NFL Changes: Expanded Playoffs, eliminating Extra Point?

roger-goodell-nfl-playoffsFollowing every NFL season, commissioner Roger Goodell and his cronies look at ways that they can improve the league. Sure, Super Bowl XLVIII is still a week and a half away, but to the NFL’s top brass, it’s already time to start planning ahead. And this means that there could possibly be a huge rule change or two in the works.

One rule change that could be happening in 2014 is the elimination of extra points. This would only work to further take the “foot” out of football. But certain fans and coaches think that the play is a waste of time because of how often kickers make PAT’s. Others, like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, think that it needs to be modified somehow.

“I would be in favor of not seeing it be an over 99 percent conversion rate,” Belichick told CBS.com. “It’s virtually automatic. That’s just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players.”

stephen-gostkowskiEven a few kickers themselves aren’t totally opposed to seeing a change in how extra points are performed. Belichick’s kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, told CBS that it wouldn’t be so bad to move the mark back a few yards. “If they want to move it back, go ahead, but completely eliminating it would be a terrible, terrible thing,” he said. “It’s such a good game the way it is, I don’t know why we have to go change everything all the time.”

It’s unclear how much support there is among top league officials with regard to getting rid of or changing extra points. So we can’t quite say it’s automatic (or rather an extra point) that PAT’s will be taken out of the game. Something else big that’s being discussed is a playoff expansion in 2-3 years.

The last time that the playoffs were expanded was 1990, when an additional Wild Card slot was added in both conferences. This made for a total of three division champions (now four) and three Wild Cards. Now, Goodell wants to expand the amount of teams that make the postseason from 12 to 14.

nfl-playoffs-expandedAdding a couple more teams would create lots excitement near the end of the playoff chase. Furthermore, it would add another playoff game in each conference, bringing more television revenue to the league. For this big change to pass, it’d need approval by 24 of the 32 NFL team owners. Of course, this is going to be easier said than done.

New York Giants co-owner John Mara didn’t exactly give the change a ringing endorsement. “Until we have a discussion on it on the floor, it’s hard to say,” he told the Washington Post. “You need 24 votes in this league. Is there enough support? It’s hard to say. I have mixed feelings on it. I’ve always been opposed. One of my concerns is when do you play the games. I think there are some issues there. I’m also concerned about watering the playoffs down. But I’m still willing to listen to the other side.”

Assuming most other owners disagree with Mara’s assessment and vote in favor of an expanded postseason, the change wouldn’t take place until at least 2015. But there’s no telling if owners would even get around to deciding the issue by then.

For the past few years, the idea of eliminating the preseason and changing the amount of regular season games from 16 to 18 has been kicked around. But after lots of talks and discussions on the matter, it doesn’t seem like team owners have any intention of adding two more regular season games.

New England Patriots Running Back Situation Murky at Best

stevan-ridley-fumbleThe New England Patriots are arguably coming off their biggest win of the season – a 34-31 overtime thriller over the Denver Broncos. Based on the rest of the division, they’re all but guaranteed to win the AFC East at this point and have a pretty soft remaining schedule. But despite all of the positive signs, there’s definitely trouble brewing in Foxborough. For whatever reason, the Patriots just can’t seem to find a running back who’s capable of carrying the load.

Now, based on talent alone, Stevan RIdley appeared to be that guy when the season opened. After all, the third-year back out of LSU was coming off a year where he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he started 2013 off on a sour note after fumbling twice in the first game – one of which was narrowly ruled to have hit the ground first. The fumble that did count was enough to convince Bill Belichick to bench his star running back while Shane Vereen took over.

Vereen got hurt, though, which left Ridley in a committee with Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount. Things would remain this way until a few more weeks into the regularshane-vereen season, when Ridley took over as the lead back again. Unfortunately, he’s now lost a fumble in three straight games for the Pats. His latest one was returned by the Broncos for a touchdown, thus relegating Ridley to the bench for the rest of the game.

So where does this leave the Patriots’ running back situation right now? It’s really anybody’s guess because all four RB’s should get playing time moving forward. Vereen is considered the lead passing back, while Bolden backs him up and sometimes carries the ball. Blount is the other early-down back besides Ridley, and he’s put up 374 yards on just 82 carries. So this power back is likely to remain heavily involved moving forward too.

Of course, the Pats will remain a pass-first offense, using the run to balance things out. But you still have to wonder about New England when you’re considering them for regular or live wagering opportunities. They’re a very good football team with plenty of weapons and Tom Brady under center. However, they are also a team that’s failed to establish a reliable running back who’s guaranteed to gut tough yards out – without fumbling in the process.

Ed Reed cut Loose after ripping the Texans

ed-reed-cut-houstonIn his 12-year NFL career, Ed Reed has proven to be one of the greatest safeties of all-time. And after winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens last year, he was expected to bring this greatness to the Houston Texans. However, the 35-year-old was more of a bust than anything, and now he’s been cut loose by the Texans after some controversial comments.

Following Houston’s 27-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Reed said that his team was “outcoached and outplayed” during Sunday’s game. When asked if he still believed this on Monday, the nine-time Pro Bowler confirmed his assertion that Houston was outcoached. Reed also added that the offense “can’t keep going three and out, and put your defense back on the field.”

A large reason for Reed’s comments may have come from the fact that he was left out of the starting lineup for the Cardinals game. And he played just 12 snaps throughout the entire four quarters.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to those who’ve been watching the Texans all season since Reed has continually gone downhill. He began 2013 with some minor injuries, and when he did play, it wasn’t exactly inspiring. So when you combine Reed’s lack of playing time with his negative comments about the coaching staff, it was a fairly easy decision for Houston to let him go.

ed-reed-cut-houston-1This is yet another blow to the Texans dismal season, which began with Super Bowl aspirations. In fact, Reed was brought in as a missing piece to a team that had most of the components needed for a strong defense. He signed a three-year, $15 million deal in what was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions.

But for the few million that he received before getting cut, all Reed provided was 16 tackles in seven games. Gone was the ball-hawking safety who’d piled up 61 interceptions and seven touchdowns through his first 11 seasons in Baltimore.

So what’s the next stop for this aging safety who quickly wore out his welcome in Texas? Well a return to the Ravens isn’t out of the question since Reed carved out a very successful career here. A contender like New England wouldn’t be a surprise either since Stephen Gregory is out, and Bill Belichick might be looking for a veteran replacement. The New York Jets could be another possibility because Reed’s former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, is always looking to add good defensive players to the Jets.

As for the Texans, they are looking towards next season with a 2-7 record. Case Keenum has officially taken the starting QB job from Matt Schaub. And Arian Foster has been put on the injured reserve list since there’s little reason to keep trying to play him. All in all, this has been a nightmare for a team that went 12-4 in the 2012 regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs, losing to New England 41-28 in the Divisional round.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 7 (Oct. 15th, 2013)

justin-houston-chiefsAnother week of NFL action, another unbeaten falls. The New Orleans Saints saw their unblemished record take a hit when they fell to the New England Patriots by a score of 30-27. Now only the Broncos and Chiefs remain undefeated as we enter Week 7. Taking this into account, their November 17th showdown will be quite entertaining and offer plenty of regular and live wagering opportunities. Now let’s take a look at where all of the teams sit as we move closer to the midway point of the season.

1. Denver Broncos (6-0); beat Jacksonville 35-19, retains same ranking – The Broncos made sports betting history by being a four-touchdown favorite against Jacksonville. However, this gaudy line didn’t materialize as the Jags were actually able to move the ball against this mediocre Denver defense. However, we’ve yet to see a team that can stop the Broncos offense, even when they’re not playing perfect.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0); beat Oakland 24-7, moves up 2 spots – Questions about Alex Smith’s arm strength aside, Kansas City has been as dominant a team as any. They’re beating opponents by an average of 14.5 points and might boast the league’s best defense.

3. New Orleans Saints (5-1); lost to New England 30-27, drops one spot – A 3-point loss on the road to the Patriots isn’t anything to be overly concerned about. This is still a great, well-rounded team that’s tabbed by many to make it to the NFC Championship.

4. Seattle Seahawks (5-1); beat Tennessee Titans, retains same ranking – With Percy Harvin’s return approaching, Seattle’s offense is definitely due for a boost. But they’ve still been doing well regardless, with Marshawn Lynch gaining 155 all-purpose yards and Russell Wilson adding 318 total yards last game.

5. New England Patriots (5-1); beat New Orleans 30-27, moves up one spot – For the stevan-ridley-patriotsfirst time since Shane Vereen got injured in Week 1, the Patriots showed a consistent ground game. Is Stevan Ridley finally back in Bill Belichik’s good graces?

6. San Francisco 49ers (4-2); beat Arizona 32-20, drops one spot – The 49ers grabbed a nice home win over an improving Cardinals team. With the focus shifting towards Frank Gore and the ground game, San Francisco looks like a different and better squad.

7. Green Bay Packers (3-2); beat Baltimore 19-17, moves up one spot – Green Bay got bad news about Randall Cobb since he’ll be out for several weeks. With their top receiver injured, expect Eddie Lacy to get a few more carries heading forward.

8. Chicago Bears (4-2); beat New York Giants 27-21, moves up one spot – This isn’t the Bears’ most impressive victory – especially when they got gashed by ancient running back Brandon Jacobs. But Jay Cutler and the offense continue to rack up points while the defense forces turnovers.

9. Indianapolis Colts (4-2); lost to San Diego 19-9, drops two spots – After an incredible stretch that saw the Colts win road games in both Seattle and San Francisco, they drop a tough road contest to the Chargers. Concerns about Trent Richardson are growing because his stats are subpar (191YDS, 3.1YPC in four games) since coming over from the Browns.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2); beat Buffalo 27-24, retains same ranking – Despite playing against a practice squad quarterback in Thaddeus Lewis, Cincinnati let Buffalo back in this game. Still, they escape with a win and remain on top of the AFC North.

11. Detroit Lions (4-2); beat Cleveland 31-17, retains same ranking – An ill-advised Brandon Weeden flip pass sealed the victory for Detroit. Matthew Stafford threw three second-half touchdowns to spark a turnaround.

12. Dallas Cowboys (3-3); beat Washington 31-16, moves up two spots – Dallas moves back into the upper echelon after making it look easy against their division foe. It wasn’t an entirely good day, though, since both DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murry were lost in this game. Both are expected to miss multiple weeks for the Cowboys.

13. Miami Dolphins (3-2); bye week, drops one spot – Miami will look to stop a two-lamar-miller-dolphinsgame skid as they host Buffalo. The Dolphins have to make more of a commitment to Lamar Miller and the running game to remain a multi-dimensional offense.

14. Baltimore Ravens (3-3); lost to Green Bay 19-17, drops two spots – Baltimore staged a nice late-game rally, but couldn’t do enough to pull ahead. The running attack is in disarray, with Ray Rice averaging less than 3 yards per carry.

15. San Diego Chargers (3-3); beat Indianapolis 19-9, moves up five spots – Credit the Chargers defense with slowing down Andrew Luck (202YDS, 0TD). Philip Rivers also did a good job of managing the game and leading the Chargers on some time-consuming scoring drives.

16. Arizona Cardinals (3-3); lost to San Francisco, moves up one spot – At this point of the rankings, it’s all about who lost to better teams. Arizona hung tough with the Niners for three quarters, but ran out of gas as they were outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter.

17. Tennessee Titans (3-3); lost to Seattle 20-13, moves up one spot – The Titans have proven to be a very competitive team, even without Jake Locker. Despite the loss, they’re only one game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South.

18. Cleveland Browns (3-3); lost to Detroit 31-17, drops two spots – Browns fans have to be disappointed after their team was outscored 24-0 in the second half. Brandon Weeden played fairly well (292YDS, 2TD, 2INT) – save for throwing one of the worst interceptions ever. Somebody needs to tell him that shovel passes aren’t meant to be thrown over to the sideline.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3); beat Tampa Bay 31-20, moves up three spots – Welcome back to relevancy Philadelphia! The Eagles kept pace with Dallas in the NFC East with a road victory against winless Tampa. Nick Foles might lock down the starting role for good if he keeps playing like this (296YDS, 3TD).

20. Houston Texans (2-4); lost to St. Louis 38-13, drops five spots – Fans have been calling for Matt Schaub to be benched, and now they get their wish after his right ankle injury. But it only gets uglier from here with T.J. Yates now starting under center.

21. New York Jets (3-3); lost to Pittsburgh 19-6, drops two spots – This was supposed to be an easy victory for the surprising Jets. However, rookie QB Geno Smith (201YDS, 2INT)  looked lost against a Pittsburgh defense that’s been in shambles all season.

22. Carolina Panthers (2-3); beat Minnesota 35-10, moves up three spots – Carolina cam-newtonis a tough team to figure out. Two weeks ago, they score just 6 points against Arizona; last game, they put up 35 on the Vikings and stifle them. Of course, it seems that Cam Newton’s swingy play decides the fate of the Panthers.

23. Atlanta Falcons (1-4); bye week, drops three spots – The Falcons were already struggling in the win-loss category. Then they found out that Julio Jones is done for the season and Roddy White might be out for 1-2 games. Harry Douglas is now their go-to receiver.

24. St. Louis Rams (3-3); beat Houston 38-13, moves up four spots – After suffering through a miserable three-game losing streak, the Rams are back to .500 with wins over Jacksonville and Houston. Nobody’s expecting St. Louis to make the playoffs in a division with Seattle and San Francisco, but they’re at least showing some heart.

25. Washington Redskins (1-4); lost to Dallas 31-16, drops two spots – The good news is that Washington didn’t get torched by Tony Romo, as many people expected. The bad news is that they got beat in just about every facet of the game.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-4); lost to Kansas City 24-7, retains same ranking – A very rough game for Terrelle Pryor, but they won’t all be as tough as playing in Arrowhead. Denarius Moore really seems to be developing as a nice target for Pryor.

27. Minnesota Vikings (1-4); lost to Carolina 35-10, drops three spots – This was a tough game to play for Minnesota following the death of Adrian Peterson’s son. When Josh Freeman learns the Vikings playbook, this team might bounce back with some victories.

28. Buffalo Bills (2-4); lost to Cincinnati Bengals 27-24, drops one spot – Thaddeus Lewis is a definite upgrade over undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel. If Lewis can continue playing like he did on the road against Cincinnati, he’ll produce some wins against weaker opponents.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4); beat New York Jets 19-6, retains same ranking – Holding Geno Smith and the Jets to 6 points won’t bring back Steel Curtain comparisons. But this is still a nice performance by Pittsburgh’s defense.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5); lost to Philadelphia 31-20, retains same ranking – Ownership spent too much money in the offseason for a winless start. It’s looking less and less like Greg Schiano will make it through the season.

31. New York Giants (0-6); lost to Chicago 27-21, retains same ranking – With David Wilson knocked out of the game with an injury, Brandon Jacobs rumbled for 106 yards and two touchdowns. It’s too bad that Eli Manning threw another three interceptions.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6); lost to Denver 34-20, retains same ranking – The way they stayed with Denver through three quarters, this team could actually win a game with Chad Henne at QB.

Will the New England Patriots keep Tim Tebow?

tim-tebow-patriotsEver since Tim Tebow signed with the New England Patriots this summer, we at GTBets.eu have been having some fun with prop bets. From time to time, we’ve been running lines on what kind of numbers he’ll put up this season. But if his preseason debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is any indication, Tebow might have trouble even making the 53-man roster.

With Tom Brady sitting out due to a tweaked knee and No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallet leaving early with a head injury, Tebow got quite a bit of playing time. Unfortunately, he didn’t make good use of the increased time after completing just 1-of-7 pass attempts for -1 yard, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.

The stats may not even do Tebow’s miserable performance justice since he looked awful on the field. The Patriots’ current No. 3 quarterback threw an ugly ball over the head of intended receiver Kenbrell Thompkins which was picked off. He also had a couple of other passes that were close to being intercepted.

tim-tebow-patriots-1If there were any positives to Tebow’s first preseason outing, it was the fact that he ran four times for 31 yards. However, from a pocket passer standpoint, he certainly has some improvement ahead of him.

Despite how badly he threw the ball, the Florida product remained optimistic about how he’s developing. “I feel like I’m improving every day and you know, growing and learning, and learning the offense,” Tebow said. “That’s what it’s about – every day trying to get a little better.” Head coach Bill Belichick also backed up this assertion. When asked if his third-string QB was improving, Belichick said “Absolutely.”

So does any of this add up to Tim Tebow brushing off his terrible statline against the Buccaneers and landing a spot on the Patriots? Odds are that yes, he will make the cut before the roster is finalized in a couple of weeks.

A big reason why is due to the fact that New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been in love with Tebow since his days as the Denver Broncos’ head coach. McDaniels made the highly-controversial decision to take Tebow with the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Sadly, he wasn’t around to see his first round pick shine because he was fired after starting the 2010 season with a 3-9 record.

tim-tebowThe Broncos were forced to turn to Tebow in 2011, after Kyle Orton led the team to a dismal 1-4 start. The result was an 8-3 regular season finish that saw No. 15 throw for 1,729 yards, 12 TD’s, 6 INT’s, and rush for 660 yards and 6 TD’s. The Broncos also won a Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, before having their season ended by New England in the Divisional round.

As can be seen, Tim Tebow does have experience winning games, though it’s not always the prettiest thing to watch. And this will definitely earn him some points when New England is making their final cuts. Plus, if Brady and Mallet were unable to play for some reason, it’s likely that Belichick would tailor the Patriots’ offense around Tebow, much like Denver did.

Of course, this is all assuming that Tebow shows enough in the final two preseason games to prove that he can play QB at this level. The Tampa Bay game certainly wasn’t good, but he still has some chances left.

What will the New England Patriots do with Tim Tebow?

tim-tebowJust last month, reports surfaced that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick “hates” Tim Tebow as a player. Given all of the unwarranted animosity towards Tebow by the rest of the NFL, it didn’t seem like a far-fetched story.

But just days ago, Belichick came out and said that the reports of him hating Tebow’s game were completely false. “I wouldn’t get into the probability of us pursuing any free agent. Every single player has strengths and weaknesses but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless and irresponsible,” Belichick told ESPN. “It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported.”

Perhaps this statement foreshadowed what was later to come as Belichick and the Patriots signed Tebow to a deal. This is a very interesting move, given that some people wondered if any NFL teams would even want the former New York Jets backup quarterback.

tim-tebow-1The Patriots current offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, probably had a lot to do with convincing the New England organization to sign Tebow. After all, McDaniels got Denver to draft the Florida product in the first round. And now that the Patriots have Tebow, the question is what they’ll do with him.

Last year, the Jets claimed that they were going to use number 15 quite a bit in Wildcat packages. But in reality, he rarely saw the field and generated just 75 passing yards and 102 rushing yards throughout 2012. Given what happened in New York, the Patriots aren’t making any guarantees about Tebow’s playing time or role with the team.

Belichick said, “Tim is a talented player, is smart and works hard. We’ll see how it goes.” When asked about what position he’ll play, Belichick added, “We will see.”

One thing that has been revealed about Tebow is how he’s been signed as a quarterback. He’ll compete with Ryan Mallett and any free agent(s) the Patriots bring in for the two backup spots behind Tom Brady. New England cut third-string QB Mike Kafka on Monday, thus giving Tim a better opportunity to make the roster.

Divisional Playoffs - Denver Broncos v New England PatriotsAssuming he makes it, Tebow won’t have to worry about the pressure of fans calling for him to start like in New York. Brady is arguably the NFL’s best quarterback and is completely solid in his role. This is a different story from the Jets’ Mark Sanchez, whose shaky play caused a controversy when some fans thought that Tebow should start.

Since he obviously won’t be starting, some people think that the former Broncos and Jets QB was brought in to handle short yardage duties. However, it’s worth mentioning that Brady has the best QB sneak percentage on both third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations since 2006. He’s converted 97.8% of his attempts, which is far higher than second place David Garrard (91.7%), who retired this offseason.

Another thought is that, given the Patriots’ injuries to the tight end position last year, they could use Tebow here. Sure he has nothing on Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski because they’re two of the NFL’s top tight ends, But if they were to miss significant time again, some believe that Tebow could step in and provide help.

Belichick isn’t entirely above doing this since he’s used wide receivers Troy Brown, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater as defensive backs. But making the switch from backup quarterback to tight end is a little more of a leap, and Tebow may not be quite as good as somebody who’s trained for this position their whole life.

In the end, signing Tebow seems like more of a development move than anything. Belichick and McDaniels are great at taking projects and shaping them into usable on-field talent. Tim Tebow is still young enough to where he could be groomed and take over for Brady – or at least be trade bait – if his throwing mechanics significantly improve. And if this doesn’t work out, well then, the Patriots can simply cut their losses like they did with Chad Johnson and Albert Haynsworth.