The moment you have been waiting for all year is finally here: it’s football season! Diehard fans and fantasy fanatics, as you await kick off, take a look at our break down of the top 5 teams favored to contend for a Super Bowl this season (in no particular order).
The Panthers made it look easy last season. They lost only one game during the regular season, and Cam Newton became the coveted star quarterback Panther fans hoped he would. Many people also seem to forget they were missing their No. 1 receiver in Kelvin Benjamin the entire season due to an injury. The 6-foot-5 Benjamin broke out during his rookie campaign in 2014, with 73 catches for over 1000 yards and nine touchdowns. With a healthy Benjamin joining a 15-1 team from last season that didn’t lose many players to free agency, the odds for another strong season in Carolina are high.
Year in and year out, the Seahawks boast one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Add that to one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the league in Russell Wilson, an aggressive but successful coach in Pete Carroll, and one of the toughest home venues to play at in the league, and you have a recipe for success. If the young running backs can step up to fill the void of the loss of Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson continues to improve his young receiving core, expect the Seahawks to once again be playing ball late in the postseason.
Despite continuing to get older offensively, with Carson Palmer turning 37 in December and Larry Fitzgerald recently turning 33, the Cardinals continue to be a powerhouse in the NFC. Boasting one of the quickest and hardest hitting defenses, led by safety Tyrann Mathieu, and an offense that likes to score via the big play, the Cardinals were an easy pick. As long as Palmer can stay healthy and gets the ball to his strong receiving core—including Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd—as well as his young and talented running back, David Johnson, you can pencil in the Cardinals as a contender once again.
New England Patriots
Yes, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. But life will go on in New England as long as Bill Belichick is at the helm, and that’s for sure. The Patriots defensive and offensive lines once again are rock solid, and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman continue to put up big numbers year after year as pesky slot receivers for Brady to throw to. Along with this, If Rob Gronkowski can avoid injury for another season, he is just another huge asset for Brady on offense. Look at it how you want, but the Patriots haven’t won less than 12 regular-season games in seven years, so don’t expect that to change this year with the AFC wide-open.
Green Bay Packers
One of the best pitch-and-catch combinations in football, Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers, will be reunited in 2016 after Nelson tore his ACL in 2015. The injury allowed defenses to focus on the rest of the Packers’ targets and slow Rodgers and the passing attack down. With a healthy Nelson back as a No. 1 receiver, and a slimmed down Eddie Lacy in the backfield, Rodgers should have no shortage of weapons. In addition to the offense, the defense also looks poised to have a strong season as Clay Matthews moves back to his natural outside linebacker position with more opportunities to rush the quarterback. To add on to the other positives, a young defensive secondary returning with more experience should only help put the Packers in position for a playoff run once again.
As the 2016 season gets underway, there is no way to truly know what will happen. Maybe a sleeper team steps up and makes a playoff run, or maybe the teams you expect to be there in the end will be there after all. No matter who you are cheering for this season, make sure to rep them the right way all season long with our biggest and best selection of fan gear at eastbay.com.
Though the 2012 NFL season is still fresh, the return of the regular referees stole Week 4 headlines after an agreement was reached last Wednesday. Following the Monday Night debacle in Green Bay last week, Commissioner Goodell, the league’s owners and officials worked out a new deal in time for Thursday’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Needless to say, players, coaches and fans were happy to see the real deal back on the field.
While refs may not be perfect, the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals entered the weekend with unblemished records and were hopeful that they’d stay that way. The Texans had a relatively easy time accomplishing that feat, but it came down to the final ticks for the Falcons and Cardinals.
With another stifling defensive performance, Houston rolled over the division rival Tennessee Titans 38-14. Quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns, while Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson returned interceptions for touchdowns to help the Texans ease their way into a 4-0 start.
How do you overcome three Cam Newton touchdowns and a late-game deficit? Try Matt Ryan, Roddy White and a little perseverance. Down 28-27 with less than two minutes to play, the Falcons forced a running Newton to fumble on 3rd and 2, preventing him from picking up a game-clinching first down. Then, pinned back at his own 1-yard line, Ryan led a signature drive that left the Cats stunned. The key play on the drive was a 59-yard bomb to White, which help set Atlanta up for a game-winning 40-yard Matt Bryant field goal. Ryan completed 25 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were caught by Roddy.
Lastly, there were the unpredictable Cardinals, who showed the fight of a team with playoff aspirations on Sunday. Down 13-0 at halftime, the Birds rallied in the second half to force overtime. In the extra frame, Jay Feeley booted a 46-yarder to keep Arizona perfect. Kevin Kolb threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, while Andre Roberts continued to turn heads with a 118-yard, two touchdown reception day.
In other Week 4 games, the New England Patriots scored 45 second half points to comeback and blast the Buffalo Bills 52-28; Minnesota’s special teams proved to be the difference in a 20-13 upset victory over the Detroit Lions; San Francisco may have ushered in a new era of Tebowmania by blanking the New York Jets 34-0; Peyton Manning got back on track by guiding the Broncos past the rival Oakland Raiders 37-6; Green Bay shook off another unfortunate ref call to top the winless New Orleans Saints 28-27; RG3 and Billy Cundiff helped the Washington Redskins hold off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-22; Lawrence Tynes missed a late field goal in a 19-17 Giants loss to the Philadelphia Eagles; and the Dallas Cowboys’ woes continued with an ugly 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears last night.
Want to know what football cleats were players were wearing in this action packed week of football? Find out in today’s NFL Watch.
Until Sunday, the New England Patriots had won every home opener since 2001. However, the upset-minded Arizona Cardinals had different plans, using a spirited defensive effort to hold off Tom Brady and company for the NFL’s most stunning weekend result.
Arizona’s offense wasn’t electric, but quarterback Kevin Kolb was able to limit mistakes and help the Cardinals capitalize on scoring opportunities. Kolb completed just 15 of his 27 passes, but threw a touchdown and no picks on the day. On the other hand, Brady did throw a pick that led to a Jay Feely field goal. If you’re keeping score at home, that was the difference in the game.
Not to go unnoticed was Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves blocking a Zoltan Mesko punt in the third quarter to set the Birds up on the Pats’ 2-yard line. Kolb sealed the deal with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Roberts.
There was still high drama in this game, as we’ve come to expect from the Patriots over the years. Down by 8 with a little less than six minutes left to play, Brady led New England on an 11-play, 82-yard scoring drive after connecting with tight end Rob Gronkowski. However, the two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the Patriots were forced to kick off and pray.
Their prayers were answered when Cardinals running back Ryan Williams fumbled as Arizona attempted to run down the clock. Vince Wilfork recovered and the Patriots had possession on the Cardinals’ 30. After running a couple of plays, New England set up Stephen Gostkowski for a game-winning 42-yard field goal attempt, which he pushed far to the left. The Cardinals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and left fans at Foxborough stunned.
In other Week 2 action, the Packers got one in the “W” column after besting the Chicago Bears on Thursday; Cam and the Carolina Panthers sent the Saints to 2-0 with their surprising 35-27 home victory; Andrew Luck recorded his first victory as a pro after throwing a pair of touchdown passes in a 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings; Eli continued his clutch ways, lifting the New York Giants to a 41-34 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; the Seattle Seahawks had an easy go at it with a 27-7 beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys; Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers got a little revenge on Tim Tebow after topping the New York Jets 27-10; San Francisco continued to look impressive after pulling out a 27-19 win against the Detroit Lions; and the Atlanta Falcons forced Peyton Manning to throw three first quarter interceptions in a quality 27-21 Monday night victory over the Denver Broncos.
What kind of football cleats hit the turf in these games? You can find out below in this week’s NFL Watch.
NFL Player of the Week honors have had a nice two-week stay in Foxborough for the last two weeks, and honestly was close to staying there for a third. However, we’re going to move somewhere a little warmer this week and salute a member of the Arizona Cardinals. After all, how often is it that you get to name a kicker NFL Player of the Week? That’s the case with Cardinals placekicker Jay Feely. Let’s not mistake this for some quirky recognition though. Feely had the game of his life and an outing for the record books. In a 43-13 win over the Denver Broncos, Feely successfully connected on 5 field goals, converted 4 extra point attempts and even ran for a touchdown. That is why he is the Week 14 NFL Player of the Week.
Feely’s Sunday performance was noteworthy for several reasons. He became the first kicker in 40 years to run for a touchdown and kick 5 field goals in the same game. The 5 field goals also matched Feely’s career high. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that scored 22 uninterrupted points, the most since Hall of Famer Paul Hornung scored 24-straight in 1961. Hornung, who played running back and kicker for the Green Bay Packers, ran for three touchdowns and kicked the extra point for each one. Feely’s 22 were a little more unlikely because he’s strictly a kicker. Within the streak he kicked field goals of 36 and 48 yards, then ran for a 5-yard touchdown on a fake field goal, converted the extra point and finished it off with field goals from 55, 23 and 49 yards. After Feely’s fifth field goal in the 4th quarter, Feely had outscored the Broncos 22-3. How often will we see a performance like this from a kicker?
Like many of us, dreams of playing the game we love on the professional level are what motivate us to play the game. From an early age we grab the football every Sunday before, after, and even during halftime of the game to run outside and get a few tosses in. The passion for the game continued into the night where flipping through the Eastbay catalogs checking out the latest gear dreaming of suiting up.
Whether you’re a high school athlete chasing those dreams, a college player in the midst of the delicate balancing act between chasing a degree and moving on to play professionally, or even an athlete that has moved on to other dreams and goals, the story of Max Hall is an inspiring one.
Max is one of those athletes like all of us, that remember flipping through Eastbay catalogs in his younger years. His passion for football began in his hometown of Mesa Arizona. After an impressive high school career that included an undefeated season with a state title and Most Valuable Player award, Hall moved on to college, originally at Arizona State, and then transferring to BYU. Max’s path wasn’t exactly easy however. Despite an impressive career at BYU that makes it look easy, Hall had to push through adversity all along the way.
Although 15 quarterbacks were chosen in the 2010 NFL Draft, Hall was not one of them. However, his work at the NFL Combine did not go unnoticed as he signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals. Hall’s determination hasn’t faltered and even though the Cardinals at one point in the pre-season had four or five quarterbacks fighting for a spot on the team, his resolve has finally started to really pay off.
After a rough introduction to the NFL in week 2 where Max threw an interception in one of his first opportunities on the field, Hall went back to his role as a backup. Sitting the bench through week 3 against the Raiders, Max could have easily given up countless times but opportunity knocked once again in week 4 as Max came off the bench to throw for 82 yards on 8-for-14 passing.
This past Sunday, Max Hall got his first start in the NFL. Unfortunately it came against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. Well, fortunately for Hall, he’s dealt with adversity his entire football career and was prepared to battle the defending champs. Hall went 17-for-27 throwing for a 168 yards fighting through tough hits and even some slip ups eventually leading the Cardinals to a 30-20 victory, putting the final stamp on his arrival to the NFL.
Whether Max’s journey will continue on to the next level again and lead the NFC West leading Cardinals to the playoffs remains to be seen, but it’s nice to know it started out like most of ours did, flipping through Eastbay catalogs as a youngster.