the Kansas City Chiefs and then the 2013 season with the Arizona Cardinals.

This offseason, he signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks, but they cut him at the end of training camp.

Other than his rookie season, Winston has played in and started every game his teams have played in.

With the Cardinals last season, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him as the eighth-worst offensive tackle in the league. That is the only season that PFF has him graded as negative. (They began grading in 2007, meaning his rookie season is not available.) As it took him this long to find a team, it is likely that his play has suffered a sudden drop off.

Adding the president of the NFL Players Association makes sense for the Bengals. They have aspirations to make a deep playoff run this season, but need a strong offensive line to achieve this. Newhouse has struggled in his time at right tackle, so why not bring in a veteran and see what he has to offer?

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals release LB Desmond Bishop.
The Arizona Cardinals sign G Anthony Steen.
The Atlanta Falcons waive OT Cameron Bradfield.
The Carolina Panthers sign DT Micanor Regis.
The Carolina Panthers cut RB Chris Ogbonnaya.
The Carolina Panthers waive CB Antoine Cason.
The Carolina Panthers sign CB Carrington Byndom.
The Carolina Panthers waive LB Jason Williams.
The Carolina Panthers sign LB Horace Miller.
The Chicago Bears sign S Anthony Walters.
The Chicago Bears sign K Jay Feely.
The Chicago Bears waive-injured WR Chris Williams.
The Cincinnati Bengals sign OT Eric Winston.
The Cincinnati Bengals waive OT Jamon Meredith.
The Cincinnati Bengals cut LB J.K. Schaffer from injured reserve.
The Cincinnati Bengals sign LB Chris Carter.
The Cleveland Browns sign RB Shaun Draughn.
The Dallas Cowboys release TE Jordan Najvar from injured reserve,
The Houston Texans sign TE Anthony Denham.
The Indianapolis Colts sign OT Andrew McDonald.
The Indianapolis Colts waive TE Weslye Saunders.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign WR Tommy Streeter.
The Jacksonville Jaguars waive WR Mike Brown.
The Jacksonville Jaguars sign LB A.J. Edds.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign TE Richard Gordon.
The Kansas City Chiefs waive TE Phillip Supernaw.
The Miami Dolphins claim S Don Jones off waivers.
The Miami Dolphins cut CB Lowell Rose.
The New England Patriots sign LB Darius Fleming.
The New York Giants sign LB James Davidson.
The New York Giants sign RB Chris Ogbonnaya.
The New York Jets release LB Antwan Barnes.
The New York Jets sign TE Chris Pantale.
The New York Jets sign WR Chris Owusu.
The Oakland Raiders sign RB George Atkinson III.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign DE Clifton Geathers.
The St. Louis Rams waive LB Marshall McFadden.
The San Diego Chargers sign OT Jeremiah Sirles.
The San Diego Chargers cut S Adrian Phillips.
The San Diego Chargers sign OL Jeff Baca.
The Seattle Seahawks claim CB Loucheiz Purifoy off waivers.
The Seattle Seahawks waive CB Loucheiz Purifoy.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign C Josh Allen.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign WR/KR Solomon Patton.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waive TE D.J. Williams.
The Tennessee Titans sign OT Terren Jones.
The Tennessee Titans sign CB Jemea Thomas.
The Tennessee Titans cut CB Brandon Ghee.

Thanksgiving & Week 13 NFL Rewind & MNF Prediction

December 1, 2014 in NFL Observations

1. Gotta go back to Thanksgiving first.  We will pass on the Lions and Bears battle and hit the other two games.  First up was the NFC East battle between the Eagles and Cowboys.         tonyromo2

I was not shocked that the Eagles took it to the Cowboys the way they did.  But I was surprised how ineffective Tony Romo was versus the Eagles defense.  I thought he would be able to get the ball to his pass catchers and score some points but that didn't happen.  Now the Cowboys are not out of the division race but have to look at the wildcard race.  Someone could be left out at 10-6 in the NFC.  And if Romo goes into his late season swoon and the Dallas defense performs like we expected in August a great start could be ruined.

As for the Eagles to come back after the Packers disaster was impressive.  I still don't know what to think on Mark Sanchez who played very well in Big D.  One thing I do know is that Shady McCoy is back being Shady McCoy.  Just keep him off twitter.   And that will help Sanchez or Foles come playoff time.  I still think a solid defense will give Sanchez trouble in a big game and the turnovers will come back around.  Interesting to see what the Eagles do with him after the season and if he hits the open market what happens.  The Skins may be looking again and Snyder probably believes the Skins have the weapons the Eagles do.  Will he pay big money?

2.  The late game can be summed up as the Colin Kaepernick Embarrassment.

He was awful against a good Seattle defense.  You can't play like that if you hope to make the playoffs in the NFC.  It seems like we get a lot of these games outta Kap over the past two seasons.  Is he not much better than Griffin in reality?  The weapons are there for sure and I can't believe they have forgotten Vernon Davis plays for the Niners.  It is so bad when the GM's daughter tweets to fire the offensive coordinator.  The 49ers are a debacle this season from the top down but they have so much talent.  Has the window closed already on this bunch?

As for the Seahawks, they rolled the Niners, ate turkey on their midfield logo and laughed their way back to Seattle.  The Niners number one enemy did them in on Thursday, Richard Sherman.  First of all, Sherman is a great player who does have the benefit of having the best free and strong safety beside him.  But he is a clown and I am still tired of him.  I was surprised he took the calm road with Michelle Tafoya after the game.  If someone tells me how smart he is because he went to Stanford again I want to slap them silly.  In all, the Hawks look to be back in the top of the NFC talk even though their running back won't talk and is as douchey as Sherman.  I have respect for them but would love to see them get embarrassed by someone in January.

3.  Last month it was highly debated if a pitcher should be able to win MVP.  Football now has the same debate when it comes to JJ Watt.

J.J. Watt

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

Well, he is catching touchdowns regularly now so maybe there is no debate anyway.  The last defender to win was almost 30 years ago with Lawrence Taylor.  Amazingly if you didn't know, Mark Moseley, a kicker, won in 1982.  Go throw that science at your co-workers today.

I think Watt should be in legit contention.  No player is more dominant than him this season.  The Texans should be a 3 win team but they are amazingly at .500.  Every week he freaks us out with some crazy play.  I think the problem he will have is the ridiculous play and stats of quarterbacks like Rodgers, Manning, Brady and Luck.  And that their teams will be in the post season and the Texans will not.  And for the Skins fans remember they passed on Watt to trade back and get players including Kerrigan and Jenkins.  I do like Kerrigan but he is no Watt.  No one is right now.  Then again, the Redskins would have screwed him up once they got him.

4. Quick Hitters

I am no law talking guy but I think that Ray Rice should have had the suspension ended.  He was wrong, really wrong.  But they had a legit argument that the NFL really screwed this up.  His true suspension will be how long before a team decides it’s OK to sign him.  That could be quick.
b. Watching Revis battle the Packer receivers once again makes me question what were the Buccaneers thinking?  They had this guy on their roster and cut him?  Idiots.  Then again everyone had two chances to move to get him and once again the Pats won.
c. Johnny Football got on the field to mixed reviews.  The first drive had everything we wanted to see from him.  Scrambling, almost picks, and strong armed tosses.  The TD run was impressive because he looked so quick like 2012 RG3.  Hope for him that isn't an omen.
d. Worse loss — Oakland by 52 to St. Louis or NY Giants at Jacksonville?  I think it may be the Giants just because everyone had them bouncing back and ending a losing streak.  Vegas won big here on Jax.  The Raiders suck and the Rams are much better than two months ago.
e. And big win for the Saints are they bounced back and finally a NFC South team beat an AFC North.  New Orleans needed the win and got it.  Pittsburgh needed it too but didn't and now trails the Bengals with the Ravens and Browns.
f. One more this week.  The Ravens have to be kicking themselves that they lost in the end to the Chargers.  Their beat-up secondary finally caught up to them in the end.

5.  Monday Night Prediction      espnMNF

I have to confess that I had a specialist picking these for me over the past month.  But then two weeks ago he gave me Tennessee over Pittsburgh 17-3.  He has been fired and I had to take a week vacation to get my mind straight.

A random fan in New Orleans told me the Jets suck and so does Geno Smith.  I said thanks for the inside breaking info.   The Jets are in free fall and Miami is a pretty good squad.
Miami 27   God damn Jets 10

 

 

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

November 28, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

Full from Thanksgiving turkey and football, it is time to move onto this week's Transaction Tracker. This week's top move features one player changing teams within a division. This is discussed below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Tennessee Titans release and Indianapolis Colts claim LB Shaun Phillips

With their season going nowhere fast, the Titans decided to move on from veteran outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, and division rival Indianapolis decided to claim him off waivers as they get ready for a playoff run.

This offseason, Tennessee signed him to a two-year contract worth $5 million with $750,000 in guaranteed money (all from the signing bonus). By claiming him off waivers, Indianapolis takes responsibility for his contract for the rest of this season and all of next season, which will be worth $2.55 million. There will be no consequences if the Colts cut him at any point, as all the guaranteed money has been paid by Tennessee.

Shaun Phillips

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

In 11 games this season, he has recorded 19 tackles and two sacks. Pro Football Focus grades him as the fourth-worst 3-4 outside linebacker this season.

Playing for the Denver Broncos last season, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 10 times in the regular season and added another two during the postseason.

Prior to his stints with the Titans and Broncos, Phillips played nine seasons in San Diego after the Chargers selected him in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

During his time with the Chargers, he recorded 69.5 sacks––7.7 per season––while forcing 20 fumbles and averaging 52.6 tackles per season. The 33-year old made his only Pro Bowl appearance after the 2010 season, when he recorded 11 sacks along with 55 tackles.

The 2010 season was one of three times when he recorded double digit sacks. The other two were 2013 with the Broncos and 2006 where he had a career-high 11.5 sacks.

Tennessee signed Phillips this offseason to help with the transition to their new 3-4 defense. However, he didn't live up to the expectations that he set last season in Denver. Due the lack of production and the Titans wanting to see what some younger players have to offer, Phillips was released by Tennessee.

While he wasn't needed in Tennessee, Indianapolis is more than happy to welcome him to their defense. With 28 sacks so far this season, they are ninth in the league, so pass rush isn't a major need. However, a team can never have enough pass rushers, especially during the playoffs.

It remains to be seen how much Phillips can contribute to the Colts, as he hasn't played well so far this season, but there is no risk here for Indianapolis so this is a good move for them. For Tennessee, they want to see what some of their younger players have to offer, and based on how their season has gone, nobody can blame them for that.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals sign RB Michael Bush.
The Arizona Cardinals waive RB Kerwynn Williams.
The Atlanta Falcons cut WR Freddie Martino.
The Buffalo Bills claim WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers.
The Buffalo Bills cut DE Bryan Johnson.
The Chicago Bears sign DT Brandon Dunn.
The Cincinnati Bengals sign OT Jamon Meredith.
The Cleveland Browns waive LB Keith Pough.
The Dallas Cowboys sign CB Micah Pellerin.
The Dallas Cowboys sign LB Keith Smith.
The Denver Broncos sign RB Jeremy Stewart.
The Denver Broncos waive RB Kapri Bibbs.
The Denver Broncos waive K Brandon McManus.
The Denver Broncos sign K Connor Barth.
The Detroit Lions waive TE Kellen Davis.
The Detroit Lions sign G Rodney Austin.
The Houston Texans sign QB Thaddeus Lewis.
The Indianapolis Colts sign RB Zurlon Tipton.
The Indianapolis Colts waive WR Griff Whalen.
The Indianapolis Colts sign LB Victor Butler.
The Indianapolis Colts waive DT Kelcy Quarles.
The Indianapolis Colts cut LB Victor Butler.
The Indianapolis Colts sign CB Jalil Brown.
The Indianapolis Colts waive CB Loucheiz Purifoy.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign WR Jason Avant.
The Kansas City Chiefs sign DL Nick Williams.
The Miami Dolphins sign CB R.J. Stanford.
The Miami Dolphins cut CB Jalil Brown.
The Minnesota Vikings sign OT J'Marcus Webb.
The New England Patriots sign WR Matthew Slater to a two-year contract extension.
The New England Patriots cut S Don Jones.
The New Orleans Saints sign DL Lawrence Virgil.
The New York Giants sign LB Justin Anderson.
The New York Giants waive OT Charles Brown.
The New York Giants sign LB Terrell Manning.
The New York Giants waive LB Justin Anderson.
The Oakland Raider sign DT Ricky Lumpkin.
The St. Louis Rams waive WR Damian Williams.
The St. Louis Rams sign TE Justice Cunningham.
The San Diego Chargers sign OL Ryan Miller.
The San Diego Chargers waive CB Richard Crawford.
The San Francisco 49ers cut LB Chase Thomas.
The San Francisco 49ers sign TE Asante Cleveland.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign TE D.J. Williams.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign TE Cameron Brate.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waive WR Marcus Thigpen.
The Tennessee Titans sign OL Eric Olsen.
The Tennessee Titans sign LB Dontay Moch.
The Tennessee Titans sign LB Kaelin Burnett.
The Washington Redskins release LB Akeem Jordan from injured reserve.
The Washington Redskins sign LB LB Steve Beauharnais.
The Washington Redskins sign CB Chase Minnifield.

NFL Weekly Transaction Tracker

November 21, 2014 in 2014-free-agency, NFL Personnel

While there was no headline grabbing move this week, two notable transactions occurred. These two are discussed below and, as always, the rest of the moves are down below with some of the more significant ones highlighted in red.

Kansas City Chiefs re-sign DE Allen Bailey

It seems like there is a contract extension every week, and Bailey is the beneficiary this week.

Set to become a free agent at the end of the season, he signed a four-year contract extension to stay with the Chiefs through the 2018 season. Over the course of this new contract, he will make $25 million, of which $15 million is guaranteed. There is a signing bonus of $10 million. Averaging $6.25 million per season, he is now the seventh highest paid 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

Drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Miami (FL), the 25-year old spent three seasons as a backup before earning a starting job this season.

In his first two seasons he flashed skill as a rotational defensive lineman, recording 15 tackles and one sack in 26 games (one start). Last season he earned three starts while playing in 15 games. He recorded 30 tackles and one sack.

Allen Bailey

Courtesy of Icon Sportswire

Due to free agent losses, Bailey was pushed into a starting role this season and he has embraced it. In 11 games this season––all starts––he has recorded 33 tackles and four sacks. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the 24th best 3-4 defensive end in the league. Two bad games are holding him back, as he would be number 13 if weeks two and five were taken out.

As the season has progressed, Bailey has looked better and better as he adjusts to being a full-time player.

He has become a key component in the Chiefs defense from his defensive end spot. Kansas City's defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season and he is one of their main run defenders.

At this point in time, $6.25 million is too much to pay for a player of Bailey's skill level. Kansas City is paying him with the expectation that he continues to improve his play. If this occurs––which Kansas City clearly believes––then this contract will look better. A first-year starter in his fourth season and only 25-years old, Bailey is sure to be a mainstay of the Chiefs defense for years to come.

Cleveland Browns release and Minnesota Vikings claim RB Ben Tate

In a surprising move, the Cleveland Browns released running back Ben Tate. The Minnesota Vikings aren't complaining though as they claimed him off waivers the following day.

This move comes after signing him to a two-year contract worth $6.2 million as a free agent before the season started. Due to the structure of his contract, Cleveland is not saving any money this season by releasing him. In fact, they add $93,750 to their cap due the acceleration of his signing bonus which comes when released.

For the season, he had 106 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns and in the air he caught nine passes for 60 yards. In the first game of the season, he suffered a minor knee injury which kept him out for two games. In his first game back from the injury, he had his best game of the season, rushing for 124 yards on 24 carries.

Since that game, his snaps and touches––starting one week after his 124 yard game––have decreased every game. Rookies Terrance West (third round pick) and Isaiah Crowell (undrafted free agent) had passed him on the depth chart the last few weeks as they had been more effective.

Not only were the two rookies running well, Tate was struggling. In his last five games, he had 53 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns. This works out to a putrid 1.7 yards per carry.

Both West and Crowell have more rushing yards and better yards per carry on the season than Tate.

With his snaps decreasing, Tate was becoming frustrated with his role on the team and had complained about his playing time. When he signed with Cleveland as a free agent, he was expected to come in and be the lead back in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's run heavy offense. Tate was long rumored to be signing with the Browns, even before free agency started as he had played in an offense that was very similar Shanahan's while in Houston. (Shanahan was the Houston offensive coordinator from 2008-2009 before joining his dad in Washington. Tate was drafted by Houston in 2011, but the offense was still the same.)

While it was obvious the writing was on the wall for Tate with his lack of production and decreasing role, it is still surprising to see the Browns get rid of him while in the midst of the playoff hunt. Behind the scenes, the team must have been frustrated with him.

Expected to be the workhorse running back for Cleveland this season, Tate never lived up to the expectations that were set when he was signed as a free agent this offseason. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell have both being playing better than Tate, making him expendable to Cleveland.

For Minnesota, it makes sense to claim him off waivers. He is still only 26-years old without much milage as he was a backup his whole career in Houston. The Vikings are dealing with their own running back problems as star Adrian Peterson has played in only one game this season as he deals with a child abuse case. The NFL has suspended him for the rest of the season after he reached a plea deal. He is in the midst of appealing this suspension right now.

Without Peterson, the Vikings have relied on third round pick Jerick McKinnon, a college quarterback, and Matt Asiata. Both have played well, but adding another running back was a good idea. After the season is over, Minnesota can move on from Peterson and save $13 million in cap space. With the addition of Tate––signed through 2015––the emergence of McKinnon and Peterson's criminal case, this has a very high probability of occurring. Adding Tate to their backfield is a smart move by the Minnesota Vikings.

Other Moves:

The Arizona Cardinals release LB Thomas Keiser.
The Arizona Cardinals sign TE Matthew Mulligan.
The Atlanta Falcons sign LB James Anderson.
The Buffalo Bills sign S Bacarri Rambo.
The Buffalo Bills cut RB Phillip Tanner.
The Buffalo Bills claim TE MarQueis Gray off waivers.
The Carolina Panthers waive WR Jason Avant.
The Chicago Bears sign WR/KR Marc Mariani.
The Chicago Bears waive S Ahmad Dixon.
The Cleveland Browns sign LB Keith Pough.
The Cleveland Browns cut LB Zac Diles.
The Green Bay Packers sign TE Justin Perillo.
The Green Bay Packers release OT Jamon Meredith.
The Houston Texans cut LB Ricky Sapp from injured reserve.
The Indianapolis Colts sign WR/KR Josh Cribbs.
The Indianapolis Colts sign TE Weslye Saunders.
The Indianapolis Colts cut LB Victor Butler.
The Miami Dolphins sign CB Jalil Brown.
The Minnesota Vikings waive TE MarQueis Gray.
The New England Patriots waive DL Casey Walker.
The New England Patriots sign RB LeGarrette Blount to a two-year contract.
The New Orleans Saints sign S Pierre Warren.
The New Orleans Saints sign CB Terrence Frederick.
The New Orleans Saints sign LB Moise Fokou.
The New Orleans Saints cut RB Edwin Baker.
The New Orleans Saints sign WR Jalen Saunders.
The New Orleans Saints cut RB Brian Leonard.
The New York Giants cut LB Justin Anderson.
The Oakland Raiders sign OL Khalif Barnes to a one-year contract extension.
The Oakland Raiders waive LB Kaluka Maiava from injured reserve.
The Philadelphia Eagles sign CB Roc Carmichael.
The Pittsburgh Steelers release RB LeGarrette Blount.
The Pittsburgh Steelers sign RB Josh Harris.
The San Diego Chargers sign S Adrian Phillips.
The San Diego Chargers cut LB Cordarro Law.
The Seattle Seahawks sign C Lemuel Jeanpierre.
The Seattle Seahawks sign DT Travian Robertson.
The Seattle Seahawks release OT Andrew McDonald.
The Seattle Seahawks release S Steven Terrell.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waive WR/KR Trindon Holliday from injured reserve.
The Tennessee Titans cut LB James Anderson.
The Tennessee Titans sign LB Justin Staples.

NFL Readies for Stretch Drive

November 19, 2014 in NFL, NFL Game Preview, NFL Playoffs, NFL Predictions, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl, SUPER bOWL XLVIII, Superbowl 48

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the NFL is set to begin the all-important stretch drive. The weather is cooperating, if you think snow, cold and wind are a welcome part of the game once the holiday season arrives. They are currently measuring snow fall in Buffalo this week in feet—not inches. And an arctic blast has temperatures below freezing with driving winds in nearly every outdoor venue north of Texas.

Buckle your chin straps and hold on because what the NFL looks like this week is likely not what we will see once Week 17 is completed. The standings are close as NFL teams begin their playoff push. Through the first 11 weeks, there are 21 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot.

Week 12 kicks off on Thursday night (8:25 PM ET, NFL Network) when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Oakland Raiders in an AFC West contest. The Chiefs (7-3) are tied with Denver for the division lead. Kansas City, which knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last week, is one of eight teams with a .700 or better winning percentage this season. The other seven are Arizona (9-1), New England (8-2), Dallas (7-3), Denver (7-3), Detroit (7-3), Green Bay (7-3) and Philadelphia (7-3).

The Song Remains the Same—-Sort of!

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Manning, Rodgers & Brady oh my

Week 11 provided some surprising upsets and tight finishes and as usual, the likes of Manning, Brady & Rodgers helped make the headlines. However, while two of them cruised to victories, one of them did not.

Perhaps no bigger upset occurred than when the St. Louis Rams dealt Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos a 22-7 setback. It was the Rams' third victory this season against a team that reached the Conference finals last season. Nevertheless, St. Louis, which had previous wins over Seattle (28-26) and San Francisco (13-10), remains two games below .500 (4-6). Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only two teams finished with a losing record despite three wins over opponents who reached the previous season's "final four": the Raiders in 1992 and the 49ers in 2006. Both teams finished with a 7-9 record.

Peyton Manning was 34 for 54 for 389 yards—however, the Rams pass was relentless sacking No.18 and intercepting him two times each. He was held to a 42-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, ending a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes. More on that in a bit.

If you were forced to make a Super Bowl prediction today, you’d be hard pressed to pick any other teams besides the NE Patriots & Green Bay Packers. The Pats marched into Lucas Oil Filed Sunday night and once again ran all over the Indianapolis Colts with a 42-20 victory. Patriots running back Jonas Grey, who was on the practice squad this time last month, rushed for 201-yards and four touchdowns. Counting last year’s 43-23 playoff win in Foxborough vs. Indy, the Patriots own the Colts defense. New England has rushed for 480 yards and seven touchdowns in the two contests and have defeated young Andrew Luck and company by a combined score of 85-43 in the process.

Gray entered the game with no touchdowns on the season. The last time a player rushed for 4 TD’s after entering the game with 0 career TD was Herb Henderson of the Evansville Crimson Giants against the Cincinnati Celts on November 27, 1921.

If you think the Patriots, who are 6-0 since starting the season 2-2, could slow down, think again—–Since 2010, the Patriots are 30-3 in the second half of the regular season (Game #9-16),  by far the best record in the NFL in those games.

Since telling the Green Bay faithful to relax, everything would be OK, back in Week 4, Aaron Rodgers has kept his word. Rodgers continues to show why he is the best QB in the league these days. The Green Bay signal caller completed 22 of 36 passes (61.1 percent) for 341yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 120.3 passer rating in the Packers’ 53-20 win over Philadelphia.

Rodgers has thrown 322 consecutive passes at home without an interception, the longest streak in NFL history. He has thrown 29 consecutive touchdowns at home without an interception, the longest streak in NFL history. The Packers, who scored 30 points in the first half, are the first team in NFL history to score at least 28 points in the first half of four consecutive home games.

The rest of the NFC not playing in Arizona is hoping that if they make the playoffs, Lambeau Field won’t be their destination this playoff season if the Packers are fortunate to host a playoff game. In the four home games that have followed since Rodgers comforting words, Green Bay has led by scores of 30-3, 45-0, 38-3 and 42-0. Green Bay has hit the half century mark in back to back for the first time in the 93 year history of the franchise and are only the second team in NFL history to score 53+ points in back-to-back games, joining the 1950 LA Rams.

Rodgers' touchdown-to-interception is 31:0 over his last 13 home games. The Pack's average score over the past seven games overall is 39 to 21.

How Bout them Cards:

Bruce Arians Coach of the Year?

Bruce Arians Coach of the Year?

With a playoff like gut check performance vs. the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals own the league’s best record at 9-1. It is only the second time in franchise history the Cardinals have opened a season with nine wins in their first 10 games, joining the 1948 Chicago Cardinals. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the Cardinals have built a two-game lead in the race for the NFC’s top seed and own a three-game lead in the division. Arizona is the only team in the league yet to lose a conference game (7-0).

The Cardinals are the only team in the NFL with a 6-0 home record and one of only five teams yet to lose at home this season. This marks the first time since 1970 in which the Cardinals have won their first six home games to begin a season.

On offense, backup QB and former Lions draft pick Drew Stanton came out on fire against his former team Sunday. Stanton threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Floyd in the game's first 10 minutes and the Cardinals held on for a 14-6 victory over the Lions. Only two other players in team history caught two TD passes in the first quarter of one game: Gus Tinsley against Washington in 1937, and Anquan Boldin against Miami in 2008. WR Larry Fitzgerald’s reemergence has been a big factor for the Cardinals offense. On Sunday, Fitzgerald drew a ton of double coverage and had two catches for 33 yards. Fitzgerald, who now has 12,025 career receiving yards, became the second-youngest player in NFL history to reach 12,000 receiving yards (31 years, 77 days old). Randy Moss reached the milestone at 30 years, 306 days old.

On defense, the Cards slowed the very formidable Lions attack. With Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions were held to just two Matt Prater field goals and were shut out in the second half. Stafford was held to a season low 183 passing yards. Led by Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, Arizona has forced 20 turnovers this season, including 15 interceptions, the second-most in the league. Arizona has also limited turnovers on the offensive side of the ball and is tied for second in the NFL with a +11 turnover differential.

Head Coach Bruce Arians deserves a ton of credit. In his second season as Arizona’s head coach, Arians has compiled a 19-7 (.731) record. His 19 wins are the most by any head coach in franchise history though his first 26 games. Including his 9-3 record as the interim head coach with Indianapolis in 2012, Arians has a 28-10 (.737) record as an NFL head coach.

Arizona is looking to become the first NFL team to play in a Super Bowl where its city is hosting the game in their very own facility.

The Texans handed the Cleveland Browns a crushing home defeat on Sunday as Ryan Mallet outplayed Brian Hoyer in the team’s 23-7 road victory. The former backup to Tom Brady, Mallett, was 20-of-30 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and an interception Sunday, his 1st-career start. His counterpart, Brian Hoyer, who has kept his rock star backup Johnny Manziel on the bench this season, wasn’t nearly as effective as he’s been lately. Hoyer completed only 20 of 50 passes in the Browns' loss, setting a team record for incomplete or intercepted passes in one game. Otto Graham held that record from the time the Browns entered the NFL in 1950 until last season (tied by Brian Sipe in 1981), when Jason Campbell went 27-for-56 at Cincinnati.

It’s time to admit that JJ Watt may just be the best overall player in the NFL—on offense and defense. Watt, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, caught his second touchdown pass of the season in Houston's win. Watt also scored on an interception return in September and with a fumble recovery in October. He is the first NFL player to score at least two TDs on both offense and defense since J.C. Caroline did it for the Bears in 1956 (2 rushing TDs, 2 on Ints).

Rookie Watch:

Last week in this column, I pointed out the play of some of the leagues rookies this season and questioned whether or not they were ready to hit the proverbial rookie wall. Based off the play of a few of them this past weekend, that doesn’t appear likely to happen.

In Washington, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie WR, Mike Evans, caught seven passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s 27-7 win over the Redskins. Over the last 30 years, only two other rookies gained at least 200 receiving yards and caught two TD passes in the same game: Eddie Kennison of the Rams in 2006 (vs. the Falcons) and Anquan Boldin of the Cardinals in 2003 (vs. the Lions).

Rookie WR Mike Evans

Rookie WR Mike Evans

Evans has caught seven passes in each of his last three games, totaling 124, 125, and 209 yards. The only other rookies to gain at least 120 receiving yards in each of three consecutive games were Billy Howton (1952 Packers), Jimmy Orr (1958 Steelers), and Marques Colston (2006 Saints).

Cincinnati rookie running back Jeremy Hill (Round 2, No. 55 overall) and Houston rookie running back Alfred Blue (Round 6, No. 181 overall) were teammates at Louisiana State University. Hill (152 rushing yards) and Blue (156) each rushed for 150+ yards on Sunday, becoming the first rookies from the same college to rush for at least 150 yards on the same day in NFL history. Hill, who rushed for 154 yards in Week 9 against Jacksonville, is the second rookie in franchise history with two 150-yard rushing games, joining Paul Robinson (1968).

Blue tied the franchise rookie record for rushing yards (Steve Slaton, 156 yards vs. Indianapolis on November 16, 2008), and set a single-game club record for carries (36), surpassing the previous mark set by teammate Arian Foster (33 attempts in two different games).

The San Francisco 49ers will most assuredly miss the leadership of linebacker Patrick Willis but it appears as if rookie linebacker Chris Borland is capable of picking up the slack in term of on the field production. The former Wisconsin Badger (Round 3, No. 77 overall) had 12 tackles and two interceptions in the 49ers’ 16-10 win at the New York Giants. Borland is the first rookie linebacker in franchise history with two interceptions in a game. He also joined Ken Norton, JR. (October 22, 1995) as the only 49ers linebackers with two interceptions in a game over the past 40 years.

The Battle for the North:

downloadWhile they are some solid divisional playoff races taking place, no race is as intriguing as the AFC North. With six weeks remaining in the regular season, all four teams are currently within a half game of first place in the division following the Steelers’ 27-24 win at Tennessee on Monday Night Football. Cincinnati (6-3-1) holds the slightest of edges over Pittsburgh (7-4), Baltimore (6-4) and Cleveland (6-4) for the top spot in the division.

The AFC North is the first division in which every team is at least two games above .500 at any point in the season since the 1935 NFL Western Division. The four AFC North clubs have combined for a 17-7-1 record (.700) against non-division opponents in 2014, the best of any division in the NFL. This also includes their record of 8-1-1 vs. the NFC South. Including this week’s games, the North will face the South six more times this season with Pittsburgh (vs Saints Nov 30, @ Falcons Dec. 14)  and Cleveland (@Falcons Nov.23 & @ Falcons Dec. 21)  playing the struggling division twice. The Ravens will travel to play New Orleans this Monday Night for their final matchup of the season vs. the division while the Bengals travel to Tampa on Nov. 30.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only seven divisions have finished with a combined winning percentage of .700 or better outside the division. Three of those divisions produced that season’s Super Bowl champions, including the 2013 NFC West. All seven of the divisions to accomplish the feat have featured at least two playoff teams, with four sending three teams to the postseason.

The Seattle Seahawks, who were one of three 10-win teams in the NFC West last year, finished with an NFC-best 13-3 record en route to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. The 2007 NFC East also produced the Super Bowl XLII-champion New York Giants (10-6), one of six Wild Card playoff teams to win a Super Bowl title. And the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-2) of the AFC Central went on to their second consecutive Super Bowl title. With six weeks remaining in the NFL regular season and 12 teams in the AFC sporting records of .500 or better, all four AFC North teams are in a strong position to challenge for playoff spots.

Speaking of the Seahawks:

Despite a strong ground attack, the Seattle Seahawks dropped a tough road loss on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs. Seattle gained 204 yards on 37 carries at Kansas City, and assuming the Seahawks won by just looking at the box score wouldn’t have been too big of an assumption. Prior to Sunday, defending Super Bowl champions gained 200 or more rushing yards in a game 95 times. They lost only two of those games, both by the same team (the 1985 49ers), and had won their last 41 such games, including three by Seattle earlier this season.

However, with a pretty solid rushing attack their own, the Chiefs defeated the Seahawks, 24-20, (190 yards and three touchdowns). KC gained 190 yards and scored three rushing TD’s. The attack was led by RB Jamaal Charles, who gained 159 yards on 20 carries. Charles extended his rushing success vs. Seattle. Charles also had a 173-yard game versus Seattle four years ago. The only other players with two games of 150 or more rushing yards against the Seahawks are Terrell Davis (both in 1998) and Frank Gore (2006 and 2009).

Super Bowl Rematch looking less likely:

The Seahawks and Broncos both dropped games on the road this past weekend. If the playoffs started today, the Seahawks would become the latest victim of the Champions curse. Nearly half (seven) of the SB Champs from the past 15 years have failed to make the playoffs the following season, the Pittsburgh Steelers did it twice. In fact, all time, one third (16 of 48) of Super Bowl-winning teams don’t make it the postseason the next year. Seattle would be the third straight team to fail to qualify—following the Giants and Ravens. Even if they do make it, winning a game in the playoffs following a SB winning season is no easy task. The last defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game was the 2005 New England Patriots, who won a wild-card game before losing in the next round at Denver. Seattle does control their own destiny. Starting this week at home, the Seahawks still have five division games to play, including two against the hated 49ers and two vs. the division leading Cardinals.superbowl

Speaking of Denver, spending $100 million to revamp its defense may not be money well spent if they cannot stop a pass rush. Denver is also looking to breaking a curse when it comes to the Super Bowl. The last Super Bowl runner up to win the big game the following year was the Miami Dolphins, who won Super Bowl VII in January 1973 after losing Super Bowl VI the previous year. That’s a 41 year drought.

In fact, it's only happened twice in the Super Bowl's 46-year history. The numbers are a little more favorable for Denver to at least return to the Super Bowl. Seven Super Bowl runners-up have repeated as conference champions in 48 years—I said a little better.  Most recently, the Buffalo Bills bounced back from three Super Bowl losses to return to the Super Bowl in the 1990-93 seasons. No.18 will look to stop the streak at 18 years, as 18 straight SB runner ups have not returned to the big game.

 

Research and stats courtesy of NFL Communications, ESPN Stats & Information and The Elias Sports Bureau.