The first and second picks in the 2016 National Football League Draft are set to square off for the first time.
American Football Conference
1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Houston Texans
5. Oakland Raiders
6. Miami Dolphins
AFC Wild Card Round
Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
These two teams met in last year’s AFC Wild Card Game, but if Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is healthy this time, the results will be much different.
Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Dolphins have what it takes to make a good run in the playoffs, but they’ll draw a Chiefs team in the first round that won’t be denied.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Until the Chiefs find a way to get past the Steelers and Patriots, the second round of the playoffs will be as far as they can go.
Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots
The Raiders could be the heir apparent to the Patriots in the AFC, but they still have to wait their turn.
AFC Championship Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
It might be a new season and a more motivated Steelers team, but the result will be the same as last January.
National Football Conference
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Carolina Panthers
5. New York Giants
6. Dallas Cowboys
NFC Wild Card Game
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
There is no love lost between the Cowboys and Eagles which will make this an intense battle.
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers
After coming up short in playoffs last season, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. needs to redeem himself.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
New York Giants vs. Seattle Seahawks
Which Super Bowl winning quarterback will be able to do enough to help his team advance?
Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers
The networks will be salivating over covering this game as it’ll be the Cowboys and Packers meeting in January for the second consecutive year.
NFC Championship Game
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been close, but will this be the year in they are finally able to get back to the Super Bowl?
Super Bowl 52-US Bank Stadium-Minneapolis, Minnesota: Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots
It will be must-see TV to have Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers playing each other in the Super Bowl, but Brady finds a way to win his unprecedented sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
X-New England Patriots 13-3
It’s another year and once again the New England Patriots are the team to beat in the National Football League. The Patriots are coming off of their second Super Bowl Title in the last three years and their fifth since 2001. The Patriots were truly a team of destiny last season as they won the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion by becoming the first team in the history of the contest to overcome a 25-point deficit. Late in the third quarter, New England found themselves down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, but they would finish the game on a 31-0 run which included seeing them score a pair of touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions in order to force overtime. However as good as things were for the Patriots in 2016, don’t expect Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to allow his team to dwell on what they did last season heading in to a new campaign.
As Belichick is arguably the best head coach in National Football League history, he has the luxury of possibly having the best quarterback in the history of the game working with him. Tom Brady has been New England’s starting quarterback since 2001 and it has been a heck of ride for him as well as the Patriots. Brady’s record as a starters is an impressive 183-52, while he is the only quarterback in NFL history to win five Super Bowl Championships along with four Super Bowl MVP Awards. Brady turned 40-years of age last month and he is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Brady is one of the most accurate quarterbacks that the game of professional football has ever seen as he combines that with intensity and precision. When Brady has the football in his hands, he is the equivalent to a maestro conducting an orchestra. Brady has an array of players to get the football to as he indeed knows how to spread the wealth.
Brady will not have the luxury of having wide receiver Julian Edelman this season as he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason. Edelman has been one of Brady’s most reliable receivers as he has a knack for the big play. But with the Patriots it is all about the next man up.
Unlike last year, New England will have a healthy Rob Gronkowski at tight end as injuries limited him to just eight games. At 6’6″, 265 lbs., Gronkowski is a freak of nature who should be very motivated to come back and show why he is the best tight end in the National Football League after the Pats were able to win the Super Bowl without him last February. And aside from getting Gronkowski back, the rich have gotten richer as Belichick has made sure that the Patriots passing attack won’t skip a beat this year.
The Patriots traded their first-round pick in this past spring’s National Football League Draft to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks was a first-round selection of the Saints in 2014 and he was quickly becoming one of the better receivers in football. Each of the last two seasons saw Cooks collect at least 1,100 yards receiving, but he was becoming disgruntled with his role in the Saints passing game. And when the Saints decided that Cooks was no longer in their plans, the Patriots jumped at the opportunity to acquire him.
Cooks won’t replace Edelman’s contributions on the field or in the locker room. But what Cooks gives the Patriots is a receiver who’ll stretch the field, while he also has sure hands. And with a quarterback such as Brady getting the football to Cooks, he should be on top of his game, while his presence will make it tough for Patriots opponents to attempt to double team Gronkowski.
The Patriots lost tight end Martellus Bennett in free agency as he signed with the Green Bay Packers. But the Patriots who have become wizards in regards to having depth at the tight end position acquired tight end Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts.
Allen was a third-round selection of the Colts in 2012, but his time in Indy saw him consistently under utilized. Allen won’t be the focal point of the Patriots offense, but he’ll be a player who should thrive playing alongside of Gronkowski, while also becoming another dependable pass catcher for Brady in the red zone.
From 1982-2013, Dante Scarnecchia was on the Patriots coaching with his most notable duty being the team’s offensive line coach from 2000-2013. But in 2013, Scarnecchia decided to retire and without the Patriots offensive line did not have the same cohesion. Scarnecchia returned to the Patriots last season and the offensive line played with more precision. The offensive line for New England continues to be unassuming, but one player to keep an eye on is left tackle Nate Solder whose main job is to protect the blindside of Brady.
New England will miss the bruising running ability of LeGarrette Blount who after leading the team in rushing last year signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent, leaves a void for the Pats. And without Blount, speed will be the name of the game for the Patriots with running backs James White, Mike Gillislee, and Dion Lewis. And due to the fact that New England’s running backs are undersized, I foresee Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels using more screen and swing passes which will go down on the stat sheet as passes, but they could be just as effective as runs due to the fact that he’ll get his play makers the football in space.
Defensively the Patriots were eighth in the National Football League last year in total defense and they must replace some key players from the unit. Defensive end Chris Long only recorded 4 sacks last year for the Pats, but he was a veteran leader. And New England must replace another leader on defense in defensive end Rob Ninkovich who decided to hang it up after 11 years in the NFL.
New England still has stout players on their defensive line in defensive tackles Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch, while they have some versatile linebackers in Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont’a Hightower, while linebacker Elandon Roberts is an emerging player for Belichick.
Big plays will be at a premium against the Patriots secondary. Cornerback Malcolm Butler is still one of the top players at his position in the National Football League, while New England was able to add to their depth at the position when they signed former Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year deal that is worth $65 million. And once you add in free safety Devin McCourty who is coming off of his second Pro Bowl as well as veteran strong safety Patrick Chung who knows Belichick’s system, New England should once again be a force to be reckoned with defensively.
Kicker Stephen Gostowski still possesses one of the strongest and accurate legs in the National Football League, while wide receiver Matthew Slater is not only a captain for Patriots, but he is also continues to be a guru on special teams with his coverage skills.
As the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Patriots will be getting their opponents best effort on a weekly basis, but this is something that they are accustomed to. And even though that New England will endure a stretch during the second half of the season where they’ll play five of six games on the road which includes contest versus the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, Belichick’s team will once again be battle tested when the playoffs roll around.
Y-Miami Dolphins 10-6
After a 1-4 start in 2016, the Miami Dolphins were well on their way to a ninth consecutive losing season until something remarkable happened. The Dolphins would reel off six consecutive victories, and after Miami finished the regular season with a record of 10-6, they were postseason bound for the first time since 2008. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase made believers out of some of his critics by leading Miami to the postseason in his first year with the club. But whereas the Dolphins were able to use the element of surprise in 2016, how will they do with teams better prepared for Gase’s team this time around?
If the Dolphins are going to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2001, they are going to have to accomplish it without the services of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was the Dolphins first-round pick in 2012, and after he struggled under several offensive coordinators, he was finally beginning to put it together under Gase. Late in the 2016 campaign, Tannehill suffered a leg injury which forced him to miss out on the Fins playoff game. Tannehill had rehabbed and was ready to once again be under center until he suffered a torn ACL earlier this month which ended his season before it even started.
And with the Dolphins in need of a quarterback for the upcoming season, Gase would reach out to an old friend in Jay Cutler.
In 2015, Gase was the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. And under Gase, Cutler had one of his best seasons in the National Football League. Throughout Cutler’s NFL career he has been known to throw interceptions in bunches due to his “gunslinger mentality”, however Gase convinced himself to not force the football field down the field as much, while utilizing his check downs to running backs.
After an injury filled 2016, Cutler decided to retire from the National Football League until he was convinced to the Dolphins to give it one try in 2017. But after Cutler appeared to be content in retirement, while he is also 34-years of age, how much left does he have to give?
Without Tannehill, the Dolphins offense still has the opportunity to be potent due to their ability to run the football. Last year Miami was ninth in the National Football League in rushing and there should once again be some paint swapping from this year’s team. Gase is committed to running the football which means that you can expect another heavy dose of running back Jay Ajayi. Last year Ajayi became the first Dolphins running back Ricky Williams in 2003 to carry the football at least 250 times. At 6’0″, 229 lbs., Ajayi is a big, physical running back who only gets better as the game goes along. Ajayi had two games last season where he was able to gain at least 200 yards on the ground, and while this ability will see him go pretty early in fantasy football leagues, he’ll also get the chance to close out games for the Dolphins.
But the biggest thing that Gase has brought to the Dolphins offense is balance as it isn’t all about their running game. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry is rapidly becoming one of the better wide receivers in Dolphins franchise history. Landry was a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2014 and he has brought something to the franchise that they had lacked for quite some time which is explosiveness. Landry is extremely versatile and Gase will continue to find numerous ways to get him the football which includes reverses and wide receiver screen, while also using him on special teams on punt returns.
And if opposing defenses want to concentrate on slowing down Landry in the Dolphins passing game, Miami has several other viable options to get the football to in with receivers Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker as viable options, while tight end Julius Thomas who was recently acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars could be a sleeper this season in fantasy football.
The Dolphins defensive line is home to some guys that have high motors. Defensive end Cameron Wake has recorded 81.5 sacks in eight years with the Dolphins which is the second most in franchise behind the 131 of Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. Wake weighs 263 lbs., but he knows how to use leverage which gives him the advantage versus many of the right tackles that he lines up against in the National Football League. And because of that you can expect another double-digit sack campaign in 2017 from Wake.
In two seasons with Miami, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has only managed to record 11 sacks, but his presence on the defensive line has given some of his teammates more opportunities to make plays.
Miami’s linebacking unit received a boost this off-season when the organization signed a pair of veterans in outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and inside linebacker Rey Maualuga. Timmons spent the first decade of his National Football League career with the Pittsburgh Steelers which included winning a Super Bowl Championship, while Maualuga brings eight years of experience with him following his stint with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Miami has been blessed with an easy schedule to begin the season as only one of their first eight opponents made the playoffs last season. And if the Dolphins want to contend with the New England Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East, they are going to need to win the games that they are supposed to which means that Cutler canno tplay hero ball.
Buffalo Bills 5-11
The Buffalo Bills have the current longest active playoff drought in the National Football League. You have to go back to the 1999 NFL season to find the last time that the Bills made the playoffs and once you analyze the dysfunction within the organization, you get a better understanding why the Buffalo has struggled so much. Since 2000, the Bills have had seven different general managers, ten head coaches, and 13 starting quarterbacks. And this constant turnover at these key positions let you understand why the Bills have only been able to record two winning seasons over that stretch.
The past 10 months have been no easier for Buffalo as with one game remaining in the regular season, Rex Ryan was fired as the head coach of the Bills. Ryan was on the cusp of just completing his second year with Buffalo, and thus the team was once again starting over. A few weeks later Sean McDermott was hired to be the Bills new head coach. However the man who hired McDermott in general manager Doug Whaley was fired following the conclusion of the 2017 National Football League Draft and he’d be replaced by former Carolina Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane.
The craziness doesn’t stop there for the Bills as the cloud of uncertainty still looms over the quarterback position for them. Tyrod Taylor spent the last two years as the Bills starting quarterback, however he isn’t “Mr. Popularity” within the organization. Taylor spent the last two years as the Bills starting quarterback, and although that he was able to put up decent numbers, he has been unable to help the Bills take the next step. Aside from Taylor, no quarterback on the Bills roster has attempted more than 134 passes in the National Football League. And if the Bills don’t feel that Taylor is the long-term solution for them at quarterback, they’ll once again be starting over at the most important position on the football field.
Ad the Bills flirted with parting with Taylor, they did trade his favorite target in wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bills moved up in the first round of the 2014 National Football League Draft in order to obtain the services of Watkins, however his time in Buffalo was marred by injuries and thus Buffalo decided to move on. After trading Watkins, the Bills would proceed to acquire wide receiver Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles and it is paramount that he and Taylor are able to get on the same page.
After an injury filled 2015, running back LeSean McCoy bounced back last season to have one of the better years of his career. At the age of 29, McCoy still has plenty of explosion and any success that Buffalo intends on having in 2017 hinges on the strong legs and quick feet of McCoy.
But whereas McCoy can be a difference maker for Buffalo’s offense, the Bills don’t have too many impact players on the defensive side of the football. Last year saw linebacker Lorenzo Alexander enjoy the best year of his National Football League career as he was able to record 12.5 sacks. But at the age of 34, will the Bills and McDermott be able to back on Alexander being able to put together another quality season like that?
With the start of a new season right around the corner, the Bills are still searching for their identity as an organization. And because of that, 2017 will see the Bills add to there already mounting frustration of being unable to reach the postseason since 1999.
New York Jets 1-15
Following the New York Jets can be hazardous to your health at times due to the numerous head scratching moves that have been made by this club over the years. In 2015, the Jets went 10-6 and were in an eye shadow of making the playoffs. But since then the Jets have regressed and all signs point to them rebuilding as after they went 5-11, things appear ready to get worse.
This off-season has seen a roster overhaul as they’ve parted with veteran players such as defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. And although that the Jets weren’t a playoff team last year with these guys on the roster, more than ever they appear to be a rudderless ship.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they are still searching for the next Joe Namath at quarterback which is not going to happen. Last year the Jets used three different quarterbacks and none of them were able to complete 60% of their passes. The quarterbacking situation is not that much better for the Jets this season as they have a pair of inexperiences quarterbacks on the roster in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg, while this off-season saw New York sign veteran quarterback Josh McCown whose record as a starter in the National Football League is a paltry 18-42.
At 31-years of age, running back Matt Forte’s best years carrying the football are in the rearview mirror, but he is just 585 rushing yards away from being the 30th player in National Football League history to gain 10,000 career yards. However aside from Forte potentially reaching the milestone, there is not anything to get excited about in regards to the Jets offense as this unit has the potential to be historically bad.
Jets head coach Todd Bowles built his rep around the National Football League by coaching defensive football. And although that the stars are not alining for Gang Green to be good this year, two players to keep an eye on are defensive ends Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson who each could be in the mix to make the Pro Bowl.
It’s been some time since the Jets came into a season with expectations for them as low as they currently are. And because of that it would not surprise me to see the brown paper bags broken out by Jets fans at MetLife Stadium by Week 8.
Y-Wild Card Source:
New England Patriots
First-Round Pick: (N/A)
Best Pick: (N/A)
It was very difficult to give the New England Patriots a quality grade for the 2017 National Football League Draft due to the fact that they were not that active. The Patriots only had four selections in the draft as the result of trades or punishment by the NFL. The Patriots upgrades to their team came via trades and free agency as they acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints and tight end Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts, while also signing former Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
But of the Patriots four draft picks in 2017 which includes Youngstown State Penguins outside linebacker Derek Rivers and Troy Trojans offensive tackle Antonio Garcia who were each selected in the third round, they will be developmental players. And before you know it they could become key cogs in the wheel of the Patriots machinery.
First-Round Pick: Charles Harris-Defensive End-Missouri
Best Pick: Charles Harris
After the Miami Dolphins were able to break through last season for their first playoff appearance since 2008, the last thing that they want to do is to take a step backwards. And the best way for the Dolphins to keep building was for them to have a solid draft.
The Dolphins already have a solid pass rush, but if they are going to be able to give the Patriots a real run for their money in the AFC East, then they will need to stock pile as many quality pass rushers as possible. And with several quality pass rusher available in the first round of the 2017 National Football League Draft, the Fins zeroed in on Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris.
Five of Miami’s first six selections in the draft came on the defensive side of the football which included taking Ohio State Buckeyes inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan in the second round and Clemson Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley in the third round.
The only way to get past the Patriots is to slow them down, and the Dolphins are hopeful that they’ve plugged up all of their holes on defense in order to do so.
First-Round Pick: Tre’Davious White-Cornerback-LSU
Best Pick: Round Five-Nathan Peterman-Quarterback-Pittsburgh
The 2017 National Football League Draft turned out to be a train wreck for the Buffalo Bills in more ways than one. The Bills traded down from the tenth overall selection to the 27th as they made a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills would then select LSU Tigers cornerback Tre’Davious White to offset the loss of cornerback Stephon Gilmore who signed as a free agent with the Patriots. And aside from trading down, the Bills failed to find themselves an impact player in the draft which is bad news for a franchise that needs one since they have failed to make the postseason since 1999.
But things got wacky this past Sunday when general manager Doug Whaley and his entire scouting team were fired. Now this draft class doesn’t have a leg to stand on which gives you an idea as to why the Bills have the longest current playoff drought in the National Football League.
New York Jets
First-Round Pick: Jamal Adams-Safety-LSU
Best Pick: Jamal Adams
The New York Jets entered the 2017 National Football League Draft with several needs to fill on both sides of the football, but credit to general manager Mike Maccagnan for sticking to his guns and not overreaching at any point during the draft.
After coming off of a 5-11 season, along with possessing the sixth overall pick in the draft, it would have been really easy for the Jets to get caught up in the moment and select a quarterback. However Maccagnan stuck to his draft board and selected LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams.
Adams fell slightly in the draft once the Chicago Bears decided to draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but he fills a need in the Jets secondary as they could be ready to move on from safety Calvin Pryor.
The Jets continued to find athletes from the Southeastern Conference as they took Florida Gators safety Marcus Maye in the second round and Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart in the third which helps this organization being that they need more depth.
This draft class may not produce superstars for the Jets, but they might be able to get some quality role players out of it.
The National Football League and commissioner Roger Goodell finally got what they wanted as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will serve a four-game suspension to begin the 2016 NFL season as a result of underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015. This marks the end of a battle between Brady and the NFL that has gone on for nearly 18 months as the league was seeking to drop the hammer on him. And although that the NFL finally got what they were seeking, did they really win?
Goodell like his predecessors who have served as commissioner of the National Football League have been judge, jury, and executioner on league matters. But unlike Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle, Goodell has had to deal with an abundance on player misconduct while being very inconsistent in the process.
Upon taking over in 2006, Goodell found himself looking into player misconduct with people such as cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones which resulted in him being suspended for the entire 2007 National Football League season. Goodell would continue to drop the hammer on players for misconduct, but he developed a reputation for not being consistent which including him suspending quarterback Michael Vick after he served a two-year prison sentence for his role in a dog fighting ring, while also reducing the suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from six games to four following sexual assault allegations against him.
But Goodell’s power would be tested in 2012 when he came down hard on the New Orleans Saints organization for their system of putting out bounties on opposing players. Goodell would suspend Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and assistant coach Joe Vitt while fining the organization $500k and stripping them of multiple draft picks. Goodell then turned his attention to the Saints roster where he would suspend linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 National Football League season, defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove for eight games, defensive end Will Smith for four games, and linebacker Scott Fujita for three games. However unlike the Saints administration, the players would ban together and fight Goodell’s ruling.
With the support of the National Football League’s Player’s Association, the Saints players took their case to federal court where they were able to prove that Goodell had suspended them without evidence and subsequently their suspensions were overturned which was huge blow to the commissioner’s authority.
And in the case of Brady and the Patriots, Goodell was attempting to show that he still had the ultimate authority in the National Football League which could wind up hurting him in the end.
When the National Football League’s investigation of Brady and the Patriots began in the spring of 2015, the league hired “independent” investigator Ted Wells to conduct things. But Wells was already on the NFL’s payroll and all that he could conclude was that Brady “probably knew” that the footballs were underinflated. Brady did not fully cooperate with the investigation, but Wells never made it clear to him that he would be subject to discipline by the league if he didn’t.
Goodell would suspend Brady for the first four games of the 2015 National Football League season, and like the Saints players before him, he would appeal. However Goodell would invoke a clause in the collective bargaining agreement which allowed him to be the “independent” arbitrator on Brady’s appeal which would become a glorified witch hunt. Brady’s suspension was upheld which paved the way for him to take the NFL to federal court.
Last summer, Brady’s case would be heard by Judge Richard Berman in the United States District Court who ruled in his favor and overturned Goodell’s ruling. The National Football League and Goodell were in trouble from the first day of the proceedings when Berman asked them for their evidence against Brady to which they were unable to provide any.
But instead of taking the loss, Goodell decided to appeal Berman’s ruling to the U.S. Appeals Court where he and the deep pocket owners of the National Football League would find a three-judge panel ruled in his favor. Brady would appeal, but it would be denied which was to Goodell’s liking. There was the possibility of Brady taking this matter to the Supreme Court, but he decided against that option and will now serve his four-game suspension.
Goodell won out as he had the backing of some of the big boys such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti who wanted to see him make an example out of Brady and the Patriots. Goodell won out due to the fact that he exercised a clause which allowed him to be the arbitrator on Brady’s case, and it is something that he may never be able to use again.
When the current collective bargaining agreement was ratified between the players and owners, it was agreed upon that Goodell could act as an independent arbitrator on rulings. But what has hurt Goodell and the National Football League on their handling of Brady’s case is that the quarterback was suspended for something that nobody really cares about as playing with an underinflated football is the equivalent of driving 56 miles per hour in a 55 zone. Brady’s suspension of four games is the equivalent of a player that violated the NFL’s supplement policy, while players who have been arrested have received lesser penalties from the league which proves that Goodell cannot be impartial.
Goodell will claim that Brady failed to comply with the investigation while he is out to “protect the shield”. But the National Football League shield was tarnished a long time ago as they’ve failed to take care of their retired players that made the game the phenomenon that it is today as some of them have suffered debilitating injuries, while also being extremely reactionary with cases such as that of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games due to domestic violence. But when TMZ leaked a video of the full incident in which Rice was seen punching his wife (then fiancee) Janay Palmer, he would be suspended indefinitely by the NFL. This was done in spite of the fact that Rice gave Goodell and Ravens team officials including Bisciotti, a full testimony of his involvement well before the video was leaked. But like a true politician, all Goodell did was deny, deny, deny.
Had the Brady case never been made public, this would not be a topic right now, and I would be writing about something else. But as the media got a hold of it and proceeded to act in the fashion of the glorified prostitutes that they are, Goodell figured that he would have to do something in order to protect his precious shield. However Goodell never made it public knowledge that the league conducted another investigation of how other teams around the National Football League prepare footballs prior to games during last season which was disclosed. And that alone makes you wonder if other NFL teams doctor the football as well, however no punishment is or will be coming down the pike for them.
Make no mistake about it that Goodell is in a bind as he must do what the owners of the 32 National Football League franchises want him to do which is not always going to come off well in the court of pubic opinion. But in this case it is 31 teams as Patriots owner Robert Kraft has now been made the black sheep of the family as the other team owners convinced him to not fight Goodell’s ruling which included his team being fined $1 million and losing multiple draft picks. Kraft is not without fault as his organization was caught up in the “Spygate” scandal of 2007 that saw them found guilty of taping opposing teams signals during games, but Brady appears to be guilty by association.
In the case of Brady it is guilty until Goodell says otherwise as the quarterback was not given a due process. And to those out there that will claim that Goodell is the ultimate authority figure of the National Football League, what would you do if your employer reprimanded you for something that either he/she didn’t have proof that you did while simply throwing their weight around?
Goodell has shown that he cannot be impartial as last season saw Brady taking more hits that in year’s past would have warranted penalty flags during the game, and fines to those defenders. But if Brady is supposed to be protected in the same fashion that other quarterbacks are, why did it stop now being that he fought the bully that Goodell is?
Once upon a time Ted DiBiase coined the phrase that “everybody has a price for the Million Dollar Man” as money talks louder than anything else. And as the Jones’ and Bischotti’s of the world are billionaires, their money speaks louder and they have the ability to bribe any judge and twist the legal system anyway that they see fit. Brady got caught up in that wash which led to Goodell’s victory. However when it’s time for the owners and players to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement in a few years, this ruling will be a major sticking point. So Goodell wanted to flex his muscles, but will it be worth it if this ultimately cost him some of the power that he was sorely seeking to keep as the players now have overwhelming evidence that he cannot be impartial?
And if the Patriots go on to win Super Bowl 51, it will be must-see television if Goodell has to hand Brady and company the Vince Lombardi Trophy after he has fought them vigorously for the past 18 months.
After the New England Patriots lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, the rumor mill began to swirl about their downfall. The internet was buzzing with reports of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looking to be traded while he was growing tired of the team’s head coach Bill Belichick. But that is why you don’t pay a ton of attention to what happens in the National Football League during the month of September. After their loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots were 2-2 and some people were saying that they were done. But autumn has brought new life to the Patriots and with it Super Bowl aspirations.
The Patriots have reeled off six consecutive victories as they are looking like a well-oiled machine and possibly the best team in NFL as they’ve done it in very dominating fashion. Off all of the Patriots victories during their current winning streak, only one game was decided by single digits. The Patriots got the ball rolling in Week 5 when they hosted the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were 3-0 and coming off of a bye, but it was the Patriots that were the fresher and more precise team as they destroyed Cincinnati 43-17. With first place in the AFC East on the line in Week 6, the Patriots traveled to Orchard Park, New York for a showdown with the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were hopeful that this would be their year to get back to the playoffs, but it was New England that emerged victorious 37-22. After a tightly contested 27-25 victory over the New York Jets in Week 7, the Patriots would cream the Chicago Bears in Week 8 by the score of 51-23. In a battle for AFC supremacy in Week 9, the Patriots would host the Denver Broncos in a game that would have a huge bearing on the playoff picture. These two teams met in last season’s AFC Championship Game with the Broncos advancing to the Super Bowl and it was also another chapter in Brady’s rivalry with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning that dates back to Manning’s time with the Indianapolis Colts. This day and the game would belong to Brady and the Patriots as they dominated the Broncos 51-23. The Patriots bye week in Week 10 did not cool them off as they ran roughshod over the Colts in Indy this past Sunday night 42-20. The Patriots are 8-2 as they have the best record in the AFC. In the process the Patriots have defeated every current division leader in the AFC and they are serving notice that they will be a team to be reckoned with come January in the playoffs.
The Patriots have not won a Super Bowl Championship since 2004, but they are the model team for consistency in the NFL. Since 2001, the Patriots have won 11 AFC Eastern Division Titles and they appear ready add another one to the mantle in 2014. In recent years Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have received criticism as it has been perceived that they have simply placed too much in the lap of Brady to do. But this year’s team in New England could be the best team that Brady has been a part of since the Patriots finished the 2007 regular season with a record of 16-0.
The Patriots have tremendous balance this season which puts less pressure on Brady. This past off-season, Belichick set out to upgrade the Patriots secondary. The Patriots lost cornerback Aqib Talib in free agency to the Broncos, but as soon as the deal was made, cornerback Darrelle Revis was headed to Foxboro to replace him. Revis is a five-time Pro Bowl selection that spent the first six years of his National Football League career tormenting Belichick and the Patriots as a member of the Jets and he is one of the best shutdown corners in pro football. Revis only has two interceptions this season, but he can blanket one side of the football field all by himself. Opposite of Revis at the other cornerback position stands 6’4″, Brandon Browner who was brought to New England this past off-season to team with the likes of free safety Devin McCourty in the Patriots secondary. These moves were made by the Patriots solely to compete with the Broncos who could be their biggest contender in the AFC as they have a slew of wide receivers led by Demaryius Thomas that put a ton of pressure on a defense.
The Patriots suffered a blow when middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost for the season to injury, but with Donta Hightower switching from outside to inside in the starting linebacking corp, the Pats have not skipped a beat while their pass rush by committee led by defensive end Rob Nikovich along with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork plugging the interior defensive line, the Patriots have a bend but don’t break philosophy which resembles what they were able to accomplish when they won three Super Bowl Titles from 2001-2004.
Like any good team the Patriots have a next man up philosophy. During their victory over the Bills, the Patriots lost starting running back Stevan Ridley to a torn ACL. But in Ridley’s asbence, running back Jonas Gray is making the most of his opportunity in the Patriots backfield. In 2012, Gray went undrafted by the NFL as he bounced around on the practice squads of the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, but now he appears to have found a home with the Patriots. Gray is the Patriots second leading rusher this season and he stepped up huge in the victory over the Colts with 201 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Gray did this behind an offensive line that was called the worst in football by some people after the loss to the Chiefs. But the law firm of offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell along with center Bryan Stork are opening up holes for Gray and the running game while giving Brady a clean pocket to decipher things in the passing game.
The running game and passing game have fed off of each other as Brady is completing 64 percent of his passes to go along with 24 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. It is really helping Brady this season that he has his ace in the hole back in a healthy Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Gronkowski has not been fully healthy since 2011 which was the Patriots last trip to the Super Bowl. But Gronk is on pace for another season like 2011 when he had 90 receptions to go with 1,327 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns which was a single-season NFL record for tight ends. Gronkowski’s presence brings that different element to the Patriots offense that Brady has been sorely missing. This season Gronkowski has 53 receptions for 734 yards and 9 touchdowns as he is one of the best red zone options in the National Football League in spite of the fact that he consistently faces double and triple team coverage.
This Patriots team has the feel of the team that won the Super Bowl in 2003. And Like 2003, the Patriots were 2-2 after four games before they won 15 straight en route to capturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Like these Patriots, those Patriots were left for dead and they simply found a way to win every Sunday. Belichick was the head coach of that team while Brady was his quarterback and they are rolling just like they were 11 years ago.
You could make the case that the Patriots have an important stretch coming up, but they have simply answered the bell against good teams over this current winning streak. The next two weeks will see the Patriots deal with NFC North teams as they host the Detroit Lions before traveling to take on the Green Bay Packers in what could be a Super Bowl preview. The Patriots will have a road affair with the San Diego Chargers before they finish up the final three weeks of the regular season with their AFC East foes in the Miami Dolphins, Jets, and Bills respectively. Each week brings a different game plan which the Patriots have been executing to a tee. This is the Patriots time of year to get their sea legs and as long as Brady and Belichick are around you cannot write this team off.