End of the Road approaching for a Yankee Legend

As the MLB season continues to wind down to an end, playoff berths are becoming solidified, division titles being clinched and fights for home-field advantage become more intense, the road of a historic career of one particular player approaches its end, Yankees Shortstop, Derek Jeter.

Yeah, yeah it is no surprise and some will say that they are tired of hearing about Jeter, some will say he is not a Yankee legend, the facts are the facts. In an era that for the most part is well known as "The Steroid Era," Derek Jeter was not once ever accused or linked in ANY way to this stigma of baseball.

His 20-year career will come to an end this season, a career filled with many accolades. He will finish as the all-time hits leader for the Yankees (3455 and climbing), finish with a career batting average over .300. Most important of all, Derek Jeter will always have a hand FULL of World Series Championships (5).

Jeter played the game of baseball as it was meant to be played. Not with power, not with strength, but with elegance, skill, hard work and grace. Jeter was humble, a team player and a great teammate to be around. Jeter's smile was always brightening up someone's day as it seemed more like a tattoo as it never went away. His hustle plays are legendary, the flip against the Oakland A's, which turned around the series entirely, to the running catch against the Red Sox, which left him bloody in the chin, Derek Jeter never took his foot off the gas pedal when it came to his on the field play, he was at formula one racing speed every game.

Jeter may not have been one of the biggest, may not have been one of the flashiest, nor one of the most flamboyant, but Derek Jeter was most certainly one of the most RESPECTED players ever to play in MLB. All that made Derek Jeter is what gravitated people to Jeter. People like Michael Jordan, Cal Ripen Jr., just to name a couple, very well respected and great in their own sports. Fans respect Jeter, YES even Red Sox fans have major respect for Derek Jeter.

When the 2014 MLB regular season comes to an end, it will also bring about the end of a career and potential one of the last in a line of GREAT players who make their greatness from being the "underdog." A player who never truly got the respect he so rightfully deserved. For as all the attention went on players like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons etc... Derek Jeter surpassed em all, with his on AND off the field life ... and that does not even go into his personal life and the 'A' list of ladies associated with the Yankees captain.

If the Yankees make the playoffs, the season will continue for Derek Jeter and the Yankees. But if not, it has been an absolute pleasure to watch GREATNESS for 20-years and best wishes on your future endeavours. Thank you for all the memories and #RE2PECT always and forever for you Derek Jeter are Yankee Legend.
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Pique’s Run at the WSOP

For Barcelona’s most valued central defender, Gerard Pique, the elimination from this year’s World Cup was the worst possible scenario this summer. Only winning their final group game against Australia 3-0, the early exit was one that stunned the world. What made it even more shocking is that Spain was defending the title they won in 2010.

So, for Pique the idle hours of such an exit needed to be hastily filled so that he didn’t dwell on such failures. However, with the football season dormant and the World Cup on all TV screens across the world, the need to focus on something else became even more apparent. 

Pique chose to pursue one of his life dreams in the idle months ahead. The ex-Manchester United star made it a reality when he secured a seat at this year’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada</a>. He managed to claim a large stack during Day 1 of the tournament however was later eliminated. 

But this didn’t quell Pique’s desire to play more poker when he decides to hang his boots up and retire from soccer. Over the last 5 years Pique has become fascinated by the world of poker and is reported to play online during his downtime at his home in Barcelona, so that one day he can compete more prolifically at the world’s most prestigious events.

Poker saw a rise in participation in the early 90s, predominantly due to the launch of online casino gaming via InterCasino. The online market has had a huge affect on the sport and the online gaming industry will reportedly be worth $100 billion by 2017. So, it’s no surprise that many are clambering to get a piece of the action.

And although Pique’s best years of soccer are probably still ahead of him, after this year’s WSOP, it sure that he will be getting in as much training as possible to make his next appearance that more significant. 
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NFL is packing a smoking gun... and it has gone OFF

The Domestic Violence in the NFL has taken the spotlight and is currently spiraling out of control. This issue, though, has been a issue for a lot longer than people want to acknowledge. The NFL and its players are now in the limelight, AND beginning to lose sponsors (Radisson Hotel has suspended their sponsor ties with the NFL) because of a domestic violence issue revolving one Adrian Peterson.

It has been no secret that there have been players getting themselves into trouble off the field, whether during the season or during the off-season. Players who are making millions upon millions of dollars, in their mind, believe to be "untouchable." Meanwhile the NFL owners and corporate headquarters care more about their "bottom line" rather than their employees.

In the last couple years, the crimes involving NFL players between the ages of 25-29 has produced staggering numbers. Domestic Violence is well above 50% (55.4%). Gun related nonviolence is at 45.2% and sex offenses come in third at 38.2% of the crimes involving NFL players ages 25-29. DUI arrests involving NFL players counts to over 500 players, one-fourth of the national average. Stats provided by: fivethirtyeight.com

While an average person gets fined and/or jail time, the NFL has continued to not only prolong punishment of its players but in some cases, ignore it all together, especially if a player makes them money. Take the Ray Rice situation, once a face of the Baltimore Ravens was given just a 2-game suspension for assaulting his then fiancee (now wife) Janay. Original punishment, ethically speaking, should have carried a minimum of 8-games. Rice was even willing to take 8-games but would challenge anything more than that. Obviously new evidence showed Rice not only deserved to be released from the Ravens but also suspended indefinitely from the NFL (video footage proved so).

The Adrian Peterson situation this year, is NOT his first go around with dealing with child abuse accusations. In 2013, Peterson was accused of hitting a 4-year-old son and while evidence was not "substantial" enough to press charges, a report was filed with a Texas Child Protection Services office. Now in 2014, another round of child abuse finds Peterson, with an official indictment. The result of that is an NFL sponsor pulling itself out to protect its reputation, just as in the NBA and the "Donald Sterling" situation.

Greg Hardy of the Panthers has been arrest, charged and found GUILTY of domestic violence case earlier this year and is currently in the appeal process. Yet the Panthers DID start him week 1 & then flip-flopped in week 2 by deactivating him. Ray McDonald of the 49ers has been arrested in connection of a domestic violence situation (charges have yet to be officially made).

In the end, domestic violence is running wild in the NFL and in the age of social media, the time has come to bring it all into the light. Years upon years of cover-ups just to keep the cash cow full and flowing that is the NFL. The NFL has done everything they can to "blacklist" players like Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson for their antics, YET allow players who beat their wives and/or kids to continue to play in the league, does that seem fair?

When MLB's smoking gun was unleashed in the form of Jose Canseco, the issue of Steroids and PEDs was revealed to the world and it brought about, one of the strictest drug policies in sports. While it still has some holes, it has improved the"cleanliness" of the game. The NFL realizes they goofed in the Ray Rice ruling and immediately came back with a harsh Domestic Violence policy where is gives a "3-strikes" concept (6-games for 1st offense, 1-year for 2nd and lifetime ban for 3rd). Not many employers give multiple chances to employees when they violate rules as egregious as these, yet in the world of sports, these extra chances are given.

The NFL is in a very delicate situation right now, in "Donald Sterling" territory now. So how the NFL and the individual teams handle things from here can either start rebuilding or be the ultimate destruction to the credibility that is the NFL. The "SHIELD" that is the top priority in the NFL is no longer whole, but filled with holes.
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NFL Power 32

After 2 weeks of football it's not reasonable to determine certain teams are in or out of the playoff picture.  Don't forget that the Houston Texans started out last season at 2 - 0 and lost their final 14 games.  They're off to another 2 - 0 start and while they were ranked in the top 3 this time last year, nobody has this team in the top 10...or shouldn't at the very least.  The Saints are 0 - 2 but lost both games by a combined 6 points.  I'm not writing them off!

The Carolina Panthers started 0 - 2 in 2013 and ended up with a bye in the NFC Conference.  This year they're off to a 2 - 0 start and it's been one of the better surprises after they lost all their wide receivers.  Statistics show that getting off to a 2 - 0 start highly enhances a teams chances of making the playoffs.  Only 12% of teams that kick off their season at 0 - 2 make the post season.  So who will fall into these categories in 2014?  That's yet to be determined but 2 weeks of NFL action isn't going to completely deter my power rankings heading into week 3.  Here it is...

1. Seahawks
2. Broncos
3. Bengals
4. Eagles
5. Patriots
6. Cardinals
7. 49ers
8. Saints
9. Panthers
10. Packers
11. Colts
12. Ravens
13. Bears
14. Chargers
15. Bills
16. Texans
17. Falcons
18. Cowboys
19. Jets
20. Browns
21. Lions
22. Dolphins
23. Redskins
24. Steelers
25. Chiefs
26. Titans
27. Bucs
28. Vikings
29. Rams
30. Giants
31. Jaguars
32. Raiders
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Thy Shield is tainted NFL

In the latest bad news story to come out of the National Football League (NFL), reports surfaced from the Minnesota Vikings that their star running back, Adrian Peterson, had struck his 4-year-old child with a "switch (a small tree branch)" and was being arrested for Child Abuse. This is just the latest in a series of major infractions that have hit close to home with several organizations, from (Domestic Violence to constant DUI/DWI charges & marijuana and drug use). The talk has always been to protect the "shield" of the NFL, but there is so much more at stake, human lives.

I spoke with an anonymous source, we shall can him Mr. S for the purpose of this interview for he discloses some very personal experiences during his expressions of the latest NFL scandal.

"Sports for me was my distraction," Mr. S said. "When my mother died in 2004 and my family and friends abandoned me at that most crucial of emotional times, I turned to sports as my drug of choice and the NFL was the top of that list."

It was clear that Mr. S was hurting from the latest news about Peterson and the Child Abuse charges for it brought about his own issues.

"It distracted me, distracted me from the heartache, the loneliness and the grief that I felt with no one in my life," Mr. S added. "As a former child of abuse and domestic violence from my 1st family (I'm adopted by the way), the news about Peterson really hit home for me as I STILL have nightmares about those abusive nights. Sports was my distraction from those very haunting memories and NOW the two have inter-twined and it also has taken the personal safety from me. Before I was comfortable watching the NFL, now I am so uncomfortable, I will be sin a movie marathon this Sunday while the NFL games are being played. These actions be not carry impact, but it is my choice Just wished more people were like me and would stand up for what is right, instead of filling the NFL's pocketbook. In the end, the NFL exploits the players, players exploit the rules of the NFL because they know they can.

Mr. S has a very strong point, the NFL has taken its policies to the point of hypocrisy. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he handled the Ray Rice situation poorly and desperately is trying to clean up the stain on the shield that is the NFL. Letting players who are suspended for violating NFL rules come back to play (reduced suspensions/revoking suspensions) via NEW drug policy, just reaffirms the hypocrisy that is the NFL and the NFL Player's Association. Granted the NFL is a business but in the end, rules are made and ALL must follow or suffer the consequences, including the NFL top brass, such as Goodell. In MOST other jobs with any other company, if you were caught using drugs, you would be FIRED (and that is the minimum that could come, there could also be criminal charges if the company found reason).

In the end, the NFL and its shield has not only been tainted, but it has been crapped on and all Roger Goodell is doing is wiping his butt with it. It may be harsh, but from listening to Mr. S and seeing the continuing hypocrisy with the rules of the NFL, it fits as such. It is time to clean up the act, NFL. You have broken the very reason you exist, to distract the fans from their every day lives, that is your primary purpose and the main reason you are now a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. Fans may or may not feel as strong as Mr. S, or they may feel that way but not speak out, or they just ignore it all together, but human lives are worth more than the entity that is the NFL. It is time for the NFL and its employees to own up to the responsibility it has to its fan basis, not just one gender, but ALL genders not just one ethic diversity but ALL ethnic diversities.

The football is in on your tee now NFL and as Mr. S hopes, you will get your act together, clean up the shield that once shined brightest. Entertain the fans, distracting them from their every day struggles for those 3 to 4 hours per game. It helped Mr. S through some of his darkest hours. It is clear to this reporter, he is lost without it for his two separate worlds "The ugly real world" and his "Peaceful distraction" have become one, Mr. S's worst nightmare.
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2014 NFL Predictions: Fresh Take

Last season, the Seattle Seahawks and the Legion of Boom, dominated the Denver Broncos to win their first Super Bowl for the city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Peyton Manning, though, in 2013 had himself a record breaking season while easily winning his fifth NFL MVP award. The last week of the season had multiple teams in the AFC fighting for one slot and it was not decided until late afternoon games when the San Diego Chargers won the final Wild Card spot via tie-breakers. HOW EXCITING. So what will we see this year? Who will win the individual honors (MVP, Offensive & Defensive Rookies of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year)? Who wins the division and wild cards? Who will be in this coming Super Bowl in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona?

Individual Honors Predictions:

2014 NFL MVP: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: After taking an injury during the 2013 season Rodgers came back but just was not the same QB. With a full off-season to heal, combined with the radical improvement of RB Eddie Lacy to give Rodgers that much needed run support, Rodgers is primed to have a year to remember.

Expect Peyton Manning to be once again in running and be on the lookout for the sleeper pick, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who has improved his offensive game at the QB position.

2014 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: New Orleans Saints Brandin Cooks: He may just be a rookie WR but his speed and versatility is why the Saints went out and got him. Cooks is there to replace the multiple role left behind by former RB Darren Sproles (now with the Philadelphia Eagles). Cooks has shined in the pre-season and looks to do the same in the regular season. It all depends how many touches he gets, but is expected to get a bunch.

Expect Oakland Raiders Derek Carr to get some consideration as he has been given the keys to the Raiders offense and outperformed free agent Matt Schaub. Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans and Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin will earn some consideration as well.

2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Houston Texans Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney is the obvious pick here. Yet, he has been lights out on the field, making plays and taking names. Opposing RBs will be on the lookout for this freight train coming at them for Clowney will light em up. Add the attention that fellow Defensive Tackle, J.J. Watt receives, and you just may have one of the most dominant defensive lines in ALL of football.

Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr seems to be one of the few sleeper picks that could upset Clowney, as does Oakland Raiders Outside Linebacker Khalil Mack and do not be surprise if Steelers Linebacker Ryan Shazier comes to contend as well.

2014 NFL Comeback Player of the Year: Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice: YES, though he will miss the first 2-games of the season because of suspension, Rice looks to return and raise a whole lot of hell and rage on that football field. Add a healthy Dennis Pitta and free agent WR Steve Smith Sr. to take some of the defense away from the line of scrimmage, those running lanes will open for Rice like they were a couple years ago.

Seahawks WR Percy Harvin can apply for this award as well as he was active last season but for very few games. If healthy, Harvin can be every other's teams WORST nightmare because of his versatility. He is the "Inspector Gadget" of the NFL, the ultimate player who can go anywhere on the field and make plays.

Time to pick divisions, wild cards, AND Super Bowl picks (Division winners marked by 1 asterisk, Wild Card teams marked by 2):

AFC East:
1. New England Patriots (12-4)*
2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
3. New York Jets (7-9)
4. Buffalo Bills (5-11)

AFC South:
1. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)*
2. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
3. Houston Texans (7-9)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)

AFC North:
1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)*
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)**
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)

AFC West:
1. Denver Broncos (12-4)*
2. San Diego Chargers (10-6)**
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
4. Oakland Raiders (5-11)

NFC Wast:
1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)*
2. Arizona Cardinals (10-6)**
3. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
4. St. Louis Rams (7-9)

NFC South:
1. New Orleans Saints (11-5)*
2. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)**
3. Carolina Panthers (8-8)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

NFC North;
1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)*
2. Chicago Bears (9-7)
3. Detroit Lions (8-8)
4: Minnesota Vikings (4-12)

NFC East:
1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)*
2. Washington Redskins (8-8)
3. Dallas Cowboys (7-9)
4. New York Giants (5-11)

Super Bowl Match-up: New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks.
Super Bowl Winner: Back-to-Back Champions, The Seattle Seahawks.
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Philadelphia Eagles 2014 Preview

When Chip Kelly was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles last year some thought it was more of a “flashy” hire than an actual “football” hire.  Kelly was the head coach of Oregon, where he organized one of the most prolific scoring offenses in recent history.  Chip Kelly has been on this coaching grind since 1990 starting out in colleges like Columbia and New Hampshire before settling down in Oregon.  At first he wanted to approach the pro game just as he did at the college level by having a continuous no huddle-hurry up offense with quick outs and read-plays but he soon realized that his players were winded by the third quarter so he made his adjustments.  As the season went on, his adjustments included the insertion of Nick Foles as his starting quarterback.  Foles was able to finish the season with a ridiculous 27 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. Foles proved to be an efficient passer in Kelly’s system and after 13 games, finished with a rating of 119.2.  To expect something similar form Foles in 2014, would basically be crowning him the greatest of all time- so don’t expect it.  
After a messy break-up, DeSean Jackson takes his 82 catches and game-breaking ability to division rival the Washington Redskins.  This leaves the Eagles with three receivers all looking to prove something.  Jeremy Maclin is returning this season after tearing his ACL last year.  The Eagles are hoping that the 2009 first round pick can have a rebound year and remain on this team for years to come.  Riley Cooper had a messy off-season and after some serious damage control in the locker room, he put out a pretty impressive season racking up over 800 yards and 8 touchdowns – more important than the numbers  though was the apparent chemistry he had almost instantly with Foles.  The third receiver in this bunch is rookie Jordan Matthews.  Matthews was a second round pick, but definitely comes with first round talent.  He struggled a bit in team practices, but Vanderbilt alum brings an intelligent, strong bodied wideout with jumping ability.  He will find ways to out jump veteran corners in one on one situations and can prove to be a nice redzone target.  
When Chip Kelly runs an offense, you never know exactly who he will use and in what situations, and having tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz on this roster add a lot of options.  Ertz is more of the receiving type while Celek is more of the all around tight end.  With the three receivers and two tight ends mentioned defenses have enough to worry about – so imagine having to game plan for them and running back LeSean McCoy. 
McCoy thinks he’s the best running back in the game and he’s probably right. McCoy recorded over 2100 total yards and 11 touchdowns last season and in this offense it should be no surprise to see him duplicate those results.  Out of the backfield he has great vision and cutting ability and his awareness as a receiver makes him a check-down favorite for Foles.  The Eagles acquired Darren Sproles as the back up to McCoy and although Sproles is not as game-breaking as McCoy, when he spells McCoy it allows the offense to continue with their offensive philosophy by having another back with the same skill set as McCoy. 
Last season the Eagles defense gave up the most passing yards per game in the NFL (289.8) – some of that can be attributed to the fact that the Eagles were putting up numbers at such a frantic pace it caused teams to play catch-up. . . but then again when you give up 394 yards a game in total – it would be smart to make some adjustments. 
The Eagles nickel corner Brandon Boykin had six interceptions last year but for some reason is not expected to move up in the depth chart.  The Eagles corners, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, spend more time chasing receivers then they do breaking up plays.  It’s obvious they need help over the top and the Eagles drafted Ed Reynolds, a safety from Stamford who’s body doesn’t react in line with his instincts – they also signed a safety from Seattle who’s name is not Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor, so there’s no reason to get excited about it. . .
The Linebacker unit has a good blend of youth, experience and talent but they will burden a lot of responsibility.  Trent Cole is still someone offenses have to be wary of, but he’s lost a step and there are other names on the defense to be worried about like DeMeco Ryans, who can make it difficult for running backs to make breaks to the outside and is good in pass coverage. Connor Barwin was asked to cover receivers last year because this secondary is so bad.  Not sure if that’s a testament to Barwin’s versatility or the secondary being awful – we’ll be nice and give the credit to Barwin.  All three of these linebackers will be expected to bring along and help with the progression of rookie linebacker Marcus Smith. 
Chip Kelly has basically said without really saying it: as long as a defense can keep his team in games, he has the confidence in his offense to score on every possession.  Keep an eye on Kelly and how he develops Nick Foles.  Foles may be one of those quarterbacks who finds himself in a fortunate situation.  If Foles goes down and all of a sudden Mark Sanchez puts up numbers and becomes a competent quarterback we’ll all know that Foles is a fraud but who cares as long as the system works.  
2014 Prediction: 10-6
Pro Bowl Selections: LeSean McCoy, DeMeco Ryans, Zack Ertz, Jeremy Maclin
G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio 
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Seattle Seahawks 2014 Preview

Last year there was something nasty out of Seattle.  The good kind of nasty.  The Seattle Seahawks of 2013 were a throwback of sorts to teams that played gritty, taunted lesser opponents and dared teams to come across the middle of the field.  The Seahawks are the reigning Super Bowl champs and it was due to ridiculous depth and strength in the defense.  The offense kept it old school as well, by playing a lot of smash mouth football behind running back Marshawn Lynch and his 301 carries for 1257 yards.  Trying to arm tackle Lynch is like trying to match custom cars with Jay-Z – it’s impossible.  It takes at least two defenders to take Lynch down and although he’s noted for being a “banger” he does have breakaway speed. Lynch helps keep this offense going which is why it was smart on his part to hold out for bit more money prior to the season.  The Seahawks are a defense minded team and controlling the clock is what they like to do, so expect another 300 carries for Lynch.   
The offensive line, headed by left tackle Russell Okung provide a lot of size and intensity, but they come off as if they’re not the most “alert” bunch in the NFL.  Lucky for them quarterback Russell Wilson has some quick feet.  Not a running quarterback – Wilson uses his legs to avoid pressure, give himself time and keep plays alive.  He’s a heady QB who doesn’t take a lot of chances and for all things considered, he isn’t asked too do much.  Wilson gets a lot of praise for being the “good guy” and now winning a Super Bowl automatically puts him in conversations where his name doesn’t belong to be honest because he’s a step above a game manager.  If the team keeps winning there is no reason for him to change his ways, but Russell has a sweet situation in Seattle. 
Percy Harvin was a non-factor during the regular season he showed what he can do in the playoffs.  Nobody has ever doubted Harvin’s ability – his speed, toughness and ability to line up anywhere on the field makes him one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL – when healthy.  The health issue with Harvin is a real one because it seems he battles some kind of migraine or muscle pull during the season. Doug Baldwin will be expected to be the number two receiver now that Golden Tate is in Detroit, but is Baldwin really ready for that ? The Seahawks spent a second and fourth round pick, respectively on wide receivers Paul Richardson (Colorado) and Kevin Norwood (Alabama).  Expect Norwood to pay off as a steal in the fourth round if used correctly.  He’s not a strong kid, but at 6’2″ 200 pounds, he runs a little above a 4.4 and has great hands.  Norwood can excel as a quick slant or drag route runner to take pressure off of Wilson. 
The Seahawks defense was so good last year that when they won the Super Bowl, it was a 7th round rookie named Malcolm Smith, who nobody really knew – who won Super Bowl MVP, with a fumble recovery to go along with his “pick-6-to-the-house.”  In 2012, head coach Pete Carroll raised eye brows when he selected Bruce Irvin with the 15th overall pick in the draft.  Carroll took a chance on the combination of size and speed of Irvin and he proved to be worth the gamble.  Irvin doesn’t bring much in terms of cover skills, but is gifted in getting to the back field and getting around the edge. Bobby Wagner is the most talented of this linebacker group as there is pretty much nothing he can’t do.  The Seahawks will continue to blitz from the linebacker position no matter who’s out there on the depth chart – they drafted Kevin Pierre-Louis who ran the fastest 40 time out of rookie linebackers.  
Cliff Avril has been one of the more consistent and unspoken of pass rushers since he came into the league with Detroit in 2008 and works well as a defensive end who can back off of pressure and drop into a zone as well.  There is not much “wrong” with this defense as this dunit has been built from the ground-up for years and their depth is the envy of the NFL.
The secondary, nicknamed “The Legion of Boom” is led by the NFL’s most complete safety in Earl Thomas.  Thomas has great reaction time and is in on nearly every play.  Thomas is a sure tackler with great ball-skills and makes life easier for fellow safety Kam Chancellor who is asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage and destroy anything that lands in front of him.  These two safeties make life easier for the cornerbacks on this team, but don’t tell that to corner back Richard Sherman.  Sherman is without a doubt one of the best at his position and has a made a name for himself whether in post-game interviews or by calling people out in social media outlets.  Sherman is cerebral and physical – and uses his length to deflect passes with ease.  
Although this defense will remain to be the best in the league, one has to wonder how much of the physical play this secondary will get away with in 2014.  If the pre-season presented to us how the referees will be handling pass interference in today’s NFL – the physical nature of the Seahawks secondary may become a detriment more than a benefit. 
2014 Prediction: 11-5
Pro Bowl Selections: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch
G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio
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New York Jets 2014 Preview

(quick note: article was written days before the releases of Stephen Hill and Dimitri Patterson)

Where does one even start when it comes to the New York Jets?  It was not too long ago, that Rex Ryan had taken over a team who he led to two straight AFC Championship games, then after an exposed foot-fetish, tattoos of starting QB’s, a butt-fumble and the mishandling of one of the greatest players the franchise has ever known (Revis) – things have spiraled out of control. There’s so much “bad” on this team, that it’s only right to cushion the blow with what’s good.  
The defensive line of the New York Jets is by far one of the best in the NFL.  The Jets have constructed a young, nasty and intimidating group.  Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson anchor a defense which allowed under 90 rushing yards a game last season.  Wilkerson totaled 63 total yards for loss which is a testament to how he gets into the backfield way too often for opposing offenses, as does Richardson who gave the Jets 12 tackles for a loss last season.  Linebacker Calvin Pace also added another 10 sacks last season and continues to be a threat in the pass rushing attack of the Jets while Quinton Coples is the player the Jets hope to see more consistency from this season.  Coples has the ability to be as effective as Pace but at times over-runs or totally misreads a play – he still struggles to recognize misdirection but is athletic enough to make a play in recovery. 
The front seven of the Jets is devastating and it will have to be to help take the pressure off of an inexperience secondary.  The pressure is definitely on second year corner Dee Milliner who’s game is under a microscope in NY because he is seen as the replacement for departed all-pro Darrelle Revis.  For Milliner, he definitely has the potential to be a true number one corner in the league and he will be tested a lot this season – it’s all about not losing confidence and recovering from mistakes – which he will indeed make.  The Jets thought signing a guy who’s been on 5 teams in the 9 years he’s played in the NFL was a good idea, but surprise, surprise – Dimitri Patterson is already suspended after going AWOL and appears to be in his own world at the moment.  This leaves the next man up to be Kyle Wilson, who has been nothing short of “pretty bad” since he came into the league a few years back. When it comes to the Jets first round pick Calvin Pryor, the safety out of Louisville, he has the size and tools to make an impact early, but just like Milliner he will be tested as well.  Pryor is a physical safety which will help in the run defense, but the value of the Jets front seven is to keep everyone in the secondary focused on coverage which is where Pryor will end up taking his bumps as he will continue to grow in this league.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets reach in free agency and go after someone like Champ Bailey just to get a veteran in that secondary.  
The Jets did not want to go into 2014 with the same personnel on offense so they made moves in free agency.  Questionable ones, but never-the-less – “moves.”  They signed former Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker who is projected to be the number one, but truly excels better as a number two.  Decker is a good route runner with hands but not a jumper and not a burner – most number one corners in the league will have him shut down this season.  The Jets also went out and signed former Titans running back Chris Johnson who still has something left in the tank.  After Johnson signed a lucrative deal with the Titans, it was being said that he was shying away from contact and that his work ethic was something less to be desired.  In pre-season it seems Johnson still has his speed and can be an immediate contributor to the team in the run and passing game.  The passing game is preparing for the all out bust in third year receiver Stephen Hill, who has the physical gifts but not the hands or awareness.  Hill finds himself in good situations often and just blows it time after time.  This may be his last go ’round as a starter in this league as David Nelson and Jacoby Ford will look to fight for playing time at the two.  The best receiver on the team is their slot man, Jeremy Kerley.  Last year he was put into the one and two because of lack of options but this year he should go back to his natural spot at the three.  Kerley is speedy route runner with great hands and a nose for the first down marker.  
The offensive line starts with perennial pro bowl center, Nick Mangold and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.  Mangold might be the best at his position and Ferguson is just as strong as someone with the name of “D’Brickashaw” should expect to have. . .The addition of right guard Willie Colon last season made this line more “seasoned” and gave them a veteran voice who has always been able to read defenses from the trenches.  As good as this offensive line looks, they still gave up nearly 50 sacks but that can’t be squarely put on their shoulders.  Most times the receivers were either not getting separation which led to quarterback Geno Smith holding on to the ball too long or. . . Geno Smith just held on to the ball too long. 
Geno Smith is the starting quarterback of the Jets, for now.  The Jets seemingly have no clue what to do with young quarterbacks.  There is a difference between bringing in competition for a quarterback and bringing in a more popular player as a back up quarterback which has the younger QB looking over his shoulder the whole season.  The Jets did it to Mark Sanchez with Tim Tebow and now the Jets have brought in Michael Vick to “back-up” Geno Smith.  Truth is, neither Smith or Vick or quarterbacks that can lead a team to the promised land.  For as athletic as Vick has been, he has never progressed as a quarterback and at this point in his career, his athleticism is something defenses are aware of, but not scared of.  Geno threw 21 interceptions last year and had 8 fumbles, five of them were lost.  It’s hard to believe that those numbers won’t be duplicated again this year.  Expect the Jets to never use the deep throwing ability of Geno because they don’t have the receivers for it – but if they’re smart they should work the screen pass in with Chris Johnson and have a moderate passing attack of hitch routes and in routes with Eric Decker and rookie tight end Jace Amaro.  
Rex Ryan’s time in New York may be up but that’s always the story it seems.  Last year Rex did just enough to keep his job,  but considering how bad the offense was, it is amazing they finished 8-8. This year, finishing two games below .500 might be a struggle. 
2014 Prediction: 6-10
Pro Bowl Selections: Nick Mangold, Chris Johnson
G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio
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New Orleans Saints 2014 Preview

The New Orleans Saints provide an explosive offense every year for the NFL fans.  Head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, literally speak their own language and have formulated their own terminology on offense which executes almost flawlessly, year after year.  This season the Saints expect more of the same on offense and an improvement on an already improved defense.  The sky is the limit for the Saints of New Orleans and it starts at the quarterback position.
Drew Brees had another remarkable season.  Over 5000 passing yards on 650 attempts at a completion percentage rate of 68.6%.  He was one shy of forty on the touchdown mark and knowing Brees, that probably really bothered him.  Brees is a perfectionist on the field, much like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who can bring up any receiver in this system.  The loss of running back Darren Sproles is more over-stated than it needs to be.  Sproles is a good receiving back but the offense will not miss a beat with his absence.  The running duo of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram have been in this offense for years and understand all that needs to be known within it.  Ingram can’t really be considered a first round bust because of how he is used on this team, but there is no doubt they will lean on him more this season and expect to see more of his 4.9 yards per attempt that he showed in 2013.  Thomas is more of their all-around-back because he can catch and block – but his less than four yards a carry is bothersome.
The receivers on this team might be the best group in the NFL, pound for pound.  It all starts with tight end Jimmy Graham who is setting the new standard for the receiving tight end in the league. Graham had 16 touchdowns last year with over 1200 passing yards which not only makes him the best receiving tight ends in the league – but also one of the best receivers, period in the NFL.  Graham cannot be covered by any linebackers in the league, so it forces teams to place a corner back on the tight end at all times, which is a dangerous game to play considering the rest of the receivers on this squad.  Marques Colston has recorded over 1000 yards in six of his eight seasons in the NFL.  Last year he fell short of the 1000 yard mark by 57 yards and it’d be difficult to see him getting 1000 again this year.  That’s not a knock on Colston either, but with Graham being the clear number one and an emergence of younger talent like Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks – it only seems reasonable to consider the ball being spread around effectively.  Stills provided some pop during the season but due to the depth chart couldn’t get on the field enough.  This season he will be given his chances as will the Oregon State rookie, Brandin Cooks.  Cooks is a smaller receiver with 4.3 speed and amazing cutting ability.  He found himself in a perfect situation where he can be utilized in drag routes and screens – getting him in open space and letting him create is an added punch for an already stacked defense.
The Saints saw first hand in two losses in Seattle last year how playing against a formidable safety duo can cause havoc on a defense.  With this knowledge forced on them, they decided to go into free agency and team up their young safety Kenny Vacaro with free agent Jairus Byrd.  Both will have an immediate impact on the play of the cornerbacks including second round rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste.  Vacaro likes being the “enforcer” type and reacts quickly to an offenses running attack, while Byrd is great at over-seeing the backside of a defense and picking up on coverage.  The Saints drafted safety Vinnie Sunseri out of Alabama, but expect him to be tried out at corner this year in certain situations.  If the Saints end up going nickel – Sunseri can play the man well enough and be a force in blitz packages which can make this defense hard to read when pulling out the third linebacker.
The front seven of the Saints are the chess pieces for Rob Ryan’s attack.  Rob falls in line with the rest of his Ryan Family blood and absolutely loves to blitz.  Junior Gallette racked up 12.5 sacks last season and benefitted greatly with the Ryan scheme.  John Jenkins isn’t flashy at nose tackle but most nose tackles aren’t.  He can fill the holes and over power most centers which works out perfectly in a 3-4 blitz scheme because it forces the left or right guard on offensive to pinch in and  leave a tackle defenseless against added pressure. 
The Saints have a balance back to their offense and defense – add to the fact that Cooks will be used in special teams, they have all three facets of the game in check.  The defense has to prove that last year was no aberration and with the addition of Byrd to the team they should only improve.  Saints may have made all the right moves in the off-season to represent the NFC when it’s all said and done. 
2014 Prediction: 11-5
Pro Bowl Selections: Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Jairus Byrd, Zach Strief, Cameron Jordan 
Gareth Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio 
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