AFC Training Camp: Each teams “X” Factor for the 2019 season

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Baker Mayfield has given the Cleveland Browns hope for the future but can he alone lead the Browns to the promised land? ‘X’ AFC style
Photo Credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Football season is nearly here!!! After releasing our NFC “X” factors two weekends ago, it’s time to head over to the American Football Conference and visit the 16 teams that look to chase down the Lombardi Trophy. The NFL offseason has been INSANE, with all the trades, new draft picks, and contract signings; this season is shaping up to be a great one.

The Cleveland Browns shook up the AFC outlook with the Odell Beckham trade, the New York Jets won the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes, and the Pittsburgh Steelers sent WR Antonio Brown to the Raiders for pennies on the dollar. Jacksonville finally has a credible QB, the Dolphins will have an interesting (not to be taken lightly) QB battle between Ryan “FitzMagic” and 2018 1st round pick (10th overall) Josh Rosen.

This should be fun, here we go with the AFC ‘X’ Factors!

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NFC Training Camp: Each teams “X” Factor for the 2019 season

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Bears’ QB, Mitchell Trubisky, is one our top X factors for the NFC.
Photo by Camrongood [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Training Camp starts in less than a month, you can hear the screams and tears of joy from the NFL faithful as the new season is fast approaching. I would like to take this time now to point out each of my “X” factors for the following 32 teams. This “X” factor can stem from the front office, a coach, a star player, or group of players for that matter. Its this focal point that I believe can either give your franchise the playoff push it needs, their first breakout season in a while, or maybe just give you the hopes that: “THANK GOD WE AREN’T REBUILDING ANYMORE”

The “X” factor is not necessarily each teams best player, but more so the player that each team needs to breakout and contribute in order for their team to have the best success. So with out further adieu lets begin with the NFC:

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The Sports Mania that is March

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We tend to forget that spring is more than just the blossoming of nature, it is also a time for blooming activity and play, such as sports. This season is mainly associated with America’s favorite past time, but also is a hub for soccer, hockey, and basketball.

With the tradition of opening day baseball, and all the hype that sports fans have for college basketball in March, we occasionally overlook other headlines happening. Along with the MLB, the MLS has also begun their season, and with much more hype that the game of soccer is evolving in the US.

With a just a month away from playoffs, this is a pivotal time for the NHL, as well as the NBA.

It is an exciting time watching teams fighting, clawing to make the post season. If you’re a Los Angeles Lakers fan, or maybe a Chicago Blackhawks admirer, then it might be another story.

Who’s in, and who’s out?

LAFC, a prominent new franchise in Los Angeles, exceeded expectations last year in their 2018-2019 inaugural season. Wining over 16 games, and scoring over 57 points overall in the MLS standings, for the LAFC was a great achievement.

Being an LAFC fan, I was bummed out when the team got knocked out by Real Salt Lake 2-3 in their first playoff game. It ended with a late goal by Salt Lake, being significant to the team, and how they lost some of their games this season.

I believe that LAFC will make playoffs again, but will hard to repeat such expectations for last year.

There is a bevy of sports to watch right now, and AAF will help relief your football grieving. The Alliance of American Football, has been pleasantly surprising to the football world.

Critics and skeptics rather took notice to some of the rule changes, especially the kick off in the AAF.

It is somewhat a mixture of Arena Football and the CFL, but also unique itself. The lack of kickoffs, is a major step toward making a safer game; the new rule changes give the NFL something to think about on their emphasis on player safety. The other shining element people are attracted to from AAF, is that it is an opportunity for great players to exploit their play.

There are many former NFL players in the new and upcoming game, witch makes it fun to watch. Former pros and college stars, make it interesting to see how the players react to yet, another chance in football.

What teams are going to bloom this March?

Photo by Keenan Hairston from Raleigh [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Patriots vs. Rams: A Super Bowl Flashback

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Quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will face a flash from the past, from Super Bowl XXXVI against the Saint Louis Rams, and now the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

In 2002, Brady won his first championship with the Patriots against the Rams, 20-17. Little did we know, this was the start of an incredible dynasty.

Head Coach Bill Belichick has kept this Patriots’ well-oiled system for nearly two decades, consistently winning regular season and playoff games, year after year. Belichick and his Pats have the longest winning streak in the NFL history with 21 straight regular and postseason wins, from 2003-2004.

The Brady/Belichick era is something to be awed at, and to be celebrated, because we may never see anything this special again.

This might be one of the hardest Super Bowl matchups this Patriots squad will ever face, for the Rams, are one of the best teams in the league by far. Being one of the first teams to be undefeated this season, Rams QB Jared Goff has had an incredible year leading his team to 13 wins and just 3 losses.

Todd Gurley, 24, arguably has been the best running back all-season long, and if it weren’t for his minor ankle injury early in the playoffs, Gurley would be on fire running into the championship. Now that he is reportedly healthy, he will look to strive back to MVP form and run all over the Patriots.

The Rams have been impressed with veteran running back CJ Anderson, who has been filling in for Gurley, just two games into the playoffs after being acquired from free agency. Gurley will look to take over possessions again, unless head Coach Sean McVay has plans otherwise.

I think it will be important to give Gurley a majority of the touches, for McVay, might try and keep another balanced rushing attack. While this seem like a sensible plan, it will be more vital for Gurley to get momentum.

There are so many factors that go into this championship game, the question will be which will be one of those factors, that actually affect the outcome.

Will the Rams actually be able to take down the Patriots?

Photo by Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

NFL Week 3: Breaking records, huge upsets, and key injuries 

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Its only Week 3 in the NFL, and we have broken records, gigantic upsets and losses that are already becoming major headlines for the league.

Two quarterbacks this weekend has had astonishing performances, carrying their teams to solid victories and elevating themselves to be the best in the NFL right now. While these players are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of their careers, they are both playing lights out.

Future Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, adds to his legendary stature with setting one of the most respected records for a quarterback in a 43-37 win over the Falcons in overtime. Drew Brees just passed Brett Favre this Sunday for having most completions in NFL history, over 6,300.

6,300 completed passes?! That’s crazy.

Another quarterback that is playing at an extremely high level is Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes, 23, is arguably the hottest quarterback in the league right now with his play, throwing for over 13 touchdowns in just three games. His 13-TD streak is more than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, most in league history in first three games with one team.

Looks like the Patrick Mahomes hype will continue.

Nearly the first quarter of the NFL has been filled with interesting calls, huge upsets, and just weird games. This weekend got a little stranger when the Buffalo Bills annihilated the Minnesota Vikings at home 27-6.

You could ask anyone in the country, whether your betting or not, there is no way the Buffalo Bills have an ideal chance against the Minnesota Vikings (especially at Minnesota). According to the Chicago Tribune, Vegas odds say the Bills-Vikings game was the biggest upset since the 1995 Redskins-Cowboys.

The Buffalo Bills snapped their 6-game losing streak with an incredible defensive performance, and with some help from Rookie QB Josh Allen. The No. 5 overall pick showed promise with revitalizing the Bills offense, but the win was more about the defense.

The Bills certainly got after the football, sacking Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and causing him to turn the ball over three times. This was a game changer, giving the Bills numerous opportunities to score.

The football world was shocked, and I was to say the least, especially after the first two games they stunk it up in Buffalo. I guess Josh Allen redeemed himself…for now.

The Los Angeles Rams are continuing to prove that they are a Super Bowl-caliber team, after another dominating win over the San Diego Chargers (aka LA Chargers), 35-23. Unfortunately for the Rams, the focus on this game was not the win.

Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, have suffered lower leg injuries- causing them both to leave the game, and wear a walking boot. According to the Bleacher Report, the star cornerbacks undergone an ankle sprain, which will most likely cause them to miss Thursday’s game against Minnesota.

When first hearing about the injury, there is reason to panic, but after identifying the injury as a sprain, it is somewhat of a relief. The injury should keep Talib and Peters out for the next two weeks or so, but hopefully will be back shortly after that.

Another key injury this Sunday was the 49ers’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo, as he is ‘heartbroken’ waiting for an MRI on his left knee. According to the NFL, Garoppolo might have suffered an ACL tear in his knee.

Hopefully the MRI doesn’t go as the 49ers fear, as their QB prospect could be out for the remainder of the season.

Garoppolo has just signed an enormous five-year contract worth over $137.5 million this past off season, it would be catastrophic for him not to live up to his potential. The 49ers QB apparently suffered the injury while fighting for extra yardage, instead of just going out of bounds.

It is hard to see key injuries already in Week 3, but it is a part of the game. We all rooting for you Garoppolo.

I was going to add the Patriots-Lions game in my upsets section, but New England isn’t nearly the team who they were last year, so I didn’t regard it as much of an upset. In fact, odds makers are starting to bet against the Pats, for they are an extremely vulnerable team in the NFL right now.

Is the Tom Brady-Bill Belicheck era in jeopardy?

Photo by Jeffrey Beall [CC BY 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Bengals Offense looks bigger and better than ever with RB Joe Mixon 

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Andy Dalton threw for over four touchdown passes on Thursday night, but it was Joe Mixon that gave the Cincinnati Bengals the firepower on offense they needed in a 34-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Quarterback Andy Dalton has gotten most of the praise after Cincinnati won, but in reality, it was really the running game that helped them defeat the Ravens. The Bengals’ attack has a completely different look with Running Back Joe Mixon, giving their offense versatility.

Mixon played well against a tough Ravens defensive front, rushing over 22 times for 84 yards.  The performance Thursday night was more indicative than just the stats, but it was his overall impact on the game.

Dalton has had multiple games with 3 TD passes in the first half, but proves to be a meaningless statistic with several late game woes still under Head Coach Marvin Lewis.

Cincinnati was on the verge of blowing a 21-point lead, but managed to survive the second half in an important divisional win, that now pushes them to 2-0. The Bengals are now ahead of the AFC North, and will likely be there until at least Week 3.

There are of course still questions about the team, especially with Marvin Lewis and the pitiful history of being 0-7 in the playoffs. Dalton and Pro Bowl WR AJ Green have always made it interesting on
the outside, but always lacked a slot receiver, or true run support to balance the offense.

Again, Joe Mixon gives the Bengals a new repertoire on offense and of course, it will be up to Dalton if they really want to be elite. Is this the year they finally win a playoff game under Marvin Lewis?

Photo by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Kermit Whitfield) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of the Birds: Fly or die with Matt Ryan 

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The NFL season opener began with a bang, or better yet a Thunderstorm, as the weather delay during the Philadelphia Eagles-Atlanta Falcons game on Thursday night became symbolic for a messy, rough evening at Lincoln Financial Field.

The defending Super Bowl champs gave the Falcons numerous chances to win; failing to convert on offense, and turning the ball over late in 4th, Matt Ryan and company still didn’t get the job done. This was certainly a game that the Atlanta should have won, but instead will start the season with a loss.

This game reeked anything but a NFC Championship rematch that fans and media hoped for, the hype was very much downplayed after an abysmal first half, 6-3 (Philadelphia).

Both quarterbacks struggled to say the least, and the team as a whole looked like it was still preseason. Fans were actually booing the Eagles by halftime, showing their displeasure with a long awaited evening, especially with the weather delay.

Thursday night revealed and highlighted the lingering questions at quarterback, where as the surrounding unit for both teams prove to be solid. The Falcons have a tremendous offensive line, as do the Eagles, and are also complemented with a great defense all-around.

While QB Nick Foles wasn’t able to get the passing game going, he stuck to his team’s motto of running the football and trusted his line to do the rest. Jay Ajayi took advantage of the great blocking and scored two touchdowns for Eagles, but it was still a one possession game.

Ryan appeared to lean on his star wide receiver Julio Jones, who had a tremendous night with 10-of-19 targets for 161 yards, all game long.

Jones was getting doubled most the game, but still continued to be the focal point for the Falcons. It was almost if Mohamed Sanu wasn’t in the game, or any other wide receivers for that matter.

I was surprised that Head Coach Dan Quinn and his staff didn’t come up with some kind of RPO, or trick play to throw off the defense, rather than just throwing it to a fully-blanketed Julio Jones in the red zone. These were obvious passing situations, and clearly the Falcons failed to come up with a “Philly Special” of their own.

The Falcons certainly has to address their Red Zone inefficiency, or else it will continue to haunt them all season long.

Photo by Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

A Dez Bryant-Patriots signing would be Randy ‘Moss-esk’

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With just a month left before the 2018 NFL season begins, Dez Bryant still has yet to sign with a team, but is rumored to be meeting with a contender.

There is little news about Dez Bryant or any of his potential suitors in free agency, except for his dis-interest in the Cleveland Browns. The Browns commented yesterday that Bryant didn’t really seem attracted to the idea of signing.

Bryant, recently just told the media that “he wants to play for a contender”, even after failing to sign with a team with just weeks away from regular season. He is basically limiting his options in free agency, but is sticking to his Owens-like character, wanting to win now.

Rumors have it that the Bryant’s next destination could be in New England, as the Patriots would make perfect sense for the Pro-Bowl wide receiver.

The Patriots reportedly have not contacted Bryant, which is the vintage “Patriot way” to not release any information to the media. The gossip starts with Tom Brady and his like for Bryant, many believe he is recruiting the former Dallas Cowboy.

The buzz continues after recent news that Patriots are releasing wide receiver Malcom Mitchell. Sources around the league speculate that New England is clearing a path to sign Dez.

New England needs help at the wide receiver position to say the least; with the Brandon Cooks trade to the Los Angeles Rams, and Julian Edelman still recovering from the ACL injury, Patriots might just have to roll the dice with Dez. While there is the “baggage” that comes with Bryant, the talent is still there, and derives a strong passion for the game – something key to spark the Patriots’ offense.

Tom Brady, 41, is most likely going to retire after the end of the 2018-2019 NFL season. It looks like this is a do-or-die season for the Brady-Belicheck era.

Could Dez give the Patriots the boost they need to make it another Super Bowl?

Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

NFL Draft: Day 1 drama and ramifications 

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The first day of the NFL Draft always ensues some kind of drama, and of course, it involves the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns stunned the football world on draft night, after drafting Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. The Browns have found themselves with a controversial first-round draft pick once again, but this time it was two.

There was complete shock and awe, after commissioner Roger Goodell announced Mayfield with the first pick, and the mixed reactions only continued after the Browns selected Denzel Ward No. 4 overall.

NFL experts and pretty much everyone in the league labeled Bradley Chubb as one of the premier players in the draft – except for Cleveland.

After seeing all of the analysis, mock drafts from the media and others, I thought Chubb was a lock for the No. 4 pick. I guess we were definitely wrong on that, for it was a jaw-dropping moment on Thursday night.

Browns fans were apparently chanting “Chubb, Chubb, Chubb!” at the draft, according to Kyle Brandt, host of Good Morning Football. The roof was already blown off the building when it heard Mayfield’s name, and now Ward, the football world was just dumbfounded.

Ward is rated the top cornerback in college football, and some draft experts say he is the one of the best players in this draft period, but the mutual feeling is that the Browns reached somewhat for this pick. The Browns are addressing their need for the cornerback position, but the overall better football player is definitely Chubb.

It will be hard to see if the Browns regret on passing on Bradley Chubb, or Sam Darnold in the next three years.

The mixed reaction in Cleveland is only fitting, Browns fans must go crazy with some of the decisions this  ranchise decides to make.

I’m not someone who gives draft grades because I can’t really make an accurate rating with no evidence, no playing time. I can’t predict the future, neither can you, so that’s why we just have to wait and see.

There is a great portion of Browns fans that are in great disbelief that Mayfield is their quarterback, to which is understandable. Mayfield is a Heisman-worthy kind of player, but one with great risk – sound
familiar?

Baker Mayfield just screams out Johnny Manziel comparison all day, a real déjà vu moment for Cleveland.

I definitely thought Sam Darnold would be a lock for No. 1 overall pick, but turned out GM John Dorsey and Browns staff really liked Mayfield. The funny thing is that in hindsight, I can see why Dorsey endorsed for Mayfield, and that I’m actually starting to like this pick.

Cleveland Browns’ record for having over 28 quarterbacks since 1999 (t-most in the NFL) just reeks of mediocrity, and is one record you do not want to have. The Browns need a quarterback who is not only talented, but different, which is exactly Mayfield.

Mayfield could add some excitement to a franchise is in dire need of it, for he would be a perfect fit for their lackluster offense. He plays with excitement, and will be a good inspiration for that Browns’ locker room.

Did the Browns win or whiff on their No. 1 overall pick?

Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The QB Carousel that is the 2018 NFL Draft 

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This time of the year means everyone and their grandmother are presenting their mock version of the NFL Draft, however they vary dramatically in 2018.

The infamous Mel Kiper, Todd McShay normally have similar opinions in most cases, but their predictions this year tend to be very different.

It’s interesting to see all the various scenarios for just the top 10, based on the NFL experts and media. I don’t think anyone really knows exactly who’s going where in this draft.

There is one thing for certain this year, at least two, three (maybe four) quarterbacks could very easily be drafted in the top 10.

Mel Kiper unveiled his list of the top 4 quarterbacks that could be drafted in the first round, showing each different traits.

According to ESPN, Mel Kiper lists QB with:

  1. Best arm – Josh Allen

Compares with Matthew Stafford, and the arm strength of the former great pitcher Randy Johnson.

2. Best legs – Lamar Jackson

His accuracy is questionable, but the speed and athleticism are undeniable; Jackson’s explosiveness will translate
into the NFL effectively.

3. Best heart: Sam Darnold

He has great overall character, shows a lot of adversity and performs very well under-duress.

4. Best mind: Josh Rosen

I agree with experts that he is certainly a NFL QB, and his ‘Tom Brady-like’ approach make him ready for the professional level.

There is a lot that goes into this year’s draft, A LOT.

From cornerbacks to linebackers, and all the way to guards, experts range defensive players all over the place in the first round. A big favorite on defense is Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB, who is projected to be in the top 10.

Ward is the essential proto-type of a NFL cornerback, standing at 5’11″ and 191 lbs., his speed/ability will translate in the league.

There are so many scenarios for defensive players, especially top prospects LB Roquan Smith and G Quenton Nelson, who are both also believed to be taken in the first round. Nelson might go in the top 5, according to NFL scouts.

Smith is another question though, while he is a top 10 talent, he might drop slightly depending on how the QB situation plays out.

Thinking about the first round, who is going where is starting to make my head spin. So I’m going to make this quick, here’s the top ten of my NFL Mock Draft:

1. Sam Darnold

His overall character and ability to have adversity at all times makes him the perfect candidate to lead the Browns.

2. Saquon Barkley

While everyone thinks the Giants are drafting Bradley Chubb, New York address their running back issue and takes the best
player in the draft.

3. Josh Rosen

A few weeks ago Josh Rosen and the New York Jets seemed a sure-thing, I’m going to remind everyone that it will remain the
same.

4. Bradley Chubb

The Browns lock down Chubb with no. 4 overall, giving more balance to the defense.

5. Josh Allen

The Bills go sell their soul with trading two first round picks and a fifth rounder to Denver Broncos for the fifth overall.

6. Quenton Nelson

Put the trade rumors with the Miami Dolphins aside, the Colts add the best guard in the draft to help protect Andrew Luck.

7. Derwin James

James is one of the most physical defensive backs who can make an impact right away, but might be traded back based on the
QB scenario.

8. Denzel Ward

Bears spent a lot of money on offense this offseason, it’s time for them to lock down the best CB in the draft to balance
out their defense.

9. Tremaine Edmunds

49ers need speed and ability on there defense, Edmunds will address that.

10.  Roquan Smith

Raiders will take the other top linebacker in the draft, if Ward doesn’t fall to no. 10.

This is going to be one hell of a draft.

Photo by RalphTheCorndog [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons