Category Archives: NFL playoffs 2014

Draft Profile: Aaron Murray: What Has To Be Said.

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By Chris Schisler

Aaron Murray seems to be the forgotten quarterback of the 2014 QB crop. The 6’1” 210 pound QB from Georgia merits a first round grade. He is arguably the most prolific SEC quarterback since Peyton Manning attended Tennessee; Murray is the SEC leader in passing yards and touchdowns. Another thing in Murray’s corner is that he has more experience than any other quarterback in this draft class as a 4 year starter in college’s most prolific football conference. Murray is thought of as a 3rd or 4th round talent and it really makes me scratch my head. If I was looking for a franchise quarterback, I would have to consider the huge presence Aaron Murray has under center.

Maybe I am crazy; I’m sure draft Twitter will jump over me like hyenas out for blood. I just can’t help but be a fan of Aaron Murray. In his freshman year he threw for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His sophomore year he threw for 3,149 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While that was a high number of interceptions, Murray still had a TD to INT ratio of 7 TD for every INT. 2012 was Aaron Murray’s biggest statistical season in which he threw for 3,893 yards, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The moral of this statistical talk is that Aaron Murray’s production on the football should speak for itself.

Murray is not a boom or bust player. The truth is I could see Blake Bortles and Derrick Carr as exactly that. Bortles was not even on most people’s radars until his UCF Knights beat Louisville halfway through the season. There is no doubt that Bortles has the physical tools but his value is on his potential not what he is right now. When I look at Derrick Carr I honestly fear he could be a Kyle Boller type player. Carr has a rocket arm and is a physical specimen at the quarterback position. That being said he played at the smaller stage of Fresno State. and he has not always been impressive when in the spotlight. This was evidenced by Carr and his Fresno State Bull Dogs getting shellacked by a USC team that got their coach fired during the season. Brian Billick fell in love with Kyle Boller the athlete from Cal (A big school, but the comparison still works). When Boller got to the NFL he was exposed as a train wreck of a quarterback. Derrick Carr has potential but he is far from a sure fire thing in the pros. You know exactly what you will get in Aaron Murray. Murray will be a good quarterback right away and eventually I believe he might be great.

The most impressive thing to me is that Aaron Murray has gotten better in every season of his collegiate career. Before his ACL injury 2013 was his most impressive seasons although his junior year was the statistical peak. Georgia’s offense seemed like a M.A.S.H. unit in 2013 with many injuries. Murray faced adversity and played at a high level. The consistent improvement each season shows that Murray is coachable. What I see in Aaron Murray is a guy who has been depended on as a leader to take the Georgia Bull Dogs through the SEC gauntlet for 4 years. In other words Murray has the intangibles to go along with his talent.

Murray has a strong arm and can make every NFL throw. Murray is mechanically sound, with good accuracy and anticipation. He has a very strong pocket presence. Like the best NFL quarterbacks he is great at stepping up into the pocket or rolling out to his right while remaining a passer, keeping his eyes downfield. The ability to extend the play and make something special happen is the most undersold element of his impressive skill set. Murray has a high football IQ and was as impressive as anybody in college football in the clutch moments of the game.

Murray is not perfect but I do think his flaws are overblown when people talk about his draft stock. Murray’s biggest flaw is that he tends to stare down receivers at times, a cardinal sin that leads to interceptions. Murray keeps his eyes downfield and throws some seemingly blind short passes. Murray will make some boneheaded throws. I once said about Murray that I never knew what to think about him. He can be so impressive and be on a complete tear and then make a frustrating mistake. There is a Brett Favre like quality to Murray who is best when he just lets it fly. Sometimes it is hard to root for Aaron Murray but it’s even harder not to.

This is a quarterback who is not a finished product and is more of project than some coaches want to take on. I would argue however that he has the highest floor other than Teddy Bridgewater and that his ceiling is very high. I see Aaron Murray as a first round talent but I seem to be in the minority in that opinion. Murray will likely go in the third round and he will be an absolute steal. The worst you’re going to get in Murray is an Andy Dalton. He may end up being a great quarterback. Say what you will about me because I said what needed to be heard. I have no problem putting my reputation on the line by saying that Murray is a stud QB prospect and the most underrated player in this draft class.

 

3 Huge Factors for The Big Game

The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are set to do battle in the 48th edition of the Super Bowl. The winner will be champions of the football world, the loser will cope with the bitterest defeat. By now everyone has broken down the matchup so much that Super Bowl coverage has largely become white noise. Here at Common Sense Football we want to bring attention to some major factors that could help decide the 2013-2014 NFL champions.

1.) How They Call The Game

The Broncos high octane passing attack and the Seahawks dominating secondary is the biggest match up in this game. The way the game is called by the officials will have a huge impact on the game. The Seahawks corners are very physical and play lots of tight man coverage. If the officials are very strict and call ticky-tack pass interference and holding penalties it will negate Seattle’s biggest strength. If the refs let them play and are more reserved with the flags it should be a fair and compelling battle in the secondary. These pass interference penalties are subjective. The most important thing is that the game is called consistently.

2.) Red Zone Scoring:

The Seahawks will slow Denver down dramatically but there is no stopping Peyton Manning. Seattle needs to be able to keep up with Denver’s historically high scoring offense. Touchdowns are the only way to do this. Seattle kept Drew Brees’s Saints around, in the divisional round, by settling for field goals. They got away with it against the Saints but won’t get past the Broncos with field goals.

3.) Weather

Weather is going to be a factor because it is in New Jersey. I kind of think the conditions have been overblown. It will be cold and windy but last time I checked Denver and Seattle are cold and windy often. Peyton Manning has struggled in severe cold; but we’re expecting temperatures in the 30s. Peyton will be fine.

Logic would say that in the case of snow Seattle would have the advantage. The Broncos need to throw the ball for big numbers to succeed, while the Seahawks build off their running game. Earlier this season we saw that snow can actually help the passing game. The Ravens and Vikings played a game in heavy snow, and pass rushers struggled. They could not change directions and struggled to maintain their footing. Snow may not be a drastic disadvantage for Denver.

The weather is a factor but it is one that both teams have to deal with. It is also something that neither team can control. Wind however could be a great advantage for Seattle because it makes it harder to throw the ball.

The Endless Debate: Who’s Better Manning or Brady

-Chris Schisler
There is possibly no debate more fun than picking between Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. In many respects it is a pointless argument. Choosing one does not discredit the other; both are top 5 quarterbacks of all time. People are also very decided on this issue. You’re either a Brady guy or a Manning guy, and that’s how you will always see it. This debate is however amongst the most entertaining conversations in football.

Peyton Manning was born to play quarterback. He is the son of beloved Saints quarterback Archie Manning & it did not take Peyton long to steal the spotlight. The Manning name is royalty in the game of football.Manning went to Tennessee to play his college football for the Volunteers. It was clear from the beginning that Manning was a special talent. In 1998 the Indianapolis Colts drafted him number 1 overall. Manning was supposed to be great and he managed to be even greater than expected.

Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick. At Michigan he was part of a two quarterback system. No one knew he would be an all-time great. Anyone who says they did is a liar. But when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury in the 2001 season, the Patriots had no choice but start Tom Brady. Behind a great New England team he won his first Super Bowl that season.

At this point, America was in love with Tom Brady. He was the tough underdog that everyone could root for. Out of practically nowhere he became one of the league’s biggest superstars.Brady would continue to have a tremendous amount of success. He won another 2 Super Bowls and his first 10 playoff games. Brady has made the Patriots a contender every season (except for 2008 when he was injured). On top of it all he married supermodel, Gisele Bundchen.The same person who was thought of as a tough hard working diamond in the rough now fights a troubling public image. Many people can’t relate to Brady and most of these people cone off as jealous.

There is a perception that Brady is a whiner and he is often called a pretty-boy diva. Some of Brady’s critics have a point but what man would not trade lives with Tom Brady for a day?

If you make it a popularity contest, Manning would likely win. Manning comes off as a cerebral student of the game. He comes off as funny and human. In short people can relate to Manning in a way they can’t with Brady. In actuality both quarterbacks are very cerebral and are great students of the game. Both quarterbacks are revered by their teammates and are hard workers. Manning and Brady are both extremely competitive.

These players are two of the last “Old School” pocket passers in the game of football. Mechanically however they are very different. Manning is more athletic. He will never look to run but he can roll out and keep plays alive with extraordinary footwork. He used to kill with the play-action pass game built off the stretch run play. Brady is more of a stationary passer.

Blitzing either quarterback is often a mistake. They both have one of the quickest releases I have ever seen. As masters of their craft Brady and Manning beat you before the snap of the football.Tom Brady has the better arm strength. I think there is nobody that steps into their throws quite like Tom Brady.

In a perfect world we would appreciate them as equals. Just about every strength that Manning has Brady has too. How do we break down who is better? Results have got to go into the equation.

Tom Brady has 3 Super Bowl rings and has played in 5 Super Bowls. His playoff record is 18-7. No quarterback has won more games in the postseason. The translation of these numbers is that Brady has given the Patriots a chance to win the Super Bowl almost every season. Peyton Manning has been in 2 Super Bowls and has only won 1 of them. His playoff record is 10-11. Manning has struggled in many seasons to get out of the divisional round. Throughout his career he has been miraculous in the regular season and his teams often enter the divisional round off a bye while having home-field advantage. The results show Tom Brady as the better playoff quarterback.

Football is a team sport and it takes a team to win. There is no position that has a greater impact on the game then that of quarterback. Great quarterbacks give their team a better chance to win the game. Playoff results are as valid as any measure when comparing all time great quarterbacks.

A common argument is that Tom Brady has had better teams, and that is why he has more Super Bowls. While it is true he had better defenses on his side; one could argue he has had less talent around him offensively. Think about it. Peyton had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark in Indianapolis. Brady had Troy Brown and Deion Branch and David Patten.

When Brady finally had a true dominant receiver in Randy Moss, he broke the single season touchdown record. Manning broke that record with the league’s most talented receiving core. Demaryous Thomas, Wes Welker and Erik Decker all are great in their roles. Julius Thomas is a matchup nightmare at tight end.

Brady has had championship defense but usually did not have as much talent to work with offensively. Plus it’s been a few years since the Bellicheck defense lived up to its reputation. Has Brady always had better teams? Either way he has won more than Manning.

The debate could go on forever and believe me it will. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I’m a Brady guy. I always have been a Brady guy and always will be. No matter who you choose, these are two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

NFC Championship: A Familiar Battle

The San Francisco 49ers will play on conference championship Sunday for the third straight time. It is a familiar moment for the battle tested 49ers; and the Seattle Seahawks are an even more familiar opponent. The game features NFC West rivals that are built the exact same way. With stingy defenses and smash-mouth offenses it is their similarities that make the rivalry so fierce.

The Seattle Seahawks earned the NFC’s top seed with a strong 13-3 record. The Seahawks “12th Man Advantage” makes Seattle a very tough place for opponents to play. The last time San Francisco entered the Seahawks’ home they did not leave so happy.

The 49ers won the second meeting. That however was in San Francisco. There is no doubt the 49ers can play with the Seahawks. The question that lingers is can they win in Seattle?

This figures to be a lower scoring game than the AFC Championship between New England and Denver. This battle features a bevy of defensive stars. The Seahawks have the best secondary in football led by safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman. The 49ers have arguably the league’s best linebacking core. Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks are all Pro-Bowlers and Aldon Smith is no slouch.

Both teams offenses are predicated on their ability to run the ball. Both teams need an strong run game to avoid being 1 dimensional. Both defenses are especially strong against the ground attack. The team that runs the ball the most effectively will win this football game.Both teams have a powerful workhorse in the backfield. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch earned his nickname “Beast Mode” with his ferocious running style. His 49ers counterpart Frank Gore is a downhill runner and is just as physically imposing.

The running game is not a party reserved only for running backs. Both quarterbacks like to make plays with their legs. Russell Wilson looks to pass first. His scrambling is more about keeping the play alive so he can find an open receiver.

Colin Kaepernick is very similar however he looks to run more frequently than Wilson. Kaepernick’s contribution of rushing yards tends to help his confidence as a passer. Kaepernick is a streaky player. He has unbelievable highs and rather frustrating highs. The 49ers need to get their young quarterback in rhythm early to avoid the game snowballing on them. In Seattle games can get out of hand pretty quickly.

The 49ers have had a lot of trouble getting open against man coverage.The Seahawks defense is very suited to be a Kaepernick nightmare. There needs to be a receiving option that steps up to the challenge. Much of Kaepernick’s problems come when there is nobody to throw the ball to. The Seahawks will want to shut down Michael Crabtree as he is the go-to-guy on the offense. Seattle was able to shut down Jimmy Graham against the Saints and they will pay similar attention to 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Anquan Boldin must be the X-factor for the San Francisco offense.

49ers vs Seahawks has become one of the best rivalries the NFL has to offer; in fact it has a Ravens vs Steelers kind of vibe to it. The game will be physical and down right nasty. It is never for the faint of heart when San Francisco plays the Seahawks. I really can not wait for this game.

Brady vs. Manning: AFC Championship Edition

Brady vs. Manning: AFC Championship Edition

Chris Schisler

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been this era’s greatest quarterbacks. For nearly two decades they have been the best players of the most important position in football. One of the NFL’s best rivalries developed between the two future hall of famers and when their teams clash the stakes are high and so are the television ratings. Next Sunday Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos will host Tom Brady’s New England Patriots for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XVIII.

This will be the third straight AFC Championship the Patriots have played in. This however will be the first of the three championship games the Patriots will play on the road. The Patriots are coming off a dominant performance against the Indianapolis Colts; the Denver Broncos are coming off a 24-17 victory against their AFC rival the San Diego Chargers. This battle of the top two quarterbacks is also a battle of the AFC’s top two seeds.

The New England Patriots will come into the championship fight with confidence as it was just a couple of months ago when they beat the Broncos in overtime 34-31. The Denver Broncos looked to be on their way to a blowout. The Broncos built a commanding 24-0 lead with the help of three Patriots turnovers in the first quarter. Tom Brady led one of the best comebacks of the season with 344 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. The Patriots scored 21 consecutive points in the third quarter. It was a costly blunder by the Broncos punt return unit that set up the Patriots game winning field goal in overtime.

Much has changed for the Patriots since their dramatic home victory against the Broncos. In that game they relied heavily on Rob Gronkowski who had 7 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. Gronkowski has since been sidelined with an injury. The Patriots lost their one superstar on offense not named Brady. Brady has relied heavily on a powerful run game. Julian Eddleman has emerged as Brady’s go to option in the passing attack. With an injured Aaron Dobson the Patriots have needed production from Danny Amendola and rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. Brady arguably has less talent around him this season than he ever has in his career. The Patriots defense has also suffered a bevy of injuries including the loss of Vince Wilfork’s dominating presence on the defensive line. In a season with a “Next man up” mentality, Tom Brady has been the one constant for New England. It can be argued that this is Brady’s finest season. The statistics will not awe you but Tom Brady continues to find ways to win, with one of the least loaded rosters the Patriots have had since Brady’s arrival as the starter.

The Denver Broncos are loaded with talent and boast the highest scoring offense in the league’s history. Peyton Manning had one of the greatest seasons a quarterback has ever had and he shattered records. Tom Brady’s touchdown record is one of these records Manning has bested. Peyton Manning has been red hot from the beginning. In the opener against the defending champion Ravens he threw for 7 touchdowns; he scored 55 touchdown passes in the regular season. Manning is the conductor of one of the most talented offenses anyone has ever seen. With Demaryous Thomas, Erick Decker and Wes Welker the Broncos have the best receiving core in the NFL. Julius Thomas has emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous tight ends and the running game has been productive. There is literally nothing this offense does not do well.

With his rival coming to town there has never been more pressure on Peyton Manning, who has a playoff record of 10-11. Manning always has success in the regular season but that success has rarely translated to the postseason. His only Super Bowl ring came in 2006; a year the Colts came from way behind to beat Brady’s Patriots in the AFC championship game. The legacy of Peyton Manning too many is a great regular season quarterback who comes up short in the playoffs.

There is also plenty of pressure on Tom Brady. With a less talented arsenal of playmakers he has to win a shootout with “The Sheriff”. Brady won 3 Super Bowls early in his career but he has not won a Super Bowl since 2004. He has lost in two appearances in the big game since then. Brady’s legacy is still being determined and losing a second AFC title game to Manning would not help it.

This is a heavy weight title match that figures to be everything America expects it to be. It will be a high scoring affair where Tom Brady and Peyton Manning go punch for punch. Neither defense is dominant while both quarterbacks are living legends. It is simple math. This championship game will be awfully entertaining, no matter who wins.

Saints Blunders, Seahawks Prevail

Chris Schisler

The New Orleans Saints lost a game to the Seattle Seahawks that was there for the taking. The Seahawks led from start to finish but failed to stick the dagger into their opponents. Drew Brees and the Saints had a game filled with miscues and they got the loss they earned.

The first quarter went Seattle’s way, but only to the tune of a 6-0 lead. The Saints defense let the Seahawks march down the field but held them to two field goals. That is a win for the defense on a day where the offense needed all the help it could get.

The Saints came into the game determined to have a strong run game. It looked like the plan was working early on. The first play the Saints had from scrimmage was an 8 yard run by Mark Ingram. There was 1 problem to this plan. The Saints could not hold on to the football.

A fumble early in the second quarter cost New Orleans dearly. The Seahawks took advantage of the short field. Seattle did very little wrong in the first half. Before you could blink it was halftime with a score of 16-0. The most shocking statistic 34 first half passing yards from Drew Brees.

The Saints missed 2 field goals, turned the ball over, had poor clock management and had costly penalties. The list of blunders seems to go on forever.

With all of the miscues on the part of the Saints, the Seahawks should have won by a much larger margin. The Seattle offense was not spectacular. The run game was great, but then again the Saints run defense was horrible. The Seahawks did just enough offensively to win the game.

The Seahawks defense played very well. There was nothing open down the field. Jimmy Graham was a non factor. The Saints offense was stifled and frustrated by Seattle’s intense defense. The Saints were guided by multiple should have been interceptions that were dropped. One Brees pass got the Saints into field goal range after it was tipped by a Seahawks defender.

The Seahawks did a lot right; but they kept Saints fans with a breath of hope until the very end. The Saints made every mistake you could make and then some. At the end of the day the Seahawks won. That is all that matters.

Last Minute Thoughts on Seahawks/ Saints

Stuck at work, pushing carts in the rain I thought about football. It was all I could do to fake smiles and wish the masses a good day. I came up with some ideas about the Seahawks game against the Saints that I deemed worth sharing.

There is one thought that keeps pounding through my brain. It is really more of a question than a thought. Who are the New Orleans Saints? I do not question their offense. But who are the Saints defensively?

It was hard not to be impressed with the Saints run defense against Philadelphia’s elusive LeSean McCoy. It is equally challenging to be sold on the Saints defense. Every time I am impressed with the defense they let me down. Do I have to remind Saints fans of Zach Stacey?

I have come to the conclusion, that the Saints can be dominated on the ground. If I am correct not to trust Rob Ryan’s squad then Seattle will be able to pound the rock in tonight’s game. I expect a big day out of Marshawn Lynch.

Why do I not trust the Saints defense? Ryan’s defense is over aggressive. The defensive linemen tend to take themselves out of the play. Linebackers get caught in the trash. Pre snap motions force the defense to adjust. The Saints often get out of position before the snap of the ball. (I would run unbalanced sets and counter to the weak side). The run defense can be good when the linemen do their jobs. I don’t think they can be consistent enough to be a great defense.

The Seahawks love to run the football. In a Twitter conversation this morning @RealBobManning wondered how the Seahawks would use Percy Harvin. That is when the fun started for my football mind.

I thought against an over aggressive defense a couple of options would be a Harvin reverse or a jet sweep (possibly a designed shovel pass on jet sweep play).

I also thought about Seattle running a wildcat offense. As much as I tend to loathe this kink to the NFL running game the match up favors it. Imagine Lynch taking the direct snap with Harvin coming across for the potential sweep rush. If you could use the jet sweep successfully once, the Saints may overreact to it. Just the threat of Harvin burning them again would set up big runs from Lynch.

Here is a non wildcat idea. If the Saints blitz Russell Wilson this could backfire. Russell Wilson is best when he rolls out and can kill you with both his legs and his arm. Blitzing Wilson may force him to roll out feeding into Wilson’s strengths. I’m not saying not to apply pressure but blitzes should be designed to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket.

We already know the zone read play will be a great option all day.

The Saints defense needs to play smart in this game. Defensive linemen cannot back door plays. Linebackers must flow to the football. Outside contain is critical. There should always be a man responsible for the cut back.

I hope you enjoyed my ideas about the game. I find it fitting that I thought up this article while in the rain; weather is another big factor in this game.

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