NFC South: Toughest Division in NFL?

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My friend and I were talking about the most competitive division in the NFL earlier today so I figured I might as well breakdown the one we came up with as toughest in the league. This conclusion is based on all 4 teams in the division being serious competitors this season and we came up with the NFC South as the winner. Now the AFC North was also in contention because they too have 4 very good and extremely competitive teams, however, we felt like the NFC South had more talent this season.

New Orleans Saints – Right now they are the division leaders at 10-3 and have shown that they basically have the complete package with a lethal offense and a defense that has the ability to make big plays and keep opposing offenses off the field. Drew Brees is the ultimate quarterback and with targets like Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem, his life is much easier than it could be. Their 4 outstanding running backs regularly get touches in the backfield are Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Darren Sproles. Jimmy Graham has come through with astonishing numbers this season and as established a spot as the best tight end in the NFL in my opinion. Their defense showed signs of struggling early in the season but have really pulled themselves together to make this team truly remarkable.

Atlanta Falcons – Probably one of the most underrated teams in the league, the Falcons are second in the division at 8-5. Matt Ryan is their young captain at quarterback and although their offense hasn’t been as dynamic as last year, expect big things to continue from him. Roddy White and Julio Jones are one of my favorite wide receiver duos to date and are a great veteran/rookie pair. Tony Gonzalez is getting older but has shown no signs of slowing down as he continues to be an extremely reliable target. Michael Turner is the third leading rusher in the league and a back that most people overlook. John Abraham is a seasoned veteran at the DE position and keeps this defense heads up with the help of Curtis Lofton who is among the league leaders in tackles this season. Like I said, the Falcons fly under the radar and can surprise teams who decide to sleep on them.

Carolina Panthers – After a nightmare season last year the Panthers are tied for 3rd in the division at 4-9 and with the acquisition of Cam Newton, may start to turn some heads in seasons to come. If anyone was questioning whether Newton would live up to the hype, check the season stats, this man’s a record breaker and setter. Steve Smith is still one of the best receivers in the game, not to mention one of the fastest. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are a terrific 1-2 punch in the backfield and round out this offense. If the Panthers have one problem, it’s on defense. They give up the most fantasy points to running backs which may seem like a silly stat to some people, but it does translate to getting dominated in real game. If they want to be a division contender in the future, it starts there.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – One of my biggest disappointments on the year is probably these guys. The Bucs showed great signs of success last year but are tied with the Panthers  at the bottom at 4-9. Josh Freeman is a good young quarterback who shows pure strokes of genius at some times, but is too hot and cold to be able to carry this team to the top already. Inconsistency is a word I associate a lot with Tampa Bay because they have had amazing games this year and they have had horrible games. They need to stay more consistent next season, and try to make every game count, not just the big ones.

Why the NFC South is tougher than the AFC North:

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Tim Tebow & Denver Broncos vs. Tom Brady & New England Patriots: Showdown of the Year

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Since Tim Tebow has finally taken the Denver Broncos to a serious level of contention and excitement, this Sunday’s game of the Patriots and Broncos may be one of the most exciting of the year. If you stand back and look at it, past all of the hype, there’s really 2 different ways it can pan out. First, is that the Patriots absolutely dominate. I know it looks bad that I’m a Bronco fan and my first outcome is us getting blown out, but I’m being honest. The Patriots have the kind of team where if they come out hot, there is almost no chance of catching up. Their offense has the ability to score almost at will if defenses are caught off guard. Second possible outcome is that Denver plays their game and shows New England why they are the #1 rushing team in the league. Tim Tebow displayed last week in a thriller against the Bears that he can pass if he needs to in clutch situations and the Patriots have the worst passing defense in the NFL so exploiting that is a definite must.

My X-Factor in this game is the Denver Broncos’ defense. They don’t have a highly ranked pass defense at 21st and their run defense sits at 16th overall, but I feel like they are underrated and can really make it hard for opposing offenses. If they can get to Tom Brady and put some pressure on him to disrupt his rhythm, than they can really give themselves a shot. Von Miller has proven to be an excellent draft pick for them at OLB and is currently   the #7 sack list leader. If he plays huge, with the help of Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams then it may not look like a long shot after all. The secondary needs to come up huge as well. Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, and Andre Goodman need to keep key Patriot receivers like Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco in check, especially Wes Welker. Any of these guys can go off on any given Sunday and it needs to be prevented to keep their offense off the field. Rob Gronkowski is possibly the biggest threat because of how many yards he can achieve after the catch, so he needs to be wrapped up quickly to avoid any short passes for big gains. All in all, if the Broncos play tight defense and manage to score big points, which they are capable of, they can bring down the beast of the east.

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Tim Tebow & Lance Briggs; Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears

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Tim Tebow has surprised basically everyone with the incredible leadership and winning ability he has brought to the Denver Broncos. Yet, almost all of the people who are surprised enjoy taking shots at #15. The most popular among all comments about Tebow is the fact that he isn’t a throwing quarterback. Is it just me or am I the only one who realizes  that there are other “non-throwing quarterbacks” in the NFL. Are people blind to the fact that Cam Newton and Mike Vick run just as much, if not more than Tebow. I’m pretty sure when Vick was with the Falcons he was a much worse passer than Tebow is now, and he has started less than a full season amount of games. The public aren’t the only ones upset with the success Tebow is having as a “non-passing quarterback”, Lance Briggs recently said that he’ll be “frickin’ pissed” if the Bears fall to the Broncos on Sunday. Well Briggs, I wish all the luck to your defense as you face the #1 rushing offense in the NFL. If the Denver D can play strong then they might have it in the bag. Especially because the Bears will be without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, which will put them at a HUGE disadvantage. Call it fate, call it whatever you want, but with Tebow at the helm my Broncos have been doing better than they have in years. Regardless of how pretty it looks, a win is a win and nothing would make me happier than seeing Tebow and the unorthodox Bronco offense smashing Briggs and the solid Bear defense.

Hedge with Broncos’ strategy vs. Bears:

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Cam Newton, Marshawn Lynch – Workhorse Wednesday

Offensive Workhorse – Marshawn Lynch, RB (Sea)

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There’s no question that when Marshawn Lynch comes up in conversation his historic run against the Saints is mentioned at some point. However, he wouldn’t need a historic run to clinch the game against the Eagles last Thursday night. Lynch recorded 148 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries in a 31-14 victory over the Eagles. It’s rather clear at this point in the season that the Eagles are struggling as they have now dropped to a tie for last place in the NFC East with the Redskins. The Seahawks are currently tied for 2nd place in the NFC West with the Cardinals but can easily take the position if they can win this week against the 2-10 Rams and then in 2 weeks against the Cardinals. 2 games they may struggle with are against the Bears and 49ers. Things may go in their favor if the Bears are still suffering from injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte but the 49ers are too strong defensively to allow an upset from a division rival.

Record Setting Workhorse – Cam Newton, QB (Car)

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Usually there would be a defensive workhorse in this position, but in honor of Cam Newton’s record setting 38-19 victory against the Buccaneers, the spot belongs to him. Newton broke the single season rushing touchdown record by a quarterback with his 3 rushing scores in this game. He also became the first quarterback (3rd player all time) in NFL history to rush for 3 TD’s, pass for a TD, and catch a pass all in the same game. It doesn’t end there. Newton also joined the company of Eric Dickerson as the only players to run for touchdowns in 9 of their first 12 games. This kind of skill and these kinds of records are starting to make Newton out to be the clear cut favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

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Donovan McNabb Thrown Overboard

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Well, I can honestly say I called this one from the minute the Vikings picked Donovan McNabb up. I knew he was not going to be the answer they were looking for because of the the simple fact that his glory days are over. McNabb was waived by Minnesota today and is now looking for a new home in a variety of different places. The 3 top prospective teams as of right now are the Texans, Bears, and 49ers.

The Texans could really use him for a number of reasons. Matt Schaub is still injured and in an attempt to continue the success in Houston, Matt Leinart was hurt (shocker) against the Jaguars. T.J. Yates wasn’t a horrible replacement, but McNabb might be the experienced substitute they need to go on a run during crunch time. In my opinion,this is the smartest move for the Texans because they have a shot to go deep into the playoffs and if it’s without Schaub then McNabb has the veteran status that can weather the storm.

The Bears are in a similar position as the Texans because Jay Cutler is injured and they are relying on backup Caleb Hanie to pick up the slack. The difference between the teams’ situation is that I think Caleb Hanie is a pretty reliable replacement. He was thrown into a tough position in last years NFC Championship game when Cutler was hurt and held is own against the destined Green Bay Packers. I think that if McNabb was to be brought in here it would hurt the development of Hanie in return for a temporary fix. Not to mention that Hanie might be as good as McNabb is right now anyways.

Although the 49ers have expressed interest in McNabb, this is the least likely conclusion to the question at hand. Alex Smith has shown much improvement this season and McNabb would be brought in strictly as a backup. However, the team is extremely confident that Colin Kaepernick is growing into the player that would take no hesitation or worry in substituting for Smith, or eventually replacing him as the starter. It would be stupid for the 49ers to ruin Kaepernick’s chance, the same way it would be for the Bears to hinder Hanie.

Hedge on best home for McNabb:

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Drew Brees, Terrell Suggs – Workhorse Wednesday

Offensive Workhorse – Drew Brees, QB (NO)

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After seeing his Monday night performance against the Giants, Drew Brees has sealed himself has the #1 quarterback in the NFL in my eyes. If the 363 passing yards and 4 TD’s through the air aren’t convincing enough, an 8 yard scramble finished with a defender juke and endzone dive might be the icing on the cake. Brees finished with 5 total touchdowns on the night, but the most impressive to me was the rushing score. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the only QB’s in the league right now that would have gone the extra yard to juke and layout to break the plane. Obviously guys like Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and Mike Vick would have done the same, but most of the top quarterbacks in the league would have happily slid at the 1 yard line and capped the drive with a handoff to the runningback. Not to point any fingers but those include guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who are much too comfortable in the pocket and frankly, are too soft to risk taking a hit. I understand these guys get sacked and are tough because they are football players, yada yada yada, but that’s just the way it is. Brees is the ultimate quarterback package due to his dedication, determination, skill, and ability to burn you any way you like. These are just intangibles? Check the stat sheet if you need physical evidence; #9 is #1.

Defensive Workhorse – Terrell Suggs, OLB (Bal)

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Terrell Suggs is one of those linebackers you always have to keep an eye on. He may not always have a standout performance, but he does always get the job done. He finished the Thanksgiving “Harbaugh Bowl” with 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble against the 49ers in a winning effort that I didn’t think was going to happen. Although his performance wasn’t jaw dropping, the Ravens managed to sack Alex Smith 9 times on the day to bring down the sizzling hot 9-1 49ers. Oh right, I forgot to mention that Ray Lewis didn’t even play in this game due to injury, making this feat even greater. Going into it I liked San Francisco because of the fact that Baltimore has been somewhat hot and cold this season with inconsistency on the offensive end. I didn’t think that they had what it took to score against the stonewall 49er defense but they proved me wrong. Their defense is for real, that much is clear to me. However, I am still not sold that Joe Flacco can lead this team to the promised land. If he wants to be a serious contender looking into the future then he needs to buckle down and play like a champion every game.

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Willis McGahee Running Rampant; Keys to Broncos’ Success

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The Denver Broncos have the number 2 rushing offense in the NFL with around 158 yards per game. With Tim Tebow at the helm and the “Read Option” as their main offensive strategy, it’s no shocker. Not to mention Willis McGahee as their main back who has proved to be one of the most consistent weapons they have, until he was injured against the Chiefs. Although McGahee hasn’t ran for many touchdowns, he’s been pretty consistent with 4 games over 100 yards rushing. Many will find this to be underachieving, I find it to be successful in a Denver offense that really hasn’t found their niche. Now it’s going to be a matter of if he can keep up the success with Tebow running the show and that’s only something the rest of the season will be able to show. McGahee has been nursing the hamstring he pulled against Kansas City for the majority of the week but has been making progress. Thankfully he is the only Bronco whose status is in question tonight as big names like Brian Dawkins, Ryan Clady, and Wesley Woodyard have all been cleared to play. If McGahee starts tonight he will give Denver a big advantage against an average Jets run defense, alongside Tebow of course.

The New York Jets are a team whose bark is much worse than their bite. At a sub-par 5-4 record so far, they’ve proven to be very inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Both teams have closely matched offenses with Denver’s 22nd ranked facing off against New York’s 23rd ranked. However, the difference maker could be the Broncos’ 2nd ranked rushing offense. The Jet’s run defense isn’t poor enough to allow huge gains, but the combination of Tim Tebow, (possibly) Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, and the constant threat for Tebow to come up with his arm, will keep them on their toes. The Denver pass defense has been suffering somewhat due to injuries, but they can definitely handle the explosive Jet’s offense. If Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, Andre Goodman, and Cassius Vaughn can contain Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller, then it will give time for guys like Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, and D.J. Williams, to disrupt Mark Sanchez, who proved last week against the Patriots that he can’t handle the heat in the kitchen. The running stops against Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will have to be there as well, they can’t be giving up any big runs or allow Sanchez to get into a rhythm because they will pay for it by playing catch up. Don’t count Denver out of this one yet, they’ve been on point lately and although many are skeptical of how long Tebow can lead, I think we’ll find out tonight.

Jets game plan with Hedge:

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Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Carter – Workhorse Wednesday

Offensive Workhorse – Larry Fitzgerald, WR (Ari)

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In my opinion, Larry Fitzgerald deserves the workhorse award every week. I feel like he’s easily among the top 10 wide receivers in the NFL and every week he puts everything he’s got into the game to try and get a win for his team. He has quite a daunting task too, as the Cardinals are a somewhat offensively challenged team. They have all of the pieces, they just need to put them together. Anyways, Fitzgerald had 7 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. One of those receptions was a 37 yard, over the shoulder grab that placed Arizona on the one yard line. This set up the game winning play in which John Skelton found Early Doucet in the endzone to beat the Eagles 21-17. Now a lot of people look at the struggling Eagles and say, “Well their defense never shows up but their offense is poison.” They have the 11th ranked pass defense which probably isn’t up to par for the players they have, but that doesn’t mean that guys like Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha aren’t playing lockdown coverage. When you talk about Fitzgerald defenders’ names rarely matter. He’s got the speed, size, and athleticism to beat double and sometimes even triple coverage. I think people overlook and sometimes forget about him, just because of the team he plays for, but I respect number 11 and the effort he shows every week.

Defensive Workhorse – Andre Carter DE (NE)

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It was between Andre Carter and Roman Harper for the defensive workhorse, but I’m certain that the better man won. Seeing as the Patriots have the worst all around defense, I felt like it was worthy that someone from New England stood out. The main reason for his outstanding performance was his franchise record setting 4.5 sacks against the Jets. His previous best sack total was 2.5 at Carolina in 2009 when he was still with the Redskins. The previous Pats record was held by Julius Adams, Tony McGee, and Mike Hawkins. It was Carter’s 3rd game this season with 2 or more sacks and he now leads the team with 9 on the season. Although the Patriots’ pass defense is ranked last, they fair very well against the run. Obviously their struggle against the pass is huge and has cost them so far this season, but to say that they are hopeless is a false assumption. There are plenty of young guys on this defense who will blossom into stars. Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty are two corners who are going to develop into top notch defenders. Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton, and Brandon Spikes are linebackers who hit hard and play smart, I don’t really like the Patriots but they do have one of my favorite linebacking cores in the NFL. When you take the guys mentioned, and mix them up with a few key veterans like Vince Wilfork, Shaun Ellis, and Andre Carter, they will develop into the defenders that Bill Belichick is looking for. While some people doubt their likeliness of success, I’m just waiting for this defense to start showing they can play with the best, because they can and will.

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NFL Fantasy Football Week 9: Worst of the Worst

QB – Curtis Painter (Ind)

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The replacement for Peyton Manning is hardly even coming close to filling the shoes of the legend. Then again, he’s not expected to win so the Colts can stay in the “Andrew Luck Sweepstakes”. Regardless of the intent, Painter has been pretty horrible as of late. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in 3 games and hasn’t thrown for 100 yards in 2 of those. This makes it not so shocking to see Painter at the bottom of the quarterback barrel with 1 fantasy point (ESPN) for the week. Indy plays Jacksonville this week and that’s not good news for the Colts at all as the Jags’ D held the Ravens to only 146 total yards and didn’t give up a first down until Baltimore’s 28th play, in the 3rd quarter.

RB – Chris Johnson (Ten)

This is the second time that Johnson has been on the worst of the worst post, and it isn’t because I have a personal vendetta, it’s because I’m confused and disappointed. This man has been an absolute animal in the past and this year has been, in my opinion, one of the biggest fantasy busts. He finished with just 64 yards and 10 fantasy points (ESPN) this week against the Bengals in his 3rd best fantasy performance of the year. He hasn’t scored a touchdown in the last 3 games and has only 1 game with 100+ rushing yards. This week the Titans play the Panthers, who have given up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. CJ should have a great game given the opposition, but he’s proven me and the match ups wrong before, so don’t hold your breath.

WR – Dez Bryant (Dal)

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With Miles Austin out for what could be a month, and Roy Williams no longer with the Cowboys, Bryant really needs to step his game up as the primary receiver. His 5 fantasy points (ESPN) this week against the Seahawks was less than impressive yet the Stars are still 4-4 on the season. Bryant only has 1 TD reception in the past month and needs to fill in the empty slot Austin will leave in order to have success through the air. Jason Witten is still a reliable target but you can’t expect Tony Romo to lead a win with his tight end as his only go-to option through the air. Bryant is an extremely talented wide out and has everything it takes to cover up for Austin’s injury, we just need to see the results happen on the field.

TE – Vernon Davis (SF)

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Vernon Davis is one of my favorite tight ends in the game right now. His size, athleticism, and pure talent are extremely deadly. He has been struggling this season, however. He had 2 fantasy points (ESPN) this week against the Redskins and it has been rather reflective of his performance all year. He has only 1 game this season with more than 50 yards and hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in the last 3 games. He hasn’t been used heavily in the endzone with only 3 targets, half of what Michael Crabtree has. Blame Davis as his performance is clearly lacking, yet some of the underachieving could be due to lack of use in situations where he thrives.

Vernon Davis analysis:

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Monday Night Football: Problems, With a Little Bit of Football

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Lately Monday Night Football has really been getting on my nerves. After this Monday night’s game of the Eagles and the Bears, I thought it was time to voice my opinion on the matter. There are several things that are wrong and very aggravating that happen during Monday night games. The first and foremost of the list, THE COMMERCIALS. Commercials are the most annoying aspect of watching TV in general, unless it’s the Super Bowl, but even those are declining in comedic value but that’s a story for another day. We all understand the usual timing for commercials in which we retrieve a beverage, use the restroom, do homework, etc. These slots are during long timeouts, injuries, after points are scored, after a turnover, after a punt, and between quarters. However, there are slots that commercials happen during that simply do not need to happen. If a commercial break happens after points are scored and the kickoff follows, there is no need to run another break after the kick. I understand that before and after the kickoff there are short breaks on the field for the special teams and offense and defense to switch, but there are better things that can happen during the shorter breaks. I’d rather see Jaws, Mike and Jon Gruden in the booth talking about relevant stats, game changing moments, key players, news around the league, and basically anything football related than see more commercials than need be. I do realize that advertising is part of the business world and money is to be made, but there is simply no reason I should sit down to watch football and see more advertisements for cars average people can’t afford and crack sealants, than the actual game. The second, more debatable issue with MNF, is the camera shot choice. I bet we’ve all been in the position where a close play happens or a challenge flag is thrown and we say, “If they show the right angle I’ll be able to tell what happened no problem.” Then, after the instant replay is shown 7 times from 4 different angles, they still don’t play one that gives any sort of evidence which way the call should have gone. Not only close plays, but big plays are sometimes missed. For example, in the game this past week between the Eagles and Bears, the Eagles tried going for a punt fake on a 4th down. While the camera was showing a highlight from the previous play, Mike Tirico was heard yelling frantically that the Eagles came up short, with the camera only switching in time to show the football hitting the turf. We completely missed the play that was extremely close to the Eagles converting the 4th down, either because the crew assumed they were kicking it away, or thought the highlight was more important. These are just some things I found making my blood boil during this week’s MNF game, and felt the need to convey. If you share the same opinions, I feel your pain and you’re not alone.

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