Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Best and Worst of the NFL

by Justin Rasile

Derek challenged me to come up with a different kind of write up for the NFL section. I have decided to go with a Top 3 and Bottom 3 list. This list will comprise of the best and worst three teams but instead of telling you why they are the best or west, I am going to tell you what the three best teams have to do to continue to be the best and what the three worst teams have to do to get out of the cellar. Here it goes!

Best 3

Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): Remember the old saying "Defense wins championships"? The Bengals are proving that true. They have allowed a total of 33 points through the first three games. Despite arguably Cincinnati's best defensive player Vontaze Burfict missing most of the last two games, the team has not missed a beat. This team needs to continue to play solid defense and they will have success. They have a very early bye week this upcoming week and that should help some of those dinged up players to recover and come back healthy. Andy Dalton has to continue playing mistake free football. He needs to get the ball to his big time playmaker in AJ Green and hand the ball off to Giovanni Bernard. With this team playing the way it is, they could be one to watch in the AFC as the only real threat to Denver.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-0): Chip Kelly's offense looks unstoppable. They have scored a total of 98 points in the first three games this year, the majority of those points coming in the second half. Nick Foles took some really good licks this past week and hopefully he is well enough going into this week as he faces another bruising defense in San Francisco. But I trust Kelly's game plans: he just needs to stop having his toughest practices of the week the day before the game or else he may begin to lose the locker room. The offensive line is going to be an issue for this team going forward. Lane Johnson is still suspended, Evan Mathis is out for a few more weeks, Jason Kelce is gone for six to eight weeks, and some of the other back ups have been banged up as well. If this team wants to continue to win, they need to keep Foles upright and healthy.

Arizona Cardinals (3-0): Say what you want but this team has won all three of their games and is sitting first in that vaunted NFC West. They play great defense and have won with their backup quarterback and without the defensive monster in Darnell Dockett. They have a tough stretch of the schedule as they play the Broncos, Redskins, and the Eagles in the next four weeks. But can you think of any coach that is more underrated than Bruce Arians? He is 22-9 over the past three seasons (including his fill in for Chuck Pagano in Indy), and has taken each of his teams to the playoffs. Running the ball and stopping the run could prove to be a recipe for success this season as long as Drew Stanton or Carson Palmer continues to play mistake free football. This team will be a force to be reckoned with.

Worst 3

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3): Finally. The switch to Blake Bortles has been made and now the Jaguars can move on and try to take the team in the new direction that has been promised to them. Jacksonville has been the laughing stock of the league for quite some time now (I would know) but Bortles was a shining bright spot in the preseason and proved that he will be the best quarterback going forward. This team already made the right move by placing the anemic Chad Henne as backup. They also made some defensive adjustments by benching safety Winston Guy for Josh Evans and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds for JT Thomas. They play San Diego this week and while that is a difficult match up for the winless Jags, there may just be a nice, little spark with the new regime of personnel moving in.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3): That beat down Tampa Bay just received by Atlanta may be a clear indicator of just how bad this team may be. Matt Ryan and the flyin' Falcons did whatever they wanted to do. The Bucs defense, despite having some former Pro Bowlers on it, looked horrendous. Yes it's true that they were missing three quarters of their defensive line and Gerald McCoy is a big part of what they are going to do moving forward, so they aren't THAT bad but Lovie Smith has a lot of work cut out for him. The Bucs offense is completely inept with Josh McCown leading the helm. The team will not grow with a 35 year old journeyman who succeeded in an offense because of three mammoth receivers. They need to start Mike Glennon to see if he is the quarterback that they will be moving forward with. They have a pretty stacked receiving core for the future with Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins but the team needs to come together under Lovie to see what they can actually do. 

Oakland Raiders (0-3): What do you really expect from this team? The head coach looks lost most of the time, the free agent signings don't seem to be panning out as they had hoped, and they are starting a rookie quarterback with not much of a supporting cast. This team had their most hated rivals beat this past week and kept giving the Patriots more and more opportunities to come back. To get out of the basement of the league, this team may need to turn to assistant coach Tony Sparano for a quick turnaround. No way this team makes the playoffs, but at least Sparano could add some stability to a routinely unstable team.

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