Knowshon Moreno may not be Answer for Miami Dolphins

knowshon-moreno-dolphins-starterLast season, the Miami Dolphins needed more than a little help at running back. Their top rusher, Lamar Miller, gained just 709 yards on 177 attempts (4.0 YPC) and scored two touchdowns. His backup, Daniel Thomas, wasn’t too great either, rushing for 406 yards on 109 attempts for a dismal 3.7 YPC. And Thomas was a second-round pick in 2011.

Given that Miami hasn’t found the running back of their dreams through the Draft, they decided to reach out in free agency this time around. The Dolphins signed Moreno to a 1-year, $3 million deal in hopes that he can provide some of the same offensive punch that he offered the Denver Broncos last year.

Off to a Bad Start

Taking hand-offs from Peyton Manning, Moreno managed to gain 1,038 yards, 10 rushing TD’s and catch 60 passes for another 548 yards and three touchdowns. That said, there is some hype surrounding Moreno as he takes his talents to South Beach. But judging from OTAs, he’s not really living up to the hype.

As the Miami Herald reported, the six-year veteran has struggled with conditioning and pass catching. Here’s a look at what the Herald wrote:

Knowshon Moreno continues to work at least partly with the second team, with Lamar Miller taking a lot of first team snaps. Moreno dropped a pass today and Joe Philbin conceded that his conditioning could be better.

Herald reporter Armando Salguero also tweeted that, “Knowshon Moreno looks a little thick around the belly.”

Should We expect a Turnaround?

Obviously the Dolphins aren’t paying Moreno what could amount to $3 million just to be a second-stringer. So he’s going to continue getting chances over the next few months to prove his worth. Plus they’ve already had two full seasons to evaluate Miller, and the organization isn’t convinced that he’s their back of the future.

But it’s definitely not a good sign that Moreno is playing with the second team right now. Moreover, it doesn’t make a good impression on your new coach when you show up to OTAs out of shape. However, the real season hasn’t even come close to starting. So Moreno still has plenty of time to change his conditioning around and show that he’s capable of starting for Miami.

Free Agents who could Really Impact 2014 NFL Futures Bets

michael-vickIf you’re into making NFL futures bets, some experts suggest that you do it as early in the offseason as possible to get good value before lines shift. However, if you’re somebody who likes to wait and see how free agency impacts teams’ odds of winning the Super Bowl, this is never a bad decision either. Keeping in mind that some players have already been re-signed or franchise tagged, let’s look at some game-changing free agents who are still on the market this year and where they might go (based on rumors and/or teams actively seeking position upgrades).

Quarterbacks

1. Michael Vick (possible destinations: NY Jets, San Francisco) – After Vick played in just seven games last year due to injuries/losing his job to Nick Foles, we have to wonder if the 33-year-old’s best years are behind him. Still, Vick is a name that stands out in a subpar crop of free agent quarterbacks, and there are plenty of teams that would love to see if he’s got one or two good years left.

2.  Josh McCown (possible destinations: Chicago, Detroit) – Although it seems like McCown came out of nowhere last year with his 13 TD’s and one interception, he’s actually been in the league since 2002. At 34, he’s even older than Vick, but McCown should still find a few suitors who need a solid backup.

3. Josh Freeman (possible destinations: Oakland, NY Jets) – Between the fiasco in Tampa Bay and his stop in Minnesota, last year was Freeman’s worst as a profession. But before this, he was a four-year starter who was having a pretty decent career. Given the fact that Freeman is only 26, somebody will sign him as a backup to compete for the starting role.

Running Backs

ben-tate-free-agent1. Ben Tate (possible destinations: Cleveland, NY Giants) – Injuries and a timeshare with Arian Foster have always held Tate back from emerging as a star. But we fully expect him to get a big deal somewhere since he’s only 25 and runs a 4.43 forty. Tate could definitely go over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

2. Knowshon Moreno (possible destinations: NY Giants, Tennessee) – The former first round pick had his best year as a pro with 1,038 rushing yards, 548 receiving yards and 13 total TD’s. At 26 years old, he could be a long-term option for many teams. But can he produce the same numbers without Peyton Manning taking the pressure off?

3. Maurice Jones-Drew (possible destinations: NY Jets, Houston) – It took Jones-Drew a while to get going last year, but he did come up with 803 yards and 5 touchdowns on a bad team. Unfortunately, his career is at a decline, but he could still provide some nice power running in a committee.

Wide Receivers

1. Eric Decker (possible destinations: Indianapolis, San Francisco) – With 2,342 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in the past two seasons, Decker has more than enough on his resume to land a big deal. Much like Moreno, the question now becomes if he’ll be able to live up to a big deal without Manning.

julian-edelman-free-agent2. Julian Edelman (possible destinations: Baltimore, Cleveland) – Last year couldn’t have gone any better for Edelman, who stepped in amidst New England’s receiver injuries and produced with 105 catches, 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. Now heading into free agency, he’s looking at millions of dollars.

3. James Jones (possible destinations: Minnesota, Seattle) – Often playing in a crowded Packers receiving corp, Jones still managed to produce 1,601 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two years. It’s especially impressive that he posted his highest career yardage total last season, despite Aaron Rodgers’ lengthy injury layoff.

Tight Ends

Garrett Graham (possible destinations: Houston, NY Giants) – Despite all of the quarterback turmoil in Houston, Graham still managed to post 545 yards and five touchdowns on 49 catches – and he only played in 13 games. He heads up an unimpressive crop of unsigned free agent tight ends this offseason.

Defensive Linemen

michael-johnson-cincinnati1. Michael Johnson (possible destinations: Atlanta, Tampa Bay) – After tallying 11.5 sacks in 2012, Johnson had a down season last year when he managed only 3.5 sacks. But at 6’7″ and just 27 years old, Johnson figures to draw tons of attention from teams wanting a tough defensive end – especially now that Greg Hardy is franchise tagged and Michael Bennett re-signed with Seattle.

2. Jason Hatcher (possible destinations: Atlanta, Dallas) – He’s 31 right now, but most teams will be concentrating on the 11 sacks he had last season. Hatcher definitely picked the perfect time to have a career year for an otherwise dismal Cowboys defense.

3. Henry Melton (possible destinations: Dallas, Jacksonville) – Melton tore his ACL and only appeared in three games for the Bears. But with just four seasons under his belt, Melton should make a comeback and remain a strong defensive tackle for whichever team signs him.

Linebackers

karlos-dansby-interception1. Karlos Dansby (possible destinations: Cleveland, Tennessee) – The 32-year-old Dansby won’t fetch any long-term deals. But he’s a huge reason why the Cardinals contended for a playoff spot in the brutal NFC West. Don’t expect him to score two touchdowns again or even pick off four passes. But do expect him to give the next team that signs him another 100-plus tackles.

2. Brandon Spikes (possible destinations: Buffalo, Cleveland) – After four years in New England, Spikes will probably be taking his run-stopping talents elsewhere. He’s racked up 178 combined tackles over the last two years and is still just 26.

3. Shaun Phillips (possible destinations: Green Bay, Tennessee) – 11 seasons in the league and Phillips is still producing. Last year he gave Denver’s defense a much-needed boost by tallying 10 sacks. He’ll likely go to a Super Bowl contender who’s looking to fill a pass-rushing hole.

Defensive Backs/Safeties

1. Aqib Talib (possible destinations: New England, Washington) – Following this offseason, Talib should send the Seahawks a thank you letter for making big cornerbacks so sought after. If the Patriots don’t tag him, the 6’1″, 205-pound corner is likely looking at an 8-figure deal.

tj-ward-free-agent2. T.J. Ward (possible destinations: Denver, Detroit) – Although he’s not the best coverage safety, Ward is a hard-hitter who’s great at finishing tackles. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Browns, Ward will definitely be highly valued somewhere else.

3. Jairus Byrd (possible destinations: Cleveland, Miami) – Byrd missed the beginning of the season with a foot injury and contract holdout. But in the 11 games that he played, the 27-year-old had a productive year with 48 tackles and four interceptions. Buffalo doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to re-sign Byrd, so expect this elite-coverage safety to test the waters.

Ravens, Broncos kick off 2013 NFL Season Tonight

broncos-ravensThe 2013 NFL season is here as the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens kick the season off tonight (September 5th) at 8:30 ET. Last year saw the Ravens pull of a shocker after they beat Denver 38-35 in a Divisional Playoffs round. And this was only a prelude to Baltimore’s even more surprising run to the Super Bowl title.

But this is a new year, and the Ravens are a very different team. We recently broke down their chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions, and we think that it’s going to be a long shot. This especially the case when you consider that their team changed so much over the summer. For this reason, GTBets.eu has the betting line on tonight’s game as follows:

Baltimore  (-115)  Over 48.5 (-110)
Denver -7.5 (-105)  Under 48.5 (-110)

With Denver being over a touchdown favorite tonight, they are definitely expected to win. But before you make a bet, you might want to check out our analysis of the matchup.

Preview of Denver for Tonight’s Game

peyton-manningThe Broncos are fairly large favorites on our line mainly because they’re playing at home, and this team returns so much talent. In regard to the latter, quarterback Peyton Manning headlines the returners after a season in which he threw for 4,659 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

His receiving corp is going to be a huge factor tonight as well. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are coming back after finishing 1-2 on the team in receiving. Wes Welker is a new addition to Denver as he came to them via New England in the offseason. After posting numbers of 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns, he’s ready to step in and contribute immediately.

The Broncos running game is more of a question mark entering this year. As a team, they averaged 114.5 rushing YPG, which ranked 16th in the league. In an effort to boost their ground attack, Denver drafted Wisconsin standout Montee Ball in the second round, but he’s going to share touches with Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno to open the year. So it’s anybody’s guess as to how things will turn out in this first regular season contest.

This team will have more questions on the other side of the ball after losing DE Elvis Dumervil to a delayed fax in the offseason and LB Von Miller to a six-game suspension. These players combined for 29.5 sacks last year, so their absence will really hurt Denver’s pass rush tonight. Plus cornerback Champ Bailey will miss this game too. However, they still have interior lineman Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson plugging the middle as well as new addition Shaun Phillips rushing the outside.

Preview of Baltimore for Tonight’s Game

joe-flaccoJoe Flacco returns under center after inking a massive 6-year, $120 million deal this past offseason. Flacco’s incredible playoff run earned him this money, as he tossed 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the postseason. Now everybody wants to know if he can look just as impressive in the regular season.

He won’t be helped by the fact that receiver Anquan Boldin went to the San Francisco 49ers. But at least Flacco will still have Torrey Smith to throw to, who collected 98 yards and two TD’s in the last meeting between these squads. Running back Ray Rice will be a huge key to this game as well. He picked up 1,143 rushing yards and 478 receiving yards in 2012.

Most of the uncertainty regarding Baltimore stems from their losses on defense. Safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, and cornerback Cary Williams all went to other teams through free agency. Plus franchise linebacker Ray Lewis retired after winning his second Super Bowl.

But the Ravens did do their best to reload by picking up Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Daryl Smith and Michael Huff during the offseason. This group will have to gel fast if they want to stop Manning and the Broncos vaunted passing game tonight.

NFL Power Rankings for Jan. 11th, 2013

Last week marked a not-so-exciting first round of the 2013 NFL playoffs. Only the Cincinnati Bengals/Houston Texans game was close…but the way that QB Andy Dalton played, it wasn’t really that close. This being said, we expect a little more entertaining action this weekend – especially in the two NFC playoff games. Now here’s a look at our rankings of all the playoff teams – included the eliminated ones.

1. Denver Broncos (1st seed in AFC) – Denver has the ever-important home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which will no doubt be huge if they make the AFC Championship game. Next up is the Ravens in what promises to be a very chilly contest (predicted low of 6 degrees). Peyton Manning’s passing could be a little more limited in such cold weather, but the Broncos are truly a complete team with how Knowshon Moreno is running.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Baltimore Ravens

2. New England Patriots (2nd seed in AFC) – The big question for the Patriots will be if their bend-but-don’t-break defense can hold up throughout the playoffs. It should definitely hold up against the Houston Texans, which relied far too much on Arian Foster to carry them past the Bengals. Also, Tom Brady shouldn’t have the same troubles moving the ball against Houston as Dalton did.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Houston Texans

3. Atlanta Falcons (1st seed in NFC) – The Falcons definitely need home field advantage against their visiting opponent – the streaking Seattle Seahawks. They’ll have to do a better job of containing Marshawn Lynch than they did in their final regular season game against Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (142 RYDS). DE John Abraham and CB Dunta Robinson should be able to play in this game, despite leaving the Tampa Bay contest with injuries.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Seattle Seahawks

4. Seattle Seahawks (5th seed in NFC) – Nobody has played better than Seattle over the past few weeks, and the momentum carried into the playoffs against Washington. Now they’ll be looking to win their second straight road game, which should prove a lot tougher against the NFC’s top seed. Much of this game will depend upon QB Russell Wilson and his ability to continue playing great football.

Last Game: 24-14 win over Washington Redskins
Next Game: vs. Atlanta Falcons

5. Green Bay Packers (3rd seed in NFC) – The Packers had little trouble handling division rival Minnesota in their Wild Card matchup. Of course, things were a little easier on Green Bay since they faced backup QB Joe Webb, who connected on just 11 of 30 passes. They’ll get no such gift on the road against San Francisco this week.

Last Game: 24-10 win over Minnesota Vikings
Next Game: at San Francisco 49ers

6. San Francisco (2nd seed in NFC) – It’ll be interesting to see how Colin Kaepernick handles starting in his first career playoff game. At least he’ll have home field advantage as he faces the Packers. The Niners’ secondary is really going to be stretched as they try to slow down QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack.

Last Game: Bye
Next Game: vs. Green Bay Packers

7. Houston Texans (3rd seed in AFC) – The Texans entered the playoffs on a real down-note after losing 3 of their final 4 regular season games. This bad run also cost them the AFC’s top seed, which could prove fatal as they travel to Foxborough this Sunday. On a positive note, the Houston defense was stellar after harassing the Bengals’ Andy Dalton all game; he completed just 14 of 30 passes for 127 yards.

Last Game: 19-13 win over Cincinnati Bengals
Next Game: at New England Patriots

8. Baltimore Ravens (4th seed in AFC) – We actually ranked Baltimore last among the 12 playoff teams in our previous power rankings; they’d lost four out of their final five regular season contests at this point. However, the Ravens surprised us after easily handling the Colts at home. Rookie Benard Pierce ran for 103 yards on just 13 carries while Anquan Boldin was the star with 145 receiving yards and a touchdown. We are still very skeptical about Baltimore’s chances heading into a road game against Denver though.

Last Game: 24-9 win over Indianapolis Colts
Next Game: at Denver Broncos

9. Washington Redskins (4th seed in NFC) – Washington tops our list of eliminated playoff teams. This is certainly no consolation to the Redskins though as they’ll have a very long offseason to think about what could have been. Robert Griffin III quickly tossed two touchdowns to put Washington up 14-0. However, he would hurt his knee shortly thereafter, which is when things began spiraling downward. He remained in the game despite noticeably limping and injured his knee even worse in the fourth quarter. Following ACL and LCL surgery this week, it’s possible that Griffin could miss all of next season.

Last Game: 24-14 loss to Seattle Seahawks
– Eliminated from playoffs

10. Minnesota Vikings (6th seed in NFC) – Many people talked about how Minnesota was a one-dimensional team heading into the postseason. And they truly lived up to this billing when starting QB Christian Ponder didn’t play due to an elbow injury. Joe Webb couldn’t seem to complete a pass until he hit Michael Jenkins for a meaningless 50-yard touchdown – leaving the entire offensive burden on Adrian Peterson (22CAR, 99RYDS). It’s too bad we couldn’t have seen how the Vikings fared with their starting QB available.

Last Game: 24-10 loss to Green Bay Packers
– Eliminated from playoffs

11. Indianapolis Colts (5th seed in AFC) – Unlike a lot of other sites, we were pretty high on the Colts entering the playoffs. However, all of their ugly defensive qualities surfaced in one game against the Ravens after giving up almost 200 rushing yards to Ray Rice/Bernard Pierce along with 145 receiving yards to Boldin. The Indianapolis offense couldn’t find the end zone either as they mustered just three field goals.

Last Game: 24-9 loss to Baltimore Ravens
– Eliminated from playoffs

12. Cincinnati Bengals (6th seed in AFC) – The only real reason why Cincinnati threatened Houston was because of CB Leon Hall’s interception return right before hafltime. This would be the only touchdown that the Bengals got as their offense struggled terribly under Dalton (127PYDS, 1INT). It’s got to be tough for Dalton since he’s now choked in his only two playoff games.

Last Game: 19-13 loss to Houston Texans
– Eliminated from playoffs