NFL: Thinking Out Loud!

It may be just me, but I value players and their future.

AP

If you are out of contention, why not let guys like Adrian Peterson recover? The man is a workhorse and is up there in total carries every year, you have to keep in mind the lifespan of a running back. The Vikings just aren’t competitive and they could be evaluating players they are unsure of, and possibly get a higher pick in the draft for next season and the future.

Andre Johnson

The Texans have a 3-game division lead, why rush Andre Johnson back to the field when you are playing well enough on both sides of the ball to be the #1 seed in the AFC without him? You would have had him as close to 100% a player can be near the end of the season, if you were to sit him an extra game or 2, especially if this is the first playoff bid in the history of the franchise!

Ray Rice

Let’s see…why haven’t the Baltimore Ravens showed their love and appreciation to Ray Rice yet? The man is making $600k this season like DeSean Jackson is, and is his contract year just like Matt Forte. As classy as Forte has been, you haven’t hear much if anything about Ray Rice and his contract situation.

Matt Forte

While we’re on the subject of Matt Forte, he should come back in the postseason if healthy, and if the team makes it there. But beyond that, he has all leverage in negotiations despite the franchise tag, because he can simply play next season out as he did this year, and walk away if he wanted to. That is a small price to choose your next destination and get the raise you obviously deserve.

D-Jax

DeSean Jackson. You have to play better football and have a better attitude. It sure doesn’t help having Drew Rosenhaus like Terrell Owens did, but for some reason I can understand your position. The guy is emotional and despite the NFL being a business, you have to understand that the Eagles committed to Michael Vick (financially as well) after 3/4 of a season. Philadelphia also went outside of their team to fill the headlines by signing a bevvy of free agents. Yet, a player that has been a spark for your team, has played consistently at a high level, and has made multiple Pro Bowls for multiple positions (WR and Returner, which is rarely done by the way). Players are stronger and faster, but they are human. Again, it is a business, but the Eagles front office could have avoided locker room issues and assured the rest of the team that they will take care of you if you do your job. So although Jackson could have performed better this season, I point the blame at the Eagles front office.

Enough!

I just feel disrespected for Rice, Forte, and Jackson. They have all performed at high levels and have outplayed their contracts and it’s not even a question.

Indy 500? No, Indy Winless!

I’m not in the business of calling out coaches, but there is no excuse for being winless. It doesn’t matter who got injured or whatever else occurred. You are all coaching and playing at a professional level, you should be somewhat competitive and at least winning a few games through a 16-game season. Whether it’s benching some of your starters or tweaking the coaching staff, something more needs to happen besides getting Peyton Manning back. Who knows, he may come back to form, but behind that offensive line and poor defense how many quarterbacks would really last? Since they usually don’t run the ball, we won’t even dig into their lack of a run game. But keep in mind, he may never be the same, or worse-case scenario, he may not play another down…There is more to a franchise and a team than one individual, grandfather time catches up to every and anyone. Despite you bias, Peyton Manning is one of the greatest of all time, and the word overrated cannot be associated with this future Hall of Famer.

Jags

I know the Jaguars are near the bottom of the standings. I’ve seen the scores and they have been blown out. But they do have a couple things going for them in the future. They started rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert this season. Playing time is the key to any young player, especially at the helm. They bit the bullet and leaned on Mo-Jo and he did his thing, as usual. The offensive line is a good one, and the defense is tough against the pass. They will be getting a higher draft pick to help their run defense out, and possible the receiving core. Gabbert is learning on the fly, surround him with playmakers on the outside, and it will open things up for Mo-Jo and Marcedes Lewis. If Gabbert progresses like a top 10 pick, this tough season could pay a decade’s worth of dividends for Jacksonville.

Browns

You know what, this team is very similar to the Jaguars. The thing is, Jacksonville and Cleveland have 2 of the better pass defenses in all of football. The Browns actually have the #1 pass defense in the NFL right now. Colt McCoy is getting valuable playing time, as well as the young receivers in Massaquoi and Little. The offensive line is pretty solid and they just have to patch up the run defense. Much like Gabbert, if McCoy progresses this team could be turning things around sooner than later, especially since they will get a higher pick in the draft as well.

Secondhand Lions

Well, I was one of the first people on their bandwagon, actually dating back to when they drafted Matthew Stafford. But this season, I have kept them at a reasonably even keel level because i though the hype of them making the playoffs was premature. They are on the border and flirting with the postseason for the first time in years, but I don’t see them making it. Hey, good for them if they do. I just don’t see them competing with the Packers and Saints. They are finesse and I trust the Bears in December/January, Atlanta has been there before too, the G-Men are tough, battle-tested, and never go away, and Dallas has more experience than Detroit. The 49ers are more physical. Yadda, yadda, I know, I just don’t see it!

Let’s Talk Carolina Panthers For A Minute…

I haven’t posted much about this, but I’ve been saying it repeatedly: the Carolina Panthers are my pick to win the division next season.

Why would I go out of my way and say that? Do I know Drew Brees and the Saints are a playoff team year in and year out? Atlanta won the division last year and the Buccaneers won 10 games.

Look, I get all of that.

Do you really think Cam can play this way next year too? He won’t get 16 rushing touchdowns every year. He won’t throw for 300 yards every week. He’s young, he can have a sophomore slump.

OK, you done with those questions that you were thinking out loud? Good. Think about this: Ron Rivera has been a winner everywhere he has been. And by winner I mean, has developed elite defenses and gets to the postseason consistently. The tandem he and Sean McDermott (a Jim Johnson prodigy form Philadelphia), as well as getting your injured linebackers (Jon Beason, ,Thomas Davis), improving your run game with one of the league’s better offensive lineman Jordan Gross (on injured reserve as well), then you will hear more of Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Then the passing game opens up when you double Steve Smith, Olsen and Shockey will carve up the middle, especially if you add a 2nd WR like the Falcons have with Julio Jones. This team will surprise a lot of people next season. They won’t surprise me, and I’ll be rooting for their success and I’m starting the bandwagon (6 weeks ago lol)!

Bigger Picture

Seahawks have been better than given credit for all season long. They have victories over the Eagles, Giants, and Ravens (3 of their 6 wins, which is half). They are still in the wildcard hunt in the NFC. Yeah, they have some ugly losses (Browns, Redskins), but they are a team with a stout defense, tough running game, and a revolving door at quarterback. Hey, maybe a healthy Tarvaris can continue to improve, he did lead Minnesota to the playoffs before an injury. I’ll keep an eye on them, especially since the 49ers could be having a fluke year (I give SF credit, but who knows about them next year and in the future?). Plus, they are in the NFC West.

Dallas probably won’t return to Jerry Jones’ satisfaction level, until they get a veteran head coach. They gave Wade Phillips a handcuffed opportunity, and Jason Garrett is the man in charge after hovering Wade’s shoulder for a couple seasons. No, I don’t believe Rob Ryan is doing much defensively, and I think it was his personality that got him out of Cleveland and into Dallas in the first place.

Green Bay has a better chance to win the Superbowl if they lose a game in the regular season. That is definitely more possible without Greg Jennings, but they should be the favorites to win the final 3 games of the season. If Cutler and Forte could come back for the Chicago/Green Bay meeting, that could be the game. But that isn’t very likely. I do think they will go undefeated, but I do not think they go all the way.

I don’t expect the Texans to win a playoff game, but that is only because of the loss of Matt Shaub. I can’t wait to see this team next eyar, when Wade Phillips is coaching a defense with Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans. Heck, I had them rated as the best AFC team and the 2nd best team in the league behind Green Bay. They were my Superbowl favorite (unbiased football fan opinion, my team is Philly.Yes, I’m a die-hard I realize we’re underachieving they deserve the criticism).

After Tebow and the Broncos responded to the shalacking by Detroit at home, pulling together in Prime Time to beat the Jets gave me the sense that they will go on a run and win the AFC West division. Yes, even though the Raiders were on a roll and I usually pick the Chargers to go deep into the playoffs. I was one of the first people on the Denver bandwagon, and I truly believe Tim Tebow will continue improving as a passer. Actually, I think the playcalling is holding not only him, but the team back from moving the chains and scoring more points. The defense deserves their due credit, but like him or not, Tebow sparked the team and his record shows that his leadership affects the defense and has his team rising to the end of game occasions.

I liked the Dolphins heading into this season. They haven’t played well until the 2nd half of the year, but with a veteran head coach they can easily put themselves on the map and into the postseason next season. I have always been a supporter of Reggie Bush (from my hometown county of San Diego by the way). I just though the Saints viewed him with a skewed p[perspective. His durability won’t be an issue because they have Daniel Thomas, and I have long been patient waiting for him to get the lead back role and he has done well with his opportunities this year. If Miami could improve at quarterback, they could be a darkhorse.

Top of the AFC

I think the Ravens and the Steelers are the 2 best teams in the AFC. I put the Patriots 3rd just because of their legendary QB/Coach combination. The Patriots defense has had their positive moments, but they are as bad as their last ranked statistic shows. I don’t believe the Patriots have the offensive line and run game to light up the scoreboard in the winter time/postseason. And they certainly don’t have the defense to give their offense leeway. The Ravens are inconsistent, but they play to the level of their opponents and, last I checked the playoffs has some challenging opponents. I still like Pittsburgh to represent the AFC in the Superbowl. We could very well see the a Superbowl eclipse, a rematch of last year’s big game Steelers/Packers.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the Week 15 picks!