Friday, June 29, 2012

The Passing Revolution

     Go back 50 or so years to the days of Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson, and you will find just how important a dominate running game can be. Like anything else, the National Football League adapted to the new age, where passing became more important. The 80's brought superstars such as John Elway, Dan Marino, and Joe Montana, who shaped the present day NFL. Fast forward to 2011. By the end of Week 17, THREE passers reached the 5,000 yard mark; Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady (none won that year's MVP Award). Passing for 5,000 yards in a single season eluded all but one before the 21st century. The barrier has been broken, and a flood of new quarterbacks are projected to reach the no-longer impossible mark. This generation of quarterbacks have proven that with a great passing game comes success.
     Ever since the NFL decided to change the rules of pass interference back in 1978, the wide receiver position has an advantage over his defender. It is now illegal for a cornerback to bump the wide receiver outside of a five yard gap, and if he were to violate this rule, a penalty would be called. Plus, cheap shots to the quarterback were outlawed, forcing defenders to rapidly change their style of play. Quarterbacks have taken advantage of this rulebook change, and the game has never been the same. Last season, a whopping 10 quarterbacks threw for 4,000 yards or more. However, this is not the first time 10 QBs accomplished this feature in a single season, where the same amount threw for 4,000 yards back in 2009. Had Brees broken Dan Marino's passing record in 2010, (or any other year) he would have been the obvious choice for MVP. But when compared with Aaron Rodgers (whom may not have broken 5,000 milestone, but broke the record for highest passer rating in a single season) it is no surprise Brees finished second. A team's winning percentage in todays day and age is affected by how lethal their passing is day in and day out. Last season, the average winning percentage among team's ranked in the top 10 for passing yards topped out at .663%. With so many teams trying to build a top-notch passing game, it is no surprise that the past three Super Bowl winners ranked within the top 5 in passing yards for that given year.
       There is no telling what lies in store for quarterbacks 20 years in the future; it all depends on wether or not the NFL takes action, choosing to stricken the rules on pass interference. If the rule change favored defense more then offense, many fans would be disappointed by the low-scoring game. Unless some sort of immediate action were to take place, this league will remain a pass first, run second style of play.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Three Best Present Day Rivalries

     Throughout the National Football League's long and storied history, rivalries were formed between teams, and managed to withstand the test of time. Though several lost its pizazz over the years, new rivalries were formed. The creations of these hatreds vary; it could be caused by two nearby cities, two highly competitive teams, or two specific all stars. In such a rapidly changing league, teams tend to fade off from time to time, a lopsided rivalry, and create disinterest from the fans. Since the league was formed in 1920, rivalries have come and gone. In today's day and age, the three biggest rivalries are all within the division. Coincidence? I think not. As we look forward to the start of next year's season, the NFL Report will analyze the three best present day rivalries in the NFL. Please feel free to comment, or like us on Facebook at

1. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens: For the past decade or so, these two teams have been known for their legendary defense. Since 2000, the Ravens and Steelers combine for 3 total Super Bowl wins, 2 for Pittsburgh and 1 for Baltimore. The defensive powerhouses truly hate each other, and their physicality adds to the gruesomeness of every meeting. The first meeting between the two took place on September 8, 1996, and was won by Pittsburgh. From the get go, the games played were absolute bloodbaths, a tell-tale sign of hatred. These two teams are just 250 miles apart, and share a spot in the AFC North. Because Pittsburgh and Baltimore are so close by, there is even a bitter rivalry between fans, who always exchange words before and after games. Since the first game back in '96, the Steelers are currently winning the series 21-14. However, Baltimore is closing the gap, having won the past two meetings. It is clear Pittsburgh hates Baltimore, and Baltimore hates Pittsburgh, which every player realizes. Hines Ward once said, "The coaches hate each other, the players hate each other... There's no calling each other after the game and inviting each other out to dinner. But the feeling's mutual: They don't like us, and we don't like them. There's no need to hide it, they know it, and we know it. It's going to be one of those black and blue games." The division rivalry is becoming more competitive, and is going to be one that lasts for many years to come.

2. Patriots vs. Jets: No team in the NFL matches the amount of trash talk spoken by the New York Jets, and the majority of these words are spoken towards the Patriots. This rivalry became extremely heated back in 2009, the first game between Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan, the newly elected Jets head coach. Ryan and several other Jets members continuously picked on New England, and it must have worked. New York ended up winning their first game against the Pats on the road since 2000 with a 16-9 final score. Though I would say the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is more of a battle on the field, the Jets-Patriots rivalry is a much bigger battle off the field. In 2010, the jarring off the field was at its peak, where the three total meetings all had insults before the game. Similar to the 2009 season, the Jets won their first meeting against New England but lost in the second regular season game. However, the Jets managed to knock off the highly favored Patriots in the playoffs, adding to this bitter rivalry. The first game between New York and new England took place in 1960, back when the New England Patriots were known as the Boston Patriots. Throughout the 1970s, most games were won by New York. Overtime, the series became more competitive up until the 2000s. Now, it has been more difficult for the Jets to take home a win against Tom Brady, whose Patriots lead the series with a record of 53-52-1. The clash of offense and defense is always something to look forward to, but it is not always the game that brings the most drama in this rivalry.

3. Bears vs. Packers: Since the days of Babe Ruth and prohibition, the Bears and Packers have been gruesomely battling on the football field. A tradition that dates back all the way to 1921, this Chicago-Green Bay series is easily the oldest rivalry in football. In total, the number of meetings between these two teams adds up to 184. When rural Green Bay takes on urban Chicago, the two teams leave it all on the field, not wanting to lose to the enemy. When the rivalry first started, Chicago won eight out of the first ten games, and were considered to be the favorites in every challenge. By the 1950s, however, the Packers transformed into the Green Bay franchise we know today; a strong, talented organization feared by many. Even though it is the oldest rivalry in the NFL, it still draws in thousands of viewers every time the two teams play. Chicago has always been known for its tough defense, from the days of Dick Butkus to present day Brian Urlacher, whereas Green Bay is a team that can put points on the board. Chicago may have more wins over Green Bay (92-86-6), but the Packers have won the last 6 out of 7 games thanks to star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There is not telling what this series will look like in 10 years, but no matter what, the Green Bay-Chicago rivalry will go down in history as the most storied matchup in the National Football League. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Madden Special: Top 5 Teams

     In just two months, the largest sports game in America will be released to the public: Madden 13. For the past 24 years, John Madden football has swept the nation thanks to it's exciting gameplay and entertaining multiplayer mode. Many players have captured the Madden cover; this year the honor was awarded to All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. With Madden brought the Madden Curse, a superstation that states any player who graces the cover is bound to have a terrible year the following season. Hopefully, the mega-star in Johnson will be able to succeed come 2012. Over the years, it appears that offense is more important than defense in Madden, which is why teams with elite offenses dominate this list. In order to prepare you for the upcoming release in August, the NFL Report presents the top 5 teams to play with in Madden 13.

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Eagles: Though Michael Vick will be downgraded slightly in Madden 13, his speed and arm strength are disadvantages for the opposing team's defense. DeSean Jackson is outrageously fast, and is capable of blowing by the majority of defenders in Madden. If the pass is not your style of play, LeSean McCoy is an elite running back who will be great in the upcoming Madden. The best play to use with this team on offense is HB Screen, where you can bomb it down field to Jackson, pass to a wide-open McCoy, or, if all else fails, scramble for the extra yard with Vick. On defense, Jason Babin ranked third in the NFL last season in terms of sacks (18.0), all thanks to his extraordinary speed and strength. Philly may have disappointed their fans last season, but they have one of the best roster's on paper, and in Madden, that's all that counts.
Offense: B+/A-
Defense: B-
Overall: B

5. Atlanta Falcons: Though Philly is similar to Atlanta, the Falcons offense was the tiebreaker, for they out match that of the Eagles. Led by quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have one of the best passing games in football. The number one wide receiver in Atlanta is Roddy White, a great weapon who can go for the deep pass, as well as make a clutch reception. Julio Jones on the other hand is extremely fast, and is bound to be highly graded in Madden 13. Lastly, tight end Tony Gonzalez may be 36, but his 6' 5" frame still helps him catch a high, quick pass across the middle. Running back Michael Turner is one of the most consistent rushers in the NFL (3 of past 4 seasons, rushed for at least 1,300 yards), and is a great option in Madden. John Abraham, a spectacular veteran defender, is always capable of sacking the opposing team's quarterback. Newly acquired Lofa Tatupu is another reliable defender to play as at the linebacker position. Newly acquired Asante Samuel, a cornerback known for picking off passes, is the best pass defender on Atlanta. The defense is made up of veterans, and there are several players to choose from when protecting the end zone. What separates Atlanta from most team's in Madden, however, is the highly talented offense.
Offense: A-/A
Defense: C+
Overall: B/B+

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: The number one defense in all of football belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last season, Pittsburgh ranked first in total yards allowed and passing yards allowed, all thanks to their star studded roster. Troy Polamalu is the captain of the defense, and is always a great choice when playing with the Steelers. Along with Polamalu, James Harrison is another great option, a linebacker who is strong, fast, and quick off the snap. If those names don't impress you, there are still other spectacular options such as linebacker James Farrior, safety Ryan Clark and linebacker Lamar Woodley. It will be difficult for any opposing team to score on these guys in Madden with so many players to matchup against. I am not a huge fan of the offense in Pittsburgh, especially if Mike Wallace were to not sign with the Steelers by September.  The only legitimate option for Ben Roethlisberger is in wide receiver Antonio Brown, a breakout star in 2011. Otherwise, the Steelers lack weaponry when it comes to wide receivers. However, the o-line should not be a problem for Pittsburgh, who spent three picks on offensive lineman this past draft. Running back Rashard Mendenhall saw not only a decrease in playing time, but also in production last season when comparing his statistics to 2010. Mendenhall is still a decent running back who can pick up the extra yard. If defense is what you want in Madden, then the Pittsburgh Steelers are your team.
Offense: B/B+
Defense: A+
Overall: A-

3. New York Giants: The defending Super Bowl champions are known to be undervalued by football fans everywhere. Eli Manning is a top 5 quarterback with a big arm and big talent. Moreover, he is surrounded by absolutely spectacular wide receivers. Originally, Hakeem Knicks was Manning's main target, up until Victor Cruz salsa-ed his way into the league and became an elite receiver. Both can be deep threats, as well as someone who can get the clutch reception for an extra 4 or 5 yards. Even if his superstar wide receivers are unable to get open, Manning is a decent scrambler when needed, a quite reliable trait in Madden. Had Brandon Jacobs stayed in New York, the Giants would likely be number 2 on this list, but now it is just Ahmad Bradshaw. Nothing against Bradshaw (a great rusher who is consistent and reliable), but the duo of Bradshaw and Jacobs was unmatched in the NFL. On the other hand, New York's defense is also top-notch, especially in part due to their great pass rush. Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks) and Justin Tuck (5 sacks in 12 games) provide a one-two-punch when facing an opposing team's offensive line. Their speed and strength would allow them to easily get past blockers in Madden 13. Another great pass rusher on New York is Osi Umenyiora, a defensive end who sacked the opponent's quarterback 9 times last season. The pass rush and passing game are the New York Giants best qualities in Madden, and should be highly rated due to their previous Super Bowl victory.
Offense: A
Defense: A-
Overall: A

2. New England Patriots: After falling short of a Super Bowl victory last season, the New England Patriots  are showing signs of a second straight appearance. Quarterback Tom Brady is always rated highly in Madden thanks to arm strength, awareness and accuracy. A downside to this team is Brady's mobility, or lack there of. Personally, it is always reassuring to know the quarterback will be able to escape defenders when his receivers are unable to get open. Luckily, Brady has a lot of weapons to choose from. Starting with Rob Gronkowski, a tall, athletic tight end with extraordinary hands, and ending with Wes Welker, a fast receiver who can make the clutch chain-moving reception, the Patriots have a long list of weapons to choose from. Joseph Addai and Stevan Ridley are two very different running backs, but should be a fabulous duo in 2012. Defense is dominated by Vince Wilfork, a nose tackle whose strength is unstoppable in Madden. Linebackers Jerard Mayo and Dont'a Hightower should be low to mid 80's overall, as will free safety Patrick Chung. The biggest signings this offseason have been wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, both will make Tom Brady even more lethal in this game. The Patriots may not have the  defensive line of New York, but their offense is just too good to turn down.
Offense: A+
Defense: B+/A-
Overall: A

1. Green Bay Packers: There is no disputing Green Bay at number one. When evaluating the Packers' roster, the amount of players who can potentially rank above 90 overall in Madden is jaw-dropping. Obviously, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers will be unstoppable next season, and a rating below 99 would be a disappointment. Aaron Rodgers is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league, and throws complete bullets as well. Rodgers may not be the fastest, but he clearly is capable of rushing for the first down. Not only does Green Bay have an elite quarterback, but he is surrounded by spectacular offensive weapons. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley make up the best receiving corp in the NFL. The departure of running back Ryan Grant slightly hurts the team, but James Stark will do a great job of replacing him. Though the defense had extreme difficulty last season, the players to choose from are all spectacular choices. Linebacker Clay Mathews is one of the best defenders in the league, and his speed and strength allow him to sack the quarterback. BJ Raji is another  sensational defender at the defensive tackle position. Finally, cornerback Charles Woodson is known to shut down every wide receiver he covers, as well as pick off a few passes in the process. The Packers are looking to win next year's Super Bowl, and the team they have created is an outstanding first step towards their goal. When Madden 13 hits the shelves this summer, no team is a better choice to play with than that of the Green Bay Packers.
Offense: A+
Defense: A-
Overall: A/A+

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow?

     Seven months ago, no player in professional sports rivaled the celebrity status of quarterback Tim Tebow. His Denver Broncos had been struggling to fill their hole at the quarterback position, Kyle Orton being the other passer to choose from. By Week 7, Tebow had the starting role, and resurrected his team's record to 8-5 once Week 14 rolled around. He may not have finished the year off nicely, but Tebow-mania continued into the postseason thanks to an 8-8 record. The Florida Gator miraculously beat Pittsburgh in a first-round-overtime victory, but fell to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots later on in the next round. Then came Payton Manning. In the off-season, John Elway convinced Manning to come play for Denver at Mile High Stadium. This signing meant it was time for Tebow to leave, even though his career for the Broncos lasted just two seasons. After several days of contract disputes, the New York Jets decided to add Tim Tebow to their roster. The decision made be New York shocked many football fans, and is sure to create a serious competition between newly-signed Tebow and Mark Sanchez. Luckily, training camp is just two months away, meaning reporters everywhere will discuss the mindset of Rex Ryan and who he decides to start on game-day. Before that takes place, The NFL Report will analyze both quarterbacks, and by the end, state which quarterback deserves the starting role in September.
Mark Sanchez
     "With the fifth pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select...Mark Sanchez, quarterback, USC." After Roger Goodell called his name on draft day, Mark Sanchez's rookie season started off nicely. The 2009 Jets escaped past both Cincinnati and San Diego in the postseason, but lost to Indianapolis when it came time to play the AFC Championship game. The following season, Mark Sanchez was given a second chance, but lost once again in the conference championship, this time to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His luck finally ran out last season, where the New York Jets not only finished at 8-8, but missed the playoffs entirely. Though 2011 was not the first time Sanchez's role as a starter came into question, it was likely the most serious point in which it seemed New York was searching for a replacement. In no way would I consider Mark Sanchez to be a top 5 quarterback (even top 10 is a stretch), yet his statistics have shown improvement since 2009. His 3,474 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 2011 are impressive statistics; I am looking forward to the day when Sanchez throws for 30 touchdowns or 4,000 passing yards. Before then, Sanchez must work on limiting the amount of interceptions thrown. A whopping 18 passes were picked off by defenders last season, so Sanchez will need to be more careful when attempting to connect with a wide receiver. His numbers are absolutely atrocious, however, when trying to complete a pass above 21 yards. Thankfully, the Jets organization added rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill via draft, one of the more underrated college players, and he should be a great second option behind Santonio Holmes. Mark Sanchez has received much criticism within the past three years, but he deserves more credit from both the media and the fans of New York for his striking accomplishments. If Sanchez is able to improve both his consistency and on-field composure, the spot as starting quarterback would be secured.
     How did he do it? How could someone so new to the league, lacking many skills necessary to succeed as a passer, leave such an impact in just his second NFL season? Superstar Tim Tebow may not be known for possessing extraordinary accuracy or arm strength, but he knows how to finish strong and lead his team to victory. The Denver Broncos running game last season ranked first overall, largely in part due to their quarterback, an extraordinary rusher. When all else failed, Tebow would escape from the pocket and help Denver get the first down. The first three quarters were typically the worst part of Tebow's game (the opposite of Lebron James), but when it came time for the fourth quarter, all eyes were on the 2nd year quarterback out of Florida. From November 13 to December 11, all 5 games were decided by a touchdown or less, but ll were won by Denver.  Tebow's passer rating averaged out to 67.1 last season within the first three quarters, but his rating in the 4th was a respectable 81.3. When extra time was needed after the fourth quarter, his rating jumped to a whopping 145.8, one of the league's best marks. Though everyone remembers his heroics in the last quarter, it is important to keep in mind the atrocity the first three quarters brought. The AFC East will be a much more competitive division then that of the AFC West. If Tebow were to start slowly week in and week out, many teams would take advantage of his struggles and pull ahead early on. Another critique I have about Tebow is the amount of time it takes for him to release the ball. His form is being worked on by quarterback coaches, and he is bound to be a step closer towards becoming a better passer. As soon as he is ready to start a new life in the Big Apple, coach Rex Ryan will give him a chance as starter. Until then, the fight for starter...advantage Mark Sanchez.
    Not only is Sanchez familiar with the types of plays and players on the New York Jets, but in the end, he is a better all around quarterback. Tebow will be put to good use, and their are countless plays Rex Ryan can put together using both Tebow and his starting quarterback. However, if the Jets record slips once again under Sanchez, the presumed starter, Ryan will not be afraid to yank him and put in Tim Tebow. The two quarterbacks are very different (one a decent scrambler, the other a decent passer), but Mark Sanchez has the upper hand here, and he will be given another chance to send New York to the Super Bowl. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The NFL Report Update

This season, there will be several changes made to the formatting and themes of my posts. For example, The NFL Report will now have a segment on Fantasy Football, as well as a recap of the previous Game of the Week (newly named GOWR). Many new and exciting posts await, and I promise to write more once the NFL season is in full bloom. Until then, there will be several articles talking about my many predictions for the upcoming season (standings, awards, busts etc.). Also, I will be sure to update you on my record when it comes to picking the winners of each and every game. Feel free to comment, subscribe, or like us on Facebook at! Thank you for the read, and go football!