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.

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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.

Top Ten Lessons of the 2011-12 NFL Regular Season (With a Bonus!)

Collective Bargaining Agreement and Collateral Damage.  After months of deliberation and stall tactics on the collective bargaining agreement on both sides, finally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the team owners and the players settled on a collective bargaining agreement.  It gave some of the owners more of a salary cap, and the players more leniency when it came to practicing and injuries. The collateral damage was that there was less time to practice before the regular season, and team “leaders” leading their own practices were insufficient and laughable.  Other collateral damages included more injuries to key players this season and porous and unprepared defenses.

Jim Harbaugh + Alex Smith = San Francisco 49ers Gold. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith finally gets a  proper coach who is more than willing to prepare him after going through several previous coaches.  Alex Smith is not an elite quarterback, but he’s far better now.  From 2010, he improved from a 82.1 quarterback rating to a 90.1 quarterback rating in 2011. Under former Stanford Cardinals head coach Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith reduced his number of interceptions by half to five this season.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Their Dream Team. A whole lot of talent that went nowhere fast.  This Philadelphia Eagles team was supposed to easily get into the playoffs and a strong contender for the Super Bowl this season. The Eagles are still one of the top three offenses with over 6,000 total yards, but their potency couldn’t overcome their turnover deficiency and porous wide 9 defense with vulnerability against the run.

A Season Without Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning. The Indianapolis Colts team sorely missed their great quarterback Peyton Manning this season as their team has been in last place in their division.  Without Peyton Manning and the Colts standing in the way, the Houston Texans have finally gotten first place and clinched the AFC South.  The media and the Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Saints quarterback Drew Brees or even Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not have a yardstick to compare themselves this season.

The Best of the Best: New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees. Even with this strange season, some things always remain consistent — the best remained the best.  The Patriots Tom Brady, Packers Aaron Roders and Saints Drew Brees are among the top three in quarterback rating to date.  As of this week, Aaron Rodgers remains the top dog with a 122.5 quarterback rating followed by Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Dominates Again.  After the fallout last year with Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Steelers defense rose to the occasion this season.  They are first in total defense.

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. I mentioned the Carolina Panthers as a team to watch out for defensively, but their defense is still going through some growing pains. The acquisition of Cam Newton over the pre-season has changed the team for the better offensively. Cam Newton has a solid 85.0 quarterback rating for a rookie quarterback.  Like Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, Newton has mobility but needs improvement on his passing skills.

Cleveland Browns Running Back Peyton Hillis and the Madden Curse. The Madden Curse has been persistent this season as Peyton Hillis continues to battle injuries.  Marshall Faulk had to contend with the same thing until the Curse finally took its toll.

Coaches on the Hot Seat…Again. San Diego head coach Norv Turner and Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sporano are now former head coaches.  With the looks of it, St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnulo is gone as well, and one of his potential new positions next season  might be the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles with Juan Castillo given another job (hopefully on the offensive side).

Wildcats No More.  After last season or two, the wildcat formation has all but disappeared this season.  True, there are running options with the quarterback on some teams, but it is no longer an established wildcat formation per se.

Bonus: Illegitimacy of College Bowls. The chant has long and been hard about the illegitimacy of the college bowls, but this season perhaps made the issue very apparent — not only to the teams playing but to the media and the general public as well. With Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers facing each other again, the entire BCS system is put into question, and questions will remain long after the BCS Championship has been decided.

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.

The Shortened 8: Top 10 Drafts for Fantasy Football Quarterbacks for 2011-12

Unlike drafting running backs, where even the best generally decline the following season, fantasy football quarterbacks are often more consistent, despite changing their wide receivers, tight ends and other aspects of the offense.  It’s a broad generalization but fairly accurate.  Two issues stand in the way though even with a potentially shortened eight-game regular season: injuries and rookies.  However, with this abbreviated upcoming season, untested NFL rookies in the foreseeable future, aside from a non-resolution of the collective bargaining agreement, are perhaps the hindrance of most quarterbacks for creating a boom or bust season.

Must-Haves

  • Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick.  Although he had a spectacular season for most of last season, Michael Vick did suffer injuries early in the season and pushed through injuries in the close of the season.  However, with a shortened season, this should benefit him tremendously.  He should be capable of putting up QB1 statistics early, but coming into the fantasy football playoffs, I would definitely recommend having a pretty good backup.
  • New England Patriots Tom Brady. Goes without saying…
  • Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning. Same although he’s been in decline comparatively to Tom Brady.  However, he is still an elite quarterback.
  • New Orleans Saints Drew Brees.  Same.
  • Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers.  He’s a solid QB1 with lots of talent behind him.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger. He’s a low to solid QB1.
  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan.  With the talent behind him, it could be a matter of time before he’s about as good as Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  With the abbreviated season, he’s worth a high-end QB2.
  • Houston Texans Matt Schaub.
  • Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco.  He’s always seemingly a  solid QB2 and worth a reserve, with use against the appropriate opponents he can fleece.
  • Kansas City Chiefs Matt Cassel.  He’s like Tom Brady-lite.  He needs a few more seasons under his belt as he gains experience and skills to match.

Avoid

  • Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks.
  • Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks.
  • Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks.
  • Carolina Panthers quarterbacks.

Potential X-Factors

  • Philadelphia Eagles Kevin Kolb.  He does have potential, but he needs a team and a coach that will stand by him as he learns and adjusts to whatever system is thrown his way.
  • Washington Redskins Donovan McNabb.  This former Pro Bowler could have signs of life.  Or not.  He’s worth a flier at least. Or not.
  • Washington Redskins Rex Grossman.  Even though he had admirable statistics when he took over during the last three games of last season, I don’t think he’s quite proven himself quite yet.  He could return to the erratic Rex Grossman of old, which he demonstrated against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers Josh Freeman.  Although his team improved significantly with him at the helm, he should be a QB2 going forward.
  • Buffalo Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick.  He did show moments of brilliance last season, but he requires more consistency going forward.  He’s worth a flier.
  • St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford.  He’s been quite a spark to the team.  Now he needs to develop good and consistent quarterbacking skills…

This is a very early list of fantasy football quarterbacks to draft when there is no upcoming season in view quite yet.  However, this list should help some plan ahead although this list is very speculative.  This list, as well as the upcoming lists of running backs, wide receivers and defenses will undergo revision (perhaps) as a resolution of the work stoppage comes into view.  With the third secret meeting to date between the NFL and the players trade association, it does bring some optimism, but it should be tempered as the cogs of the legal system still have to resolve themselves.

NFL and the NFLPA Lockout Countdown: Lockout Day+41, or The Infinite Schedules…and Delay

This week, the NFL released the pre-season and regular season schedules for the 2011 season, perhaps in hopes of having one, perhaps merely to satisfy the NFL fans and the media.  In any case, it was interesting to see if these schedules become a reality, should the lockout will be resolved by August.  At this time though, the situation is looking bleak.

The NFL team owners and the dissolved NFLPA consulted with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in his Minneapolis courtroom for four days.  Some players, including Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and their head of the dissolved NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith, sat with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league attorneys.   Unfortunately, a new group of NFL players supposedly dissatisfied with the progress of the talks may be creating a rift during these discussions.  To compound things further, Judge Arthur Boylan has postponed the current mediation talks until May 16 due to other matters on his judicial calendar.  Meanwhile, in other legal matters, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson may be making a decision on the players requests to lift the lockout.  Additionally, U.S. District Judge David Doty has scheduled a hearing on May 12 concerning the players damages in the negotiation of $4 billion in TV contracts.  Lastly, the NFL and the players are waiting upon the National Relations Labor Board on their decision concerning the legality of the work stoppage and the process whereby the NFLPA decertified. All in all, it may take about a month before the NFL, the players and their fans before they see any more progress.

In the meantime, while the federal courts ponder these decisions and sqander valuable taxpayer dollars, most fans have gone to viewing and supporting other sports.  Philadelphia fans have the Philadelphia Flyers facing the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Philadelphia Phillies in their upcoming series against the San Diego Padres, and the Philadelphia Union scoring with their recent acquisition of Carlos Ruiz and the veteran Sebastian Le Toux.  Until the resolution of this work stoppage, Philadelphia fans have more sports currently on their plate to enjoy.

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.

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.

2011 Pro Bowl Post-Game Analysis: How the NFC Was Won

Although this event has no bearing on the NFL regular season, it does give some time for some of the NFL players to play some backyard football in Hawaii at Aloha Stadium.  This event could be made more interesting if it had bearing like the MLB All-Star Game, but homefield advantage is determine by seed, not by an external event like the All-Star Game for baseball.  The Pro Bowlers who attended this event got their daily boost of endorsements out in the open and  more jerseys and memorabilia were sold in the process.  The television advertisers can also advertise their wares and prepare to spend millions for the Super Bowl within a week afterwards. Although the players are competing, this is still just backyard football, just on the national stage.

Now to the post-game analysis of this meaningless NFL event:

  • In the first quarter, San Diego Chargers Philip Rivers for the AFC played smart football from the outset until he began falling apart at the close of it.
  • Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is one versatile back although he did fumble.
  • Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli scored the first touchdown for NFC from a yard out, and Falcons wide receiver Roddy White 23-yard reception from Michael Vick helped.
  • Tennessee Titans wide receiver Marc Mariani 52-yard return from David Akers 74-yard kick was amazing until Phillip Rivers interception by Washington Redskins London Fletcher.
  • Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson runs for 17 yards and 14 yards were amazing, and the 14-yarder led to 14-o lead by the NFC.
  • Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning replaced Philip Rivers, and he got intercepted by Atlanta Falcons Brent Grimes on the first series out.  Wow.
  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan to his tight end Tony Gonzalez from 4 yards out led to another score for the NFC 21-0.  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t a happy man.
  • Atlanta Falcons DeAngelo Hall was the man for the first half.  He got an interception off of Philip Rivers, and he returned a fumble off of New England Patriots Wes Welker from 34 yards out and another NFC touchdown for a score of 28-0.
  • Matt Ryan’s bomb to Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald from 25 yards out was amazing and led to another touchdown for a score of 35-0.
  • Kansas City Chiefs Matt Cassel of the AFC got intercepted by Minnesota Vikings Antoine Winfield on his first series out.
  • St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson’s rush from 21 yards out for another touchdown for the NFC led the score to 42-0.  I have never seen or experienced even a backyard football game with a rout like this.
  • Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles carried the entire AFC team into the half for their first touchdown from 8 yards out for a score of 42-7.
  • Opening the second half, Chargers Philip Rivers laser to Indianapolis Colts Reggie Wayne from 16 yards out was great, and it led to another AFC score to bring the game to 42-14.
  • The fumble recovery on the kickoff by Jacksonville Jaguars Montell Owens from 8 yards out brought the game to 42-21 for the AFC.
  • Another Philips River laser to Jacksonville Jaguars Marcedes Lewis from 28 yards out for another AFC score of 45-28.  Fantastic pass by Rivers…
  • Matt Cassel’s interception by Carolina Panthers Jon Beason from 49 yards out nearly closed the game for the NFC with the score of 55-28.
  • Matt Cassel’s 7 yard pass to Montell Owens brought the score to 55-35, and it was almost their last gasp.
  • The lateral to Cleveland Browns Alex Mack from Montell Owens to the final AFC score of 55-41 from 40 yards out was something for the record books.  It was the good old backyard football play to end the game for the AFC.

The NFC won 55-41 over the AFC in this Pro Bowl match. Hopefully, this game doesn’t forecast how the Super Bowl will turn out with one team essentially dominating another. Luckily for us, this is just the Pro Bowl, and Jay Glazer won’t be calling plays on either side of the ball nor a streaker running in the middle of the field (hopefully — on both counts).  Whereas the Pro Bowl didn’t turn out to be a defensive battle, the Super Bowl should be. Both quarterbacks, Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger and Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers, should be constantly harassed, and their defenses are both capable of hindering their respective rushers of the Steelers Rashard Mendenhall and Packers James Starks. Let the countdown begin…

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Championship Pre-Game Analysis

The New York Jets did the unexpected in the playoffs, and they won against the New England Patriots at Foxboro nonetheless.  However, they will face their own shadow in the shape of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Both of these defenses have been incredibly stiff in the post-season.  The Jets defense have conquered two elite quarterbacks, Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning and New England Patriots Tom Brady, in the playoffs.  The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is below that caliber, but he is physically harder to bring down than either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense held its own against Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and their rival the Baltimore Ravens.

Now to the pre-game analysis:

Quarterbacks

In the post-season, so far, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had 226 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and a 101.8 quarterback rating.  He is currently ranked 5th overall in terms of quarterback rating in the post-season. During the regular season, Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.  On the other side of the ball, in the post-season so far, the New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez currently has 383 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 91.6 quarterback rating.  During the regular season, Sanchez had 3,291 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 75.3 quarterback rating. Roethlisberger and the Steelers get the edge, but both quarterbacks should be harassed constantly in this game. 

Running Backs

The Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall was brutally effective during the regular season. During the regular season, he had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry.  He was ranked 7th in terms of rushing yardage and 2nd in terms of touchdowns overall in league.  However, he has fallen in the playoffs, as Mendenhall is only ranked 11th in terms of overall rushing yardage at 46, but he currently tied with New York Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson in terms of touchdowns at 2. The New York Jets tandem of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene were not as powerful during the regular season.  During the regular season, LaDanian Tomlinson had 914 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry; and his partner Shonn Greene had 766 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. In the off-season, however, both Jets running backs have been surprisingly effective.  LaDanian Tomlinson currently has 125 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Shonn Greene meanwhile has 146 yards, 1 touchdown and averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Tomlinson is currently ranked 4th in rushing yardage in the post-season while Greene is ranked 2nd.  The New York Jets get the slight edge in this one, but all three running backs will have difficulties establishing themselves.

Wide Receivers

The New York Jets wide receiver tandem of Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery have exploded in the post-season.  Edwards is currently ranked 4th overall in the post-season in receiving yardage at 114, averaging 19.0 yards per reception and 2 touchdowns to his name.  Cotchery is currently ranked 5th overall at 113 receiving yards and 16.1 yards per reception.  During the regular season, Edwards had 904 yards receiving, 7 touchdowns and averaged 17.1 yards per reception; and, Cotchery had 433 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 10.6 yards per reception.  On the other side of the ball, the Steelers duo of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward haven’t been making many waves this post-season yet.  During the regular season, however, Mike Wallace had 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception; and he was ranked 5th in terms of receiving yardage overall when the season ended.  His partner Hines Ward had 755 yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  The receiver corps of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a bit more effective ounce per ounce, and they get a slight edge. But the Jets have the more versatile group.

Tight Ends

The New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller has been slightly more effective in the post-season so far. In the post-season, Keller has 57 yards receiving and averaging 9.5 yards per reception. During the regular season, he had 687 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.5 yards per reception.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers tight end Heath Miller currently has 39 receiving yards and averaging 7.8 yards per reception.  During the regular season, Miller had 512 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception. Given these numbers, Dustin Keller and the New York Jets get the slight edge.

Defenses

This is the litmus test for both teams — and how they will test their opposing quarterbacks.  Both have had playmakers on their defenses throughout this season so far.  Now they will be put to the test…During the regular season, the stalwart New York Jets defense was 6th against the pass and 3rd against the run, and they were ranked 4th overall in the league. The Jets defense has found playmakers in the off-season.  The Jets David Harris and Eric Smith are both ranked 1st and 2nd at tackles in 21 and 20 respectively.  Jets linebacker Calvin Pace is currently ranked 4th in sacks at 2 in the post-season.  During the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass and 1st against the rush and was 2nd overall in the league.  In the post-season, linebacker James Harrison is 2nd in the league in interceptions at 3, and safety Ryan Clark has had one interception and is currently tied for second. The New York Jets gets the slight edge, as it has conquered two tough opponents in the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts successively.

Coaches/Intangibles

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan had played mind games through talking trash.  When he first performed this tactic against the New England Patriots, his team was destroyed in week 13.  However, in the past divisional game against the New England Patriots, he defeated the New England Patriots with his defense.  Rex Ryan has demonstrated flexibility in using his resources. This past week against the New England Patriots, he used his defense to win the game, and the previous game against the Indianapolis Colts, he used his two running backs LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to win the game for him.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tends to rely on Ben Roethlisberger’s arm more often than not.  He tends to give up on the run easier than Rex Ryan does.  The edge goes to Rex Ryan and the New York Jets because he has faced two elite opponents of past seasons in the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.  More importantly, he defeated his rival Bill Belichick, and the Patriots defeat has given his team a boost in morale. 

The Edge

The edge goes to the New York Jets 27-24.  The New York Jets balanced approach has paid off in the playoffs, and it should give them the time for the last field goal to win the game.