Bears Hire John Fox: Is This a Good Idea?

The Bears have finally pegged their new head coach. Only one week after hiring Ryan Pace as their new GM, the Bears chose John Fox to replace the infamous Marc Trestman. This move does not really come as a surprise. After Fox and the Broncos “mutually parted ways” on Monday, the Bears moved quickly to secure their man. After interviewing Fox on Wednesday, the team pulled the trigger and hired him on Thursday. It’s not hard to see why he was the obvious choice, as Fox has been an effective and winning coach in the past.

Fox holds a 118-89 record (.570) and an 8-7 post season record after coaching the Carolina Panthers from 2002-2010 and the Broncos from 2011-2014. He has gone to a Super Bowl with both teams, but has failed to win the title with either. Fox’s specialty is on the defensive side of the ball. In 2010, Denver was ranked last in team defense. Since Fox took over for the Broncos, the defense has never ranked lower than 19th. In the 9 years Fox coached in Carolina, the defense only ranked in the bottom third of the league once. Those numbers are hard to ignore, especially when the Bears have ranked 29th and 30th the past two seasons.

Fox is a proven winner and a defensive specialist, but is he the right fit for the Bears?

Many people will see the hiring of a proven, defense-first, players coach as a step back. How will Bears keep up in the NFC with a run-first offensive attack? The Seahawks have a very efficient offense that is heavily dependent upon the running skills Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson’s ability to play turnover-free football. Fox has, however, been able to create solid offenses with his time in Carolina. In 2008, which was Fox’s best offensive season in Carolina, the team averaged 7th in points scored and 10th in total yards. That team was led by Jake Delhomme at Quarterback, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams at Running Back, and Mushin Muhammad and Steve Smith at Wide Receiver. It is feasible to expect that the Bears offense can finish somewhere in the top twelve given the personnel they have. With a new emphasis on running the offense through Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler taking on more of a care taker role for the offense, the team can be great in 2015.

In an interview Monday, former NFL GM and current ESPN Analyst Bill Polian was asked about the type of coach Ryan Pace should hire, and he responded by explaining what he had done in Buffalo and Indianapolis with Marv Levy, Jim Mora and Tony Dungy. He discussed his preference for men with previous head coaching experience. “It’s a matter of a very small degree of difference. I’ve always said all things being equal I’d like to have a guy who had been a head coach before. They’ve been down the road and there is no learning curve. They understand the media duties; they know what needs to be done to improve.”

In other words, one of the most respected team builders in the modern era preferred to hire former NFL head coaches. Some will hate that Ryan Pace and the Bears played it safe. But, what if the safest move was the best for the direction of the franchise? Fox is the right coach to bring the Bears up to a playoff-caliber level. He is a proven winner who has the ability quickly turn a team around. The Bears need a steady hand on the field and in the locker room. He has a successful past and, simply put, he knows how to win. On paper, Ryan Pace looks like he snagged a good one for the Monsters of the Midway.

How do the Bears Rebuild?

After two tumultuous seasons at the helm, Head Coach Marc Trestman and General Manager Phil Emery have been let go by the Chicago Bears. After a disastrous season filled with reports of distrust and anger, which culminated in a dispute between Offense Coordinator Aaron Kromer and “star” Quarterback Jay Cutler, a change was most readily needed. The Emery-Trestman administration had run its course, ineffectively, in the Windy City. This season, which began with Super Bowl-aspirations, has left fans asking “what now?” Below, I will list a group of potential candidates for the Bears’ head coaching position and give my opinion on who the team should hire and my prediction for who the team will hire. For this list, I have broken down the list into three categories: first-time head coaches, those returning to the head coaching ranks, and college coaches possibly making the jump to the NFL. *Note: These rankings are in alphabetical order.*

*2nd Note: I have strayed away from commenting about the GM situation due to my lack of knowledge on the subject.*”

Fresh Faces

Darrell Bevell:   Bevell is currently Seattle Seahawks’ Offensive Coordinator and former Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. He interviewed for the Bears’, Cardinals’, and Jaguars’ vacant head coaching jobs in 2012.

Todd Bowles: Bowles helped establish the Arizona Cardinals’ defense into a top 5 unit in 2013 and 2014.

Adam Gase:   Gase is the current Offensive Coordinator for the Denver Broncos and has been in the position since 2013. He is the current front-runner for the 49ers and Falcons vacant head coaching positions.

Pep Hamilton:   Hamilton is the current Offensive Coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. He has helped mold and elevate Andrew Luck into one of the game’s most elite quarterbacks. He also served as the Bears’ Quarterback Coach from 2007 to 2009.

Dan Quinn:  Quinn is the current Defensive Coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks and has had the position since 2013. He is the architect of the “Legion of Boom” and helped Seattle’s defense lead the league in points allowed (231), yards allowed (4,379) and takeaways (39).

Dave Toub:   Toub is the current Special Teams’ Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs and held the same position with the Bears from 2004 to 2012. He interviewed for the Bears’ and Dolphins’ head coaching positions in 2012.

Grizzled Veterans 

Jack Del Rio:   Del Rio is the current Defensive Coordinator of the Denver Broncos. He was the Head Coach of the Jaguars from 2003 to 2011. He is the winningest Coach in the franchise’s history.

Gary Kubiak:   Kubiak is the current Offensive Coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. He was the Head Coach of the Houston Texans from 2006 to 2013. He, like Del Rio, is the winningest Coach in the franchise’s history.

Mike Shanahan:  Shanahan is the former Head Coach of the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins. He is considered by many to be the front-runner for the Bears’ head coaching job.

College Prospects

Brian Kelly:   Kelly is the current Head Coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He led the team to the 2012 National Championship game. Reports have stated that he is on the out with Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick. Kelly also interviewed for the Eagles job in 2012.

Gary Patterson:   Patterson is the current Head Coach of the TCU Horned Frogs. He has built up the mid-major program into a national powerhouse. He may want to leave for the NFL after the College Selection Committee chose to leave TCU out of the playoffs.

David Shaw:   Shaw is Jim Harbaugh’s replacement at Stanford. He is universally recognized as a great NFL coaching prospect.

My Take I believe that Darrell Bevell is the right fit for the job. He helped Russell Wilson grow into one of the best quarterbacks currently in the game. Since entering the league in 2012, Wilson has 72 passing touchdowns and only 26 interceptions. He averaged more than 3,000 passing yards per season and never threw more than 10 picks. The Seahawks have been in the top five in the league for rushing for the past three seasons. In 2014, Seattle finished 9th in the league in total offense. Bevell has shown that he has not only has the ability to run a potent offense, but he has the ability to maximize his quarterback’s abilities. Whether it is Jay Cutler, a free agent acquisition, or a rookie, the Bears need to get the most out of the QB position. Bevell is the right coach for that task. Unfortunately, I do not believe the team will go in this direction. I feel the Bears’ ownership will go with a proven coach rather than risk placing the franchise in the hands of an unproven leader, like Trestman, again. Mike Shanahan has 169 NFL victories under his belt. He is also a native of Oak Park, IL, and a graduate of Eastern Illinois University. Therefore, I think Shanahan will wind up with the Bears’ job. He is the safest bet on the market and drastically different than his predecessor.

The Bears Really Need to Keep Jay Cutler

“TRADE JAY CUTLER! HE SUCKS! BRING BACK JOSH MCCOWN!” This seems to be the general consensus amongst Bears’ fans when asked about their franchise quarterback. Many believe its Cutler’s fault that the Bears are 4-6 and tied for third place in the NFC North. However, upon further examination, Cutler has a career high completion percentage (67.1%), is on pace to set a career high for touchdowns, and on pace to get another 4,000 yard passing season. Does that sound like a QB that you want to get rid of? Here is a list of reasons why the Bears should stick with the embattled gunslinger:

http://www.chicagobears.com/multimedia/videos/NFLN_Cutlers_25yard_run/dcf8d163-432a-4393-a975-f86b63d16bb8

  • Talent around him:

The wide receivers surrounding Cutler in 2009: Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Jonny Knox, and Rashied Davis.

2010: See above.

2011: Hester, Bennett, Knox, and Roy Williams

Prior to the 2012 season, in which Chicago acquired Brandon Marshall, Cutler has spent the majority of his Bears career on offense starved of playmakers. Granted this season he is throwing to two of the best wide receivers in the NFL, along with tight end Martellus Bennett, Cutler has only played a total of 22 games with all of these aforementioned players. That is a little bit more than ONE SEASON. All of these players need more time to get acclimated to each other and the offense. Speaking of the offense…

http://www.chicagobears.com/multimedia/videos/CBN_Miller_spinning_TD_catch/a1829e84-5480-4731-a60d-059b872dc260

  • Marc Trestman needs more time with team:

Here is a list of 21st century coaches, the length of time it took each coach to be successful with their team, and the highest level of success each team reached:

  • Mike McCarthey: 5th year with team, won Super Bowl XLV
  • Ron Rivera: 3rd year with team, 1st playoff appearance since 2008
  • Pete Carroll: 4th year with team, won Super Bowl XLVIII
  • Tom Coughlin: 4th year with team, won Super Bowl XLII
  • Sean Peyton: 4th year with team, won Super Bowl XLIV

Firing Trestman after Year 2 is not a smart idea, Bears fans. Football teams improve with continuity, and Trestman and the rest of his coaching staff need another few years to better implement and improve upon their game plan. Even though the offense has struggled at times, this can be attributed to the playbook expanding and becoming increasingly more complex. After a full year to digest the intricacies of the playbook, the Bears should be in the prime position for a comeback.

http://www.chicagobears.com/multimedia/videos/NFLN_Jefferys_27yard_TD/24b16ee7-edef-4bc6-b4a6-87ecc5093204

  • Age is working WITH him:

The ten oldest quarterbacks to have ever played in the Super Bowl range from age 36 to age 38. The record of these ten QBs is 5-5. At 31 years old, Cutler does not appear too old to win the Lombardi Trophy. If anything, it seems he’s reaching his quarterback prime. Why would we want to cut bait with the most talented signal-caller in franchise history at the beginning of his prime? He turns the ball over too much, and the timeliness of these mistakes can often cost the Bears, but the talent is too tantalizing. Turnovers are easy to correct, but talent isn’t learned overnight. In 2007, the New York Giants won the Lombardi Trophy with Eli Manning, a quarterback who threw 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, resulting in an interception rate of 3.8%. In 2011, that very same team with that very same quarterback won the championship. The difference is that Manning’s stat line read 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and an interception rate of 2.7%. It IS POSSIBLE for Cutler to have a season of sub-3% interception rate. It is possible for Cutler, at least for one magical season, to lead Chicago to the Super Bowl.

http://www.chicagobears.com/multimedia/videos/NFLN_Jefferys_10yard_TD/305e6872-8e7d-44ca-8b3b-40552eea6d7a

I would like to leave you on this note, emailed to Bill Simmon’s Grantland by a fan that shares a similar viewpoint on Jay Cutler:

Q: I was just reading your comparison of Jay Cutler and Jeff George and it sent me off to check some NFL stats. Here’s a blind QB comparison for you based on career stats:

QB1: 61.6% completion, 7.2yds/att, 4.8 TD%, 3.4 INT%, 85.5 QB rating
QB2: 62.0% completion, 7.1yds/att, 5.0 TD%, 3.3 INT%, 86.0 QB rating

QB1 is the immortal Jay Cutler. QB2? Brett Favre. 

(Courtesy of Bill Simmons of Grantland.com: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/welcome-to-the-week-12-thunderdome/).

Teams would not be interested in Cutler if he was a bad quarterback. He would be treated the same way Kyle Orton, Mark Sanchez, and Brandon Weeden were treated the previous off-season. Those players generated very little buzz when they hit the open market. However, since this is not the case with Cutler, the Bears’ front office should use this interest as a message: he is a good quarterback. The team needs to give him more time, and possibly a better defense, in order to help him flourish. The majority of the pieces are there, the team just needs to exhibit some patience and trust in order to finally end the thirty year championship drought in one of the greatest sports teams in the country.

Showboating: Now Coming to a University Near You

This past Saturday, the Utah Utes were routed 51-27 by the Oregon Ducks. The game was much closer than it appeared, especially early on in the first quarter. The key play occurred early in the second quarter when Utah’s Travis Wilson connected with Kaelin Clay for what appeared to be a 78 yard score. However, Clay never crossed the goal line with the ball; he dropped it on the one yard and not in the end zone. This led to Oregon’s Joe Walker to run the fumble a hundred yards for a touchdown. The 14-point swing was enough to completely change the momentum of the game: sapping it from Utah advancing the drive of Oregon. The Ducks would score 24 unanswered points in the second quarter, sealing the fate for the fourth ranked team in the country.

Kaelin Clay is not the first player to make an in game gaff like the one on Saturday night; DeSean Jackson and the infamous Leon Lett are the first two names to come to mind.

 

The incident this past week highlights a problem that has slowly emerged in the league ever since “Neon” Deon “Primetime” Sanders was drafted: some players are more concerned with showing off than actually producing. While it is understood that football is a sport driven by stars, like Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, and Jamesis Winston, the desire to become a star should never outshine the desire to be a great player. Players who are considered “stars” did not rise to such heights by having the flashiest highlights or most ridiculous plays; rather, they earned that recognition through hard work and results.

One would hope that Clay learned his lesson about finishing plays and that this incident lights a fire under him so that he goes on to be a productive college player and professional. Prior to the fumble, Utah was imposing their will on Oregon. Had that touchdown stood, there may have been a very different outcome. Unfortunately, that Utah win will forever remain in the land of “what if…?

My Fantasy Football Draft Day Diary: Must-haves, Sleepers, and Players to Avoid at ALL COSTS

With the second week of the pre-season in the books, everyone is revving up their metaphorical fantasy football engines. Mock drafts are frivolously being done, ESPN and Yahoo articles are being pored over, and every owner is feverishly preparing for the ever-approaching season. For those looking for last minute advice on which players to select – this one’s for you. These are the players that are fantasy musts, sleepers with great upside, and players to avoid at all costs. Without further delay, here is my “fantasy football draft day diary.”

Editor’s Note: I will omit kickers and defenses from this list because, when it is all said and done, they are pretty much all equivalent.

  • Quarterback:

Must have: Matt Ryan

I wanted to try and avoid the “Big Three” quarterbacks: Manning, Brees, and Rodgers. We know they are going to be spectacular and make up three of the top five fantasy quarterbacks in fantasy football. But which quarterbacks will take the other two spots in the top five? My vote is for Matt Ryan to take one of those spots. Without Julio Jones for most of the season and Roddy White in and out of the lineup for the majority of the year, Ryan managed to throw for more than 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns. Ryan is currently being taken behind Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin III, and he is currently being taken in the ninth round on ESPN and the sixth round on Yahoo. If you don’t draft the “Big Three” I would wait for Matty Ice and by pass the aforementioned names. With a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White coupled with an emerging Harry Douglas, Ryan should return to fantasy relevance. Think Matt Stafford with fewer interceptions.

Avoid: Nick Foles

Foles took the league by storm last season throwing for 2,891 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. TWO INTERCEPTIONS! He is sure to regress in that department. In actuality, Foles’s absurd touchdown-to-interception ratio is the only reason he had any real fantasy value at all. He had four games in which he threw under 200 yards. He threw for less passing yards than Alex Smith, Chad Henne, and Geno Smith last season. Let me repeat that last part: Geno Smith threw for more yards than Foles. The Eagles are a rushing team first and foremost, which is exaggerated this season when you factor in their decision to trade DeSean Jackson (to the rival Redskins no less). Foles looks more like a bye-week filler than a starting quarterback on a fantasy football playoff team.

Sleeper: Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill is another player that falls on the list of “Players who Threw for More Passing Yards than Nick Foles.” He finished the year with 3,918 passing yards, tenth in the NFL, and 24 passing touchdowns. Tannehill also benefits from the addition of Bill Lazor as his new offensive coordinator. Lazor was the OC of the Philadelphia Eagles and…Nick Foles. Do you guys see where I’m going with this? Tannhill should have a breakout year this season, and while 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio will probably never happen, 25-10 is a very reasonable expectation for the third-year man out of Texas A&M.

Honorable mention: Jake Locker

Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers last season. Philip Rivers, his starting quarterback, had a terrible season the year before. He finished the 2013 throwing for 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. In 2014, under Whisenhunt, Rivers threw for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Whisenhunt is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans and his quarterback is Jake Locker. While Locker has never played at the level Rivers has been known for, he is still a 26 year old with all the QB tools in the toolbox. Locker has Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, up-and-comer Justin Hunter, and rookie running back Bishop Sankey to throw to. All signs point up for Locker and the Titans.

  • Runningback:

Must have: Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy deserves much more press then he has been receiving this off-season. He belongs in the conversation with Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LaSean McCoy, and Matt Forte. Last year, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough for eighth and third in the league, respectively. The Packers may have a passing offense, but Lacy is the only back in the backfield receiving major carries. James Starks is not a real threat to Lacy, especially in the red zone. It would not surprising if Lacy lead the league in rushing touchdowns this season. Lacy is as much of a sure thing at the running back position as you can find in this day and age.

Avoid: Zack Stacy

I was a huge Zack Stacy supporter last season. Jeff Fisher is a run-first coach and Stacy was surprisingly effective at Vanderbilt. However, the writing may be on the wall with this backfield. Tre Mason was drafted in the third round in this year’s draft, and Benny Cunningham is getting a lot of reps with the first team offense. If anything, Fisher may be using a “running back by committee” in order to see what type of players he has in his backfield. If that is the case, Stacy should not be drafted, under any circumstances. With Cunningham breathing down his neck and Mason waiting in the wings, Stacy is too much a risk to draft this year.

Sleeper: Terrance West

Ben Tate has never played a full season in his NFL career. He also has a problem with holding onto the ball, having committed six fumbles throughout his three-year career. West may not be the starter Week 1, but he has enough skill to over take Tate for the starting spot. West is worth a flier, especially considering how big of a question mark Tate is.

Honorable mention: Jonathan Grimes/Alfred Blue

Running back is a crapshoot yet again this year. Fantasy owners are looking for any little bit in order to gain an edge in the running back category. Arian Foster only played in eight games last season, and he has yet to play a pre-season game. This makes Foster’s back up extremely vital to the Texans’ offense. Grimes and Blue are in a heated battle for the back up spot. Whoever wins this battle is sure to not only be actively involved in the Houston’s running attack while Foster is healthy, but will take over as the starter if (when) Foster gets injured.

  • Wide Receiver:

Must have: Antonio Brown

As Matthew Berry from ESPN stated, “During the second half of last season, only Josh Gordon had more fantasy points among wide receivers than Antonio Brown.” During that time frame, Jerricho Cotchery (10 touchdowns) and Emmanuel Sanders (6 TDs) were his teammates. All three of them served as Ben Roethlisberger’s top three targets. Both Sanders and Cotchery are no longer with the team, leaving Brown as the top man in Pittsburgh. Former third round pick Markus Wheaton, rookie Martavius Bryant, Derek Moye, and free agent additions Lance Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey are Brown’s only competition for targets. Brown is head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates, and while he may be the focal point of most defensive schemes, he should be able to flourish as Big Ben’s go-to receiver.

Avoid: Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin has only played ten games the past two years, and has only played in all sixteen games once in his career. Harvin is too fragile to be trusted. He also plays for one of the best running teams in the NFL. Doug Baldwin is entrenched as the number one wide out for Seattle, leaving Harvin as the “gadget guy.” There may not be enough offense for Harvin to truly matter in fantasy this year.

Sleeper: Harry Douglas

119 targets: that is how many Harry Douglas had for the Flacons last year. He was first on the team. Granted, Roddy White and Julio Jones were both hurt, but that number is far too big to ignore. In 2012, White lead the team with 143 targets, Jones finished second on the team with 129, and Tony Gonzalez finished third with 124. Gonzalez retired this past season, and with a lack of a good tight end option replacing him, Douglas should reap the benefits.

Honorable mention: Marquise Lee

With Cecil Shorts injured and Justin Blackmon suspended, Marquise Lee has looked like a star this pre-season. Against the Bears in his second pre-season game, Lee had four receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown. Lee was a highly touted prospect that was expected to go in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. Lee has the talent to excel, and Jacksonville may be the perfect place to do so.

  • Tight End:

Must have: Jimmy Graham (Obviously)

There is no question Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in fantasy football, and the competition is not even close. I like Graham so much, I would draft him over Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson. If those first five running backs are off the board, I would strongly recommend drafting Graham. He is THAT good.

Avoid: Vernon Davis

Davis appears to the lowest man on the totem pole when it comes to targets this season. With Michael Crabtree healthy, Anquan Boldin back for another season, and the addition of Stevie Johnson, Davis looks like the fourth option on a team that really only needs to use three. Unless Jim Harbaugh decides to drop the team’s run first identity, then Davis is sure to regress from a great season a year ago.

Sleeper: Delanie Walker

After a career year, Walker is looking to come back for seconds. Whisenhunt has a very tight end friendly offense and with Jake Locker in need of a dependable red zone target, Walker looks to be the “Antonio Gates” of the Titans’ new offense.

Honorable mention: Travis Kelce

The Chiefs have been looking for a starting caliber tight end since Tony Gonzalez was traded away in 2008. Kelce possesses the best ball skills off the bunch, and the Chiefs passing game is in desperate need of a playmaker. Dwyane Bowe is coming off of his worst season since 2009, and Donnie Avery is not a very appealing option for fantasy owners. Kelce is the ultimate boom or best option this year, but considering the rest of the tight prospects available, he is well worth the risk.

NFL Power Rankings: According to my Girlfriend

Sundays during the fall are my favorite days of the year. Sure, Friday and Saturday I can have a night out on the town, do dinner and a movie, or even check out that new gastro pub that opened up across the street. But on Sunday I can go out to brunch with my girlfriend, get home just in time for opening kickoff, and plop on the couch with her for 8 straight hours of gladiatorial bliss. It is truly a day of rest for both of us, and it helps that we both love the game of football. This article is for those of you like me: a highly opinionated fan with an even more opinionated girlfriend. I thought it would be funny if she came out with a list of power rankings (CK) and a list of reasons why she likes the team. Any expert, who has been following the game for decades, can effectively dissect a team. I thought it would be interesting to see how an average fan ranked each team for the upcoming season. I added my analysis to offer you (BK), the reader, a baseline and an in-depth explanation of each power ranking.

CK: With my apologies, I am not well versed in every single team in the NFL. Being a Midwesterner, the NFC North is my strong suit, and I have a few favorites scattered throughout the NFC. The AFC might have existed in another universe if it weren’t for Peyton’s existence in it. This is a forewarning of my mild ignorance. This year, I will be embarking on my first Fantasy Football experience. I am hoping this will increase my player knowledge and awareness.

1) Denver Broncos

BK: The rich get richer. After losing Eric Decker to the Jets this offseason, the Broncos signed Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer to help sure up the already strong receiving core. They also brought in DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward, Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby to help bolster their defense. The Broncos are once again the team to beat in the AFC.

CK: Peyton Manning, my second great football love – more on that later. He had a phenomenal season and a less that phenomenal Super Bowl appearance. Peyton is back with a vengeance. Can you say Legend and rap god?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtuGXO6d4l8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xNvm5b7ZpE

2) Seattle Seahawks

BK: They are the defending Super Bowl champions for a good reason. With the “Legion of Boom” still intact after the offseason and Russell Wilson sure to take another step forward, the team seems more unbeatable than ever.

CK: They made an atrocity out of the Broncos last year. If there is one thing I know to be true, it is that karma is a bitch. Richard Sherman will be the karmic downfall of this team. He is a close second to Vick for Biggest Knob Head of the League. One does not disrespect Erin Andrews. Also, I may still be a little bitter that my own boyfriend would pronounce Sherman was far more intelligent than moi…

 

3) New England Patriots

BK: Tom Brady may have had a down year last season, but he still is Tom Brady. His receiving core may not be as strong as Peyton Manning’s, but this is a guy who turned Deon Branch into a Super Bowl MVP. He will be fine with a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins at his disposal.

CK: I have a weakness for QBs, but Tom Brady isn’t one of them. He thinks he is God’s gift to football – newsflash Tom: there are bigger, badder fish in the sea. When Peyton (swoon) is a better dancer than you, you may be doing something wrong. But I would watch the Patriots solely to watch Bill Belichick.

4) Green Bay Packers

BK: Aaron Rodgers’ injury stifled the Packers last season, and they somehow still managed to make the playoffs. The emergence of Eddie Lacy really helped the Packers maintain a balanced identity. With a full year of Rodgers and Randall Cobb, the Cheeseheads should be in the hunt for a Super Bowl berth.

CK: I really want to hate the Packers, and Aaron’s porno mustache. I simply cannot bring myself to hate the team that raised my first football love, Brett Favre, and is now home to the slightly creepy, yet somewhat endearing Aaron Rodgers. And Clay Matthews and AJ Hawk! The list goes on and I cannot help but love these Cheeseheads. And I do really love cheese…

 

5) Atlanta Falcons

BK: The Falcons experienced a lot of bad luck last season. Stephen Jackson, Julio Jones, Same Baker, Stephen Nicholson, and Kroy Biermann were injured for most or all of the 2013 football season. The previous year, they were one game away from the Super Bowl. I think season we will see more of the 2012 Falcons.

CK: Matt Ryan is kind of cute in that weird, awkward way. He may be my new Peyton Manning (swoon). Perhaps this season they’ll take the NFC South by storm, especially now that they have Devin Hester on their side.

 

6) San Francisco 49ers

BK: Colin Kaepernick looks to have the best receiving corp ever in his tenure as a 49ers QB. The team added Stevie Johnson to the already potent group that includes Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis. This run-first offense finally looks ready to join the pass-heavy NFL.

CK: Colin Kaepernick’s story is so touching. The fact that he is a little bit psychic scores major points.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8843366

7) New Orleans Saints

BK: Drew Brees and the Saints offense have never had a problem moving the ball. The problem has always been the defense. After posting a 0 for turnover differential last season, the Saints brought in Jarius Byrd to help force more turnovers, and ultimately win games.

CK: Drew Brees is a really good quarterback. They’ve always seemed like one of those teams that really give it their all and tend to pull through since the 2006 season after Hurricane Katrina.

8) Indianapolis Colts

BK: Andrew Luck is ready to take the next step as a quarterback. With the addition of Hakeem Nicks and a healthy Reggie Wayne, the Colts have just enough weapons to make a Super Bowl run. There are a dark horse favorite to play in Phoenix come February.

CK: Andrew Luck will never be Peyton Manning. Also, beards are not for everyone. I might be in a little denial that Luck has an amazing amount of potential, but this season should be a good indicator of seasons to come.

 

9) Chicago Bears

BK: Last year was topsy-turvy for the Bears. The offense thrived under Marc Trestman, and the defense suffered on new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. This offseason the Bear’s rebuilt their defensive by adding veterans LaMarr Houston, Jared Allen, Willie Young, and Ryan Mundy, and rookies Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton, Kyle Fuller, and Brock Vereen. Hopefully the additions are enough to propel the Bears into the playoffs for the first time in three years.

CK: I don’t know why the Bear’s resigned Jay Cutler. They should have kept Josh McCown. Jay is clearly too busy wrangling the ever-crazy Kristin Cavallari. I do love Robbie Gould, though. My boyfriend always talks about how kickers have the luxury of being a little on the chunky side, Gould doesn’t fit that mold.

 

10) Philadelphia Eagles

BK: Chip Kelly’s offense took the league by storm last year and made Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy superstars. With DeSean Jackson on the Redskins this season, the Eagles will need to find a home run threat in order to build onto year two.

CK: The Birds! After reading Silver Linings Playbook, I always find myself rooting for the Birds. “E-A-G-L-E-S! EAGLES!”

 

11) San Diego Chargers

BK: Philip Rivers came back with a vengeance last year. After a subpar 2012 campaign, Rivers threw for almost 4,500 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. The offseason addition of Donald Brown and the continual growth of second-year wide receiver Keenan Allen will go a long ways into turning San Diego into a Super Bowl contender.

CK: Being a big fan of college football, specifically the Notre Dame football program, I had a soft spot in my heart for Manti Te’o. When the smoke and mirrors subsided and it came to light that the death of his terminally ill girlfriend was a hoax, I could not bring myself to forgive him. Sorry Chargers, Te’o is packing some karmic heat…

12) Kansas City Chiefs

BK: The Chiefs did not do anything to address their under achieving wide receiver corp, but with a team built around Jamaal Charles and an elite defense, the Chiefs should be able to compete for a wild card spot.

CK: Alex Smith may not be the cutest quarterback in the league, but I guess he’ll do. They also just drafted Aaron Murray, brother of Josh Murray, winner of The Bachelorette, season 10. He’s pretty cute, and definitely a rookie to watch.

 

13) Cincinnati Bengals

BK: Andy Dalton is now the 115 million dollar man, and that means he needs to perform in order to justify that contract. The addition of Jeremy Hill will help ease his offense burden and keep Giovani Bernard fresh. This year, the AFC North is the Bengals to lose.

CK: As much as I want to dislike AJ McCarron, he may have an amazing rookie career. Dalton may be the superior player, but McCarron is quite the dapper dresser.

 vs.

 

14) St. Louis Rams

BK: If Sam Bradford is healthy, then this team should be fighting for a playoff spot. Their defense should be one of the most dominant this season. With a rebuilt offensive line, the team should be able to effectively run the ball and keep Sam Bradford upright on passing downs.

CK: Michael Sam is the most inspirational story in the NFL. The Rams totally have amazing karmic vibes headed their way.

 

15) Dallas Cowboys

BK: Tony Romo is an elite quarterback. However, the Cowboys have such a terrible defense that there is no way they could make the playoffs. They gave up the third most yards in NFL history last season. Until the defense improves, the Cowboys will be left out of the playoffs yet again.

CK: Have you ever disliked someone and not really had a good reason? I don’t like Tony Romo. Maybe it was his relationship with Jessica Simpson when I was secretly wishing for her and Nick to work things out. Some things we will just never know…

 

16) Pittsburgh Steelers

BK: The Pittsburgh Steelers look like a middle of the pack football team. On one hand, they have Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown leading the offense. On the other hand, they have an aging defense and had a negative four turnover differential. Expect more of the same from the team this year.

CK: Ben Roethlisberger has been packing on the lbs. Maybe he has been taste testing too much of the BBQ…

 

17) Washington Redskins

BK: With Robert Griffin III finally healthy this season, the Redskins should return to the team they were in 2012. DeSean Jackson and new head coach Jay Gruden should only help RGIII’s maturation as an NFL superstar.

CK: RGIII better keep it together this season. Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy couldn’t combine their skills to compare to RGIII. People with numbers after their name are automatically classy.

 

18) Miami Dolphins

BK: Ryan Tannehill took a step in the right direction last season, finishing tenth in the NFL in passing yards. The addition of Knowshon Moreno and the subtraction of the Richie Incognito/Jonathon Martin drama will surely be a boon for the team. They should surprise some people this year.

CK: Ryan Tannehill is pretty cute in uniform and/or any time he isn’t smiling. “Smile. Don’t smile.” Bring It On, anyone?

(Editor’s note: I do believe he chose to smile.)

 

19) Baltimore Ravens

BK: The return of Dennis Pitta will really help with a receiving corp that lacked a true threat between the hash marks. However, Joe Flacco is in a very similar situation to Eli Manning; if the running attack falters again this year, the Ravens will struggle to move the football and score points.

CK: I’m not sure how I feel about Joe Flacco as a quarterback. He did win the Superbowl two years ago, but he hasn’t done much since. Well, if his wedding photos are any indication, Flacco is ready to make that next big step.

20) Cleveland Browns

BK: If Josh Gordon’s yearlong suspension is reduced, then the Browns could be higher on this list. Even so, I believe that the team has a much improved running game lead by free agent acquisition Ben Tate and rookie Terrance West and a stellar defense highlighted by Joe Haden. They should cause some problems in the AFC North this season.

CK: Oh, Johnny Manziel. Cleveland loves those college football heartthrobs. He should be able to get a few wins single-handedly. But they are still Cleveland, and if history tells us anything it’s that Cleveland constantly fails to live up to the hype.

 

21) Detroit Lions

 

BK: Golden Tate and Eric Ebron are great pickups on the offensive side of the ball. However, the Lions failed to upgrade their defense and, more specifically, their secondary. In a passing league, you cannot survive without a dominant defensive backfield.

CK: Reggie Bush is a fantastic player despite his awful taste in women – see Kim Kardashian and KimK look alike Lilit Avagyan. He should take some life lessons from Megatron Johnson.

 

22) Arizona Cardinals

BK: With Darryl Washington injured and Karlos Dansby on the Browns, the Cardinals will be depending on Larry Foote and Kevin Minter to control the running game and lead the defense. They will not be up to the challenge.

CK: Carson Palmer is on the team. He is clearly looking to make a name for himself by reviving a less than successful franchise. But at 34, he may have a walker before he’ll have a super bowl ring.

23) Houston Texans

BK: Ryan Fitzpatrick is a huge question mark heading into this season. Is he a starting caliber quarterback, or his he just a very good backup capable of winning in short spells? Time will tell, but if he is the former, the Texans will look more like they did in 2012 when they finished the season 12-4.

CK: They drafted Jadeveon Clowney who hits really hard and is crazy on defense. Too bad about his last name…and that the Texans can’t play him on offense.

24) New York Giants

BK: The running game is key for the Giants’ success. If Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams have successful seasons, Eli Manning will return to form. But, if the team struggles to run the ball like it did last year, then expect more of the same from last year.

CK: When will Eli Manning win another Super Bowl? He is no Peyton, but get this man some blocking! If he ever needs company while drowning his sorrows in Oreos, call me maybe?

25) Carolina Panthers

BK: Cam Newton is on the cusp of stardom, but who is he going to throw the ball to? Kelvin Benjamin is a rookie, Jason Avant has been inconsistent, and Jerrico Cotchery is not a go-to wide receiver. Newton seems better off throwing the ball to himself.

CK: Oh, Cam Newton, if only you could spread your charming looks around. Starting offensive line just isn’t cutting it for me.

26) Oakland Raiders

BK: Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew, and James Jones may make the offense more respectable, but the losses on the offensive and defensive line may be too much to overcome.

CK: For as long as I can remember, the Raiders have been terrible. Even Carson Palmer gave up on them. I would absolutely hate to live in Oakland. It is like the Detroit of the West Coast.

27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

BK: Josh McCown can’t possibly repeat his stellar numbers from last season, and the jury is still out on Mike Glennon. The Bucs have a healthy Doug Martin, but under Lovie Smith I believe this team takes a step back before it takes a step forward.

CK: Too bad the Bears traded Josh McCown. Tampa Bay ain’t quite it used to be. Maybe some throwback uniforms will throw them back to 2002.

28) Tennessee Titans

BK: No Chris Johnson, no Kenny Britt, no proven backup for Jake Locker; the Titans look ready for another mediocre season.

CK: Remember the Titans? Not this season. Perhaps they should draft Ryan Gosling.

 

29) Buffalo Bills

BK: E.J. Manuel is essentially a rookie this year. C.J. Spiller regressed last, Sammy Watkins is unproven, and who is their defense going to stop? Fred Jackson has being the only constant on this offense, but at 33 years old, how long can he counted on to produce?

CK: Buffalo Bill Cody – Wild West takes New York? Not sure how that would go over at Fashion Week.

30) Minnesota Vikings

BK: Teddy Bridgewater needs to start. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel are absolutely terrible. Adrian Peterson is expected to carry the offense once again.

CK: Adrian Peterson is kind of a badass. If only Matt Cassel were Brett Favre…

(Editor’s note: They don’t call him “Purple Jesus” for nothing.)

31) New York Jets

BK: Michael Vick might be washed out, and Geno Smith needs to cut down on the turnovers (25 last season) in order to develop into a starting-caliber quarterback. It looks like another subpar season for Gang Green this year.

CK: The Jets are the naturally inferior New York squad. Favre had a less than spectacular season there and Michael Vick is on the team. Talk about a karmic slap in the face! Remind me again why they let him out of prison…?

32) Jacksonville Jaguars

BK: With two rookie wide receivers and no Maurice Jones-Drew, Chad Henne has his work cut out for him. I do like the Toby Gerhart pick up though. He runs hard and should be fresher then MJD was the past few years.

CK: Perhaps shoot to win 6 games this season? That’s really the only advice I have. Cute logo btw.

(DISCLAIMER: This is not the real Jaguars team logo. However, given the current state of the team, it does suit them better.)

 

 

Six Tips That Will Help Any First Time Player Dominate Their Fantasy Football League This Year and Have Fun Doing It

So it’s your first time playing fantasy football…and you have no idea what you’re doing. You don’t even really watch football – that much. The only reason you are doing it is because your office league was short one person, your boyfriend signed you up for a couple’s league, or because joining the family league is the only way you get to talk to them during the football season. Whatever the reason is, you want to be good and it, but you need a lot of help. Having played fantasy football for many years, I am fairly familiar with dealing with first time players. I know it can be overwhelming at times, but it can be a lot of fun. Here are six tips that will guide you to success during your first year.

1)      DIY: Draft it yourself. Many first time players take drafting their own team for granted. With the option of having the computer pick your team for you, many people elect to save time, and the headache, by opting to forgo their drafts. This is a bad idea especially if the rest of your league is not auto-drafting. By electing to auto-draft, you give up your choice in the matter. It is not your team anymore; it’s the computer’s. Most times, this strategy could backfire big time.

The computer does not know what is going on in the draft, it simply drafts the highest available player left on the draft board. Imagine a draft in which five of the best quarterbacks where taken in the first round. If you were drafting your own team, you would realize that you should probably over draft a quarterback before all the good ones are gone. However, the computer auto-drafting does not realize that, and it will continue to draft the highest player available regardless of position. That is how your auto-drafted team ends up with a second stringer as its starting quarterback. The best way to avoid these types of situations is by drafting your team yourself.

 

2)      Pick your draft strategy and stick to it. Regardless of your draft strategy, the most important thing to remember is to stick to it. At the end of the day it is your team, and you should be happy with the team you have chosen. If this is your first time playing, you will probably receive a lot of advice from “more experienced” players, but be careful, more experienced does not always mean better.

 

Nothing is certain until the games are played. Everything is purely speculative and should be taken with a grain of salt. This being said, if you want to draft all of the players on your favorite team, go right ahead. If you only want the players with the cutest butts playing for you, that’s cool too. If you want to draft your team based on the fantasy website’s rankings (more on that later), knock your socks off.

 

The beauty behind fantasy football is that you are the owner, president, GM, and coach. You are in control and you are the only person that matters when it is all said and done.

 

3)      When in doubt, use the draft rankings for guidance. Drafting can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. Just how do you know who is good? Most websites rank the players from best to worst; if you are ever in a jam, use the rankings for guidance. Most die-hard fantasy football players ignore experts’ rankings for the sake of appearing to be some kind of fantasy football god. As a first time player, you should not care how you are perceived by your fellow league-mates; heck, you just want to win! For just this reason, it would be wise for you to use the draft rankings as a guide. You do not have to stick to the rankings religiously, they are not the end-all, be-all.

When you find yourself in a pinch it helps to have a baseline you can work off. The rankings were made by someone who, for a living, writes about fantasy football. It would be grossly negligent to completely ignore the hard work of such a dedicated individual. There are worse things in the world than being unoriginal – like being the first person to lose to the league.

 

4)      Setting your line-up is half the battle. Nothing is more annoying in a league than an owner not setting their fantasy football line-up. Barring extreme circumstances, setting a fantasy football lineup is by far the easiest part of the process. You could actually set your lineup for the whole season ahead of time. There are a number of reasons why that is a bad idea (injuries, suspensions, ineffectiveness), but it is an option. If you are serious about winning your league, you must set your line-up once a week. The best time to do this is right before the first game airs. You simply go on your computer or smart phone – yes there are apps for fantasy football; see why your boyfriend/husband/father/son is obsessed with his phone – and set your line-up. It takes all of ten minutes…on a Sunday; it’s not rocket science.

 

 

5)      Working the waiver wire is the other half. What do you do if one of your players is having a terrible season? Well, not every player was drafted; there are many players available to be picked up and added to your team mid-season. Out with the old and in with the new! In some leagues it may cost (fictional) money to pick up these players, and in other leagues you may only be allowed to pick up a certain number of players throughout the season. However, in most cases, you can drop and pick up players as many times as you want, as long as no one else has picked them first. Theoretically, this would only take an additional ten minutes out of your allocated brunch time on Sunday. This may not seem like an important part of fantasy football, but one of those free agent players may make the difference between winning or losing your league.

6)      You get out as much as you put in. This is the most important rule on this list. All things considered, fantasy football is supposed to be fun. It is a tool used to bring friends, family, and/or co-workers together through competition and sport.

  

However, it is very hard to have fun when you don’t allow yourself to get too into it. It’s hard to have fun when you lose every game because you haven’t set your lineup since week one and you’re quarterback has been injured since week three. Losing is not fun, and more often than not people lose because they don’t try. You only get out as much as you put in.

Fantasy football is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are willing to try it out, then you should at least be willing to try from the first game to the very last. Put some thought and effort into your team. If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to play ever again. It’s very hard to do something, let alone be successful at it, without putting in at least the minimum amount of effort required. I guarantee that if you put in the most minimal effort, while following my other five rules, you will not finish in last place. You can make the playoffs, and possibly win the championship. You can do it as long as you try.

 

Fantasy football is not as hard as people believe it to be. I am sure that if it were, a lot less people would play it. For all you first timers out there, I wish you the best of luck, but more importantly, have fun!