Friday, March 13, 2015

Analyzing the NFL's Trades: Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks

After much speculation the last few months, the NFL's annual free agency unleashed a surprising and crazy period of teams acquiring new players.  Before we discuss individual signings, we need to analyze the three trades that occurred on March 10.

     The most surprising of these trades was between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks traded Max Unger (their starting center) and the 31st selection in the draft for New Orleans' Jimmy Graham (their starting tight end) and a fourth round selection in the draft. This trade makes sense from both perspectives: the Seahawks gain an excellent offensive player who can dramatically improve the Seahawks' passing attack and the Saints add a highly regarded offensive lineman and a first round selection.
     While the Seahawks will lose their 31st selection in the draft, their more drastic loss is losing Max Unger.  While the Seahawks have made the Super Bowl for the last two years in a row (winning one and losing the other), their offensive line has always been one of the weaker links on an otherwise excellent team.  By losing one of their only stalwarts on the offensive line, the Seahawks may have trouble in protecting Russell Wilson this coming season. While we cannot discount the addition of Graham to the Seahawks' offense, the Seahawks need to find ways to bolster their offensive line this offseason.
     While the Seahawks now have a weak link at the offensive line, the New Orleans Saints have lost their star tight end Jimmy Graham.  However, the Saints have two opportunities to improve and maintain their offensive output that they had enjoyed with Jimmy Graham. With two first round draft selections, the Saints can add another weapon to the offense to replace Graham and continue to improve their offensive line.  The Saints are keeping Mark Ingram and might also draft another running back to improve their offense.  This trade gives the Saints some flexibility with this upcoming draft, which could help to rebuild their foundation for the future.
     Ultimately, this trade is very beneficial for both teams: the Saints have an opportunity to rebuild their team with two first round draft selections and a solid center while the Seahawks gain a star tight end that can help Russell Wilson continue to improve as a quarterback.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NFL Playoffs: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

For the first game of the divisional round of the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens are heading to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots.  While these two have met several times in the postseason (most notably the 2011 and 2012 AFC Championship games), this matchup promises to be another memorable postseason duel.

After a Monday Night Football disaster against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots looked like a shell of the dominating team they have been for over the last decade.  Their offense was sputtering and their defense was mediocre at best.  At that time, it appeared that the Patriots' run as one of the NFL's best teams was over.   Everything changed after that game: the Patriots finished their season 12-4, earned the top seed in the AFC's playoffs, and now will face the Baltimore Ravens in a highly anticipated duel in Gillette Stadium this Saturday.  An older, experienced Tom Brady (now 37 years old) and a revamped defense led by offseason acquisition Darrelle Revis make the Patriots one of the most dangerous teams to face in the postseason.  We should also consider a couple of players that may have some elite performances against the Ravens this Sunday: Jonas Gray and Jamie Collins are two players to watch out for in this game.

Like the Patriots, the Ravens have been playing some great football as of late, coming off of an extremely impressive victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Joe Flacco, quarterback of the Ravens, has been key in the Ravens' postseason success and is 2-1 in his last three postseason games against the Patriots.  I think Joe Flacco is just like Eli Manning: when he is in the postseason, he plays excellent football but struggles to be a consistent quarterback in the regular season.  However, Flacco does not have a consistent defense to support him in this one: the Ravens' secondary had a tough game against the Steelers and have lost many players to injury.  Two players on the defensive side of the ball might make a huge difference in this one: Will Hill and C.J Mosley, two defensive players that might be key to stopping the Patriots' offense.

While I do think the Ravens will play well, the Patriots are the more talented team and enjoy home-field advantage in this one.  I'm going with the Patriots.  27-23 New England.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

NFL Playoffs: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

     As part of our prognostications for the postseason, The Rishab Report will be covering each game of the NFL's playoffs.  Here is our prediction for the second game of Wild Card Weekend between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.  
     Having one of the NFL’s best rivalries in a playoff setting makes this game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers extremely exciting.  Both of these teams won this matchup when playing at home in a convincing fashion.  Additionally, both the Ravens and the Steelers were not in the playoffs last year and have both made strides this year that set them apart from other teams in the AFC.
    To grasp and understand the key matchups in this game, we have to consider the power of the Steelers’ offense, which has helped this team return to the postseason after two years of 8-8 records.  Furthermore, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had an MVP like season with the help of LeVeon Bell in the running game and Antonio Brown in the passing game. Additionally, rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant has given the Steelers another weapon in the offense after losing Emmanuel Sanders to the Broncos in free agency.  These four offensive playmakers have been crucial in the Steelers’ strong finish and will be essential if the Steelers are to make a Super Bowl run.   While the Steelers have historically predicated themselves on a physical and turnover-causing defense, this year their offense has carried them to many victories.  My concern for the Steelers in his game is LeVeon Bell.  The recent injury he suffered in the final game of the regular season against the Bengals has made the Steelers rule him out for this game.  Because Bell is used in both the passing and rushing games, Ben Roethlisberger will have to shoulder more of the responsibility in the offense.  Last year, the four teams that made it to the final four (49ers, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks) relied heavily on their running games to advance in the postseason.  Because the Steelers have a questionable backfield behind Bell (Ben Tate, Dri Archer), I have some concerns with the Steelers against a more physical opponent. 
     Like the Steelers, the Ravens have to be excited about returning to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year.  With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as the NFL’s leading sack duo, the Ravens have the physicality to scare any of the remaining teams left in the postseason.  Additionally, Haloti Ngata returns from a four game suspension and should give the Ravens an additional force in the pass rush.  While the Ravens won’t have a difficult time pressuring Roethlisberger, they will have a difficult time defending in the secondary because many of their impact players have been lost to injuries.  The real key for the Ravens is to frame their offense on a “run first” mentality instead of giving the reigns of the game to mercurial quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been extremely inconsistent this season so far.  If the Ravens can rely on Justin Forsett and their rushing attack, then they will be able to slow down the Steelers’ spectacular offense and give their defense some rest. 
            I think the Steelers will rely on their home-field advantage and the arm of Ben Roethlisberger to win their first playoff game since the 2010 NFL postseason.  While I think the Ravens can make this game interesting, I think the Steelers come away with a victory in the fourth quarter.  31-23 Pittsburgh. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

As part of our prognostications for the postseason, The Rishab Report will be covering each game of the NFL's playoffs.  Here is our prediction for the first matchup of Wild Card Weekend.  

     The last time the NFL had a playoff team with a record under .500 was in 2010 when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record.  This year, the Carolina Panthers “earn” that status after finishing 7-8-1 in the awful NFC South.  With Cam Newton leading his team to a surprising division crown, the Panthers have the opportunity to do what the 2010 Seahawks team did: win a playoff game.
      While they won the NFC South last year, the Panthers lost a playoff game that they simply did not look ready for against the 49ers.  At that time the Panthers lacked physicality on the offensive side of the ball, which resulted in the 49ers dominating Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.  Unfortunately for Newton and the Panthers, the Cardinals are from the same rugged and physical NFC West and have one of the NFL’s best rush defenses.  However, Cam Newton can win this game through the air: the Cardinals are susceptible to strong quarterback performance and have lost crucial games this season to quarterbacks that can threaten the Cardinals through the air (Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan).
     Thus, the real key to the Panthers’ chances game is to see how Cam Newton connects with his receivers and tight ends, specifically Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.  While Benjamin is a rookie, he has shown substantial rapport and promise with Newton this season.  Olsen is a reliable target for the Panthers, having surpassed 1000 receiving yards this season.  If Newton can connect with his offensive teammates and deliver a strong passing performance, he will likely win his first playoff game in the NFL. 
     Although they are playing on the road in this game, the Arizona Cardinals are a substantial threat to any team in the NFC playoffs.  With an aggressive defense, coordinated by Todd Bowles, the Cardinals have an opportunity to outplay the Panthers in the trenches and make life miserable for Newton.  Additionally, they also have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown.  However, one can easily admit that it will be hard to see Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals’ third string quarterback, win a road playoff game against a team that has played very well the last four weeks.  The main problem that no one is really discussing is the Cardinals lack of a consistent run game after Andre Ellington’s injury.  Without a consistent run game, Lindley will be forced to make some difficult decisions that could cost his team the game. 
     While the Cardinals will likely give Cam Newton a very difficult time, I don’t trust Ryan Lindley to win this game: he doesn’t have a reliable run game and Cam Newton has been crucial in helping the Panthers win the NFC South.  20-12 Carolina. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

NFL Picks Week 16: Saturday Night Football

As the NFL's regular season comes to an end, making the playoffs becomes more important.  Today, we have two fantastic games with a classic NFC East divisional rivalry and an exciting matchup between two teams from the West.  Joining me in previewing and prognosticating this game will be my associate Justin Loughlin

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins
Rishab- As a spectator of the Giants/Redskins game last week, I was fairly impressed by Robert Griffin III in the first half.  He was fairly accurate and made some throws that reminded me of his rookie year.  However, I was extremely disappointed in his offensive line, who allowed the Giants defense to have a field day and pummel Griffin in the second half.  While I have always believed that the Eagles are pretenders in the NFC, their pass rush will likely dominate the Redskins and give Robert Griffin III a very difficult time.  I think we'll have a mid-scoring game but the Eagles will run away with it in the fourth quarter.  27-17 Philadelphia.

Justin- With Chip Kelly's offense once again rolling in high fashion, the Eagles steamroll the Redskins.  42-14 Philadelphia.

San Diego Chargers @ San Francisco 49ers 
Rishab- To say I've been disappointed with the 49ers this season is a blatant understatement. Despite sitting at .500, their offense has been the worst in the league. After basically giving up on their head coach, the 49ers may not win another game this season and don't look like the consistent team that they have been for the last three years.  I think the Chargers revive their playoff hopes with a slim win over the 49ers.  20-13 San Diego.

Justin- In a must win game for San Diego, Phillip Rivers leads the Chargers in a come from behind victory over the 49ers, topping them 28-24.

Monday, December 15, 2014

NFL Picks Week 15: New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears

The New Orleans Saints, who are trying to win an ugly NFC South, take on the Chicago Bears on one of the last Monday Night Football games of the year.  Joining me in previewing and prognosticating this game will be my associates Michael Mufson and Justin Loughlin.  

New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears
Rishab- With a win on the road over the Bears, the Saints would regain the lead in the awful division that is the NFC South.  Winning this game is imperative for the Saints to regain some momentum before possibly entering the NFC's playoffs as an underdog.  The Chicago Bears really don't have much to play for after they were eliminated from playoff contention.  Without Brandon Marshall, the Bears don't have a good chance at winning this one.  24-13 New Orleans.

Justin- The Bears sneak out a win against the Saints even with a Jay Cutler interception.  21-18 Chicago.  

Michael- The loss of Brandon Marshall kills the Bears in a season already in turmoil.  The Saints need to keep pace with the Panthers and Falcons, their two final opponents after defeating Chicago. New Orleans 31-21.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

NFL Picks Week 15: Sunday Predictions

As we enter the final three weeks NFL's regular season, some teams are in the midst of an intense playoff chase for division titles and wildcard spots while others are preparing for the 2015 NFL Draft to retool their rosters.  While some games count more than others, it is important to consider the ramifications for each team as we approach the playoffs.  With that in mind, we begin our predictions for Week 15.

Green Bay Packers @ Buffalo Bills
While the Bills have been very formidable this year, they lack a quarterback that can get them to the playoffs and win games against great teams.  Right now, the Packers are one of those great teams that has a quarterback who has already won a Super Bowl: Aaron Rodgers.  While I do think this game will be close, Rodgers and the Packers will win on the road.  26-20 Green Bay.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
Even without Cam Newton, the Panthers should still be favored to beat the lowly Bucs at home.  I think Kelvin Benjamin has a huge game and the Panthers win by a convincing margin.  27-14 Carolina.

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
Here, like the Bills/Packers game, we have two franchises that are on opposite ends of the quarterback spectrum.  While the Colts will likely be set for years with Andrew Luck, the Texans are hoping to find their future in the upcoming draft.  While the Texans have been better than expected, I anticipate Andrew Luck having a great game at home.  31-20 Indianapolis.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore Ravens
While the Jaguars continue to remain with the AFC's worst teams, the Ravens are back in the playoff picture in the AFC North.  Without an offensive line that can protect Blake Bortles, I don't see the Jaguars having a chance in this game.  I'm going with the Ravens.  40-17 Baltimore.

Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Here is my upset pick of the week: I'm going with the Oakland Raiders to beat the Chiefs on the road. After beating the 49ers, Derek Carr continues to play well against a questionable defense and leads his team to another surprising victory.  20-17 Oakland.

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
This is one of the few divisional games that has no implications on the playoff picture.  However, I would expect Eli Manning and the Giants to win a home game against the Redskins, who do not have a clear answer at quarterback.  While I have supported Griffin in the past, the answer to Washington's quarterback problem may not currently be on the roster.  I'm going with the Giants in this one.  35-13 New York.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Atlanta Falcons
I don't know what to think of the Steelers anymore: they beat some of the NFL's best but lose to some of the NFL's worst.  However, the Falcons are one of those middling teams that might represent the NFC South in the upcoming playoffs.  Because the Steelers need another crucial win on the road to solidify their chances of winning the division, I'm picking them.  31-27 Steelers.

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
After losing to the Ravens at home last week, the Dolphins are in real danger of losing their slim playoff hopes.  The Patriots, who are coming off of an impressive victory on Sunday Night Football, are looking to win their division with a win over the Dolphins.  I think Tom Brady and his Patriots win the AFC East easily.  38-20 New England.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
Today marks the beginning of the Johnny Football era in Cleveland with first round draft selection Johnny Manziel starting his first game of the season.  While I think the Bengals will make this game close, I'm picking the Browns to win.  20-16 Cleveland.

New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans
We should label this game as the battle for the first overall pick: both of these teams have been awful and have very few bright spots to look for this season.  However, the Jets actually showed up in Minnesota and I think they will win on the road here.  13-10 New York.

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers
The Broncos have changed their offensive schemes to adjust to Peyton Manning's slump and face a difficult rematch with the Chargers who need a win here to revive their playoff hopes.   I'm going with San Diego.  34-27 San Diego.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
When I looked at this matchup before the season began, I assumed that that this would be the game that would decide the NFC West.  Instead, the 49ers are on the brink of losing their playoff hopes and the Seahawks are looking to win the NFC West against the shaky Cardinals next week.  While I think this will be closer, the Seahawks still win.  20-13 Seattle.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
While Teddy Bridgewater has clearly been the best rookie quarterback, he faces an uphill climb against the Lions.  I think Matthew Stafford gives the Lions the offensive firepower they need to make the playoffs.   I'm going with the Lions in this one.  28-21 Detroit.

We'll post our Sunday Night predictions later in the afternoon.