Week Seven Preview: Patriots vs. Jets

I really tried to go past this game and pick another match up but I couldn’t. The little voice at the back of my mind asked ‘Can the Jets give the Revenge Tour its first pit stop?’ And I hesitated with that thought, thinking of the implications if it were to happen. That’s why for this week, we’ll look at New England taking on New York.

New York Jets

The Jets have completely 180’d from last season. This time last year, they were sitting at 1-4 and at times looked like the worst team in the league. Then this season, against all odds, they are 4-1 and looking dangerous.

Can stand-in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick lead the Jets to their biggest win of the season to date?

Pros:

Defensive Upgrade.

The Jets are ranked number 1 in the league for defence going into this game. They will need every bit of that defence to stop the onslaught of Edelman and Gronkowski, both of which are in fine form indeed. If there is a defence that can stop the NE Offence, it’s the New York Jets.

Rush Game on Point.

In addition to the best defence right now, New York also have the best rushing game in the league.

Last week, wide receiver Brandon Marshall became the first WR in nearly 50 years to post four-straight 100 yard games for the Jets. Combine that with Eric Decker and running back Chris Ivory and the Jets had 366 yards and three scores. Ivory also rushed for 158 yards and one touchdown with only 20 carries.

Patriots, beware.

Stand-ins Step Up.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has done a brilliant job stepping up for the injured Geno Smith. He has some real playmakers that he is slowly becoming more and more comfortable with and is completing some real impressive plays. His game, while still slightly limited, is helping the Jets compete with the best-and now he has to go against one of the greats of the sport.

Cons:

Red Zone Performance.

The Jets have had some of their worst work come when the pressure was on. Their performance so far this season has been sub-par-not at all up to their usual defensive form. This will have to seriously be looked at to stop the likes of Gronkowski or Edelman sneaking in those TD’s. Brady may even fancy himself a couple of walk in scores himself.

Gillette Will Cut Deep.

Out of the last 10 years of competition, the Jets have only won 3 times at Gillette. The last time was back in 2011, over four years ago.

Its not a very nice environment, especially when you’re the visiting team attempting to upset the King of Boston.

The Jets will have a hell of a time trying to overcome that barrier.

Stopping Gronk.

Gronkowski is due for a big game. He scored a hat-trick in their week one demolishing of the Steelers and has only scored twice since then. Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers is in for a hell of a week trying to organise his impressive defence to stop Gronkowski.

New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the second half at MetLife Stadium - Photo Courtesy of Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the second half at MetLife Stadium – Photo Courtesy of Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots

The Patriots are on a tear. After putting the Colts to rest last week, Tom Bradys fired up focus now zeroes in on the Geno Smith-less Jets.

What do the defending Champs have in store for New York?

Pros:

Gillette Ground is Hallowed.

The Patriots will be damn focused on making sure that their first loss of the season doesn’t happen in their backyard. Gillette Stadium is already hard enough to win at as it is, let alone when the Patriots are on a personal vendetta.

Tom Brady.

Brady is on track to have his greatest season yet. That alone should truly scare any team in the NFL. He’s only thrown one interception in 5 games.

Compare that to his greatest rival in Peyton Manning who has thrown 10 interceptions in 6 games and half as many touchdowns. Brady is on fire-but he’ll meet some resistance in the Jets Defence.

Offensive Buffet.

The Patriots offensive options are straight up scary. You have Gronkowski who is a monster of a man, pretty much impossible to stop in a red zone situation. Then you have Edelman who is lightning quick and evasive. Then you throw in Danny Amendola and that is one line up that will scare even the Jets awesome D-Line.

Cons:

Scrimmage Underdogs.

Looking at the line of scrimmage, the Pats are actually the under dogs.  The Jets are averaging an entire yard more per rush than they are allowing. They gain around 4.5 yards per carry but yielding 3.5 yards while on defence. The New England defensive line should be very wary of Chris Ivory.

Richardson Returns.

Sheldon Richardson returns to the defensive line for New York after suspension and you can bet he’ll be looking to make an impact by shutting down Brady. If he can get some early sacks on Brady and set the pace for the rest of the game, the Jets defence could prove the game winner.

Overconfidence.

The danger in having a great start to the season is that many players get comfortable. They under estimate and under prepare mentally for opponents. The Patriots cannot afford to underestimate the Jets. There is no reason that the juggernaut of Brady wont be derailed in this game.

PREDICTIONS:

I’m 3-3 for my weekly picks (damn Giants). This week, I’m going with Brady and the boys from Boston. I think their offence will overcome the brick wall that is the New York defence.

New England to win 26-20.

Players to Watch:

New England: I think this will be the week TE Scott Chandler will shine. I picked him at the start of the season to be a sleeper star for the Patriots. Keep an eye on him.

New York: If the Patriots cant keep Brandon Marshall to under 100 yards, we will have a very good game on our hands. Marshall will make or break the game for the Jets.

By Cameron Corban

Week Six Preview – Giants vs. Eagles

Talk about the battle of the under performers. These two teams will go head-to-head to see who trails the Cowboys in the NFC East division.

In what should be a closely contested game, both these teams will be looking to get their season back on track.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had an average season last year, finishing with a 10-6 record after a surprise loss to Washington.

Chip Kelly and Sam Bradford will be looking for a change in fortune a big way to get their season back on track.

Pros:

Lincoln Financial Field.

Home field advantage comes into play. The Eagles are already 1-1 at home but last time that the Eagles hosted the New York Giants, they held them scoreless with a final score of 27-0.

The Philly boys will be hoping to replicate those results and take their record to 3-3.

Murrays Finally Firing.

DeMarco Murrays efforts over the last few weeks have been well documented so far.

He’s looked slow, his rushing has been average and not looking at all like he’s worth the $42 mil, 5 year contract he’s been signed to. In the game against New Orleans in Week 5 however, he finally looked like he was finding a rhythm. But is it too little, too late for him?

Matthews – Under the Radar.

In all the talk about Murrays start to the season, it seems the the abilities of Ryan Matthews have flown under the radar. It seems like Chip Kellys game plan is more suited to someone like Matthews.

In the match against the Saints, he averaged 10 yards per run. His running game seems to fit in more with the spread that Kelly seems intent on using this season.

If he can get a bit more aggression into his season, the Eagles offense will be in for a huge (and much needed) boost.

Cons:

Red Zone Throws.

Sam Bradford threw 2 Red Zone interceptions. In one half. The fact that they still won over the Saints after that is borderline amazing.

Sam will really need to try find some poise if he wants to overcome the Giants.

Key Injuries.

The Eagles were without their top 2 Linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks last week. Its painfully obvious as the Eagles defense have lost a bit of its ‘oomph’.

With both men still in doubt for week six, Chip Kelly will have to look at some reshuffling for his D-Line.

Basic Errors Proving Costly.

Simple fumbles and drops are plaguing the Eagles Attack. Ever since they lost to the Cowboys, the have looked shaky. It was really only against the Week 5 game against the Saints that it kicked into life.

If they can find that rhythm again, they can win here and get their season back on track.

Ryan Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles brushes aside a tackle during the Eagles game against the Colts - Photo Courtesy of SportingNews.com
Ryan Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles brushes aside a tackle during the Eagles game against the Colts – Photo Courtesy of SportingNews.com

New York Giants

The NY boys pulled out a gutsy win against San Francisco in Week 5. They now sit 3-2 and look to be getting some major momentum after their third win in a row.

What does Eli and his team need to do this week to keep that momentum going?

Pros:

Eli is on Form.

Eli Manning is red hot after the win over San Fran. 41 completions from 54 attempts for 441 yards.

That’s his career best and he looks like he’s just getting warmed up. He was linking up well with his offense and only had one interception for his 54 attempts.

He’ll be hard to stop.

Beckham Jr. Also on Form.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning may become the new powerhouse duo for the Giants.

Building off his amazing season in 2014, Beckham Jr has impressed everyone who has been claiming his rookie year was a fluke. Against San Fran, he amassed 121 yards with seven catches including a Touchdown.

Offense, offense, offense.

Defensively, I would say these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Both of them have had shaky starts to the season.

I feel that this match will be a higher scoring one and it all comes down to attack. Eli and his offensive options with Beckham and Vereen are looking like some of the best in the league right now.

Cons:

Defensive Woes.

Injury has spread through the defense of New York so far and their really missing some of their first and second string players out there.

Guys like Robert Ayers and Markus Kuhn are needed out on that field and their third string players just aren’t cutting it so far.

Crazy Calls.

Eli Manning is on fire right now. Yet sometimes he pulls out the most strange, inexplainable calls.

With 11 seconds left in the first half against the 49ers, Manning made a shocker of a decision, and a worse throw, tossing a pass toward a covered Odell Beckham in the end zone.

The pass was picked off by San Frans Tramaine Brock and was such a poor judgement throw from Manning.

Beckham Jr Possibly Injured.

Odell left the field briefly last week only to return to help win the game for them. But at what price?

At the time of this writing, he is still waiting on a medical report to see if he is fit enough to train this week and prep for the game against Philly. If he has to miss a week, the Giants offense will take a massive hit.

PREDICTIONS:

Giants all the way. Eli’s form is too much to ignore. Both teams need a lot of work on their defence. New York will win a higher scoring game 42-36. Gutsy performance by both teams.

Players to Watch:

Eagles: Ryan Matthews will be the Eagles go-to man over Murray this week. If they want to score points, watch Matthews carefully.

Giants: If Odell Beckham is cleared to play, the Eagles are in for a long night. He’s aggressive and is out to show his 1st season most definitely not a fluke.

By Cameron Corban

Week Five Preview – Broncos vs. Raiders

With so many interesting match ups this round, it was hard to pick just one preview for this week.

You’ve got the Patriots (3-0) who lead the league in offense and passing taking on the Cowboys (2-2) in Dallas which will be awesome to watch. Seattle (1-2) are taking on the undefeated Bengals (4-0) which is something I never thought I’d write.

This week however, we’ll be looking at a game that will really impact the AFC West division with the Denver Broncos (4-0) taking on their division rivals the Oakland Raiders (2-2).

It will be an interesting match to say the least-can Peyton Manning shake the cobwebs from last week and get Denver to a 5-0 start?

Denver Broncos

The Broncos had a close miss with the Vikings in Week 4. Their defence proved why it’s one of, if not the best in the league right now.

Pros:

Dominating Defence.

Denver has the best defence in the league. For the most part, Denver’s D-Line kept Adrian Peterson chances to a minimum. They gave him zero space and that is no easy feat. Ted Bridgewater won’t be sending Denver a Christmas card anytime soon. Denver handed out seven sacks including T.J Ward’s strip for a turnover.

Hillmans Got Pace.

Watching back, the Denver/Vikings game (I can’t usually watch the games from work), this was my first real time taking notice of Ronnie Hillman. He had a few starts over the last season but he seriously impressed me with his game reading and running abilities. He looked like a padded up version of Tim Nanai Williams from the Chiefs Super Rugby team at times with his ability to run the sideline.

CJ Anderson may have lost his starting position after that game.

Playing Under Pressure.

All four of the Broncos wins have come in the final few minutes. This season has seen them come close so many times to a loss and that’s when the team steps up the most. That vital ability mixed with their amazing defence is more than capable of taking them all the way this season.

Cons:

Manning Showing His Age.

Peyton is old. He looks like it and he’s playing like it. Its week 5 and he’s currently on 6 TD’s and 5 Interceptions. He looks sluggish. At times he has had flashes of his old brilliance but his throwing power seems painfully limited. He’ll need to find that inner youth if he intends to take this season to 5-0.

Limited Ground Game.

Denver has some pretty poor rushing stats this season which is disappointing as they are capable of so much more. CJ Anderson has struggled to find any space so far this season which may lead to Ronnie Hillman taking over starting duties to inject something into the attack of Denver.

California Knows How to Party

This is usually the time of the season where Oakland rallies and kicks their season into gear. And doing it at O.Co Stadium in Cali sounds just like the kind of place that they’ll do it. Denver can’t underestimate the Raiders attack – it may be what breaks their defence.

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) prepares to pass against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014 - Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/Ben Margot
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) prepares to pass against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014 – Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/Ben Margot

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders were unlucky last week, just being narrowly nudged out by Chicago. They’ll be looking to make a statement against their AFC West rivals this week. Can the young Derek Carr step up against one of the greats in Peyton Manning?

Pros:

Bill Musgrave.

Oakland’s offence is in the middle of a large scale reshuffle, all thanks to Bill Musgrave. In a few short weeks, he’s gone from a bunch of players that took three quarters to score against Cincinnati to having some great big plays up his sleeve. The Raiders scored 64 points and accumulated 917 yards of total offense in winning their past two games. That’s a major turn around and they look like they’ll only get better from here.

Crabtree Getting His Roots.

Michael Crabtree is finally gaining some footing and coming into form. He’s had an average start to the season. Not terrible but not one to write home about.

At only 28 years old, he’s still got some years in him but he is definitely one of the older guys in the Offense for Oakland. If he’s finding some form, he may be the one to crack Denver’s Defensive line.

Young Team on the Rise.

Oakland has a lot of young players still trying to build their footing. Some of them have found it, some are still slipping along the way but they feel like a team that will become a real threat with a bit of time. Derrek Carr is only 24. Amari Cooper is in his rookie year at age 21 and making an impact. Latavius Murray is 24 years old.

This is a great young team to watch.

Cons.

Defensive Decline.

If Denver are the Kings of Defence, Oakland are the dead opposite.

Only the Cleveland Browns have a worse defence right now and even then it’s a close call. Oakland better hope that this isn’t the week that Manning brushes off the dust.

Hometown Hit.

Oakland have already lost one game at home this season and with it, they have lost any aura of an ‘impenetrable fortress’ that many teams like to associate with their home stadium. Never under estimate the mental effect a home town advantage can have for a team

History.

‘History Never Repeats’. Split Endz obviously never saw these two teams play. Since the 1960s, the Raiders and the Broncos have faced 111 times. The Raiders are sitting on 60 wins compared to Denver’s 49 wins (and 2 draws). But Oakland haven’t beaten the Broncos since 2011.

They’ll need a lot of help with this one.

PREDICTIONS:

I’m currently 2-2 with my weekly picks. I’m hoping to get it right this week. Denver’s defence is far too strong. Peyton will find rhythm in 4th quarter to win it for the Broncos 24-14. At the same time, if the Raiders upset the Broncos here, I wouldn’t be overly surprised.

Players to Watch:

Ronnie Hillman will bust the game open for the Broncos, especially against the minor defences of Oakland. I’m hoping he gets the nod to start over CJ Anderson.

Derrek Carr is one of my favourite young players of the last year. I think this season is when he’ll start getting some treading in his career. If Oakland have any chance of winning, it will be on the shoulders of Carr.

By Cameron Corban

Week Four Preview – Jaguars vs. Colts

Over this NFL Season, I’m previewing one game a week with pros and cons for each team. I’m doing my best to do each team at least once in the season which is why this week I have chosen Jacksonville taking on Indianapolis instead of some of the clashes between some of the ‘bigger’ teams such as Ravens v Steelers.

This game is actually really going to effect the AFC South Division, with all of the teams currently off to a slow start at 1-2, the points difference against conference teams could make up all the difference at the end of the regular season.

Currently, the leading team in AFC South is the Tennessee Titans thanks to their +12 point difference.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags were humbled in Round 3 with a thrashing at the hands of a determined Tom Brady and focused Patriots outfit.

Can Blake Bortles rally the troops in this weeks important clash against Indianapolis?

Pros:

Bortles-Hurns.

I’m not gonna lie, its freakin’ hard to find any pros at all for Jacksonville heading into this one! Their one win has been against an underwhelming Miami side.

The one positive I’ve been able to draw from their game against the Patriots is that when Bortles went looking for Allen Hurns, the Jags attack actually looked semi-dangerous.

They created an amazing 59 yard TD against the Patriots – something that not many teams could pull off.

Underestimation.

This is how bad I’m stretching to find a pro. Jacksonville have been victim to a string of injuries, keeping many of their first string and some second string players off the pitch. With all these injuries, the Jags may get lucky and be underestimated enough to pull something out of the hat for this one.

Gus Bradley.

Gus Bradley has shown in the past that with a bit of time, he can really help improve a teams defence. This is his third season with the Jaguars.

This is usually when Bradley’s game plan starts to show and we see signs of improvement. But will it happen this week? I doubt it.

Cons:

Injuries.

Writing cons for this side will be much easier.

Going into their game against the Patriots, they already had two defensive backs injured and out and lost three more during that game.

By the end of it, they had Peyton Thompson who usually plays corner back (and has been cut 6 times in the last 2 seasons form various teams) and Nick Marshall, an unknown, undrafted rookie playing defensive back.

Defence Lapses.

The game against the Patriots set the record for the most points ever allowed by the Jaguars. Not a good thing to have weighing on the mind heading into such an important game, especially a game away from home.

The atmosphere at Lucas Oil Stadium won’t help the pressure for the Jaguars.

Discipline.

As of late, Jacksonville have gotten into a bad habit of giving away flags on plays. Against the Pats, Jacksonville were flagged 7 times for 114 yards. They also gave away an interference penalty which neutralised an interception and handed the Pats a massive 80+ yard return that had the Patriots on the Jaguars 1 yard line.

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles- Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles- Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck pulled the Colts out of the darkness last week with a tight win over the Tennessee Titans and steered them away from a 0-3 season start.

In a gutsy performance on the road, Luck hopes that this is the start of a hot streak for the Colts.

Pros:

Preforming When it Matters.

Andrew Luck pulled off two TD passes 56 seconds apart in the 4th quarter. I don’t care who you are, when you’re down by that much in the 4th quarter, 2 touchdowns is damn impressive.

Luck seemed to finally be getting rid of some of that rust that has plagued him for the last few weeks and if he’s gearing up, Jacksonville need to get ready.

History Backs Them Up.

I know that this comes up every week but never underestimate history and home field advantage and the mental effect it can have on players.

This game is being played at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home field of the Colts. The last 3 times these teams have played, the Colts have won by a deficit of 20 points or more with their last encounter going 23-3 in the way of Indianapolis.

Luck Knows How to Roll.

The Colts were in this exact scenario last year-0-2, gain their first victory and then go on a winning streak.

Last year they ended on a respectable 11-5 which isn’t too bad seeing as their 2 losses were from the 1st two weeks, they recovered very well. In an ironic twist, the team that they beat before going on 5 game winning streak last season was the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I expect more of the same this year.

Cons:

Injuries.

Indianapolis went into this season with great depth at corner back. That depth is being tested.

With at least 4 of their CB’s in question for this game with a wide variety of injuries, including neck, ankle and concussion issues, it will be interesting to see if the Colts defence will be up to par.

Out of Luck?

Andrew Luck has looked sluggish as of late. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2nd half of the game against the Titans where he really seemed comfortable.

The Colts game plan hinges on whichever Andrew shows up on game day. Will we see the Andrew Luck that threw 2 Touchdowns in 56 seconds? Or do you think he’s out of Luck? (Not sorry for the pun).

Still Rebuilding.

Its obvious the Colts are still getting over the loss of experience when it comes to Reggie Wanye and its also abundantly clear that they desperately miss Ahmad Bradshaw, their ex-Running Back.

It’s a reasonably young team and this season may end up being written off as a rebuilding season.

PREDICTIONS:

Colts will win but not as easily as recent history between the two sides suggest. Andrew Luck and the Colts move to 2-2 with a 28-26 victory.

Players to Watch:

Jacksonville Jaguars: Allen Hurs at Wide Reciever. Hes had a few niggly injuries the past couple of weeks but he has potential to become a lethal combo when combined with Bortles. If he gets some space down field-he may break the game open.

Indianapolis Colts: Keep an eye on Luck. If hes found his form this season, he should rip this game apart with all the attacking options he has at his disposal. Donte Moncrief is also slowly forming himself into a big play threat so watch him closely as well, especially if the Colts get backed into a corner.

By Cameron Corban

Week Three Preview – 49ers vs. Cardinals

The third week of the NFL is already here and after a lot of deliberation on my part, I have chosen this week’s preview: Carson Palmer and his Arizona Cardinals taking on the Tasman’s favourite NFL team, Jarryd Hayne and the San Francisco 49er’s.

This is an important clash for the NFC West division. Arizona currently lead the division on 2-0 while San Francisco sit on 1-1.

Both teams will be keen to stay ahead of both Seattle and St. Louis so will need to bring their A-Game.

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona took full advantage of Jay Cutler’s injury last week and crushed the Chicago Bears 48-23. They are 2-0 and well on the way to improving their record last year, a respectful 11-5 ratio.

Pros:

Phoenix Fortress.

Last year the Cardinals held a 7-1 record at the University of Phoenix where they tied with New England, Seattle and Detroit for the 2nd best home record.

Last time San Fran took a step into the University, they were sent home after a 23-14 beating. It’s a result that Palmer & co will be looking to replicate.

Fitzgerald’s Drought Is Broken.

Last season, Carson Palmer only played 6 games due to injury which also stunted the amount of attacking power Arizona had.

The chemistry between Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald is undeniable. In fact, until last week Fitzgerald was on a 9-game TD drought.

With Andre Ellington still injured, Palmer looked to Fitzgerald to step up and between them, they scored 3 Touchdowns for the 1st 3-TD game in Fitzgerald’s career.

Bruce Airans Slowly Bringing it Together.

Bruce Airans took the helm at Arizona in 2013 and has been working the franchise to his design and its really shown over the last couple of seasons.

In 2014/2015, the Cardinals were 11-5 which tied the franchises record for most season wins and he was also named AP Coach of the Year for the 2nd time in his career. If anyone has a chance to turn Arizona into a legitimate threat, its Airans who has just signed on until 2018.

Cons:

History.

Over the last 5 years, Arizona and San Francisco have met 10 times. The Cardinals have won 2 of those 10 encounters. Each time they have lost, it has been by 10 points or more with the exception of their most recent meeting in 2014 where there was a 3 point difference.

Arizona will have to step up their defence to make sure that this time, they come out on top.

Defence Deeply Worrying.

‘Defence wins matches’ is the old cliché and currently, Arizona is ranked 22nd with their defence. Not a stat you want when you go into a game with the 49er’s.

San Fran are ranked number 2 in rushing and 4 in offence and they look to be improving.

Airans is going to need to do a lot of work to counter Kaepernick and all the options he has for rushing.

Andre Ellington Missing in Action.

Andre Ellington is one of Arizona’s up and coming talents that is just starting to find his rhythm. He’s injured himself in the game against Chicago and at the time of this writing has not been cleared to play against San Francisco so the attack options of Arizona have taken a slight hit.

It will be interesting to see what Airan will do to remedy this.

Carson Palmer, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, looks downfield for an open receiver - Photo Courtesy of Fantasy Guru Bros
Carson Palmer, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, looks downfield for an open receiver – Photo Courtesy of Fantasy Guru Bros

San Francisco 49er’s

The Hayne Plane is in full effect. With Reggie Bush on a week to week basis, the Rugby League convert has been given a chance to step up and is a contributing factor as to why San Fran are currently ranked number 2 in rushing stats so far this season.

It’s gonna be an interesting battle for the 49’ers if they want a chance to take over from Arizona at the top on the NFC West division.

Pros:

On Paper, They Look Good.

San Francisco are currently the leading team in the NFL with rushing. They are ranked 4th on offence and 16th on defense. They have a great attack/rushing set up with Kaepernick and Hyde/Hayne. They are a dangerous team to face and with the motivation of taking the lead in the NFC West, they will be hard to stop.

Jim Tomsula.

In 2010, Tomsula was named as San Frans interim head coach. Remember before when I brought up the stat that over the last 5 years, these 2 teams have faced off 10 times? And how San Fran have won 8 of these 10 encounters? Yeah, Tomsula had a lot to do with that.

Jim has been a mix of Defensive coach and Head Coach over that period of time. In fact, his first game as Head Coach for the 49er’s ended in a 38-7 victory over Arizona. So he knows what he’s doing when it comes to taking on the Cardinals.

Versatility.

San Fran have one of the most versatile squad of players this season. Even with injuries to Reggie Bush, they’ve been able to counter that with a mix of Carlos Hyde and Jarryd Hayne. Hayne may even be given a shot at another position.

His career is still so young that Tomsula could slide him in at fullback and see how he goes.

The versatility of the 49er offence will be a key factor to their season.

Cons:

Kaepernick Looking Uncomfortable Under Pressure.

In the 43-18 loss against Pittsburgh in Week 2, something seemed off about quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Usually a cool head under pressure, Kaepernick never look 100% certain and didn’t find a rhythm in his game until the game was well and truly out of reach.

On the receiving end of 5 sacks from the Steelers, he’ll need to get into game mode a lot earlier if they want to overcome the high flying Cardinals.

Turning Drives Into Points.

Two San Fran long drives (17 plays in the first half, 19 in the second) ended with just 3 points on the board for the 49er’s.

Kaepernick threw for over 330 yards in the game against the Steelers. They have had the opportunities with the ball in hand. They just need to turn those opportunities into points.

Hyde Down?

Rumours are flying at the moment that Carlos Hyde may not be fit enough for this vital clash. With Reggie Bush also on the fence, there’s suddenly a lot of pressure put on the Hayne Plane.

Between him and Mike Davis, there is a chance to step up and make a name for themselves. Can the Hayne Plane step up and be the hero that San Francisco desperately needs?

PREDICTIONS:

This is a tough one. I’m going to go with my heart on this one and say San Francisco wins a close one in the final quarter. Ultimately, the mix of Tomsula’s coaching and a re-focused Colin Kaepernick will overcome Arizona at home and add the 1st ‘L’ to the Cardinals this season.

The recent history between these two teams is too much to ignore and Arizona’s defence will crumble to the rushing game of San Francisco.

Players To Watch:

John Brown – Arizona Cardinals. This young player is poised to have a break out year. Potentially the best Wide Receiver in the Arizona locker room, look for Carson Palmer to be targeting Brown a lot during their plays.

Jarred Hayne – San Francisco 49er’s. You could probably guess I was going to pick the hero from Down Under. A good performance here could really top off his already amazing rookie season from a NRL convert to professional NFL Player. Look for him to step up in Carlos Hyde has to take a week off.

By Cameron Corban

Why I Don’t Get U.S. Sports

I admit it. As a Brit, I don’t really understand U.S. sports.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the rules. When I was a lad in the ‘90s, I owned a Sega Megadrive – called a Genesis in the States – and became incredibly proficient on Madden, NHL and other EA Sports games. Oh, and NBA Jam. “He’s on fire!”

I get the rules. But I still don’t get the sports. I think it’s a cultural thing. But I’m going to run the risk of my American friends and make some observations on sports this side of the Atlantic. Tongue firmly placed in my cheek, of course.

It seems as if American sports are especially focused on appealing to men. Even more so than other places in the world.

How do I know? Look at the franchise names. They ripple with masculinity. They scream testosterone. Powerful names to appeal to powerful men.

Team names like Anaheim Ducks. The Toronto Maple Leafs. Admittedly they are Canadian, but you accepted them into your league. The Pittsburgh Penguins, named after the well-known ecosystem-dominating predator. The Los Angeles Clippers (how did a team of hairdressers get a professional team?) The New Orleans Pelicans. The Arizona Cardinals. Because a team of high-ranking robed Catholic priests would be intimidating in a contact sports situation. I could go on.

But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Substance is more important than style. So let’s look at the substance of the popular US sports, one at a time.

Football

Football is first up.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get past the name. Football? One player uses his feet ten per cent of the time at best, and it’s not even a ball.

I suppose ‘Throw Pigskin Egg’ isn’t a catchy name, even if its appropriately descriptive.

You also have about a hundred people on the team on the sidelines. Offense, defense, special teams. Frankly, I’d feel part of a special team if I was being paid ten million dollars to punt the ball a few times a game.

Another thing is the breaks. Someone does a bit of throwing or running or hitting, and then they get a rest! You call them ‘downs’ but I think they should be called ‘downtime.’ Bless them, these big hulking athletes, who need a little breather to get over the frequent stitches that two second exertions cause them. Perhaps that is why a football game that should last eighty minutes is spread out with commercial breaks to take up the best part of a weekend.

The poor delicate flowers. And don’t tell me how tough a sport it is. They get armour, on top of the frequent rest stops. Rugby players get nothing except broken noses, shattered collarbones and cauliflower ears. Yet women swoon over them. It’s ridiculous.

What about College football?

Quite frankly, I think students get away with murder these days. They should be studying hard in preparation to contribute positively to society through paying tax. Not given access to stadiums of thirty-thousand people fans who want to watch them play sports. They’ve got enough distractions with cheap beer, house parties and frat houses. I’m not bitter I didn’t have that opportunity. Oh no.

Therefore, I’ve deduced that Football is a simple equation. (Rugby + armour) + cheerleaders = Football.

Basketball

Basketball, I have some more time for.

Who doesn’t like watching a sport that you know you will never be able to replicate, if only because you just scrape to being five foot ten inches tall?

I can’t even jump up and reach the candy on the top shelf in my cupboard my wife hides from me. I’ve got fat chance of reaching the bottom of the net, let alone slam dunking someone in the face.

Interestingly, Basketball is based upon a British game called Netball, popular amongst schoolgirls. Girls of distinctly average height.

Therefore, I’ve deduced that Basketball is a simple equation. (Netball + bouncing) + cheerleaders = Basketball.

Baseball

Baseball was up next, for my unbiased analysis.

I enjoyed finding out that the World Series was only played by American teams. That world championship must mean a lot, eh?

You also love your stats. Baseball seems to be the sport of choice for those non-athletic geeks who love Excel spreadsheets more than they should.

Imagine my surprise to discover that Baseball is based upon a British game called Rounders. A game played by schoolgirls. I’m noticing a pattern emerging.

Therefore, I’ve deduced that Baseball is a simple equation. (Rounders + stats) + cheerleaders = Baseball.

Ice Hockey

Hockey. Ah, Hockey.

Now, I loath ice-skating. I’ve done it once, and it was such a traumatic experience that I’m currently resisting all attempts by my wife to try it again. I’m not saying I couldn’t do it, but I did resemble a newborn deer lacking leg ligaments, on roller-skates, trying to stand up.

So how these guys, wearing hand-me-down armour from resting footballers, can skate into each other and then punch each other in the face, I have no idea. I have no idea how it is legal.

During my research I discovered that Hockey is based upon Hockey. Or what is now called Lawn Hockey, because certain people seem to be unable to determine through sight alone if the game is being played on ice or grass and therefore require an extra noun.

Incidentally, Lawn Hockey is very popular among British schoolgirls. Hmmm.

Therefore, I’ve deduced that Hockey is a simple equation. (Lawn Hockey – Lawn + Ice) + UFC = Hockey.

IndyCar

Indycar just seems to be Formula One racing around oval tracks. It’s worth saying that it’s not based on a game popular amongst British schoolgirls. For once.

So, my American friends, this is why most of the rest of the world don’t get US Sports.

I’ve given you an objective, balanced, well-thought out explanation. Unbiased and not at all affected by my faded athletic ability. Why don’t you tell me what you think? Using stats and cheerleaders, of course…

By Anthony Hilder

Article originally published here: http://uncompromisedmen.com/2014/01/28/dont-get-american-sports-ready/

Hayne Plane Carrying More Than Just Himself

I had to write something on this at some point. All over social media, you can’t log in these days without some form of update on Jarryd Haynes progress in the NFL.

Some people, such as myself, follow this with a lot of interest. Code-hopping players are always fun to track but this is the first real time that a high profile rugby league player has attempted such a drastic switch to a sport which is essentially at the core of American sporting.

Then there are those on social media that are fed up with it. They are crying that its over saturation, that no one really cares any more and that its not that big of a deal.

These people could not be more wrong. It IS that big of a deal.

The only time NFL makes the media over here in New Zealand is usually a side piece the night before and night of the Super Bowl.

We’ve had Kiwis/Australian players in the NFL before such as the likes of Paul Laisake, David Dixon, Riki Ellison etc. But this is the first time that it has had people talking, not only about the player but about the sport itself.

News outlets are covering every little detail that goes into the process of transferring from international league star to professional NFL player. People are being exposed to the workings of the sport in a way that shows people how hard it is to crack.

Its created interest.

More people will be inclined to watch any game of the San Francisco 49ers this season now that they have become emotionally invested in the journey of ‘The Hayne Plane.’

Sky and ESPN have been posting none stop about covering the San Francisco games this season, allowing it to reach a market previously uninitiated to the NFL. Now, TVNZ has secured the rights to play the NFL free to air.

Creating interest and making people tune in and learn more about the NFL is the first step to making the sport bigger down here.

We already have our own local league in New Zealand that struggles from time to time with numbers. The 1st step would be increasing the numbers of those playing. It could also be introduced at schools as part of the Physical Education curriculum.

Hopefully with more interest from Haynes journey, more schools will be looking into American Football as a fun alternative to the regular curriculum.

There is so much interest that there are rumours that NFL scouts are looking more closely at rugby (both league and union) for athletes that have a natural running game.

Hayne has opened the gates for more players to try and cross the line into American Football.

Big money contracts not to mention crazy endorsement deals. And you can guarantee that there will be some American players that will be looking down here to potentially try a swap to rugby.

America is rugby’s great sleeping super power. If they invested more time and money into developing players, they could truly be a nation to deal with.

I have only been a follower of the NFL for a few years but even I can tell the potential that the Jarryd Hayne situation has.

It’s opened doors not only for him but any Australian/Kiwi athlete that could be looking at making the switch. Doors open both ways. Perhaps in time, American athletes will look to move down here for a taste of rugby.

Either way, at the end of the day-The Hayne Plane carries much more than just himself and his career. He carries the future potential of an entirely new age of sport.

By Cameron Corban

Week Two Preview – Seahawks vs. Packers

Here we are – week 2 of the 2015/16 NFL season.

This week, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons for this round’s clash between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

In week one, Seattle narrowly lost a great game in overtime against St. Louis while Aaron Rodgers and his team walked out of Chicago with a win over the Bears.

This week will be an epic clash at Lambeau Field with both teams looking to make a statement.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Green Bay pulled out a win over a re-building Chicago franchise last week but they’ll have their work cut out for them this week when they take on an angry Russell Wilson and co.

Pros:

Lambeau Fortress.

Under Mike McCarthy, Green Bay hold a 81% win record at Lambeau Field which is one of the more impressive home field win rates in the NFL.

With the stadium also being recently upgraded with more seats and better training facilities, the Packers will be right at home.

The Rodgers-Jones Connection.

The return of James Jones looked impressive in week one.

After jumping to Oakland last season before jumping to the Giants and being cut, James Jones returned to Green Bay and instantly reconnected with Rodgers for 2 TD’s (one of them being a beautiful one handed catch).

If these two can find some early season form, the Packers attack will look very formidable indeed.

Cobb’s Looking Impressive.

When Randall Cobb went down in the preseason with a shoulder injury, there was a flutter of panic in the Green Bay camp. With a distinct lack of depth at WR, there was some concern but thankfully Cobb pulled through and found some rhythm against Chicago including a TD in the 4th Quarter.

Cons:

Less Than Winning Record.

The Packers are 10-8 over Seattle but have lost the last 3 times these two teams have met.

Will that be playing on Aaron Rodgers mind as he tries to take his team to 2-0 or will the pressure of a losing streak prove too much to handle?

Jordy Nelson is Gone All Season.

One of Green Bays best players succumbed to a leg injury during their preseason.

With a distinct lack of cover at wide receiver, they have had to scramble and recall James Jones from Free Agency.

While James Jones has a great partnership with Rodgers, there is a rare chemistry between Nelson and Aaron that is hardly seen in the game today.

Rushing Yards.

The Packers allowed Chicagos Matt Forte to rush for 141 yards including one touchdown.

These aren’t the kind of gaps they want to leave exposed to Seattle and you can be well assured that Coach McCarthy will be re-watching the tape to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Aaron Rodgers busts his way through the sound Seahawks defence - Photo Courtesy of iSportsweb
Aaron Rodgers busts his way through the sound Seahawks defence – Photo Courtesy of iSportsweb

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

The 2014/15 NFC Champions aren’t off to a great start this season.

Pete Carroll will be feeling the pressure, especially after the final seconds of Super Bowl XLIX. The memes of that final play alone will follow him for the rest of his career.

Now, his boys have a chance to make a statement with a win away from home when they take on Aaron Rodgers.

Pros:

Motivation.

Russell Wilson will be looking to make a statement, much like Tom Brady last week.

As we saw there, motivation to put doubters to bed can be a powerful boost.

Seattle will be looking to make their third consecutive Super Bowl and put the horrors of this years SB loss to the Patriots behind them.

Form in the Final Minutes.

The last quarter against St. Louis had Seattle post 18 points which is always an impressive feat.

It shows that Seattle can preform under pressure and get points when it matters.

It was a run of bad luck in the final 60 seconds that saw them ultimately lose the game and shows that there is some potential with the Seattle offense.

Lightning Strikes Again?

I mentioned it in the Green Bay Cons section. The last 3 times these teams have met, Seattle have come out number one. That should hopefully build some confidence which is something that they are lacking right now.

Russell Wilson had 41 attempts with the ball against the Rams which shows that they have had the ball in hand-now they just need to capitalise on it.

Cons:

Predictable.

This is most likely me just being too harsh. Seattle needed 1 yard in over time to win the game.

Sound familiar? Except this time, they did exactly what they should have done last time and threw it to Marshawn Lynch. And everyone knew that’s exactly what they were going to do.

The fans knew it, the Rams defence knew it. They shut Lynch down for a 1 yard loss and sealed the game.

Seattle’s attack needs to be seriously looked at for other options.

Rough Day to be Wilson.

Russell Wilson was sacked six times. SIX. That tape needs to be reviewed, studied and made sure that it never happens again.

The Rams managed to put together a defence that featured five first-round picks up front which no doubt influenced this stat but with a defence as formidable as Seattles, that is something Pete Carroll needs to look at.

Special Teams.

Jon Ryan from Seattle kicked a 57 yard punt which was then immediately returned for a 75 yard TD.

These are the kind of simple errors the Seahawks cannot afford from their Special Team if they plan to make a push for Super Bowl 50.

There will be a lot of work this week and don’t be surprised if we see a few changes in the line up for Seattle.

PREDICTIONS

At the end of the day, this could really go either way.

I’m counting on Seattle to pull finger and get their act together to win a tight match. They’ve shown that they can work well under pressure. Now they just have to work well in every other kind of situation too. Seattle to win 31-28 (or something in that margin).

Players to Watch:

Watch for a more aggressive Marshawn Lynch at Lambeau Field. This is a game where he needs to step up.

For Green Bay, James Jones will be looking to build on the momentum he has started with Aaron Rodgers so keep an eye on that combo-it could be the game winner for the Packers.

By Cameron Corban

Patriots vs. Steelers – The “Can’t Miss” Cliche

The term “can’t miss” is thrown around too much in sport these days. It’s a term that, through repetition, has become the status quo for lazy promoters to push to the masses and more often than not, fails to deliver on action or is more lacklustre than anything.

But every now and then, a game lives up to the hype, a game full of passion and pride that drives every fan in the arena and watching at home to their feet. A game truly worthy of bearing the term “can’t miss.”

The first game of the 2015 NFL season between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the defending Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, will be one of those games.

Here we will be looking into the pros and cons for each team going into this heavyweight matchup, a game that will huge implications for both teams.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

It’s going to be an interesting first hit out for the defending champs. With the return of Tom Brady, no doubt the Boys from Boston will be hoping to make a big statement.

Pros:

Home Game Eases the Pain.

The Patriots will be at their home base, Gillette Stadium, which has got to be a great shot in the arm for the boys. As soon as “Crazy Train” hits, the adrenaline will too. That, mixed with knowledge that the last time the Steelers walked into Gillette, they walked out with a 55-31 loss, will give the Pats a big mental edge.

 

Gostkowski’s Golden Boot.

Gostkowski is finding some form in the preseason that should hopefully translate over to the big games. He’s nailed 2 shots in the preseason from over 50 yards and will be pivotal if the Pats want a successful start to the season.

Brady’s Back-Tell Your Friends.

Tom Brady makes his return from taking on the NFL and he is going to be ready to put all the doubters to bed. He will be amped up, pissed off and focused which will no doubt rub off on the rest of the team. This may possibly end up being Brady’s biggest season to date so watch this space.

Cons:

Injuries.

Running back LeGarette Blount has been confirmed to miss Week 1 for the Pats and now wide receiver Julian Edelman also remains in doubt after suffering a leg injury during training camp. The Patriots potentially find themselves short of wide receivers with Brandon LaFell also possibly out with a foot injury.

Walking Backs?

Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray both struggled for any decent footing at running back during the preseason. Combined, they had a total of 23 yards for 10 carries in their last preseason match against the Panthers. It will be interesting to see what Belichick does to inject something into his RBs.

Performance Pressure.

Now that Tom Brady has made his return to the team, there will be a massive wave of pressure on the Patriots. They will be expected to win and with a team consisting of many youthful players, a packed out Gillette Stadium can either be their greatest ally or worst enemy. Will the return of the number 12 jersey do more harm than good?

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger escapes a sack during the Steelers 2013 regular season match against the Patriots – Photo Courtesy of Bleacher Report

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Mike Tomlins boys couldn’t of had a tougher start to the season than this; the defending champions away from home. There are some promising signs for the Steelers though which may include a mental edge over New England.

Pros:

Boston Record.

The Steelers are tied with the Patriots when it comes to games won in Boston with a 4-4 record. However, they are 1-2 when it comes to games at Gillette Stadium and last time it was a 55-31 loss. The Steelers will be looking to play off the drama happening in the Pats camp and use it to their advantage.

Dri Archer – Steelers Hidden Gem.

Dri Archer is coming into his own and is looking more and more comfortable with each game he plays. During the preseason he played a mix of receiver, returner and as a runner. His natural athletic ability is starting to show and by seasons end he could add some real speed into the Steelers offence along with the experience of Michael Vick.

Decent Defense.

As they say; defense wins games.  Pittsburgh have shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason of what they can do. If they can string it all together, they’ll be looking like quite the threat. Ryan Shazier in particular looked formidable in the preseason.

Cons:

No Depth With the Boot.

What was initially thought of as a moderate thigh injury for Shaun Suisham has blown up into a season-ending torn ACL which will most likely send the Steelers to drudge through the remains of the free agents. At the time of this writing, their best option for an effective starter would be 39-year old Jay Feely who is still a free agent. Good luck with that.

Breaking Bad.

Morale in the Pittsburgh camp reported to be reasonably low and its understandable. 1-3 in the preseason. Mixed with the fact that this week, they’ve had Maurkice Pouncey break his fibula and now wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, has been banned for the next 4 weeks for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. (Appeal information coming).

Welcome to the Dog Pit.

I was flip flopping about if I was going to put this in this Pros or Cons. After much deliberation, consider this less of a Con and we’ll put it into its own “neutral” category. Vick brings some much needed experience into the Steelers game plan. He also brings a lot of luggage.  A vocal part of the Pittsburgh fans have been very open and against his signing. Thankfully he has a chance to silence some of the critics with a performance away from from Heinz Field before heading there next week to face San Francisco.

PREDICTION:

I originally had the Patriots to win a tight game by 24-21. However, with the addition of Tom Brady, I believe that the Patriots will win be a slightly larger margin. Overall, the coaching prowess of Belichick and home advantage will prove too much for the Steelers as the defending champs seek to make a statement in the season opener.

Who To Watch:

Keep an eye on Archer for the Steelers while the Patriots new TE, Scott Chandler, could surprise some people if he’s given any game time.

By Cameron Corban