NFL Free Agency Frenzy Shakes Up the League

Image property of Sports Illustrated.

Image property of Sports Illustrated.

The NFL free agency market this year has been one of the most prolific in history, with many big names being moved around the league by both powerhouses and rebuilding teams alike. Among the highlights of free agent signings so far are DeMarcus Ware, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, Golden Tate, Jairus Byrd, and Aqib Talib.

The Denver Broncos, coming off both the best offensive regular season in NFL history and one of the worst Super Bowl blowout losses in NFL history, have decided to spend some of their extra money on recharging their defense and making sure Peyton can get the ball back in his hands as quick as possible. The signing of the heavily coveted DE DeMarcus Ware and CB Aqib Talib brings a new element of pass rush and pass defense that the Broncos were lacking last season.

Eric Decker, who was released by the Broncos due to cap space, was coming off one of the best single seasons a number two wideout could ever hope for. The Jets, who have struggled to get a decent passing game going with inexperienced quarterbacks over the last half a decade, have nabbed him up in hopes that he can be their number one target.

To make up for the loss of Aqib Talib, the New England Patriots were lucky enough to entice the only other free agent cornerback that could be considered an upgrade; Darrelle Revis. Signed only to a one year deal, his contract allows him to still be franchised next year if the Patriots choose to do so.

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the speedy Golden Tate has always played with a chip on his shoulder. Considered by many to not be worthy of a starting role at wide receiver, he has always answered the call when the Seahawks needed him, and now has a ring to prove it. The already pass efficient Detroit Lions have grabbed him up, and are likely to start him opposite of NFL superstar Calvin Johnson, which should open up opportunities for each. With these two on the field at the same time, defenses are going to have their hands full trying to cover them both at once.

And Jairus Byrd, one of the best safeties in the entire league, has gone to the New Orleans Saints. Byrd played for the Buffalo Bills, and his talent often got overlooked or just flew under the radar due to the poor records and limited coverage given to the team. Now with the Saints, their pass defense gets an upgrade that it has been starving for to compliment it’s seemingly unstoppable offense.

There are plenty more free agents still on the table, many not mentioned in this article, and many relatively unknown ones that will have a breakout career at their new homes. As the NFL draft approaches, look for this free agent class to continue to shake up the face of the league, including by who and when the incoming rookies get drafted.

What The Hell Was That???

Yesterday I watched something on TV. I’m sure many of you saw it too. It had a stadium, a field, grown men wearing jerseys… it was something resembling a football game called the Super Bowl. But there’s no way it could have been a football game, much less a championship between a number one offense and a number one defense, right? Because if it was, it was the ugliest and most disgusting title game imaginable.

Image property of USA Today

Image property of USA Today

The league’s best ever offense was completely swarmed on nearly every play and only managed to put up 8 points the entire game. All the records that both Peyton Manning and the Bronco’s offense broke and set this year were all destroyed and forgotten in front of all of America in 60 minutes of play. From the very first snap of the game, resulting in a safety, Denver was doomed. The offensive line gave Manning no protection at all. The running backs couldn’t find a single hole to run through. The wide receivers who actually managed to get open were all running underneath routes, and I can’t tell you how many times I saw one of them catch a pass with only a few yards left to get a first down and decide to run east and west and into Seattle’s defense instead of just diving for the gain.

I’m not sure who was calling the majority of plays for the Broncos offense, whether it was Peyton Manning himself or Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but it was a complete symphony of moronic conservatism that has no place in a Super Bowl, your last game of the entire season and a must-win, much less while your team is getting absolutely blown out. Screen pass for no gain. Draw for no gain. Screen pass for no gain. Punt. Repeat. WTF? Even in the fourth quarter down by four scores and near the opponents’ 40, the Broncos elected to punt the ball away. Excuse me idiots, but you do realize this is a timed match, right?

And even myself, a long-time Peyton Manning fan who likes to consider him as the greatest player of all time, has within one game become unsure if I will ever be able to call him that again. For years with the Colts, I had to justify and re-justify over and over to my ignorant and uneducated friends why Peyton and his Indianapolis squad were much better than their Cowboys or Bears teams. Apparently, winning only one Super Bowl isn’t enough to solidify a team’s greatness anymore. And with this game, a win for Peyton would have done all the talking for me. He would have cemented his legacy, and I would not have to bring up numerous statistics to back him up ever again. But now, with possibly the most humiliating loss in Super Bowl history given the team offense you had to work with, I myself am considering Manning a post season nightmare. I’m unbelievably happy that the Colts went with Andrew Luck, and for all those in Indy holding on to #18, you can now officially sigh in relief and let go.

I wasn’t going to be upset if the Seahawks won; traditionally, great defenses have the upper hand, and I actually expected them to edge out a slight victory. But a complete annihilation and blowout of the best offense in history from beginning to end? They definitely deserve this championship. They just became the new ’85 Chicago Bears, except even more deadly because we don’t expect this team to self destruct anytime soon. They already have a huge target on their back going into next season, but what’s funny is that whoever they play becomes the targeted.

Peyton said in the post game interview that he wasn’t “embarrassed,” that he hates the word and tried to denote it by claiming that his team has worked unbelievably hard and they should be proud to have made it this far. But he was stuttering and choking on his own words, similar to the way he stuttered and choked in the game. I never had a reason to say this before, but I will definitely say it now; Manning, you SHOULD be embarrassed. 43-8? If that isn’t embarrassing, than I don’t know what is.

Why I Hate Predicting the Super Bowl

I hate predicting the winner of the Super Bowl. Not just this year, but every year.

With the #1 offense going against the #1 defense, both #1 seeds, and identical 15-3 records, predicting this year’s winner will be especially tough. But it’s not the difficulty of deciding the winner that makes me hate predicting. It’s the fact that I’m going to be wrong.

SB XLVIII Logo

Ever since the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, I have been wrong about the winner of the NFL championship every year since. And yes, I am a die-hard Colts fan, but I honestly thought the Bears’ defense would have stepped up way better during that fateful day in February 2007, where Peyton won his first and only NFL title in Indy.

The next year, I thought for sure the unstoppable 18-0 Patriots would beat the Giants, and I was considering giving up on the NFL if they won. Much to my surprise and delight, they couldn’t put many points on the New York defense, and left the door open for the Giants to have one of the biggest comebacks and upsets in the history of sports.

2009, Steelers vs Cardinals. I am not a big fan of the Steelers, and while the Cardinals didn’t have the greatest record coming into the post-season, they sure did dominate once they got there. I wanted Kurt Warner to get his second ring, and I admit I jumped on the Larry Fitzgerald bandwagon too. And if it wasn’t for both a spectacular winning drive by Roethlisberger and, even more important, James Harrison’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown right before halftime, the Cardinals’ would have surely won.

The following year, when my Colts when against the Saints, I thought Peyton was a lock for winning his second ring. But it wasn’t just because of my personal fandom. No one thought the Colts could lose that year. While both teams were the respective #1 seeds of their conference, the unstoppable Colts offense had willingly given up on a perfect season to rest their players for the playoffs, which seemed to work out pretty well… except for a surprise onside kick by the Saints and a late pick-six thrown by Manning that led to New Orleans’s first and only title in history.

When the Packers played the Steelers the following year, I thought I had learned my lesson by picking against the Steelers before, and with Big Bend being a two-time champion already, I thought the experience would pay off in the end. Except this time I was finally wrong.

In 2012, the Patriots and Giants met once again. Even though the Giants’ offense was much improved from their last championship, I thought there was no way that the great and powerful Brady would lose to the same team in the same game AGAIN. But again, I was wrong.

And last year, I had never imagined that the Ravens would ever be able to win a title given the amount of great teams that made it into the playoffs. And honestly, the 49ers almost completed one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history, but ran out of time on their final drive. To this day, I still believe that the Ravens winning a title when Ray Lewis was retiring was a media-staged fluke, given as a gift to him to cover up the negative opinions many have of him given that he GOT AWAY WITH MURDER. That way ESPN could avoid as much backlash when they hired him to give some of the most incredibly idiotic and irrelevant commentary in the history of football. “So what defensive scheme would you call on a 4th and 2 with the game on the line, Ray?” “YOU GOT TO BELIEVE IN YOUR TEAM! PLAY WITH THE HEART OF A LION! GOD MADE ME TO RULE THE EARTH!” “Go home Ray, you’re high on meth.”

So this year, with Peyton’s return to the Super Bowl, my heart badly wants him to win. But if I pick the Broncos, they are bound to lose. It makes no sense, but apparently I am cursed. No amount of conventional knowledge I have can alter the fact that my streak of incorrectness has only seemed to gain more momentum throughout the years. So to combat that, I have devised one of the most simple plans to reverse the curse: I will pick against the team I actually want to win. Hopefully, the NFL gods don’t see through my plan and ruin it.

With that, I reluctantly give you my prediction for this year’s Super Bowl winner:

Seahawks – 24, Broncos – 16.

I hope to God I’m wrong.

For Peyton, Super Bowl XLVIII Can Make Or Break His Reputation

Image property of CBS Sports

Image property of CBS Sports

The league’s best ever offense will be pitted against the league’s best current defense, when the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks this February 2 for Super Bowl XLVIII.

This match up features the first time both number one seeds from each conference will face each other in the big dance since the 2009 season, when Peyton’s Colts lost to Drew Brees’ Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. In that game, it was a late pick-six thrown by Manning that cost the Colts the game. Even more disheartening was that the Indianapolis franchise let go of a perfect season that year, opting to sit their starters during games in weeks 16 and 17 to try to give them a chance to rest and avoid injury, feeling that this was the best chance of winning another title. In the end, they were left with a pair of losses to end their regular season, and a loss in the Super Bowl that put Peyton’s legacy once again into question.

Now, with Peyton finally reaching the title game again and not much time left in his aging career, this Super Bowl becomes the biggest opportunity for Manning to prove himself… or for his critics to have incredibly more ammo against him.

If he wins, he will be 2 of 3 in his career in Super Bowls, giving him a higher winning percentage than his statistical rival Tom Brady. He will become the first starting quarterback to win titles for two different franchises. He will have justified leaving Indy to play for a team that had the money to build him a better team.

If he loses, all of the NFL records he broke in the 2013 regular season (most yards in a season, most TDs in a season, most points scored by an offense in a season) will be crippled and mean next to nothing. He will be pegged once again as the guy who can’t get it done in big games, as the player who was lucky enough to win a Super Bowl at all getting to play against the misfortunes of Rex Grossman and the Bears’ turnover-happy offense some eight years ago.

If it were up to me, the discussion would be over already. Peyton would be considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history, period. As an individual, he has a record best 4 NFL MVPs (and most likely a 5th on the way this upcoming week). As an individual, he now holds all the records. As part of a team, he’s only won one title, but this is still more than legends such as Dan Marino.

The fact is, individuals don’t win games, TEAMS win games. Where would Tom Brady be had the Patriots defense not been among the best in the league during their dynasty run? In Brady’s two trips to the Super Bowl since, his offense wasn’t enough to bring home another ring. Terry Bradshaw is tied for most Super Bowl wins by a quarterback at four, but anyone who knows of the history of the 1970’s Steelers can tell you that the fans and team itself didn’t have much faith in him, and even tried to replace him multiple times. It was the “Steel Curtain” defense that brought those titles back to Pittsburgh, not Bradshaw.

But in today’s quick-to-judge world of sports fans and critics, if a big name quarterback is part of a team that fails to win, most of the blame falls upon him. People in current American society are lazy thinkers, harsh critics, and quick to judge. The experienced player will never say that “Peyton Manning sucks,” yet millions of drunk white trash men and women who have never played a snap of football for a real team will. It’s sad, it’s wrong, but it’s also inevitable.

Peyton will face his biggest challenge of the year against the Seahawks, who this year carry the fourth best ranked defense in NFL history. While the Broncos scored on nearly every drive against the Patriots this past weekend, they settled for many field goals in the red zone. Against Seattle, Manning will be held responsible for finding a way to finish those drives with touchdowns. If he does not, he could see his entire reputation, albeit in the eyes of ignorant fools, be once again questioned and ridiculed, quite possibly until he either wins another ring, or forever.

Image property of ESPN

Image property of ESPN

Steelers Almost Pull Off Miracle Victory… Almost

Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers came inches of sideline away from pulling off one of the greatest plays in NFL history, one that could have even saved the Steelers season given an unlikely scenario of losses by other AFC teams.

Trailing 34-28 on the final play of the game against the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers pulled the ol’ lateral frenzy trick and actually managed to eventually get the ball into speedy wide receiver Antonio Brown’s hands as he raced down the sideline for what appeared to be the unprobable winning touchdown. But with about a yard of space between him and the nearest defender, Brown got a little too close to the sideline and stepped out of bounds about 13 yards before the end zone.

Image property of the NFL.

Image property of the NFL.

What could have been one of the greatest plays in Steelers history will now be a tale that will repeatedly bring cringes to the faces of Pittsburgh fans for years to come.

Click here for a link to the video from the official Steelers website:

Steelers vs Dolphins: The Final Play

‘NFL Films Presents’: Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay’s Life

Irsay

Known in recent years for his wild, brash, and sometimes controversial but always entertaining Twitter posts, Jim Irsay is more than just a crazy old privileged man behind a computer. In fact, most of what makes Irsay tick may be closer to the serious side of life, which may help explain his desire to have fun and be “out there” when given the opportunity. Here, courtesy of Colts.com and NFL Network, Jim talks about growing up and his connection to the NFL and his players.

‘NFL Films Presents’: Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay’s Life

Who TF Are The Indianapolis Colts?

As a die hard Colts fan, I hadn’t expected much out of my team last year. Even though Head Coach Chuck Pagano had stressed to the 2012 team to not use or even think of the term “rebuilding,” the plain and simple fact is that the team had more reconstruction over the previous off-season than Michael Jackson’s nose. Still, that team managed to go 11-5 and make the playoffs, all while Andrew Luck was able to break to single season rookie passing record.

Over the off-season going into 2013, the Colts added players like LaRon Landry, Ricky Jean-Francois, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, household NFL names that were supposed to elevate the Colts to an even higher place among the NFL’s elite.

What happened was that while Landry has carried his load on defense this year,  the other big free agents have been busts. Bradshaw got injured 3 games into the season. Heyward-Bey has hands made of stone and has only caught 26 receptions through 12 weeks for a mere 263 yards and one touchdown. And Jean-Francois does this type of embarrassing crap for getting his first sack of the season when his team is losing by 21 points:

Image property of Holdout Sports.

Image property of Holdout Sports.

It also doesn’t help that within the first game of the season, the Colts lost tight end Dwayne Allen and starting running back Vick Ballard, two of the most important components of their offense from 2012. In fact, in the one game that they did play in 2013, Allen’s only reception was good for a 20 yard touchdown and Vick Ballard had 63 yards rushing on 13 attempts without even playing the whole game.

To replace Ballard, the Colts ended up trading away their first round draft pick in 2014 to bring in the 3rd overall pick from 2012, Trent Richardson, just in time for week 3 match up against the San Francisco 49ers. While it seemed to be a wise decision at first, especially with Ahmad Bradshaw getting injured in the same game, Richardson has been a clear and obvious disappointment since joining the team. His first carry in a Colts uniform was good for a one yard touchdown. Through 12 weeks, he has only scored one touchdown after that, rushing for only 392 yards on 134 attempts. Donald Brown, who was originally the 3rd string back at the beginning of the season, has nearly as many yards (324) on less than half the carries (57) as Richardson. He also has one more touchdown, and is the only Colts running back to score more than once in the same game this year. But Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton seems convinced to keep dooming the run game by starting Richardson over and over again, and trying to run the ball with him like the Colts are playing the PAC-12.

It also doesn’t help that our offensive line, the group of players that I would consider the most important to any team’s ultimate success, cannot open up running lanes OR protect Andrew Luck. In fact, if Luck wasn’t a mobile quarterback, I would not be surprised in the least to see him be sacked 10 times every game. If Manning was still in Indy and had to play behind this line, he would have likely been broke in half by now and his career would be over.

And to make matters worse, the Colts lost Reggie Wayne for the remainder of the season during the epic showdown against his former quarterback during week 7 against the Broncos. Not only is Wayne their most reliable weapon on offense, he’s arguably the best possession receiver in the entire NFL. Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton has had to step up in Wayne’s absence, but with it only being his 2nd year in the NFL and (while he is fast) his small size making him a hard target for jump balls, Hilton has had one hell of a time being covered by the best cornerbacks of the opposing teams. LaVon Brazill, who seemed to be developing quickly last year, hasn’t had much playing time this year with only 5 catches off of 13 targets, so relying on him to help the offense in tough situations is also a longshot.

Still, after all that the Colts are 7-4 and have a pretty easy path to the playoffs. Not only are they the only team in their division through week 12 with a winning record, they have been listed as the number 2 seed through much of the season, meaning they are still in contention for a first round bye in the postseason. They were the first team to beat the Denver Broncos and the only team to beat the Seattle Seahawks (through 12 weeks), the two teams most heavily favored to reach the Super Bowl this year. They also dismantled the offensive 49ers by a score of 27-7, have succeeded in four 4th quarter comebacks throughout the season (each one seeming more ridiculous than the last), and have never lost back to back games with Andrew Luck at the helm… so far.

The problem is that the 4th quarter comebacks are getting really old. The team cannot afford to keep falling behind early and put the responsibility of coming out with a win on the shoulders of Luck’s heroics week in and week out. And it’s starting to show clearly by who they are losing to and how much they are losing by.

The Colts losses through week 12 are as follows:

To the Miami Dolphins, who had a strong start this year but are now 5-6, by a score of 24-20. Ok, that’s not that bad.

To the San Diego Chargers, who are also currently 5-6, but by a score of 9-19. The offense failed to get in the endzone, and giving up big plays and penalties at the most inopportune times doomed the chances for a comeback. A little bit worse.

To the St. Louis Rams, who only had 3 wins coming into this match up, by a ridiculous score of 38-8. It was 38-0 before the Colts put up any points at all, and the Rams were able to score on all three phases of the game; offense, defense, and special teams. It was a complete team failure, and there’s no way you can expect Luck to bring a team back from that.

And as of yesterday, to the Arizona Cardinals, by an ass-kicking of 40-11. It was supposed to be a great battle of the Colts against their interim head coach of last year, Bruce Arians, who actually won NFL Coach of the Year in 2013 for bringing the restart Colts to full throttle. Obviously, the student has not yet become the master, Arians knows his former player’s tendencies too well, and Indianapolis has some serious issues to confront moving forward.

So just who are the Indianapolis Colts? A team that will likely make the playoffs, and will likely stutter and fail once they get there. A team that is in desperate need of its play makers, all of whom seem to keep dropping like flies. A team that can beat a giant, and then get crushed by a child. Consistently inconsistent and in need of answers,  they can only hope that their Luck doesn’t run out… or get destroyed due to horrible protection from their O-line.

Image property of the Indianapolis Colts.

Image property of the Indianapolis Colts.