Farley’s Forecast- AFC East

Good to be back here on NTCF. I’ve been reading all of the great content however I haven’t done much to contribute. I want to get back into the mix here so i am introducing my first edition of Farley’s Forecast where the slogan i just made up is, I’m right more than your local weatherman (person for you sensitive types).

Its a very boring period in the NFL season (there is no off-season), OTA’s mean very little because its played in short and t shirts. Pay no mind to local reports of who has impressed in OTA’s or minicamps. The main goal for coaches during this period is to get the rookies and newly acquired free agents acclimated to how practices will be run and what to expect from the coaching staff.

Allow me to delve into the AFC East and forecast how I see it playing out this season. Shocker here, New England wins the division. I’ll get to them later, though. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.

New York Jets



Now, when the most newsworthy story for your team is that the butt fumble has been #1 on the not top ten for half of the year, there are some problems with your franchise.  The New York Jets are in a world of trouble folks. They just traded away the best player on their already talent-starved roster, and while Revis may never reurn to form its still isn’t a smart football decision. Which, if you’re keeping track at home occurs about as often as Rex Ryan opting for a salad. I can assure you that Dee Millner is not the second coming and what was a strength for them has become yet another problem area. The best quarterback on that roster just retired due to injury and the battle of Sanchez and Smith should be, well, irrelevant. Smith just doesn’t project as a solid NFL starter in my opinion and he had more weapons in West Virginia. I expect Sanchez to win the job is Rex has say, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m calling a 32nd ranked offense this season. Listen, if you think I’m bashing the Jets you’re right, but am I wrong? With  Rex in seemingly a lame duck period as the coach of this team and a questionable lockeroom to be kind, can you honestly see this team competing in this division? This team should come apart by the halfway mark with all the great character in the locker room and the only thing to look forward to from them is the occaisonal meltdown in front of a microphone.

Win range- 2-6

Buffalo is a team that will be interesting to monitor leading up to September. Did they draft EJ Manuel too high? Of course they did, but I think he was the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft and I’m not sure he will win the job right away. Say what you want about Kevin Kolb but the offensive line in Arizona will make every quarterback in the NFL struggle. I think Kolb will be much improved in this new system and the change of scenery should serve him well. CJ Spiller will have a breakout year because he finally has a coach who believes in him being an every down back. I think Buffalo’s offense will be exciting to watch this season and they will need to be to keep the Bills in the hunt this season. The best defensive addiiton the Bills made was reatining star safety Jaruis Byrd. Byrd will need more help this season and it starts in run support. The Bills allowed 5 yards per carry last season, thats just terrible. If they can make improvements in stopping the run they’ll be able to pin their ears back and maybe get something from their investment in Mario Williams. I can see the Bills having a similair season to years past where they show flashes of brilliance but ultimately fail to compete for a full 16 games.With a rookie head coach and too many holes to fill in one year i see them finishing third in the division this year.

Win Range- 4-9

Miami wins the Dan Snyder award for over-spending in the offseason. General Manager Jeff Ireland saw the writing on the wall and spared no expense revamping the mediocre roster he created in a final attempt to save his job. Alot of the moves Miami made make sense on paper but for now all they seem to be doing is blowing hot air down in south beach. The seventh ranked scoring defense seems to be improved  from last season. Miami struggled to create turnovers in 2012 and that was the point of emphasis from the coaching staff when discussing the new look roster. Drafting Dion Jordan should help Cameron Wake on the opposite side of the line in passing situations however I don’t see him as an every down end just yet. He will have time to develop and fill out his thin frame while serving as a rush specialist early in his career similair to Bruce Irvin in Seattle. The secondary is still the biggest weakness for this team and when you play Tom Brady twice a year thats a problem. The offense also added alot of pieces but I would like to talk about one that was on the roster last season. Lamar Miller is set to take over for Reggie Bush and I love his potential. The offensive line needs to create more holes but if they do Miller can be a big surprise this season.Miami has made alot of moves but they won’t mean a thing if Ryan Tannehill doens’t take a significant step forward this year. He showed flashes and you one could point to the lack of weapons, but that is no longer the case. The Miami Dolphins will go as Ryan Tannehill goes this season and that will determine where they end up this season.

Win Range- 6-10

New England will win this division, but when you’re the Patriots, (at least in the last decade) winning the conference is the goal. The division shouldn’t be a struggle but the AFC looks to be tougher than in years past. The storyline with New England lately is how do they get back to the Super Bowl? Time and again they seem to have a let down in the playoffs and this post-postseason saw alot of players leave. Welker is the most noteworthy departure however as long as Amendola stays healthy (huge if) they will get more explosive plays from the slot this season. While the Gronk surgeries should cause some concern it won’t jeopordize training camp let alone the seaosn opener. While we are on the subject Gronk could miss the entire regular season and the offense would still be top ten. What New England needs is him to be healthy in the playoffs. The offense will always be in good hands so long as Tommy ballgame is under center. The defense needs to either get to the quarterback at a record pace, or change something up on the back end. The Pats were middle of the road in the sack department tying for 15th in the league. The secondary however finished 29th in the league and therein lies the problem. Bill Belichick needs a new perspective for his schemes in the secondary. You can point to his super bowl trophies and say how completely ridiculous that statement is but after you settle down think back to those super bowls. When New England was winning super bowls they had at least one pro bowl corner on one side of the field.


AFC East 2013 NFL Draft Grades

Now that I have completely reviewed what the Patriots did in the 2013 NFL Draft in my previous post, I will take a look at each team in the AFC East and review their drafts as well.  I will assign draft grades for each team so we can see how they all stack up.  Many believe (including myself) that you can not determine the success of a draft until after 3 years, however with a lull in football news, this is a way to pass the time.  Let’s do it…


Best Pick: Robert Woods, WR USC

Worst Pick: EJ Manuel, QB Florida St.

Analysis: The Buffalo Bills made arguably the biggest splash in the 2013 NFL Draft by selecting EJ Manuel with the 16th overall pick, making him the 1st quarterback selected.  I think that Manuel was the worst pick for the Bills for a couple of reasons.  First, by selecting a quarterback with the 16th pick, you are making the statement that you expect this guy to contribute in the upcoming season.  Whether that means starter in Week 1 or a replacement at some point in the season, EJ needs to make a difference for the Bills to justify that 1st round pick spent on him.  I don’t believe Manuel has the consistency or the refinement in his game to produce for the Bills this season.  Also, the Bills signed Kevin Kolb to a 2 year, $13 million contract this offseason.  Are you really going to pay a guy $13 million to be a backup?  Second, Manuel’s consistency, or lack thereof, isn’t at the level it needs to be to become a productive NFL quarterback.  He has a great arm, good mobility, and elusiveness in the pocket, however his accuracy isn’t always there and he sometimes misjudges how much zip to put on the ball.  That is a recipe for disaster in the NFL.  On the flipside, I think the Bills did a great job of filling out their roster throughout the rest of their draft.  It was a battle for me in regards to the best pick between Robert Woods and Kiko Alonso.  Although undersized, Alonso has unbelievable instincts in both the run and pass game.  The Bills haven’t had a middle linebacker since losing Pauly P a couple of years back.  In the end, Woods got the nod as the best pick because of his raw talent opposite of Steve Johnson.  Much like Johnson, Woods can go deep, but isn’t afraid to go over the middle.  Marquis Goodwin will be a good 4th option at wide receiver.

Grade: B-


Best Pick: Jamar Taylor, CB Boise State

Worst Pick: Will Davis, CB Utah State

Analysis: Jamar Taylor gets the nod as the best pick for the Dolphins for two reasons: 1) He was a great value pick in the 2nd round and 2) he fills a huge need for the Dolphins.  The Dolphins signed Brent Grimes this offseason, but after losing Vontae Davis and Sean Smith over the past year, they still had a major hole at corner opposite of Grimes.  Taylor is a fast, strong corner that excels in press coverage.  Sounds like a guy that would knock the Patriots’ little receivers off of their routes.  After all, every AFC East team is chasing the Pats.  Will Davis is considered the worst pick because I don’t see the fit in the Dolphins defense.  Davis is tall and not overly quick, which means I don’t see him being very successful in the nickel, which is where he is slotted in the Dolphins scheme right now.  I would be considered crazy if I didn’t address Dion Jordan, right?  Jordan is an athletic freak that is already being compared to Jason Taylor.  Time to pump the breaks Miami!  Jordan isn’t the strongest guy out there, but has much more fluidity in his hips than most 3-4 outside linebackers do.  I don’t think Jordan will be a 15 sack per year guy, but I think he gives the Dolphins a lot of versatility considering he can drop into coverage very easily.  A couple other picks that I really liked were Dallas Thomas, OT out of Tennessee and Jelani Jenkins, OLB from Florida.  The biggest knock on the Dolphins is that they didn’t draft a top-end left tackle.

Grade: B+


Best Pick: Josh Boyce, WR TCU

Worst Pick: Jamie Collins, LB Southern Mississippi

Analysis: Here’s my bold prediction for the 2013 NFL season, Josh Boyce will be the Patriots’ 2nd most productive receiver, behind Danny Amendola.  Boyce suffered a foot injury supposedly just before the combine, and many believe that caused his stock to drop a bit.  Considering that Boyce ran a 4.38 40 (and put up a very impressive 22 reps on the bench) at the combine, after injuring his foot, should give you some indication that he can run pretty well.  Boyce is fast, strong, physical (5’11”, 205 lbs), and runs great routes.  Sounds like a round 4 steal to me.  My proclamation of Jamie Collins as the worst pick isn’t meant to be a commentary on the type of player that Collins is or will become.  Contrarily, I am critical of the Collins selection because the Pats’ first pick in the draft didn’t address a major need.  Yes, the Patriots could use to improve at rushing the quarterback, and they need some linebackers with better coverage abilities, but wide receiver and cornerback were much bigger areas of need than a rush/coverage linebacker.  Surprisingly, much criticized 3rd round pick Duron Harmon isn’t considered the worst pick because I believe in Belichick’s ability to find gems when he selects these “never heard of” players, and from everything I hear about Harmon’s character and instincts, I think he’ll fit in well with the Patriots.

Grade: B


Best Pick: Dee Milliner, CB Alabama

Worst Pick: Geno Smith, QB West Virginia

Analysis: I think we were all under the impression that once Mike Tannenbaum got canned, the Jets would cease the ridiculousness.  Well, looks like the Jets are keeping it going for a little longer!  Let’s start with what went right.  Dee Milliner is a stud.  There were concerns about his “5 surgeries” coming out of college.  I am willing to bet my entire bank account (which is exceptionally empty at the moment) that 50% of the players drafted in 2013 have had 5 or more surgeries throughout their career.  College football is evolving more and more into an NFL-like game, meaning players are having routine off-season surgeries nearly every year.  Milliner won’t be Revis (nobody may ever be Revis), but he will slide into the corner spot opposite of Cromartie and compliment Kyle Wilson in the slot.  Sheldon Richardson was another solid pick for the Jets.  His skill set fits very well into a 3-4 defensive end position and will provide some good pass-rush opposite of Muhammad Wilkerson.  Now, on to Geno Smith.  The only way this works is if Mark Sanchez is not a member of the New York Jets once training camp begins.  It will be a Tebow-like distraction all over again.  For every incomplete pass Mark Sanchez throws, there will be 50,000 Jets fans screaming for Geno Smith to come in.  Aside from the media firestorm, Smith doesn’t strike me as a franchise guy both talent wise and mentally.  He crumbled in big games throughout his senior season, and he reportedly hasn’t been the most professional guy throughout pre-draft workouts.  When you draft Geno Smith in the 2nd round, it is assumed that he will eventually take over as the starter, and I just don’t see it.  Aside from Smith, I thought that two huge areas of need for the Jets were at tight end and wide receiver.  The Jets weren’t bad because of their defense (their first 2 picks were defensive players), they were bad because of their offense.  They did little to improve their offense in this draft.

Grade: C

Free Agency Grades

I know I am not alone when I say that I am thrilled to have football back in my life. The last week has been great with all of the additions and subtractions teams have been making. I want to take a look at the AFC East and get you all up to speed on winners and losers within the division.


New EnglandPatriots
Bellichik is at it again! The signing of Albert Haynesworth and the acquisition of Chad Ochocinco are two great moves. They address two major needs for this team and provide proven producers that seem to be already buying into “the patriot way”. Don’t underestimate the importance of the resigning of mainstay Matt Light along the Pats offensive line. Bringing back Light allows them to develop Solder and also allows him to learn from a guy who they hope he will eclipse in the very short future. The only problem I have with the past week forNew England is that they haven’t addressed the pass rushing need enough in my opinion. Relying on a total rebirth of Big Al (that’s what I’m calling him) is a lot to ask for given his recent “transgressions” and I expect them to continue to turn over rocks to find another pass rusher. They brought in Matt Roth for a workout who is a former Brown and Dolphin who I believe would be another solid signing for them. The law firm has also been resigned and they could benefit by bringing in another back however their lack of movement leads me to believe they are going to give the draft picks a shot. Let’s not forget this team was 14-2 last year and it has improved its roster by a good amount.

Grade: A-


Dare I say they are on the right track? This is a young team that is still trying to find its identity. They made the transition from being a 4-3 defense to implementing the 3-4 (a good move). The personnel on the team was still a mix of guys that were either tweeners or didn’t fit. They bring in nick Barnett off of a season ending injury who is only two years removed from being a top 3 inside linebacker according to pro football focus. They retained talented corner Drayton Florence and also signed former wide receiver/kick returner (he is listed as a QB on the depth chart) Brad Smith from the Jets. Gailey also brought in Tyler Thigpen from the Dolphins whom he had while he was in KC and who was the 15th best QB (again according to pro football focus) in 2009. Are they there yet? Absolutely not, but they WILL win some games they aren’t supposed to this season.

Grade: B+


New YorkJets

Rex Ryan is never short on words and just recently he pleaded with the league for another team to beat the Patriots besides the Jets. I have a question for you Rex, who have you beaten in free agency? The answer to that would be very few teams, oh and your shin tattoo is gay….super gay. Resigning Santonio Holmes was no doubt crucial however you didn’t add any depth on the again over rated defensive line (I think the rookie DT they drafted is over rated) and your big move is Plaxico? Without a workout they have committed 3 million to a guy years removed form the NFL who wasn’t fast to begin with, and is a wrong club venue away from another suspension. On the other hand you let go Braylon Edward, another high character guy, who has proven to come up big in the playoffs the last two seasons for you. I’m sorry but I can’t give the Jets a great rating here.

Grade: C


The Dolphins have been pretty busy in free agency and I want to preface this by stating that they actually addressed positions of need. However this rating will not be good for them. They cut Channing Crowder who was a one dimensional run stopper and could not play on 3rd down with Kevin Burnett fromSan Diego. Burnett is a very solid signing who is above average in coverage and has an all around better game than Crowder so an upgrade to an already strong defense. The next need for this time was help on the interior line. They drafted Pouncey who will start at Center and has impressed in camp so far.  They have recently signed formerBostonCollege standout Marc Colombo.Colombo is coming off a rough year last year from injury but has worked with Dolphins coach Sparano before. Vernon Carey (starting RT last 7 years) will move inside to RG and fulfill yet another need forMiami. The team needed more speed so they drafted Edmund Gates and traded for Reggie Bush. Gates will mostly be a special teams player returning punts and have a deep route here and there. Bush is supposed to be “the guy”? This baffles me and while I fully anticipate rookie Daniel Thomas to develop into a solid running back, I don’t expect Bush to be the guy because quite frankly, he never has been. So why did they lose in my opinion you ask? They STILL do not have a quarterback. Balking on the Kyle Orton trade has the fan base chanting for him while Henne stinks it up at Dolphins practices. The team brought in Matt Moore, which would be the equivalent of trying to get revenge at your girlfriend by taking out a girl with a deformity.  This my friends is no an upgrade. So while the Dolphins have improved in need positions, it is a quarterback driven league and they have done nothing.

Grade: D

In Belichick We Trust

I know everyone and their cousin is saying that the Patriots are going to stomp on the Jets today and a big part of me feels that way as well.  However, I’m nervous as hell.  Everyone thought that the Pats were going to smack around the Giants in the Super Bowl a few years back…we all painfully know the result of that.  The only thing keeping me sane the last few days is that I’m 99.9% certain that Bill Belichick would NEVER let his team get into the hype of being such a heavy favorite.  I think it would be even more true now that they have such a major core of young impact players.

Is this going to be another 45-3 drubbing?  Not even close.  However, I wouldn’t hate that because I did take the Patriots (-10) and the over (45).  I do see this being a little bit closer but the Pats offense need to continue to hold onto the ball and avoid any and all turnovers.  The Moss-less New England Patriots are built on ball control and that trend needs to continue.  As long as this young defense minimizes their mistakes and forces Mark Sanchez to make his own miscues this game will turn out just fine.  The defense, as it has been all year, will be the ultimate wild card.

PS…I keep thinking “In Belichick we trust.”  That’s the only thing getting me through the day…

NTCF Picks: Wild Card Weekend

After Matt beat me handily in the regular season competition he and I had, we decided to invite the other writers on the blog to jump in come playoff time.  This is something we probably should of did during the regular season but for whatever reason we didn’t.  Winner gets a drink from everyone he beats?

More drinks?  Come on guys, I’m watching my waist line over here.  But, it is very tough to argue against two free nights at the bar.  First I’ve got to take down Scottie and now I’m challenged by the rest of the writers.  What else is there to say other than let’s do it…

Saturday January 8 @ 4:30

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks

Scott: Saints

This game could get pretty ugly as the Seahawks have no business being in the playoffs and the Saints are legit Super Bowl contenders.  The Saints are essentially getting a walk through to open up the playoffs before they face either Atlanta or Chicago.

Matt: Saints

I was fully prepared to jump onto the Saints bandwagon, but their week 17 loss to the Bucs has me reconsidering.  Check out my “What’s all of the Fuss About” post for a look into my defense on behalf of the Seahawks, and yes, I just made a plug for myself.  I’m leery of the Saints, but I can’t see them losing in Seattle.

B-Farl: Saints

This would be the worst playoff loss of all time if the Seahawks pull this off.  That being said, this will be a blowout . I really don’t want to write why I think the Saints will win so here;s an idea, tell me how they could lose? Bus accident? Influenza? The Plague? Yeah, Saints win to set up an interesting matchup with Chicago next week.

Q: Saints

Ok, my honest first thought was, “Play to win the game,” and I thought about picking the Seahawks because they are going to be able to drop 7 into coverage with the lack of a Saints run game and because of their “12th man” of a crowd.  Cooler heads prevailed when I took into consideration that the Seahawks secondary sucks…it might be closer than many think, but the veteran Saints led by Brees win.

Brick: Saints

I can’t imagine anyone liking this match-up for the Seahawks outside of one solitary locker room up in the gateway to Alaska.  That being said anything can happen on an NFL Sunday, er Saturday…still, I’m not taking a flyer on Coach Pete and his quarterbackless Seahawks.  Saints in a landslide.

Gambo: Saints

I don’t know why but the first thing I think about in this matchup is the 12th man in Seattle’s home field. It is easily the loudest outdoor venue in the NFL and really does affect opposing teams. Even though the Saints will be without Chris Ivory (I.R.) and Pierre Thomas (Yes that means Julius Jones is probably starting), the defending champs should find a way with Drew Brees at the helm and a blitzing D that should make Matt Hasselbeck wish he wasn’t starting and Charlie Whitehurst was given the go-ahead.

Saturday January 8 @ 8:00

New York Jets @ Indianpolis Colts

Scott: Colts

I can’t picture Peyton Manning losing at home in the playoffs.  I also do not think Mark Sanchez can lead his team to victory.  He has a tremendous supporting cast but he is hurt and I don’t see the Jets being able to move the ball.  I also don’t see the Jets getting the pass rush they need to bother Peyton Manning in the pocket.

Matt: Jets

I find myself wanting to agree with Scottie in regards to not seeing Peyton losing a home playoff game, but this season has come as a surprise to most of us in terms of the Colts.  Did any of us really see the Colts having to win in week 17 to fend of the Jags for their playoff spot?  I know that I sure didn’t.  The Jets’ defense will be able to shut down Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, leaving Jacob Tamme and Blair White to win the game.  Yup, I’m sticking with the Jets.

B-Farl: Colts

I can’t pick Mark Sanchez over Peyton Manning. The Jets defense is not as good on the field as it is on paper. Both teams ended the season on opposite sides of the spectrum. The Jets are 1-3 in their last four and can thank back up Mark Brunell for their impressive win vs. the Bills.  Indy is undefeated in its last four and seems to be comfortable managing their reserves.  If Indy were healthier I would feel more comfortable with this pick but I see the Colts in a close one here.

Q: Jets

Ok, it is really tough to pick a team to win when they limped into the playoffs and the team they are playing started to play their best to close out the season.  That being said, I think that one thing that resonates in the heads of the Jets players, and is being reinforced by Rex Ryan is that this Colts team is what stood between them and a Super Bowl last year.  I also believe that if there is any team that does not care about how they played leading into the playoffs, that team is the Jets.  I do not see the Colts run D continuing their “hot” streak.

Brick: Colts

This one is a coin toss because the Jets are their usual unpredictable selves and the Colts have not been themselves all year.  However, I like the Colts here because they played a meaningful game last week against Tennessee and had it come down to the wire.  I see this game being close in the 4th quarter and if that’s the case, Peyton always wins.

Gambo: Colts

As a Patriots fan I am rooting for the Jets in this one because I see the Ravens as the most dangerous of all the Wild Card teams and want to avoid them at all costs. Still, Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, and even without Austin Collie their offense is still light-years ahead of the Jets. The New York D is nearly as far ahead of Indy, but unless they get two pick-sixes I don’t see them leaving the “Barn” with a win.

Sunday January 9 @ 1:00

Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs

Scott: Ravens

The Ravens will stop the Chiefs rushing attack forcing Matt Cassel to throw the ball more times than the Chiefs would like.  The Ravens will also control the ball much like they did last year against the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs and Ray Rice will have a big day.

Matt: Ravens

I’m torn here.  The Ravens were my pick at the beginning of the season to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.  The Chiefs have been a surprise team for the majority of the season, and aside from week 17, had been playing very well.  Both of these teams have very good defenses, but the Chiefs got run all over by the Raiders last week.  Ray Lewis is the difference maker in this one, the Ravens will sneak out of KC with a close win.

B-Farl: Ravens

I want to pick KC so bad in this game Arrowhead is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, however, I can’t pick against a Ravens team that’s revamped offense seems to be stronger than its perennial dominant defense.  The defense is not as strong as its been in past years and the Chiefs are a dangerous team but I just don’t see it.  Side note: Ed Reed has two interceptions in each of his last two games.  He may very well score another TD in a meaningful game making the NFL Networks top-100 list that much more of a joke.

Q: Chiefs

Although it would be unlike a Ray Lewis led Ravens team, I see the Ravens looking ahead of the Chiefs towards the next round.  Although they have the 5th best rush defense in the league, the eye test sees that the Ravens will be succeptible to the run when they face a balanced attack, and I see the Chiefs bringing just that.  And yes, I picked the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl, but I guess that will not happen.

Brick: Chiefs

I’m going against the grain here and picking the franchise trying to mirror what the Patriots have.  KC is 7-1 at home and their one loss at home came in week 17 against Oakland.  Do you think that is going to happen twice?  No way.  The Chiefs will find a way to beat a Ravens team that doesn’t always shine to their potential in a low scoring battle.  Look for an ugly 13-10 final in Missouri.

Gambo: Ravens

The Ravens were my AFC pick in the preseason and I am not about to change that now. Ray Rice is a dominant back and Joe Flacco has made strides with Anquan Boldin on board. Add in a defense that might actually be more aggressive than Pittsburgh and I smell Super Bowl success. The Chiefs have an All-Pro back in Jamaal Charles and Pro Bowl performers in Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe, but it will not be enough to overcome Baltimore in this one.

Sunday January 9 @ 4:30

Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Scott: Packers

The Packers have the number one defense in the NFL.  Clay Matthews will be spying on Michael Vick all day.  The Packers are the worst possible matchup for the Eagles because of how good their defense is, especially their pass rush.  Charles Woodson will be able to slow down Desean Jackson. On the other side of the ball Aaron Rodgers will throw for around 350 against a weak Philly D, setting up a matchup of young quarterbacks in Atlanta between Matt Ryan and Rodgers.

Matt: Packers

I’m almost guaranteed at least a loss or two for these predictions considering I am picking all of the road teams to win…no shot that is happening.  This game presents the toughest challenge to pick a winner.  Similarly with the Ravens, the Packers were my preseason pick to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, but they have been decimated by injuries.  The Eagles offense have been very good thanks largely in part to Mike Vick, but their offense has struggled a bit as of late.  The biggest key to this game is the Eagles ability to stop the run, and I just don’t see it happening.

B-Farl: Packers

This is my only underdog pick or Wild Card Weekend because all of the favorites can’t win can they? Bookies? Buhler? Anyone? Philly will be playing its third game in twelve days and I honestly just think the Packers are a better team. The Packers are 5th in total defense and Philly is 12th, not bad I know.  However, the Eagles are giving up 24 points per game while the Packers are allowing 15.  Peg the over and give me the Packers with the points for the win, please.

Q: Packers

I’m thinking that Vick’s quad injury is worse then we are to believe, and the one team every other team was hoping did not make the playoffs were the Packers.  Expect Clay Matthews to be a difference maker in neutralizing Vick if he does look to run, and Rodgers makes plays, simple as that.

Brick: Eagles

Since Andy Reid has been calling the shots in Philly he is 7-1 in playoff home openers.  Assuming Vick is at full health on Sunday afternoon the Eagles are going to tear apart the Pack.  The bad luck/injury plagued Packers have lost their last four straight playoff road games with their last postseason win coming in 1997.  This could be one of those games where it looks like it will be great on the surface but, could easily turn into a massacre early.  Eagles roll here.

Gambo: Packers

Easily the hardest matchup to predict. The Packers were my preseason pick in the NFC, but that was before they lost Ryan Grant and JerMichael Finley, and Aaron Rodgers suffered two concussions this season. Still, they have the best defense in the NFC and with players like Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, they could actually keep up with Mike Vick. So long as Vick doesn’t channel his old self in his previous matchup with Packers, I see Green Bay pulling this out as time expires with Rodgers to Jennings for the win. Gotta stick with the preseason picks until they’re out.

Position Rankings (OTA Edition): Safeties

Well, training camps are begginning today and what better time to close out my rankings.  Today I look at the last line of defense, the safeties.  A very demanding position the safety is asked to cover a large area.  Set back from the line of scrimmage, safties need to be able to diagnose plas and formations and communicate them to the rest of his secondary.  Some of the most notable defensive players in the league play the safety position.  Safties need to be able to do all tasks on the field. They need to be able to run with recievers as well as tight ends, come up to make tackles, or be responsible for a third or half of the field in deep zone coverage.  The AFC East hosts some very young budding stars at this position.

1) Buffalo Bills- OK, you can say whatever you want but I had to throw them a bone here. It may be the only thign they finish first in, unless you count losses of course.  The Bills have an extremely deep and very talented core of safties which is what warrants them the number one ranking here.  Jairus Byrd busted onto the scene last season with 9 interceptions! Donte Whitner has been a very solid Free Safety for this team for 5 season and his injury last season allowed Byrd to shine.  Whitner, a former first rounder out of Ohio State is a much better coverage guy back there than Byrd, but he lacks the play-making ability of the second year ballhawk.  It will be vey interesting to see what happens with this group, I predict Whitner is moved over to strong safety to start the season because Byrd was the lone bright spot in a forgettable 2009 season for the Bills.  The strong safety for the Bills last season was George Wilson, a 5 year vet out of Arkansas.  Wilson finished second on the team in tackles and contributed with four interceptions of his own last season.  Wilson saw his first season of serious playng time last year and played well.  If Whitner (my presumed starter) has trouble with his transition, Wilson will retain his duties thus making another Bills first round draft pick moot.  The main thing to know about this group for the Bills is that they have three starters, some teams in this division aren’t sure if they have one.

2) New England Patriots- New England couldv’e easily been ranked one with Brandon Meriweather alone.  After struggling with the schemes of the hoodie’s defense early in his career, Meriweather has quickly turned into a star at the position.  The game has started to slow down for the former Hurricane standout and allowed him to fly all over the field making plays.  He is also the reason that the pass defense has not suffered with all of the changes at the corner back slot.  Opposite Meriweather is a bit of a question mark.   James Sanders started the first game of the season only to be demoted to reserve duty for most of the year.  He finished strong and started the last four games which gives him the edge on Brandon McGowan.  McGowan started 11 games for the Pats’ last season but played himself out of that role by week 14.  Both players have shown flashes of promise but whoever is most consistent during camp will liekly get the job.  No matter who wins the job, look to see both 6 yr vets see the field for New England.  The combination of these three talents gain them the two spot, but the inconsistent playat free safety keeps them from top billing. 

3) New York Jets- The Jets are bringing in some new talent ofter the departure of Kerry Rhodes.  Rhodes made soem big plays for this defense during its playof push and his absence will hurt the unit.  Replacing Rhodes will be Brodney Pool who came over from the Browns this off-season.  Pool has good ball skils at the safety position and if I were to label him, he would fall into the; covers better than he tackles category.  Pool has 11 interceptions in his 5 season of play and with great corners on both sides, Pool should have a lot of opportunities to make plays in coverage.  The strong safety for this defense is Jim Leonhard.  Leonhard followed Rex Ryan to New York after becoming the starter during the 2008 season with the Ravens. Leonhard is a high motor guy who always seems to be around the pile.  Extremely undersized, the former badger from Wisconsin plays big.  He hits hard and throws his body around the field.  With Pool’s coverage skills, and Leonhard’s seemingly disregard for his body, this combination has a good chance to gel and be a very solid group for the gang green.  Backing up Pool and Leonhard will be Eric Smith.  Smith managed a few starts last season and has good size (6’1″) for the position, especially wen compard to Leonhard.

4) Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins find themselves in the four slot here due to them having no idea who will start at free safety.  Chris Clemons, Reshod Jones, Tyrone Culver, Jason Allen?  Two of those guys are nickle and dime corners in some sets.  Clemons, the second year man from Clemson, will get the first shot at the job in my opinion.  He has good coverage skills and great speed to cover ground.  He lacks physicality that is coveted by this coachign staff and his communication skils are a work in progress.  He showed some signs last season that he had what it takes in the NFl and this coaching staff is putting a lot of pressure on him to follow through.  Yerimiah Bell enjoyed his first Pro Bowl selection last season and is a very solid stonrg safety.  He hits a ton and  has great athleticism to cover both tight ends and recievers.  His tackling skills are above average and he will need to take Clemons under his wing in order for the group to be effective.  This position is no doubt the biggest focus in Dolphins camp this off-season, and it may be the reason this team does not get over the hump and make the playoffs.

Position Rankings (OTA Edition): Corner Backs

In my opinion corner back is one of the toughest positions to play in the NFL.  Most positions you can be aggressive and at the snap get right after the ball.  When you’re out there on an island you have to sit back and use your instincts to diagnose routes and react off of a number of factors.  Film study is crucial to get a read on what your weekend foe will be doing.  When a receiver runs an out does he cut it at 6 or 7 yards?  How well can he get off of a jam?  Can he out jump you?  There are a ton of keys that a defensive back has to look for and when he makes up his mind he had better be right, or he could be on the wrong end of a highlight reel.  Let’s not forget he could be subject to a pulling guard or tackle on a screen play with no help. 

It’s a bit of bang or bust when it comes to corners, and for this reason you see teams address the position all over the draft board and in free agency.  There are so many different schemes and zones that you may see a player succeed in one defense and fail miserably in another.  Think of covering a guy who runs a sub 4.4 that is 6′- something who can jump through the ceiling… sounds like dating a girl with 13 brothers and a minister for a father.  It is not a fun position unless you are playing against Jamarcus Russell every week (shout out to the Purple Drank), seeing as he will eat and drank’ his way out of the NFL it doesn’t look good. The AFC East as you should all know by now has the best corner and arguably the best football player in the league, yeah I said it.  The season that Darrelle Revis had last season against the players he faced is almost as impressive as Tom Brady’s bludgeoning of the NFL in 2007.  I digress with the rankings…

1) New York Jets- When you have someone like Revis on one side of the field it wouldn’t matter who was alongside for the Jets to achieve the top ranking here.  However, when you add someone with the pure athleticism of Antonio Cromartie, you cause fits for offenses and coordinators across the league.  I will throw some numbers at you in case you have forgotten what Darrelle Revis did last year; here is what the best receivers in the world did against him: 

Andre Johnson- 4 catches 35 yards 0 TD

Randy Moss (2 games)- 9 catches 58 yards 1 TD

Marques Colston- 2 catches 33 yards 0 TD

Steve Smith ( the real one) -1 catch 5 yards  0 TD ( Revis picked off two passes headed Smith’s way and returned one for a 67 yd TD.

Rhoddy White -4 catches 33 yards 0 TD

Reggie Wayne (shouldn’t count but it supports my point) -3 catches 33 yards 0 TD

Chad Johnson (I don’t call him a Spanish numeral)- NOTHING!!! In fact, the Bengals only threw for 31 yards the whole game!!

So in 8 games the best recievers in the world averaged about 3 catches and 25 yards a game!!!  Revis is one of the few players that will be worth the contract they sign, no matter how much it is.  There is also some solid depth at this position for the Jets.  Dwight Lowery has played starters minutes at that position and has been productive.  Then when you think they are set at the position, they draft Kyle Wilson, arguably ( and in my opinion) the best corner in the draft at the 29th overall spot.  These four players make up the best corner back unit in the league!

2) Miami Dolphins- Call me biased if you want but this young tandem in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith reminds me of the Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison dominance of the late 90’s.  Both players are entering their second year in the league and received on the job training last season playing in every single game their rookie year.  Vontae Davis is an extremely physical player, at 5’11 Davis can jump with the best of them ( ask Randy Moss who Davis jumped over for an interception at New England this season) and is a very strong tackler at the edge.  Sean Smith is a converted wide receiver and stands 6’3″ tall! This gives him a great advantage in jump ball situations and when he improves his tackling he will be a complete corner in this league.  Then you have the veteran in Will Allen.  Allen’s season was cut short last year due to an ACL tear.  Before the injury Allen was having his best season yet.  He needs to get used to playing the Nickel position because the two sophomores will play ahead of him.  Adding depth to the defensive backfield is Jason Allen.  A former first round pick out of Tennessee, Allen has been a disappointment given his draft position.  He was shuffled back and forth from safety to corner with the different coaching staffs he experienced, and he has settled into a solid Nickel and Dime package defensive back that is also a special teams standout.  Rounding off this group is rookie Nolan Carroll out of Maryland.  I throw his name into the mix here because I value high character guys and Carroll has a great pedigree.  If it weren’t for a broken ankle in his senior season he would’ve been drafted much higher than the fourth round and the Dolphins feel like they got a steal with him.  I see Carroll competing and possibly winning the 4th slot in the middle of this season. 

3) Buffalo Bills- The Buffalo Bills edge out New England because they have a good blend of experience and youth at this position.  They also have a very physical group of corners, it seems to be a theme with the franchise.  Reggie Corner and Drayton Florence finished 4th and 5th in tackles on the team.  Both players like to stick their nose into plays and be physical.  They are almost the same in that they can tackle but have hands like feet and they will let a few interceptions slip through their hands.  Terrence McGee is a pesky defender who is an absolute ball hawk.  In seven seasons he has 17 interceptions and 83 deflections.  McGee is an undersized corner who will lose a jump ball and in phone booth situations with larger receivers.  Leodis McKelvin is going into his third season and is coming off of a broken leg that ended is 2009 campaign.  McKelvin is most notably remembered for fumbling a kick off return that set the tone for an awful season for his Bills.  However McKelvin is considered a play-making corner that has excellent ball skills and when it is in his hands has the potential to take it to the house every time.  Expect McKelvin to work slowly back into the starting role and knock out one of the veterans in front of him.  Ashton Youbooty is the fifth corner on the squad that will see the field in limited action.  .

4) New England Patriots- I can hear Pats fans getting their pitchforks ready and sounding the homer alarms.  The bottom line with this ranking is that there is too much flux at this position and not enough talent.  Another contributing factor to this ranking is the lack of pass rush forcing them to cover longer, which will hurt them. Leigh Bodden is a very solid corner and this ranking does not reflect him as much as it does the supporting cast.  Bodden is a very instinctual corner who, if I were an English teacher, I would give him a B+.  The problem is he isn’t getting younger and his supporting cast maybe needs to be a bit older.  Darius Butler, a very young player is maybe a year away and Jonathon Wilhite is way too inconsistent to be called anything more than serviceable.  Wilhite allows receivers’ get too much separation when running down the field and he lacks the size and speed to dictate a route.  Butler will no doubt start this season and should begin his ascension to being a productive starter.  I think he has the potential to be a solid corner in this league I just don’t know when it will be.  He is very athletic and can jump through the roof.  His development will be critical to this group’s success this season.  Devin McCourty was the very unpopular first round pick from the Patriots in this years draft.  He will compete for the Nickel position and may blossom into a starter, you never know at this position.  Terrence Wheatley was a 2nd round draft choice in 2008 and he could work his way into the 4th cornerback slot.  He suffered a broken wrist last season against Indy and will figure in at the bottom of this rotation.  The biggest difference with this team as it always is, is the coaching.  Bill Belichick has won super bowls with what has seemed like a lack luster defensive backfield and his scheme has proven time after time that it can be effective.  Maybe the youth at this position will get a chance to play together for a long period of time and gel to crate a solid unit.  Maybe they draft another 7  with their plethora of picks next year.  No one knows what the hoodie is thinking.