Cleat Geeks

2017 College Football American Conference (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Every year, the American Conference is one of the top conferences competing outside the power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC). Don’t let the label fool you in terms of how legitimate a team from the AAC is. The East division is filled with teams that have defeated and or shocked a power 5 conference team. Last year alone, the Cincinnati Bearcats beat Purdue (Big Ten), UConn beat Virginia (ACC) and the East Carolina Pirates beat Syracuse (ACC). This year, each team is aiming for bigger and better teams. The South Florida Bulls are a team from a non-Power 5 conference have the highest potential to make the playoffs. This is a very competitive division, however, each of these teams are looking to win the American Conference and go to either the playoffs or a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Central Florida Knights – “After a major rebuild, will the Knights be back in the divisional title fight?”
6-7, 4-4 in American in 2016

The UCF Knights were one of the top teams in the Big East and the American Conference under Head Coach George O’Leary. They were co-Conference champs in the 2014 season and then suffered a 0-12 collapse in 2015 that forced O’Leary to resign. After a huge rebuilding season last year, the Knights are now ready to compete with some of the top teams in the conference. The good news is that the Knights return 9 offensive starters and OLB Shaquem Griffin, who accounted for 11.5 sacks last season. They will need to make their offense more efficient against tougher opponents like Maryland, Memphis, and South Florida.
Cincinnati Bearcats – “Will the new staff revamp and reenergize the offense in 2017?”
4-8, 1-7 in American in 2016

For a Tommy Tuberville coached team, last year’s Bearcats experienced a lack of defined focus as opposed to 2015. In the 2015 season, Cincinnati was ranked 37th in the nation in points per game (33.8) but last season, they were 123rd in points per game (19.3). Despite an offense full of offensive stars, the Bearcats were not able to make an efficient offense going. With coach Tuberville resigning, the new Bearcats staff are not only having to make an efficient offensive scheme but to provide much-needed intensity to the program. The Bearcats also have a young Defensive Coordinator to work into their system.
Connecticut Huskies – “Will a winning season be within grasping reach for UConn and 2nd stint Head Coach Randy Edsall?”
3-9, 1-7 in American in 2016

UConn has not had much success of winning after Randall Edsall left as Head Coach. Luckily the UConn Huskies were able to hire Edsall back after his failed stint with the Maryland Terps. Last season was his first season back with UConn and did not go as planned with a 3-9 record. This season, the Huskies return 7 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters from last year. With a full year of recruiting under Edsall, he hopes to have more talent with the Huskies football program. Watch for the passing game to improve under returning starter QB Bryant Shirreffs who passed for over 2,000 yards last season.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss what they love and hate about the Carolina Panthers!

East Carolina Pirates – “How will the defense get better after a lack lusting pressure setting?”
3-9, 1-7 in American in 2016

Head Coach Scott Montgomery’s first year with the East Carolina Pirates was not smooth in terms of securing wins. A huge part of the losses came from the lacking Pirates that was ranked last in the nation in total sacks (8) and creating turnovers (5 interceptions). The Pirates were also 113th in the nation in defensive efficiency (28.2). The offense could not keep up when the defense gave 35 points in 7 games last season. If the Pirates want to make themselves more of a competitor in the American Conference, then Defensive Coordinator Kenwick Thompson will need to take charge and put more pressure on the defense.
South Florida Bulls – “Are the Bulls the team to beat outside the Power 5 conferences?”
11-2, 7-1 in American in 2016

Even after losing Head Coach Willie Taggart to Oregon, the Bulls are expected to achieve even more in the 2017 College Football. On paper, South Florida absolutely aced their Head Coach search with former Texas HC Charlie Strong. As an excellent defensive coach and a strong recruiter in the South Florida/Miami region, Strong makes a perfect hire for the Bulls. Now comes the actual test, the Bulls must get performance on defense as they were 92nd in points allowed per game (31.6). They do return 9 defensive starters as well as QB Quinton Flowers, who passed 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Flowers could be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year.
Temple Owls – “Will new Head Coach Geoff Collins continue the success of the Owl in 2017?”
10-4, 7-1 in American in 2016

For the past two seasons, the Temple Owls have been East division winners including last season where they won the Conference. The Owls have had 6 winning seasons in the past 8 years. Now Geoff Collins will take over as Head Coach after Matt Rhule left for the same position at Baylor. While the Defensive Backs are the best-returning unit on the team, they do not have many starters returning beyond that. The schedule is also not in Temple’s favor with games at Notre Dame, at South Florida and cross-divisional opponents in Houston and Navy.

2017 College Football American Conference (West Division) Preview; Major Questions For Each Team

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Every year, the American Conference is one of the top conferences competing outside the power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC). The West Division might be the most competitive division internally in the American Conference. Athlon Sports predicts that 5 of the 6 teams in the West Division will be playing in a bowl with at least 6 wins. The Tulane Green Wave are the lone team outside of the bowl berth talk. The American Conference is one of the toughest divisions to play against and have teams that are huge playoff contenders until they kick each other out. Last season, the Houston Cougars shocked the world and beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the first week of the 2016 College Football season. This is a division that is any team’s fair game to face the winner of the East Division for the American Conference Championship. Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Houston Cougars“Will new Head Coach Major Applewhite continue success after Tom Herman’s departure?”
9-4, 5-3 in American in 2016

The newest Nick Saban assistant turned Head Coach will lead his Cougars after two years as Offensive Coordinator. The first step to finding a starting Quarterback, former Texas A&M Aggies Kyle Allen could potentially be that starting Quarterback. The Cougars do return multiple players including the best Defensive Line in the American Conference led by former star freshman Ed Oliver. Houston might be hit hard by once again the startling lack of experienced Defensive Backs. This 2017 College Football season will be Applewhite’s biggest test yet as a coach.
Memphis Tigers“Are the Memphis Tigers a sleeper team in the American Conference?”
8-5, 5-3 in American in 2016

Last year, the Memphis Tigers were tied for 3rd in the West Division along with the Houston Cougars. This season, the Tigers are predicted by many analysts to win the Western Division of the American Conference. They return their starting Quarterback in Riley Ferguson, who passed for 3,698 yards last season. Memphis needs to address their defensive flaws but has tinkered with formations and systematics for this upcoming season. Their conference schedule is favorable with no match-ups against South Florida, Temple or Cincinnati. Ferguson’s arm might be the definitive answer to them being a playoff contender or pretender.

 
Navy Midshipmen“Will the Midshipmen regain the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy?”
9-5, 7-1 in American in 2016

Despite winning the West Division of the American Conference last season, the Navy Midshipmen lost an important series. Navy lost to both the Air Force Falcons and their rivals in the Army West Point Black Knights. To make matters worse, the Midshipmen had not lost to the Knights since the 2001 college football season. As much as Navy wants to win the American Conference, the Midshipmen also want to beat their military academy service rivals. Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo will have to start with replacing a Quarterback and two of their main Tailbacks, which is a crucial part of their triple-option offense.

 
SMU Mustangs “Is this a big or bust season for Head Coach Chad Morris?”
5-7, 3-5 in American in 2016

SMU has not been to a bowl game in Head Coach Chad Morris’ career with the Mustangs. Ultimately, they have not been to a bowl game since the 2012 College Football season. This will be the 3rd season with Morris as Head Coach with SMU and with it the best opportunity to get to a bowl game especially with the returning talent for this year. WR Courtland Sutton caught 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns last season with the Mustangs. DE Justin Lawler accounted for 6 sacks and CB Jordan Wyatt accounted for 4 interceptions. This may not be the season that Morris could be gone if this season goes wrong but he’ll need to win to avoid that possibility.

 
Tulane Green Wave “Will the tough schedule make Tulane’s season difficult in 2017?”
4-8, 1-7 in American in 2016

Fresh off of a rebuilding season, Tulane wants to be more competitive in the American Conference title race. This year’s schedule might be a big roadblock of Tulane reaching that goal with games at Oklahoma, who will no doubt be ranked in the top 10 in the preseason. Tulane also has a competitive game at Florida International then conference play games back-to-back with South Florida and at Memphis. Finally, the Houston Cougars and a game at the SMU Mustangs will be at the end of the season. If Tulane wants a bowl berth, they have to more aggressive on offense than they were last year as they were 104th in points per game (24.1).

 
Tulsa Golden Hurricane“Will the new Quarterback need to be the leader of an efficient offense?”
10-3, 6-2 in American in 2016

Last season, Tulsa was ranked in the top 10 of every major offensive category except for passing yards per game. Tulsa was ranked 30th in the nation in passing yards per game (265.3). Once Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Phillip Montgomery finds a new starting Quarterback, they will be set with a strong line and backfield. The Golden Hurricane return 4 of their starting Offensive Line from last year, 3 of whom are pre-season All-Conference. Running Back D’Angelo Brewer is also a preseason All-Conference who rushed for 1,435 yards last season. The run game will be a huge relief factor to the new Quarterback once one has won the starting job.

Sarkisian Wants To Use Jones More In The Red Zone But Should He?

Over the past weekend, to create some trending topics in the off-season, newly acquired Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian said he wanted to make Julio Jones more of an option for the Falcons in the red zone. Despite being a Pro Bowler for the 4th time in his career and a first-team All-Pro for the 2nd time in his career last season, Julio was not as much of a dominating Receiver in the red zone as his top peers in the league.

In the 2016-2017 NFL regular season, Julio Jones was targeted only 10 times in the red zone on potential scoring drives. Steve Sarkisian wants to take advantage of Julio’s 6’3 height and great catch ability to get more Touchdowns or at least to push the ball closer to the end zone. The Falcons were one of the top offenses in the NFL last season for numerous reasons. Julio Jones was a big factor, along with 2016 NFL MVP in Quarterback Matt Ryan. Another big name was Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is now the Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers. The Atlanta Falcons lost to the New England Patriots by a 34-28 score in overtime after the Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit.

Last season, the Atlanta Falcons were 3rd in the NFL in passing yards per game (295.3), 5th in rushing yards per game (120.5) and 1st in points per game (33.8). The Falcons were also 8th in the league in red zone scoring percentage for touchdowns only with a 64.56% percentage touchdown efficiency. This is not a bad statistic considering how often the Falcons scored while in the red zone the season before. In the 2015-2016 NFL season, the Falcons scored a touchdown in the red zone 54.72% of the time. As a result, the Atlanta Falcons accounted for a lacking 8-8 record. The Falcons rose their touchdown efficiency 9.84% in the end zone as opposed to the 2015 season.

The Tennessee Titans were 1st in the NFL in touchdown efficiency in the red zone with a percentage of 72%. This is because the Titians have a diverse offense with a dual threat Quarterback like Marcus Mariota, the double Running Back tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry as well an efficient short catching Tight End in Delanie Walker. The Falcons’ NFC South rivals in the New Orleans Saints were 3rd in the league in red zone efficiency because of the efficient passing game of their own led by QB Drew Brees.

While Julio Jones was only targeted ten times, he did catch two reception touchdowns in the red zone. The Falcons have a diverse offensive setting because of the playmakers around QB Matt Ryan. Julio Jones is the deep and big time receiver, while teammates like WR Mohamed Sanu and WR Taylor Gabriel are excellent slot receivers and therefore perfect for a red zone setting. TE Jacob Tamme and Running Backs Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman were also great short yard receivers for the red zone. Julio Jones caught 6 receptions last regular season along with Taylor Gabriel. The Falcons threw for 38 total touchdowns and they had 10 players who had 2 or more receiving touchdowns. While Steve Sarkisian might believe it’s a good idea to throw to Julio more in the red zone, he does have to realize that Jones was double-teamed a good majority of those plays. Jones will be fine if still trusted in primary routes of deep passes. Sarkisian might want to initiate a spread option scenario like he want he did with QB Jake Locker while as Head Coach of the Washington Huskies from 2009 to 2013.

Julio Jones caught 6 receptions last regular season along with Taylor Gabriel. The Falcons threw for 38 total touchdowns and they had 10 players who had 2 or more receiving touchdowns. While Steve Sarkisian might believe it’s a good idea to throw to Julio more in the red zone, he does have to realize that Jones was double-teamed a good majority of those plays. Jones will be fine if still trusted in primary routes of deep passes. Sarkisian might want to initiate a spread option scenario like he what he did with QB Jake Locker while as Head Coach of the Washington Huskies from 2009 to 2013.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss what they love and hate about the Houston Texans!

Matt Ryan might not be the Quarterback to run these option settings. A player like Mohamed Sanu or Taylor Gabriel might be best suited be the option runner/passer. This will make the offense more versatile and dangerous as well get the pressure off Julio if the extra defender on Jones wants to be a line spy. Forcing a throw from Matt Ryan to a double covered Julio Jones might likely be broken up or intercepted. Specific Receiver plays fall apart faster in the NFL than in College where Sarkisian spent all his coaching years with the exception as the Oakland Raiders QB Coach in 2004. Watch for the Atlanta Falcons offense to look completely different under Sarkisian. One thing is for certain, however, he wants Julio Jones to be the big man in the Falcons red zone game.

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Secondary Breakdown

The Chiefs will return many of their secondary starters from 2016. Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Eric Berry and Ron Parker are the projected secondary starters for 2017. The position group will have veteran experience and should be strong next season.

Marcus Peters has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL the last two seasons and he will be a major part of the Chiefs defense in 2017. He was a first round draft pick for the Chiefs in 2015 and he made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons. He was also named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and a first-team All-Pro in 2016. Marcus Peters is a key part of the Chiefs defense and it will be important for him to have another good season.

Photo By: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Phillip Gaines will be the other starting cornerback for the Chiefs in 2017. Last season Gaines started 11 games for the Chiefs. He recorded 44 combined tackles and one interception in 2016. Gaines does not have a lot of experience as a NFL starting corner but will likely get more time this season. Gaines will need to continue to improve in 2017 because he will be an important player in the Chiefs defense next season.

Eric Berry signed a six-year $78 million dollar contract with the Chiefs this offseason. Berry was a first round pick by the Chiefs in 2010 and has been one of their best players. Berry is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. 2016 was his first full season as a starter after returning from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015. The re-signing of Eric Berry was important for the Chiefs and he should be a key player for the Chiefs in 2017.

Ron Parker is the Chiefs starting free safety. Parker has started every game for the Chiefs the last two seasons. Last season he had 61 combined tackles and one interception. He also forced two fumbles. Ron Parker has been a consistent player for the Chiefs the last two seasons and he should play a big role again in 2017.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss what they love and hate about the Indianapolis Colts!

Overall, the Chiefs secondary is filled with veterans and their experience should help the defense in 2017. Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Eric Berry and Ron Parker are the expected starters for next season. Last season the Chiefs secondary was a key part of the defense and they will need to be strong again in 2017 for the Chiefs to have a successful season.

The “NEW” NFL OT Rules

In May, the NFL changed it’s overtime rules shortening the extra quarter from 15 minutes to 10, but many are still critical of the overtime rules that exist today. Bill Plaschke described it best when he wrote in the LA Times, “It’s like baseball allowing the first run to decide an extra-inning game without both teams coming to bat. It’s like basketball overtime games being decided on only half the court, with only one team having a chance to shoot.” Several years ago, the NFL made changes to its overtime rules saying that if the team that possesses the ball first and only scores a field goal, the other team would get a chance to either continue with a field goal or win the game out right with a touchdown.

Still, there is a touchdown loophole existing. What was lost in the shuffle when the New England Patriots and Tom Brady won a 5th Super Bowl 34-28 is that Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did not get a possession. If the situation were reversed and Brady’s Patriots did not get a chance to respond with a touchdown, what would have been the reaction? There would have been a bigger sense of urgency to fix that. In January 2010, when Brett Favre was playing for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints, the Saints kicked a game winning field goal on the first possession of overtime and the game was over.

A couple of seasons ago, the Denver Broncos lost a game to the quick scoring Seattle Seahawks in overtime, first possession and Peyton Manning did not have a chance to tie the game. “They changed the rules a little bit, but it doesn’t really change if you go down and get a touchdown,’’ Manning said at the time. “It puts a premium on the coin toss.”

Saints QB Drew Brees does not agree with the new rules saying that there will be more ties. “I’m not sure what the thought process was going into it, but just from what I see I would disagree with it because more games are going to end in ties now,” Brees said. He suggested that the NFL do what college football does and that is, each team gets a possession starting at the opponents 25-yard line with an un-timed quarter. However, there is no consensus on what the NFL should do, but Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said the same thing last year.

The NFL has not been serious enough about player safety, they talk a good game, but their actions speak otherwise. One of my issues with the league and owners has been that Thursday night game. The biggest flaw with Thursday night football is that teams who are playing only have 3 days to recover from injuries and less time to prepare for their opponent. The NFL was trying to fix something that was not broken and has created more problems than anticipated. I have been hesitant to support the college football overtime rules, but it has come to that point where the NFL must adopt NCAA football’s OT rules.  Football fans have something truly entertaining when both teams get the chance to have the football at the opponents 25-yard line and if the game gets to a third overtime, teams that scores a touchdown must attempt a 2-point conversion.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss what they love and hate about the Jacksonville Jaguars!

The NFL is dealing with a PR fiasco they created and their actions will not help mitigate this whether you agree with the new rules or not. This rule change is nothing more than to put a band-aid on a problem that needs major fixing and people are seeing right through this. More importantly, what has the NFL learned from what happened at Super Bowl LI? Nothing.

2017 College Football ACC (Coastal Division) Preview

Every College Football season, every team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. The ACC is a conference that is filled with talent and elite teams. Despite Clemson and Florida State being the dominate teams in the conference, there is potential for a new leader. The Clemson Tigers won the 2017 National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide but is now expected to go through a rebuilding season. Clemson and Florida State are the only teams in the ACC who have been to the College Football Playoffs. The Miami (FL) Hurricanes (#20) and the Virginia Tech Hokies (#16) are the only teams in the ACC Coastal division that finished being ranked in the AP poll last season. They are also the only teams in the division that are currently ranked in the top 25. This is a division where the potential dark horses of the ACC can come out and win the ACC Conference Championship and possibly go to the College Football Playoffs.

This upcoming season will begin anew with each team fighting for the Coastal divisional title. Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Duke Blue Devils – “Can Duke overlook one horrid 2016 season to 2017?”
4-8, 1-7 in ACC in 2016

Before the 2016 College Football season, the Duke Blue Devils went to four straight bowl games. From 2013 to 2015, they accounted for a 27-13 record. This past season, however, they accounted for a 4-8 record. This is an unusual situation for the Duke Blue Devils now they are making consistent winning seasons under Head Coach David Cutcliffe. This 2017 College Football season can be a chance to recover from a rebuilding year. Duke returns two of their leading tacklers from last year’s team as well.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets – “Will their season be defined by one game?”
9-4, 4-4 in ACC in 2016

While the Yellow Jackets return a good margin of their Offensive Line, Running Backs and Defensive stars, they will need to find a new starting Quarterback. In the triple option offense, the Quarterback position is literally everything in terms of structure and execution. Head coach Paul Johnson will need to find a new Quarterback in time for the first game of the season. It may seem rash but most of the season’s potential success has be to a win over Tennessee in the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.
Miami (FL) Hurricanes – “Is this the time for Mark Richt to develop Miami into a powerhouse?”
9-4, 5-3 in ACC in 2016

For the past couple of seasons, the Hurricanes have been underwhelming trying to be a threat in the ACC. Now with Head Coach Mark Richt, they have the recruiting talent and the coaching skills to get the team to a high level of performance to be considered for the playoffs through the season. The Hurricanes return an entire starting Defensive Line and Linebacker squad on a defense that ranked 12th in the nation in points allowed per game.
North Carolina Tarheels – “Can the Tarheels get over multiple bad losses last season for 2017?”
8-5, 5-3 in ACC in 2016

The Tarheels lost 3 of the last 4 games in the 2016 season including two embarrassing losses at Duke (by 1 point) and at home to NC State (by 7 points). While Duke and NC State are not particularly bad football teams, this is a derail of the progress that the Tarheels made in the 2015 season when they won the Coastal division. This was with star RB Elijah Hood and the 2nd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft in QB Mitch Trubisky on their team. Now that they are gone, North Carolina will need leadership and stars to lead their team and avoid these easily containable opponents.
Pittsburgh Panthers – “Can Pitt work off last year’s victories over Penn State & Clemson?”
8-5, 5-3 in ACC in 2016

Last year, the Pittsburgh Panthers made big waves in the world of College Football by defeating eventual Big Ten Champions in the Penn State Nittany Lions and later on the 2017 National Champions in the Clemson Tigers. Recruiting has been on the rise for Pitt and they are determined to use those wins to get past their 8-5 season. They did lose those 5 games to winning teams but focus maybe the best issue to work on. Addressing the pass defense might be best as well as they were 127th in the nation in passing yards per game (343.1 yards).
Virginia Cavaliers – “How will Bronco Mendenhall fight back after a disastrous 2-10 season?”
2-10, 1-7 in ACC in 2016

When Bronco Mendenhall was hired to Virginia from his tenured Head Coaching position at BYU, there was hope in Charlottesville. That hope quickly shattered when the Cavaliers lost to their FCS rival in the Richmond Spiders with a 37-20 score. The offense return 5 starters that was ranked 115th in the nation in points per game. Coach Mendenhall has his work cut off for him but has the confidence to make the Cavaliers relevant in the ACC. Don’t expect the Cavaliers to go from zeros to heroes this season with so much rebuilding expected to continue.
Virginia Tech Hokies – “Will Justin Fuente continue success with life without Frank Beamer?”
10-4, 6-2 in ACC in 2016 – Coastal Division Champs

One season after 29 years with Frank Beamer as their head coach and the Virginia Tech Hokies after doing just fine thanks to current Head Coach Justin Fuente. Last season, the Hokies got their first 10 win season since the 2011 College Football season. This 2017 season is going to be a test for Fuente as he does not have a Quarterback with relevant game experience. The defense does return 4 of the top 5 tacklers including ILB Tremaine Edmunds who had 18.5 tackles for loss. Longtime Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster has to be thrilled with the huge talent coming back to Virginia Tech.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss the NFC North and the next team up is the Green Bay Packers.

Tomahawks and Touchdowns: Linebacker Breakdown

Last season the Chiefs were strong at the linebacker position but suffered key injuries throughout the season. The Chiefs added inside linebacker Ukeme Eligwe in the draft and he will add much needed depth to the position. Overall, the Chiefs should be strong at linebacker in 2017.

Justin Houston started the 2016 season on the physically unable to perform list. He missed the first 10 weeks of the season because of knee surgery he underwent in February of 2016. Houston finished the season with 21 combined tackles and five sacks. Justin Houston should be healthy to start the 2017 season.

 

Tamba Hali will be the other outside linebacker for the Chiefs, playing opposite Justin Houston. 2017 will be Hali’s 12th season in Kansas City. Hali was the Chiefs first round pick in 2006. Last season he started every game and finished with 24 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks. Hali should provide veteran experience to the linebacker corps again in 2017.

 

Derrick Johnson suffered a torn Achilles last season in week #14 against the Oakland Raiders. The injury caused him to miss the rest of the season, which had a big impact on the Chiefs defense. Johnson is tied with punter Dustin Colquitt for the longest tenure with the team. Last season Johnson recorded 90 combined tackles, one sack and one interception. Johnson is expected to be ready for training camp and the regular season. It will be important for Derrick Johnson to stay healthy in 2017.

 

Ramik Wilson is the Chiefs other starting inside linebacker. 2017 will be Wilson’s fourth season with the Chiefs. He has been on the active roster off and on for the last two seasons. Wilson started the last 11 games for the Chiefs and had 76 total tackles and one interception. He also had a strong performance in the playoffs with 15 combined tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ramik Wilson does not have a lot of experience but could be a surprise for the Chiefs on defense next season.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss the NFC North and the next team up is the Green Bay Packers.

 

Linebacker is one of the strongest position groups for the Chiefs but last season they suffered key injuries, which caused problems for the defense. In 2017 they will return Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Ramik Wilson who were key contributors last season. They are all expected to be healthy to start the season. The Chiefs also added Ukeme Eligwe in the draft that will provide the depth they needed last season. Linebacker should be one of the strongest positions for the Chiefs in 2017.

2017 ACC College Football (Atlantic Division) Preview – Major Questions For Each Team

Every College Football season, every team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Last season, the ACC Atlantic division had three teams that finished in the AP top 25 in #1 Clemson, #8 Florida State, and #21 Louisville. The Clemson Tigers won the ACC Championship and then beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in a National Championship rematch from the 2016 Championship match-up. This preseason, Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville are all currently ranked ahead of their ACC Coastal divisional opponents. Boston College, NC State, Syracuse, and Wake Forest are the rest of the teams in the Atlantic division that have fair game of reaching for the College Football Playoffs. In the history of the College Football Playoffs, Florida State and Clemson are the only teams in the ACC to have made the College Football Playoffs. This upcoming season will begin anew with each team fighting for the Atlantic divisional title.

Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Boston College Eagles “Will the Eagles rise or fall past their usual 7-6 record?”
7-6, 2-6 in ACC in 2016

For 3 of the past 4 seasons with Steve Addazio as Head Coach, the Eagles have accounted for a 7-6 record. While this may not be a huge problem in the program, the football program has admitted they can achieve more. This season, the Eagles return the nation’s leading Sacker last season in DE Harold Landry (16.5). Boston College did account for a 2-6 record in the ACC and lost by 49 to Virginia Tech, 46 to Clemson, 47 to Louisville and 38 to Florida State. If Boston College wants to have a more successful season, they will need to play better against ACC foes.

 

Clemson Tigers“Repeat or rebuild season for Clemson in 2017?”
14-1, 7-1 in ACC in 2016 – ACC Champs & 2017 CFB National Champion

The Clemson Tigers return one of the best Defensive Line units in the nation as well as 4 of the 5 starting O-Line from last year. Despite this, the Tigers looks like they’ve lost more than they are returning including QB Deshaun Watson and WR Mike Williams. Coach Dabo Swinney will need to find new starters at crucial positions including Quarterback, two Wide Receivers, Running Back and multiple Outside Pass Rushers. The Tigers will have to play a more talented Auburn team and their rivals in Florida State and at Louisville if they want to repeat as National Champions.

 

Florida State Seminoles“Will the Seminoles be the kings of the ACC again this season?”
10-3, 5-3 in ACC in 2016 – Orange Bowl Champs

With Clemson on a possible rebuilding year, the Florida State Seminoles have high hopes to reach for an ACC Conference Championship and a College Football playoff berth. While they only return 5 starters on offense, they do return QB Deondre Francois, who threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Not to mention, they have 9 starters returning from last year’s defensive unit. They will have to play better defensively than last year when they were ranked 44th in scoring allowed but they have strong potential.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss the NFC North and the next team up is the Detroit Lions.

 

Louisville Cardinals“Can QB Lamar Jackson lead the Cardinals to the College Football Playoffs?”
9-4, 7-1 in ACC in 2016

The Cardinals were in the playoff conversation up until two weeks of the regular season left when they suffered horrible losses to the Houston Cougars (by 26 points) and to SEC rival Kentucky Wildcats at home. Sloppy playing came upon the Cardinals both on offense and defense. This season, they are hoping to learn from those mistakes by playing more efficiently. With a tough and more efficient defense and dominating performances by QB Lamar Jackson, the Louisville Cardinals can be the dark houses in the aggressive Atlantic ACC division.

 

NC State Wolfpack“Could this be the breakout season to save Head Coach Dave Doeren’s job?”
7-6, 3-5 in ACC in 2016

The Wolfpack had potential and talent to have themselves a breakout season in 2016 and proved it by almost beating Clemson. Instead, they withered down and settled for a 7-6 season including a 4 game losing streak midway through the season. With 8 returning starters, both on offense and defense, this 2017 season will be the most stacked team Head Coach Dave Doeren has had in his 5 years with NC State. This may be his biggest chance to prove he is the coach to be in Raleigh.

 

Syracuse Orange“Will the tough schedule derail the season even before it starts?”
4-8, 2-6 in ACC in 2016

When you’re a team in the lower-tier of a power 5 conference, you need everything to work out in your favor. The Orange’s schedule is one of the toughest in the entire College Football Nation. They have to take a week 4 trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to face the LSU Tigers. Then they have to play a tough home game against Clemson then away games at Miami, Florida State, and Louisville. Even though Syracuse has 19 starters returning, this is going to be a tough road for the Orange in 2017.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons“Will the Offense improve under Head Coach Dave Clawson?”
7-6, 3-5 in ACC in 2016

Even though the Demon Deacons had one of the worst offenses in the nation (124th in total yards per game), Wake Forest went to a bowl game and won against the Temple Owls. This season, the main focus has to be about making the offense more efficient. Clawson is hoping that his offense under Offensive Coordinator, Warren Ruggiero, will be able to keep up with the top offenses in the conference. In 2016, S Jessie Bates was a freshman phenomenon but is now looking to be the leader of a tough, aggressive defense.

 

Next Man Up For Lions After Decker Injury

Troubling news surfaced out of Allen Park, MI on Tuesday morning via Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. It was announced that Taylor Decker underwent shoulder surgery on Monday. There is no timetable for his return, although, when asked if he thought it would be season-ending, Caldwell seemed optimistic and didn’t think that would be the case.

Decker’s injury occurred during last week’s OTA’s.

What isn’t known is what kind of shoulder surgery Decker received. What is known is that Decker will miss the remainder of Detroit’s off-season workouts and probably more.

The Lions have a few in-house options to turn to and could also turn to the free agent pool to locate a replacement. Regardless, it’s unlikely that there is a perfect replacement at left tackle for general manager Bob Quinn and his staff to locate. They’ll have to throw Band-Aids on the open wound as it certainly will be tough to match what Decker has done in a short amount of time and what he can potentially do.

Decker has the ability to become a Pro Bowler and the Detroit Lions full-heartedly believe that he will play at such a level for a long time. The transition from college to the NFL was a bit tough for Decker out of the gate during his rookie campaign a year ago, but he continuously made positive strides as the season went on while playing every offensive snap.

For now, Joe Dahl and Cornelius Lucas are the two front-runners as they took first-team reps on Tuesday. Another option is Corey Robinson, who is still sidelined after having foot surgery during the winter.

The Lions are reportedly bringing in free agent Cyrus Kouandjio for a visit. Kouandjio, 23, is a former second-round pick.

 

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss the NFC North and the 1st team up is the Chicago Bears.

 

 

Arizona Cardinals Must Rebound In The 2017-2018 NFL Season

When talking about some of the biggest season to season letdowns, the Arizona Cardinals are one of the teams who had a big 2015-2016 NFL season to a disaster 2016-2017 season. The Cardinals accounted for a 13-3 record and went to the NFC Conference Championship in the 2015-2016 season. After that 49-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship, the Arizona Cardinals accounted for a 7-8-1 record in the 2016-2017 NFL season.

Arizona lost 8 games but 5 of them were lost by a margin of just one possession (7 or fewer points). The Cardinals were 9th in the league in passing yards per game (258.5), 6th in points per game (26.1), 14th in points allowed per game (22.6), 2nd in yards allowed per game (305.2) and 1st in total sacks (48). Despite being statically successful, the Cardinals had more weakness on their team in terms of being in sync through some of their older veterans. Head Coach Bruce Arians made some claims that there were players in the locker room that were not accountable or being the leaders that they needed to be.

Following a DUI arrest, Wide Receiver Michael Floyd was released by the Cardinals on December 16th. Before his arrest, however, Floyd only started 7 games (played in 13) and accounted career low 446 receiving yards. During this offseason, the Cardinals had some veterans that left to other teams. The biggest loss came from DE/DT Calais Campbell, who was 3rd on the team in sacks (8) and accounted for 7 tackles for loss. Arizona also lost 2 of their top 3 tacklers from the 2016-2017 season in S Tony Jefferson (96) and ILB Kevin Minter (81). Two-time Pro Bowl G Evan Mathias was a huge anchor for the Cardinals Offensive Line but is now retiring at 35 years old.

With the loss of these veterans and leaders on the team, there will have to be new leadership and proper team chemistry. This is something that Coach Arians has been seeking from his Cardinals team. Regardless of the questionable leadership from these players, the loss of talent is still a huge factor for the team to replace. Throughout the off-season, the Cardinals have acquired players that they believe can not only fill the performance standards of the former Cardinals but also the real leadership value they need. S Antoine Bethea was added to the roster and former Cardinals player, LB Karlos Dansby was added to be an older veteran/playmaker. Longtime Cleveland Brown Kicker Phil Dawson was added to replace Chandler Catanzaro, who was lost to the New York Jets through free agency.

This will be a perfect opportunity for players like RB David Johnson, CB Patrick Peterson and S Tyrann Mathieu to be leaders for the team. This is a role that they may have never experienced with Arizona possibly because of seniority from the now-departed players. RB David Johnson could be the go-to leader on offense soon with QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald nearing the end of their careers. Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson need to be leaders on a defense that was suffering through injuries and identity issues. This defense will also greatly benefit from incoming rookies ILB Haason Reddick (1st round pick from Temple) and S Budda Baker (2nd round pick from Washington). Having a former Cardinal like Dansby back on the team will provide leadership for ILB Haason Reddick, who is expected to have an explosive rookie season.

Injuries also played a huge part of the Cardinals’ downfall in 2016. Last season, the Cardinals lost Left Tackle Jared Veldheer to a triceps injury for 8 weeks, TE Troy Nikolas to a wrist injury for 13 weeks, S Tyvon Branch to a groin injury for 9 weeks and OLB Alani Fua to a knee injury for 13 weeks.

Quarterback Carson Palmer took 40 sacks last season, which is the 2nd most in his NFL career. Regardless of who is under Center for years to come in Arizona, the Cardinals Offensive Line must protect better. Having Veldheer back from injury will help the passing game productivity more along with the addition of 3rd round selection in WR Chad Williams (Grambling State). Williams will be able to add more diversity to the Wide Outs in terms of what kind of input they will primarily bring. Pushing Williams on the outside will not only compliment Larry Fitzgerald on the opposite side but will make J.J. Nelson a much more of a dangerous slot receiver.

There is no argument that the Arizona Cardinals have some of the best talent in the NFL. In the 2016-2017 NFL season, they had three of their players get selected to the Pro Bowl. Coach Arians is one of the smartest and toughest coaches in the NFL. The chemistry must be crucial for a team especially for a team that has 25 starting positions in the sport of Football. If the Cardinals have a great training camp developing on team chemistry and avoid having devastating injuries throughout the season, the Arizona Cardinals can once again make some noise in the NFC West and the playoffs.

Are you starved for FOOTBALL? @cleatgeeks has partnered with Pony Keg Sports to bring our fans a great podcast that you can listen to anytime! Tune in and quench your football thirst with the Pony Keg Sports Podcast as they discuss the different NFL quarterbacks.

GET YOUR  ON!

If you like this site or just simply want to school your friends because you got the information first.  

Join us on the field! Click on any of the links below.