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OffsprngofAwsum's Blog

All Out. All Game. All Season

The Atlanta Falcons announced Tuesday morning that they have released the most accomplished return man in NFL History.

The chant of Go Hester Go could echo from Lambeau Field with the possibility of future Hall of Famer Devin Hester returning kicks in Green Bay.  Ian Rapoport, National Insider for NFL Network and NFL.com reported earlier today that Hester has no plans to retire.  Surgery last January caused Hester to miss 11 games of the 2015 season.  During the teams third preseason game Hester suffered a turf toe injury and was placed on injury reserved with a designation to return.  Due to the inability to push off & cut made him functionally ineffective through the last quarter of the season.  

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff alluded to earlier in a statement that Hester had passed his physical, however "It was a football decision for us in the very end" and thought it was best the organization move forward wishing him all the luck.  Devin holds the NFL record for touchdowns (20), also holding the record for punt-return touchdowns with (14).  Yes, turning 34 this November; going to a contender and automatic shoe in at returner with Green Bay makes all the since entering the 2016 NFL Season.

The 2014 Green Bay Packers were good at many things, they ran the ball effectively with than 2nd year Running Back Eddie Lacy, they perhaps played better than expected on the defensive side of the ball and like any led Aaron Rodgers team with a full arsenal they put up points in bunches a top of the League with the #1 Ranked Offense (2014).  However a lot like last year, in 2014 the Packers were amongst the worst in Special Teams.  So bad the Packers finished dead last in the Dallas Morning news' annual special teams report. With the firing of Shawn Slocum On January 30, 2015, the Packers promoted Ron Zook to Special Teams Coordinator by Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Feb. 12, 2015.  Looking for a boost here in Year 2 with the Unit snagging long time ex-Rival Bear in Devin Hester could go a long way for Zook and the Pack.  

Note Hester was due to make $3 million in 2016 with cap figure of $3,833,334.  The Green Bay Packers Cap Space (w/Top 51) is $8,992,449, it makes sense money wise & would prove to make sense on the field. "GO HESTER GO"

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Earlier this month I made an attempt to bring in the NFL Season with Record predictions & analysis of the National Football Conference teams; here's Part 2. (AFC)


AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: 9-7

 Winning 10 games isn't much of a stretch for a team who's Sheriff is no longer in town. Even with Brock Osweiler off to Houston, the Broncos made an effort to draft a guy with like similarities both mechanically & build with first round pick Paxton Lynch. Should he be thrown in the fire right away, he can rely heavily on a formidable defense even with the likes of Malik Jackson & Danny Trevathan lost to Free Agency. Their big three (or four) remain in tack & it would be hard to imagine them taking a dip statistically. Now, if Von Miller & the front office can't see eye-to-eye here soon & a deal does not happen....

Kansas City Chiefs: 8-8

 The race for a division crown tightens in the AFC West more so than ever since the 2011 season, the year before Denver acquired Peyton. Finishing on a very high note a season ago and nearly dethroning the Broncos of winning their 5th straight division title the Chiefs look to gain ground as they finish the regular season with three of their last four & four of their last six against division rivals.

Oakland Raiders: 10-6

 The resurgent Oakland Raiders look to capture their first division title since 2002. Their first win of the season came already in free agency with the addition of outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, to me one of the most versatile backers in the league - he can line up with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 set or outside in either 4-3 or 3-4. They also filled a much needed void at corner picking up ex-division rival Sean Smith. Offensively we know they can move the ball and have the ability to score quickly and now has a D who should hold their own.

San Diego Chargers: 7-9

 A team presumably with the best QB in the division are still a few pieces away from any serious contention for a playoff birth. Thanks to the schedule-makers the Chargers are on the road in five of their opening eight games, against opponents who were all over .500 last season. Mike McCoy might be on the hot seat if San Diego doesn't look promising.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8

 A solid young team which should have high expectations for Year 3 with Blake Bortles at the helm. There's been a dramatic increase in the level of talent within a year, most positions have a combination of youth & some veteran leadership. Looking ahead, key additions & players returning from injury Dante Flower, Malik Jackson, Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, & Tashaun Gibson should all make an immediate impact. Lack of speed defensively has haunted this ball club over the past seasons, that isn't the case anymore.

Houston Texans:10-6

 Standing in front of the Texans winning back-to-back division titles since 2011-12 are games on the road vs. New England, Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver, & Oakland. Thats a lot of road work for any team, 3 of those 5 are in a 7 week span to begin the season. However they will be more dangerous offensively bringing in Brock Osweiler who signed a 4yr/$72M & Lamar Miller who's coming off another productive year in 2015 with the Dolphins. DeAndre Hopkins will again be the focal point of an offense who now compliments J.J. Watt & the Texans defense.

Indianapolis Colts: 9-7

 As it has been a case for so many years, playing in the AFC South has been a luxury for the Colts. A lot like previous seasons the Colts will be in contention for yet another divisional title. Having a healthy Andrew Luck might not be enough to sure up some glaring holes at other positions particularly on the offensive line. A bunch that could start off has hot as 8-4 thru the first 12 weeks of the season but with a late bye (week 10) & huge matchup's at Minnesota, at Oakland, vs Jacksonville could swing such momentum to end the season.

Tennessee Titans: 5-11

 T-23th, .473 is Tennessee's scheduling rank this upcoming season. Not bad for a unit that isn't really good, it will be very exciting to watch the two headed monster in the backfield with Murray & First Round draft choice Derrick Henry. There very fond of the single-back set on Offense where it will once again compliment DeMarco Murray's running style as it did in Dallas. A schedule with favorable timing, a question to start could be who's going to emerge as Marcus Mariota's top target. Dorial Green-Beckam, Kendall Wright, & Rishard Matthews seem to be all favorites last year after equally receiving the same amount of targets (66,61,61).

AFC EAST

Miami Dolphins: 7-9

 A 1 to 2 game bump from last year for Rookie head coach Adam Gase is doable. Seeing winning this division at minimum would take at least a record of .500 or better (contingent with Brady's 4 game suspension) the Dolphins have not stringed together a 10+ win season since 2008. Staying put in the AFC East, adding Mario Williams into the mix which already featured two anchors on the d-line in Ndamukong Suh & Cameron Wake.  At times last year it was exciting watching those two tee off on opposing quarterbacks, so what was already a scary picture just got a lot scary.

Buffalo Bills: 9-7

 Seeing how Rex Ryan's defense performs in Year 2 will be a telling story for this upcoming season. We know how explosive the offense was last year with Sammy Watkins & LeSean McCoy, them duplicating that and doing any damage in the division this year is contingent upon their health of course. If Rex can somehow groom first and second round picks Shaq Lawson (more in Year 2 with shoulder surgery sidelining him for 5-6 months) & Reggie Ragland into instant plug-ins at this level which I think they are at full health.

New England Patriots:11-5

 I'm a little hesitant here with my prediction due to uncertainty of Tom Brady's availability through the first quarter of the season.  The Pats could find themselves in an uphill battle all season if the suspension is to hold up. The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots hold the longest active consecutive playoff streak with 7 appearances, upon Brady's return he'll be looking to make that 8 straight. Note that he also has a new target on offense to lineup opposite of Rob Gronkowski in long time Chicago Bear Martellus Bennett to throw to down the seams.

New York Jets: 8-8

 We could be talking about a serious contender if it weren't for their Quarterback situation in NY. Even if Ryan Fitzpatrick hangs around this team will take a step back from a year ago, you lose Chris Ivory to Jacksonville but picked up a more precise runner who wont break tackles as Ivory did in Matt Forte, who's granite running behind an older offensive line. It's hard for me to predict a winning season for this OK unit - if they have any deficiencies defensively, they'll be exposed to the likes of Brady, Palmer, Wilson, Roethlisberger.

AFC NORTH

Pittsburg Steelers: 11-5

 Seeing the way Pittsburg overcame adversity last season with losses and injuries to key starters, I was ready to put them in as a lock to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 51. A ninth Super Bowl appearance will be a little tougher now with Martavis Bryant suspended a year for violating the NFL's league substance-abuse policy. With a manageable schedule and their two toughest opponents at home vs. Kansas City in Week 4 and New England in Week 7. Outside of that, there's nothing on the schedule that should make steeler fans feel uneasy.

Baltimore Ravens: 9-7

 The usually stout Ravens defense hasn't looked like itself as of late and many questions still persist. But unlike last years gauntlet of a schedule, Baltimore opens with 6 of it's first 7 opponents whom didn't make the playoffs last year. Signing safety Eric Weddle, wide receiver Mike Wallace, & tight end Benjamin Watson should help this team avoid missing consecutive playoff appearances since 2004-05.

Cleveland Browns: 2-14

 Take a year off Browns fans as the city of Cleveland can exhale finally after the Cavs have captured a title for the LAND, literally.  Don't let this season be a damper on the parade that should last through this year into next, hoping for a better outcome. It's honestly tough to point to one game on the schedule and say "Yeah, Cleveland got this one." You know you've been dealt a bad hand when Tom Brady's first game off suspension is against yes, the Browns.

Cincinnati Bengals: 10-6

 Andy Dalton and the Bengals should reach double-digit wins for the 5th consecutive season. They come into the season tied for the fourth easiest slate in 2016. Division rival Pittsburgh handed the Bengals yet another playoff lost in last year's Wild-card game to extend the drought to 25 seasons without a playoff victory. It won't take long into 2016 for the Bengals to find out how good they are and to put an end to that streak.

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How will your favorite team finish in 2016? In a 2 part series I have made an effort to usher in the new season with my predictions for how each team fairs in its respective division (NFC).

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: 10-6

  Both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo set to return with the addition of First Round Draft Pick Ezikel Elliot should bold well for the Boys this upcoming year. Outside of the Josh Norman signing by Washington, just having the core back in Big D is better than any pick up or draft addition made by any other teams in the division. A tough road schedule with games at (Green Bay, Pittsburg, & Minnesota), getting 6 to 7 wins of the eight home games shouldn’t be too much to ask for finishing with 3 games against opponents whom combined for a 18-30 record last season.

New York Giants: 6-10

  With new Head Coach Ben McAdoo taking the reigns & a team thats still a couple of years & or pieces away from serious contention.  The only thing left to extrapolate from that is yet another 6-10 season.  3rd at best in the division, match ups against Cincinnati, Green Bay, Minnesota & Pittsburg — all games in which they’ll be apparent underdogs. 

Washington Redskins: 9-7

  Reigning NFC Champs look to duplicate last season with another Division Title, something they haven’t done since the early 80s. Hot to start, their schedule on the back end may not allow another crowning atop of the NFC East. Tough stretch of games from week(s) 8-13 may damper their season in Washington.

Philadelphia Eagles: 5-11

  After a disappointing year filled with high expectation in the Chip Kelly system.  In comes Doug Pederson, which could be a point in the right direction with other significant changes on both sides of the ball.  A season of .500 would be a reach for this ball club with so many moving parts, improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is the upside here.

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NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: 12-4

  Given the past two seasons, “Hot Starts” have been of the norm in Arizona. The 2014 Cardinals were hit with adversity when Carson Palmer suffered a left knee injury in week 10 that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. After a 10-1 start their season eventually derailed & led to an early exit in the playoffs. Last year’s 13-3 record was simply overshadowed by M.V.P. Cam Newton & company near undefeated season, a season in which Arizona won their last 9 of 10. Fatigue, primarily on defense looked to be of question after suffering yet another playoff defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers for a second straight year. Plug-in Robert Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-4 296 pound (1st Rd. 29th overall draft pick) who has the potential to become a nightmare for guards or centers & Chandler Jones who’s ability to work tackles off the edge is ridiculous. All contingent upon the health of Palmer of course, the Cardinals look to remain a team to be reckoned with during the year & in the playoffs.

San Fransisco 49ers: 2-14

  After a disappointing 5-11 season a year ago under Rookie Head Coach Jim Tomsula, mirroring that in 2016 could come as a bigger disappointment. The 49ers rank atop of the leagues toughest schedule this year — right out the gate their on a short week with a Monday night opener against the new look Los Angeles Rams, followed by games @Carolina, @Seatte, Dallas, Arizona, & @Buffalo. For a unit that’s trying to recapture it’s identity, building off this years draft with the addition of 9 draft picks for 2017 could bring back a sense of hope to 9er fans who recently witnessed there team make it to back-to-back NFC Championship Games & a Super Bowl. 

Seattle Seahawks: 13-3

  Seattle may return back to it’s dominant form as they did in 2013, winning their first 10 of 11 games on their way to a route in the Championship game over Denver 43-8. In Seattle’s first 9 games they face one opponent from last years playoffs. Per Cantor Technology, Seattle is favored in all but 3 games this year — Brady, Rodgers, & Palmer are on the opposing side in the games in which they aren’t. Look for their defense to rank atop of the league in PA for a 5th consecutive year & to be playing in late January.

Los Angeles Rams: 6-10

  With the unprecedented trade up from No. 15., the expectation is first-round rookie Jared Goff steps in and plays right away. Now, the Rams say they won’t play Goff until he’s absolutely ready to step into the job but with a stud like Todd Gurley in your backfield & a defensive line that might be the best in the league on paper will alleviate a lot on their #1 pick. Rams also have a relatively easy schedule at home with games against the Giants, Dolphins, & Falcons.

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NFC North

Minnesota Vikings: 11-5

  A team poised to make a run this year with Teddy Bridgewater entering his third year at the helm & solid defensively on all 3 levels. Their offensive line maybe the only question mark coming in this offseason with a center in John Sullivan who is coming off a couple back surgeries at age 30 and a true right guard in Brandon Fusco who had a sub par year playing out of position last season.

Chicago Bears: 6-10

  Favorable schedule you would assume at first glance, however consecutive wins may not come until weeks 12-13 in home games against Tennessee & the 49ers.  Still a formidable offense without Matt Forte in the lineup, the team and fantasy owners are excited to see what Jeremy Langford brings to the table after a convincing campaign a year ago. Also, we’ll see if first round pick from last years draft Kevin White can give Jay Cutler another go to target outside of All-Pro Alshon Jeffery.

Green Bay Packers: 13-3

  Taking pressure off Aaron Rodgers is a great start to 2016 for the Packers. Green Bay did that with no help via Free Agency or the Draft getting a healthy Jordy Nelson; A-Rods favorite target back in the lineup. Close to 100 catches, 1500 yard’s, 13 touchdowns cannot be replaced anywhere in the league. Set to return back to dominate form, especially at Lambeau Field are the Packers.

Detroit Lions: 5-11

  A team who answered one question on the defensive line with a second round steal in 6’4’’ 315lb DT in A’Shawn Robinson (who was considered a first round draft pick on most teams boards). How to fill the shoes of retired Calvin Johnson is a bigger “question mark”.  To add, the lions drafted a Quarterback for the first time since 2009 in Michigan's Jake Rudock.

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NFC South  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-10

  3 of the first 5 are games against playoff opponents from last year — two of which were AFC/NFC representers in last years title game. A maturer Jameis Winston & a better than before last years offensive line & some key additions on defensive should keep them in most games late

Carolina Panthers: 12-4

  Hard to think Carolina can make a run at another undefeated season facing 6 playoff teams from a year ago. Getting a 1st rounder from last year’s draft back in Kelvin Benjamin could only bolster M.V.P Cam Newton numbers this year. The whole field opens up for opponents now with Norman off to Washington but the core of that unit — Luke Kuechly & Thomas Davis remain in tact. Posed for yet another division title as the rest of the NFC South continues to rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons: 7-9

  “Keep Grinding” should be this years Atlanta Falcons motto going into this NFL Season.  A brutal schedule lies ahead as they are tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the toughest schedule in the league. On a more positive note, the Falcons did add a featured #2 wide receiver in Ex-Bengal Mohamed Sanu to a 5 year contract worth $6.5 million a year to line up opposite of Julio Jones

New Orleans Saints: 6-10

  A team searching for their first playoff birth since 2013 the Saints look to improve on back-to-back 7-9 seasons. If so, they’ll have to win early — the saints have the fourth-toughest schedule this year.  They could very well get off to that much needed start through the first quarter of the season, but after a early week 5 bye the Saints face a stretch of 6 games against 5 playoff teams from a year ago (2 games vs. Carolina). There is some good news here, the Saints have a favorable road schedule with games against (San Diego Chargers, NY Giants, & San Fransisco 49ers) & Drew Brees is still their Quarterback.

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