While few games lived-up to their hype, we were blessed with a classic game between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots on Sunday, while getting the chance to watch history between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
Still, when it’s all said and done, there are five teams who are undefeated after four games, and all of those teams have taken different journeys.
Read on to see who makes the top five, and then check to see where everyone else fits in: Read more…
Posted by Kevin Roberts Date: Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tags: adrian peterson, atlanta falcons, Brandon Jacobs, brett favre, chicago bears, denver broncos, Detroit Lions, drew brees, eli manning, green bay packers, indianapolis colts, Minnesota Vikings, new england patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, new york jets, philadelphia eagles, pittsburgh steelers, San Francisco 49ers
It’s a fair question. And quite honestly, based on Tim Tebow’s decision to return for his senior season at Florida, one that actually warrants a careful response.
We will undoubtedly have to wait until next April’s NFL Draft to find out for sure, but the question remains: Would it be better for an under-hyped college football star to take the short route to pro stardom and join the UFL, or take his chances in the NFL Draft and be a back-up?
Or worse—possibly not even make an NFL roster?
Posted by Kevin Roberts Date: Monday, September 28, 2009
Is Eli Manning overpaid? Uh, yeah.Is he an elite quarterback? It’s arguable, either way.
What isn’t arguable, however, is that this New York Giants team is built to last on both sides of the ball, and regardless of any “key” losses they’ve had, they should still contend for their division, at the very worst.
Then again, they looked as if they were destined to repeat for much of last season, until they collapsed out of nowhere and called it a season in their first playoff game.
Will that happen again? In today’s NFL, the only answer I can think of is “if they’re lucky”.
They have a hard-nosed turned softy coach (just kidding) and an overpaid quarterback who isn’t nearly as good as the rest of the world thinks he is.
Are those problems? Not really. Read on to see what the New York Giants should be concerned about in 2009.
5. Can Ahmad Bradshaw Be Derrick Ward?
While Derrick Ward’s departure leaves a 1,000-yard gap, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be Ahmad Bradshaw’s to fill.
If healthy, Brandon Jacobs figures to handle the bulk of the carries. However, if Jacobs’ reckless style of play were to have Bradshaw starting, there’s no reason to think why he can’t keep the Giants’ offense operating correctly.
With yardage jumps of 190 yards and over eight yards per carry in his rookie season, to 355 yards last season (five yards per carry), it’s evident Bradshaw can produce at a high level and makes the most of his chances.
4. Which Rookie Receiver Will Step-Up?
We know Steve Smith is starting in the slot, and Domenik Hixon’s experience and solid play should keep him as the No. 1 receiver.
However, the second starting spot is up for grabs, with two rookies, Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, Sinorice Moss, and David Tyree battling it out.
Tyree has yet to stay healthy enough to try to live up to his 2007 Super Bowl helmet catch, which could likely end up in a release in favor of the younger, more talented receivers.
Moss has been a complete bust, hence the addition of Barden and Nicks, who should make Moss expendable, or at the very best, the fifth option.
Both rookie receivers are immensely talented, but Nicks appears to run more polished routes and has proven to have reliable hands.
Barden, on the other hand, has a continuous case of the “dropsies” and also hasn’t look very fast in camps.
Look for Nicks to have the job, and possibly even beat-out Domenik Hixon.
3. Are Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith the Answers?
He may not be Plaxico Burress, but in his first season with major action as a starter, Hixon performed fairly well.
The Giants brought in reinforcements, though, to “aid” Hixon and fellow starter, Steve Smith, as well as push them competitively.
Quite honestly, it was a youth/talent movement. Hence the lack of true desire to bring back a 35-year-old Amani Toomer or a 30-year-old Plaxico Burress.
While Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are sound additions to the receiving corps, Hixon and Smith are still too talented to not get a fair shake as the starters.
2. Can Brandon Jacobs Stay Healthy?
Jacobs topped 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008, and that was while sharing the backfield with fellow 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Ward sharing the ball.
Oh, and he missed three games.
Jacobs’ tough, physical running style has garnered praise from teammates and opponents, alike, but his reckless style of play causes worry in New York, and for good reason.
While it’s impossible to predict if he’ll play a full 16 games (I doubt it), what is easy to predict is his likely impact, regardless of the amount of games he suits up for.
Jacobs is the Giants’ offense now, and as long as he’s on the field, the “G-Men” will pound the ball, and will do it well.
So, can Brandon Jacobs stay healthy?
Sure. I just wouldn’t bet on it.
1. Will the Defense Remain Dominant Without Steve Spagnuolo?
As long as the new defensive coordinator runs the aggressive style Spagnuulo did, the talent should take care of the rest.
Despite losing Osi Umenyiora, the Giants still ranked sixth in the league in sacks, and fifth in scoring.
The additional loss of Michael Strahan to retirement only displayed the great depth the Giants had in their line-men, and in turn made two defensive ends, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka, stars of their defense.
The addition of Chris Canty through free agency and Clint Sintim via the NFL Draft shows progress on an already nasty defense, one that should continue playing well.
Posted by Kevin Roberts Date: Friday, September 11, 2009
We can safely assume Joe Montana is at the top of this list, if not the easy-call to be the best clutch performer to ever hit an NFL field.
But, as periods change and times goes on, people lose their sight on relevance, and it begins to get increasingly more difficult to truly compare people.
This rings especially true for quarterbacks, as they are often lifted up or held down by their offensive systems, good or bad defenses, and their supporting casts.
Stats don’t always tell the whole story either, but sometimes that’s really all we have to go by. That is, unless you were there for some of those heroic moments delivered by the Fran Tarkenton’s, Terry Bradshaw’s, John Elway’s, and even Brett Favre.
But let’s keep it relevant, at least, as much as possible.
With Favre still retired, here’s a look at the top five active quarterbacks who you’d want running your two-minute drill, throwing that last pass, and ultimately leading your team into every game.
Look for the usuals to make the list, but especially keep your eye out for a surprise or two.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Hasselbeck (Seattle Seahawks)
Hasselbeck has registered 57 wins as a starter in the regular season, and played a big hand in bringing the once lowly Seattle Seahawks to a competitive level.
In eight seasons as the starter, Hasselbeck as racked up over 23,000 passing yards, 145 touchdowns, and has led Seattle to four postseason trips, including a Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005.
Other Notable Semi-Clutch Passers
Jake Delhomme (Carolina Panthers)
Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Delhomme has been to a Super Bowl and the playoffs several times, Rivers hasn’t won much, but is a clutch performer, and Brees is a great performer with a trip to the NFC Championship and three career postseason trips under his belt.
5. Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)
Despite nagging injuries and not always having elite receiving weapons (save for one good year of T.O.) McNabb has had to make a lot out of nothing, and much too often.
Sure, he’s almost always had Brian Westbrook, a stout offensive line, and a supportive defense, but he’s still won more games by himself than he has by leaning on his teammates.
McNabb has reached one Super Bowl and helped the Eagles appear in five NFC championship games in his career.
Really, when you think of McNabb, all you need to think of is the 4th and 26 play that helped beat Green Bay and put the Eagles in the NFC Championship back in 2003.
The Numbers (Career):
Regular Season Wins: 82
Postseason Wins: 9
Best Season: 13-2 (Super Bowl Appearance)
4. Kurt Warner (Arizona Cardinals)
While he’s probably better known for a three-year run of two Super Bowl appearances (one win) and a sick display of offensive production in St. Louis, Warner has had enough moments in Arizona to keep his “clutch-ness” relevant.
Warner had a righteous time in St. Louis, losing only eight regular season games in his first three seasons, while throwing for over 36 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards in two of those three seasons.
With three Super Bowl appearances and his insane accuracy in tight moments, including a game-changing touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in 2008′s Super Bowl loss, Warner deserves a place on this list.
The Numbers (Career):
Regular Season Wins: 57
Postseason Wins: 8
Best Season: 13-3 (Super Bowl Champions)
3. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)
Manning has a rocket arm and lightning quick release, and is known as one of the most efficient, cerebral players in the league.
He’s a student of the game, as he practices and studies by himself and with his receivers constantly, even during the off-season, as to keep timing and chemistry at it’s highest possible level.
While he has the tools, smarts, and dedication to deserve to make this list, he also has the stats, experience, and wins.
Manning is slowly climbing up the ladder in almost every major passing category, and will either eclipse Brett Favre’s final numbers, or finish second behind him in most of the major passing categories.
After being regarded as “another Dan Marino”, an elite quarterback who can put up numbers but couldn’t win games, Manning finally separated himself from the Marino’s of the world, and won his first Super Bowl in 2006.
After starting his career in the postseason with a lackluster 0-3 record, Manning has since carved a niche for himself as one of the more prepared and clutch performers, leading Indianapolis to a solid 7-5 post-season record.
Throw in his 117-59 regular season record, as well as over 30 fourth quarter comeback victories, and you’ve got a guy who knows how to win.
The Numbers (Career):
Regular Season Wins: 117
Postseason Wins: 7
Best Season: 12-4 (Super Bowl Champions)
2. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Big Ben is a household name, especially after his heroics in 2008′s Super Bowl win. If he wasn’t famous before that night, he surely is now.
Chalk it up.
Two Super Bowl titles, and a slew of regular season wins. 51, to be exact.
In just five seasons, Roethlisberger has helped the Steelers eclipse 50 regular season wins, including going 13-0 as a rookie, and 22-3 in his first 25 starts.
Talk about a first impression.
Roethlisberger was so clutch and effective, that his team was able to be competitive right away in 2004, and then re-grouped to win his first Super Bowl in 2005.
With an 8-2 career record in the post-season, as well as his “money” late-game winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in last year’s Super Bowl, Big Ben easily makes his way on this list.
The Numbers (Career):
Regular Season Wins: 51
Postseason Wins: 8
Best Season: 12-4 (Super Bowl Champions)
1. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Brady is quite arguably the most effective clutch performer, as he was 3-3 in Super Bowl clutch moments until the New York Giants front line crushed his hopes of winning a fourth championship.
Still, there are few other quarterbacks, even in the NFL’s history, that you’d want guiding your team with under two minutes to go.
Brady has an impressive 87-24 regular season record, while guiding the Patriots to six seasons of 10-6 or better, including the NFL’s only undefeated season, as New England went 16-0, and 18-0 until they lost 2007′s Super Bowl.
Brady’s worst season as a starter came in 2002, where he and the Patriots could only finish 9-7. What’s most impressive, however, is that’s the worst record he has ever had as a starter.
With a 14-3 postseason record, several comeback wins, and three Lombardi Trophies to his credit, Brady, knee injury or not, is still the guy the majority of teams would want behind center when all the chips are on the line.
The Numbers (Career):
Regular Season Wins: 87
Postseason Wins: 14
Best Season: 18-1 (Super Bowl Appearance)
6. The Wild Card: Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Personally, I’m not sold on Manning as an elite passer, but his numbers (not fantasy-wise) are fairly consistent, and he appears to be a good leader, and most importantly, knows how to win.
His career will likely forever be defined for his 2007 run and win against the 18-0 New England Patriots.
However, he doesn’t make the cut for the top five, due to the extraordinary help he got from his extremely aggressive defense that year.
Besides, when he had Plaxico Burress to throw to, too.
The other thing to note is that he and the Giants went 4-0 during that run, and Manning hadn’t won a playoff game before, and hasn’t since.
Still, Manning delivered clutch performance-after-clutch performance in 2007, and has since cemented himself as one of the better, and more complete young quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Numbers (Career):
Regular Season Wins: 42
Postseason Wins: 4
Best Season: 10-6 (Super Bowl Champions)
Posted by Kevin Roberts Date: Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tags: 4th quarter comebacks, arizona cardinals, ben roethlisberger, brett favre, clutch quarterbacks, donovan mcnabb, drew brees, eli manning, indianapolis colts, Joe Montana, kurt warner, matt hasselbeck, new england patriots, New York Giants, peyton manning, philadelphia eagles, philip rivers, pittsburgh steelers, seattle seahawks, tom brady
Tony Romo lost his most talented weapon (Terrell Owens) this off-season, and now only has Roy Williams as a reliable receiver target.
However, the word in Dallas is that Owens being gone will lift any distractions from the team, and will have the offense performing more fluidly and in turn, will be more effective.
Maybe, and maybe not.
Read on to see who wins the quarterback position battles, who is falling, and who is on the rise, in a team-by-team glance:
Eli Manning-New York Giants
Manning has been overrated ever since winning the Super Bowl, and now he doesn’t have an elite receiver to rely on anymore.
Still, the Giants drafted two fantastic receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, and the other young talent they have looks to be better than advertised.
While many are down on the Giants offense, I’m making an early guarantee: This offense will soar.
Verdict: May end the season with the elite
Proj: 3,700 yards, 28 TD, 16 INT
Donovan McNabb-Philadelphia Eagles
Just the fact that McNabb stayed healthy last season gives me optimism for him and the Eagles in 2009.
If he can stay on the field, his new offensive weapons should aid him in getting back to prime form.
McNabb put up solid numbers last season, but with a healthy offense, he could approach his 2004 numbers.
Verdict: Three good receivers means only good things
Proj: 3,885 yards, 27 TD, 15 INT
Jason Campbell-Washington Redskins
Against my better judgment, I have to go into 2009 believing the Redskins are fully confident in Campbell.
If they’re not, they aren’t really preparing themselves with a trusted insurance policy.
Regardless, Campbell still has a good arm and shows poise in the pocket. If his young receivers can step up, there could be some modest progress.
Verdict: Still not a great FF option
Proj: 3,334 yards, 15 TD, 12 INT
Tony Romo-Dallas Cowboys
Romo won’t be able to throw it down the field as confidently, but he still has Jason Witten and a solid running back backing him.
The question isn’t if Roy Williams can show up. It’s more about the development of Miles Austin.
Verdict: A balanced offense keeps Romo in the top 10
Proj: 3,698 yards, 31 TD, 16 INT
Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers
The problem in Green Bay is still their defense, and even if it gets better, it still won’t be great.
Rodgers stats will only increase, because he’ll have another season of having to keep Green Bay in high-scoring affairs.
Verdict: Top 10 pick
Proj: 3,966 yards, 27 TD, 14 INT
Jay Cutler-Chicago Bears
Cutler should be able to make something out of Hester, and will discover Greg Olsen to be a nice, speedy target at tight end.
The offensive weapons aren’t sexy, but with time, they definitely could be.
Matt Forte and the rest of the ground game will be Cutler’s new best friend.
Verdict: Cutler shocks some people and keeps 2008 form
Proj: 4,229 yards, 29 TD, 16 INT
Matthew Stafford-Detroit Lions
I speculated about it myself, and have now begun to hear rumors about Stafford starting “earlier than thought”.
I don’t have much faith in a severely regressed Culpepper, and also don’t feel the Lions have much to lose by throwing their rookie into the fire.
Verdict: That doesn’t mean he should be on your team, though.
Proj: 2,470 yards, 14 Td, 16 INT
Brett Favre-Minnesota Vikings
If Brett Favre does in fact stay retired, then I feel Brad Childress has had enough of Tarvaris Jackson, and we’ll see more of Sage Rosenfels, the “Human Helicopter”.
But after he finally spoke up, I believe Favre will be wearing purple come September.
Favre still has a gun (prodiving it doesn’t fall off), and he’s backed by the best running back in the league. He and the Vikings will be just fine.
Proj: 3,639 yards, 24 TD, 16 INT
Jake Delhomme-Carolina Panthers
Despite his five-interception game against the Cardinals in the playoffs, Delhomme is still Jon Fox’s guy, or at least until we’re told otherwise.
The Panthers still have one of the NFL’s best receivers, Steve Smith, at his disposal, along with a great running back tandem to ease the pressure.
Verdict: As usual, he’ll do just fine
Proj: 3,779 yards, 24 TD, 14 INT
Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons
Forget about the strides he made, or the excellent chemistry he established with his receivers.
He and the rest of that ridiculous offense are entering year two of being comfortable, and now they have an elite tight end in Tony Gonzalez.
Verdict: Grab Ryan when you can
Proj: 3,591 yards, 25 TD, 13 INT
Byron Leftwich-Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Leftwitch easily beats on Josh Johnson and rookie Josh Freeman, but will probably have to work fairly hard to fend off the pesky veteran, Luke McCown.
In the end, though, Leftwitch has the best amount of experience and the best talent to lead this team, and could form a special connections with Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow.
Verdict: You can get him late-at doing so is advised
Proj: 2,677 yards, 18 TD, 9 INT
Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints
Is it really possibly for this guy to throw for over 5,000 yards in back-to-back season? Possible—yes. But it won’t happen. That’s just too insane.
Still, Sean Payton has tons of tricks up his sleeves, and Brees has way too much talent around him to drop off too much.
Verdict: Top five quarterback
Proj: 4,791 yards, 32 TD, 16 INT
Kurt Warner-Arizona Cardinals
Knock him for being old all you want, but I see Warner finishing 2009 healthy, and relatively still on top of his game.
With or without Anquan Boldin, this is a scary-good offense, and the addition of Ohio State’s Chris Wells only makes it tougher and nastier.
Verdict: Like Brees, a top five guy
Proj: 4,211 yards, 31 TD, 15 INT
Shaun Hill-San Francisco 49ers
If Mike Singletary wants to win, he’ll go with Hill. After all, all Hill does is lead an efficient offense and win games.
Hill won’t deliver big numbers, even if the Niner’s are winning, but he will still be the guy slinging passes for them in 2009.
Proj: 3,246 yards, 17 Td, 12 INT
Marc Bulger-St.Louis Rams
As a lover of football and good offensive production, I pray that the rumors of St. Louis being interested in Michael Vick are true.
Bulger has a lot to prove to have me forget about his last two seasons. His offense has been crumbling around him since 2007, but he still hasn’t looked very sharp, even when they’ve won games.
Verdict: Stay away until things get better
Proj: 2,798 yards, 15 TD, 15 INT
Matt Hasselbeck-Seattle Seahawks
Two things went horribly wrong for Seattle and Hasselbeck last season.
First, their running game never took off, and then all their receivers landed on IR.
Oh, and then Hasselbeck broke his back.
With Hasselbeck and his receiving corps back to full healthy, things are already looking up. The only question is, what will they be getting from their rush attack?
Verdict: Hasselbeck returns to near 2007 form.
Proj: 3,476 yards, 22 TD, 15 INT