Saturday, February 18, 2012

AFC East Draft Profile: Miami Dolphins

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Cameron Wake will lead the Dolphins' defense again in 2012. 

The Dolphins started off the season as one of the favorites to land Andrew Luck, but halfway through the season, the 'Fins picked it up and won six of their last nine games. One bright spot in Miami's season was Reggie Bush, who finally rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. Still, there are many things the Dolphins need to address this season, if they want to compete with the Jets and Patriots.

2011 Record: 6-10, 4th in AFC East


Strengths: Running Back, Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Middle Linebacker, Right Outside Linebacker, Safety

The Dolphins have a ton of potential on their team. Reggie Bush had a career year, and backup Daniel Thomas is also a great running back. At wide receiver, Brandon Marshall didn't have an amazing year, but he's always a threat downfield. As for their offensive line, Mike Pouncey had a great rookie year at center, and the veterans around him also played well. On defense, the Dolphins have an incredible linebacker core led by Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby. The secondary wasn't good this season, but Yeremiah Bell was one bright spot at safety.

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Wide Receiver depth, Defensive End, Nose Tackle, Cornerbacks

The Dolphins won't be making the playoffs with Matt Moore at quarterback. He had a solid season, but isn't the answer at quarterback. Also, the Dolphins need to add depth at wide receiver so defenses don't double up Brandon Marshall. On defense, the Dolphins have a great linebacker core, but their front line is weak. Drafting a nose tackle or defense end would be a smart move for the 'Fins. The Dolphins also got torched this season by wide receivers. The cornerbacks need to step up, considering the fact that they face the Patriots twice a year. The coaching change was the right move for the Dolphins, and I think Joe Philbin can turn this offense into a serious threat to all defenses.

Possible Options with 1st round pick (9th overall): Robert Griffin III, Riley Reiff, Quinton Coples

Griffin III- Obviously Griffin won't be available by the ninth pick, so the Dolphins would have to trade up for RGIII. It's a move worth considering though, due to Miami's quarterback situation, their offensive minded new head coach, and Griffin's explosiveness. Griffin would be a great fit with the Dolphins. The combination of him and Reggie Bush in the backfield would be a lethal duo to defenses. Give Griffin another target besides Marshall, and they'll have a very productive offense.

Reiff- The Dolphins don't really have a true weakness besides the quarterback position, so if they decide to trade for one, Reiff would be a logical pick for Miami. Upgrading and adding youth to an offensive line is always a smart move. I don't think Reiff is a need for the Dolphins, but he'd be a good fit.

Coples- With coach Philbin announcing that the Dolphins will switch to a 4-3, Coples would be a great pick for them. The Dolphins front line struggled this season, so adding an explosive linemen like Coples is a smart move. Coples had a great year at UNC, and seems to be one of the most NFL ready prospects in the draft.

What the Bills need in later picks (assuming they take Coples): Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Defensive Tackle

Recap: The Dolphins have a lot of upside, and can become a serious threat in a few seasons if they pick the right guys. Even if they don't draft a quarterback in the first round, they'll be fine because they could always trade for one, or draft one later on and have him backup Matt Moore. Two positions the Dolphins need to address though are cornerback and defensive end.

AFC East Draft Profile: Buffalo Bills

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
After signing a big contract last season, Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to step up next year.

The Buffalo Bills had a roller coaster 2011-12 season. They started off the season 5-2 and even had a win against the New England Patriots. Some even thought that they could wind up in the playoffs. All that hope went down the drain though, when the Bills lost their next seven straight games.

2011 Record: 6-10, 3rd in AFC East

Strengths: Running Back, Wide Receiver, Safety, Nose Tackle, Inside Linebacker

Before he went down with a season ending injury, Fred Jackson was a beast for Buffalo. He was top a top five back in the league, and was their biggest threat on offense. Also, CJ Spiller did a great job in Jackson's absence, and could get more carries next season. Stevie Johnson and David Nelson both had good years for the Bills. Even though Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't throw the ball downfield, both wide receivers were great  on mid-range throws. They could still add more depth to wide receiver though. On defense, the Bills' two strong suits are their defensive ends and their safeties. Jairus Byrd, and George Wilson were great ballhawks for the Bills this season, combining for seven interceptions. Up front, Macel Dareus had a great first half to his rookie season, while Nick Barnett had a great first season with the Bills at linebacker.

Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Outside Linebacker, Defensive End

First, Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't go down as a weakness or strength because of his roller coaster year. When he plays smart (Harvard) football, he wins games, but when he can't complete 25+ yard throws the Bills are doomed. He signed a big contract this season, so it looks like he will be taking snaps for the next few years, but he still needs to improve. One thing that will help Fitzpatrick out is a better offensive line. If they can protect him well enough, he will buy more time and complete the long passes. This year the line allowed defenders to get to Fitzpatrick too easily. On defense, the Bills can improve at outside linebacker and defensive end. The Bills fell behind in a lot of games this year because they didn't put enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This makes it easier for teams to throw the ball deep, and make the secondary look bad. Dareus is a powerful force up the middle, but the Bills need to improve on the outside.

Possible Options with 1st round pick (10th overall): Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Riley Reiff, Whitney Mercilus

Upshaw- As reported in a past draft profile, Courtney Upshaw has extreme athleticism and potential to be a standout in the NFL. He can play defense end and outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and had a great year at Alabama. He's a great pass rusher which is exactly what the Bills need. Upshaw could be a reach with the tenth pick, but he's exactly what they need.

Ingram- Also reported in a past draft profile, Melvin Ingram is very similar to Upshaw. Both play end and linebacker, both can play in the 3-4 defense, and both played SEC football. Ingram and Upshaw also share similar strengths like speed and strength. The choice between the two is a coin toss, pending on combine results.

Reiff- Reiff hasn't been mentioned yet, but is a great offensive tackle out of Iowa. The Big Ten is known for having big and talented offensive linemen, and Reiff is proof of that. His stock is increasing rapidly and he is having great workouts this offseason. If the Bills are going to take a player on offense in the first round, Reiff is their guy.

Mercilus- The defensive end out of Illinois really started to impress scouts towards the end of the season. He's a quick pass rusher, but scouts are worried about his consistency. Realistically, Buffalo won't take a risk with him.

What the Bills need in later picks (assuming they take Upshaw): Defensive end, Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Cornerback

Recap: The Bills started off the season strong in 2011, but couldn't hold it together. They play in the same division as the Patriots and Jets, so making the playoffs will be tough ever year, but if they make the adjustments they need, they will give them a run for their money.

Enough With The Jeremy Lin-Tim Tebow Comparison

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
I don't care how badly the media wants to make comparisons, Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin can't be compared.

No matter how much analyst try to hype up the Lin-Tebow comparisons, the two will never be comparable. For obvious reasons, and for not so obvious reasons, the Knicks point guard and the Broncos quarterback are far from alike.

Tebow had a Hall of Fame collegiate career, becoming the first ever sophomore to win the Heisman trophy. He also won two BCS National Championships with the Florida Gators. Lin on the other hand, played his college ball at Harvard, and didn't even lead them to a conference championship. Tebow was called the best college football player of the decade, while experts were unsure if Lin was even the best player on his team.

People already knew about Tim Tebow while he was only a quarterback in high school. Lin was just discovered by the world this past month. Tebow had the choice to play college football wherever he wanted, while Lin's only choice left was Harvard.

Leading up to their respective drafts, Tebow was projected as a late first-round, second-round pick. Experts thought he would be a specialized quarterback, who at first would only play in wildcat scenarios. Surely enough, the Broncos took him with the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Unlike Tebow, Lin wasn't projected to get picked at all. After being passed up by all 30 teams in the NBA, Lin signed a contact after the draft with the Golden State Warriors.

Yes, the two do have a few things in common including their uniqueness, their media attention, and their ability to win, but they do it in totally different styles.

Tebow won almost all of his games this season in crunch time, after trailing for the majority of the game. He never won easily, never won pretty, but somehow managed a way to win. The way Tebow played the quarterback position was different from anyone else in league history. How could a quarterback complete three passes and win a football game?

Lin has rallied the Knicks back into the top eight in the conference, but in a different way than Tebow. Before their loss to the Hornets last night, only two of the seven wins were decided by five points or fewer. Also, instead of having his own playing technique, Lin has styled his play from legends like Steve Nash and even Magic Johnson. Tebow only showed up in the fourth quarter, while Lin has been strong in all four quarters.

From a statistical comparison, Lin's stats are much more impressive than Tebow's stats. Lin tied records that were previously held by LeBron James, while Tebow broke no records.

They are also unique for different reasons. Tebow gets a lot of attention for being a very religious person, while Lin gets attention for being the first Asian-American player in the league. Also, many sports fans were against Tim Tebow's success, while everyone is loving Jeremy Lin's success.

The two athletes might be media sensations, but they are completely different. Just because two players unexpectedly win games for falling teams doesn't mean they are comparable. We already know that 20 years from now, Tebow's name will still be remembered, but who knows five years from now if anyone remembers Jeremy Lin.

Monday, February 13, 2012

NFC East Draft Profile: New York Giants

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Justin Tuck led the Giants defense this season and didn't disappoint.
His sack in the final minute helped the Giants claim their second Super Bowl in five years.
The New York Giants might be a week removed from a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, but the NFL clock ticks all year round. With the combine coming up, the Giants need to address a few issues to be even better in 2012.

2011 Record: 9-7, Overall: 13-7, Super Bowl Champs

Strenghts: Quarterback, Wide Receivers, Defensive Ends, Secondary (starters)

Let's face it, the Giants weren't the best team in the 2011-12 season. They got hot at the perfect time, as their strengths overshadowed their weaknesses. As I've written in almost any Giants-related post, they do two things extremely well: throwing the ball and rushing the passer. Eli Manning proved he was an elite quarterback this year, having the best statistical season of his career, and winning his second Super Bowl MVP. Along with Eli comes his great wide receiving core. Even though it's rumored that Mario Manningham won't return, The Giants will have a deadly duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. With Domenik Hixon returning from injury and a possible Steve Smith reunion, the Giants should have similar success throwing the ball next season. As for the defense, Jason Pierre-Paul emerged this season as one of the best, young pass rushers in the league. JPP, along with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, make arguably the best pass rushing combo in the league. Although the Giants got criticized for having a weak secondary, let's look at a few reasons why they weren't great. They lost Terrell Thomas very early in the season with a torn ACL, and had other players injured throughout the course of the season. Since so many guys were out, they had no depth, leaving their cornerbacks and safeties to play almost every play of every drive. With guys at full strength next year, the Giants secondary shouldn't have a problem.

Weaknesses: Running Back, Tight End, Offensive Line, Linebackers

The Giants ranked dead last in run-efficiency this season. Maybe it's because of theirpass-happy offense with a great quarterback, maybe it's because both running backs were injured for parts of the season, but either way, the Giants need to return to smash-mouth football. Although I love Jacobs and Bradshaw, one of them needs to go this offseason. Both of them can run up the middle fairly well but they both struggle to get outside and pick up big yards. If the Giants can get a young, speedy running back in the draft, they'd drastically improve their running offense. The tight end position is also a problem for the Giants. Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard both tore their ACL's in the Super Bowl, so Bear Pascoe is currently the only tight end on the roster. Another problem with the Giants is the offensive line. Whether it was the unnecessary holding flags, or the lack of protection of Eli Manning, the Giants' offensive line was weak this season. Four out of the five starters on the line are over 30; It'd be great for them to draft a new lineman with the last pick in the first round. Another weakness of the Giants is their linebacking core. Although they got the job done this season, the Giants could upgrade at inside linebacker. With an incredible front line, and a solid secondary, the linebackers are the weak spot on defense. If the Giants can fix that this offseason though, they'll have one of the best defenses in the league.

Possible Options with 1st round pick (32nd overall): Dwayne Allen, Vontaze Burfict, Peter Konz, Dont'a Hightower

Allen- The junior out of Clemson is by far the best tight end in this year's draft. Mel Kiper Jr. has been raving about Allen for his great hands and blocking. Allen could have an immediate impact with the Giants this season, and could become a one of Eli's favorite targets right away. Allen is special because he can open up the run game with his great blocking outside, but can also catch balls on play-action calls. I could see GM Jerry Reese taking Allen because he is known for taking the best player available in the draft (Amukamara and Nicks in recent drafts), regardless of the need.

Burfict- Not sure if Burfict will slip to the very end of the first round, but if he does, the Giants have to consider taking him. The junior out of Arizona State is a prolific pass rusher, and great leader on defense. Burfict's size, speed, athleticism, and heart can make him an immediate starter at inside linebacker. I can see the Giants taking Burfict, and starting him alongside Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka, but again, not sure if he will slip to the end of the first round.

Konz- Like all linemen from Wisconsin, Konz means business. He just finished up a great junior year at Wisconsin, protecting Russel Wilson, and also allowing Montee Ball to rush for the most touchdowns in college football history. At 6-5, 315 lbs, Konz has surprisingly quick feet and hands, and will be great at the next level. The Giants have drafted skill-set players the past years, but could mix it up with an offensive linemen this year. 

Hightower- Like Burfict, Hightower might not be available at 32, but if he is, the Giants seriously need to consider taking him. Hightower was part of the monstrous Crimson Tide defense this past year, and is capable of playing both inside and outside linebacker. I don't think that middle linebacker is the  biggest problem for the Giants, so they could end up with a linebacker with later picks. If they do decide to take a linebacker though, Hightower is definitely the guy they want. When he's healthy, he's a force to reckon with.

What the Giants need in later picks (assuming they take Allen): OT, RB, OG, LB, C, FS

Recap: Even though the Giants won the Super Bowl this year, they still can make a few improvements this offseason. They will already be down two tight end's and aren't sure if players like Mario Manningham or Osi Umenyiora will return. Although the Giants don't have an absolute weak link, they can afford to upgrade positions like linebacker, parts of the offensive line, and their secondary.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Entering A World of Linsanity

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
If you were asked who Jeremy Lin was a month ago, you'd have no clue.
After outscoring Kobe Bryant at The Garden tonight though, Lin has made a name for himself.

As I sit here in awe, after watching overnight sensation Jeremy Lin kill my Lakers, I wonder how in a matter of four games this kid has become a superstar. Two months ago he wasn't on a team, a month ago he was in the D-League, two weeks ago he was the Knicks 15th man, and now he is their go-to guy. To put it into perspective of his sudden rise to stardom, after tearing up defenses, Lin comes home to his brother's Lower East side apartment and sleeps on a pull-out couch.

When Lin entered the NBA in 2010, he was already defying odds. He became the first Ivy-Leaguer to play in the NBA in eight years. Not only is he the first Asian-American in league history, but he was also one of three players to ever make it in the NBA after playing college ball at Harvard.

The Jeremy Lin Experience started a mere six days ago, when Lin rejuvenated the Knicks off the bench, scoring 25 points to beat the Nets.  The next game, with Amar'e Stoudemire out mourning his brother, the Knicks went small and started Lin. They haven't lost since.

In his first start Lin didn't disappoint, putting up 28 points, eight assists, and shooting over 50% in another Knicks win. On Wednesday, Lin out-dueled former #1 pick John Wall, and recorded his first career double-double (23 points and 10 assists) in yet another Knicks victory.

And then came tonight. I was sure my Lakers would put an end to "Linsanity". The Lakers had won their last nine games against the Knicks, and with Amar'e and Melo still out, it looked like they'd extend their streak to ten games.

Think again.

While I thought Kobe would steal the game away, with a typical Kobe-MSG performance, it was Lin who again was the star. In the first five minutes of play, Lin already had nine points and two assists, accrediting himself with 13 of the Knicks first 13 points. While Kobe ended the half 1-6 with under ten points, Lin already had 18 as the Knicks led by eight.

Every time the Lakers would make a run to cut the Knicks lead, Lin would answer with a basket of his own. He finished the game with a Knick season-high 38 points, seven assists, and four rebounds. When the Lakers made one last push in the game's final minute, Lin took a charge to put the game out of reach.

When Lin was approached by ESPN's Lisa Salters after the game, she asked Lin about how he led his team to victory over the Lakers. His response?

"Again I'm just gonna thank my team".

He is so humble, almost too humble. But with so many conceded players in the game today, it's nice to see at least one humble player.

Jeremy Lin is exactly what the Knicks need. Their struggle at the point guard position was one of the key factors why the team was at one time eight games under .500. Even when Melo and Amar'e return, something tells me this kids gonna keep up his game. His points per game will definitely decrease, but his playmaking abilities will stay put.

With the win, the Knicks have won four straight games and are half a game behind eight place with a 12-15 record.

For now though, I guess we'll be hearing a lot of "Linsanity", "Linning", and "All he does is Lin" puns. Stories like this don't happen often, so embrace the Jeremy Lin Experience while you can.

Monday, February 6, 2012

History Always Repeats Itself, Giants Defeat Patriots to Win Super Bowl XLVI

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
After winning his second Super Bowl MVP in five years, Eli Manning is finally out of his big brother's shadow.
With Peyton out the entire 2011-12 season, Eli made sure that one Manning would shine in Indianapolis.

Dej√† Blue. Just like in 2007, the Giants got out to an early lead, trailed by halftime, trailed in the final five minutes, completed a momentum-swinging pass, and scored a game-winning touchdown to beat the New England Patriots. While some names like Manning, Coughlin, Tuck, and Jacobs are all very familiar, names like Strahan, Tyree, and Burress were replaced by names like Pierre-Paul, Cruz, and Manningham.

Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban said it best on Twitter, "@mcuban Good teams make the playoffs, the hot team wins the championship".

Going into the 2011-12 season, the Giants were nowhere near the top of anyone's Super Bowl list. ESPN.com had them at No. 11 in the preseason, and they were as low as No. 16, just a month and a half ago. After that No. 16 placing though, the Giants just dominated competition.

At 7-7 with just two games left, the Giants handled the Jets and Cowboys and were headed to their first postseason game in two seasons. They then steamrolled the Falcons at home, upset top seed Green Bay on the road, and finished off the last NFC team remaining in the San Francisco 49ers. Even with the momentum, the Giants were still 3-point underdogs to the Patriots.

That didn't matter to the Giants though, they've faced adversity before, and were ready to prove everyone wrong.

Earlier this season, Eli Manning claimed he was an elite quarterback. Right away, the media started to look at him as if he was speaking a different language. Elite? Seriously? How could a quarterback who lives in the shadow of his successful older brother, has no MVP trophy, and only one Super Bowl ring be elite? Well after Eli's Super Bowl MVP (second of career) performance last night, he clearly proved he is an elite quarterback.

According to dictionary.reference.com, elite can be defined as: persons of the highest class. Eli is definitely in the highest class amongst NFL quarterbacks. Only one active quarterback has more Super Bowl rings than him (Brady), and only one other has just as many as him (Big Ben). Not even four-time MVP Peyton has that many.

Back to The Big Game though.

Who was the genius who said, "When it comes down to the end, the Giants defense is more likely to stop Tom Brady on a two-minute drive, than the Patriots shutting down Eli Manning on a two-minute drive"?

This guy.

The Giants won this game because they did exactly what they were supposed to do. Even though that sounds extremely clich√©, it's true. Their pass rush on defense and pass attack on offense won them this game.

Right off the bat, the Giants' pass rush got to Tom Brady, forcing him to throw the ball to no one while in the endzone, resulting in a safety. The Giants were all over Brady all game long. He was sacked twice, hit eight times, and hurried too many times to count on two hands. If the Giants were going to win the game they needed to get to Brady, and they did.

The other thing the Giants excelled at is throwing the ball. Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning completed 75% of his passes for almost 300 yards, a touchdown, and finished the game with a passer rating of 103.8 (12 points higher than Brady if your scoring at home). They were 5-11 on third downs, and picked up 18 first downs through the air. That's right, 18 of Eli's 30 completions were for first downs.

After a dropped catch by Wes Welker, which would have given the Patriots great field position and would have killed a ton of clock, Eli and the Giants were pinned inside their own 15 yard line with a little under four minutes to go.

(Cue Madonna and Justin Timberlake singing Four Minutes)

With only four minutes left to save the season, Eli took advantage of a weak Patriots secondary on the first play of the drive, and found Mario Manningham down the field for 38 yards. A few completions later, the Giants found themselves on the Patriots' six yard-line with a minute to play.

After a questionably unintentional Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown, the Giants led 21-17.

Thanks to a couple of drop catches, a Justin Tuck sack, and no time-outs remaining, the Patriots found themselves at the 50 yard line with five seconds left. Tom Brady's desperation heave was unsuccessful, and the rest was history.

So what will we remember about this Super Bowl ten years from now? Will it be the bad decisions by the Patriots (Brady safety, 12-men on the field flag after Cruz fumble, Brady interception, not recovering three fumble opportunities, Belichick miss-challenge, and many drops by receivers) or will it be the Giants' perfect execution (shut down Patriots to 17 points which was tied for lowest this entire season, no turnovers, dominated possession, great third-down conversion, and amazing clutchness in the fourth)?

Clearly Gronk's injury had a huge impact on the Patriots offense. They scored under 20 points for just the second time all season long, and Brady threw for only 276 yards. Gronkowski wasn't a threat all game long. Even with linebackers covering him, he caught only two passes for 26 yards, allowed a Chase Blackburn interception, and missed a chance to score the game-winning touchdown.

Give the Giants credit though. The Patriots wanted revenge more than anything, and they prevented that from happening. They shut down Tom Brady, took advantage of mistakes, played smart football, and dominated in clutch-time. There's a reason why they are the Super Bowl champs.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI Predictions

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Both quarterbacks can reach milestones in Super Bowl XLVI.
Tom Brady can tie Joe Montana with four Super Bowl wins, while Eli can one-up his brother by winning his second.
Wow, where to begin? Let's just start off by saying that Peyton Manning's biggest rival will be playing against Peyton Manning's little brother in "The House That Peyton Manning Built", with Peyton Manning himself watching from a skybox. This game is the epitome of an amazing Super Bowl matchup.

Representing the AFC are the New England Patriots, the team of the decade. Like most seasons, Tom Brady is on top of his game, and can't be stopped. The Patriots finished first in the AFC East and earned a first round bye. After defeating the Broncos with ease and the Ravens in a nail-biter, they will finally have a chance at revenge, by playing the New York Giants. 

The Giants have had a roller-coaster season, unlike any Super Bowl team. If it weren't for an overthrown Tony Romo pass on third down, eight weeks ago, the Giants wouldn't have made the playoffs and Tom Coughlin would be unemployed. Ever since their loss to the Redskins, the Giants have won five straight "must win" games, and now find themselves in the biggest football game in the world.

So who do I think will win this game?

The New York Giants. 33-26

This pick is half from the heart, and half from the brain. It's impossible to root against your team any week of the season, but at least there are reasons to why they will win.  Both teams are so similar: great passing games, poor running games, poor secondary, great pass rush. It will simply come down to which team takes advantage of the other team's weaknesses, and can protect their quarterback better.

The Giants are probably the only team in the NFL that has had the Patriots number the the past few years. They just know their weaknesses, and exploit them. As I say in almost every New York Giants prediction, they do two things extremely well.  The two Giants strengths happen to be the two worst things for the Patriots. They get to the opposing quarterback better than anyone in the league, and they throw the ball better than most of the teams. Tom Brady is clearly an elite quarterback in the NFL, heck, he can go down as the greatest quarterback of all time, but having defensive ends chase you all night is not a simple task. A defense that can rush Tom Brady, and an offense that can turn the Patriots' defense into swiss cheese are two great skill-sets.

With Gronkowski playing injured, who knows how good he'll be. If the Giants can hold Gronk to five catches and just one touchdown, that's better than most teams. Brady won't have time to sit in the pocket all day, so he needs to get the ball out of his hand as quickly as possible.

As for the Giants offense, their running game might be trash, but their passing game can match the Patriots' passing game. If Eli can throw for 350 and two/three touchdowns, they will be in great shape to win this game. Even though that might seem like a lot, when you throw the ball 50 times a game, especially against a terrible defense it's not that hard, especially for an ELIte quarterback (had to throw that in somewhere).

The three headed attack of Nicks/Cruz/Manningham is just as lethal as the Welker/Hernandez/Gronk attack. Manning has been so accurate this season it's scary, and when you add Victor Cruz' route running skills, and Nicks' amazing hands, it's even scarier. The Patriots defense will really need to step up if they want to win this game. It's not going to be a defense oriented game, but the game will come down to who gets the final stop. Also, a huge key in this game will be 3rd down conversions. Last week the Giants had a great 3rd down conversion %, but held the Niners to only one 1st down. It's a game changer.

The Patriots have a lot to play for, and I respect that. Their owner, Rober Kraft, lost his wife, Myra, just before the season started. They have worn a MHK label on their jersey every game this year, and are dedicating this season to her. She was a kind, generous person, who had personal relationships with many players on the team. Clearly the Patriots won't lose this one without a fight.


 In the end though, I still think my Giants will come out on top. They too are playing with heart, hunger, and determination. When it comes down to the end, the Giants defense is more likely to stop Tom Brady on a two-minute drive, than the Patriots shutting down Eli Manning on a two-minute drive.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

NFC East Draft Profile: Dallas Cowboys

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Note to the Dallas Cowboys: Get this man some protection!
No wonder Romo ran out of gas last season, his offensive line allowed him to get sacked 36 times.

For the second straight season, the Cowboys collapsed in December and failed to make the playoffs. On paper this team looks talented, maybe it was the poor coaching, maybe it was the tough schedule, maybe they just didn't "want it" as much as the Giants. The Cowboys don't have too many weak spots, but every team can improve from the draft.

2011 Record: 8-8

Strengths: Quarterback, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight End, Nose Tackle, Right Outside Linebacker, Special Teams

Say whatever you want, but Tony Romo is an above average quarterback in the NFL. His stats back him up every season, and although he isn't the "clutchest" quarterback, I'd take him over most quarterbacks in the league. As a whole, the Cowboys offense doesn't need much work, besides the offensive line. The DeMarco Murray/Felix Jones running back combo is solid, and the Dez Bryant/Miles Austin/Laurent Robinson wide receiving core is one of the best in the league. Jason Witten doesn't seem like age is affecting him, after coming off another impressive season. As for the Cowboys' defense, Jay Ratliff provides a huge force upfront for the Cowboys 3-4 defense, while DeMarcus Ware is all over the field making plays.

Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Ends, Middle Linebacker, Secondary

This season, Romo was sacked 36 times, which was sixth most among quarterbacks in the league. If this offensive line protected Romo, maybe he wouldn't have gotten hurt, and maybe the Cowboys could have held it together for the last month of the season. Without an offensive line, it is very hard for an offense to be successful. Whether the team is running the ball, or throwing the ball, the offensive line is involved in every play, keeping defenders from getting to the ballcarrier. Now for the defense. Having two players as skilled as Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware, Dallas needs to make sure that when Ratliff and Ware are double teamed, someone else (a defensive end or linebacker) will fine the whole and sack the quarterback. The Cowboys did not take advantage this season of having two of the best pass rushers in the league. The Cowboys accumulated 42 sacks this season, but DeMarcus Ware accounted for nearly half of them. Dallas can't rely on one player to shutdown opposing offenses, especially when they play the Giants and Eagles twice. The Cowboys' secondary was atrocious last season. Wide receivers had no problem getting past the secondary, and when they didn't, it was probably because of a pass interference flag.

Possible Options with 1st round pick (14th overall): David DeCastro, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, Luke Kuechly, Courtney Upshaw

David Decastro- The Stanford offensive guard is a perfect fit for Dallas because he's one of the top guard prospects in this year's draft, and could do excellent job protected Tony Romo.

Luke Kuechly-Kuechly is a top linebacker in this year's draft,  that would fit great alongside DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee, Kuechly could be their understudy, and become a star early on in his career. 

Mark Barron- The safety out of Alabama is the top safety in the entiredraft, and has the ability to anchor the Cowboys' secondary. Barron is a hard-hitting, ballhawking, safety, who also has a high Football-IQ.

Dre Kirkpatrick- His stock has declined a bit due to his recent arrest, however, on the field, Kirkpatrick is a beast. He is quick, strong, and along with Barron, was one of the key reasons why the Alabama secondary was impenetrable. Jerry Jones isn't someone who takes big risks with players, so Kirkpatrick may not be the guy for the Cowboys, but if the Cowboys are looking for skill, Kirkpatrick could potentially be a great fit.

Courtney Upshaw- Upshaw was another stud on Alabama's defense this year. While Barron anchored the secondary, Upshaw led the linebacking core and the front line. Upshaw has experience playing in 3-4 defense, and really shined in the National Championship Game. His stock rose even more after a great performance at the Senior Bowl. If all of the players above are available along with Upshaw, I think Upshaw would be the best option. He is a great teammate, has a great work ethic, and is an offensive lineman's worst nightmare.


What the Cowboys need in later picks: Offensive Tackle, Offensive Guard, Cornerback, Free Safety

Recap: The Cowboys are very close to becoming a serious postseason threat. Throughout the first 12 games of the season, the Cowboys are always one of the better teams in the league, but their late season collapses always ruin their earlier success. Although the Cowboys are very strong in certain areas, they also lack depth on defense, and need to restructure their offensive line. If the Cowboys can make these adjustments, look for them to give the Eagles and Giants trouble next season.