Why Chip Kelly Will Succeed in the NFL

 

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon

The Philadelphia Eagles just hired Chip Kelly as their next head football coach. Many people are saying that this is not a good move, citing previous college coaches’ struggles in the NFL and saying his offensive system cannot be successful in the NFL. I’m here to tell you why they’re wrong.

In four years as the Oregon head coach, Kelly’s record was 46-7. That’s better than Nick Saban’s record of 43-11 in his first 4 seasons at Alabama. Now there are two major types of head coaches, offensive minded coaches and defensive minded coaches. As head coach they are obviously in charge of the entire team, but this is their specific area of expertise. Remember that these guys have spent a lifetime working their way up the coaching ladder; so they started off as position coaches, then offensive or defensive coordinators, and finally head coaches. Chip Kelly is definitely an offensive minded coach.

With this mind he created the most explosive, fastest, and most effective offense in today’s college football. Last year his team had the 4th most yards in FBS college football with 537.4 yards per game and the 2nd most points per game at 49.6. This was done while they pulled their offensive starters in a majority of games due to blowouts. The most impressive statistic however, is that they ran a play every 20.9 seconds.

Now many people believe this system won’t work in the NFL for two major reasons. First, they believe his offense is a gimmick, which uses the quarterback as a running back and that NFL defenses are simply too fast and well coached for this to work like it does in college. Chip Kelly uses creative ways to “run” the ball in different ways. He doesn’t run a spread offense; he runs a pro offense with a bunch of wrinkles. He once said, “The more offensive personnel we put in the box, the more defenders the defense will put in there, and it becomes a cluttered mess.” Most old-time football coaches liked to line up in power sets, and run the ball down your throat. Chip Kelly makes you cover all his wide receivers on the edge, line up quickly to defend his up-tempo offense, and then he does the exact same thing, he runs the ball down your throat.

These people are also under the false assumption that his offense doesn’t already work in the NFL. Anyone who watched the Washington Redskins and RGIII this season watched a college run pistol offense. It seemed to work just fine, 4th in the NFL actually.

But that’s not even what Chip Kelly runs at Oregon. He runs a much more traditional pro-style offense, with a few zone reads and read-option plays mixed in. Why does that sound familiar? Oh that’s right, that’s exactly what the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson have used to shred NFL defenses the last few months. It’s also a similar offense you have seen the traditional, pro-style, two-tight end power-I running poster boy Jim Harbaugh use with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Now I dare you to go ask the Packers players if they just gave up 45 points in the playoffs to a gimmick offense; or tell the New York Giants defense that the Redskins were using an inferior offensive strategy to run them all over the field. Here is my simple question to you, guess who was the first guy to implement and perfect this type of offense? That’s right, Chip Kelly. If Harbaugh and Shanahan and Carroll can make it work in the NFL, so can Chip Kelly. Trust me.

The second major argument people use to say it won’t work is that his quarterback will get killed in the NFL. These people don’t understand Kelly’s offense at all. Chip Kelly doesn’t like running his quarterback; he just wants the threat of the quarterback run.

In it’s simplest form, Kelly’s offense makes you cover the entire field with the same number of guys. By doing so he uses the most sound methodology: math.

The more area those 11 guys have to defend, the more space there is in between them, and if you saw his offensive skill players at Oregon, you know that his players are deadly when they have just that, space.

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In the picture above, you’ll see that there are two deep safeties and 5 defenders in the box. In this case, the math we talked about earlier says that his 5 offensive linemen can block those 5 defenders and the running back should be able to reach the secondary.

The problem is, you’ll see most NFL teams bring down one of those safeties against run heavy offenses. Adrian Peterson sees 7 and 8 men in the box most of the time. When this happens, most NFL teams either throw the ball with man coverage, or run the ball and hope their running back can beat the unblocked defender. Chip Kelly’s offense adds a wrinkle to a simple run play though. He makes you “block” the quarterback. “If the defense has one high safety and six defenders in the box, the quarterback has to be involved in the play,” Kelly says. “He has to read one of the defenders, in effect blocking him. We can block five defenders and read the sixth one.” This means that Kelly uses his quarterback to “block” a defender without every having to touch him. Math. It’s fun.

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Then, just when you think you can stop the magnitude of runs his offense uses, he reminds you that his team is more than capable of throwing the ball. In the picture above, you’ll see how Kelly takes advantage of the pass friendly defense his opponents are forced to play to stop the run. If you look at this play in-particular, the two wide receivers at the top of the screen have huge cushions because the cornerbacks have no safety help, making a quick screen to them a very high percentage throw for easy yardage. They can also run deep routes and challenge the cornerbacks ability to cover for long periods of time. They’ll generally have a lot of time because the defense can’t rush the quarterback like they can against most teams. They must first watch for the running back to get the ball, then they will have to worry about a quarterback keeper via the option or zone read, and finally they will have to worry about containing the quarterback and keeping him from scrambling for a first down. All of this will make them much slower to pressure the quarterback. Finally on this play, the tight end is being covered by a linebacker without even being chipped by a defensive lineman. Teams won’t be able to do this in the NFL. NFL tight ends are simply too fast and big to be covered in space by linebackers. With this play, Chip Kelly is forcing you to cover every inch on that field. He forces you to choose where you will be vulnerable. Pick your poison.

The offensive stats prove that his system works. The rushing and passing stats prove that his quarterback is in fact, a quarterback, and not a running back. In every season at Oregon, Chip Kelly had at least one running back rush for over 1,000 yards and his quarterback never led his team in rushing. Last year, of the teams 48 rushing touchdowns, freshman quarterback Marcus Mariotta only had 5 of them. He has said, “I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm. We are not a Tim Tebow type of quarterback team. I am not going to run my quarterback 20 times on power runs.” Mariota threw for 2677 yards and had a completion percentage 68.5% which was 7th for all quarterbacks in the FBS. I think this proves quarterbacks can throw very effectively in Kelly’s offense with minimal chance of injury.

The final reason I believe he will be successful in the NFL is the personnel his offense will require. Two of the most successful young quarterbacks in the NFL this year were Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. They were picked in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively. Both of these quarterbacks would be absolutely perfect for Chip Kelly’s offense. This means unlike most teams, he could get solid quarterbacks with later picks in the draft, and focus on other positions in the first round. It would be extremely easy to get a few backup quarterbacks for cheap in case his quarterback did get hurt as well. A luxury other teams in the NFL simply don’t have.

In those same two drafts, quarterbacks Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Locker, Christian Ponder, Andrew Luck, Robert GriffinIII, and Ryan Tannehill, we’re all drafted no later than 12th overall. Now of those 7 quarterbacks I would say only Newton, Luck and RGIII have looked worthy of such a high draft pick so far. Of those three guys, who were drafted at 1st, 1st and 2nd overall I might add, two of them would be perfect mobile quarterbacks for Kelly’s system as well.

The same goes for the other offensive skill positions. I believe Kelly will be able to get great quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers without using early draft picks or spending a lot of money in free agency. Look for players like current Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, former Oregon running back LaMichael James, or even Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to flourish in this system. This means he can spend those same high picks on defensive players and offensive lineman.

The next thing that will surprise you is that Chip Kelly was originally an offensive lineman coach. He’s excellent with blocking schematics and his system is built for a creative mix of spread options and traditional power run blocking. This means he won’t need to revamp the entire offensive line with smaller, faster offensive lineman. His system uses the same offensive lineman that most NFL teams do; he just knows how to get much more out of the same guys.

Finally, I think the Eagles will get him a great defensive coordinator. This defensive coordinator will have the advantage of getting to draft a lot of players for his defense in the early rounds, and pay more for defensive players in free agency, due to the offense Kelly runs. Many people worry that Kelly doesn’t know enough about defense, or that his up-tempo offense will tire out his own defense. To this I will simply say that no coach coaches both offense and defense. He will not coach the defense but will simply oversee it. They will need to be in great shape, but all NFL defensive players do. The New England Patriots ran the fastest offense in the NFL this year, they seemed to do just fine. I don’t hear anyone saying Brady and company score too many points too fast. Of course the Patriots defense gave up a few more points and more yards per game than most. Who cares where your defense ranks in points and yards allowed per game, as long as you win. The Patriots win. Chip Kelly won at Oregon, Chip Kelly will win in the NFL, and in the NFL winning is all that matters.

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Grading My NFL Saturday Predictions

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In this post I will break down my two NFL Saturday predictions with the good, the bad and the lucky. Then I’ll add my final thoughts and give myself an overall grade*.

Ravens vs. Broncos

The Good:

1) “Since I think the Broncos will attempt to stop Rice at all costs early in the game, I think the Ravens will need to set up the run by establishing the pass first. This means they will need a big game out of either Torrey Smith or Anquon Boldin. I will say the one place I think the Ravens could have a major advantage is with their speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith against the aging cornerback Champ Bailey. If the Ravens can get some big plays with Smith, they will have a good chance to win at the end.”

This couldn’t have been more right. Torrey Smith burned Champ Bailey deep all game long. He had 3 receptions for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Flacco missed him on at least two more deep passes where he was wide open. Anquon Boldin also had a nice game with 6 receptions for 71 yards. In addition to this, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce only ran for 27 yards and no touchdowns in the first half, but then since the Broncos had to worry more about pass coverage Ray Rice was able to finish with 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

2) “If Ed Reed and the Ravens secondary can confuse Manning throughout the game and cause a few turnovers, the Ravens will win.”

The second interception determined this game. I’m not sure if Peyton was confused on that particular play, but he looked less confident in his decision making than I had seen him look all year long. For the game he only completed 28 of his 43 passes for 290 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

3) “I will finish with one quick note, watch out for the Broncos kickoff and punt returner, Trindon Holliday. He’s explosive and could change the game with a few big returns.”

HELLO! Don’t say I didn’t warn you that he is explosive. I’ll admit that when I typed this I couldn’t have imagined Holliday having a 90 yard punt return touchdown and a 104 yard kick return touchdown.

The Bad:

1) “In the end, I think the Broncos are just a little too good…Denver Wins. 31-28”

Why, why, why? After the game I re-read my entire post and couldn’t believe I stuck with the Broncos. The final score was 38-35 Ravens so I was in the right ballpark for the final score at least.

Honestly, the Ravens deserved to win by more. Take away special teams and you’ll see that the Ravens dominated this game. However, if the Broncos could have just learned from the first half not to get burned deep**, they would have prevented the 70 yard Jacoby Jones touchdown catch with 31 seconds left and I’d be looking great right now.

The Lucky:

“Von Miller gets 3 sacks.”

Nope. He finished with a half a sack on Denver’s only sack of the game. He did have 2 of Denver’s 3 hits on Flacco though.

Packers vs. 49ers

The Good:

1) “Mathews has more than enough speed to stop him, but I believe the hard play action, threat of the pass, and the ability to scramble for key yards will be too hard to stop. Look for Harbaugh to use his quarterback in a lot of different ways. After all, he didn’t sit Alex Smith for no reason.”

I was right, but not as right as Jim Harbaugh. Other than the opening drive interception, I think Kaepernick played a perfect game. He threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 181 yards and 2 more touchdowns.Until this game, the previous NFL record for rushing yards by a QB in a playoff game was held by Michael Vick with 119 yards. Kaepernick obliterated that record.

2) “Since Kaepernick has taken over at quarterback, Crabtree has finally looked like the #1 guy in San Francisco. In fact, the wideout has been targeted on more than 60% of Kaepernick’s 3rd down passes and had more than 90 yards receiving in 4 of the last 5 games…Kaepernick will buy time with his feet and allow for Crabtree to create space. I expect another big game for Crabtree.”

If Kaepernick weren’t so unbelievable, everyone would be talking about Crabtree’s excellent performance. Crabtree finished with 9 catches for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. The wide out was clearly Kaepernick’s go-to-receiver and I couldn’t believe he was able to get so wide open on 3rd down plays. 

3) “I think the 49ers are the better team. I think they have a much better defense and their offense will simply outscore the Packers. I’ll predict a close game until the 49ers pull away in the 4th Quarter. 49ers Win. 41-27”

I’d say that was pretty darn accurate. The game was tied at 24 halfway through the 3rd Quarter and the Niners took a two touchdown lead on the first play of the 4th. The final score was 45-31 so I predicted the 14 point win perfectly, but should have added 4 points to each team. I’ll take it.

The Bad:

1) “The last thing I will note is that Packers kicker Mason Crosby has been bad all season long, while the 49ers just signed Billy Cundiff due to their kicker, David Akers, struggles. No field goal will be a gimme for either team, so hold your breath.”

I’m picking nits here. Honestly. This is probably the most incorrect prediction I had. Both kickers were 1 for 1, but they were from 31 and 36 yards.

The Lucky:

I will predict that Kaepernick rushes for 2 touchdowns in this one.”

Check! Kaepernick rushed for exactly 2 touchdowns, and they weren’t flukes. The first was from 20 yards out and the second went for 56 yards.

Final Thoughts:

I’m really happy with how I did. I got one of my two “lucky guesses of the game”, predicted a big game for Torrey Smith and Trindon Holliday, and got just about everything right in the 49ers victory. With that said however, I still picked the Broncos to edge out the Ravens for a victory, so I only went 1-1. Finally, I love getting to remind you that I was right while I was wrong. Yes the Broncos lost, so I was wrong; but, the spread favored the Broncos by 9.5 points and I picked the Broncos to win by 3, so I would have made money in Vegas.

Grade: A-

* Wow, I really wish I could have done that in school.

** Or if they had trusted Peyton Manning to throw the ball once to ice the game. Yeah, I might have been yelling at my television. So what?

Texans vs. Patriots

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Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Kickoff: Sunday, 4:30 ET

Channel: CBS

I re-watched the last game between these two teams in December and came away with one feeling. Wow. The Patriots dominated in almost every single aspect. There linebackers stopped Arian Foster, Aqib Talib shut down Andre Johnson, Brady hit Hernandez with ease, the Patriots O-line pass were dominant in pass protection and run blocking, and Wes Welker was open all game.

For the Texans to win I believe there are two things that must change; their O-Line and D-Line must dominate. That’s it. They are a less talented team who has limped into the playoffs and looked very mediocre last week in a win over the Bengals. If they want to win this game they must be able to run Arian Foster up the middle, and then later find ways to hit him on screenplays and draws. He is their best offensive player, and he will allow them to keep the ball away from Tom Brady. For this to be possible however, their offensive line must be able to stop Vince Wilfork in the middle. They couldn’t the first game. I have my doubts this time around.

On defense, look no further than J.J. Watt. Last time he was non-existent and this game he will need to force Brady to be uncomfortable and make throws before he wants to. The New York Giants have drawn the blue print to beat the Patriots in the playoffs; get after Brady all game long. To do this however, you must have a great defensive line.

Lucky Guess of the Game:

Stevan Ridley has more than 100 yards rushing and Wes Welker has more than 100 receiving yards.

Prediction:

Honestly, I can’t see the Texans winning this game. This is by far my most confident prediction.

Patriots Win. 38-24

Seahawks vs. Falcons

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Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET

Channel: FOX

The Falcons enter the game after yet another great regular season, but with a lot of doubters. At 13-3 the had the best record in the NFC and hope to use their home field advantage unlike the last few years. Matt Ryan has a lot of pressure on him to get his first playoff win, and Tony Gonzalez, Mike Peterson, and Todd McClure all plan on retiring after this season so there is some added sentiment to this game for the three on them. Win this game, and go out after a great run, win the Superbowl, and go out heroes. Seattle on the other hand was probably the hottest team entering the playoffs and are currently on a 6 game winning streak. Rookie Russell Wilson is already looking for his second playoff road win, and looked very poised in his first.

I believe this game will be determined by two major matchups, the Seattle cornerbacks against the Atlanta wideouts, and the Atlanta front 7 against Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.

The big and physical. The leagues two most physical cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner go up against the Falcons two most physical wide receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. The early indication as to who will win this matchup is who wins the battle at the line of scrimmage. Both Sherman and Browner like to jam their opponents and force the wide receivers to get off their route. This takes more time and effort to get open. If Jones and White can get open quickly I believe it will force Seattle to play much more conservatively and that’s not something they like to do. I think Sherman and Browner have the advantage in this matchup. That’s not to say they won’t give up a lot of catches to these two guys, because they will. The Falcons will throw a lot. But look for a lot of broken up passes, lack of long throws, and maybe an interception or two.

On the other side, watch out for Beast Mode. The Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch loves to lower his shoulders and hit people.  Then they run play action and are able to roll out the very mobile Russell Wilson who has the option to throw or run himself. Their offense is the most balanced left in the playoffs. Yes, even including New England and Houston. On the other side is a very talented front 7. Although there aren’t really any stars, but their leader Sean Witherspoon is the best kept secret in football. Their defense has played great all year, and they must stop Lynch and then force Wilson to throw. I think this will be great to watch, but overall I think we will see a lot of what happened to Green Bay, the inability to stop both the running back and still account for a fast quarterback who can throw. Don’t expect 183 yards for Wilson though.

Lucky Guess of the Game:

I will predict two interceptions for the Seattle secondary.

Prediction:

I think this game will be close until the late 3rd quarter and I’m taking Seattle. I don’t think Ryan will be at fault. I think Seattle’s defense is that good. The only thing that worries me is the travel and an early game on the East coast (it’s a 10 a.m. start for them).

Seattle Wins. 27-24

Packers vs. 49ers

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Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Kickoff: Saturday, 8:30 ET

Channel: FOX

I’m going to try to keep this breakdown a little shorter. Okay, a lot shorter. Still trying to get a better idea of how I want to write this section, so let me know what you think.

This is going to be a great game. I’m really excited for the individual matchups, so instead of doing a preview to the game and then keys to victory, I’m just going to introduce some of these matchups. I’ll give you an idea of who I believe has the edge in each, then give my prediction.

Aaron Rodgers is going up against Pro Bowl safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. I honestly think this will be the matchup of the game. The Packers are going to need to score points and, with little to no running game, they need to stretch the field. Rodgers is an awesome QB and the perfect pass is indefensible, so I give the Packers a slight edge here.

The Packers have struggled all year with their pass protection, giving up 51 sacks during the regular season. That’s the second worst, behind only the lowly Cardinals. On the other side, Justin Smith was an absolute monster this year, illustrated by the fact that he was voted All-Pro at both defensive end and defensive tackle. However, he has missed the last three games due to a triceps injury. In the first 13 games where Justin played, Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks and looked poised to set the NFL record. In the 3 games without Justin however, Aldon didn’t have a single sack. If you’re looking for an early indication as to who will win this game, look no further than this man. If he is healthy and effective at putting pressure on Rodgers, it will be a long night for the Packer’s QB.

When the Niners have the ball, look for the matchup of Colin Kaepernick against Clay Mathews. I believe the Packers will attempt to stop Kaepernick from using his feet to beat them when the plays break down, and Clay Mathews is the guy they will use. Mathews has more than enough speed to stop him, but I believe the hard play action, threat of the pass, and the ability to scramble for key yards will be too hard to stop. Look for Harbaugh to use his quarterback in a lot of different ways. After all, he didn’t sit Alex Smith for no reason.

Finally look for the matchup between Packers CB Tramon Williams and 49erst wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Since Kaepernick has taken over at quarterback, Crabtree has finally looked like the #1 guy in San Francisco. In fact, the wideout has been targeted on more than 60% of Kaepernick’s 3rd down passes and had more than 90 yards receiving in 4 of the last 5 games. Tramon Williams on the other side is the Packers best cornerback and lately, has looked like a shut down player. Expect Williams to cover Crabtree no matter where he lines up and for this to be a huge matchup. I believe Williams is the better player here, but Kaepernick will buy time with his feet and allow for Crabtree to create space. I expect another big game for Crabtree.

The last thing I will note is that Packers kicker Mason Crosby has been bad all season long, while the 49ers just signed Billy Cundiff due to their kicker, David Akers, struggles. No field goal will be a gimme for either team, so hold your breath.

Lucky Guess of the Game:

I will predict that Kaepernick rushes for 2 touchdowns in this one.

Prediction:

I think the 49ers are the better team. I think they have a much better defense and their offense will simply outscore the Packers. I’ll predict a close game until the 49ers pull away in the 4th Quarter.

49ers Win. 41-27

Ravens vs. Broncos

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This series is meant to give everyone a preview of the four games being played this weekend, some keys to victory for each team, and finally a prediction. I went 4-0 last weekend, but that was much easier. This time around there are no bad teams left and I’ll have to decide how the bye week will affect each game. I’ll break down the games in the order they will be played.

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Kickoff: Saturday, 4:30 ET

Channel: CBS

Preview:

Saturday afternoon the AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens (10-6) will travel to Mile High Stadium to take on the AFC West champion Denver Broncos (13-3). This game is a rematch from the week 15 meeting between these same two teams. That time around, the Broncos put a pretty good beating on the Ravens. The final score was 34-17 but that is a bit misleading since the score was 31-3 after the 3rd Quarter.

The Broncos dominated just about every facet of the game. From total yards (350-278), to turnovers (2-0), to time of possession (38:34-21:26) it was all Denver statistically. Just like you would expect in a blowout win. However, I’m going to discuss the things you can’t read from the box score. First off, on their first possession, Baltimore turned the ball over near midfield on a Joe Flacco QB sneak and fumble. On the ensuing drive, Denver was able to take the early lead on a field goal. This cannot happen again if the Ravens expect to win. First of all, Manning and company are too good to give them a shortened field. Second, when the Ravens get chances to keep the ball, extend drives in Denver territory, and get points they must do it.

The next three Baltimore drives were all three-and-outs. Their defense held the Broncos after the first two, but not the third time. Short rest and the Manning led hurry up offense slowed down the Baltimore pass rush and the Broncos scored a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. The Ravens offense responded terribly, only getting one first down on their next two drives while their defense played great and continued to get them the ball back. Baltimore was still trailing 10-0 when the started with the ball at their own 20 yard line with 2:09 remaining in the first half. Until this point, the Baltimore offense had 35 yards and 1 first down on 6 possessions. They finally were able to combine good pass protection with accurate throws from Joe Flacco to create a first-and-goal from the Denver 4 yard line. They looked poised to make the game 10-7 just before halftime. Then Chris Harris stepped in front of Anquan Boldin, intercepted the pass thrown by Joe Flacco, and returned it 98 yards for a Denver touchdown. The game was essentially over.

So in order to predict this games winner, lets take a look at what has changed. First of all, that game was played in Baltimore, while this one will be played in Denver. This not only swings the favor even more to Denver because of the crowd noise, but remember that it’s named Mile High Stadium for a reason. The air will be much thinner for this game, and Denver’s team is used to it. Personnel wise, Denver has had very little change. There are reports that Willis McGahee, the teams leading rusher who tore his MCL in his right knee on November 18 against San Diego, returned to practice yesterday. I don’t think this will have much impact on this game however. McGahee’s replacement, Knowshon Moreno, has played great in his absence and I do not think McGahee will be ready to play come Saturday. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on though, especially if you’re playing fantasy football.

In Baltimore’s favor is the fact that they have since returned future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis from injury. Although Lewis has aged some, he was quite impressive last weekend against the Indianapolis Colts recording 9 tackles and 4 assists. He also looked well rested and much faster than earlier in the season. 2011 Defensive Player of the Year and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who missed the previous game with a biceps injury, played sparingly in the week 15 matchup between these two teams. When I went back and watched the tape, you could tell he wasn’t healthy at all. He came out numerous times holding his arm, and was almost completely ineffective on the pass rush, his specialty. Last week, although he looked much better against the Colts, I still saw a much less affective pass rusher and all around player. The week 15 game was also Jim Caldwell’s first time calling the plays for an offense after Cam Cameron was fired as the Ravens offensive coordinator the previous week. Expect the Ravens offense to be more comfortable this time around.

The biggest change however, was the complete shuffle of the Ravens offensive line last weekend.  The Ravens started Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and moved struggling Michael Oher (yes, the same Michael Oher from the “Blind Side”) over to the right side all while having rookie Kelechi Osemele start at left guard. The result? Much better. The Ravens line allowed one sack and seven quarterback pressures. They were not great, but much much better.

I will finish with one quick note, watch out for the Broncos kickoff and punt returner, Trindon Holliday. He’s explosive and could change the game with a few big returns.

Denver Keys to Victory:

  1. Protect Peyton Manning. If he has time in the pocket to survey the field and allow his talented wide receivers to get separation he will pick apart a mediocre Ravens secondary.
  2. STOP RAY RICE. If the Broncos hold Ray Rice under 100 yards rushing, they win. It’s that simple.
  3. It’s Miller Time. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are two of the best pass rushers in the NFL. If they can disrupt Flacco in the pocket, their defense will have a fun day.

Baltimore Keys to Victory:

  1. The Blind Side 2. Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher star in this sequel. McKinnie will need to protect Flacco’s blind side against Elvis Dumervil. Meanwhile, Oher will need to stop Wolfe or Miller in order for the Ravens to have an effective running game.
  2. Since I think the Broncos will attempt to stop Rice at all costs early in the game, I think the Ravens will need to set up the run by establishing the pass first. This means they will need a big game out of either Torrey Smith or Anquon Boldin. I will say the one place I think the Ravens could have a major advantage is with their speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith against the aging cornerback Champ Bailey. If the Ravens can get some big plays with Smith, they will have a good chance to win at the end.
  3. Win the chess match. Ed Reed lost the first meeting against Peyton Manning, who deceived him numerous times. If Ed Reed and the Ravens secondary can confuse Manning throughout the game and cause a few turnovers, the Ravens will win.

Lucky Guess of the Game:

Von Miller gets 3 sacks.

Prediction:

Look for a much closer game than last time simply because I believe the Ravens are a much better team now than they were just a few weeks ago. Baltimore’s defense is good, but Denver is going to get their points one way or another. For this reason I believe the game will be decided by Baltimore’s offense and their ability to throw the ball effectively.  If Baltimore can get the big plays I talked about, then they can get Rice going with less men in the box and have a good chance to win this game. In the end, I think the Broncos are just a little too good.

I don’t like picking scores but I’ll give it a try.

Denver Wins. 31-28

My Final Top 25

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To give everyone an idea of strength of schedule and who beat whom, I decided to put in each teams Quality Wins (QW) and starting at #16 their Bad Losses (BL).

1. Alabama (13-1)                      QW: Michigan, LSU, Georgia, ND

2. Oregon (12-1)                          QW: Oregon St., Kansas St.

3. Texas A&M (11-2)                  QW: Alabama, Oklahoma

4. Ohio St. (12-0)                         QW: Nebraska, Penn St., Michigan

5. Stanford (12-2)                        QW: Oregon St., Oregon

6. Georgia (12-2)                          QW: Florida, Nebraska

7. Notre Dame (12-1)                   QW: Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma

8. South Carolina (11-2)             QW: Georgia, Clemson, Michigan

9. Florida (11-2)                           QW: Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Florida St.

10. Louisville (11-2)                    QW: Florida

11. Kansas St. (11-2)                   QW: Oklahoma, Texas

12. Florida St. (12-2)                   QW: Clemson

13. Clemson (11-2)                      QW: LSU

14. LSU (10-3)                              QW: South Carolina, Texas A&M

15. Oklahoma (10-3)                   QW: Texas

16. Michigan (8-5)                       QW: Northwestern                  BL: None

17. Northwestern (10-3)             QW: None                                 BL: None

18. Texas (9-4)                             QW: Oregon St., Baylor          BL: West Va., TCU

19. Vanderbilt (9-4)                    QW: None                                  BL: None

20. Nebraska (10-4)                    QW: Northwestern                   BL: UCLA

21. Oregon St. (9-4)                     QW: None                                  BL: Washington

22. Penn St. (8-4)                         QW: Northwestern                  BL: Ohio, Virginia

23. Baylor (8-5)                             QW: Kansas St.                       BL: West Va., ISU

24. Boise St. (11-2)                       QW: None                                 BL: Mich. St., SDSU

25 Utah St. (11-2)                         QW: None                                 BL: BYU

During next season I will post this every week with an explanation of my more controversial picks.

This list is obviously based on nothing other than my opinion; so please, tell me why I’m wrong!

Talking Points:

Ohio State:  Simple. Do you think they would beat Oregon or Texas A&M tomorrow?

Notre Dame:  I have been saying all year that they were extremely over-rated, and their luck finally ran out. No missed field goal in overtime at home against Pittsburgh (with 2 players on the field with the same number, thanks refs) could get them out of this one. No bad calls like the ones against Stanford would have mattered. They got embarrassed.

Louisville: Learn this name, Teddy Bridgewater. If he can get a little bit more accurate he will be a great one. Look, the only reason they aren’t higher is because Florida beat some great teams this year and Louisville lost to two bad teams. With that said, WOW. Louisville destroyed Florida almost as badly as Alabama beat ND. The score was 33-10 midway through the 4th Quarter until Florida returned a kickoff for a TD. Louisville’s kicker also missed 2 field goals and an extra point…

Baylor: They played great down the stretch and honestly, when their offense is clicking, I think they can beat a lot of teams ranked higher than them. Maybe even crush them. I’m looking at you Kansas St!

San Jose St., Northern Illinois: They didn’t beat a single good team. Tell me who you think they would beat. Okay, other than Utah St. I had to pick someone though.

End of the Year Awards:

Best Quarterback: Johnny Manziel

Best Running Back: Monte Ball

Best Wide Receiver: Marqise Lee

Defensive MVP: Jadeveon Clowney

Best True Freshman: T.J. Yeldon

Coach of the Year: Bill O’Brien

Most Overrated throughout the year: Notre Dame

Most Underrated throughout the year: Louisville

Final Thoughts:

The SEC is definitely the best conference in the country again. However, they weren’t anywhere near as good as people made them out to be. The bowl season proved that in my opinion.

The Big Ten on the other hand may have been the most under-rated conference this year. If you realize that Penn St. and Ohio St. were on probation and therefore couldn’t play in bowl games, then this was a solid conference. Albeit with only one elite team.

The Pac-12 is probably the most top-heavy conference. Two great teams and then, cliff. Because of this, Oregon St. was maybe the hardest team to rank for me.

Hope you liked this. Let me know what changes you would recommend and I’ll do my best.

Another Great Season, Another Terrible Ending

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7-0, 14-0, 21-0, 28-0. Halftime. Essentially game over. Unless you are an Alabama fan or really hate Notre Dame, that is the most exciting the 2013 National Championship game ever got.

The most memorable moments the game provided were multiple close-ups of former Miss Alabama and a shoving match between Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his good friend and center Barrett Jones over the snap count.

Alabama completely embarrassed Notre Dame. They did it in a way that has never been seen before; they used much better football players. The problem is, this outcome didn’t surprise anyone.

Fans on social media outlets were asking if Oregon or Texas A&M could show up for the 2nd half so they could watch a competitive football game. But that obviously wasn’t possible. The BCS system had told us the two best teams were already competing on that field. It’s a joke, a sham. Every college football fan knew it wasn’t true, but tried to convince him/herself of it while ESPN and other sports outlets attempted to hype up the game for the last month.

The second ranked Alabama Crimson Tide was favored by 9.5-10.5 points over the first ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on a neutral field. Yes, you are reading that right. Number 2 is suddenly better than Number 1.

This is what is wrong with college football. An awesome season filled with great weekly matchups, entertaining football games, and major upsets ended with a major dud. As was the entire bowl season.  From December 15 until last night, college football fans were treated with mainly one thing, terrible football games.

The reason for this is simple. Bowl games are there for one reason, and one reason only, to make money.

The non-BCS games are chosen by a bunch of corporate sponsors who know next to nothing about college football, but are trying to make an extra buck. They choose the teams for their game that have better fan bases, who will buy more tickets and create higher television ratings. They don’t care about the fans, they don’t care about the football games, and they definitely don’t care about the players who worked so hard throughout the entire season and deserve a chance to be in a better bowl game.

The only bigger sham than how the non-BCS games are chosen is how the BCS system ranks each team prior to the bowl games. Who actually thought Northern Illinois was the 15th best team in the country? Who thought 4th ranked Oregon was only slightly better than 5th ranked Kansas State? Who thought Notre Dame was the best team in the country? Better yet, how come the Coaches Poll makes up one third of the BCS equation when every college football coach admits they don’t have time to watch any other games? They all scribble down a top 25 based on absolutely nothing other than the box score and then it makes up more than 33% of the BCS rankings. The result of all of this is terrible rankings, leading to terrible bowl games.

Everyone thinks all of this will be solved with the new college playoff system. They’re wrong, simply because the problem isn’t being eliminated.  Sure the best four teams will finally be allowed to earn a national championship like they do in every other sport. Sure these four teams will finally be chosen by a panel of college football experts who watch hundreds of football games every season instead of by coaches who don’t have time and by computers that decide who is best simply based upon its creators’ fancy math algorithm. Meanwhile, the rest of the teams will be ranked in the exact same way. Incorrectly. Every other game will be chosen by a bunch of old rich men in suits trying to figure out how their bowl game will make the most money.  

A solution to all of this is extremely straightforward. Keep the Coaches Poll and AP Poll throughout the regular season. They help the casual fan know who is supposed to win a certain game and how good of a season their favorite team is having. However, at the end of the season, have the exact same panel of college football experts that already chooses the best four teams for the playoff, rank every other team that is qualified* for a bowl game. Then, simply have the 5th ranked team play the 6th ranked team, 7th vs. 8th, and so on, with the only caveat being two teams from the same conference cannot play each other.

Will there still be blowouts and less exciting matchups? Of course. Anywhere near as many? Not possible.

Phew. That was difficult. This is a completely new idea. This isn’t the exact same ranking system that creates the greatest tournament in all of sports, known as March Madness.

Will this ever happen? No, probably not. It makes too much sense. But until then, get excited for another great season of college football, only to be followed by unwatchable bowl games.

*I will save my opinion that too many teams qualify for bowl games for a different day.