Brian Hoyer to start Third Straight Game for Cleveland Browns

brian-hoyer-clevelandTheir opening day quarterback Brandon Weeden goes down with an injury. They trade away franchise running back Trent Richardson after a dismal 0-2 start. And yet, the Cleveland Browns are now tied for the AFC North division lead with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

And a large part of Cleveland’s success is due to the emergence of backup QB Brian Hoyer. In all actuality though, Hoyer may have earned himself the permanent starting role. He’s been named the starter for a third straight week, while the status of Weeden and his injured thumb are unknown.

Regardless of whether or not Weeden is healthy enough to play, it doesn’t appear that Cleveland is overly concerned about him. Instead, they’re embracing Hoyer and looking to forward to seeing if he can lead them to the playoffs.

brian-hoyer-cleveland-1Now this may all sound quite unrealistic, given that many people thought the Browns were mailing it in following the Richardson trade. But as previously stated, Cleveland is tied atop a mediocre division and faces Buffalo this week. The Bills are also 2-2, but the Browns will be at home and should be favored in this contest.

Basically, Hoyer has provided new life to a team that was previously looking to fight with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the league’s top pick next season. Through two games, he’s racked up 590 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 3 INT’s and a 59.8% completion rate.

Of course, it’s important not to look too far ahead because all of this hype has been created in two games. And the NFL season is a long grind with 12 games left to go. But if Cleveland can beat Buffalo on Thursday and remain on top of the AFC North, it will bring Brian Hoyer hysteria to an all-time high.

Pittsburgh Steelers working towards Redemption in 2013

ben-roethlisberger2012 seemed like it would be just like any other year for the Pittsburgh Steelers – a playoff spot, possibly a division title, and maybe a Super Bowl bid. However, none of these scenarios came to fruition as the Steelers suffered through their worst year since 2006.

Sure an 8-8 record isn’t bad by league standards. In fact, the Jacksonville Jaguars or Cleveland Browns would kill to have such a record. Plus the Steelers had plenty of reason to suffer a down season after injuries to multiple key players. But injuries or not, finishing third in the AFC Central just isn’t going to cut it in the recent era of Pittsburgh football.

This being said, the organization has been working hard, both on and off the field, to make sure next year doesn’t repeat itself. First off, they made some big offseason moves such as cutting linebacker James Harrison and O-lineman Willie Colon to clear cap space. Then they added some talent through the draft by picking up first-round linebacker Jarvis Jones and second-round running back Le’Veon Bell.

troy-polamaluOf course, this doesn’t mean that Pittsburgh is enacting a big youth movement. Staple players Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor are once again back to lead this team on the field. And these guys have taken it upon themselves to educate the younger players and help them along.

Polamalu discussed this when he said, “The great thing about the people that we have here is that all we are going to do is give knowledge. There is no hesitation. It’s not like we think this guy is going to replace someone, like other teams.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin also weighed in on this matter by saying, “‘It feels new and different every year at this time. We’re working with 90 guys and every year 40 or so of them, minimum, are new guys. From that standpoint, it’s the same. We’re always excited and energized to work with the new faces.'”

Roethlisberger has also found himself in the strange position of being a mentor. Big Ben spent last season as the youngest Steelers quarterback since long-time veterans Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch were on the roster. Now these two are gone and Bruce Gradkowski, John Parker Wilson and fourth-round pick Landry Jones have filled their spots.

ike-taylor”I’m going to do everything I can to help those guys get ready to play because I’m here to win games,” said Roethlisberger. ”We’ve had other guys step up and play and win games for us in the past. I’m excited to help these guys be ready to go if need be.”

With a nice mixture of youth and veterans, the Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to find themselves back in the postseason for the 9th time in the last 13 seasons. And they’ve got history on their side because Pittsburgh hasn’t missed the playoffs in consecutive years since the 1998-2000 era.

However, this was long before Polamalu, Roethlisberger and Taylor took the field with Tomlin as their coach. Considering how this core group is still going strong, it’s a good bet that the Steelers will be back in the postseason next year.

Minnesota Vikings could solve Percy Harvin Dilemma with Mike Wallace

percy-harvinThere’s no question that the Minnesota Vikings are a better overall football team when Percy Harvin is on the field. After all, he’s one of the league’s most dynamic kickoff returners and slot receivers – plus he even plays some running back. But is Harvin worth the $16.5 million annually that he’s hoping to earn in free agency?

The Vikings can’t really seem to come up with an answer, and it appears as if they could be making preparations for life without Harvin. The 24-year-old has one more year left on his contract and wants to be re-signed before training camp opens later in 2013. Assuming he doesn’t get re-signed this offseason, it’s very possible that he will hold out and skip some regular season games.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh SteelersAs this headache inches closer and closer, the Vikings are out shopping for other wide receivers. And the biggest name to surface so far is Mike Wallace, who’s hoping for a fresh start following a down year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After serving as a legitimate number one wideout for the Steelers in 2010 (1,257 receiving YDS, 10 TD) and 2011 (1,193 receiving YDS, 8 TD), Wallace regressed with 836 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. Of course, most people still see the talent as being there, which is why Minnesota is willing to enter a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins.

The way that some Vikings fans see it now, they could have two top receiving threats by signing Wallace. And this would certainly be a welcome thought for starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who was relegated to a receiving quartet of Michael Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright at the end of the year.

percy-harvin-1However, the reality is that it could just be Wallace boosting the receiving corps., with Percy Harvin playing the minimum to qualify for free agency next offseason. It’s ultimately up to the Vikings to decide if they want to pay Harvin the same kind of money that Calvin Johnson earns. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons that Minnesota will be weighing.

Pros

A Big Threat – Percy Harvin is a dangerous player who’s more valuable than his numbers indicate. His speed and mobility make Harvin somebody that commands extra attention any time he’s on the field. This in turn frees other players up for more production like Adrian Peterson, Jenkins and Rudolph.

Solid Numbers – In just nine games last year, Harvin managed to catch 62 balls for 677 yards, rushed for 96 yards, had a 105-yard kickoff return, and scored five total touchdowns.

Proven Winner – The Vikings had a pretty successful year after going 10-6 and making the playoffs. In the eight full games that Harvin played last season, the Vikings went 5-3 and looked good while doing so.

percy-harvin-2Christian Ponder needs Him – One of the biggest aids to Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-plus-yard rushing campaign was how badly Ponder performed in Harvin’s absence; in other words, Minnesota was forced to run Peterson over and over again. With his favorite target in the lineup, Ponder threw for over 200 yards five times in nine games; without Harvin, Ponder was only able to go over 200 yards twice passing in seven games.

Cons

Injury-Prone – In his first three seasons, Percy Harvin rarely missed any games. However, he did sit out plenty of snaps due to migraines and other nagging injury problems. But last year, things really bottomed-out when the Florida product was placed on the injured reserve mid-season with an ailing hip and ankle. Percy only managed to play in nine contests in 2012 because of this.

Bad Temperament – $16.5 million is a lot of money to pay annually for a guy who’s had run-ins with coaches dating back to his college days. He was seen yelling at coach Leslie Frazier last year during the Seattle game – most likely over wanting the ball more. He also threw a weight at former Vikings coach Brad Childress when Randy Moss was cut from the team.

Sulkiness/Immaturity – Nobody questions Percy Harvin’s desire to win. But when things don’t go his way, Harvin has the tendency to sulk and be immature. The screaming matches with coaches are a good example of this. He also demanded a trade when he was unhappy with the Vikings prospects last summer. This being said, it won’t be surprising if his heart isn’t into the team when/if a giant contract doesn’t come.

It certainly won’t be easy for Minnesota to hand Harvin anywhere in the neighborhood of $16.5 million per year based on the cons we discussed. However, they can’t exactly afford to let him walk without getting Wallace based on the pros we talked about. All we can say is that the Vikings’ front office is a tough place to be right now.