But you'll be prepared because you've heard it all before!
Thanksgiving is approaching which means... a whole day of football and gluttonous food consumption! It also brings out the drunken stupidity of your loves ones and whoever they've brought to your gathering; which means you will inevitably find yourself inexplicably having to defend your fabulous football fandom.
But you'll be prepared because you've heard it all before!
I don't know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri beyond what the media has told me. I know an unarmed boy was shot and killed. I have heard he was a criminal, engaging in unlawful activity..
I also know there are serial killers in prison getting married. This is because our justice system is such that you can commit even the most heinous of crimes and still be deemed worthy of life until otherwise ruled in a court of law. Unarmed teenagers, no matter how misguided, should not be getting killed.
And innocent people should not have their property and livelihood burned to the ground.
None of us endure this life without injustice. We should all continue to fight peacefully for what is rightfully ours; economically, judicially and socially. I just can't stand to see this type of hatred between my fellow Americans and humans. My love goes out to all who have suffered the injustice of this ongoing war we engage in amongst ourselves.
Hey everyone! I plan to start sharing my more viral pieces on Buzzfeed as well as here on OBTC. This is my first Buzzfeed Community post, so go check it out!
For the sake of this article as a follow up to The Five Biggest NFL Disappointments of 2014, these NFL surprises are good ones. The NFL has been full of surprises this year, from "washed up" quarterbacks having revival seasons to career long backups arriving to save the day. Whether your fantasy waiver wire pickup turns out to be brilliant or your team is refusing to lose their division without a fight, these are a reminder that being an NFL fan can be awesome.
Forsett has been an NFL running back since 2008, and although he's still in his physical prime he has become somewhat of a journeyman. This season may change that.
Forsett has played for four different teams in the last four seasons after spending his first four NFL years in Seattle. Prior to 2014, he'd started just seven games and his best season was in 2009 when he rushed and received for a combined 969 yards and five touchdowns. This season he was supposed to be another utility/third down back, but in the wake of Ray Rice's indefinite suspension he has become the backbone of the Ravens run game. Forsett earned his first start in Week 3 but has played in every game this season, already amassing 720 yards rushing for five touchdowns and 31 receptions for 202 yards. He's 4th in the league in total rushing yards and has 24 rushes of 10+ yards, which is second only to DeMarco Murray's outrageous 35. He's also fumbled the ball just once this season, and it did not result in a turnover.
Not only is it great to see a player take the most of their opportunity to have a breakout year, but it's extra satisfying to know that the Ravens have managed to reinvigorate their running game without Ray Rice; which serves to further prove just how replaceable he is.
The Miami Dolphins
Let's be honest, no matter how good of a season the Miami Dolphins put together they are constantly in the shadow of the Patriots. It seems like it would be easy for a team of young players, a new GM and an embattled coach to get frustrated by playing in a division that New England has completely owned since 2001. Yet they don't.
The 6-4 Dolphins are currently 2nd in the AFC East behind the 7-2 Pats, but with their win over Brady and Co. in Week 1 of the season, they have set themselves up nicely to stay on their heels and at least give them a run for their money. The AFC East may not seem as competitive as some of the other divisions this year, but right behind them are the 5-5 Buffalo Bills being lead by the reinvented Kyle Orton 2.0 who is having a sneakily good season. The Dolphins are keeping things exciting, and with the way this season is shaking out across the league, there is no counting anyone out.
Ryan Tannehill certainly doesn't look like he's winning a Super Bowl this year, but he has a fantastic arm, he's surprisingly mobile and he has fearlessness that is not marred by the type of overeager, injury-inducing decision making that has haunted other young quarterbacks with the same moxie. Elite pass rusher Cameron Wake has 10.5 sacks on the season so far, and is a leader for a talented but inexperienced defense. With the current state of the AFC, the Dolphins are right in the mix of wild card contention with the Kansas City Chiefs and whatever team happens to be second at any given time in the AFC North. For the few diehard sports fans in Miami, hopefully this is a consolation in the post-Lebron era.
The AFC North
AFC North Standings
Week 11, 2014 Season
Cleveland Browns 6-3
Cincinnati Bengals 5-3-1
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-4
Baltimore Ravens 6-4
PRAISE THE LORD the Cleveland Browns are leading the AFC North!
I think it's safe to say that the AFC North is the least likable division in the NFL. The Ravens and their fans and their completely unwarranted persecution complex are getting worse as time goes by. The Bengals have perfected the art of choking in a way that would be admirable if it weren't so pathetic, and no one has ever felt bad for the Steelers. Ever. The Browns and their fans, in their all of their historically sucktastic glory, have lamented less across their entire existence than the Ravens do on one average NFL Sunday.
Browns fans have been so beaten down by the top-to-bottom mess that is their franchise that they aren't even mad that they wasted their time with Johnny Manziel only to start winning with Brian "the dude who backed up Tom Brady for a few years" Hoyer. They just don't even care. Throw whoever you got out there, and if it sticks, they're good. They've been let down enough to know how to ride a god wave while it lasts and that is all the more reason to be psyched about the Browns right now.
Not only are they theoretically the team to root for, they are actually earning their stripes on the field; especially defensively. Cornerbacks Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine are 1st and 3rd respectively in interceptions this season for a total of ten. Five different players on their defense have at least 2.0 sacks, lead by Paul Kruger who has 6.0. The pickup of longtime Cardinal Karlos Dansby proved to be a huge improvement to their linebacking core, as his 69 total tackles leads the team and is tied for 18th best in the league.
The Cardinals Defense
To be fair, the Arizona Cardinals in general are a fantastic surprise this NFL season. Entering the season, they were rightfully considered the third best team in their own division. Now they have the best record in the NFL at 8-1. That record is even more impressive when you really break down the teams that they have beaten already, which include the divisional rival Seahawks and 49ers and conference competitors the Cowboys and Eagles. One or both of the latter teams is headed for the playoffs, and with the tiebreakers secured, the Cardinals control their own fate at this point. The key to that destiny is their defense.
Their offense has been good, not great. Carson Palmer tore his ACL last week to end his season, so Drew Stanton is once again their starter. I'm of the mind that anything Palmer could do, Stanton can too; which means that offensively they should be able to stay on track, if not improve.
Either way the heart of the Cardinals is their defense, and they are quietly the most impressive unit in the NFL because they are doing it without almost all of their best defensive players from their fantastic 2013 defense. Leading tackler Karlos Dansby now plays for the Browns. They're missing both of their best defensive ends; Daryl Washington was suspended for the year and Darnell Dockett suffered a season-ending ACL tear in training camp. They also lost their best pass rusher in John Abraham, who had 11.5 sacks last season, when he suffered a concussion in Week 1 and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Those four players would be missed individually on any team in the league, but to lose all of them in the span of a few months would have decimated most defensive units.
That's not the case in Arizona. They have the 3rd best run defense in the league and are tied with the Patriots for the best turnover differential at +12. If you've read enough of my work you know that I am obsessed with the correlation between turnover differential and late season/postseason success. (The Patriots and Cardinals are currently the two number 1 seeds in the NFL).
The Cardinals have only turned the ball over seven times as a team, which is the second fewest behind the Patriots' six turnovers. Their defense has nineteen takeaways including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The best thing a defense can do when they have lost significant talent is create turnovers and capitalize on them. There is nothing more devastating to another team than to be terrified to make a mistake, and that's what the Cardinals are doing to their opposition.
When it comes to the conversation of the status of aging former Super Bowl champion quarterbacks, Roethlisberger is usually last to be mentioned behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and sometimes even Aaron Rodgers. But Big Ben's resurgence this year is a potent reminder of just how resourceful he has been over the span of his career.
Perhaps it's his style of play and the fact that he's never possessed the finesse of many of his Champion contemporaries. Just look at that picture above. No, that's not Ben holding the ball over his head in celebration. That's a picture of him IN THE MIDDLE OF THROWING A PASS. What professional athlete throws like that? The ball is still firmly in his grasp, so when is his release point? How does that ball not just fly firmly into the dirt in front of him, or fly backwards out of that weird, loose excuse for a grip? I can't think of another athlete that could create enough range of motion from that position to complete a pass. You can't not be impressed by that.
Not only has he managed to be massively successful despite throwing the football like a neanderthal, he's currently on pace to have the best statistical season of his career at the age of 34. Plus he just became the only quarterback in the history of the NFL to throw six touchdown passes in two consecutive games. Check this out:
Comp Pct 63.3
Passer Rating 92.6
Through Week 10, 2014
Comp Pct 68.5
Passer Rating 107.3
FIrst of all, that's a great reminder of how good Roethlisberger's career statistics really are. His numbers this year have not only been even better than his career averages, but he's on pace to throw for a personal record 4,896 yards and 37 touchdowns. Those numbers at his age are only achieved by Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and his 2014 performance so far is a big step towards cementing a future spot in Canton.
Will Brinson, head NFL writer for CBS Sports, asserted in his Wednesday column that Rob Gronkowski is currently a better MVP candidate than Tom Brady. Brinson is not the first to mull this theory over, but because I respect him as a writer it is he who I will quote in my categorical disagreement.
A receiver has never won the AP NFL MVP; not Jerry Rice, not Michael Irvin, not Lynn Swann. In fact there have only been three players given the title that weren't either a quarterback or a running back: DT Alan Page in 1971 (MIN), PK Mark Moseley in 1982 (WAS) and LB Lawrence Taylor in 186 (NYG).
There are a variety of reasons as to why receivers do not win the award. Unlike the QB or the running back, there is never a time that they are the only player on the field at their position. A wide receiver may successfully and even impressively complete a play and create offense once they have possession of the ball, but the inherent nature of the receiver position means that they are rarely called upon to bear the brunt of consistent responsibility for creating positive yardage or scoring. Someone has to get them the ball, and that's usually a quarterback who is playing every single offensive snap of the game.
A high-caliber starting running back can become the majority leader of a specific offense or game plan in a way similar to a quarterback. When Adrian Peterson was awarded the MVP in 2012, he carried the ball 348 times; an average of over 21 carries per game. The record for most single-season receptions all-time is 148, set by Marvin Harrison in 2002.
Brinson's argument for Gronkowski is based on Brady's increased effectiveness with Gronk on the field as opposed to without; which is a surprisingly elementary conclusion. Every elite quarterback is better when their best receiver is on the field. The better the receiver, the greater the impact is when they play and the more their absence is felt when they don't. But does it really mean that someone is the most valuable player in the NFL just because the quarterback throwing them the ball is better when they are there?
If Gronkowski were on a team quarterbacked by anyone other than Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or maybe Drew Brees, there is not a chance in hell he gets MVP consideration. He is absolutely one of the best players receiving the ball in the NFL, and he's certainly on pace to become one of the best ever a his position. So was Jerry Rice and although the GOAT has many awards, the AP NFL MVP is no one of them.
Tony Gonzalez is statistically the greatest tight end of all time (for now); a first ballot HOF-er with a list of impressive records a mile long. He may have made his quarterbacks look better, but his dominance certainly wasn't enough to get any of his teams to a Super Bowl, because a receiver just can't be that x-factor. If they could, you can bet Gonzalez would have player in a Super Bowl. Not only did he not play in a Super Bowl in his seventeen seasons with nary an injury to speak of, but he only played in seven playoff games!
In 2001 when Torry Holt made 81 catches for 1,363 yards receiving and Isaac Bruce made 64 catches for 1,106 yards receiving, it was Kurt Warner who was named MVP. When Marvin Harrison was shattering receiving records and playing alongside Reggie Wayne, it was Peyton Manning who was named MVP. In 2011 when Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings combined for 2,212 yards and 24 touchdowns, Aaron Rodgers was named MVP. In 2007 when Randy Moss had probably the greatest season by a wide receiver in the history of the NFL with 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns, Tom Brady was named MVP.
None of those quarterbacks in any of those examples would have had the type of statistical success they had those years without the talent of those receivers. But Warner was still great after Bruce and Holt, Manning was still great after Harrison, Brady was still great after Moss and Rodgers was still great after Jennings.
When Brady won the MVP in 2010, he was the first quarterback since Brett Favre in 1996 to win it without a 1,000 yard receiver. Last year the Patriots won the AFC East at 12-4, earned a first-round bye and made it to the AFC Championship game; all while Gronk only played in seven games and missed the playoffs. To assert that he is the most valuable player on a team that made it the conference championship without him last year is a gross overstatement.
Gronkowski is a player the likes of which the NFL has really never seen. He is revolutionizing the tight end position. His football intelligence and comprehension of the offense is nearly perfect, he is impossible to defend and his impact is felt even when he is not catching the ball or blocking because he draws so much coverage. He'd be an elite athlete no matter what team he was on, but he is a better football player because he gets to play with Tom Brady. Don't mistake it for the other way around.
Every season the media, the pundits and the fans declare their hopes and expectations for the season ahead of them. This list is a reminder that whether it's your hometown team, your favorite fantasy draft pick or the division you cover for the local blog, the NFL can be a big fat dream crusher.
5. The Chicago Bears
Last year the Bears signed Jay Cutler to a contract worth $126, 700,000; $38 million of which is guaranteed. That total contract is the second largest in the history of the National Football League. So Cutler seems like the obvious scapegoat for what has turned out to be a full on embarrassment of a season for Chicago. Except for the fact that he is performing above his career averages in nearly every statistical category. Check this out:
Cutler is doing the job that the Bears asked him to do; they just happen to be paying him way too much to do it. In fact, the Bears offensive skill players having been having pretty good seasons. Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffry are an above average group of starters right now. But it's hard to win with a defense that is allowing 30.8 points per game. A few of their blowout losses have come against elite offenses like New England and Green Bay in which the Bears defense has given up insurmountable first-half leads.
If Cutler is going to be your quarterback and you are going to stand behind his style of play, the defense has to be able to stay on the field and produce. Cutler can't be forced into shootouts because, as evidenced by their last few losses, they will lose if that's what the game comes down to. That's why this season is a blatant schematic failure by the coaching staff and personnel. The disarray in the Bears locker room along with their sinking record is a reflection of an organization that has dropped the ball categorically; in spite of having the necessary pieces in plce.
4. Vernon Davis
It's hard to tell whether Davis is falling off or if it is a purposeful offensive decision to steer away from using him the same way.
Davis was one of the best tight ends in the NFL last year. Going into Week 11 of 2013, he had 30 receptions for 520 yards and 7 TDs. This year he has 17 receptions for 169 yards and 2 TDs, which is disappointing when you consider that he caught 11 passes for 180 yards and 2 TDs in just Week 6 last year against the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously the addition of Stevie Johnson to an already formidable 49ers' wide receiving core has impacted Davis' targets. Johnson has caught 31 of 40 passes thrown his way this season, translating into a 78% chance he will make the catch when he's targeted. It's tough to argue with that type of efficiency, except for the fact that it's currently not enough to help propel them ahead of some stiff divisional competition.
Perhaps his decreased production is due to Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff limiting the use of the tight end position as a receiver. If that's the case, they should consider going back to more of what they did last year, as they have lost two of their last three games and have only twice scored more than 27 points in a game this season. At 5-4 and sitting at third place in the NFC West, their decision to limit their offensive versatility by reducing tight end sets this year may comeback to haunt them.
3. The NFC South
The New Orleans Saints are currently winning this division with a losing record of 4-5. This is how the NFC South stands right now:
New Orleans Saints 4-5
Carolina Panthers 3-6-1
Atlanta Falcons 3-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-8
How is this possible? Just 10 months ago the Saints and Panthers were playoff teams with 12-4 an 11-5 regular season records respectively. It's no surprise that the Falcons and Bucs are bad, considering the state of their franchises recently. But for two of the NFC's best teams to drop off so dramatically is disappointing to say the least. Carolina's situation is the less troubling of the two, for a few reasons. Cam Newton is still vastly unproven as a consistent passer, and doesn't have the luxury of continuing to figure it out this year as he is the second leading rusher on his team behind a meager 299 yards rushing from Jonathan Stewart. Plus, their last four games (all losses) have been against the Packers, Seahawks, Saints and Eagles. That's a rough stretch. Still, there is never an excuse to lose four games in row. Plus, they couldn't even win a game that the Bengals tried to give away. That's where that ugly tie came from. Ain't nobody got time for ties.
The real travesty here though is the Saints. Their legendary turnaround defensively last year helped lead them back to the NFC Divisional game against the Seahawks in the playoffs. Injuries to their rushing core including Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson have stifled their run game, but with Drew Brees throwing the ball to reliable targets in Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and breakout rookie Brandin Cooks (who also has six rushes for 68 yards and a TD), it is perplexing that they have been unable to find a rhythm. It's been an odd few years for Sean Payton; maybe it's time for his tenure in New Orleans to come to a close.
2. Nick FOles
Talk about a tease. 2013-era Nick Foles had one of the best breakout years a young quarterback has had recently. He took over as the starter in Week 6, reinvigorating their offense and leading them to their first playoff birth since 2011. Foles finished the regular season 8-2 having completed 64.1% of his passes for 264.5 yards per game, 24 touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating was an astounding 118.9. He also downright outplayed Drew Brees in their hard fought wild card loss against the Saints, who won the game on a field goal with three seconds left.
Cut to 2014-era Nick Foles who is a full on hot mess. It's hard to believe that such success across an NFL season by a QB could be a fluke, but that's looking more and more like the case. He's thrown at least one interception in every game he's started this season for a total of ten. Not only have his stats dropped to underwhelming levels, but he just looks uncomfortable on the field. He's constantly scrambling around, unable to read the defense or get the ball off quick enough. That scrambling and panicking has lead to four fumbles so far this season; three of which were turnovers. It's so bad that Philly fans are actually trying to get themselves on board with the idea that Mark Sanchez could be their new starter. The Mark Sanchez that wasn't even good enough to start for the Jets...
At 7-2 and leading the NFC East it's obvious that the Eagles are making it work so far. But going from 2013-era Nick Foles to Butt Fumble McGee in less than a year cannot feel good.
1. Roger Goodell
By now most television-viewing and/or internet-having Americans are very familiar with the murky details surrounding the NFL Commissioner's handling of Ray Rice's suspension in the wake of physically assaulting his wife. Rice was originally suspended two games. When a more explicit video of him punching his then-fiancé unconscious was released by TMZ, Rice was suspended indefinitely. It was the biggest controversy the commissioner has dealt with in his time as the head disciplinarian of the NFL, and he botched it royally.
In his 45-minute press conference addressing the details surrounding Rice's suspension and the league's plans to overhaul their treatment of the issue of domestic violence within the NFL, Goodell was avoidant, dismissive and condescending. Rather than seizing the opportunity to express humility and offer an honest dialogue regarding the complex issue of enacting and enforcing NFL rules and regulations in conjunction with the law, he plead ignorance.
Goodell was reminded by a reporter in that press conference that his explanation for suspending Sean Payton from the NFL for a full year after the Saints BountyGate scandal in 2012 was that "ignorance is not an excuse." That reporter asked Goodell why ignorance was a good enough explanation for his behavior in light of the precedent he set when sanctioning Payton. He had no answer. When Goodell failed to answer that question with any level of honesty or integrity, he lost what was left of his credibility. It's hard to say how long he will try to fight his descent into the bowels of the public opinion, but as long as he does, he will continue to be the NFL's biggest active disappointment.
| Tanya Ray Fox |