Crystal Ball Prediction – Offensive ROY

In the amount of time between the publication of this article and the presentation of the NFL 2012 Season Player Awards, ALOT will happen.   Over 17 million fans will travel to NFL stadiums around the country to watch the gladiators of our day take to the gridiron for battle.  That comes only after the spectators partake in 5 hours of drinking beers, charring meats, pounding more beers and downing any combination of deep fried goodies in the parking lot prior to going into the stadium early, to get two beers before kickoff of course.  (I’m not sure this was the custom in the days of The Colosseum).

Let’s now take a look at which first time gladiators will prove to be the most prepared for battle, and which will ultimately get the thumbs up from voters at season’s end as the best new comer on offense.

2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year:







ANDREW LUCK, IND – Indy’s abhorrent 2011 season was not helped by the baggage that had come along with the Peyton Manning situation.  However, some closure in the Manning situation has allowed the fan base to move on from their former leader and into the Luck era with some real excitement. Luck has a cannon that can make all the NFL throws, the demeanor of a vet, and a football IQ that has amazed scouts and coaches since his Stanford days.  A weak division and no backup breathing down his neck will give Luck some real chances to shine for his new club, and he will do just that.  A better record than Peyton in his 3-13 rookie campaign seems inevitable.

Other candidates:

DOUG MARTIN, TB – While Martin has really impressed in training camp, the Bucs will be trailing a lot, meaning Martin will not get enough touches this year to win ROY.

ROBERT GRIFFIN III, WAS – While RG3 is a world class athlete, the Skins play in arguably the toughest division in football, and have an offense without much top tier talent at the skill positions.  While he will surprise a lot of doubters with some flashes of stardom, ROY is just not in the cards for Bob Griffin.

TRENT RICHARDSON, CLE – Richardson is NFL-ready, however he already has injury issues, and the Browns play in a division with three of the most punishing defenses in football.  Oh yea also, he’s on the Browns.  Sorry “Roll Tide” fans, but it ain’t gonna happen.

Dark horse:

ALSHON JEFFERY, CHI – With a gunslinging QB in Jay Cutler, and #1 wideout Brandon Marshall drawing constant double teams, Alshon Jeffery will reap big benefits in this Bears offense.  The former Gamecock is 6’3″, fast, wiry, and always in attack mode.  While Justin Blackmon was the first WR to awkwardly hug Roger Goodell at this years draft, it will be 2nd rounder Jeffery who will be the most productive pass catching rookie in 2012.








TOMORROW…..  Defensive Rookie of the Year


Checking on Las Vegas – Team Over/Under wins


Las Vegas has released the NFL Futures odds, and bettors who like a season-long sweat will continue to look for value by betting O/U team wins.  There is still a ton of time left before the season starts, so teams still need to settle position battles, iron out player contract spats, and attempt to keep track of which of their players showed up on the police blotter in the past 24 hours.  With all of the information available at this moment, (minus which players have been arrested since I started this article), we will try to break down just where gamblers should look to put their money this season:

Three Strong Buys:

Jacksonville Jaguars UNDER 5.5 wins (-135) – With a new coaching regime taking over, a young and unpolished QB, and a  very public contract dispute with their only star player, the Jags are facing a very steep uphill battle this season.  Watching Blaine “Goldilocks” Gabbert’s uneasiness and indecisiveness in the pocket last season (if the game wasn’t blacked out) cannot make the any Jags fan feel too confident that things will take a turn for the better this season.  Even with a defense that improved down the stretch in 2011, the Jaguars will have some serious trouble putting points on the board this season with their lack of offensive firepower.  OT’s Eugene Monroe and Ebon Britton have not provided the stability this team needs on their O-line, a clear reason why Gabbert has happy feet, and with good reason, he was dropped 40 times last season in 15 games.  This season their schedule includes games vs the tough AFC East, and they will face a very tough out-of-conference schedule vs the NFC North.  Between their dismal offense, the immaturity of their roster, and a litany of off the field distractions including MJDs holdout, and talk of the whole franchise moving to LA, I cannot see this seasons Jags improving on their 5 win season last year.

Minnesota Vikings UNDER 5.5 wins (+105) – It came as no surprise to me that when I researched the opening betting lines that came out in May, the Vikings were actually listed at O/U 6 wins.  Good news and bad news for non-believers like myself.  Bad news, we have lost a half-game edge that was there in May when the odds were released.  Good news, the line movement means that the early smart money is on a dismal season for the Vikes.  I personally believe that the value is still there at under 5.5.  They play in a very tough NFC North division which could likely hand them six losses before they even got the schedule.  Throw in out-of-division games vs. the 49ers and a Titans squad that projects to be better, along with some very tough road games in Houston and Seattle, the Vikes would have to win the remainder of their games to reach 6 wins.  Those remaining games would still include three more road games as well(Washington, STL, and Indy).  With an unproven and inexperienced coaching staff, Christian Ponder at QB behind a mediocre O-line, and the health of their franchise player still up in the air, I cannot see that happening.

Buffalo Bills OVER 7.5 wins (-180) – What I love about this bet is that Buffalo will not lose many games this year due to lack of effort.  After acquiring the taste for winning last season, this is a hungry young team looking to make their mark.  HC Chan Gailey is a solid gameday leader who keeps it simple for his players and only asks for max energy on Sundays, something that should translate well with this roster.  The Bills have a slew of young talented players at their offensive skill positions who are poised to breakout in a big way.  Another thing that will energize this roster is the addition of pass rusher extraordinaire Super Mario Williams.  The front line of this defense is going to be overwhelming for O-coordinators, with the combination of Williams along with speed rusher Marc Anderson and stud DT Marcell Dareus.  With a revamped D that will should keep them in games late instead of blowing leads, and an offense that seems almost certain to eclipse their 23 PPG from 2011, this Bills team will become the first squad from Orchard Park to surpass the .500 mark for a season since 2004.

BUY, but beware:

NE Patriots OVER 11.5 wins (-165) – Taking into account their opponents 2011 records, playing the easiest schedule in the NFL should bode well for the Pats chances of reaching 12 wins.  It seems like a gimme however, taking a closer look at their schedule there is a 6-week stretch between week 3 and 8 that could be tough to maneuver.  Starting on the road in Baltimore, the Pats then have to shuffle off to Buffalo, a place they never play well.  They will then take on Peyton and the Broncos, followed by a trip to Seattle, a stadium widely regarded as one of the toughest.  They come back home for some clam chowda week 7, but it will be another physical tough game vs the rival Jets.  Finally, they will have to travel across the pond to play in Wembley Stadium, and while they play a mediocre Rams squad, it will be a tough task.  They also have late season contests vs the Texans and 49ers, both very tough and well-coached opponents.  However, the Pats had a superb offseason, adding playmakers in the draft, signing pro-bowl WR Brandon Lloyd who should shine in this offense, and bringing back OC Josh McDaniels.  Oh, they also still have arguably the best QB and the best Head Coach in the league.  Although it won’t be a cakewalk, the Pats should be primed to finish the season 12-4, if not better.  Oh and PS, Gronk.

WATCH LIST, too close to call:

Browns UNDER 5.5 (-155)

49ers OVER 9.5 (-170)

Colts UNDER 5.5 (-190)

Broncos OVER 8.5 (-155)

These are the options that I believe have the most value to bettors, however there are many other Team Regular Season Win Totals that could be intriguing to predict.  Leave your choices for “best bets” in the comments section for this article.  Use the link on my homepage for for help finding the lines.

How can the Giants return to the promised land?

The second time Tom Coughlin has ever smiled in public. 

Undoubtedly one of the most difficult feats in professional sports is pulling off a successful back to back championship run.  With the team parody in today’s NFL, and the ‘gold rush’ mentality of players that usually follows a Super Bowl run, this elusive feat has become more difficult than ever before.  This season, The New York Football Giants will be the latest team to attempt a successful repeat campaign since Tom Brady and his hooded comrade pulled it off almost a decade ago.  Historically, a Super Bowl champ repeats only about once per decade, and the NFC alone has sent 10 different teams to the SB in the last 11 years.  The only team to go twice…the NYG.  The team’s vets look poised to return to form, so where will Big Blue need to improve to join the very exclusive back-to-back club?  Here’s the rundown:

1.  Come together on the O-line.

The Super Bowl 42 team was built around O-line chemistry and solidarity, mixed with a whole bunch of mauling. Led by C Shaun O’Hara, they were mean and played as a unit as much as any squad in recent memory.  Fast forward to 2011.  Although the Giants won Super Bowl 46, their O-line was wildly unreliable.  They were ranked by Pro Football Focus as THE worst pass protecting unit in the league, and the 31st overall O-line ahead of only Da Bears.  Luckily, Giants fans can rejoice over the fact that playing behind such poor O-line play, obviously what Elisha and his WR’s did last season was no fluke.  However, if they want to get to N’awlins next February, the O-line will need to come together and protect the pocket, while keeping defenses honest with at least the threat of a smash-mouth rushing attack.  If not, instead of feasting on oysters and beignets in NO, the big boys will be getting corn beef hash at the Diner on Rt. 17 in NJ.

2.  “Heavy is the head that wears the crown”.  Translation – prepare for the media storm

It would be cliche to say that every team in the league will be gunning for the defending champs.  That’s like saying “everything is better with bacon”.  Thanks Cpt obv.  What most teams don’t prepare for though, is the media’s extreme magnification of every team issue, every post-game statement, and every tweet for the entire season, until you win it again or you are Ko’d.  (Predictably, in this case the papers would inevitably dub the team that beat them the “Giant Killers”.)  Big blue did lose some veterans who went on to sign big money offseason contracts elsewhere, but they definitely have a solid core of leaders and basically a full roster of returning starters on both sides of the ball.  And the glue that holds it all together while the media tries their best to tear it all down? Recently resigned HC Tom Coughlin will lead a familiar coaching staff that suffered no real personnel losses, something that really hurt them after their previous SB victory in 2007.

3.  Early round draft prospects need to start paying dividends

With the departure of key role players like Ross, Jacobs, Manningham and Ballard, the Giants should be thankful that GM Jerry Reese has been earning his paycheck on draft day.  Through his ingenuity, they still have a long list of high upside prospects that all have the potential to be impact players in the NFL.  First round corner Prince Amukamara, blue-chip DT’s Marvin Austin and Linval Joseph, along with rookies Rueben Randle and last year’s ACC player of the year (as a junior) RB David Wilson, should all get a legitimate chance for significant playing time.  Two other 2012 offseason moves by Reese that could pay big dividends right away; the signing of behemoth blocking TE Martellus Bennett, and the team’s trade of a 5th rounder for LB Keith Rivers, a former top-ten pick who is only 26.  Throw into that mix certified sub-25 studs Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and JPP, and these Giants shouldn’t be thinking about a SB hangover.  Hangover?  Shiiiiiiiiiit, let’s be real, everyone knows when you’re 25 you don’t even get hungover.


Does this guy look like he gets tired?



Top 10 NFL GM moves

On the heels of his second Super Bowl win with his star QB Eli Manning, Giants coach Tom Coughlin shouldn’t forget to throw some of his recent media praise over to an old friend of his, former GM Ernie Accorsi.  After scouting Manning intently at Ole Miss, Accorsi made a power move and executed a deal to bring Manning to New York in a 2004 draft day trade.  With current Giants mastermind Jerry Reese and other top GM’s, like the Packers Ted Thompson, displaying their offseason ingenuity and taking annual trips every April to “Value City” during the draft, its no surprise that the teams with the strongest GM’s usually battle at seasons end for the hardware.  And with that, let’s revisit the NFL’s Top 10 GM trades and draft picks of the current era:

10: Texans select Mario Williams over Reggie Bush 1st overall – Don’t worry Houston fans, Mr. Casserly accepts your apology.  You can catch him doing commentary on TV while other GM’s draft now, since the Texans faithful formed posse’s (do they really all carry those burning sticks?) and ran him out of the loan star state.  While Bush has come around in recent years, Williams eclipsed the usually lengthy learning curve for D-lineman by the end of his first season, and over the past few years has become an absolute juggernaut, a player offenses base their game planning around.  Super Mario has since left the BBQ in Houston for the snow in Buffalo, but $100 million will buy you A LOT of Anchor Bar wings so who could blame him.

9: Rams trade for Colts RB Marshall Faulk – Indy didn’t come out of this one empty handed, as GM Bill Polian would draft Miami Hurricanes beast RB Edgerrin James to replace Faulk in the draft that year.  However, Faulk would go on to become widely regarded as one of the most versatile RB’s ever, both on the ground and in the passing game, and was the true foundation of “The Greatest Show on Turf”.  Faulk would win an MVP award, Offensive POY 3 straight times, and would lead the Rams to two super bowl berths, and one victory.  Faulk was inducted into the Hall of Fame, as a first balloter, in 2011.


8:  Saints sign former San Diego QB Drew Brees – When Brees’ time with the Superchargers was cut short due to an injured shoulder, his NFL career was in serious jeopardy.  Saints GM Mickey Loomis may have been impressed with Brees’ undeniable charm, but he knew that the boy could play before he took the gamble to bring him to the bayou.  While Brees’ overall career statistics aren’t quite there yet with the Marino’s and Favre’s of the world, no player in recent memory has been more of a cornerstone for a teams winning Super bowl run than Brees.  The impact of Loomis’ decision also gave the who dat nation and the Great City of New Orleans a real leader to follow through the Katrina disaster.

7: Giants trade Phillip Rivers for 1st overall pick Eli Manning – Since coming out of NC State, Rivers has been serviceable at his worst and MVP caliber at his very best, but his NFL resume is entry-level compared to Manning’s.  While Eli was Boom-roasted by the NY media for years after Accorsi made this draft day deal, the Giants front office and coaches never wavered from their support of Eli during his growing pains, and that gamble paid huge dividends.  Unrelated to football, Eli has shaken his”Aw shucks” public persona, and has quickly gone from being just Peyton’s little brother, to one of the leagues most likable players.

6: 49ers trade 2nd and 4th rounders to Tampa Bay for Steve Young – Signed as a backup with a 3-16 record, the trade shows uncanny vision by Bill Walsh, but the true genius in this deal was not the immediate impact of the move, but the fact that Walsh was able to keep him around as Montana’s backup, just waiting for his chance to come in and become the most efficient passer of all time.  The 2-time MVP and HOF’er won a SB as a starter, has provided some of the guttiest performances in the history of the sport, and is undoubtedly one of the most respected media analysts today.  Concussions would cut his career short, but Young is likely the best lefty QB of all-time.

5: Packers trade 1st round pick to Atlanta for Brett Favre – After struggling in his rookie year in ATL, Brett Lorenzo Favre would be traded to Green Bay for the 19th overall pick in the 1994 draft.  Ron Wolf’s first move as Packers GM was gold, as he locked up the young brash QB who would go on to become 3-time league MVP, Super Bowl champ, and the holder of almost every meaningful career passing record. Favre is one of my personal favorite athletes ever in any sport, but even for all the Favre haters, not one of them can deny that the guy’s got as much heart as any QB to ever step on the gridiron.  Vince Lombardi himself would have been proud that a QB with Favre’s grit was the man who brought his trophy back to Green Bay for the first time since he roamed the sidelines, and protected the Lambeau home field advantage for 15 years until going on to retire 47 times.

4: The entire 1994 49ers entire offseason –  This set of moves helped SF, a franchise known for its class, end the reign of the most polarizing and by far the flashiest SB champs in recent memory, the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990’s.  Those “bad boy” Cowboys teams looked unbeatable, so GM Carmen Policy got some money together and went shopping.  He added immediate starters Bryant Young and William Floyd in the draft, and snagged Gary Plummer and Rickey Jackson in free agency.  But the reason this move(s) gets into the top 5 is the fact that Policy got both Ken Norton Jr. and Neon Deion* to leave Jerry’s world and head west to the Bay area.  The 49ers would beat Dallas in the Conference Championship round, and go on to beat the Chargers in the ’94 Super Bowl.                                                                                             *Deion Disclaimer – After he won DPOY for San Fran, in typical Neon fashion, he would go back to Dallas the following year and help them win their third super bowl of the decade.  Guy was such a dick, but damn he could play!

3: Patriots select Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick – Unless you haven’t watched football, TMZ, or an UGGZ ad in the last decade, nuff said on this one.  10 years as a starter, 5 Super bowl berths, 3 Lombardis, and 8 pro bowls.  The dude is a legend on the field, and he has given women everywhere, not only in Bahston, the ability to name at least one NFL player.  Haters Gon Hate, but there is zero doubt that Brady is the real deal.  Probably the most notorious “value pick” of the current draft era, this move is inevitably mentioned 25 times at every NFL draft broadcast.

2: Packers sign The Minister of Defense:   Reggie White was as much a dominant force as any football player on either side of the ball over the past 30 years.  Newly appointed Packers GM Ron Wolf acquired “The Priest of QB Pressure” (I’m copywriting that) as a FA in the 1993 offseason at age 32, which by today’s standard would mean they were signing him to work in the front office, not the trenches.  White would go on to lead the Pack to two NFC Championships and a SB victory, and leave the storied franchise as their all-time leader in sacks with 68.5 in 6 seasons…in his 30’s.  Dude was a M. A. N.

1:  49ers trade up to draft Jerry Rice – Before the combine was live streamed on the internet and every person with a clipboard had draft grades for the top 1,000 prospects, the draft took a much less certain path.  In 1985, The “Genius” of GM’s Bill Walsh saw something in a hard-working WR from Mississippi Valley State that he knew he needed for his west-coast offense.  Walsh traded the Niners first and second round picks for the #16 pick overall to acquire the G.O.A.T, and gave the kid his first paying job since he used to lay brick with his pops.  The move would change the balance of power in the NFL, and 26 years later, the legendary Rice was named the #1 player of ALL-TIME on the top 100 list.  Not too shabby.  PS, guarantee you the guy can still play.

So Balla !

*Honorable mention:

Patriots acquire HC Bill Belichick from the NY Jets*  – *(Belichick would effectively become the Pats GM, plus I felt it was only right for this one to have an asterisk…Zing)  I felt that this power move could not be left out, and could in theory actually be near the top of the list.  For the amount of flack that “The Hoodie” takes from his critics, most of them are derived from his (lack of a) personality, and the reality is that the NFL isn’t a popularity contest.  He wins, then he wins some more, and his players would jump off a bridge for him.  This deal changed the entire NFL landscape for the next 15 years, and was no doubt bizarre when it all went down.




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