Tag Archives: Tom Brady

2017 AFC East Projections

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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.

Bill Belichick

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.

Tom Brady

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.

Rob Gronkowski

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.

Brandin Cooks

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.

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.

Ndamukong Suh

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.

LeSean McCoy

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.

Todd Bowles

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.

X-Division Champion

Y-Wild Card Source:

Pro-football-reference.com

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Shocker Bowl 51

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It’s been a few hours since we witnessed Super Bowl 51, and it’s still hard to digest. Prior to last night, no team in Super Bowl history had overcome a deficit of more than 10 points to win, but someone forgot to mention that to the New England Patriots.

The Patriots took the field at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texans led by a head coach in Bill Belichick and a quarterback in Tom Brady who combined to win four Super Bowl Titles together as they faced the upstart Atlanta Falcons who were looking for the franchise’s first title.

The Patriots were able to move the football in the first half, but they couldn’t get to the end zone as the Falcons defense forced two turnovers which led to 14 points. Defensively the Patriots didn’t have an answer for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan who appeared well on his way to winning the Super Bowl MVP after being named as the MVP of the National Football League on Saturday night. The Patriots defense also did not have answer for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and wide receiver Julio Jones whose play making ability was on display for the world to see.

Robert Alford

Late in the second quarter, Brady was intercepted by Falcons cornerback Robert Alford who returned it 82 yards for the touchdown to give Atlanta a 21-0 lead. Alford would take his time getting to the end zone as he was “hot dogging” it for the final 20 yards as he like most people though that the game was over.

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski would connect on a 41-yard field goal just before the first half ended to get New England on the scoreboard. But even with the longer halftime at the Super Bowl, it appeared that the Patriots weren’t going to be able to make enough adjustments in order to combat the speed of the Falcons.

Midway through the third quarter Ryan connected with running back Tevin Coleman on an eight-yard touchdown pass to give the Falcons the 28-3 lead. And at this point the Super Bowl all but appeared to be over as you began to wonder how a team that was led by Belichick with Brady at quarterback could be dominated in the fashion that they were.

Brady would finally get it going late in the third quarter when he led the Patriots on their first touchdown drive of the game as he found running back James White on a five-yard touchdown pass. But when Gostowski missed the ensuing extra point, it appeared to be another sign from the football gods that it wasn’t going to be in the cards to Patriots to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions for a fifth time.

The Patriots defense would stiffen as their offense would continue to chip away. And with just under 10 minutes left in the game, Gostowski connected on his second field goal of the game to cut the Patriots deficit to 16 as the score was now 28-12. However the Patriots would still need to score two touchdowns, along with getting a pair of two-point conversions, while also needing to stop the Falcons explosive offense. All of these aspects seemed a bit unlikely for New England which led Falcons owner Arthur Blank to make the trek from his luxury box at NRG Stadium to the field in order to be with his team as it only seemed to be a matter of time before his team would be crowned as champions.

But with just under 9 minutes left in the game, Patriots linebacker Donta Hightower sacked Ryan and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Alan Branch which gave New England life. All of a sudden Brady was locked in and he was no longer missing wide open receivers. Brady’s passes were crisp and on target as the Patriots offensive line was able sure up their blocking, while his receivers were doing everything necessary in order for New England to succeed. And with just under six minutes left in the game, Brady connected with wide receiver Danny Amendola on a five-yard touchdown pass, while White scored on the two-point conversion to cut the Patriots deficit to 28-20.

However the Patriots defense would have to step up once more. The Falcons would begin to drive the football as they went back to the combo of Freeman and Jones as they moved the football to the Patriots 22-yard line. And at this point a field goal would have more than likely iced the game for Atlanta. But the Falcons drive would stall when Ryan was sacked by Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, and a holding call was assessed on offensive tackle Jake Mattews. Now instead of the Falcons making plans to celebrate their first Super Bowl Championship, the butterflies began to rumble in their stomachs as they had to punt the football back to Brady.

Brady had 91 yards to go with under four minutes left in the game in order to lead New England on a game-tying drive, and if he did it, his legacy as the greatest quarterback ever would be cemented. Brady would continue to be locked in against the Falcons defense which at this point was running on fumes. And when wide receiver Julian Edelman made a spectacular catch on a pass that was initially deflected, you knew that the momentum had completely shifted to the Patriots. Brady would lead the Patriots down the field with precision and with 85 seconds remaining, White would score on a one-yard run to make it 28-26. However with New England needing to score another two-point conversion, the odds were in favor of the Falcons defense. But Brady would spread his receivers out in the formation which paved the way for him to find Amendola on a screen pass which knotted the score at 28.

Matt Ryan

Ryan and the Falcons would get one more chance in order to attempt a game-winning drive. But at this point Mr. Momentum was wearing a white jersey as Blank had a front row seat to watch his team completely come apart at the seams.

Thus we would be treated to the first overtime game in Super Bowl history, and when the Patriots won the coin toss, they and the Falcons alike knew that the game was over.

Like a surgeon, Brady would continue to slice up the Falcons defense as he drove the Patriots down the field. And when a pass interference was called on Falcons outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell for his coverage of Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett which put the football at the Atlanta two-yard line, the final nail was being hammered in their coffin.

Two plays later White would score the game-winning touchdown, and even a booth review could not save the Falcons as they were ready to go into the history books as the team that blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

For three quarters Falcons head coach Dan Quinn had done everything right as he appeared to be the man who was putting an end to the Patriots dynasty while turning Belichick into a mere mortal in the process. But by the fourth quarter Quinn’s defense had run out of gas. For the game the Patriots offense ran 93 plays compared to just 46 for Atlanta as New England possessed the football for more than 40 minutes. And as the Falcons defense was all over Brady for the first three quarters like ugly on an ape, he was made of teflon in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Falcons will head into the off-season in a fashion that will be extremely tough. Getting over this Super Bowl loss will be more excruciating than their 34-19 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 33, or their 28-24 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game as this game was all but over. This will not only sit with the Falcons for the next seven months, but for the rest of their lives as this will indeed be difficult to rebound from. Ryan spent this entire National Football League season washing away the ills of his reputation of being unable to win the big game, but now he’ll be remembered as the quarterback that was unable to hold a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is set to become the new head coach of the 49ers, and he was looked at as one of the up and coming bright minds on offense in the NFL. However Shanahan will now have to answer questions as to why Jones only had 4 receptions in the Super Bowl, along the fact that he stopped going to Freeman.

The Falcons had a front row seat to see why many people regard Belichick as the best head coach in National Football League history with Brady being the best signal caller to have ever done it as Atlanta’s attempts to stop them were the equivalent of bailing out water on the Titanic once it struck the iceberg.

Even when things were extremely bleak for the Pats, the mood never changed on their sidelines as they simply continued to do everything possible in order to win. And as the Patriots pass rush could not get to Ryan in the first half, they all of a sudden got into a rhythm which led to him hurrying his passes while he was being introduced to the turf which paved the way for New England’s epic comeback.

So once National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, it all but solidified the legacies of Belichick and Brady. After the Spygate and Deflategate scandals, the legacies of Belichick and Brady were tarnished. But each time that the NFL comes down on the Patriots, they emerge smelling like a rose.

This Super Bowl Championship wasn’t supposed to happen after Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, while the Pats were stripped of their first-round pick in 2016. Tight end Rob Gronkowski only appeared in nine games due to a back injury, but New England continued to chug along. The Patriots would go 3-1 without Brady and 11-1 with him. And as Belichick attempted to down play Brady having extra motivation this season, it was hard for anyone to deny after what we saw last night.

Now the Patriots have joined the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys with five Super Bowl Championships which barely trails the six of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Brady and Belichick are each in a class of their own as no head coach or quarterback were able to win five Super Bowl Titles prior to last night. Brady and Belichick have changed the game as it will be hard for anyone to duplicate what they’ve accomplished.

At the age of 39, the timing is perfect for Brady to walk away from the National Football League as he could exit stage right just like quarterback Peyton Manning did last February as a Super Bowl Champ. But unlike Manning, Brady’s physical skills have not diminished as he could continue to rewrite the record books which has already seen him become the only four-time Super Bowl MVP.

And for all of those folks that may have kept watching the Super Bowl for the sole purpose of seeing the Patriots be taken behind the woodshed, it was not to be as they gave the Falcons a brutal lesson in perseverance while giving us a Super Bowl that people will remember for a very long time.

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Super Bowl 51 Projections

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In these National Football League Playoffs, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has defeated a pair of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. But does Ryan have enough in his arsenal to get past the maestro in New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in order to win Super Bowl 51?

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Roger’s Worst Nightmare

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After the 2014 AFC Championship Game, reports began to surface that there was a possibility that the New England Patriots used under inflated footballs during the first half of their 45-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. A media fire storm would swarm over the Patriots leading up to Super Bowl 49 with the main focus being on quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role. But the Patriots are one of if not the best team in the National Football League when it comes to not allowing distractions to sidetrack them from their goal of winning. And the Patriots would use the allegations as added motivation when they defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 28-24 with Brady being named as the game’s MVP. That off-season would see the National Football League conduct an “investigation” of the Patriots and all that could be found was that there was a “possibility” that Brady knew of the footballs being under inflated. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would drop the hammer which saw the Patriots stripped of multiple draft picks in 2015 and Brady being suspended for the first four games of the season.

Tom Brady

But with the help of the National Football League’s Players Association, Brady fought the league tooth and nail over his suspension. The matter would ultimately play out in Federal Court over the summer of 2015 with Brady being exonerated. However Goodell and the NFL would not accept the court’s ruling and last March they would appeal in order to have Brady’s suspension upheld.

Brady would sit out the first four games of this season as he was turned into a martyr over something that nobody really cared about. And for Goodell his once steady relationship with Patriots team owner Robert Kraft who some once deemed as “the assistant commissioner” was now strained at best.

But what was done by the National Football League to hamper the Patriots has only helped them. In four games without Brady, the Patriots went 3-1, and with him back in the lineup they would go 11-1. Overall Pats would go 14-2 in the regular season which paved the way for them to have home-field advantage in the AFC Playoffs.

And home-field advantage really benefited New England as in two playoff contests they outscored the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers 70-33 which has paved the way for them to appear in the Super Bowl for a record ninth time.

Goodell has gone out of his way to treat the Patriots as the black sheep of his beloved National Football League. Since Brady took the NFL to Federal Court, he doesn’t have the luxury of the same amount of roughing the passer calls that he received in year’s past, while Goodell has acted as if the Patriots organization doesn’t exist.

Roger Goodell

Goodell has avoided Gillette Stadium all season long like the plague to the point that he made consecutive trips during the postseason to the Georgia Dome in order to watch the Atlanta Falcons which is an oddity since commissioners tend to travel around and observe the entire league.

Under the surface Goodell may have not wanted to cause a distraction by avoiding Foxboro, but he won’t have a choice if the Patriots do what the odds makers in Las expect them to do which is to win the Super Bowl in a few days. Each year following the Super Bowl, the commissioner has handed the winning owner the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And in this era of entertainment, the trophy presentation has been made into a grand spectacle on a podium that includes the winning head coach and the Super Bowl MVP. However if the Patriots are successful against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51, it more than likely will be because of Brady which would mean that Goodell would have to come face-to-face with the owner, head coach, and quarterback whom he threw the book at.

But this isn’t to say that Patriots are faultless in everything which dates back to Spygate. This is simply an issue with Goodell and his inconsistency as a commissioner. When Goodell came down hard on the New Orleans Saints organization for Bountygate, the players that were implemented went the same route that Brady did which led to their suspensions being overturned, and the commissioner simply left the matter alone. However in the case of Deflategate, Goodell blitzed Brady at the request of some of the power brokers in the National Football League such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in order to make an example out of him.

Robert Kraft

Kraft merely accepted the National Football League’s punishment towards his franchise due to the fact that his hand was forced by the other billionaires that own teams in the league. And just like Jones and the other NFL team owners are accustomed to getting their way, the same can be said for Kraft who gave a passionate speech this past Sunday when he accepted the Lamar S. Hunt trophy which acknowledges the AFC Champion. Kraft said “For a number of reasons, all of you in this stadium understand how big this win was.”

After everything that has gone down, the Patriots are going to have their fare share of detractors if people allow their thought process to be dictated by what the mass media says. However each time that the Patriots are put on front street, the production as a team only gets better. And just as the Patriots win in Super Bowl 49 over the Seahawks should have been the icing on the cake as far as doubting them, they could add an extra coat of frosting by winning another Lombardi Trophy, while also serving up a huge dosage of humble pie to Goodell.

So in Houston on February 5, there won’t be a hiding place for Goodell if the Patriots are able to win. And whereas the National Football League has been complaining about ratings being down for the entire season, everyone will be tuning in should New England win as Goodell would have no choice but to acknowledge one of the league’s best franchises.

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2016-2017 Conference Championship Picks

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In the final football game at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a date with destiny.

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The San Antonio Spurs Of The NFL

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Like it or not, the New England Patriots are the model of consistency in the National Football League. The Patriots just clinched their eighth consecutive AFC East Title, while their last losing season came in 2000. And in the process it’s the way that the Pats have gone about winning. New England just isn’t getting winning seasons as only once over this stretch have they won less than 10 games, while they’ve won at least 12 games in a campaign on 11 occasions. The Patriots have also won four Super Bowl Titles over this stretch, and to top it all off, each of the last five NFL seasons have seen them at least reach the AFC Championship Game. That trend is continuing this year as through 15 games, New England’s 13-2 mark has them with the best record in the AFC as they are once again on the verge of securing home-field advantage. And to give you an idea of how important that this is, eight of the last nine teams that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl at least had a first-round bye entering the postseason.

But if there are any questions as to why the Patriots have been so successful, it begins at three of the most important positions within a football organization which are team owner, head coach, and quarterback.

Robert Kraft

Since 1994, Robert Kraft has owned the Patriots, and the three head coaches that he has employed have each led his team to the postseason at least twice. But when Kraft fired Pete Carroll as the Patriots head coach following the 1999 National Football League season which paved the way for Bill Belichick to resign as the head coach of the New York Jets after just one day in order to join Kraft in New England, the rest is football history.

Since 2000, Belichick has served as the Patriots head coach and de facto general manager. And whereas Belichick’s wheeling and dealing has rubbed some people the wrong way over the years, the man knows how to build a winner.

Like the Spurs in the NBA who are working on their 20th consecutive winning season, the Patriots continue to succeed as they are the chameleons on the National Football League. When Belichick took over the Patriots, this was a team that was known for its defensive brand of football with stars such as outside linebacker Willie McGinest, middle linebacker Tedy Bruschi, and strong safety Lawyer Milloy. But by the mid-2000’s the focus of the Patriots was shifting to quarterback Tom Brady and the team’s offense which included New England scoring 589 points in 2007 which was an NFL single-season record. The Patriots would do it primarily with the deep pass to wide receiver Randy Moss, but the evolution would continue as by 2010, New England focused more on offensive sets that comprised of two tight end sets, along with smaller wide receivers.

And this philosophy on offense which has seen Brady get the ball out quicker while taking less hits has made their offense the envy of the rest of the National Football League.

Defensively the Patriots still have many interchangeable parts as since the end of last season, Belichick has traded two starting linebackers in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins due to financial issues, but this team has not skipped a beat.

Bill Belichick

Belichick always preaches to his players to “do your job” as he never puts his team in a place where they cannot be successful. This philosophy was on center stage when the Patriots began this season without the services of Brady who was suspended by the National Football League for the first four games of the season as the result his role in the use of under-inflated football during the 2014 AFC Championship Game. Without Brady, the Patriots went 3-1 while they got two victories with backup quarterback Jimmy Garropolo, and another with rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center. Upon returning to the Patriots, Brady has been motivated to clear his name and in 10 games he is completing 66.7% of his passes while throwing 25 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions.

Brady has done this in spite of the fact that he has not had the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the majority of the year as the result of a litany of injuries. But Belichick’s next man up philosophy is why the Pats keep on chugging along.

There are going to be some detractors out there who will want to call the Patriots cheaters as the result of “Spygate” and “Deflategate” which were a pair of incidents that were blown completely out of proportion by the mainstream media. In 2007 when the Patriots were caught recording the Jets signals, they only went on to win their next 17 games before falling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. And after the 2014 AFC Championship Game where Brady’s character was questioned, he only went out and defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl two weeks later who possessed the best secondary in football.

But because of these two incidents, the Patriots organization won’t get the respect that they fully deserve outside of the New England area in spite of the fact that they do. Brady is once again playing like an MVP while even without Grownkowski, the Patriots have plenty of offensive firepower which includes tight end Martellus Bennett, running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount, along with wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan.

Tom Brady

What Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have done is to sample what was so successful in the National Football League for the likes of the San Diego Chargers of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Washington Redskins of the early 1980’s, and the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Those teams made offensive football the equivalent of fast break basketball as they put fast athletes at the skill positions on offense which put a ton of stress on a defense. Don Coryell who was the head coach of the Chargers at the time was the godfather of this, while prior to becoming the head coach of the Redskins, Joe Gibbs worked under him in San Diego, as did Dick Vermeil who led the Rams in 1999; albeit Vermeil served under Coryell at San Diego State University.

But offensively the Patriots ask you to pick your poison as Edelman is arguably the most dangerous slot receiver in the National Football League, while Bennett who is not the physical specimen that Gronkowski is can still command respect by keeping safeties as well as linebackers honest in the passing game. Blount is a physical runner; especially in short yardage situations and Lewis is a devastating receiving option out of the back field which can break the backs of opposing defenses.

The Patriots continue to employ a bend but don’t break attitude on defense as they are tenth in the National Football League in yards allowed per game (336), but first in fewest points allowed (16.6). Belichick has entrusted his defense to his defensive coordinator Matt Patricia who has a flexible unit that confuses opposing offenses as players such as defensive end Rob Ninkovich will line up in multiple spots in the front seven of the defense in order to throw the opposing offenses off.

I compare the Patriots to the Spurs simply because each organization has been the most consistent in their respective league over the last two decades. A big reason for that is how both the Spurs and Patriots now how to adapt. The Spurs just bid farewell to a superstar power forward in Tim Duncan who throughout his 19-year NBA career never put himself ahead of the greater good of the team and that philosophy is still on display in San Antonio. The same can be said with the Pats in regards to Brady as he falls in line with everything that Belichick wants done. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t have a problem in shipping a player out of town who doesn’t fit his mold, and the same can be said for Belichick as it is their way or the highway. Both of these organizations are selfless as you don’t hear about wide receivers on the Patriots complaining about not receiving the football, and you don’t hear players on the Spurs being frustrated about not getting touches on offense as it is all about the team to the fullest.

As the Patriots are wrapping up the regular season, they are hitting their stride. And as all of the playoff contenders in the AFC know that they will have to get on a plane and head to Foxboro next month, they’ll once again have a tiger by the tail. The Patriots are itching to get to Houston, Texas for Super Bowl 51 as they want to join the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and San Francisco 49ers as the only organizations in the National Football League to win at least five Super Bowl Championships. And for Brady and Belichick, they are seeking to become the first quarterback/head combo in the Super Bowl era to win five championships.

Winning never goes out of style, and for the Patriots, success is contagious.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

 

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2016 AFC East Projections

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X-New England Patriots 12-4

There are two opinions on the New England Patriots as they are an organization that you either love or hate. Since 2001, the Patriots have not had a losing season and they’ve only had two seasons over that stretch which have ended without them making the postseason. The Pats have won four Super Bowl Championships as they’ve become the epitome of success in the National Football League. But life isn’t a bed of roses for New England as they’ve dealt with their fair share of controversy which included “Spygate” in 2007, and now “Deflategate”. The most recent controversy has seen NFL commissioner Roger Goodell drop the hammer on the Patriots which included a $1 million fine, a loss of draft picks, and a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady. Now as the Patriots are preparing four life without Brady for the first four games here in 2016, head coach Bill Belichick will once again put on his thinking cap.

Patriots fans need to get used to hearing the name Jimmy Garoppolo as he will be the Patriots starting quarterback while Brady serves his suspension. In Garoppolo’s two years with the Patriots, he has seen some brief mop up duty behind Brady. But now Garoppolo will be charged with keeping Brady’s seat warm until he comes back.

Rob Gronkowski

There are still plenty of explosive play makers on the Patriots offense that features the likes of tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman. At 6’6″, Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses as his height and pass catching ability keeps opposing secondaries honest. And it will be much tougher for Patriots opponents to double Gronkowski this season due to the fact that the team acquired tight end Martellus Bennett from the Chicago Bears.

Bennett has spent eight years in the National Football League with stints with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and the Bears. The majority of Bennett’s career has seen him underutilized in the passing game which could change this year. I expect the Patriots to employ more two tight end packages in the mode of the early 2010’s when New England would create matchup problems for opponents with Gronkowski and former tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Julian Edelman

Edelman is looking to bounce back after injuries slowed him down in 2015. And once the maestro at quarterback in Brady returns from his suspension the Patriots passing game should really take flight.

Last year the Pats were 30th in the National Football League in rushing and they are one of the few teams that can get away with that due to the ability of Brady. Under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots tend to use screen passes, along with short passes to their running backs such as Dion Lewis and James White which turn out to be de facto runs.

The Patriots have a solid offensive line and if left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer are able to remain healthy, both Garoppolo and Brady should enjoy plenty of time in the pocket. It never worked out for guard Jonathan Cooper in three years with the Arizona Cardinals, but after the Patriots acquired him during the off-season, maybe a change of scenery is just what he needs after being a first-round pick in 2013.

It was shocking when Belichick decided to trade defensive end/outside linebacker Chandler Jones to the Cardinals this off-season, but he did pick up a veteran to replace him in defensive end Chris Long. Long was the second overall pick of the 2008 National Football League Draft by the St. Louis Rams, but injuries have taken away from his effectiveness over the last two years as he has missed 14 games. However Long finally gets the chance to play for a winner and suiting up for the Patriots typically tends to allow veteran players to find the fountain of youth.

Aside from Long on the Patriots defensive line, there are a ton of veterans that includes defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton and defensive end Rob Ninkovich, while second year defensive tackle Malcolm Brown could be ready to take on bigger role in New England’s defense.

Jamie Collins

The Pats still have a strong group of linebackers which includes middle linebacker Donta Hightower and outside linebacker Jamie Collins, while the secondary is home to some quality veterans in cornerback Malcolm Butler, strong safety Patrick Chung, and free safety Devin McCourty.

If the Patriots are able to weather the storm without Brady, this team should once again be poised to make another run at winning the Super Bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Jets 10-6

2015 saw much improvement for the New York Jets, but they fell just short of making the playoffs. After the Jets defeated their arch rival in the New England Patriots in Week 16, they only needed a victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2010. However things fell apart for the Jets as they lost to the Bills which was a bittersweet ending to what had the makings of a storybook season. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fell 95 yards short of becoming the first Jets quarterback since Joe Namath in 1967 when the team still played in the American Football League to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker become the first duo of Jets pass catchers since Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet in 1998 to each gain 1,000 yards receiving and New York also had one of the fiercest defensive lines in the National Football League that featured defensive ends Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Leonard Williams. And as all of this should be building blocks for the Jets heading into the 2016 NFL season, this team has a laundry list of question marks that are surrounding them.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

After Fitzpatrick’s strong season he became a free agent as he and the Jets had a long dance around the floor before they came to an agreement on a new one-year deal for $12 million. Fitzpatrick has been a journeyman as he has suited up for six different clubs in his 11-year National Football League career. Many folks see Fitzpatrick as a backup quarterback which is one of the reasons why the Jets are not willing to commit on a long-term deal to a 33-year old player that has only made all 16 starts in a season three times in his career. Heading into the 2016 NFL season, the main thing for Fitzpatrick is to do exactly what he did last year which is to simply get the football to the play makers around him such as Marshall and Decker.

After running back Chris Ivory gained 1,070 yards on the ground for the Jets last year, he was allowed to leave in free agency as he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But as one door closed for the Jets, another opened as the team signed veteran running back Matt Forte. In eight years with the Chicago Bears, Forte was a very durable running back as only Walter Payton gained more yards on the ground than him while wearing a Bears uniform.

Matt Forte

Forte has also been solid in providing pass protection for quarterbacks, while also being a strong receiver coming out of the backfield which should pay dividends in the Jets offense.

After 11 years of protecting the blindside for Jet quarterbacks, offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson decided to retire. But Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan didn’t waste any time in replacing Ferguson as he acquired offensive tackle Ryan Clady from the Denver Broncos. Ferguson was extremely durable during his career, but the same cannot be said about Clady who after helping the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl last year must show his worth on the big stage in the shadow of New York City.

As previously mentioned the Jets do have a strong defensive line which sets the tone for the rest of the defense. And if Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams are able to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it could make life much easier for players such as cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Todd Bowles

For Jets head coach Todd Bowles, he knows that his team won’t be able to sneak up anybody here in 2016. And with road games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers,and Arizona Cardinals, along with divisional tilts against the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, the Jets are going to have their hands full in they intend on making it to the postseason.

Buffalo Bills 8-8

The Buffalo Bills and head coach Rex Ryan are a match made in heaven. The Bills have not won more than 9 games in a season during this millennium, and Ryan is a head coach that tends to hover around .500 each year. Staying true to form for Ryan and the Bills in 2015, Buffalo went 8-8 as they were a team that competed, but they were an undisciplined team that simply found ways to lose. Ryan has always been known as a player’s coach with teams that shoot themselves in the foot, and we could be looking at the same blueprint for the Bills here in 2016.

Last year Ryan gave Tyrod Taylor the opportunity to be the Bills starting quarterback and he made the most of it by throwing 20 touchdown passes to just 6 interceptions. Taylor began to shed the label of him simply being a scrambler and now it will be interesting to see if he can take the next step and become an elite quarterback in 2016. But if Taylor is going to be able to take the next step as a quarterback, he has the players around him to make it happen.

Sammy Watkins

It hasn’t taken wide receiver Sammy Watkins that long to show that he indeed is a play maker. In just two years, Watkins has displayed the rare combination of blazing speed and pass catching ability which makes him a logical candidate to make the Pro Bowl this season. And if the Bills passing game is going to improve, wide receiver Robert Woods must become consistent as well.

The Bills were the top rushing team last year in the National Football League, and this was without the benefit of having a healthy LeSean McCoy at running back for the entire season. But if McCoy is able to remain healthy and show the explosiveness that made him the Philadelphia Eagles all-time leading rusher, then the Bills offense should be a force to be reckoned with.

Ryan is known as an aggressive defensive coach, but the Bills only managed to muster up 21 sacks last year after having 54 in 2014. The defense could once again be a point of frustration for the Bills due to suspensions of players such as defensive tackle Marcel Dareus which could rob them off a chance to improve and that’ll more than likely hamper their chances of ending the longest current playoff drought in the National Football League.

Marcel Dareus

Suspensions to players such as Dareus’ show that the Bills are still a very undisciplined team. Last year the Bills had 143 accepted penalties against them which was tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for tops in the National Football League, and if Ryan doesn’t get this pattern tempered, Buffalo will once again be stuck in the mud.

More than likely the Bills will be an up and down team again in 2016, and you have to wonder if anything short than a trip to the postseason will mean the end for Ryan in Western New York.

 

 

 

Miami Dolphins 5-11

From 1970-1995, the Miami Dolphins only employed one head coach in Don Shula. But since Shula’s retirement, the Dolphins have had a revolving door at head coach. Adam Gase is set to begin his first season as Dolphins head coach, and he represents the tenth different head coach that the Dolphins have employed since Shula stepped down. The Dolphins coaching carousel is reflective in the team’s record as they have not had a winning record since 2008, while failing to win a playoff game since 2000.

Aside from head coaching issues, the quarterback position has also been a problem for the Dolphins. As Ryan Tannehill is set to begin his fifth year as the Dolphins starting quarterback, it marks the first time since the early 2000’s that Miami will have the same starting quarterback five years in a row.

In four years as the Dolphins starting quarterback, Tannehill has put up impressive numbers which would make a fantasy football owner happy, but he has come up short in the most important category that defines a National Football League quarterback which is victories. Tannehill has a career record of 29-35 and the Dolphins have never finished a season with a winning record with him under center. In May 2015, Tannehill and the Dolphins agreed on a six-year, $96 million extension, and if he’s unable to begin to deliver, the folks in South Florida that follow this team will begin to want another franchise quarterback.

In 2015, the Fins struggled to run the football as they were 23rd in the National Football League in rushing. The Dolphins leading returning rusher is Jay Ajayi who gained just 187 yards on the ground last season. The Dolphins did sign former Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. But Foster has a ton of miles on his legs along with injuries, and it is difficult to expect him to be the play maker that he was a few seasons ago.

Ryan Tannehill

The Dolphins lack of a running game will put more pressure on Tannehill and wide receiver Jarvis Landry to carry the offense, and although that the duo will pad their stats, it more than likely won’t lead to that many wins in Miami.

Defensively the Dolphins lost defensive end Olivier Vernon in free agency as he signed with the New York Giants. But Miami is hopeful that veteran defensive end Mario Williams will be able to fill the void. Williams will join a veteran defensive line that includes defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Cameron Wake, but there are plenty of issues in the back seven of the Dolphins defense that will stress the mental of first-year defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

It’s going to be another long year in Miami, but I expect Gase to use this time to assess the talent there as he is hopeful to build a solid foundation.

X-Division Winner

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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Winning The Battle, But Losing The War?

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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.

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The Never Ending Saga

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Roger Goodell

We all knew that the day would come when the National Football League would appeal the overturned suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Last spring Brady was suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the first four games of the 2015 season for his alleged role in under inflated footballs being used in the first half of the AFC Championship Game in January 2015 against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady along with the NFLPA appealed the suspension in Federal Court in New York last summer where U.S. District Judge Richard Berman overturned Goodell’s suspension. But the door was left open for the NFL to appeal Berman’s ruling and that process began earlier this month in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan where a panel of three judges consisting of Robert Kateman, Barrington Parker Jr., and Denny Chin heard arguments from both the league and Brady’s representatives.¬†Each side was grilled over the matter as the National Football League is hopeful to come away victorious, but at what expense?

This issue has been drug out now for more than a year over something that most people don’t care about. And regardless of the court’s ruling on the matter, there won’t be any winners that will emerge from this as Brady appears to be a man that feels he is above the law while Goodell who is serving as the stuntman for the NFL owners cannot accept defeat.

Tom Brady

A big reason why Berman overturned Brady’s suspension last year was due to the fact that he saw right through the National Football League’s glorified witch hunt that was orchestrated in their investigation of Brady. The NFL never informed Brady that he could be subject to a league mandated suspension if he failed to cooperate with the investigation that was conducted by “independent” investigator Ted Wells who happens to work for the NFL. In Wells’ final report, he could only say that Brady “probably knew” that the footballs were purposely under inflated, but he was never fully able to determine the quarterback’s involvement. And when Berman questioned the National Football League over the matter in regards to their evidence against Brady, the league failed to produce any.

This isn’t the first time that a player has appealed a suspension by the National Football League in federal court and won, but this is the first case of Goodell and the league are fighting the court’s decision. Goodell is attempting to maintain his post as the dean of discipline in the National Football League, but at what cost?

Right now money is being wasted by the National Football League and the NFLPA in court over this matter where those finances could be put to better uses. There needs to be more money allotted by both parties for research on the long-term effects of head injuries to players as well as more health benefits for retired players who have suffered debilitating injuries from their playing days and that currently is not the case.

Goodell appears to have a personal vendetta against Brady which became evident this past season when the quarterback seemed to have suffered more questionable hits against him by defenders than in years past, but referees appeared to turn a blind eye more often than not. And on top of that, the outcome of the game against the Colts would not have been changed had the footballs been properly inflated for the entire game. This is the same league that once allowed wide receivers and defensive backs to use stickum on their hands to catch the football better until it got out of hand with former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes. Now wide receivers simply use gloves that practically stick to the football when they contact each other. The National Football League sat idly by when former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula purposely left the field at Miami’s Orange Bowl uncovered during a storm which led to a much slower playing surface during the 1982 AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets. And we can also not forget about Goodell and the NFL changing the suspension of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice from a two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension once TMZ released video footage of him striking his then fiancee Janay Parker in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

As previously mentioned, Goodell is only doing this because the owners that put him in this position (minus Patriots owner Robert Kraft) who are fueling him with the ammunition to do so. But just like Brady’s legal representation is being grilled about the quarterback destroying his cell phone, the league must also prove that they gave him a fair shake which is far from the case. And regardless of what the panel decides to do on this matter, nobody wins as the majority of the public views Brady as a cheater while the National Football League comes off as a multi-billion dollar organization that wants to flex their financial muscles to prove a whimsical point.

 

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