NFL Returns

By Matthew Shalloe

After a seven month wait from the conclusion of Super Bowl LII back on Feb. 4, the NFL is officially back. Whether it be the struggles of the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1), or the flaming hot start of quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick (eight touchdowns through two games), we have already been surprised on our beloved football Sundays. Although it’s early, the first two weeks of the NFL season has been exactly what we have waited all offseason for, both entertaining and enjoyable for fans across America.

Let’s start by talking about the previously mentioned Pittsburgh Steelers, who are off to a bit of a rough start, winless through the first two weeks of the season.

After a week one tie with the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers dropped their home opener in week two in a 42-37 loss at the hands of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes passed for 326 yards and a whopping six touchdowns, bringing his season total to 10 through his first two games as a starter.

It is still too early for the Steelers to hit the panic button, but it is the perfect time for them to finally give All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell the money he wants, as they need him back desperately. Bell has continued his holdout in dispute of being franchise tagged for the second year in a row. The offense is clearly not the same without him, and if the Steelers want to right the ship, they will need Bell in their backfield going forward.

Image result for le'veon bell
Courtesy: The Spun 

As we continue to talk about the electric start to the season of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it’s almost unbelievable to say that another NFL quarterback has gotten off to a better start. What Mahomes is doing is unbelievable and has Chiefs fans everywhere already thinking they’re bound for a playoff berth.

However, Buccaneers quarterback and NFL journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick might be just that much better to start the season. Fitzpatrick is filling in for Jameis Winston, who was suspended three games for breaking NFL personal conduct policy, and making the most of his opportunity. Playing on his seventh team in his 14 NFL season, Fitzpatrick is off to a flaming hot start, passing for 819 yards and recording 9 total touchdowns. Oh, and he is off to a 2-0 start after beating the New Orleans Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. It will be interesting to see if Fitzpatrick can keep up his play throughout the season, assuming he won the starting QB job away from Winston, a former first overall pick in the NFL draft.

There are a few other teams that have come out of the gate hot to start the season, as seven teams have posted back to back wins to start the season 2-0. Some more surprising than others, as the Bengals, Dolphins and Broncos are among the teams that are off to a shockingly good start.

Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green are clicking better than ever on offense in Cincinnati, and it’s the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill from injury in Miami that has propelled the Dolphins to an unbeaten start. The signing of quarterback Case Keenum, who played for the Vikings last season, has the Broncos perfect to start the season.

Along with those three teams and the previously mentioned Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas Chiefs, the high-powered Jaguars and Rams round out the seven perfect teams through the first two weeks of the season.

Not all teams have been as fortunate as the ones mentioned above. The Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills, who have just not looked good in any of the three phases to start off the season, have both fallen to an 0-2 start. The Raiders, Texans, Giants and Lions are the others to stand at 0-2, but perhaps none have looked as bad as the Bills and Cardinals.

The Bills were forced to turn to rookie quarterback Josh Allen in week two after an atrocious outing from quarterback Nathan Peterman in week one. The rookie looked decent under center in his first NFL start, but the result was the same in another loss, a game that was so ugly at half that CB Vontae Davis left the stadium and retired.

As for the Cardinals, the signing of quarterback Sam Bradford has been a failed experiment, as he has led the offense to just six points through the first two games of the season. Meanwhile, 10th overall pick rookie quarterback Josh Rosen has to suffer on the sidelines watching Bradford struggle. As the season goes on, you can expect the rookie quarterback to join Allen and Jets quarterback Sam Darnold as the only three starting rookie quarterbacks in the NFL.

Courtesy:Yahoo Sports 

The first two weeks have been fun to watch, and we can expect it to continue as the season goes on. It’ll be interesting to watch if the hot starts of Mahomes and Fitzpatrick can stay alive, or if the Pittsburgh Steelers can get back to what they are accustomed to: winning. Whether your team is in good standing or not, one thing is for certain– NFL football has returned to excite Sundays everywhere.

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2015 NFL Preview

By Josh Svetz

It’s finally time, football is back! Yes, friends, it’s finally time to sit on the couch, eat some snacks and watch your favorite team try to capture the Lombardi trophy. Of course, that sentiment presents one big question–who is that team going to be? Let’s try and figure that out.

AFC:

I’m only going to say this once: if you don’t have a good quarterback, you usually aren’t going to do too well. The quarterback position can make or break a team, as many teams have great rosters top to bottom, but a below-average quarterback.

In fact, you can predict at least a few of the division winners just by examining the quarterback.

For example, teams like the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots should win their divisions due to their strong quarterback play, with Andrew Luck and Tom Brady commanding the huddle. The next two divisions are a bit tougher. In my opinion, the AFC West and AFC North are both three-team races.

In the North, the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers all could end up taking the division crown by the end of the season.

In the West, the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers each have the tools to clinch a playoff spot. However, in the West, I still think Peyton Manning and company take that division, and in the north, I believe Baltimore finds itself with the division title in the end. To me, those four teams are locks, with Denver probably being my least confident lock. Now that the divisions are wrapped up, things get interesting.

This year’s AFC wildcard is wide open. There are only about four teams that I couldn’t envision having the possibility of making the playoffs. Honestly, the Steelers, Bengals, Bills, Dolphins, Chargers, Chiefs, Texans and even the Jets have the rosters to compete for a spot. However, choices need to be made, and in the end, I will always lean towards which teams have good quarterback play.

In that case, I’m going with the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, I understand Ryan Tannehill is not an elite quarterback by any stretch, but he improves every year, and if he improves on last year’s numbers, he will be very close to being a top 10 quarterback in the league depending on how things shake out. As for the Steelers, their defense is not very good, but their offense could end up as the best offense in the league, as they have arguably the best three-headed monster with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Le’Veon Bell at running back, and Antonio Brown at wide receiver. While I understand that Bell and last year’s talented rookie, Martavis Bryant will be out with suspensions, I still believe the offense will generate enough production to stay afloat, and when those two come back, it’ll be scary.

With that said, anything could happen with those two teams, so if I were to pick two alternates to find their way into the playoffs, it would be the Chargers and the Bills. If you told me the Bills traded for an average NFL quarterback like Andy Dalton right now, I would easily have them in the wild card round; in addition to an improved offense, they sport arguably the best defense in the league. I like Tyrod Taylor, but I’m not sure if he can actually get the Bills to where they need to be. As for the Chargers, they have a top ten quarterback in Phillip Rivers, and have a solid enough defense, but they are incredibly erratic and streaky and I don’t trust them. Remember how hot they were last year? After starting 5-1 last year, they ended up going 4-6 the rest of the season, missing the playoffs.

So, with six teams placed into the playoffs, who will actually come out on top? I think in the end, it’s between the Patriots, Ravens and Colts. This is the year Andrew Luck takes the next step. With an improved offense and a couple years under Luck’s belt, I expect the Colts to find themselves in the Super Bowl at the end of the season.

NFC:

As I said last time, you can get a good idea of which teams will make the playoffs just by looking at the quarterback position.

In that sense, both the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks should be locks, with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson dictating the offenses and both teams featuring experienced, and deep rosters. From there, we have two completely wide-open divisions in the NFC South and NFC East.

The East and West both feature three-team races. In the East, the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants each have teams that can compete. In the South, the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Atlanta Falcons all have their issues, but one of those teams has to win.

In the East, I like Chip Kelly and the Eagles to take the division. They’ve upgraded at almost every position other than offensive line and feature arguably the best backfield in the NFL. With that said, some people may believe the Eagles downgraded at quarterback, but the former QB, Nick Foles was a product of Kelly’s system, and will assuredly struggle with the St. Louis Rams this year. The new QB, Sam Bradford, has actually been solid but doesn’t play that often due to injuries. Hopefully, in a quick passing system like Kelly’s, Bradford will be able to avoid multiple hits and finally live up to the potential that made him the first overall pick several years ago.

As for the South, this division is weak. These teams all have multiple issues with their rosters, which means truthfully any team could win this division. Many people may believe that either the Saints or Panthers will take the division, but I’m going with the Falcons. Led by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and featuring the talented duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White, the Falcons should have a productive offense this year. As for the defense, the unit should be improved immediately with the presence of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn taking over as head coach. Not to mention the continued development of Desmond Trufant, who looks to make a big leap this year, and put himself into the discussion for top cornerback in the league.

The last two spots in the playoffs could go to a couple teams. In total, I could envision the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants each having a good chance to take the wildcard spots. Both Dallas and New York have extremely high ceilings. I could see them both competing for a championship, and I could also see them only getting five wins. The outcomes vary, maybe more than any other teams in the league. Since I believe Dallas and New York are extremely risky picks, I’ll take the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings.

The Cardinals won ten games with a combo of Logan Thomas, Drew Stanton, and Ryan Lindley at quarterback last year. Now, with a healthy Carson Palmer, I believe Bruce Arians and company make something happen. As for the Vikings, not only do they have one of the best young defenses in the NFL, a new receiving corp, a promising quarterback in second-year player, Teddy Bridgewater, and one of the best offensive lines in the game, but they also get back one of the greatest running backs of all time in Adrian Peterson, who was suspended after week one last year. All this combined, and you have a young, hungry and ferocious team that could make some noise in the playoffs this year.

While all six of the teams we’ve put into the playoffs have a shot at the Super Bowl, a few teams have better chances than others.

In the end, I believe the Packers, Eagles, and Seahawks each could contend for the Lombardi Trophy. However, when it’s all said and done, I have Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers getting to Santa Clara this year.

At the end of the season, the Indianapolis Colts will face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. In the game, the Packers and Colts will have a fantastic shoot out, resulting in a victory for the Packers.

Of course, in the glorious game we call football, anything can happen.

Football Hall of Fame Series: Will Shields

Editor’s note: This is the second article in our Pro Football Hall of Fame Series by staff writer Josh Svetz. Svetz will be covering the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio on Saturday night. 

By Josh Svetz

 

When people look back at Will Shields’ legacy, they will remember the huge blocks he gave guys like Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and Marcus Allen, the countless Pro Bowl and All Pro selections he received and the overall consistency he showed as one of the best offensive linemen of his generation.

But Shields’ legacy will also be his standing as one of the best men the NFL has ever seen.

Shields’ contributions on the field, as great as they are, don’t even compare to what he’s done off the field.

A former Walter Payton Man of The Year Award winner, Shields has been involved with charity way before he even had legitimate financial stability.

“After going through training camp (with the Chiefs), getting to a point where I felt a little more comfortable about it (creating a charity), I wanted to sort of make a statement that I was here to stay,” said Shields. “I’m one of those guys that had a chip on his shoulder, because I was a third round pick (despite) winning the Outland (top offensive lineman in college football award) and other (awards).”

Shields started his charity, the Will to Succeed Foundation, back in 1993. Now, being a third round pick in 1993 did not guarantee you financial stability. Shields could have easily flamed out in the NFL which would have made the decision to put funds into a charity a poor move. But, due to the chip on his shoulder, his confidence in his abilities and his overall good nature, Shields gave back to the community immediately, and hasn’t stopped since.

Shields has only expanded in his charitable efforts, as documented by Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.

“(Shields) built a computer lab at The Children’s Place, gave $200,000 to Good Samaritan Boys Ranch, gave kitchen equipment to the Niles Home for Children, helped the burn unit at the University of Kansas Hospital, annually takes battered women to spas around the city to pamper them, provides backpacks stuffed with school supplies to kids and set up transportation for kids in the inner-city to get and keep jobs,” Mellinger wrote.

Shields received great influence from his superiors, which likely made the bold decision seemingly easy.

“The (Kansas City) Chiefs had at least seventeen guys at the time giving back to the community. They were all veteran players, all guys that solidified themselves as being the standard for what everything else was set for,” said Shields.

“I wanted to take my place and say ‘hey, I want to be like those guys and set roots in the ground, and prove that I wanted to be a part of it.

“You could say it was a gamble, but it was one of those things (risks) I was willing to take to make a statement and show the Kansas City Chiefs that I would stay there and be the best Chief I could.”

The Chiefs couldn’t have been happier. Not only did they get one of the best offensive guards in NFL history, but they got one of the best men off the field in NFL history.

Today, the charity Shields started in 1993 has raised over four million dollars and has done countless other things to help the community. He has also helped students get to college, paying for their tuition in a move that is so under reported that the actual names of the children receiving those donations can’t be found, but countless testimonies by kids have given light to some of the great works his foundation has done.

Shields is a rare breed. We rarely see a young NFL player give back early, let alone a rookie who wasn’t even a first round pick. He deserves every accolade he receives when he steps into Canton, Ohio to be enshrined with the greats.

All the Pro Bowls in the world, can’t compare to what he’s done to give back off the field.

 

NFL: Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Polian looks back at the early ’90s Bills

By Joshua Svetz

Six-time NFL executive of the year Bill Polian is finally getting the credit he deserves, as he will soon be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

As the former general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 1985-1993, Polian helped build a team that appeared in four straight Super Bowls.

In an NFL media conference call, Polian offered his take on what he considers to be one of his best accomplishments in his career. When asked by Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 radio about the great 1990s Bills, he said he never thought we would see a team like that in the NFL again.

“(Those Bills were) an incredible array of talent. I was very fortunate to have been surrounded by them,” Polian said. “I said at the time I left to cherish them, because you won’t see their like again.”

Polian opened up a bit about the landscape of the NFL at the time when he left the Bills in 1993.

“I wasn’t pressured (out), but I just realized that with the new landscape that was coming in professional football, with the advent of free agency and the salary cap, that it was unlikely that there would ever be another team that was as good top to bottom as our team was, as the Cowboys of that era were, and (as) the 49ers, who kind of bridged both eras, (80s and 90s) who Bill Walsh really put together before the salary cap.”

Polian described some of the best teams in NFL history. The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in that era, beating the Bills in back-to-back championship games. Walsh’s 49ers won three Super Bowls in the eighties before head coach George Seifert took over and guided them to two more championships in the 1989 and 1994 seasons.

Of course, the 1990s Bills are the team Polian helped build, and he won’t soon forget them.

“That’s a very unique team in football history, because it’ll be very difficult unless there is a major change in the labor situation and the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to put together a complete team like (that team was).”

Due to the restrictions of the CBA and labor situations it is extremely unlikely that we will see a team like the 90s Bills again.

Despite that, fans can take solace in knowing that even after Polian’s successful stints with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

 

 

 

New ownership dilemma over

015_ralph_wilson_stadium

By Nathan Moser

For more than two decades, there has been questions dealing with the future of the Buffalo Bills. Consider that the franchise’s only owner, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. was in his 90s. Wilson had founded and owned the team since 1960. There was the idea that once Wilson passed away, his daughters would have possession of the franchise, and they would sell the team to the highest bidder — whether that new owner or owners were planning on keeping the Bills in Buffalo or not.

Many Bills fans wanted Wilson to sell the team to someone who was going to keep the team in Buffalo while he was still alive, but he always kept the idea that while he was alive, he always wanted to own the Buffalo Bills.

The fears of many Bills fans finally came true when Wilson passed away on March 25, 2014 at the age of 95. This left many fans wondering: What would happen to the football team that has been playing in Buffalo for more than 50 years?

Once the Wilsons decided to sell the team instead of keep it, there were many candidates that wanted to place their bids in. There was Terry Pegula, owner of Buffalo’s National Hockey League team the Sabres; Tom Golisano, who was owner of the Sabres before selling the team to Pegula; a group that consisted of singer Jon Bon Jovi, who eventually got kicked out of the group, as well as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Edward Rogers III, who is the deputy chairman of Rogers Communications; and Donald Trump among others.

The top three bidders for the franchise were Pegula, who bid $1.4 billion, setting an NFL record; followed by the Toronto group, and Trump. The Wilsons, in the end, decided that the Pegulas were the right fit to be the second owner in franchise history. The NFL finance committee agreed to the sale to the Pegulas, and the next step in the process is to get the owners’ approval, which is expected to come when the owners meet in October.

mosernr14@bonaventure.edu

Media coverage should lead to increased awareness

By Mark Ventrice

The Ray Rice story has become bigger than the NFL itself, but should it be?

I’ll quickly go through the basics: Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back, knocked out his then-fiancee in an elevator. Then video was released of him dragging her out, and he was suspended for two games by the NFL. TMZ then releases a video of him actually punching her and then he is suspended indefinitely by the league and released by the Ravens.

This has lead to all sorts of pressure on the NFL to implement more strict domestic violence rules. The NFL finally succumbed to the pressure and implemented a rule stating that the first offense leads to a six-game suspension and the second leads to an indefinite suspension.

Now, domestic violence: Even without looking at statistics, it’s basically common knowledge that domestic abuse has occurred more than once since the Rice incident happened. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty of assault against his ex-girlfriend — an attack that was FAR worse than what Rice did.

But where is the outrage against him?

Continue reading “Media coverage should lead to increased awareness”

Due process shouldn’t apply here

By Jeff Fasoldt, @Jeff_Fasoldt

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to sports news lately, you would know that the NFL is floating in an ocean of embarrassment right now.

First, there was the Ray Rice video that showed the suspended and released former Ravens running back striking his fiancé twice in an elevator with his fist and knocking her unconscious.

Then there was Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, arrested for beating his girlfriend and threatening to kill her (going as far as tossing her on a pile of automatic weapons). He could play on Sunday night this week against the Steelers.

And now we get to Adrian Peterson; heavily endorsed, recognizable to the public, and stat-wise the top running back in the NFL. He was recently indicted of criminal neglect after being accused of beating his 4-year-old child with a switch (small tree branch), which he admitted to.

In Peterson’s most recent beating of his son, pictures arose of wounds that went down his son’s legs. The six-time Pro Bowler actually did some damage to his sons scrotum and apologized, saying it was an accident and he didn’t mean to hurt him.

Since then, the Vikings on Sunday deactivated Peterson before they lost 30-7 to the Patriots. The team then reactivated him Monday even after new allegations of him abusing a different son, with a different woman, have surfaced. Peterson has since been deactivated once again by the Vikings.

Continue reading “Due process shouldn’t apply here”

The Vikings must trade Adrian Peterson now

By Tanner Jubenville, @TMJubenville, Contributing Writer

Some actors never win an Oscar.

Some people exceed expectations whether it be at work, school or home, but never get rewarded.

Sometimes, the most valuable player in an entire league fails to win at the highest level.

Several records shattered.

Rookie of the Year.

Five-time Pro Bowler.

Five times voted All-Pro.

Continue reading “The Vikings must trade Adrian Peterson now”