Don’t Laugh – Brandon Weeden could start for Dallas in 2015

brandon-weeden-brownsEarlier today, the Dallas Cowboys signed former Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal worth $1.23 million. This seems pretty insignificant in an offseason where players like Michael Johnson and Jairus Byrd have signed much larger and meaningful contracts. But when you look deeper into the matter, Weeden’s deal may have a greater impact on the Cowboys than what meets the eye.

Now, the obvious point to consider here is that Dallas still has Tony Romo, their starting QB for the past nine seasons. Critics love to point out Romo’s lack of success in winning big games and taking the Cowboys deep in the postseason. But you can’t argue with the guy’s career numbers: 29,565 passing yards, 64.6% completion rate, and 208 touchdown passes against just 101 interceptions. And Romo restructured his deal so that his signing bonus counts as most of this year’s salary, leaving Dallas to take just a $1 million cap hit. So there’s nothing changing under center for Dallas this season, but what about 2015…

The Cowboys are off to a very bad start in free agency this offseason after failing to re-sign DE Jason Hatcher. They also let DeMarcus Ware go because they didn’t want $16 million worth of cap space taken up by a guy who only managed six sacks last season. Given that they were already bad on defense, Dallas looks to be even worse in 2014. Throw in the bad contracts that Jerry Jones has been approving for the past several years and you have a team that doesn’t seem capable of filling too many defensive holes.

tony-romo-cowboysSo now we enter into the conversation of if Dallas is on the verge of a rebuilding phase. Sure, they’re not about to throw in the towel on 2014 already, especially with weapons like Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten on offense. But if America’s Team fails to make the postseason yet again, it’s a very realistic possibility that they’ll look to get younger and less expensive.

Romo is slated to make $27.7 million in 2015, which is a tremendous cap hit. He’s also coming off of his second back surgery in two years, so it’s not like he is getting any younger. Seeing as how Dallas wasn’t afraid to let Ware go this offseason, it’s not unfathomable to think that they’d release Romo and his massive contract.

Relating this all back to Weeden, he projects to be Romo’s immediate backup if Kyle Orton does indeed retire like he’s been discussing. Hopefully for the Cowboys, Romo makes it through this entire season without another major injury, leaving Weeden relegated to the bench. But there’s always the possibility that Tony could get hurt, leaving Weeden to play some snaps.

Next year is even more up in the air due to the contract issue that we discussed. And if the Cowboys ultimately decide that they can’t build a winning team around a 35-year-old quarterback who’s counting $27.7 million against the salary cap next year, Weeden might get his second chance to run a team.

This would no doubt leave some Dallas fans rolling their eyes. But Weeden may not be a total lost cause. Drafted 22nd overall out of Oklahoma State, the former minor league baseball player has all of the physical tools that you’d want from a pocket passer. However, he just never displayed the on-field results to convince Cleveland that he was their quarterback of the future.

In two seasons with the Browns, Weeden threw for 5,116 yards, 23 touchdowns, 26 interceptions and had just a 71.8 passer rating. Throw in his 5-15 record as a starter and it’s no wonder why Cleveland chose to start over at the position. Now, Weeden also gets a chance to start over, which could mean good things for him next season.

Eddie Lacy well on his way to 2013 NFL Rookie of the Year

eddie-lacy-rookie-of-the-yearWhen the 2013 NFL season began, Montee Ball and Tavon Austin were the favorites in terms of betting odds for the Rookie of the Year award. We at GTBets.eu had both players at 9/2 odds of winning the award. Eddie Lacy, on the other hand, was only in the middle range as far as odds went.

Nevertheless, the bruising running back from the Green Bay Packers is well on his way towards the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year. With two games remaining in the season, Lacy has 1,048 rushing yards on 248 carries (4.1 YPC). He’s also reached the end zone 8 times and has added 31 catches for 236 yards. But while Lacy’s stats may be impressive, what really sets him apart from other candidates is his performances in big games.

Last Sunday’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys was a perfect example of this. With the Packers needing a win to stay in the NFC North title race, they got a giant boost from their rookie ball carrier. Lacy racked up 141 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 21 carries. What’s especially noteworthy about this game is that the 230-pounder was playing on a tender ankle.

eddie-lacy-rookie-of-the-year-1Thanks in large part to Lacy’s gritty performance, the Packers are now just a half game behind Chicago for the NFC North title. Seeing as how they get a crack at Chicago on the final week of the season, it’s entirely possible that Green Bay could win the division and go to the playoffs. But even if they don’t, Eddie Lacy is still looking like the favorite to win the 2013 Rookie of the Year.

So who’s his main competition at this point? Well, it appears that San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen is the only player who can capture the award. Allen has hauled in 63 passes for 923 yards and 7 TD’s, which is no doubt an impressive campaign. Plus his team still has a shot at the postseason since San Diego is sitting at 7-7.

With both players fairly similar in terms of offensive production, what may ultimately set these two apart is how they rank relative to their positions. Lacy easily wins the battle here because he’s ranked 7th among running backs in rushing yards. Meanwhile, Allen’s 923 receiving yards only place him 21st among the league’s wideouts.

It’s also worth mentioning that Lacy has had to shoulder his team’s offensive load in the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Sure Matt Flynn has had his moments, but it’s Lacy creating for his fill-in quarterback, not the other way around. Contrast this to Allen, who’s often overshadowed by the guy throwing him the ball, Philip Rivers.

Of course, the ROY race could easily be determined by which one of these teams makes the playoffs too. But for the moment, it looks like Lacy has the inside track towards being the league’s best offensive rookie.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 9 (Oct. 31st, 2013)

matt-staffordNo game last week was more exciting than the 1-point thriller between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. With just 42 seconds left, Matt Stafford led an 80-yard, game-winning drive that was capped off by his 1-yard QB sneak. Stafford used some trickery to pull off this sneak since he yelled that he was going to stop the clock, then called hike and put the ball over his lineman’s head for the go-ahead score. Oh yea, and did we mention that Calvin Johnson also tallied the second-most receiving yards ever with 329 in this game?

Unfortunately, none of the other games from Week 8 were this dramatic, but several contests had a large impact on our power rankings. That said, here are the rankings for Week 9.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0); beat Cleveland 23-17, retains same ranking – This was far from Kansas City’s best performance of the year. After all, they let journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell pass for 293 yards and two touchdowns on them. But on the bright side, Alex Smith had a pretty good game against a tough Browns D as he threw for 225 yards and two scores of his own. Plus, the most important thing is that KC won yet again.

2. Denver Broncos (7-1); beat Washington Redskins 45-21, retains same ranking – The final score of this game certainly doesn’t tell it all. The red-hot Redskins were actually winning by a score of 21-7 in the middle of the third quarter. However, the Broncos came stomping back by scoring the final 38 points of the game. Denver overcame three interceptions by Peyton Manning to turn this contest into a route.

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-1); beat St. Louis 14-9, retains same ranking – Seattle’s game against the Rams was a little close for comfort. They made a goal-line stand after stuffing Daryl Richardson on 3-and-1 and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw an incompletion on 4-and-1. There were some concerns on offense for the Seahawks too since they only gained 135 yards of total offense. But they still got the important road win.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-1); beat Buffalo 35-17, retains same ranking – Not surprisingly, Drew Brees was able to pick apart the Buffalo defense as he finished with 332 yards and five touchdowns. Plus the defense played its role by sacking Thad Lewis four times, intercepting him once and forcing the beleaguered QB into two fumbles.

5. Indianapolis Colts (5-2); bye week, retains same ranking – The Colts got a week to rest after an incredible first half of the season, where they beat Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. Based on their resume, we can’t see moving them down during a bye week.

6. San Francisco (6-2); beat Jacksonville 42-10, retains same ranking – It may be the middle of the regular seasoncolin-kaepernick, but this game had the feel of a preseason blowout. Most of the starters were resting in the fourth quarter, and Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore both split four touchdown runs.

7. Green Bay Packers (5-2); beat Minnesota 44-31, retains same ranking – The Packers ran a rare run-heavy attack against the Vikings and it worked to perfection. Eddie Lacy saw the bulk of these carries after rushing for 94 yards and a TD on 29 attempts. One interesting side note here is that Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson tied an NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2); beat New York Jets 49-9, moves up one spot – Cincinnati’s defensive line harassed rookie QB Geno Smith all day, before he was finally benched in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Marvin Jones turned in his second stellar performance in a row after catching eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns. Thanks to Jones, Andy Dalton threw for a career-high five TD passes.

9. New England Patriots (6-2); beat Miami 27-17, drops one spot – The Patriots had an anemic first half that saw them down 17-3 to the Dolphins at home. However, they got the running game working in the second half and halted Miami from doing anything else on offense. The only reason they move down is because Cincinnati blew out the team that the Patriots lost to last week.

10. Detroit Lions (5-3); beat Dallas 31-30, moves up two spots – Maybe it’s just euphoria following that incredible comeback, but it feels like the Lions should move up a couple of spots. With weapons like Reggie Bush and Johnson, they have the ability to score on any possession.

11. San Diego Chargers (4-3); bye week, retains same ranking – Few people expected San Diego to have a winning record after last season’s disaster. Now they travel to Washington in what’s a very important game for their Wild Card playoff hopes.

12. Dallas Cowboys (4-4); lost to Detroit 31-30, drops two spots – It’s amazing how dez-bryantclose the Cowboys were to being 5-3 and holding a commanding two-game lead over the NFC East. They’re still in control of the East, but it can’t feel good after how they lost. Plus Dez Bryant’s sideline outbursts aren’t helping matters either.

13. Chicago Bears (4-3); bye week, retains same ranking – Chicago comes out of the bye week and into a tough matchup with Green Bay. And next week, they face off against Detroit in another critical division game. Things don’t look good with Jay Cutler out for a while!

14. Arizona Cardinals (4-4); beat Atlanta 27-13, moves up three spots – Teams definitely have to take the Cardinals seriously – especially the defense. They shut down a Falcons team that figured to get a huge boost with Steven Jackson back in the lineup, and intercepted Matt Ryan four times.

15. Baltimore Ravens (3-4); bye week, moves up one spot – Will the defending champs fight back or are they down for the count? These next two weeks will tell a lot as Baltimore travels to Cleveland, then plays Cincy at home.

16. Carolina Panthers (4-4); beat Tampa Bay 31-13, moves up three spots – Carolina took care of business during a three-game stretch that included Minnesota, Saint Louis and Tampa Bay. They might be able to notch yet a fourth win in a row if they can beat Atlanta at home this week.

17. Miami Dolphins (3-4); lost to New England 27-17, drops three spots – It’s sad to see such a promising start go down the drain. The Dolphins just couldn’t put together two good halves and pull off the upset. Miami has now lost four straight games, and the bleeding might not stop since they face a super-tough matchup in Cincinnati this week.

18. New York Jets (4-4); lost to Cincinnati 49-9, drops three spots – New York follows geno-smith-jetsup a big overtime win over New England with a demoralizing loss to the Bengals. Geno Smith has truly been Jekyll and Hyde from one game to the next. He’ll try to be the former as New York hosts an even tougher New Orleans team this week.

19. Tennessee Titans (3-4); bye week, moves up one spot – The Titans have three things working in their favor coming out of the bye week. They’ve got a healthy Jake Locker (1), and both the Saint Louis Rams (2) and Jacksonville Jaguars (3) are coming up on their schedule.

20. Oakland Raiders (3-4); beat Pittsburgh 21-18, moves up six spots – Oakland dominated the ground and jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead, with some help from a record-setting run by Terrelle Pryor. He bolted 93 yards for a touchdown, which set a record as the longest quarterback TD run in NFL history.

21. Atlanta Falcons (2-5); lost to Arizona 27-13, drops three spots – Just when the Falcons seemed like they were turning the corner and moving forward, they hit a big stumbling block at Arizona. Andre Ellington lit them up for 154 yards on 15 carries while Matt Ryan threw four picks.

22. Cleveland Browns (3-5); lost to Kansas City 23-17, drops one spot – Cleveland actually isn’t a bad team when they don’t have Brandon Weeden under center. They gave a valiant effort on the road against the league’s only unbeaten team.

23. New York Giants (2-6); beat Philadelphia 15-7, moves up five spots – This game was a bore to watch, and New York kept faltering in the red zone. However, they did enough to pick up their second win in a row.

24. Washington Redskins (2-5); lost to Denver 45-21, drops one spot – Anybody who was watching this one saw a pretty competitive contest that only got away from the Redskins in the last 10 minutes or so. The defense turned in a solid effort by intercepting Peyton Manning three times.

25. Houston Texans (2-5); bye week, retains same ranking – If the Texans are hoping to stop their three-game losing streak, it’ll definitely be a tall order. They face Indianapolis at home this week and Arizona on the road in Week 10.

26. Buffalo Bills (3-5); lost to New Orleans 35-17, drops one spot – Buffalo’s season is turning sour due to some key injuries. They certainly aren’t the same team without a healthy EJ Manuel and CJ Spiller.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5); lost to New York Giants 15-7, drops five spots – Michael Vick could only go four series before having to sit down and rest his ailing hamstring. Neither Matt Barkley nor Nick Foles look capable of running Chip Kelly’s read option.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5); lost to Oakland 21-18, drops one spot – The Steelers actually had a chance to put themselves in the AFC North race. However, this loss to Oakland may have put the nail in he coffin on their hopes of a division title or playoff bid.

29. Saint Louis Rams (3-5); lost to Seattle 14-9, retains same ranking – If not for Kellen Clemens’ two first-half interceptions, the Rams might have pulled out a huge win. Even with Clemens’ INT’s, St. Louis was just a yard away from a season-defining victory. Zac Stacy (134 YDS last game) actually gives this team something to look forward to.

30. Minnesota Vikings; lost to Green Bay 44-31, retains same ranking – Christian Ponder didn’t do much to dissuade the Vikings from starting Josh Freeman when he comes back from a concussion.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; lost to Carolina 31-13, retains same ranking – It seems like Tampa Bay could win a game at some point this season. But when?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars; lost to San Francisco 42-10, retains same ranking – Maybe playing the Broncos tough a few weeks ago was just a fluke.

NFL slows down Chip Kelly’s Fast-Paced Offense

chip-kelly-offenseFew teams had more hype entering this season than the Philadelphia Eagles. And much of this hype stemmed from new head coach Chip Kelly and his fast-paced offense.

Kelly’s offense, which puts opposing defenses through a track meet by quickly running plays and speeding up the game, was hailed as revolutionary. Two games into the year, an anonymous offensive coordinator told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver that it would work all season.

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said that the Eagles’ 33-27 Week 1 win over the Redskins “changed the landscape of the NFL from a philosophical, schematic approach to how the game is played.” Jaworski added, “What Michael Vick did to London Fletcher on numerous reads was take his strength and make it a weakness. An aggressive, downhill, smart, intelligent player was pretty much rendered useless early in the game because all of the options within this scheme that Chip Kelly has designed. So I think it is here to stay.”

nick-foles-eaglesAnybody who watched Philadelphia’s Week 7 game against the Cowboys saw anything but what Jaws described. What they witnessed was Vick standing on the sidelines with an injury…Nick Foles scrambling around in the pocket and making horribly inaccurate throws…LeSean McCoy rushing for a meager 55 yards on 18 carries….DeSean Jackson catching three passes for 21 yards….and worst of all, Philadelphia putting just three points on the board against a below-average Dallas defense.

Now does this mean that Kelly’s offense is a complete failure? Certainly not because his team has put up 30 or more points in four out of seven games. However, it’s not quite the revolutionary scheme that will have half the league quick-snapping the ball every play next year.

While inventive and tough to prepare for, Kelly’s fast-paced offense isn’t nearly as dominating in the NFL. He doesn’t have a sizable talent advantage in the pros like he did at Oregon. And it’s much tougher to run the read option when 6’3″, 260-pound linebackers who boast a 4.6-forty are shadowing the quarterback. Plus the idea of running plays as fast as possible loses its effect when you’re going 3-and-out half the time like Philadelphia has been doing.

When the Eagles get Vick healthy again, Kelly’s offense will certainly look better. And with nine regular season games remaining, there are still some big offensive performances left in this team. But as for the preseason hype that the fast-paced offense would take the league by storm, well, it’s been nothing more than hype so far.

Von Miller Suspension Further Weakens Broncos Defense

von-miller-suspensionThe Denver Broncos received a big blow today when it was reported that Von Miller is facing a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. It was initially thought that he’d fight the suspension, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter now say that he’s “not likely” to fight the matter.

The league began investigating Miller when he provided a diluted urine sample, just after spilling a sample he gave during an offseason workout. He couldn’t give another sample right away, so he provided another one after consuming lots of fluids during the workout. This all amounted to suspicion that the 6’3″ 250-pound linebacker was trying to avoid giving a pure sample.

At this point, Miller is currently trying to convince the NFL to lessen his suspension to four games. But if he’s unsuccessful, it would mean the Broncos playing against the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles without their star defender.

von-miller-suspension-1Since being drafted out of Texas A&M with the second overall pick in 2011, Miller has been exceptional for Denver. In ’11, he attained Rookie of the Year honors after racking up 11.5 sacks. Last year Miller was a First-Team All-Pro after tallying 18.5 sacks in his second season.

Now the Broncos will likely lose this production for the first six games of the season. They won’t be the only losers in this matter either since Miller stands to miss $806,162 of his $2,284,125 base salary. It would prove even more costly if Denver tries to recoup the $1,215,265 signing bonus that their All-Pro is due.

Von Miller isn’t the only key defender that Denver will be without since they lost Elvis Dumervil in the offseason thanks to a fax machine error. The standout defensive end informed the Broncos that he’d accept a paycut to stay with them at 3:25 pm – 35 minutes before a 4:00 pm free agency deadline that had to be met. However, his now-fired agent Marty Magid didn’t fax the paperwork until 4:07 pm, seven minutes past the deadline. This forced Denver to release Dumervil, who provided them with 11 sacks last season.

elvis-dumervilWith Dumervil now in Baltimore and Miller likely to miss much of the season’s first half, it’s very questionable as to if the Broncos can repeat their success. Last year they gained home field advantage throughout the playoffs after finishing 13-3. They lost 38-35 to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Playoff round. However, this didn’t completely demolish what was otherwise a very good season.

Now Denver is facing an uphill battle without two of their most important defenders. Sure quarterback Peyton Manning is back with a full arsenal of weapons. But the D will have to get inventive with stopping opponents. Free agent pickup Shaun Phillips should provide some relief in Miller’s absence. The outside linebacker collected 9.5 sacks for San Diego last year. And fifth-round pick Quanterus Smith could be seeing a lot of time at defensive end. The 6’5″, 255-pounder compiled 12.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season at Western Kentucky.