Category Archives: Steelers

NFL Divisional Playoffs: Steelers vs Broncos (Preview)

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Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs Denver Broncos (12-4)

January 17th 4:40 PM ET/ 3:40 Central

Last Saturday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was not only impressive, great & epic, it proved to be costly as well. Scoreboard wise the Steelers might’ve won 18-16 but in the minds of many this upcoming game against the Broncos is where the Steelers injury riddled season ends.

Healthy, the Steelers were/are an offensive juggernaut not too many if any teams would like to face. They posses not only an All-Pro Quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger but also an All-Pro Running Back in Le’Veon Bell & an All-Pro Reciever in Antonio Brown. They also have guys like Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant & Heath Miller who can make plays as well. Oh, and the Steelers also have a legit guy backing up Bell in DeAngelo Williams.

The bad thing about what I just listed is….The stars are hurt….

Ben Roethlisberger has a separated shoulder. (Injured in the Cincy game.)

Antonio Brown has a concussion so he’s out for the game. (Injured in the Cincy game.)

And Le’Veon Bell has been out since Week 8 with a season ending knee injury. (Injured in a game against Cincy actually.)

Even backup running back DeAngelo Williams is out this week due to a foot injury.

Tough luck.

The Broncos on the other hand are a lot more healthy.

Even with the inconsistent play at quarterback this season (Peyton Manning & Brock O) the Denver Broncos were still pretty damn dominant in part because of their defense.

On defense guys like DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Derek Wolfe & Von Miller (linebackers/ defensive ends) can rush the quarterback while guys like Aqib Talib & Chris Harris Jr. can lock down the opposing teams’ receivers.

From top to bottom the Denver Broncos are the scariest defense in football.

On the season Denver has 52.0 sacks, 14int, 25 forced fumbles (13 recovered), two blocked kicks & 5 defensive TDs….

Prediction: bronx win 24-13

No Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell & DeAngelo Williams is going to hurt the Steelers ultimately. Throw in the fact that they have half of Ben & I don’t see them having much of a chance…. Peyton could still very much throw the game away. But that’s highly unlikely.

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AFC North Preview

  1.   Cleveland Browns

The Browns have been all over the place in the past 3 years. Overhauls in coaching staffs, player personnel, and the entire Johnny Manziel factor has brought a lot more attention to the Browns than I can remember in quite some time. None of it positive. I don’t like anything in particular about this team even last year but somehow they were in the playoff race much longer than anyone expected them to be. Crowell was a positive on the offense but without Gordon once again, I still do not see any positive factors on the offense.  They  drafted  Duke Johnson who will hopefully be able to take on the load of carries for the team. The defense has some nice young guys but we won’t see the results of that until a good 2-3 years from now, and at that point they could have four different GMs, two new owners, and 6 new head coaches. Humor aside I don’t trust this organization for anything in the past 50 years and neither should you. I have the Cleveland Browns going 5-13 and last in the division.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

This division is tough. There’s 3 teams that can easily steal the division title, and the Steelers are definitely one of those teams. They have the best offense in the division that’s not even a question. Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Big Ben were either top 5 or 2 at their position last year. It’s odd to think about how high powered the Steelers offense and how average their defense is. There is nothing special about their defense once so ever. This is the same team that has made history in the league through their stout defenses. That is the only reason I have them here instead of higher. This team relies on Big Ben’s hot arm and Le’Veon Bell’s wonderful vision. The draft they had was okay. I liked what they did in the first 2 rounds but I’m not feeling too positive about the rest of it. I have this team going 10-6 just outside of the playoffs and 3rd in the division.

  1. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens are a team that has consistently stayed relevant for quite some time now. Harbough keeps these boys ready on both sides of the ball. After the unfortunate Ray Rice situation, the Ravens had to find some answers somewhere for their running game. Forsett was that answer. Forsett kept the offense alive when he was finally given the chance to do something. His ability to find gaps and burst through the hole has always been at an elite level and in Baltimore he was finally able to showcase it. The Ravens have always been a team that doesn’t tear through their regular season schedule, but instead knows how to get hot at the right time in the postseason and make some noise. The Ravens have great young guys all over their defense and in particular, C.J. Mosley. The kid is just oozing with potential that has still yet to be seen and he had my DROY vote even though he didn’t win it. The WR core is even a less desirable one than before and although Steve Smith put up stats we have not seen from him in quite some time, I do not expect it to continue this season. They will need someone to step up in that core and I believe Harbough will find that man just like he found Forsett. I have the Ravens going 11-5, 2nd in the division, and losing in the second round of the playoffs.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals once again are just the best all around team in the division again. I have no hope in the franchise past the regular season, and even then the front office is incapable of making the right decision with a head coach who has yet to win a playoff game in the entire time he has been there. Oh, and Marvin Lewis has been on the Bengals as the head coach for 10+ years. Regardless of these many many shortcomings, when it comes to the regular season I see the Bengals coming out on top with their most recent core of guys. They have the best WR core in the division, best duo of RBs in the division, and probably the best defense in the division. The QB position is the only questionable factor, but Andy Dalton is not a bad QB at all. He is serviceable despite what many in social media will tell you. They do not have an easy schedule, but regular season I believe in them. I have the Bengals going 11-5, winning the division, and going down in the first round just as they have so many other times.

NFL Divisional Round Preview

After a wild week in the Wildcard we’ve arrived to the Divisional Round. Within the Wildcard we saw the:

(4) Indianapolis Colts beat the (5) Cincinnati Bengals 26-10

(6) Baltimore Ravens beat the (3) Pittsburgh Steelers 30-17

(3) Dallas Cowboys beat the (6) Detroit Lions 24-20

(4) Carolina Panthers beat the (5) Arizona Cardinals 27-16

Here in the Divisional Round we have:

(6) Baltimore Ravens @ (1) New England Patriots

(4) Indianapolis Colts @ (2) Denver Broncos

(4) Carolina Panthers @ (1) Seattle Seahawks

(3) Dallas Cowboys @ (2) Green Bay Packers

Saturday 4:35 PM ET

raveeens Pats

(6) Baltimore Ravens vs (1) New England Patriots

Last week Baltimore dominated the Steelers. They were able to stifle the run game, rush the quarterback and make things tough on the receivers. Joe Flacco finished the game with 259 yards 2TDs and 0 interceptions while continuing to show us that he’s an elite quarterback. Despite Justin Forsett not having a great game the Ravens still won. If Forsett isn’t contributing this week things could get ugly.

The Patriots struggled the final two weeks of the season as they barely defeated the Jets and lost to the Bills. But even with the drop off in play to end the season New England was still a dominant team. They beat two division leaders, six teams above .500 and went 4-1 against the teams that made the playoffs.

In previous years the Baltimore Ravens have had the Patriots number. Brady is 1-2 against the Ravens, but a lot of that had to deal with presence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. In this specific math-up give me the Patriots over Baltimore 33-24. Gronk is healthy and they have alot of weapons in the backfield along with a defense that can lockup the Raven’s receiving core.

Saturday 8:15 PM ET

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(4) Carolina Panthers vs (1) Seattle Seahawks

Last week Carolina struggled early against Arizona, but turned it up later on in the 2nd half. Cam was solid (198 yards 2TDs 1int) as was the run game. Johnathan Stewart ran for 123 yards and had a TD. Carolina’s defense was able to force three turnovers which pretty much was the difference maker.

Seattle finished the season on roll and seem to be dominant once again. (Article about them here https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/they-are-back/.) The L.OB. is still hell to deal with and Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are dominating on the ground. But even with that success late the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys provided the blueprint on how to beat them.

Earlier this season these two teams met and the Panthers lost 13-9 having turned the ball over twice and fumbling the ball four times. Johnathan Stewart was solid but the turnovers killed them. This time give me the Panthers over Seattle 23-16. Seattle still struggles to score and the Panthers have hit their stride and the run game is dominant, which is an important asset to have when playing Seattle. FUN FACT: Superbowl Champs are 0-8 the following season in playoff games.

Sunday 1:05 PM ET

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(3) Dallas Cowboys vs (2) Green Bay Packers

Last week the Cowboys had a controversial rally against the Lions. In that specific game they got dominated in the trenches resulting in them being average in the passing attack and stagnant in the run game. Defensively they forced a few turnovers  and shut down Detroit’s offense in the 2nd half keeping the game close.

The Packers were a very dominate team at home as they went 8-0. A-Rod was a monster throwing over 20+ TDs and having 0ints at home. The Packers also average slightly over 40pts at home and went 3-2 against playoff teams. ever since the infamous R-E-L-A-X quote the Packers have gone 11-2.

This match up features a team that dominates on the road (Boys 8-0) and an undefeated home team. The Packers allow around 5.0 yards per carry. Cowboys running back Demarco Murray averaged about 5.0 ypc meaning he could be primed for a big game. With Rodgers’ torn calf being an issue the Cowboys will have an advantage if they can apply an ample amount of pressure. Give me the Cowboys over Packers 34-17. They’ll dominate on the ground, force a few turnovers and of course dominate the time of possession.

Sunday 4:40 PM ET

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(4) Indianapolis Colts vs (2) Denver Broncos

Last week the Colts beat an ailing Cincinnati team that played without key weapons who pose a threat in the passing game. Luck had an alright game throwing for 376 yards and 1TD. That game was more about how the Colts had a game where they actually rushed for over 100 yards.

The Broncos have been a decent team this season. Offensively they aren’t as good as last year’s team, but this year’s defense is much better. They went 8-3 against teams .500 and above. The downside of that is the fact they went 2-3 against playoff teams.

In week one of the season these two teams played and the Broncos were victorious. The Colts turned the ball over multiple times while the Broncos were nearly flawless. But even with that it was only a seven point game. Luck and Manning are 1-1 when playing each other but this time i’m giving the edge to Andrew Luck. If he can be efficient and not turn the ball over they’ll win this game. Give me Indy over Denver 38-34.

2015 Wildcard Preview and Prediction

After months and weeks of anticipation we’ve finally arrived to the playoffs where we have a clear cut view on who the 12 teams competing for the Superbowl are.

Within those 12 teams you have the:

(1) 12-4 NE Patriots

(2) 12-4 DEN Broncos

(3) 11-5 PIT Steelers

(4) 11-5 IND Colts

(5) 10-5-1 CIN Bengals

(6) 10-6 BAL Ravens representing the AFC

and the

(1) 12-4 SEA Seahawks

(2) 12-4 GB Packers

(3) 12-4 DAL Cowboys

(4) 7-8-1 CAR Panthers

(5) 11-5 ARI Cardinals

(6) 11-5 DET Lions representing the NFC.

Seattle, New England, Denver and Green Bay all get the week off (Top 2 teams in each conference) so that leaves us with eight teams playing this weekend.

Saturday 4:20 PM ET

Cards  cam

(5) Arizona Cardinals vs (4) Carolina Panthers 

Throughout the season both teams suffered a ton of injuries. Carolina’s injury woe wasn’t as severe as the Cardinals though. Arizona lost key players on the defensive line, in the secondary and in the line-backing core. On the offensive side of the ball the Cards lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer and starting running-back Andre Ellington. Hall of Fame bound receiver Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t been as productive either because of the injuries he’s been battling. Because of the offensive injuries Arizona has been having a tough time generating points.

This season Carolina has been in a funk just like it’s fellow NFC South counterparts. After having a stellar year last season Cam Newton has failed to deliver the same type of success due to the lack of weapons he has in his current arsenal. Despite injuries (distractions Hardy) to the defense and Cam having a somewhat down year the Panthers still managed to win their awful division. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin has shown that he can be a solid weapon and running back Johnathan Stewart has returned to a solid form, for now. They also have tight-end Greg Olsen playing at a high level.

Coming into this game the Cards have lost 4 of their last 6 games and managed to score over 17pts one time. They are on their 3rd-string quarterback and rank 13th in stopping the run and 29th in defending the pass. The Panthers are rolling right now having gone 4-0 in December. They rank 7th in rushing the football and 12th in passing. With Arizona pretty much being a team that relies on the defense to score Carolina should be able to dictate the flow of the game as long as Cam and co. don’t turn it over. The Panthers should win 16-9 with Cam getting playoff win #1.

Saturday 8:15 PM ET

ravens steelas

(6) Baltimore Ravens vs (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

The Ravens and Steelers both faced questions going into the season. The Steelers dealt with questions surrounding the defense as well as their running game. The Ravens had to deal with the never ending, traumatizing Ray Rice debacle. With Rice gone there was a void that needed to be filled in order for Baltimore to take the next step. Journeyman running-back, Justin Forsett, stepped into the starting role and complemented Joe Flacco to near perfection. With the addition of Steve Smith SR. and the arrival of Justin Forsett the Ravens offensive dynamic changed.

The Steelers at the beginning of the season were a model of inconsistency. Midway through the season that started to change. Led by the best receiver in football, Antonio Brown and the 2nd best running-back in Le’Veon Bell along with Ben Rothlisberger the Pittsburgh Steelers became a fun, yet rather scary team to watch. They would dominate on the ground as well as kill teams in the air. They went undefeated in December and are on a roll.

Heading into this match-up these division rivals split the season series with the home team winning each game. The Steelers are 4-1 since their Bye while the Ravens are 4-2. In this specific game the Steelers will be without Bell who was the 2nd leading rusher and will also have a limited Troy Polamalu in the secondary. Baltimore on the other hand is healthier and they’ll be getting star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata back to help man the middle. With Bell being out the onus falls on the shoulders of Big Ben. The Steerlers are 2nd in passing while the Ravens are 23rd in passing yards allowed. Big Ben could very well win this game but being one-dimensional could end up costing them. The Steelers will hand Joe Flacco his 1st Wilcard loss. Big Ben is is rolling right now and has more than enough offensive weapons in the passing game to beat Baltimore. Steelers win 34-27

Sunday 1:05 PM ET

Bengals colts trip

(5) Cincinnati Bengals vs (4) Indianapolis Colts

These were two teams that people thought would take the next step, especially the Colts. Andrew Luck was basically enshrined into the Hall Of The Fame without doing anything. Nevertheless the Colts won their porous division with little to no competition. En route to going 11-5 they got dominated by the likes of Pittsburgh, Dallas, Denver and New England. They went 4-5 against teams that are .500 and 2-4 against playoff teams. No resemblance of a running game and having only one stud receiver (TY Hilton) hurts them.

The Bengals started off the season on FIRE. After a few weeks they resembled a Superbowl team but quickly faltered after their Bye week. As of late they’ve been battling injuries that have plagued A.J. Green making the offense somewhat stagnant. Depending on the day Cincy can kill you with an aerial attack led by the likes Andy Dalton with Mouhammed Sanu and Green at his helm. Or they could gash you up on the ground with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. You just never know with them.

Going into Sunday’s game the Colts have won 5 of their last 6. They are the best passing team in football but are top 3 when it comes to turning the football over (Andrew Luck). The Bengals have been solid as of late but got shut out earlier in the year by the Colts, losing 27-0. This game will more than likely not feature AJ Green. Dalton doesn’t have a playoff win nor does head coach Marvin Lewis. Unless Cincy runs the ball over 40 times, AJ Green suits up or TY Hilton isn’t 100% I don’t see the Bengals misfortunes coming to an end. Colts win 45-13

Sunday 4:40 PM ET

lions Triplets

(6) Detroit Lions vs (3) Dallas Cowboys

Often sought out as the most talented teams in the NFC, the Lions and Cowboys always seemed to disappoint until this year. Going into the season many predicted this would be Lion’s quarterback Mathew Stafford’s break out year. They changed coaches and gave Stafford more help by bringing in Ex-Seahawks wide receiver, Golden Tate, to complement Megatron. The Lion’s exceeded a few expectations because of how they managed to win games without Megatron. Golden Tate had a career year and the Lion’s defense was arguably the best in the league.

The Cowboys have exceeded everyone’s expectations excluding their own. They’ve discovered a new identity as I stated here (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/the-new-dallas-cowboys/) and have improved defensively. They boast arguably the best quarterback of the season in one Tony Romo, the leading rusher in football, Demarco Murray and wide-receiver touchdown leader Dez Bryant. The Cowboys also own the best offensive line in football. The game is won in the trenches and the Cowboys dominate in that aspect.

Ever since the home loss to Philly, the Cowboys have been dominant. They’ve scored 40+ points in 3 of their last 4 games (38 in one game) and are rolling on all cylinders. Dallas also went 4-0 in December. Detroit won 4 of their last 5 and have been very stout defensively. Defensive tackles N.Suh (monster) and Nick Fairley should be good to go giving the defense a boost. The Boys are the 2nd best team running the ball while Detroit is #1 in stopping it. Flipping the script, the Lions are 6th when it comes to turning over the ball and the Cowboys are 2nd in forcing turnovers. The Cowboys will win 27-14.  Stafford just isn’t efficient enough to win and is prone to turn it over multiple times resulting in Dallas getting easy scoring opportunities.

Each game this weekend is compelling and should be competitive.

Comment below with who you think will win each game.

Follow on Twitter @RyanDFort & @FortonsportsInc

NFL Season Preview By Divisions

US                                

AFC

AFC West Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/afc-west-preview/)

AFC East Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/afc-east/)

AFC South Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/afc-south-preview/)

AFC North Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/afc-north-preview/)

NFC

NFC East Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/nfc-east/)

NFC West Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/nfc-west-preview/)

NFC South Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/nfc-south-preview/)

NFC North Preview: (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/nfc-north-preview/)

AFC North Preview

 

afc north

 

AFC North

A couple of years ago teams never wanted to face this division because this division was known for rough, punch you in the mouth, style of defenses. The teams leading those defenses have become old, star players have retired. Even with that this remains to be one of the most competitive divisions in football.

Cleveland Browns:
Nobody thought coming into this year that they would care about this team at all. But Cleveland as a city is becoming huge for media outlets with a certain NBA player and the most controversial guy in the NFL, Johnny Manziel.

I’m a Manziel guy. I believe he is going to do great thing in this league, but he did not win the starting job over the preseason. And he alone can’t turn a mediocre team into the best team in the nation. The Browns lost a monster receiver in Josh Gordon due to use of marijuana, (If you want an opinion on that another writer is planning on giving you one.) and their starting RB is Ben Tate… They still have Jordan Cameron who I believe will become a ridiculously talented elite TE in the future, but outside of that there is a lot to be desired of this offense.

They grabbed Miles Austin in the offseason who had one good year and as of late seemed to find the perfect time to run horrible routes for the Cowboys so I don’t have much faith in him. It doesn’t matter who the starter is whether it’s Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, there simply is not enough talent on this offense.

Now the defense will be able to pick up a lot slack from the offense. Joe Haden is a top 5 CB no doubt about it. Most WRs will have a very hard time getting open on this guy. They have a good front 7 as well, but outside of Haden they don’t have another elite guy on that side of the ball. They won’t be able to beat good teams with just their defense. At the end of the year the Cleveland Browns will finish 5-11 regardless of if Manziel takes over at some point.

Baltimore Ravens:
To think that they just won a Super Bowl 2 years ago is crazy. Problem from that is that they’ve lost almost all of their veterans to retirements, trades, or free agency. Then there is the huge controversy surrounding Ray Rice. This team is all out of sorts. There was some crazy stat I saw the other day like 1 out of every 5 players on the Ravens has been arrested. That is beyond outrageous. So distractions are heavy at this point.

Joe Flacco had an average year at best last year, and it does not seem like it’s going to be different if the preseason correlates to anything in the regular season. They have Torrey Smith who will continue to be a deep threat and Dennis Pitta who is a solid TE. The Ravens acquired Steve Smith from the Panthers this past off-season, but he has been on his downward slope for a couple of years now.

On defense Terrell Suggs was and will continue to be a monster on defense, Haloti Ngata is impossible to block and they still have a solid CB Ladarius Webb. That alone though cannot overcome the off field issues and other deficiencies on both sides of the ball. This year the Ravens will end their year 7-9 and 3rd in the division.

Pittsburgh Steelers:
Just barely missing the playoffs last year behind the Chargers, the Steelers will be looking for redemption this year. Last year Antonio Brown was a top 5 WR for receiving yards and receptions. Big Ben and Brown have chemistry and I expect that to continue this year. Le’Veon Bell had injury issues his rookie year so the Steelers made a great pickup for this year picking up former Patriot LeGarrette Blount. The offense will be able to do what they were doing near the end of last season and make plays when they need them.

On the defensive side I’m worried though. It seems like the Steelers are looking for the guy farthest away from the ball to make every single play. Troy Polamalu is getting older and cannot continue to do everything on defense for this team. Consistency will hurt this team again this year and it will be their downfall. I have the Steelers going 8-8 and missing the Playoffs again.

Cincinnati Bengals:
The Bengals made it to the playoffs last year but lost to the San Diego Chargers in the first round. By default they should win this division as they are light years above these other teams in pure talent.

I’m a strong critic of head coach Marvin Lewis as he has coached this team for 10+ years without a SINGLE playoff victory. It has is now beyond ridiculous. I do not understand how this man still has a head coaching job in the NFL, much less the same team for this long.

The players are supremely talented here. Andy Dalton falls under the radar too much because of his lack of holding onto the ball, but his numbers are ridiculous only comparison being Peyton Manning in his first few years in the league. AJ Green is a top 3 WR, not up for debate. Giovani Bernard had a solid rookie year. Marvin Jones had four touchdowns in a SINGLE game. They have a solid TE duo with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert and a strong line. That was just the offense I gave you.

On defense they have Carlos Dunlap breaking in for sacks, Geno Atkins is right next to Suh as best DT in the league, Leon Hall at corner and I could go on and on. This team is loaded with talent. They have yet to reach their full potential due to a coach that should not have a head coaching job. They will undoubtedly win this division going 11-5 taking the division and making the Playoffs.

afc north game

AFC South Preview: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-iM)

AFC East Preview: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-iw)

AFC West Preview:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-iB)

De’Shawn Hornback