All posts by Kyle Collins

Week 1: Patriots vs. Steelers Preview

There’s no better way to start the 2015 NFL season than pitting two classic franchises against each other on Thursday Night Football. The Pittsburgh Steelers will have their hands full defending the reigning New England Patriots, but don’t expect this to be a blowout by any means. Let’s break it down and see what each team is bringing to the table.

via nydailynews.com
via nydailynews.com

New England Offense vs. Pittsburgh Defense

Two words: Tom Brady. Need I say more? The return of the veteran quarterback has been the talk of the NFL, and people are expecting a huge game from him. Brady will be throwing to familiar receivers Edelman and Amendola, though Edelman may have limited receptions due to his ankle issues. Brady’s most important weapon, Rob Gronkowski, is healthy and ready to play week 1 (a rarity for the monstrous tight end). The suspension of LeGarrette Blount and the recent loss of center Bryan Stork will hurt what run game the Patriots had, but it’s safe to say Brady will be airing it out all game long regardless.

And why wouldn’t he? The Steelers have an extremely weak defense right now. It’s going to be target practice for Brady against a secondary riddled with injuries and stitched together by backups and low round draft picks. The only defensive back who may pose a threat is Brandon Boykin, a strong slot corner who will most likely be working against Edelman and Amendola. The defensive front is just as bad for the Steelers. Their only redeeming player is the impressive pass rusher Shaq Mason. Should the left guard be able to contain Mason, though, Brady will have a clean pocket to throw from all night.

186737022-ben-roethlisberger-of-the-pittsburgh-gettyimages

Pittsburgh Offense vs. New England Defense

Leading the Steelers is Ben Roethlisberger, another veteran quarterback who can still throw with the best of them. Roethlisberger has one of the best receivers in the game in Antonio Brown and should be giving him plenty of targets all night long. The suspension of Martavis Bryant, however, will limit the talent Big Ben has to throw to. Top running back Le’Veon Bell is also suspended and will be replaced by Deangelo Williams. Williams won’t have any trouble running the ball, but don’t expect an overly productive run game. This is especially true because of the loss of Maurkice Pouncey, the Steeler’s best offensive lineman.

Even with a strong passing attack the Steeler’s offense is outmatched by the Patriots defense. New England may have the most stacked defense in the league, and this comes after losing three of their starters at the end of last season. While there are still many questions waiting to be answered about the Pats secondary, it’s safe to say the front seven will be dominating this game. Pass rushers Ninkovich and Jones will be getting to Roethlisberger, while run stoppers Easley and Brown should be negating any rushing attempts. Add to the mix the best linebacker squad in football and Big Ben and the Steelers are looking at a very rough Thursday night.

I see this game being close for a while until the Patriots pull away late in the third quarter. The Steelers will no doubt have a great offensive night, but the strength of the Patriots defense coupled with Brady’s rage being thrown at Pittsburgh’s secondary is enough to turn the tide. Regardless of the outcome, football fans should be ready for a great opening game to 2015 NFL season.

 

Advertisements

Winston vs. Mariota will be Decided by Offensive Schemes

Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston?

It’s a question with no clear answer but with plenty of division among NFL fans and experts alike. Instead of put it to rest, the lukewarm preseason debuts of both signal callers brought up the question once more. In reality, this quarterback debate skims the surface of an issue that’s been a part of the game for the past decade. It boils down to the pro-style versus the spread option offenses, and the effect both have on the quality of NFL quarterbacks.

459837228-quarterback-marcus-mariota-of-the-oregon-gettyimages

Let’s consider Oregon. Arguably no other team plays a tempo offense in a spread formation better than the Ducks. Quick passes and option reads, a running quarterback and lightning fast running backs, all working together to control the clock and confuse the defense. It becomes easy to see why many college programs have switched to this style of play and have found success with the spread option. Not only is it fun to watch, it sounds like the future of football. Compared to the sometimes slower and more methodical play of a pro-style team, it can look revolutionary.

That is, until it’s done in the NFL.

Read options don’t work in the league. Defensive linemen are fast enough to chase down a runningback or shadow and tackle a quarterback. A running quarterback can excel, but he has to be able to check down to a second or third receiver. Though it may have worked just fine in college, reading one receiver and scrambling to the edge won’t be effective (or safe) in the pros. Yet, teams have tried to build this kind of offense around their star QB, and without much success.

Look at Cleveland with Johnny Manziel or Carolina with Cam Newton. Both are incredible with the option and on their feet, but taking a five step drop and finding an open target? Not so much. The same could be said for RGIII in Washington. All three are exceptional athletes, but not great quarterbacks; they just can’t make the throws pocket passers like Brady, Rodgers, or Manning can. The only team who has had any success with this kind of offense is Chip Kelly’s Eagles. Even so, Kelly has yet to find the quarterback to run his offense, and with the roster looking the way it does now, he may still be looking in 2016. Without an electric playmaker behind center, Kelly will never recreate the Oregon offense the way he wants to.

484167286-quarterback-jameis-winston-of-the-tampa-bay-gettyimages

So if I’m forced to choose between the two former Heisman winners, I’m choosing Winston. Within the pro-style offense of Florida State, Jameis covered ground that Mariota has only recently begun to. Mainly, Winston has the throwing mechanics, footwork, and passing vision the Titans QB just doesn’t have. Pro style teams consistently produce better NFL quarterbacks than option type teams, it’s that simple. Both throwers have a lot to prove, and both will be making big plays this season. I have no doubt that Mariota can become a great player in this league, but I have doubts that it will be happening anytime this season.

NFL: Game On: The Brady vs. Manning Rivalry Continues

 featured image: USA Today 

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01 :  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates holding up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX February 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tom Brady
GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 01 : Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates holding up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX February 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tom Brady

Amidst the rubble of court documents, emails, and newly released material regarding the never ending Deflategate controversy, an interesting email sent from Tom Brady has emerged. In the message, sent just a week before the Patriots rout of the Broncos in week 9, Brady seemed to have no doubts he will outlast veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. Brady is quoted as saying “I’ve got another 7 or 8 years. He has 2. That’s the final chapter. Game on.”  

Ever since Brady and Manning faced off against each other in 2001, every game has been a fight for the title “Greatest of All Time.” Each has their own obsessive fan base, ready at a moment’s notice to list every reason why their QB is the better of the two. It’s no doubt, then, that Brady sees Manning as his biggest competition. For nearly eight months the sports world has wrestled over Tom Brady’s legacy and whether Deflategate is enough to topple it. To Brady, it seems, Manning is the only one able to cast that large of a shadow over his career.  

Statistically speaking, Brady should be worried. Throughout his career Peyton has thrown for more touchdowns, more yards, and higher quarterback ratings than Brady. Manning’s numbers are undeniably better across the board, with his record setting four NFL MVP awards showing just how great of an individual player he is. Head to head, however, is a different story. Out of 16 games played between the two greats, Brady has won 11 of them–nearly 70%. Add to that four Super Bowl rings and three Super Bowl MVP’s and Tom easily evens the contest. 

Peyton calling it quits in two years would be huge for Brady’s sake in the competition. In fact, the idea isn’t unfounded. Manning’s multiple neck surgeries of 2011 and his recent troubles with his right quad and throwing arm leave many wondering how much more the signal caller has in him. Decreased passing numbers over the last two years could also indicate the future hall of famer is finally in decline. In New England, however, the current Super Bowl champion’s numbers have been on the rise as of the last few years.

When it comes down to it, these next few seasons will be critical for both quarterback’s legacies. How Brady handles the current controversy surrounding him will become a defining moment, four game suspension or not. In Denver, training camp attendees are reporting Peyton’s arm is as strong as ever. Receiver Demaryius Thomas has even claimed “it seems like [Manning] has more zip” on his passes. From the sound of it, Manning may have a lot more than two seasons left in him. Sixteen matchups later and no clear cut winner, Tom has poured some much needed fuel on the fire for the Brady versus Manning saga. It may be a decade before a consensus is ever reached on the where the two greats rank, but there is no doubt that both players have more than earned their place in the halls of Canton.