Monthly Archives: September 2016

Don’t Just Get Money, Make Money!

“Don’t just get money, make money!” Yes, there is a difference. 

Getting money means to be paid hourly, monthly, yearly or once every time your services are rendered. That’s cool, but, as soon as your services are no longer needed or the one paying you finds someone to provide the service for less, you are expendable and no longer getting money. 

Making money, is the ability to take the cash you already have, and put it towards an idea or project that will continue to make you significantly more money, even after you’re done working on it. I’m thinking investments like stocks, CD’s, ROTH IRA’s, money market accounts or even business ideas like smartphone apps and renovating property to rent. It’s not always sexy, but it’s effective. It’s like printing money, because the cash continues to flow. That’s why I call it making money. 

It’s easier said than done, but this pic represents the mindset you should have.

 

Buckeyes in the NFL (Week 3, 2016)

While the unpaid Buckeyes had the week off after an outstanding beatdown of the Oklahoma Sooners, several Scarlet and Gray alums strapped up and represented “THE” well in the NFL.

In primetime on Sunday Night Football, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finally looked like the star Buckeye Nation knows he is. In the first half alone he carried the ball 13 times for 76 yards. For the game, Elliott finished with 30 carries for 140 yards, his first of 100+ yard game of his career in the Cowboys 31-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Elliott also had 2 receptions for 20 yards.

Week three of the NFL kicked off Thursday night with the Houston Texans versus the New England Patriots. Texans wide receiver Braxton Miller sat out with a hamstring injury. It’s not a serious one, and he is expected to return soon. 4th year Linebacker John Simon registered 3 tackles (2 solo) for Houston in the 27-0 loss to the Patriots. The star Buckeye of the night was U.S. Olympic rugby player and 5th year defensive back Nate Ebner forced 2 fumbles and had 1 tackle for New England to help them get the victory.

The breakout star of Sunday was Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who keeps getting better each week at his new position. The former quarterback had 8 receptions for 144 yards, he also lined up at QB and rushed 4 times for 21 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. Still it wasn’t enough as the Browns lost 30-24 in overtime in South Florida.

It was also a rough day for Ohio’s other pro team, the Cincinnati Bengals. 12th year Kicker Mike Nugent scored 5 points on two extra points and a 34 yard field goal in Cincinnati’s 29-17 loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.

Tedd Ginn Junior and Corey “Philly” Brown of the Carolina Panthers took on the Minnesota Vikings in Charlotte. Ginn caught 3 passes for 62 yards from reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton. He also had 2 kick returns for 44 yards and 2 rushes for 5 yards. Brown contributed 4 catches for 57 yards, but the Vikings got the win 22-10. Seven-year safety Kurt Coleman also had 8 tackles (3 solo) for the Panthers. Minnesota Vikings starting offensive lineman Alex Boone left the game with a hip injury.

New York Giants Rookie defensive back Eli Apple was forced to leave the G-Men’s 29-27 loss to division rival Washington Redskins. Apple only recorded one tackle before the injury. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had two tackles for the Giants.

A couple former Silver Bullets faced off in the “Battle of Pennsylvania” when Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier and the Pittsburgh Steelers played at Malcolm Jenkins and the Philadelphia Eagles in the “City of Brotherly Love.” This game was never in doubt. Jenkins had 5 tackles (4 solo) and 3 passes defensed in the Eagles 34-3 drubbing of the Steelers. Heyward had 4 tackles (3 solo) while Shazier had 2 tackles (1 solo) as he struggled to stay on the field with a knee injury.

Rookie linebacker Darron Lee is the New York Jets leading tackler on the season coming into week 3, he added another 6 tackles (5 solo) and a half sack in the Jets 24-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. His teammate and fellow rookie, wide receiver Jalin Marshall had a day to forget. He lost a fumble–his second on the season–and only had 2 catches for 19 yards, but did have 3 kick returns for 84 yards and a punt return for 12 yards in the loss.

Rookies wide receiver Michael Thomas, safety Vonn Bell, and 8 year pro linebacker James Laurinaitis of the New Orleans Saints face off against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football in the “Big Easy.”

The Massacre in the City of Brotherly Love

Roethlisberger and the offense are searching for answers after only scoring 3 points vs. Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

The Battle of Pennsylvania once again goes to the “City of Brotherly Love.” The Philadelphia Eagles drubbed the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3. Philly has now beaten their western PA neighbors 4 times in their last 6 meetings.

This dropped pass by Markus Wheaton was the start of the bad day for Steelers Nation. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Steelers Nation should’ve known it was going to be a long day when Markus Wheaton dropped a sure touchdown pass in the back of the end zone on their opening drive, and then Chris Boswell’s field goal attempt to get any points on that drive was blocked. It was all downhill after that.

The Steelers lost in all three statistical categories I tell fans to track throughout the game. First, time of possession. Philadelphia possessed the ball for 34:56 to the Steelers 25:04. You can’t leave this Steelers defense on the field for that long and expect them to keep anyone from doing anything positive.

Second, the defense couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. The Eagles were 4 of 10 on their conversions, but earned 25 first downs on the game, four from penalties, while the Steelers were 4 of 11 and only made 15 first downs.

Pittsburgh turned the ball over 2 times to the Eagles zero. A fumble by Ben Roethlisberger while being sacked that set up a touchdown and an interception. The Steelers O also turned the ball over on downs twice. I always say if you win 2 of these 3 key stats, you’re more than likely to win the game. Analyzing these categories closer proves why this game was so lopsided.

My hopes for reservations to Houston in February 2017 to claim Lombardi number seven are shaky because of this defense. I’ve been saying this “bend but don’t break D” scares me through the first two weeks. I saw nothing in week three to lessen my fears. If anything, I’m even more terrified when they’re on the field. 

We already knew they struggled stopping or even containing the pass coming into the day. Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins passed for 329 yards on 30 for 43 in the season opener and Andy Dalton threw for 366 yards on 31 for 54 for the Cincinnati Bengals in the slop in Heinz Field last Sunday. Still it comes as a bit of a surprised they gave up 301 passing yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 for 31 to rookie QB Carson Wentz. But wait, they couldn’t even stop the run, which they had been doing well in games one and two. The Eagles gained 125 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Coming into the day, the Steelers were only allowing 50 rushing yards per game.

It wasn’t just the D that was embarrassing and uninspired. Not to be undone in the lack luster effort department, Roethlisberger and the offense looked like it had the rookie quarterback. Roethlisberger threw for 257 yards, but was 24 for 44 with a QB rating of 62.4. The offensive line struggled to keep #7’s jersey clean as he was sacked 4 times for -35 yards and he was pressured and hit nearly every time he dropped back to pass. I never thought I’d see this offense held to 3 points and 251 total yards, even without Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant out due to suspensions. Markus Wheaton might as well have missed another game, because his hands didn’t make the trip as he dropped three key passes, including the potential touchdown I mentioned earlier. It’s no wonder they took the ugliest loss of the NFL weekend, and that includes the Houston Texans’ woodshed whoppin’ they took at the hands of the New England Patriots Thursday night.

The only positive from this loss for Steelers fans, is that the last time Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh at Lincoln Financial Field in 2008 (15-6), the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XLIII. If the 2016 season ends the same way, they’ll gladly look back at this game as the one that humbled them and got them on the right path. Lets hope.

Next up, the Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) on Sunday Night Football, and the return of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. Hopefully he can inject some juice into the offense and team.

OTHER NOTES: Antonio Brown caught 12 passes for 140 yards, but no touchdowns. Sammie Coates caught another pass of over 40+ yards, his third of the season. He’s averaging 29 yards per catch on the season.

So, Were You This Upset With Those Fought Against The Pledge of Allegiance?

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the National Anthem to bring awareness to social injustice against people of color in America.

There’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned in mainstream media, social media, and the barber shops in the debates and rhetoric over the national anthem protests initially started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFL preseason. Are those who are upset over the players protests, this upset with those who’ve fought (and are still fighting) against the pledge of allegiance from schools and other events? To me, that is more unpatriotic and disrespectful to America. 

I’m old enough, but still young enough, to remember when we recited the pledge in school work each day. But when I switched from private school to Columbus (OH) Public Schools in 1987 at age 7 (second grade), no school I went to after that recited the pledge, EVER. I’ve spoken with several family, friends and co-workers my age and older who experienced the same. Only one person in almost two dozen I asked recited the pledge through High School graduation. I have nieces and nephews in Columbus Ohio, Houston Texas, Thomaston and Statesboro Georgia, as well as Palm Coast Florida from ages 17 to 5 who haven’t recited or learned the pledge at school.

Not to bore you with legalese, but here’s some information for you about the fight over the pledge. First, in the case of The West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled requiring a person to recite the pledge violates a persons first and fourteenth amendment rights. The only time the pledge was ever ruled unconstitutional was in 2005 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. And in January of 2009, in the case of  Frazier vs. Alexandre – The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling stating schools could excuse a student from the pledge with a note from a parent. There are many more cases where the pledge has been fought, click here if you want to learn more. 

I point out those court battles to say, even without any legal precedent requiring or mandating  schools to stop reciting the pledge of allegiance, no one stood up and made sure it’s being done every morning, nor did anyone say we were being disrespectful and unpatriotic for not doing so. No one said the people fighting the pledge were disrespecting the veterans, the flag, or this country. In all the cases lost by a plaintiff fighting to remove the pledge or “under God” from it, the presiding judge said in some form that “the pledge is an exercise in patriotism.” That is why in my opinion, it is more important than the anthem because it is a show of your loyalty to America.

Standing up for the national anthem doesn’t make a person any more American than eating hot dogs and hamburgers while shooting off fireworks on the 4th of July could. Most people are like zombies during the anthem anyway. Take a look around next time you’re in an arena or stadium while it’s being played. You’ll see what I’m talking about, most people don’t even remove their hats out of respect when they are asked too.

But pledging your allegiance is an actual action that professes your commitment to the values for which the flag is SUPPOSED to represent. Which is what Colin Kaepernick and others are upset about. The values of that flag aren’t being kept. At least not for ALL Americans.

Eagles players raised their fist in protest during the National Anthem before Mondat Night Football at Soldier Field in Chicago.

As far as my feelings about athletes’ anthem protests, I choose to slightly modify the words comedian Chris Rock and say “I wouldn’t do it, but I understand.” The reason I say I wouldn’t participate in anthem protests, is not because I don’t agree with Kaepernick and others’ issues with social injustices in this country that I as a black man and other black and brown people have experienced, but because anthem protest have been done before and it has been proven throughout history that those we want to hear us will turn a deaf ear when that stance is taken. Case in point, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Mahmoud Abdu-Rauf (aka Chris Jackson).

I don’t necessarily have a better idea for a protest. But, the players who want to protest could do so by not playing. Especially the big name, marquee players who the games revolves around. That method would probably work better in the NBA. We’ll see what happens when they tip-off in late October.

For those who say the anthem should be changed to something less racist like “America the beautiful”, I agree with you. First, it’s a better sounding and more moving song. But most importantly, for me as a devout Christian, within the lyrics it says “God bless America for me” and I agree with any sentiment that asks God to take control of this country. Lord knows we need it. But we know a drastic move like changing the anthem is never going to happen, because those that are in favor of removing the pledge because it required those who didn’t believe in a higher power to say “one nation under God” are the same people who won’t want the national anthem to evoke the name of God either. So you can scratch that. 

But back to my original point of writing this. If kneeling, raising a fist or turning your back during the national anthem is disrespectful and un-American, then why isn’t fighting to remove the pledge? Or not reciting the pledge at all? I think I know why. It’s because the anthem protests don’t suit your agenda, like it did when when you fought against the pledge because it was “too religious” for you or was “forcing religion” on you. Like I said, anybody can stand and remove their hat for the anthem (which again, most don’t, but we don’t make a big deal about that!) But it takes a REAL PATRIOT to pledge their allegiance and loyalty to their country. So who’s REALLY being disrespectful to America? And why aren’t you mad about that?!

Steelers-Bengals: Old Fashion AFC North Football 

Xavier Grimble catches his first career pass for a touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Pittsburgh against Cincinnati, in the rain, on a sloppy field. Just like the heated 2015 AFC Wild Card game. It’s the matchup everyone has been waiting eight months for since the final buzzer sounded on that quirky, bizarre ending in the Queen City back in January.

It was a ugly, just not in the way most expected. With the increased sensitivity by the NFL and officials based on the last testy meeting between these teams, the players were on their best behavior, and the only ugly was in the play.

There were a combined 17 punts on the afternoon. Steelers punter Joe Berry, who punted 8 times for an average of 47 yards, pinned the Bengals inside their own 10-yard line five times. That great field position put the Steeler defense in an advantage.

The Pittsburgh pass defense still makes me nervous with this “bend, but don’t break” method that allowed 330 yards to Kirk Cousins of the Redskins on Monday night. Even though they held A.J. Green to only 2 catches for 38 yards, coming off his explosive 12 reception 190 yard 1 touchdown day at the New York Jets last weekend, Andy Dalton still threw for 359 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers D didn’t register a sack, but the constant pressure in Dalton’s face forced him into several erratic low passes and his completion percentage (30-53, .566%) was abysmal.

But, the D also let Dalton off the hook with two dropped potential interceptions by Jarvis Jones and Ross Cockrel that would have ended drives that eventually led to Bengals points. You get those turnovers and this game likely becomes a rout. I’ll say it again, if this team has hopes of winning Lombardi number seven, you can’t give up 300+ yard passing days, even in this era of pass happy football. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will pick this defensive philosophy apart.

There’s always three stats you can look at in the box score that will tell you which team won without even looking at the score. Turnovers, 3rd down conversions and time of possession. I can guarantee if your team won two of these three stats, they won the game.

Pittsburgh did win 2 of them. They lost the turnover battle 2 to 1, but won time of possession (32:55 to 27:05) and the 3rd down battle. Pittsburgh was 7 of 17 (42%)–FYI,they were 10 of 12 for 124 yards and a touchdown last week–while the Bengals were 4 of 16 (25%). That’s why the Steelers are now 2-0 after the 24 to 16 victory.

However, Pittsburgh’s offense looked like a shell of the high powered offense that abused the Washington Redskins for 38 points and 437 total yards in the season opener. Ben Roethlisberger started the first quarter decent going 5 of 9 for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. But, he finished the game 19 of 37 for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He had several balls sail on him, causing him to overthrow open receivers, which I’m sure was related to the wet weather conditions. And, Antonio Brown only caught 4 passes for 39 yards. Thankfully D’Angelo Williams stepped up with 142 all-purpose yards (94 rushing; 38 and a TD receiving).

It wasn’t pretty, but Mike Tomlin and Steelers Nation will gladly take the W. Next up, the battle of Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz in the City of Brotherly Love. Kickoff is set for 4:25.

Other notes: With his fourth catch of the day, Antonio Brown moved passed Hall of Famer John Stallworth into 3rd place on the Steelers all-time receptions list.  Hines Ward (1,000) and Heath Miller (592) are ahead of Brown who now has 538.

Brown is now 3rd all-time in receptions in Steelers history. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

  • Xavier Grimble’s first career catch was the Steelers first touchdown of the day. It was a 21-yarder to cap a 5 play, 66 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead.
  • The Steelers have now won 3 consecutive games versus Cincinnati, and are 11-3 (including playoffs) since 2010. Therefore I believe it’s only right that I post my favorite Steelers picture EVER.

    Peter Diana / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Staff Photographer 10/23/2005 CINCINNATI : Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Wards levels Bengals cornerback Tory James at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Ohio. PUBLISHED CAPTION: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette photos Original Filename: dianasteelers1023e.tif

    Peter Diana / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Staff Photographer
    10/23/2005 CINCINNATI : Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Wards levels Bengals cornerback Tory James at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Ohio. PUBLISHED CAPTION: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette photos Original Filename: dianasteelers1023e.tif

Buckeyes in the NFL (Week 2, 2016)

It was a good week on the football field for the Buckeyes, both present and past.

A couple of OSU Alums kicked off the week Thursday night. The New York Jets’ Nick Mangold and rookies Darron Lee and Jalin Marshall took on Cardale Jones, Adolphus Washington and the Buffalo Bills in western New York.

Jones didn’t play for the Bills, as he is the third string quarterback for Buffalo. However, Washington did play, and he recorded 3 tackles. Lee recorded 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 tackle for a loss), while Marshall had a fumble that was returned for a Bills touchdown, he had 3 catches for 45 yards and kickoff returns for 39 yards in the Jets 37-31 victory.

The big matchup of the NFL slate between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals featured some of the more consistently successful pro Buckeyes in recent memory. Mike Nugent of the Bengals and Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier of the Steelers. Mike Nugent scored 10 points on 3 field goals and an extra point for Cincinnati in their 24 to 16 loss to the Steelers. Shazier had 11 tackles (5 solo), while Heyward contributed 2 tackles and 2 passes defended to help Pittsburgh move to 2-0.

For the second consecutive week, rookie Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys was introduced to a heated NFC East rival when the ‘Boys faced the Washington Redskins. Zeke once again found the end zone for his second career rushing touchdown, but had an impressive bounce back from an underwhelming debut by rushing for 83 yards on 21 carries (3.95 ypc) in Dallas’ 27-23 win.

Carolina Panthers’ Ted Ginn, junior, Corey “Philly” Brown and Kurt Coleman battled against Carlos Hyde and the San Francisco 49ers. Hyde had 34 rushing yards on 14 carries, and 3 catches for 18 yards in the Niners 27-46 loss in Charlotte. Ginn had a busy day. He returned 6 kickoffs for 130 yards, 3 punt returns for 28 yards, caught 2 passes for 51 and added one rush for 5 yards, but did lose a fumble. Brown had 3 catches for 15 yards and Coleman had 3 tackles in the victory.

Rookie defensive dack Eli Apple faced off against his fellow National Championship Buckeye Teammates wide receiver Michael Thomas and Safety Vonn Bell of the New Orleans Saints. Apple had 7 tackles and one pass deflection for the New York Giants in their 16-13 win. Thomas caught 4 passes for 56 yards, while Bell collected 9 tackles (7 solo) in defeat.

Houston Texans wide receiver Braxton Miller had one catch for 3 yards, and one rush for negative 2 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury in the Texans 19-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. On the defensive side, linebacker John Simon had 6 tackles (4 solo), 1.5 sacks and a force fumble to aid the Texans victory.

Terrelle Pryor had 3 catches for 32 yards for the Cleveland Browns in their 25-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Cornerback Bradley Roby had 5 tackles for the Denver Broncos in their 34-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

3rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft Joey Bosa was inactive for the second consecutive week as he heals from a hamstring injury.

Monday Night Football will see a couple more Buckeyes face off. Safety Malcolm Jenkins and the Philadelphia Eagles play against offensive tackle Mike Adams and the Chicago Bears.

Lethal Weapon Steelers

Williams (34) and Brown (84) celebrate one of his two touchdowns in the Steelers 38-16 win at Washington. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most lethal offense in the NFL and it’s not even close. The only team that could stop them, is themselves. The Black and yellow won their season opener 38-16 over the Washington Redskins. Washington stood no chance, even with the slow start by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler offense.

During the preseason I predicted the Steelers offense would average 30 points a game. On Monday night they got 38. Could you imagine what they would have done had they not been shut out in the first quarter?

Roethlisberger was 27-37 for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

In my preseason predictions I said Ben Roethlisberger would lead the league in total passing yards and passing yards per game, #7 went 27-37 for 300 yards, 3 TD and 1 interception. I also said D’Angelo Williams would more than adequately fill in for Le’Veon Bell during his 3-game suspension. Williams finished with 143 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns and caught 6 passes for 28 yards. My boldest prediction was that Antonio Brown would break the elusive 2,000-yard receiving mark this season. Against the Washington Redskins he caught 8 passes for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s on pace for 2,016.
In the last 16 games Brown has played with Roethlisberger, he’s caught 151 passes for 2,048 yards. Both would be NFL
records. Don’t believe my predictions? You can read about them here.

This offensive unit netted 435 total yards, and they were 11 for 16 on 3rd and 4th down (2/2 on 4th). In addition to opening up massive running lanes for Williams, the offensive line only allowed Roethlisberger to be sacked once. So much for needing the preseason, as the complete offensive unit only played two drives together in the four games. The only thing we didn’t see was them go for 2 points after touchdowns, which has become the staple of this team over the past couple of seasons.

Brown caught 8 passes for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win over Washington. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

When you have that kind of offense it’s easy to see why head coach Mike Tomlin went for it on 4th and one inside the Redskins 30 in the second quarter, instead of kicking the field goal down 6-0. That decision completely swung the momentum of the game, and kudos to Todd Haley for the play call. He put the ball in his two best players and it paid off. When asked after the game why he went for it instead of a field goal down, Tomlin said “we play to win.”

The defense once again looks suspect, especially in the passing game, even though they picked off Kirk Cousins twice. Keith Butler’s unit allowed 384 total yards (329 pass, 55 rushing), but the only number that matters is 16, the total number of points they gave up (1 touchdown, 3 field goals). They also won the important 3rd down efficiency battle. Washington was 3 for 12 on 3rd and 4th down (0/2 on 4th down) and they also held them to 1 for 4 in the red zone and 1 for 2 on goal to go.

However, the bend but don’t break worries me and I don’t think it will be as successful against better elite QBs and offenses. Cousin’s wasn’t sacked once. That will need to be fixed if they hope to win the AFC North and get home field advantage in the playoffs.

Next up for the Steelers, the 1-0 Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. Kickoff is at 1 pm. How this isn’t the Sunday night game I have no idea.

Other notes: Roethlisberger passed Hall of Famer Joe Montana and Vinny Testaverde for 12 on the All-time list for most touchdown passes. He now has 275. Also, on Antonio Brown’s 5th catch of the game he reached the 500 catch mark, making Roethlisberger the first in NFL history to throw 500+ completions to three teammates. Hines Ward and Heath Miller are the other two.

2016 NFL Predictions (According to Madden ’17)

EA Sports’ Madden is the best football simulation ever. Photo Credit: EA Sports

The grass is freshly cut, the lines painted, the stadiums seats are cleaned, the pads and helmets are clacking together, coaches are yelling and blowing their whistles….it’s football season.

Finally, we can stop talking about contract holdouts, Vontez Burfect’s suspension, Johnny Football’s troubles, Deflate-gate part deux, OBJ versus Josh Norman, drug related suspensions, domestic violence arrests and just watch players do what they do best. If college football is the appetizer, the NFL has arrived as the main course.

The defending Champion Denver Broncos kicked off Thursday night in the Mile High City with a thrilling come from behind 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch.

For many the official kickoff of football season is when the latest edition of EA Sports Madden Football video game is released. The 2017 edition was released back on August 26th, and I’ve had some time to play around with it.

Due to the many key injuries and recent cuts to get the rosters down to 53 players, I’ve waited until the first roster update to set up a season in franchise mode to run a simulation as accurate as possible with this season’s schedule. I’ve also stayed true to the suspensions of Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell and others. So here it is, I simulated the 2016 season and here’s what we can expect…. According to Madden, blame them if I’m wrong.

AFC Division winners: Even with Tom Brady sitting out four games to suspension the Patriots still finished 13-3 to win the AFC East and home field advantage in the AFC. Here’s a look at how each division shook out.

  
  

NFC Division winners: The NFC went as expected by most accounts. The Arizona Cardinals who are the popular choice to make it all the way to Houston for the Super Bowl, secured home field advantage with a 12-4 record. Even though the New Orleans Saints had the same record, the Cards held the tiebreakers for 1st place.

  
 AFC Wild Card winners: The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. I don’t think it would be a surprise if the AFC North got two teams into the playoffs. Within the past five years they’ve gotten three in. The surprise is that one of the teams is the Ravens and not the Steelers who in this simulation had a 9-7 season.

Seeing the Tennessee Titans make the playoffs as the second AFC South team is a bit of a surprise. I think most prognosticators would’ve peg the Houston Texans or Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC South and represent the division in the tournament. Overall I like the direction the entire AFC South division is headed. All four teams have their franchise QB and are building stout young rosters on both sides of the ball.

NFC Wild Card winners: New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. It’s been a while since the Giants have been in the playoffs. They’re due. You know what happens when the G-Men get in. The Falcons need to get their franchise headed in a better direction going into a new stadium in 2017. This would be a good step if it really happens.

Rookies of the Year: The AFC offensive award went to Paxton Lynch, even though Denver had a 3-13 record. Lynch took the starting job from Trevor Siemian and threw for 3,160 yards, 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a QB rating of 71.7. The NFC offensive award went to Carson Wentz who led the Eagles to a 11-5 record. Wentz threw for 3,444 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions with a QB rating of 97.3.

The defensive awards went to defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of the 12-4 Arizona Cardinals for the NFC, and cornerback Xavien Howard of the 9-6-1 Miami Dolphins. Nkemdiche recorded 69 tackles (51 solo), 13.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. Howard made 86 tackles (67 solo) and intercepted 5 passes and had 2 forced fumbles.

Defensive Players of the Year: Middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard of the Tennessee Titans won the AFC award collecting 143 combined tackles (108 solo), 2.5 sacks and 7 interceptions to lead Tennessee to a 10-6 record.

Cameron Jordan of the 12-4 New Orleans Saints won the NFC award. The defensive end collected 18.5 sacks, 3rd best in the NFL behind J.J. Watts 21.5 and Cameron Wake’s 20.5. Jordan also added 83 total tackles (66 solo), and 15 tackles for loss.

NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers won his second Most Valuable Player award by leading the NFL in passing yards (5,253), coming in third in TD passes (37) and throwing only 10 interceptions with a 104.9 QB rating.

NFL Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick–even though on the game he’s named Griffin Murphy–just did his job and led the Patriots to a 13-3 record, 3-1 without Tom Brady due to his suspension.

Wild Card round:  The Wild Card round live up to it’s name. Wild. All four games were decided by one possession. The Giants were the lowest seed (#6) to win. What did you expect? If the Giants get in, they’ll make noise. That’s what they do. Eli Manning went 21 of 31 for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead New York over Philadelphia in a rivalry matchup and Odell Beckham Junior caught 9 passes for 139 yards. Here’s the rest of the Wild Card results.

Divisional round: The Cincinnati Bengals finally win a playoff game! In another thriller, Cincinnati beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a 48-41 classic. Andy Dalton was 26 of 35 for 236 yards and 4 touchdowns to help the Bengals get the playoff victory monkey off their backs. The shocker of Divisional weekend is the 13-3 Patriots losing in Gillette Stadium to the 10-6 Baltimore Ravens 17-7. Although it shouldn’t come as much of a shock, these teams have history and the Ravens have had the better of it in the playoffs lately. Here’s how the rest of the round looked.

Championship Round: In the NFC, Eli Manning once again has the Giants on the brink of going to another Super Bowl. Eli either misses the playoffs or wins Super Bowls, but that wasn’t the case in this simulation. Drew Brees and the Saints end the Giants season. While on the AFC side, for the second consecutive season, the Bengals found themselves in another playoff war with a divisional rival.  Super Bowl 51: New Orleans Saints vs. Cincinnati Bengals. So not only do the Bengals win their first playoff game in over two and a half decades, they make it all the way to the Super Bowl. Only in virtual reality. I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’m a die hard Steelers fan. However, the Bengals trip to the Super Bowl ended like their other two appearances, in heartbreak. Drew Brees went 27 of 37 for 315 yards and a touchdown to bring New Orleans their second Lombardi trophy in a 35-21 victory. 

Like I said, these predictions/simulation are on EA Sports and Madden. I’d be surprised if any of them happened. Except for Rodgers and Belicheck winning MVP and Coach of the Year. I’d expect that.

Buckeyes in the NFL (Week 1, 2016)

It was a big weekend for Ohio State on the gridiron this weekend. The current Buckeyes are fresh off a 48-3 victory over the Tulsa Hurricane to move to 2-0 on the season, and looking ahead to their primetime matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman this coming Saturday. Meanwhile, several former Buckeye stars made their imprint in the Big League this weekend.

Currently there are 40 former Bucks on NFL rosters. Several of them faced off against each other in a game for the first time.

Roby and Brown swapped jerseys after they faced off in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. Photo courtesy: NFL Snapcaht

Defensive back Bradley Roby and wideout Corey “Philly” Brown faced off Thursday night in the season opener. Roby had 5 tackles for the defending Champion Denver Broncos in their 21-20 come from behind victory over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. Brown only had one reception for 11 yards. His Panthers teammate and fellow Buckeye Ted Ginn Junior also only had one reception for 5 yards, but rushed for 20 yards, had one kick return for 9 yards and two punt returns for 12 yards. Seven-year pro, safety Kurt Coleman, had 3 tackles for Carolina in the loss.

Ezekiel Elliott, the overwhelming favorite to win the 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year award, got introduced to the Cowboys-Gaints NFC East rivalry in his debut. Elliott got his first of many career rushing touchdowns in the Cowboys 20-19 loss. “Zeke” carried the ball 20 times for 51 yards. On the other side Eli Apple had 4 tackles for the Giants as their starting cornerback.

Terrell Pryor had a breakout day at wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. Pryor made his first start at wide receiver since converting from quarterback and caught 3 passes for 68 yards, 44 of those on a long bomb from Robert Griffin III that set up the Browns first score in Cleveland’s 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Braxton Miller, another former Buckeye quarterback turned wideout, made his debut for the Houston Texans. Miller had one catch for 6 yards in Houston’s 23-14 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Rookie wideout and return specialist Jalin Marshall made his debut with the New York Jets in a big way. The undrafted standout from Middletown played against his home area team, the Cincinnati Bengals, and ripped off a 65-yard kickoff return to set up a Jets touchdown. He had a total of 110 kickoff return yards on 3 attempts and added 2 punt returns for 11 yards.

His fellow rookie and Jets teammate, first round draft pick Darron Lee, made his debut with 6 tackles (3 solo) in New York’s 23-22 loss to the Bengals.

12-year Kicker Mike Nugent scored 11 of the Cincinnati Bengals 23 points. Nugent made two extra points and hit 3/4 field goals, his longest was from 47-yards out which was the game winner. His lone miss was from 50+.

Linebacker James Laurinaitis had 7 combined tackles in his debut as a New Orleans Saint in their 35-34 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier and Carlos Hyde will make their season debuts on the Monday Night Football double header for the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.

2016 NFL Rookies Superlatives

How will the rookies of 2016 fare? We take a guess?

How will the rookies of 2016 fare? We take a guess?

The 2016 NFL draft class had little star power coming into the annual spring meeting, compared to years past. Although, as a group, the story was the Ohio State Buckeye draftees (5 first round picks, 12 overall).

But, even without the star prospects (2017 Leonard Fournette), there should be a few players that help teams take the next step. 36 linebackers were chosen, that was the most of any position. By comparison, there were only 15 quarterbacks selected. It appears teams are making more of an effort to get after the passer. Who can blame them after the way the Denver Broncos proved in the playoffs that defense still wins championships in this offensive slanted league.

But back to the rookie class of 2016. When you have 253 players selected and close to a hundred more signed as free agents, it’s not an exact science to project who will be the standouts and flame outs years from now. But hey, that’s what makes this fun.

So here’s how I think this year’s class will fare at some point in their career.

Most likely to lead the league in passing yards: Cardale Jones, Buffalo Bills. Cardale Jones rose to the National spotlight when he led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the first ever College Football Playoff Championship in 2014, after starting quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a season ending injury. Many thought he should’ve entered the draft after that 3-game run, but he went back to school to finish his degree and improve his game. It didn’t work out on the field as he struggled, and lost his starting job after eight games. But, I always said Jones’ skill set is built more for the pro game than the fast break, gimmicky, spread offenses in college. His cannon of an arm and 6’5″ 250 pound frame is the pro-type NFL scouts look for at the QB position. I compare him to two-time Super Bowl winning QB Ben Roethlisberger when he entered the 2004 draft out of Miami of Ohio. Jones will start his career on the bench behind Tyrod Taylor, but the keys to the car in Buffalo will eventually be his. With offensive weapons like Sammy Watkins, tight end Charles Clay and running back LeSean McCoy, Jones will have the weapons to put up big numbers.

Most likely to lead the league in rushing: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys. The 4th pick in the draft could very likely accomplish this feat in his rookie season. “Zeke” will be running behind arguably the best offensive line in the League, and with Tony Romo out for the foreseeable future, he will be featured more now that they’ll be breaking in fellow rookie and 4th round pick Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Most likely to lead the league in catches/receiving yards: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants. The 2nd round pick, gets to play with Eli Manning who likes to throw it around the field, and across from Odell Beckham Junior who is going to draw more double teams and bracketed coverage, giving Shepard more opportunities. The Oklahoma Sooner product has been compared to Tyler Lockett, but the best comparison may be to his Giants teammate, the often injured Victor Cruz, who’s spot he’s likely to take.

Most likely to lead the league in total touchdowns (non-QB): Ezekiel Elliott is a dual threat as a runner and receiver, a three down back. It won’t be a surprise to see him flirt with having 15+ rushing touchdowns, and 5+ receiving touchdowns a season for the Cowboys.

Most likely to lead the league in interceptions: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars. Gus Bradley is building a defense similar to the one he coached in Seattle. The pass rushers they have are going to put all kinds of pressure on opposing QBs. So what does that mean? More wounded ducks for a multi talented DB like Ramsey to get his hands on. The 6’1″ 209 pound cornerback reminds me of the late Sean Taylor with his ball hawking ability and speed to fly from sideline to sideline.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks: Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears. The 6’6″ outside linebacker out of the University of Georgia is a flat out athletic FREAK. His size and speed (4.6 40-yd dash) with a 35 inch vertical leap, has the athleticism that is reminiscent of Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. To begin his career, the Bears coaches will make it simple for him by just sending him flying off the edges to get the quarterback. Floyd could very well be the next great Bears defender following in the footsteps of Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary, And Dick Butkus.

Most likely to lead the league in turnovers: Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets. The Jets selected Hackenberg out of Penn State with the 51st pick in the second round, but re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick for one-year, so they won’t be counting on the rookie anytime soon. However Hackenberg is definitely in their future plans. I was never a fan of his, during his time in Happy Valley. In three seasons he threw 30 interceptions to 48 touchdowns, while completing only 56% of his pass attempts. Draft gurus like ESPN’s Mel Kiper at one point projected him to be the number QB selected when he entered the draft. That obviously wasn’t the case, because the book is out on him. And, it doesn’t read well. He was also accused of throwing his coaches and Nittany Lion teammates under the bus during the pre-draft process.

Most likely to be a bust, and fade into obscurity: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers. I hope I’m wrong on this one as a fellow Ohio State alum. But, being a holdout in the fashion he was, it doesn’t bold well for him. He missed all of training camp and the preseason. The only saving grace is that other Charger rookie holdouts–16 to be exact–like LaDanian Tomlinson, Junior Seau, Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman worked out okay. Plus, Bosa isn’t playing QB or another complicated position like outside linebacker or in the defensive secondary, so you would think the Chargers coaching staff would just turn him lose and say “Go get the ball carrier” or “just get the quarterback”, making his transition simple.

Most likely to be a Hall of Famer: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys. Look, I’ve bought into the preseason hype. I did in preseason game number one. Check the tweets below and the time stamp.

    

Actually, I was a fan of his when he was at Mississippi State. Prescott probably won’t lead the NFL in passing yards or touchdown passes in a season, but he has all the pieces around him to win games, and that is what matters most. He’s fallen into the perfect situation, a la Russell Wilson in Seattle. The Cowboys have lucked up and found their new millennium triplets in Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and now Dak. Plus, this offensive line has the potential to be as dominate as the “Great Wall of Dallas” that led Emmitt Smith to the most rushing yards in NFL history. If Dak can channel his inner Troy Aikman–and Jerry Jones can avoid messing it up by forcing the chronically injured Tony Romo back into the lineup–these Cowboys can have a measure of success they haven’t had since the early-mid 1990’s. That would help Prescott’s case to get a gold jacket and bust in Canton one day.