NFL 2012-13 Season in Review: The ABCs of the NFL

Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco After the Super Bowl Win Over the San Francisco 49ers

With the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII over the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, the NFL season has offiically come to an end, and Ravens Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis finally got their rings.  With it, the 2012-13 season of the NFL brought in some interesting twists and turns as the free-agency system has finally matured and transformed the NFL into a season of instability and chaos.  The inclusion of the 2011 rookies also helped as they have created a NFL, a mixture of the old guard and the new.

  • A is for Andy Dalton. Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton may have the Donovan McNabb curse.  For the second time in the playoffs, he once again fell flat with the Houston Texans.
  • Y is for Young Guns.  Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck, Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III, Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson and San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick all changed their teams for the better.  At least for this season. They all have potential to become elite quarterbacks in their own right in the future.
  • A is for Adrian Peterson. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has always been a a workhorse for the team like the St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson.  But this season he proved himself more than ever.
  • P is for Peyton Manning.  Even though he’s not with the Indianapolis Colts anymore, he is still an elite quarterback who makes something out of nothing.  While he’s with the Denver Broncos, he’s going to keep the team competitive, if not better.  He’s already taken advantage of Demaryius Thomas, Denver’s equivalent to Reggie Wayne.
  • R is for Rex Ryan. For the most part this season, he stayed out of the news this year. Surprisingly.  No more supposed Super Bowl parades, and the quarterback controversy between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow was kept to a minimum.  However, there was some questionable choices during the mid-season involving his roster of injured quarterbacks.  
  • R is for Read-Option. With the Wildcat formation going the way of the Tim Tebow comes the resurrection of the read-option in the NFL.  This is not a long-term gimmick for the NFL as the Super Bowl showed, but it has served well this season.
  • E is for Elite. The New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers earned their spots in the playoffs. Again.  With both Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Tom Brady of New England, both quarterbacks are performing at a high standard.
  • S is for Second Tier. The Atlanta Falcons, the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks all earned their spots in the playoffs this season as well.  These teams don’t have elite quarterbacks, but they are excellent as a team. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did rise above when it counted against New England Patriots Tom Brady….
  • D is for Defense. Like in previous seasons, stout defenses win games when the games remain tight. The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers have proven that.
  • F is for Fundamental. Those teams who planned ahead finally got their due — the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
  • A is for Andrew Luck.  Well, the Indianapolis Colts got their Andrew Luck, a quarterback that is decisively better in the long-term than Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III in my opinion.  However, he buckled under the Baltimore Ravens defense and rookie jitters.
  • R is for Robert Griffin III. Robert Griffin III has proven himself to be Washington Redskins’ franchise quarterback.  But with him participating in the Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks with an injured knee was a bad idea transformed into a worse idea.  
  • C is for Coaches. This was a dismal season to be an NFL coach. The firings of coaches from some teams, like the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs, was expected.   These teams don’t have a record of keeping coaches — and keeping their teams in competitive shape.
  • H is for Harbaugh. The Harbaugh brothers are remarkably intelligent, and neither of them particularly cater the media.
  • J is for Joe Flacco. Despite winning the Super Bowl, in my opinion, he is still a second-tier quarterback.  He is lucky to have a stiff defense helping him when he needs it most.

This season was indeed intriguing as the elite fell to some of the second-tier teams.  Now onto next season…

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2012-13 NFL Season Preview for Fantasy Football: Chaos in Motion

With most of the fantasy football leagues already in tow with their drafts and the preseason games closed, it’s time to see how this season will fold.  Now onto my predictions for the NFL 2012-13 regular season:

  • Rookie Quarterbacks.  After the Wildcat, rookie quarterbacks are the new sensation in football.  With Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford and Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton both performing well, given their short tenure in the league, now it’s time for others to shine — and collapse under the burden of the NFL.  Washington RedskinsRobert Griffin III is a hot commodity to be sure, but you better count your eggs before your chickens in his case.  Otherwise, he might leave your basket half-empty.
  • Chaos, Chaos Everywhere.  With veterans already injured, like Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, fantasy football players will be scrounging early and often.  Waiver wire will be the godsend and disaster for many, many people.  Whereas in earlier seasons, the waiver wire was fundamentally for backups and gamblers.  EVERYONE will be scrounging.
  • Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck vs. The World.  Andrew Luck has high expectations on his shoulder in the Indianapolis Colts locker room.  He has almost the same quality weapons that now Denver BroncosPeyton Manning has, but will he live up to expectations?  He should get close and surpass Robert Griffin III.  Anything beyond that, I won’t risk.
  • Denver Broncos‘ Peyton Manning vs. New York Giants’ Eli Manning.  The Mannings have already done their commercial work.  I don’t think Peyton Manning won’t be driving his Buicks through any goal posts this season.  He should do a better-than-average job as quarterback for the Broncos.  He should be capped as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2.  Eli Manning should be capped as a high-end QB2.  Both will average each other out.
  • Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick and Nick Foles: The Jeff Garcia Effect.  You know how history repeats itself.  The Eagles will repeat history again.  Vick will get injured, and Foles will indeed take the Eagles at or near the playoffs with his leadership and ability.  Once the Eagles get into the playoffs (or near it), Vick will miraculously return and take the reins.  However, the wheels will fall of the Eagles truck — once again.
  • New York Jets’ Tebow Wildcats and His Jesus-Voltron.  Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan created a combustible quarterback situation.  How long do you think Tim Tebow will take a backseat in the Wildcat formation?  Hmmm, not too long, I think.  Once Mark Sanchez fails even slightly, Sanchez will be pulled.  If Ryan doesn’t pull him, the angry New York fans will.  The clock is ticking…

This is a short taste of what’s to come during the NFL 2012-13 regular season of fantasy football in my honest and blunt opinion.

Out with the Old, In with the New: The Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck

With the firing of Jim Caldwell and the change in staff, Indianapolis Colts (former?) quarterback Peyton Manning is feeling the heat.  He had to undergo rehabilitation during the 2011 season, and with his departure from that season, the Colts fell to 2-14, and Matt Schaub and his Houston Texans clinched the division with a 10-6 record in the AFC South without the usual pressure of Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.  The Houston Texans, however, could not take advantage of Manning’s departure.  They decimated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 in the wild card playoffs, but the Baltimore Ravens posed a problem or two for Matt Schaub and his Houston Texans.  The Ravens defense ultimately won at the end of the day with a 20-13 win over the Texans.

This was the season of quarterbacks as several quarterbacks broke records in the regular and post-season.  New Orleans Saints Drew Brees, New England Patriots Tom Brady and Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford all three over 5,000 yards with the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants Eli Manning coming in close with 4,933 during the 2011 regular season.  If Peyton Manning was in the lineup  with the Indianapolis Colts, he could have kept up.  However, he was sidelined with rehabilitation for his neck.  Now he gets to watch his brother Eli perform against one of his rivals, Patriots Tom Brady, in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII.  The Giants no longer have David Tyree, but they have a talented corps of wide receivers from Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks.

When the Super Bowl comes to a close, Peyton Manning will have to contend with owner Jim Irsay about his contract.  From the initial whispers about potential draftee Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning realized that his future with the Indianapolis Colts would seemingly be coming to a close.  During his last two seasons as a Stanford Cardinal, Andrew Luck threw over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns or more.  Luck certainly has the mental capacity and physical assets to be a great quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.  However, the question remains: is he good enough to replace veteran Peyton Manning?  As close as Andrew Luck has been with Peyton, I am certainly not too quick to endorse him quite yet.  Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton proved that a rookie quarterback can take a team to the playoffs, but it also showed the failure of a rookie in the playoffs.  The tension of the game and the increased defensive pressure can certainly take its toll on a young rookie.

In my opinion, it would be a shame to let Peyton Manning go for the Colts sake. Manning is an elite-caliber quarterback even with his neck injury.  The Arizona Cardinals or the Seattle Seahawks both would want a quarterback of his caliber to lead them, but for now, it’s dependent on the next move of Jim Irsay, and Irsay won’t trade his prize horse, no matter how injured, so quickly without compensation.

Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson: 2010 Year in Review and 2011 Outlook and Beyond

2010 Year in Review

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson was fairly efficient and productive during the 2010 regular season despite the quarterback situation.  In 2010, he had a total of 1,047 yards on 47 receptions and 6 touchdowns for the season.  He was ranked 12th among wide receivers in total yardage, and tied for 29th in touchdowns among wideouts.  However, his prime achievement was that he led the league in average yardage per catch with 22.5.

During the regular season, Jackson had erratic production at times, but his production improved as quarterback Michael Vick took the helm.  Earlier on, however, in the game against the Detroit Lions with quarterback Kevin Kolb at the helm, he had 135 yards, a touchdown and a stunning 33.8 average yards per catch.  In the following game, he also had a great game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with 153 total receiving yards, a touchdown and 30.6 average yards per catch.  The following three games were downers for him as Eagles running back LeSean McCoy took over as the primary offensive weapon.  Against the Indianapolis Colts, DeSean Jackson blossomed again with 109 receiving yards, a touchdown and 15.6 average receiving yards per catch and was one of the top performers of the game.  In the decimation of the Washington Redskins 59-28, he had 98 yards and a touchdown on two receptions and a stunning 49.0 average receiving yards per catch.  Again, he was one of the top performers of the game, and Jackson essentially set the tone for the rest of the game after his 88-yard catch in the opening of the first quarter.  Then the tides began to turn as defenses began to adjust to Michael Vick, and Jackson’s production went down tremendously until the Dallas Cowboys game.  Jackson rose to the occasion with 210 receiving yards and a touchdown and another stunning 52.5 average receiving yard per reception.  As quarterback Michael Vick began breaking down physically during the close of the season and other personal factors discussed next, DeSean Jackson’s production fell down as well.

2011 Outlook and Beyond

Compared to his 2009 season, DeSean Jackson was admirably comparable.  He was ranked 12th in total receiving yards during the 2009 regular season.  Additionally, he was tied for 10th was 9 total touchdowns and ranked second in average receiving yards with 18.6.  He did show remarkable improvement in average yardage per catch, but he fell somewhat in the number of touchdowns.

With the 2011 season perhaps coming, as the collective bargaining agreement is coming into its final development, DeSean Jackson’s contract has expired.  With the tantrum thrown after the Philadelphia Eagles loss to the Chicago Bears and his unwillingness to mesh with coach Andy Reid, whether DeSean Jackson will have contract extension after the lockout ends remains to be seen.  Potentially, the Eagles should, but they might not have enough to cover Michael Vick’s contract. Should Jackson be traded, the Philadelphia Eagles will lose a valuable cog in their potent offense.  Unfortunately, DeSean Jackson does have Drew Rosenhaus as an agent, and Jackson may become another Terrell Owens, loaded with talent but blinded by money.

2011 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Prospect

During the 2011 fantasy football season, wide receiver DeSean Jackson should be ranked a high-end WR2 to a solid WR1 if Jackson intends on staying with the Philadelphia Eagles.  However, the limitation is by his teammate Jeremy Maclin who may have become the primary wideout in the Eagles offensive scheme.  Perhaps a more severe limitation will be the second half of the Philadelphia Eagles schedule where the opponents become much more physical and potentially cause serious injury to Eagles star quarterback of the 2010 season, Michael Vick.  Finally, the final limitation may be another team.  Which team is an interesting question, but I imagine a pass-happy team like the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers or another can definitely benefit from a wide receiver like him.  Depending on the team, however, his production could fall into solid to high-end WR2 status which could hurt fantasy football players intending on drafting a solid wideout early.

Philadelphia Eagles Tight End Brent Celek: 2010 Year in Review and 2011 Outlook and Beyond

2010 Year in Review

The 2010 season was one of the better seasons for tight ends, especially for those who had Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez or Oakland Raiders Zach Miller.  However, unlike past seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles with quarterback Donovan McNabb at the helm, the 2010 season was the season of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.  However, that included protecting him consistently to prevent Vick from suffering any major injury down the road.  Brent Celek who had a breakout season in 2009 fizzled in 2010 to the disappointment of many of his fantasy football owners.  With the competition between the quarterbacks and ultimately the selection of Michael Vick as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, his season was bound not to succeed as he did in 2009.  However, his plummet in statistics was the alteration of his role as tight end — primarily a blocker, like Indianapolis Colts Dallas Clark.  Unfortunately, unlike Dallas Clark for the Colts with Peyton Manning, Brent Celek was not targeted as a receiver frequently by Michael Vick during the 2010 season.

In 2010, Brent Celek was producing only half of what he did in 2009.  He had 42 receptions, 511 yards and 4 touchdowns the entire 2010 season.  Whereas in 2009, he had 76 receptions, 971 yards and 8 touchdowns during the 2009 regular season.  He was ranked 93rd during the regular season in receiving yards — behind his teammate and running back LeSean McCoy, ranked 69th, with 592 receiving yards.  On the bright side, he did tie in receiving yards with Pittsburgh Steelers Heath Miller and twice as many touchdowns as he did.  For comparison, from his 2009 regular season, Brent Celek was ranked 26th in total receiving yards, second among tight ends and only behind Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark.  Additionally, his 8 touchdowns at that time ranked him 16th, tied for fourth among tight ends and in the company of San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.  Lastly, from Brent Celek’s 2009 to 2010 season, his average yardage per reception did not decrease much.  He dropped slightly from 12.8 to 12.2.  As you can see, Brent Celek’s numbers have fallen tremendously from what he did in 2009.  Will 2011 be any better?

2011 Outlook and Beyond

Even if Brent Celek recovers statistically a bit this upcoming season, I think he will be in for quite a few more slumping seasons like in 2010 until his contract expires in 2016.  Perhaps Michael Vick and Brent Celek will develop some sort of chemistry before then.  In the meantime, Celek will still play as a member of a team and root the team on, but he won’t be the same tight end of his stellar 2009 season.   If Michael Vick is still the quarterback by then, Celek might and quite possibly will consider a trade.  By that time, some quarterbacks, such as St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford or future draftee Stanford Cardinals Andrew Luck, should be reaching their full potential and would benefit from a veteran, physical tight end like Brent Celek on their team.

2011 Fantasy Football Tight End Prospect

Given the available talent for tight ends, I believe he will be worth no more than a low to solid TE2.  If there are better tight ends out there in the draft, get them first before Brent Celek because Celek will be nothing more than a consolation prize.  He is a solid tight end with his physical nature and dedication to the sport, even during the work stoppage.  However, his chemistry with Michael Vick, the soon-to-be-departure of Kevin Kolb and his evolved role as a blocker, he will be limited.  He should be capable of putting up solid TE2 numbers, primarily during the first half of the 2011 (full) season.  However, the Philadelphia Eagles schedule becomes much tougher during the second half, and he should be heavily relied on as a blocker.  By that time, he should be nothing more than reserve on the bench or a 2-for-1 trade at best.  Alone as a trade, he won’t be worth too much at that point.

NFL and the NFLPA Mediation Countdown: Lockout Day+3

It’s been official for the past two days so far…the NFL team owners have performed the inevitable lockout for the off-season, and the NFL players union has decertified and essentially dissolved itself for representing players.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service did very little to alter the state of discontent on both sides of the field.  This agency’s mediator and director, George Cohen, simply could not find common ground when $9 billion annual revenues are at stake.  The NFL players, including New England Patriots Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning, are now pursuing antitrust lawsuits against the team owners.  The NFLPA originally demanded full disclosure of the financial records of team owners over the past 10 years, but the team owners conceded a bit but not that much.  What separated the two groups was $185 million, but with the lockout in effect, it won’t be resolved anytime soon.

This is history — and disappointment —  for football fans since this is the first work stoppage since 1987.  With all these lawsuits in the woodwork by the NFL players, it will take some time for the hearing and decisions to be made.  Until then, we’ve got March Madness coming soon and opening days for the respective MLB teams.

NFL and the NFLPA Medation Countdown: Lockout Day Delayed+3

With the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the team owners and the NFL Players union still convening with the federal mediator, George Cohen,in Washington, D.C., this is the first day of seven days left before NFL’s potential lockout.  The team owners and members of the players union board are participating in meetings recently, but it’s kind of gone the way of Dilbert really.  Meetings to propose more meetings does not make an agreement make, and meetings to discuss an extension to agree to create another extension does not help much either.  At least with this one, it appears, if no agreement can be negotiated between the two parties, the team owners will execute the more than probable lockout or the union will either decertify by the end of these seven days of mediation.  The main issue for the owners seem to be money, and for the players, it is player safety drawn from the extension of the regular schedule to 18 regular season games. Although fans would like to see some real progress, I am less than optimistic.  Indianapolis Colts Jeff Center, a member of the NFL players executive committee, Jeff Pash, the league’s lead negotiator  and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell are still expressing optimism in their negotiations, but as this drags on, they may be eating their words soon. President Barack Obama may not intervene now, but if a lockout occurs and holds for a couple of months or more, he may be driven to.

This may be the game of old warriors, but perhaps it’s now a game of greedy ones, too.

NFL and the NFLPA Mediation Countdown: Lockout Day

With the attendance of New York Giants John Mara yesterday, and with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in association with Green Bay Packers president John Murphy, and the members of the NFL executive union board including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the bustling activity between Chantilly and Washington, D.C. was a matter of show and nothing more it seems.  The independent federal agency designed to mediate these two groups could not come to an agreement yesterday, and with team owners, such as Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, expressing frustration about yesterday’s frivolous discussions, today’s talks don’t seem particularly optimistic.

The main issue has been the $9 billion in revenues annually, and the division thereof among the team owners and the NFL players.  True, both sides do agree that talking on the subject has done some good, but there has been nothing to show for it so far.

Show me the money?  The fans want both sides to show real progress.  How about we start with that?

Alas, the countdown looms with 15 hours left until the end of this day…

Mediation for the NFL and the NFLPA: Problem Resolution without a Resolution

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and their owners have decided upon outside mediation for their resolution of the collective bargaining agreement with the players union.  They have resorted to rely upon the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent U.S. government agency, which will oversee the labor negotiations in Washington, D.C. Knowing that the lockout will occur in about two weeks from now, by the end of Thursday, March 3rd, this mediation may not resolve the collective bargaining agreement.

I agree with some that arbitration would have been a better way of settling this dispute.  But the money being thrown around in this dispute, as well as the extended regular season schedule, the tension between the NFL team owners and players won’t be reconciled easily, even with a government agency.  President Barack Obama may attempt to intervene on behalf of public and the government agency, but I’m afraid it would be nothing more than a public relations display. Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, an executive member on the board of the NFLPA, said that this mediation could only assist in resolving the disagreements.  Jeff Saturday may be a bit optimistic, but having seven straight days of talks starting today certainly will help.

Again, personally, I would prefer arbitration, but that would mean both sides would have to rely on an external person or agency making the final decision for the collective bargaining agreement.  The downside of relying upon this mediation by the government agency is that if the talks fail, the NFL players, teams and fans will have less than a week before a lockout will occur.  Arbitration would cut the drama short, and a final decision would before the March 3rd deadline.

Indianapolis Colts Franchised Quarterback Peyton Manning

With the advent of the franchise tag on Michael Vick for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts have dropped the franchise tag on their stellar and intelligent quarterback Peyton Manning.  Even though the Colts were contending with injuries much of this previous season, Peyton Manning still found ways to win with his tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai for most of the season on the sidelines.  Financially, Manning is expected to be awarded $23 million under current guidelines.

Although the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New York Jets in the AFC Wild Card playoffs, Peyton Manning still found ways to win the last four games of the regular season against the Tennessee Titans, the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  This momentum nearly carried them against the New York Jets, but they lost 17-16 — a single, disheartening point.  With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Colts surprisingly ranked 1st in passing offense this past season still.  An amazing feat despite their roster of injuries.

Unfortunately, the writing may be on the wall for this intelligent quarterback unless he can find ways to rebound next season in his accuracy.  In 2004, he had a stunning 121.1 quarterback rating with 4,557 passing yards, 49 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.  However, since 2004, his quarterback rating has fallen from 121.1 to 91.9. This past season, with his 91.9 quarterback rating, Manning had 4,700 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He was ranked 10th in quarterback rating during the regular season compared to his 1st-place ranking in 2004.  He is still an elite quarterback, but Manning must realize that he must improve this upcoming season for his team to overcome the parity of the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts made a brilliant decision in franchising their star quarterback Peyton Manning.  He is an invaluable player for the Colts and far more consistent and intelligent than the Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick.