NFL Week 2 Preview: The Picture Gets Clearer

Week 1 of the NFL is in the books and the overreactions are abound. Every NFL fan and media member thinks they know everything about everything after 1 week, myself included. However, the reality is the picture comes more into focus each week. So, no one really knows much yet. If they say they do, they are lying. Week 2 got going Thursday with a miraculous victory by the Broncos over Kansas City at Arrowhead. For KC, this will be a tough one to swallow. Denver needed every one of their five turnovers to win. Say what you will about Denver, they have no run game and can’t put together more than two good offensive drives per game, but 2-0 is 2-0. With this win they, find themselves in control of the AFC West yet again. Here is a look at a few other interesting games on the week 2 slate.

Patriots (1-0) at Bills (1-0)-The best game of the week by far. Buffalo thrashed everyone’s AFC Super Bowl favorite Indianapolis last week. The Pats are as steady as ever and Brady and company are out to proof the AFC East is still their turf. The Pats may still win the division, but I love the edge the Bills are playing with on both sides of the ball under new coach Rex Ryan who will have his team convinced this is the Super Bowl. They have also finally found solid QB play from Tyrod Taylor. If the Bills can control the clock and make this a hardnosed game, they have the edge. I say they do. Buf 23 NE 20

Cowboys (1-0) at Eagles (0-1)-Dallas comes into this rivalry game without freakishly talented WR Dez Bryant for the foreseeable future. The Eagles were unable to overcome early mistakes in the season opener. QB Sam Bradford looked comfortable in coach Chip Kelly’s offense. I really just hate the way Kelly’s system takes players on and off the field, particularly RBs. They signed last year’s top rusher DeMarco Murray away from Dallas. When you sign a guy like that, you run him until his legs fall off. Instead. he split time with two other backs and was limited to just 12 touches. By the way, Philly still has no defense. I think Chip Kelly may have outsmarted himself with the makeup of this roster. Look for TE Jason Witten to step up big in Bryant’s absence for the Cowboys. Dal 31 Phi 28

Seattle (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0)-The Seahawks season it at an early tipping point. Safety Kam Chancellor who puts the “boom” in Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary is sitting at home due to a contract dispute. Aaron Rodgers and company are in midseason form. Seattle’s highly touted defense is a toothless tiger without Chancellor. They made Nick Foles look like Kurt Warner. With Rodgers, this will get ugly. Memo to Seattle, if you want a shot at defending your NFC crown… Pay the man. GB 38 Sea 17

Jets (1-0) at Colts (0-1)-The Colts are in trouble. They are exactly what they have been for most of the last 20 years. A really average team in a bad division with a great quarterback. The QB’s name has changed from Manning to Luck. That is about it. The last two are a copy and paste from my last post. I will get them in every Colt related post until they prove me wrong. Meanwhile the Jets have a pass rush that will be in Luck’s face all night. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be solid. Luck will likely be forced into a couple mistakes. I’ll take the seven point underdogs for the upset. NYJ 20 Ind 14

2015 NFL Predictions: Are You Ready For Some Football?

Are you ready for some football? I know I am. It all gets started tonight as the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots look to put a controversial off-season behind them against the high-powered Steelers. I like New England tonight. However, instead of picking individual games this week, here are my season preview and predictions. The AFC is up first.

Division winners:

New England- Their division rivals have all gotten much better. However, a full year of Brady and Belichick is good enough for me. They will not have the division wrapped up by Halloween like they typically do, but they will get the job done. The Patriots are as good as any team in sports when it comes to replacing players, but their chances of a Super Bowl repeat are hurt by the loss of both their big physical corners, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in free agency.

Indianapolis- Everyone else likes Indy much more than I do. They are competing with Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville for their division. Jacksonville will be better than people think. Despite that, I am fairly certain that if you replaced Colts with Ohio State, the Buckeyes would win this division going away. There is no doubt Andrew Luck is amazing. However, the offensive line is still below average and acquisitions like veteran RB Frank Gore and WR Andre Johnson would have been great in 2008. The current versions of Gore and Johnson are not a significant upgrade over what they had last year. While the defense has some of the best players you have never heard of like CB Vontae Davis and LB Jerrell Freeman, the Colts are exactly what they have been for most of the last 20 years. A really average team in a bad division with a great quarterback. The QB’s name has changed from Manning to Luck. That is about it. Talk of this team doing anything more than winning one playoff game is ridiculous.

Denver- In the interest of full disclosure, for those of you who do not know already, the Broncos are my favorite team and have been since I was about five. Yes, Peyton Manning is 39 and he fell apart at the end of last year, but John Elway has done all he can to give Manning what I feel is the best team he has ever been on. Look for new coach Gary Kubiak to have a much more balanced offense than the pass happy mess that got the Broncos into trouble late last year. I feel C.J. Anderson is the kind of back that will allow the Broncos to play “smash mouth” football when needed and take some pressure off of the aging QB. He also allows Kubiak to have Peyton line up under center more and call a wider variety of run plays. The weapons are still there at receiver and new tight end Owen Daniels should fit nicely. The defense got a great pass rush all last year. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are back. So, that will not change. They will ultimately be judged on what happens in the playoffs, but thoughts of this franchise completely falling off a cliff this year are a major overreaction.

Baltimore- In a conference where all the major contenders have big questions, the Ravens do not. They are well coached and have a solid run game and defense. Also, they have this generation’s best road QB this side of Tom Brady in Joe Flacco. They are the safest bet in the NFL to be around in January.

Wildcards:

Kansas City- Expect this team to still be built around running the ball with Jamaal Charles and short and quick passes that play to Alex Smith’s strengths, but one free agent signing has made this team much more dangerous. Speedy wide receiver Jeremy Macklin will be able to take the top off of defenses and go deep once in a while. No one knows how to use him better than Chiefs coach Andy Reid who also had Macklin in Philly. The defense is about the steadiest you will find in the league. They are a real threat to end Denver’s streak of five straight AFC West titles. Even though I do not see that happening, they are very capable of reaching the playoffs and maybe knocking someone off on the road.

Buffalo- I am tormented by what to do with this team, but I have decided I really believe in Rex Ryan. They have added a ton of talent with Lesean McCoy, Charles Clay, and Percy Harvin. Should these three injury prone ball carriers and pass catchers stay healthy, Buffalo will cause problems for anyone. They have arguably the best defense in the league. All they need is decent, not great quarterback play. Despite the GM saying that they were in “a quarterback purgatory” in training camp, I saw enough good things from former Virginia Tech option quarterback and career NFL back up Tyrod Taylor in the preseason to convince me that Buffalo will make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. My conference champ will be revealed later. Now, on to the NFC.

Division winners:

Seattle- They are the defending conference champs for a reason. Their defense will not be as invincible if defensive back Kam Chancellor’s holdout lingers into the regular season, but they are still plenty good enough to decimate opponents. The human magician that is Russell Wilson is still at the helm of the offense, but make no mistake this offense is still centered around tailback Marshawn Lynch. Combine that with the fact that the Seahawks were able to add a weapon like TE Jimmy Graham and the level of talent on this roster goes from outrageous to unfair.

Dallas- I would argue that the Cowboys were screwed out of a potential trip to the Super Bowl in Green Bay last year. Yes, they lost DeMarco Murray. However, that offensive line is good enough to make any running back at least serviceable. The return of a field general like linebacker Sean Lee on defense cannot be overstated. Also, fans just have to accept that Tony Romo is really good. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are still around. So, Romo will be really good again.

Green Bay- They lost WR Jordy Nelson for the year in the preseason and are average on defense. Only one thing matters though. They have Aaron Rodgers, the other teams in the division do not.

Carolina- Honestly, I have no clue about this division. The Panthers won it last year with a losing record. It could happen again this year. I could see any one of the four teams winning it, even Tampa, but Carolina has the best defense and Cam Newton finished last year really strong.

Wildcards:

NY Giants- Speaking of finishing last year strong, no one did that better than the Giants. They were scoring 30+ points a game over the final month of the season. This will be the first year we get to see Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz healthy and on the same field. That has defensive coordinators everywhere wetting the bed. With the experience and track record of head coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning, they will be a force year and can win on the road in the playoffs.

Arizona- Where would this team have ended up last year with a decent and healthy QB? We will never know. Carson Palmer is back this year and healthy. The Cards are rock solid everywhere and do not beat themselves.

Conference Champs: Baltimore, NY Giants

Super Bowl: Baltimore

U.S. Open 2015: Making Sense of All the Chaos in NYC

As the second week of the U.S. Open gets underway in NYC on this holiday Monday, many intriguing stories have developed. However, Serena Williams and her chase of the Calendar Grand Slam remains THE story. It has taken a turn that if pitched to the most creative writer in Hollywood, even he or she wouldn’t believe.

It is not so much that Serena and her big sister Venus are meeting yet again on one of the biggest stages in the sport, in this case a Grand Slam quarterfinal. It is all the subplots that make this so unbelievable. Mainly the fact the Venus may be the only one left with a real shot at stopping Serena’s race to tennis immortality. Imagine for a moment if the player to deny Serena the Calendar Grand Slam and tying Steffi Graf’s 22 majors is her sister… Awkward. Also, with both well into their 30s now, who knows how many more times we will see these sisters do battle. Serena has had two tough battles to get here, Venus has coasted. Serena took a set and a half to get going in the third round against Bethanie Mattek-Sands. If she comes out flat tomorrow night, she is toast. This really is too close to call. It is always difficult for Serena, Venus, and the fans when they play. However, given what is on the line, this will be torture. I would like to think this is a match no one wants to see, at least from a human perspective. It all happens tomorrow night 7 ET on ESPN2.

On the men’s side most of the usual suspects still have a shot at this title. Federer has looked the best to this point, not dropping a set. Djokovic and Murray have each had minor scares. In fact, Murray is working his way into quite a hole against big serving South African Kevin Anderson as I type this. Defending champ and 9th seed Marin Cilic has done well to reach the last 8, but plays Djokovic next. I see no issues for the top ranked Serb on his way to another U.S. Open final. Federer will likely be the opposition, but powerful American John Isner cannot be taken lightly by the Swiss master tonight. French Open champion Stan Wawrinka and streaky Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga are both still in the draw and have a shot if they can catch lightning in a bottle on the right day.

Other week 1 stories have included the dismissal of seven of the top ten ladies seeds before round three, a shocking third round collapse by 14 time major winner Rafael Nadal, another dramatic and unfortunate turn in the twisted tale of Eugenie Bouchard that will get its own blog post later this week, and a slew of mid match retirements due to heat illness. Happy Labor Day to all and enjoy all the action from NYC as it continues to unfold each day/night on ESPN family of networks.