NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan
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Tom Brady benched, Jimmy Garoppolo makes NFL debut

Tom Brady benched, Jimmy Garoppolo makes NFL debut | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
Tom Brady sat on the sidelines, dejected and confused, and gave way to rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to make his NFL debut. It is an odd visual, as Brady usually only sits out if the Patriots are winning by a comfortable margin and not the other way around.
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What makes this situation especially fascinating is the fact that Brady was an active participant in the Patriots’ downfall as they fell behind by a score of 41-7, the score when he gave way to Garoppolo in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game.

In fact, Brady was one of the main reasons that the Patriots found themselves behind by so many points, with his leaky offensive line arguably the main culprit.

Here is Brady’s final line on the night: 14-for-23 for 159 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble and nearly lost another. In short, Brady averaged 6.9 yards per completion, missed a bunch of throws, turned the ball over, and got benched.

Here was the final play of Brady’s night, which was a Husain Abdullah pick-six during which Brady got blasted while trying to make a play on the interception return.
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NFL power rankings: Seattle Seahawks take over No. 1, Cleveland Browns slip to No. 22

NFL power rankings: Seattle Seahawks take over No. 1, Cleveland Browns slip to No. 22 | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks jumped to first place and the Browns slipped two notches to 22nd in our Week Four NFL power rankings.
The season is shaping up to display the parity the NFL craves. After three weeks, only the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles are 3-0. Three teams — the Raiders, Jaguars and Buccaneers — are winless and are playing as though they could each go 0-16.
The Seahawks were fourth in the rankings last week because they lost on the road in San Diego in the second week. They reminded everyone why they are the kings of the NFL by beating the Broncos at home in overtime on Sept. 21.
1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1, Last week 4): The Seahawks beat the Broncos to win a rematch of Super Bowl XVIII.
2. Arizona Cardinals (3-0, LW 6): Bruce Arians would be getting more notice if he were head coach of a team in New York City.
3. Denver Broncos (2-1, LW 1): Peyton Manning was helpless to stop the Seahawks from scoring a touchdown on the first possession of overtime.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0, LW 3): The Bengals are off to a perfect start and should make the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0, LW 2): The Redskins gave them a scare, but the Eagles prevailed to keep their record perfect.
6. Chicago Bears (2-1, LW 9): The Bears are a gritty team. They host the rival Green Bay Packers next.
7. Baltimore Ravens (2-1, LW 10): The Ravens have enough offensive weapons to win on the ground and through the air.
8. New Orleans Saints (1-2, LW 12): The Saints found a patsy in the Adrian Petersonless Minnesota Vikings.
9. Carolina Panthers (2-1, LW 5): Injuries are decimating the Panthers. They have to decide to start QB Cam Newton or play Derek Anderson vs. the Ravens.
10. Atlanta Falcons (2-1, LW 15): It’s still early, but the Falcons look like the bounce-back team of 2014.
11. New England Patriots (2-1, LW 8): The Patriots barely squeaked by the inept Oakland Raiders.
12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2, LW 7): There are problems in San Francisco, and they start with head coach Jim Harbaugh.
13. Indianapolis Colts (1-2, LW 13): Andrew Luck threw four touchdowns while wiping out the Jacksonville Jaguars.
14. San Diego Chargers (2-1, LW 14): The schedule maker was kind to the Chargers early. They play the Jets and Raiders the next two games.
15. Detroit Lions (2-1, LW 18): The Lions made a statement by holding the Packers to a touchdown in a 19-7 victory in Detroit.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1, LW 21): James Harrison has re-signed with the Steelers, who should be 4-1 when they visit Cleveland on Oct. 12.
17. Green Bay Packers (1-2, LW 11): Folks in Wisconsin wonder what is wrong with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
18. Buffalo Bills (2-1, LW 17): The Bills will try to rebound in Houston after being snuffed out by the Chargers.
19. Houston Texans (2-1, LW 16): Good teams should not lose to the Giants as the Texans did on Sept. 21.
20. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2, LW 22): The Chiefs have to stay on the heels of the Broncos and Chargers in the AFC West.
21. Dallas Cowboys (2-1, LW 23): The Cowboys had to rally to knock off the Rams last week,
22. BROWNS (1-2, LW 20): Games have been exciting, but the defense has been a huge disappointment.
23. Miami Dolphins (1-2, LW 19): Opponents have scored 83 points on the Dolphins in three games.
24. Washington Redskins (1-2, LW 29): Kirk Cousins is proving he should be a starting quarterback on an NFL team.
25. Minnesota Vikings (1-2, LW 24): Switching to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater isn’t going to save the Vikings.
26. St. Louis Rams (1-2, LW 26): The Rams, 0-2 at home, are off this week. They lost a 21-10 halftime lead to Dallas last week.
27. New York Jets (1-2, LW 25): The Jets were sloppy in their nationally televised loss to the Bears on Sept. 22.
28. New York Giants (1-2, LW 30): The heat is temporarily off Eli Manning, who threw two touchdown passes to help beat the Texans.
29. Tennessee Titans (1-2, LW 27): Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is stuck with quarterback Jake Locker for now.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3, LW 31): Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is being asked to rescue his team after a 0-3 start.
31. Oakland Raiders (0-3, LW 32): The Raiders climbed out of the basement by keeping things close against the Patriots.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3, LW 28): Retirement probably looks pretty good to Bucs coach Lovie Smith right now.
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What's Happened To The Green Bay Packers?

What's Happened To The Green Bay Packers? | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

Three years ago at about this time, the Green Bay Packers were coming off a Super Bowl victory and embarking on a landmark season. They’d eventually become only the sixth team in NFL history to win 15 or more regular-season games. And while Green Bay’s campaign ended on a sour note, with an upset loss to the New York Giants in the divisional playoffs, the Packers had already won Super Bowl XLV with their current core of players (including the ever-coveted elite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers) and seemed poised to contend for even more over the next five to 10 years.

But since the end of the 2011 regular season, the Packers have won 21 games, lost 17 and tied once (including the postseason), a record that would be a toss-up to make the playoffs most years. They went through a seven-game stretch without Rodgers last season, during which the team went 2-4-1. But even with Rodgers at the helm over the past three seasons, the Packers have won just 19 of his 31 starts — only good for about 9.8 wins per 16 games. That includes a 1-2 start to current season and the 19-7 egg they laid Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

So, what happened? The Packers had used a historically great passing game to paper over other weaknesses. But Green Bay’s passing game hasn’t been elite this season. The luster is gone.

The Lions have shown all the earmarks of a good defense in the early going this season, but it’s hard to imagine an offensive group as talented as the Packers mustering just 147 net passing yards and a measly 223 total yards against Detroit. The Lions combined outstanding run defense (Green Bay’s rushing plays cost them a staggering 10.37 expected points, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com) with opportunistic pass-rushing (they only pressured Rodgers five times per Pro Football Focus’s numbers but had two drive-killing third-down sacks). Detroit also limited Green Bay “explosives” (none of their 51 plays gained more than 18 yards), holding the once-vaunted Packers’ offense to a single touchdown.

Even when Green Bay was at their best in 2011, they relied heavily on Rodgers and the passing game. The Packers posted the league’s top record and second-best point differential despite a defense that allowed the most passing yards in NFL history and a running game that was little better than average on a per-play basis. Rodgers earned MVP honors by spearheading the league’s best aerial attack in a season that rewrote the passing sections of the NFL record book.

According to a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) score I created based on Pro Football Focus’s player grades, Rodgers accounted for a larger proportion of his team’s total value than any of the other popular MVP candidates in 2011.

But this year, Green Bay is scoring only 18 points per game, and Rodgers ranks just 18th among qualified quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) thus far. Granted, that number has come against an above-average slate of pass defenses — headlined by the Legion of Boom opening night — but he’s still only 10th in the league if we use the ANY/A allowed by each opponent last year to set up an expected level of performance in each game.

Rodgers’s completion percentage is down — despite settling for shorter completions than in the past — and he’s also taking more sacks. But it’s not all the QB’s fault. In 2011, he had a pair of very good wide receivers in Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson; this year, Nelson has been tremendous and that’s about it. Randall Cobb, the Packers’ fourth wideout last year (by targets), has been pressed into No. 2 duty. The results haven’t been great. In PFF’s estimation, Nelson and tight end Andrew Quarless have been Rodgers’s only above-average targets so far.

And the Packers’ running game has provided even less support than usual, ranking 29th in the NFL if we sum and normalize their PFF rushing and run-blocking grades. You don’t need fancy stats to see they’re also averaging 3.6 yards per carry, despite running an array of draws and delays in an attempt to capitalize on the respect afforded Rodgers and the passing game.

It’s still quite early to definitively boot the Packers out of the Super Bowl contender pool, but their Elo rating (1481) is below the league-average of 1,500 — the lowest it’s been since losing to a formerly winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad in Week 9 of the 2009 season. Rodgers and company rallied from that loss to win seven of their next eight games to close out the regular season, but it remains to be seen whether this Packers team has a similar recovery in it.

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This time, Miami Dolphins are all business for NFL game in London

This time, Miami Dolphins are all business for NFL game in London | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
When the Dolphins last played in London, they were part-ambassadors, and part-tourists.

Then-owner Wayne Huizenga rented out the Tower of London for a team party. A 26-foot Jason Taylor robot roamed Trafalgar Square.

It was the first regular-season NFL game held overseas, and the league expected its teams to help spread the gospel.

“You saw a lot of fans wherever you went,’’ said center Samson Satele, one of just a handful of current players who were on that team in 2007. “They have their own football out there, obviously. But they were still learning [our] football game when we were there.’’

 

The Dolphins are back in England this week for a return visit, but without the animatronics. This time around, it’s strictly business


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nfl/miami-dolphins/article2235557.html?__scoop_post=7b580bf0-44d8-11e4-d3a3-842b2b775358&__scoop_topic=827293#__scoop_post=7b580bf0-44d8-11e4-d3a3-842b2b775358&__scoop_topic=827293#storylink=cpy
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Philbin Putting Himself at Risk with Handling of Tannehill

Philbin Putting Himself at Risk with Handling of Tannehill | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
Nobody's job is safe in the NFL. Every week, it seems, players are playing for their jobs and coaches are coaching for theirs. You can't blame any party for doing everything it takes to keep their job—because that ultimately means they are doing everything it takes to win.

That being said, what does Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin stand to gain from failing to fully support his starting quarterback when faced with questions as to whether Ryan Tannehill would remain the signal-caller?

Not as much as he stands to lose.

"We are going to choose the 46 guys that we think can help us win the football game, and we are going to go from there," Philbin said earlier this week when asked about whether there would be a competition for the quarterback spot. "That's the starting point, and we are going to utilize the players the best way we feel fit."

Philbin may have been trying to get "cute" by misleading reporters, leaving doubt in the opponent's mind as to who would be the starting quarterback, but Philbin must know by now that the Dolphins' success this season will be determined by Tannehill's success. If Tannehill will remain the starter, Philbin just successfully accomplished what so many coaches and fans accuse reporters of doing: making a story out of a non-story.

As a result, he has created a distraction in the locker room.

"Obviously, it doesn't feel good," Tannehill said of Philbin's answers to questions about the quarterback position, via James Walker of ESPN. "It creates a bunch of stir [and] a bunch of distraction in the locker room—mostly from the outside coming in and guys having to deal with the distraction of it. So it's not a good feeling."

If Philbin was trying to be secretive about his quarterback in an effort to play mind games with his opponent, it seems his plan has backfired in the most ultimate way, as he has succeeded only in playing mind games with his own team. That is especially true now that word has gotten out that Tannehill will be starting on Sunday.

 

Tannehill has been far from perfect this year. In 2014, the Dolphins quarterback ranks 29th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage, 32nd in yards per pass attempt and 29th in passer rating. Even when accounting for 11 drops by Dolphins receivers—second most in the NFL—stats website Pro Football Focus (subscription required) says Tannehill's 71.7 overall accuracy percentage ranks 26th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks this season.

Tannehill hasn't been good, but benching him now is still a rash move. Tannehill showed progress in 2013, improving his numbers across the board from the year before, but it's beginning to look like he has regressed this season.

 

The Dolphins should give it some time. Backup quarterback Matt Moore doesn't bring the Dolphins any closer to a winning season or a Super Bowl. The Dolphins may as well ride things out with Tannehill for now and see if his performance improves—as well as the performance of his teammates.

While they should not make any immediate changes, they should certainly be thinking about his long-term future as the starting quarterback.

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NFL Week 4 Picks

NFL Week 4 Picks | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
One of the traps everyone falls into trying to analyze the NFL is the burden of time. Since each team plays only once a week, the focus is always on "What have you done for me lately?" instead of looking at the bigger picture.

There is value in looking at what a team did in its most recent game, but that tends to cloud how good or bad a team really is. All you have to do is look at weekly predictions around the Internet to see this phenomenon in action.

With Week 4 set to begin Thursday night with the New York Giants traveling to Washington in an NFC East showdown, we've got the latest odds and a look at what experts are saying about the weekend's biggest matchups.
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New Orleans Saints announce 2014 rookie free agent class 

New Orleans Saints announce 2014 rookie free agent class  | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Monday that 17 undrafted rookie free agents have agreed to terms with the team following the conclusion of the NFL Draft. Joining the Saints will be offensive linemen Matthew Armstrong and Micajah Reynolds, wide receivers Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones, defensive back Brian Dixon, outside linebackers Kasim Edebali and Chidera Uzo- Diribe, running back Tim Flanders, linebacker Spencer Hadley,tight ends Je’Ron Hamm and Nic Jacobs, quarterback Logan Kilgore, defensive linemen Brandon McCray, George Uko and Lawrence Virgil and safeties Pierre Warren and Ty Zimmerman.

The following is an outline of the 17 players who – along with the club’s six draft choices and other tryout players – will be coming to New Orleans to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp, scheduled to take place May 16-18.

Matthew Armstrong – Offensive Lineman, Grand Valley State (6-2, 302): Armstrong appeared in 51 games, mostly at center, in four years with the Lakers, starting at least one contest in each spot along the offensive line. The 2013 FCS Rimington Trophy winner was also named the GLIAC Offensive Lineman of the Year and a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award while serving as a key contributor to Grand Valley’s 12-3 record. The four-time All-GLIAC honoree helped pave the way for an offense that totaled 6,469 yards, averaged 6.8 yards per play and scored 525 points in 2013.

Brandon Coleman – Wide Receiver, Rutgers (6-6, 225): Coleman started 27-of-39 games at Rutgers and caught 94 passes for 1,808 yards (19.2 avg.) and 20 touchdowns, tying the Scarlet Knights’ school record for scoring grabs. In 2013, he finished second on the team in receiving with 34 grabs for 538 yards (15.8 avg.) with four touchdowns, as 12 of his grabs were for 20 yards or longer. In 2012, he was a second-team All-Big East Conference choice as he made 43 receptions for 718 yards (16.7 avg.) and tied the school record with 10 touchdown grabs.

Brian Dixon – Defensive Back, Northwest Missouri State (6-0, 195): Along with his brother Brandon, who was a sixth round draft pick of the New York Jets, Dixon transferred to Northwest Missouri State from Joliet Junior College in 2012 and helped lead the Bearcats to the 2013 NCAA Division II Football Championship. Dixon played in 25 games with 22 starts over two seasons and recorded 51 tackles, six interceptions and a recovered blocked punt for a touchdown. After recording 30 tackles and five interceptions as a junior, the Pompano Beach, Fla. native started all 12 games he appeared in as a senior and recorded 21 tackles, one pick, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

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Complete Patriots Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis

Complete Patriots Draft Wrap-Up and Analysis | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

 

The New England Patriots entered the draft with a largely complete roster.  Yes, the Pats had holes, but with depth and youth at nearly every position, the Pats could afford to opt for long-term upside rather than short-term plugs.

The Pats ended up choosing the former route, as the majority of their 2014 NFL draft class consists of raw but talented players capable of contributing in 2015 and beyond.  Pats fans may be frustrated that Bill Belichick and Co. did not seek out immediate help to maximize Tom Brady's twilight years, but reinforcing future needs before they arise is never a bad practice.

Therefore, it's better to view this class through a forward-looking lens.  The rookie class might have a negligible impact on, say, the Week 1 game in Miami.  The true value will arrive later, when the Patriots should theoretically have fewer needs due to their proactive mindset this past weekend.

With that in mind, let's examine the best and worst of the New England draft class, and where that leaves the Patriots headed into the end of the 2014 offseason.

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Aggregating Cowboys Draft Report Card Grades

Aggregating Cowboys Draft Report Card Grades | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

There seem to be a lot of different opinions regarding the value of immediate draft grades, but grading the Dallas Cowboys’ 2014 draft right now is actually the best time to do it. The reason is that waiting for the players to perform on the field can actually be misleading.

When teams draft prospects, they’re not getting players who are already set to be busts or All-Pros; they’re drafting players who have a range of potential outcomes, just trying to maximize the probability that the player has a productive career.

They’re not dealing in certainty, but rather trying to shift the odds in their favor a bit. Some players have a higher chance of success than others, but some teams are also better at finding value in players who have a high probability of success relative to the cost of the pick.

When we wait until after a few seasons to grade a draft, we’re only seeing one possible path of how things could have gone—one branch on a very large tree. What if a team makes a really poor pick on a low-percentage player and it just happens to work out? Does that magically turn into a good pick? Of course not.

We need to be careful not to think in such black-and-white terms, realizing we’re dealing in probabilities.

In effect, teams are playing a version of blackjack in the draft. If they hit on 18—i.e. make a poor selection—it doesn’t “become good” if they get a three and hit 21. Just as hitting on 18 is a poor choice even if the next card is a three, drafting a player with a low probability of NFL success is a bad one regardless of how that player performs in the league.

The fact that everyone wants to wait years to grade a team’s current decisions displays the sort of results-oriented thinking that also plagues the league’s most unsuccessful franchises. The draft picks that were made over the past few days are either good or bad right now, and that won’t change in the future.

With that said, let’s take a look at how a few analysts are grading the Cowboys’ 2014 draft.

There seem to be a lot of different opinions regarding the value of immediate draft grades, but grading the Dallas Cowboys ’ 2014 draft right now is actually the best time to do it...
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Broncos make right move to honor the past

Broncos make right move to honor the past | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

The Denver Broncos honored their history this week and tied up a few loose ends along the way.

The team selected three more people for its Ring of Fame, and did it with a needed nod to the past. Too often, whether it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a team’s list of all-time greats or simply somebody’s all-everything team in cyberspace, too much attention is paid to the highlight generation, not enough to when the trail was carved in the first place.

So, it was good to see the Broncos add Gene Mingo, Rick Upchurch and Dan Reeves to its list of all-timers.

For some, the Broncos’ history starts with Hall of Famer John Elway or even Mike Shanahan’s long tenure with the team that included Super Bowl wins in each of the final two seasons of Elway’s playing career. So, many of the “omissions" folks want to talk about in the Ring of Fame, or even the Hall of Fame, are often just a discussion of the post-90s Broncos.

So, to see Mingo honored, an original Bronco who played in the team's first five seasons, shows some respect for what came before the Broncos were the Broncos for many people.

Upchurch spent nine years with the Broncos, his last season was Elway’s rookie year in 1983, but was good enough to make the league’s all-decade team for the 70s as a kick returner. All-decade players are rare, all-decade players not in their team’s Ring of Fame are rarer still.

And Reeves’ selection shows time has perhaps healed some old wounds, at least enough to honor what was done in his tenure. Owner Pat Bowlen fired Reeves in 1992 after 12 seasons with the team and there are plenty of stories still swirling in the city about the level of friction that did or didn't exist between Reeves, Shanahan and Elway in those years.

Reeves is the first coach in the team's Ring of Fame. He won five division titles and made three Super Bowl appearances in a four-year span. As a player, assistant or head coach Reeves has participated in more Super Bowls -- nine -- than any other player or coach in league history.

"It’ll probably be a tremendous emotion, I know that," Reeves said of the Week 2 ceremony in the coming season. “So many great memories. My family basically grew up, my three children, they only had to move one time from the time they got into school and the time they went to college. That wouldn’t happen with many football coaches."

When asked about his most memorable games as Broncos head coach, Reeves was quick to invoke the team’s top football executive -- Elway.

"We talk so much about the Super Bowls and all, but you know we played probably one of the more exciting championship games in Cleveland," Reeves said. “Every year you get to see that because that was noted as “The Drive” and the next year was “The Fumble,” but those were two great championship games. Probably one of the championship games we lost up in Buffalo was one we very easily could have won, but that was a great year for us, too. It’s something where when you win that many games, there were so many phenomenal comebacks that we had. One that sticks out was when John was a rookie and we played Baltimore, the Colts you know, and it was such a big deal about John not going to play for the Colts and they came in there and had a big lead in the fourth quarter and we came from behind and I think that’s when we all realized that as long as we had John Elway, we could have a chance in the fourth quarter if we just even kept it close. When you look back at all the many comebacks that we had in the fourth quarter, it gave me a lot of grey hairs, but it was exciting."

When the names go up on the stadium façade in September, it will be a deserved honor for all three whose time had come. And those who don't remember their history are often doomed to not enjoying all of the good parts, too.

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NFL considering, sort of, playoff seeding based on records

NFL considering, sort of, playoff seeding based on records | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

Yes, it’s unfair that a team like the 12-4 49ers must venture to Green Bay for Ice Bowl II when the Packers cobbled together a measly 8-7-1 record en route to the NFC North crown.

It’s as unfair as it is for the 11-5 Saints to have to travel to play the 10-6 Eagles on Saturday night.  And it’s as unfair as it was when the 2010 Saints, also 11-5, had to travel to Seattle to play the 7-9 Seahawks.  And it’s as unfair as when the 2011 Steelers, at 12-4, had to leave safety Ryan Clark home (due to a medical inability to play at altitude) for a playoffs game at Denver against the 8-8 Broncos.

The league previously has shown no inclination to strip the automatic home game that goes with winning a division, no matter how bad the four teams in that division may be.  But the league apparently has at least considered it.

We think.

In a statement provided to the website the NFL owns, the league acknowledged that the issue has been discussed.  Along with every other issue that may or may not ever be addressed.

“Every scenario has been discussed, ranging from reseeding to one extra game, expanding from 12 to 14 teams,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said.  “Think of a scenario, it’s been discussed and remains in play.”

That’s hardly evidence of a groundswell toward change, like the one that currently exists to centralize the replay review function.  It’s merely a “scenario” that the league considers from time to time, along with anything and everything else that comes up when the powers-that-be are talking about possible improvements to the game.

A greater sense of urgency is warranted.  Not that it would help the 49ers or the Saints.  In fact, by the time change is made, it could be the 49ers and the Saints who lose home games after winning divisions with records worse than the wild-card teams.

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Viewer's Guide to 2013 NFL Playoffs

Viewer's Guide to 2013 NFL Playoffs | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
The NFL playoffs are set. No more speculation. No more what-if scenarios. No more watching the Houston Texans play...

 

No more speculation. No more what-if scenarios. No more watching the Houston Texans play. The scintillating regular season has come to a close, and only 12 teams remain with a shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. 

Michael Castillo of FanSided gives us a look at the bracket:

 

 

 

The Wild Card and divisional rounds of the NFL postseason are typically two of the best weekends in sports, and judging by the matchups, that's going to be no different this year. 

Here's a look at the entire schedule for the 2014 playoffs:

 

2014 NFL Playoff ScheduleRoundDate (Time)AwayHomeTVWild CardJan. 4 (4:35 p.m. EST)No. 5 Kansas City ChiefsNo. 4 Indianapolis ColtsNBCWild CardJan. 4 (8:10 p.m. EST)No. 6 New Orleans SaintsNo. 3 Philadelphia EaglesNBCWild CardJan. 5 (1:05 p.m. EST)No. 6 San Diego ChargersNo. 3 Cincinnati BengalsCBSWild CardJan. 5 (4:40 p.m. EST)No. 5 San Francisco 49ersNo. 4 Green Bay PackersFOXDivisionalJan. 11 (4:35 p.m. EST)Lowest NFC SeedNo. 1 Seattle SeahawksFOXDivisionalJan. 11 (8:15 p.m. EST)Highest AFC SeedNo. 2 New England PatriotsCBSDivisionalJan. 12 (1:05 p.m. EST)Highest NFC SeedNo. 2 Carolina PanthersFOXDivisionalJan. 12 (4:40 p.m. EST)Lowest AFC SeedNo. 1 Denver BroncosCBSAFC ChampionshipJan. 19 (TBA)TBATBACBSNFC ChampionshipJan. 19 (TBA)TBATBAFOXSUPER BOWL XLVIIIFeb. 2 (6:30 p.m. EST)TBATBAFOX

NFL.com

 

 

Kicking off the postseason with the Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts? That's something I can get on board with. 

After the first 10 weeks of the season, Andy Reid's new team was 9-0 and generating buzz as a legitimate contender in the AFC. But the Chiefs faltered a bit down the stretch, losing five of their last seven (although the last came with their backups in Week 17), including a 23-7 shellacking to the Colts in Week 16. 

 

 Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Colts, meanwhile, are moving in the opposite direction, and as head coach ChuckPagano was quick to point out, playing well in December is crucial for postseason success:

''They always talk about December being the second most important month in football and we went out and went 4-1,'' he said following the team's Week 17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to Michael Marot of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports). 

Still, Kansas City boasts a formidable defense to pressure Andrew Luck, as well as one of the most dangerous offensive playmakers in Jamaal Charles. Indy will be favored, but this serves as a tantalizing matchup to kick off the postseason. 

Rounding out Saturday will be New Orleans at Philadelphia. 

The Saints tend to struggle on the road, and the Eagles can be unpredictable, but blah blah blah. When it comes down to it, both teams are littered with offensive weapons all over the field and capable of putting up points in a hurry.

NBC's Cris Collinsworth, via the Saints' official Twitter feed, sums up the potential electrifying shootout:

 

 

 

Sunday kicks off with another AFC rematch—the San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals. 

This one figures to be the most lopsided in terms of odds. The Bengals, who are undefeated at home, had three more wins than the Chargers during the regular season and won in San Diego, 17-10, in Week 13. 

 

 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

 

Don't jump to write off Mike McCoy's squad, though. The Chargers travel extremely well, having knocked off the Eagles, Chiefs and Denver Broncos all on the road. And if the "bad" Andy Dalton—he threw two or more interceptions five times this season, resulting in three losses—shows up for Cincy, anything can happen. 

Finally, in an appropriate wild-card finale, we've got San Francisco at Green Bay, a rivalry that is quickly gaining steam

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John Sullivan wants Christian Ponder to start at quarterback

John Sullivan wants Christian Ponder to start at quarterback | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is holding off on making a decision about a starting quarterback, but the team’s starting center has shared his opinion about which hands he’d like nestled between his thighs this Sunday against the Cowboys.

Center John Sullivan acknowledges that he doesn’t have a vote in the decision-making process, but said that he would cast it for Christian Ponder if he did. He went with performance-based reasons for his choice rather than nail-trimming habits to explain why he’d stick with Ponder over Josh Freeman.

“[Ponder] prepared really hard and he went out there and laid it all on the line,” Sullivan said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “You know, you see that last run that he made when things were getting out of reach [a 19-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter against the Packers on Sunday] and he’s still out there fighting until the end. I mean, that’s not my decision. But I’d love to see him stay back there, of course.”

Frazier may not take Sullivan’s thoughts into account and Freeman probably is less than thrilled to hear them, but letting the center choose the quarterback seems to be as reasonable a method as anything else the Vikings have tried this season.

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Was this the end for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' dynasty?

Was this the end for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' dynasty? | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
The game situation was totally different for Jimmy Garoppolo, of course, but it was impossible not to notice what happened at the end of Monday night's game.

Garoppolo, the Patriots' second-round pick this year, came in and gave a dead offense some life. He took a team that couldn't move the ball and immediately drove the Patriots for a touchdown.

And as that was happening it was impossible to also not think about Tom Brady in the past tense. To wonder if we're just never going to see one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history be great anymore. It was also worth wondering if the Patriots' incredible dynasty died at Arrowhead Stadium, too. That's how bad the 41-14 loss was. The Patriots have never looked this incompetent in the Belichick-Brady era.

Maybe the Patriots and Brady are fooling us and by the end of the year they'll wear the "AFC East Champions" hats with yet another double-digit win season and look back on this game at Kansas City and laugh. But the Patriots' embarrassment was so thorough and complete that you have to wonder if that team is ever coming back.

The Chiefs played a magnfiicent all-around game, and they deserve a lot of credit. But the Patriots looked terrible, too. The Patriots were outgained 303-96 in the first half. The defense was awful, as bad as a Bill Belichick defense has ever looked. But the defense has played well at times this year. Brady hasn't.

Before we get to Brady's excuses, let's review some facts. Brady is completing just 59 percent of his passes. He has 791 yards in four games. He has just four touchdowns. His yards per attempt is among the lowest in the league. Against the Chiefs he had 159 yards and two interceptions. Belichick merficully pulled Brady after his second interception, which was returned for a toucdhown to put Kansas City ahead 41-7. Brady and Belichick have never trailed by that many points in a game during their all-time great run with the Patriots. It was sad to watch Brady, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, take a seat on the bench after being so poor on Monday night.

Brady has some reasons for his struggles. The offensive line is not playing well at all. Brady was blindsided on a play by Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali and lost a fumble, and left tackle Nate Solder barely touched Hali as he flew by. That's not Brady's fault. It's also not completely Brady's fault that his receivers weren't getting much separation, and that Rob Gronkowski still doesn't look like the dominant force he was before a bunch of injuries. But Brady is 37, showed signs of slipping last year (it makes the MVP talk near the end of last season look really foolish) and you have to wonder if the best of Brady is well behind him now. It certainly looked that way on Monday night.

The Patriots are 2-2 and certainly have the ability to make another run, although nobody has been impressed by them yet this season. It's a team that lost in the AFC championship game last year, then made a lot of roster improvements through getting injured players back and adding cornerback Darrelle Revis. They should be very good, as usual. But the team that was blown out by the Chiefs doesn't resemble a contender at all.

As you watched the Chiefs do whatever they wanted on Monday night, and Brady look as helpless as he has ever looked on an NFL field, you couldn't help but wonder if you were witnessing the end of one of the NFL's greatest runs.

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How Moncrief Can Help Transform the Colts Offense

How Moncrief Can Help Transform the Colts Offense | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
In the third round of the 2014 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Donte Moncrief, wide receiver from Ole Miss.

And the people did rejoice.

Moncrief's selection was met with more initial joy than any Colts pick since the 2012 draft, not even necessarily because of the player himself, but because of what he represented: a commitment to a dynamic passing offense. Then, of course, there's the fact that Moncrief was one of the best size and speed combinations at the position, comparing favorably to players like Cordarrelle Patterson and Andre Johnson.

Basically, people were excited about Moncrief, and who could blame them?

But, it was also an accepted fact that Moncrief would be a project, more than an instant impact. The Colts already had 2012 third-round pick T.Y. Hilton, returning veteran Reggie Wayne and free-agent addition Hakeem Nicks, in addition to former UDFA fan-favorites Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers.

Moncrief would have to wait for his shining moment, but the talent around him also gave him plenty of mentors to learn from.

After Moncrief stood out in training camp, he quickly became a player to watch. Once the Colts struggled to get a downfield passing game going in the first two weeks of the season, the prospect of a big, fast receiver to stretch the defense became an even more tantalizing option.

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Moncrief had gotten snaps in each of the first three weeks, but he was limited to single digits until the Colts' win over Jacksonville, where a blowout and a mild ankle injury to T.Y. Hilton opened the door for Moncrief. Now, we have three games of Moncrief, combining for 24 total snaps in the passing game. While one game was against the lowly Jaguars, the results for Moncrief have been overwhelmingly positive.

You can see it in traditional stats, with the former Ole Miss receiver being targeted just seven times for six receptions and 80 receiving yards. But I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I tracked each passing play that Moncrief was on the field for, to get a better sense of how the Colts have utilized his talents. What I found was illuminating.

With the rookie on the field, the Colts have averaged 10.65 yards per dropback this season. With Moncrief on the sideline, the Colts have averaged just 5.85 yards per dropback.

Against the Jaguars, with Moncrief playing increased snaps, the difference was stark, as the Colts averaged 12.3 yards per dropack with him, versus 5.8 without him. It's not just a coincidence, although part of the difference is simply the Colts' willingness to throw the ball deep with more receivers on the field.

Some of that increase is because of the threat Moncrief is, with a variety of ways to attack the defense.

Donte Moncrief's Routes, Weeks 1-3 Route Number Average Depth Targets Catches Yards Team Yds/Play
Go 5 25 2 1 22 19.8
Skinny Post 3 30 0 0 0 5.67
Curl/Comeback 6 9 1 1 10 5.5
Crossing 4 2 2 2 12 10.25
Dig/Out 2 5 1 1 16 13
Screen 2 -2 1 1 21 14.5
Wheel 1 15 0 0 0 0

NFL Game Rewind

The Colts used Moncrief to stretch the field throughout the last three games, running go routes or skinny posts on 35 percent of his snaps. But Moncrief also attacked shallow zones, running crossing routes or other routes for less than 10 yards on 43 percent of his snaps. The remaining 22 percent was largely 10-yard curl routes.

Moncrief was able to use his speed and balance to elude defenders for yards after the catch on those shallow routes, picking up 41 of his 80 yards after the catch. That included a 21-yard screen pass, the only one of the Colts receiver screens that has been successful so far this year.

His stretching the field has resulted in big plays, too, as his 22-yard back-shoulder catch set up a touchdown.

It's a bit reminiscent of how the Colts use T.Y. Hilton, using shallow crossers and comebacks to get the defensive backs to start biting low before attacking them deep. But, if you track Hilton's routes, you get a much more varied look.
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NFL Week 4 Power Rankings

NFL Week 4 Power Rankings | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

Although win-loss records can help you in the standings, they do not mean everything through the first few weeks of an NFL season.

Unlike college football where one loss can ruin a season, defeats are not as devastating at this level. Even the best teams in the league can lose a game, especially when going on the road against a tough opponent.

This means that even teams without a perfect record could be considered the top teams in the NFL, while others with a better record might be further down the list depending on results.

With this in mind, here is a look at how each team ranks heading into Week 4 based on performance to this point and expectations for the rest of the year.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)

The Jaguars saw one good half of play this season before getting blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts. Blake Bortles had some nice moments in his debut, but there was no pressure on him coming into the game down 30-0.

While the team will hope Bortles can continue to improve after earning the starting job this week, the rest of the roster will not give him much help.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)

Tampa Bay was thoroughly beaten in every phase of the game by the Atlanta Falcons in a 56-14 loss. Before that, the team suffered close losses to backup quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Austin Davis.

There is enough talent on this team to turn things around, but things look bad at the moment.

30. Oakland Raiders (0-3)

The offense is not doing much behind Derek Carr, ranking in the bottom five in the NFL in both passing and rushing yards per game. Although the defense has fared well at times, this has come against poor offenses. 

There are some legitimate stars on each side of the ball, but this squad needs to fill a lot of holes before it starts winning games regularly.

29. Minnesota Vikings (1-2)

The offense was not expected to be too good coming into the year, and it is now much worse without Adrian Peterson, Matt Cassel, Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco. No matter who fills in those roles, things will be rough in Minnesota.

On the plus side, this also means the start of the Teddy Bridgewater era with the rookie making his first start on Sunday. The first-round pick appears to be up to the task, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com:

It’s a challenge, but you’re talking about some great football players. I feel that we have a group of guys in the locker room that are pretty talented also. It’s not all about me. I don’t have to do it by myself. There are 10 other guys out on the field with me; we’re expecting those guys to play well for us and [we're] just excited to get back out there Sunday.

The squad will try to give him as much help as possible, but this will likely be a long season as the quarterback goes through some growing pains. 

 

28. Tennessee Titans (1-2)

Jake Locker has taken a major step back over the past two weeks, although this can be explained by a wrist injury. Either way, the Titans will need someone who can play quarterback and spread the ball around to the quality receiving targets on offense. Otherwise, this could end up being another wasted season in Tennessee.

 

27. Miami Dolphins (1-2)

The coaching staff seems to be putting too much pressure on Ryan Tannehill lately, forcing the quarterback to throw the ball 92 times in the last two games. He has not responded well, averaging less than five yards per attempt in each contest.

Considering how well Knowshon Moreno and now Lamar Miller have fared this year, this offense should be utilizing the run game more. 

 

26. St. Louis Rams (1-2)

Austin Davis has played better than many expected, but he is still not able to carry a team on his own. He needs the defense to step up and perform to its ability with one of the most talented defensive lines in the NFL.

When even the top players on the roster are not playing to their ability, it will be a long season. 

 

25. New York Giants (1-2)

Rashad Jennings had a huge game to lead the Giants to victory, but the key was Eli Manning not throwing an interception for the first time this season.

Even with a below-average offensive line, the offense can be one of the best in the league if it can just cut down on turnovers.

 

24. Washington Redskins (1-2)

Kirk Cousins is certainly living up to the hype after many were hoping to see him get the starting job out of training camp. However, his two appearances came against two of the three worst pass defenses in the NFL.

The former fourth-round pick will get more chances to show he can be a legitimate starter at this level, but we have to wait to proclaim him a star until he proves himself a little more.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)

Kansas City earned its first win of the year despite not having Jamaal Charles or Eric Berry, let alone Derrick Johnson. The keys were a strong run game and defense, two things that helped the squad reach the playoffs last season.

The schedule is much tougher this time around, and the record will probably reflect that, but at least the team showed it does not need its stars to win games.

 

22. Cleveland Browns (1-2)

Even with two losses in their division, the Browns have given fans plenty to be hopeful about this season. Surprisingly, none of that has anything to do with Johnny Manziel.

The offense has held up its end of the bargain, but the defense will have to pick up the slack if Cleveland wants to win games this year.  

 

21. Houston Texans (2-1)

Houston looked good beating two weak opponents before suffering its first loss to the Giants.

The Texans started 2-0 last season before losing the next 14 games in a miserable season. While it is tough to assume the same fate this year, fans are definitely a little scared after losing the third game following a 2-0 start.

 

20. New York Jets (1-2)

There are a lot of things the Jets do well, starting with a defensive line that ranks as one of the best in the league. They have helped put pressure on opposing quarterbacks while holding opponents to the fewest rushing yards in the NFL.

The problem is Geno Smith has not been able to lead the team in his second season. After making a few mistakes on Monday Night Football, even one of the more optimistic analysts in the NFL started doubting the quarterback, according to Peter King of MMQB:

Smith threw 21 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns last season, and those turnover problems are creeping up this year as well. He has four interceptions in three games as his QBR has dropped to 33.2, ranking 28th out of 32 qualified players.

If he cannot turn things around, the Jets will likely be looking for a new quarterback in the draft next spring.

 

19. Buffalo Bills (2-1)

No one really thought the Bills would go undefeated, did they? Buffalo had a solid start to the year but lost to the impressive San Diego Chargers in Week 3.

Still, this team continues to improve with a big-time defense and young playmakers throughout the offense. The future certainly is bright in Buffalo for the first time in a long time. 

 

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

DeMarco Murray has been one of the most impressive players in the NFL this season, leading the league with 385 rushing yards. As long as the Cowboys rely on the running back, the team can continue winning games.

Unfortunately, Tony Romo can win or lose games on his own. With his inconsistency, the Cowboys can expect another .500 season. 

 

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)

After a pair of mediocre performances, the Steelers dominated the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, rushing for 264 yards against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

With the resurgence of Ben Roethlisberger as well as the strong play of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers can be an offensive-minded squad for the first time in years.

 

16. New Orleans Saints (1-2)

Losing two close games on the road was a problem, but the narrow win at home against the Vikings could be an even bigger issue. The Saints are used to lighting up the scoreboard in the Superdome, but they could only manage 20 points in a substandard effort.

If New Orleans cannot put up points against the Cowboys this week, it might be time to start giving up on this team.

 

15. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)

The Falcons had a blowout win against the Buccaneers, but this seems like something many teams will have the privilege of doing this season. While a healthy Julio Jones makes the offense much better, Matt Ryan will not have as many open targets in every game.

With the schedule getting tougher in the second half, we will truly see if the Falcons are back in the contending conversation.


14. San Francisco 49ers (1-2)

Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde have combined to total just 26 carries in the last two games. This number should be closer to 60-70 considering the team had halftime leads in both contests.

The 49ers went to the NFC Championship Game three years in a row thanks to a power rushing attack and strong defense. It is nice to see some variety, but completely abandoning what got you success in the past is a foolish strategy. 

13. Chicago Bears (2-1)

When healthy, the Bears have one of the best passing attacks in the league with Jay Cutler throwing the ball down the field to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Even the defense has been faring well despite a number of key injuries to the secondary.

After two close wins, Chicago will try to prove itself as a playoff contender against the Green Bay Packers.  

12. Carolina Panthers (2-1)

The Panthers ranked second in the NFL last season against the run but only sit 27th in this category in 2014. With the offense struggling to get any consistency behind a disappointing offensive line, the defense needs to get back to carrying this team.

As good as Cam Newton is, he cannot do it all himself. 

11. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

The Ravens do not always make games look pretty, but they often find a way to come out on top. After missing the playoffs last year with an 8-8 record, they appear ready to get back this year with slight improvements in every phase of the game.

After going 2-1 against divisional opponents in the tough AFC North, Baltimore should be feeling good about its play on the field this year.

10. Green Bay Packers (1-2)

The Packers looked awful offensively against the Lions, but there is too much talent to believe this will be the case in coming weeks. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and he has plenty of weapons to spread the ball around.

As long as Green Bay can play to its ability, this should still be a playoff team and possibly more. 

9. New England Patriots (2-1)

There is reason to be concerned about the Patriots' play so far this year, especially offensively against three below-average defenses. Tom Brady has not done a good job of connecting with his receivers and has not shown signs of turning it around.

Still, they have found ways to win and have the experience necessary to keep pulling out close battles. The 2-1 record is misleading, but getting wins is still important. 

8. Detroit Lions (2-1)

The Lions defense has been the story this year, ranking third in the league passing yards allowed and second against the rush. After years of this unit being the weak link, it now seems to be the strength of the team.

Once the offense picks up behind Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, this will be a tough team to beat.

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N.F.L. Players Union Investigating Handling of Ray Rice’s Suspension

N.F.L. Players Union Investigating Handling of Ray Rice’s Suspension | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
The N.F.L. Players Association said Wednesday that it had hired an investigator to look into the “due process, discipline, facts and conduct” of the N.F.L. and the Baltimore Ravens when they were penalizing running back Ray Rice for domestic violence.

The investigation, by Richard Craig Smith, a former federal prosecutor, will run parallel to Rice’s appeal, which the union said it would pursue last week. The N.F.L. has hired Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, to do his own inquiry into the league’s handling of the matter, particularly what it knew of Rice’s altercation with his fiancée in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February, and how it responded.

An appeals hearing has yet to be set. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union, a hearing date must be set within 10 business days of an appeal, which was filed Sept. 16.

The parallel investigations and efforts by the league and the union to find an arbitrator could lead the sides to push back the deadline for scheduling the hearing.

Because he is a central subject in the investigation, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would not hear Rice’s appeal, as he has done in past cases.

“We’re still waiting for an arbitrator selection from the league, and we’ve asked for input,” said George Atallah, a union spokesman. He added that the union was also seeking candidates.

The N.F.L. said in a statement that it was cooperating with the union.

Once an arbitrator is selected and a date is chosen, the larger questions will be the union’s strategy in appealing Rice’s suspension and how the league will defend its decision. At the center of the case is whether the league afforded Rice due process when it suspended him indefinitely on Sept. 8.

Critically, did the N.F.L. ask to interview Rice on that day and did it provide Rice with new evidence to justify its decision? Goodell has said several times that the league had not seen the video from inside the elevator, released Sept. 8 by TMZ, that showed Rice punching his fiancée, whom he later married. Goodell said the video did not match the version of the incident Rice provided in his first hearing in June.

A month after that hearing, Goodell suspended Rice for two games.

If the arbitrator concludes that the N.F.L. had not seen the video as it contends, Rice’s lawyers may focus on whether the league could have reasonably obtained it.

At a news conference Monday, the Ravens’ owner, Steve Bisciotti, suggested he could have obtained the video had he pushed harder.

In late July, as Goodell was facing criticism for the initial two-game suspension, which many viewed as too lenient, Adolpho Birch, senior vice president for labor policy and government affairs at the N.F.L., defended the punishment. In an ESPN Radio interview on “Mike & Mike,” he said the suspension sent a strong message and would cost Rice hundreds of thousands of dollars. Birch declined to say if Goodell and league officials had access to the video that showed what happened in the elevator.

“On balance, when we reviewed all of the materials, the information, listened to the persons that we listened to, took the input of the players association — when we looked at all of that, we believe that the discipline issued is appropriate,” Birch said at the time.

He said Goodell suspended Rice for two games based on how past cases were handled, without providing specific examples.

There is also the question of whether Rice was penalized twice for the same violation. Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement says that “the commissioner and a club will not both discipline a player for the same act or conduct. The commissioner’s disciplinary action will preclude or supersede disciplinary action by any club for the same act or conduct.”

The Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, but that is not strictly speaking a form of discipline. The N.F.L. will probably argue that the new video changed its understanding of the incident, and therefore warranted a separate discipline, said Matthew J. Mitten, the director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette, and an arbitrator in cases involving Olympic athletes.

“The N.F.L. will argue that it didn’t see the video, and Rice will argue that he told them different times that he punched her,” Mitten said. “The critical thing is not whether Goodell saw the video, but his investigation team saw it since they would have reported it to him had they seen it.”

It is not unusual for an arbitrator to find a middle ground in a ruling. This year, an arbitrator reduced Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension to a full season. An arbitrator reduced Latrell Sprewell’s suspension for choking his coach in 1997.

In Rice’s case, this could include reducing his indefinite suspension to a single season or even six games, which is the league’s new standard for players who are found to have committed domestic violence for the first time.

Two weeks ago, Goodell said in an interview with CBS News that he would not rule out Rice’s returning to the field.

“But he would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue,” Goodell added. “Clearly, he has paid a price for the actions that he’s already taken.”
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49ers' Colin Kaepernick used racial slur, says Bears' Lamarr Houston

49ers' Colin Kaepernick used racial slur, says Bears' Lamarr Houston | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

49ers' Colin Kaepernick used racial slur, says Bears' Lamarr Houston


SANTA CLARA -- Chicago Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston has changed his initial stance and now claims that Colin Kaepernick indeed directed a racial slur at him during the 49ers' home-opening loss Sept. 14.

"He was just saying inappropriate language," Houston told the Chicago Tribune after he himself drew a similar penalty in Monday night's win over the New York Jets. Asked if he was insulted by Kaepernick's alleged word choice, Houston downplayed it as a "cultural thing."

Houston, a former Oakland Raider, said after the Sept. 14 game he didn't hear anything, backing up Kaepernick's contention he said nothing. Since then, however, KPIX video shows Kaepernick saying something, and Fox Sports reported Sunday that Kaepernick used a racial slur.

 

Kaepernick initially maintained after Sunday's loss at Arizona that, "I didn't say anything racially derogatory to him."

  

Told of the KPIX video, Kaepernick replied: "I talk on the football field, yes, I do."

  

Kaepernick has said he'll appeal the $11,025 fine he drew for violating a language rule the league enacted this season.

  

That penalty only cost the 49ers' three yards because they were backed up near the end zone, but the Bears scored a go-ahead touchdown on the next play. The 49ers have been penalized 42 times this season, including 16 against the Bears and nine against the Cardinals.

 

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Broncos depth chart, updated after the 2014 draft

Broncos depth chart, updated after the 2014 draft | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

There is now a bonafide cluster, uh, mess along the OL at the positions of contention.  There are a lot of tackles and a lot of G/T players.  There can end up being three new starters along the offensive line in 2014.  LG, C, and RT are all in play.  The coaching staff will look to find the best combinations possible and barring injury, should be able to field a starting five better than last season's.

As far as WR, locks are DT, Welker, Sanders, and Latimer.  Though Bubba Caldwell was resigned and should be the safest reserve with the ability to play inside and outside (not to mention familiarity in the system), someone might surprise and unseat him for that final spot. The plus that I see is that the OL is everybit as deep with talent and versatile as the defensive line.

As far as TE?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I've long contended one of Dreessen/Tamme will be released but that remains to be seen.

There is now a bonafide cluster, uh, mess along the OL at the positions of contention.  There are a lot of tackles and a lot of G/T players.  There can end up being three new starters along the offensive line in 2014.  LG, C, and RT are all in play.  The coaching staff will look to find the best combinations possible and barring injury, should be able to field a starting five better than last season's.

As far as WR, locks are DT, Welker, Sanders, and Latimer.  Though Bubba Caldwell was resigned and should be the safest reserve with the ability to play inside and outside (not to mention familiarity in the system), someone might surprise and unseat him for that final spot. The plus that I see is that the OL is everybit as deep with talent and versatile as the defensive line.

As far as TE?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I've long contended one of Dreessen/Tamme will be released but that remains to be seen.

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Dan Marino: Tom Brady's not done ...

Dan Marino: Tom Brady's not done ... | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

Dan Marino was 38 when he played his last season in 1999. Nearly 15 years and 17 starting quarterbacks later, the Dolphins still are trying to replace him.

Before Ryan Tannehill, the latest candidate trying to step in and be the man in Miami, the Fins had Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Moore.

They all gave it a whirl but didn’t have anything close to Marino-like results.

That scenario, of course, is what the Patriots want to avoid when Tom Brady finally moves on. The Pats quarterback, who turns 37 in a few months, has indicated on several occasions he’d like play at least to 40, if not beyond.

Marino, in Boston last week for AARP’s Life@50+ National Event and Expo, didn’t believe the Pats had to worry about coming up with a successor for a while.

Only the Pats, it appears, have other ideas. Or at least they’re keeping the backup chain moving.

Bill Belichick spent a second-round pick Friday on Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

But is he the guy? Will he be the guy? Drafting a quarterback so high would suggest the Pats plan on having him as the heir apparent to Brady. Time will tell.

According to Marino, however, Garoppolo will have plenty of time to learn. There’s some extensive clipboard-holding in his future.

The Hall of Fame quarterback is convinced Brady will break the mold, stare down Father Time and play beyond 40. He thinks that scenario is realistic.

“I really think it is (a possibility). I think he can play into his 40s,” Marino said, taking a break from Thursday’s slate of activities which included running a football clinic at the Gerald and Darlene Jordan Boys & Girls Club in Chelsea. “It really comes down to health. Tom has had such a great career. He plays the position at such a level that’s as good as anyone that’s ever played it. It just comes down to physical ability and health.”

Beyond that, Marino said Brady still has to want to play, and have the desire to put in the work. That can’t wane. To this point, Brady seems as dedicated as ever. He’s been in town working with his teammates in Foxboro since the start of the voluntary offseason program.

“You have to still have that burning desire to compete, and go to camp and go through the work it takes to get prepared to go through a whole season,” Marino said. “As long as you have that, and somewhat your health — you’re not going to be as healthy as you were when you were 25 or 26 — if you have that desire to compete and put the work in, he can play into his 40s, sure.”

Marino watched Brady pretty intently last year. He said he really didn’t see much, if any, signs of a decline in the quarterback that could be attributed to age. The legs usually are the first to go, but Brady remains elusive in the pocket. Marino also believes Brady still thinks the game as well as anybody.

“Last year, I really didn’t see it,” Marino said of a decline. “Tom’s never been a very mobile guy, but he’s mobile enough in the pocket, he still makes people miss. I was the same way. But as I got older, it got a little tougher to make people miss, and move around a little bit. But his mind and his ability to throw the football, I don’t think that’s changed at all.”

With the Patriots doing homework on so many quarterbacks pre-draft, a lot of talk leading up had to do with when the right time was for them to pull the trigger on Brady’s eventual successor.

Marino, the last quarterback of the highly touted class of 1983 to be taken in the first round, didn’t seem to think there was a rush to bring in a replacement. But he did toss in a stipulation which likely applied to the Pats making a move on Garoppolo.

“When do you draft a successor? I guess that question is one that’s a tough answer for all NFL teams,” he said. “If you have a chance to draft a guy you think is going to make a difference for 10 or 12 years for your team, you’re probably going to have to take him now. Without that, to me, I don’t think it’s the time yet.”

The Patriots seem to think Garoppolo might ultimately ride a similar path as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, holding the clipboard for four years until getting a shot. Or he might jump in much sooner should Brady get hurt. At the very least, the Pats have someone in place for the eventual departure of Ryan Mallett. The latter enters the final year of his contract in 2014, so the Pats were smart to grab a third developmental QB.

Irish hospitality

Belichick had more intel than most on Notre Dame players heading into the draft given he essentially provided an independent audit of the program at coach Brian Kelly’s request before last season.

After scouring game film, Belichick spent about a day and a half with the Fighting Irish coaching staff working through the footage.

Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston, who was hoping the Pats might take either of his linemen, Louis Nix or Stephon Tuitt, won’t ever forget the Belichick sessions in South Bend.

“It was a great visit. It was a blessing for me, a young coach in this profession, to get a chance to talk to if not the most successful active coach in the NFL, a defensive-minded guy. It gave us an opportunity to pick his brain and learn from him. It was a blessing. It was great. I wish I could do it more.”

As it turned out, Belichick didn’t make a move on either Tuitt or Nix.

Tuitt went to the Steelers in the second round. Nix, once thought to be a high first-round prospect, dropped way down the board. He lasted into the third round when he went to the Texans. He’s a perfect fit as a nose tackle in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense.

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Elway Continues Broncos Offseason Roster Makeover - CBS Denver

Elway Continues Broncos Offseason Roster Makeover - CBS Denver | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

John Elway returned from that five-touchdown loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl and decided the Denver Broncos, as much as anything, needed an attitude adjustment.

So, he went about beefing up his offensive line and injecting some nastiness into his defense.

He turned to veterans and youngsters alike.

The Broncos boss started his makeover in free agency and continued right through the three-day NFL draft that concluded Saturday with the selections of LSU middle linebacker Lamin Barrow, Boise State center Matt Paradis and Oklahoma outside linebacker Corey Nelson.

On defense, Elway added thumpers DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward in free agency and selected Ohio State’s edgy cornerback Bradley Roby in the first round of the draft, Barrow in the fifth and Nelson in the seventh.

He shuffled an O-line that was manhandled by the swarming Seahawks, adding centers Will Montgomery in free agency and Paradis in the sixth round. The Broncos also moved Orlando Franklin from right tackle to left guard and spent a third-round pick on Michigan’s Michael Schofield, who declared his intent Saturday to win the starting job at right tackle.

However it all shakes out, Peyton Manning should have a lot more muscle in front of him this season as the Broncos try to give him more room to operate and add balance to their pass-heavy offense with a better ground game.

What should also help in that regard is the addition of second-round pick Cody Latimer of Indiana, whom Elway called the best-blocking wide receiver in this year’s draft.

Coach John Fox lauded the speed Denver added to its roster with these half-dozen picks, but just as important was the pluck the new guys bring to the Broncos, Elway said.

“Defensively, you throw Bradley in there, you throw Barrow in there with Corey, they understand that mentality and that switch,” Elway said. “And then you know the other thing is Cody brings that on the offensive side and that was one thing that we’re really excited about is the way he blocks and the physicality he plays with in the game as a wide receiver, which you don’t see a whole lot of.

“So, if there’s anything that we got out of that draft it is the physical mentality, and, as John said, a lot of speed.”

Elway picked up a fifth-round draft pick next year — when he expects to also have as many as four compensatory picks — by trading his fourth-rounder to Chicago on Saturday. Yet, he and Fox grew restless when there was a run on linebackers with Barrow in his sights late in the fifth round.

Fox “made about 18 laps around the room,” Elway said. “That was the most nervous time of the draft.”

Barrow mostly played weakside linebacker in college but his versatility will allow him to compete with Nate Irving for the starting middle linebacker job in Denver, where free agents Paris Lenon and Wesley Woodyard weren’t retained after sharing snaps at that position in 2013.

Nelson missed the last half of his senior season with a partially torn chest muscle but said that won’t be an issue: “My (pectoral) is 100 percent, it’s good to go,” he said. “It was supposed to be a six-month injury, but it only took me 3½ months.”

Paradis was raised in the tiny mountain town of Council, Idaho, walked on at Boise State as a defensive lineman in 2009 and finished as a two-time All-Mountain West center. He called his winding journey from eight-man high school football to NFL draft pick “pretty surreal.”

Among the 15 undrafted free agents the Broncos signed following the draft was Fresno State receiver/returner Isaiah Burse, who could fill Trindon Holliday’s vacated role.

Two intriguing college free agents are from up the road at Colorado State: running back Kapri Bibbs, who led the NCAA with 31 touchdowns last season in his only season at Fort Collins, and star Rams outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett.

An undrafted player has made the Broncos’ opening day roster for 10 straight seasons.

“We’re going to keep the best players,” Fox said. “It doesn’t really matter what their draft status is or where they came from, just how they perform.”

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League needs to adopt a waiting period for signing undrafted free agents

League needs to adopt a waiting period for signing undrafted free agents | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

The moment the draft ends (actually, sooner), NFL teams begin swarming over the guys who aren’t drafted.

It’s chaos. It’s a mess. And it results in teams putting undue pressure on undrafted players to make a decision before they have a chance to fully assess the situation and select the right team with which to start their careers.

Teams want to know immediately whether the player will sign what for him is a three-year commitment, and what for the team can be torn up on any given day, including that same day.

One team extended the same offer to multiple players with a “first-come, first-served” limitation. So if a player decided to accept the offer but he didn’t accept it before someone else did, the offer was gone.

Another team got snippy with an agent on Sunday morning regarding a player who opted not to pounce on an act-now offer.

“Never heard back from you,” the team said via text message to an agent who requested anonymity. “Your guy missed a big opportunity and you wasted a lot of our time.”

Time is the key word here. The NFL should impose a waiting period before players can sign as undrafted free agents, so that the players can assess all their options and make good decisions.

Of course, the fact that the NFL moved the draft to May makes it even more important for teams to get their undrafted free agents under contract and in the building for offseason workouts. But that’s all the more reason to force teams to tap the brakes so that men who have to make an important decision regarding their NFL futures will have a chance to consider all available offers and to select the best place to embark on a journey that could end up being very short if the wrong team is picked.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform at Super Bowl halftime show ...

Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform at Super Bowl halftime show ... | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it
Bruno Mars has invited the Red Hot Chili Peppers to join him during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show on Fox in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, it was announced today during Fox's broadcast of the NFC Divisional Round playoff game featuring the New Orleans Saintsat Seattle Seahawks.Bruno Mars first announced his Super Bowlhalftime performance during an unprecedented live announcement on Fox NFL Sunday in New York City's Times Square just before kickoff of the first Sunday of the 2013 season.Billboard's 2013 Artist of the Year, Bruno Mars is a critically acclaimed singer, songwriter, producer and musician. The 18-time Grammy Award nominee and Grammy winner has sold over 130 million singles worldwide. His current album Unorthodox Jukebox and his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans have a combined certification total of 60x platinum worldwide. According to Billboard, Mars scored his first five "Hot 100" No. 1s faster than any male since Elvis Presley. As a singer, songwriter and producer, Mars has an impressive catalog of 22 "Hot 100" hits. Mars is nominated for multiple major categories at this year's Grammy Awards, including both "Record" and "Song of the Year" for his hit "Locked Out Of Heaven," in addition to "Best Pop Vocal Album" for Unorthodox Jukebox and "Best Pop Solo Performance." Bruno and his eight-piece band The Hooligans are set to launch the second leg of their sold-out Moonshine Jungle world tour in North America this summer.One of the most successful acts in rock history, Red Hot Chili Peppers, which is singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, drummer, Chad Smith, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, have sold more than 60 million albums, including five multi-platinum LPs, and won six Grammy Awards, including "Best Rock Album" for Stadium Arcadium, "Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group" for "Dani California," "Best Rock Song" for "Scar Tissue," and "Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocal" for "Give It Away." The band was inducted into the Rock and RollHall of Fame in April 2012. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest studio album, I'm With You, was released by Warner Bros. Records on Aug. 29, 2011.The Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show is the most-watched musical event of the year. More than 110.5 million viewers in the U.S. watched last year's show. The Super Bowl and halftime show will be broadcast worldwide.Bruno Mars joins an esteemed list of recent halftime acts that includes Beyoncé, Madonna, The Who, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and U2.PepsiCo Inc. continues to leverage its diverse multi-brand portfolio -- including Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Quaker and Tropicana -- with the NFL to connect with fans and enhance their NFL experience. Pepsi returned last year as the title sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show bringing the brand's "live for now" mind-set and one-of-a-kind consumer engagement platforms to provide fans a halftime experience worthy of pop-culture's biggest stage. Earlier this month, Pepsi launched a campaign bringing the spirit of the halftime experience to unexpected places to get America hyped for the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show.
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Wes Welker: I think we’ve taken enough time

Wes Welker: I think we’ve taken enough time | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

 

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has received full clearance to return from the concussion that kept him out of the final three regular season games of the year and is working out with the Broncos this week as they wait to find out who they’ll play in their playoff opener.

Welker spoke to the media on Thursday for the first time in a while and called his concussion a “tricky injury” because he wasn’t 100 percent even when he’d have periods feeling fine in recent weeks. Welker also addressed anyone who might question the decision to return to the lineup this season after suffering a pair of concussions in short order during the regular season.

“Of course, you’re always concerned any time you get a concussion,” Welker said, via the Denver Post. “Really, I feel good. I think we’ve taken a lot more action than what we would have in the past with this whole ordeal. I think we’ve taken enough time. It will be five weeks from the day I had any contact at all. I feel good. I feel fine. I’m ready to go.”

The Broncos and Welker have taken their time regarding his return from the most recent concussion, which is the responsible thing to do. Doing that isn’t going to fully protect a player of Welker’s role and size from suffering a third concussion in a short period of time, although the potential for injury isn’t likely to be in the forefront of his mind with playoff games to win.

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Troy Aikman: Tony Romo's back should concern the Cowboys

Troy Aikman: Tony Romo's back should concern the Cowboys | NFL fan's diary - Journal d'un fan | Scoop.it

Former Cowboys quarterback and FOX NFL analyst Troy Aikman told the Dallas Morning News that his back issues forced him to retire.

“There are a lot of people that believe the concussions led to my retirement, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Aikman said. “I then, nor now, have ever experienced anything that had to deal with the concussions. I had surgery back when I was 26. I was young when I had my first back surgery following our first Super Bowl victory and didn’t miss any time for it.

“Then, going into my last year, I was having some back issues,” Aikman said. “I took epidural shots, as I understand Tony [Romo] had this week, and the first time I took them was before the Jacksonville game that season in 2000, and I remember on the day of the game, waking up, and I’d never felt better for a game in my life. My back felt pain free for the first time in years. And in the first quarter, we completely turned Tony Brackens loose and he slammed me on the turf right flat on my back, and immediately, my back went into spasms. I was done for the day. So that good feeling lasted about half of a quarter. And I took shots the following week hoping that I could recapture the pain-free symptoms, and it never took again. So, that is why I retired.”

Aikman believes the Cowboys should be concerned about Romo’s back.

“I think it would be a concern of mine if I was with the Cowboys, having back surgery once again and at his age,” Aikman said. “It could be a factor going forward as far as his performance.”

Aikman makes a great point.  Typically when people have back surgery it ends up making things worse and they’re never the same.  Hopefully Romo will be able to manage his back going forward and continue his career.

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