ASSEMBLED media both national and international have blockaded the city of New Orleans. Do not be alarmed, it is merely the week before Super Bowl XLVII…but you knew that already? So allow me to buck the trend and deliberately stand out from the crowd.
Let us discuss what you may have missed in the NFL while being bombarded with ‘Harbowl’ factoids…and a few premonitions for the upcoming preliminary phases of the new 2013 season.
Pro Bowl or No Bowl… The Commish will decide
A resounding victory for the National Football Conference team over the American Football Conference confirmed the wealth of resources which franchise such as the New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks have at their disposal. For the AFC, stars such as AJ Green and JJ Watt anointed their status of excellence despite their team getting soundly defeated by 62 points to 35 in Honolulu.
With the threat, or rather incentive, of the match likely determining the future of the Pro Bowl long term, the call from NFL veteran Peyton Manning was to play ‘fast.’ Though the decision over whether the all-star event stays part of the NFL calendar will be made in due course, it is arguably a mark of respect when players follow the lead of Manning and play a respectable if not sensational game. Could this be interpreted as an attempt to sway Commissioner Roger Goodell’s mind the way of keeping the Pro Bowl, rather than shelving it, or were these players just eager to earn their fees?
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow… or is it?
Looking outwith the rumour mill of NFL player movements in post-season is a very difficult business. The main reason for this is that many of the so-called ‘rumours’ can become reality, although the Tim Tebow saga does not appear to have any serious facts to add to the hysteria surrounding it. However, there does appear to be more credibility in the assumption that Titus Young (Detroit Lions), Reggie Bush (Miami Dolphins), Alex. D. Smith (San Francisco 49ers), Wes Welker (New England Patriots) and Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants) have played their last game for their respective franchise.
What is harder to gauge is which destination is the most likely for each of these players, who are all still quite capable of playing at the highest level in the league.
Hypothetically, if I had to make a call as a pundit, which thankfully I don’t, I would expect the Bengals to at least make an offer to running-back Bush, though they may face competition from one or two teams which are at a later stage of progression.
While I was firmly in the Alex Smith to Eagles camp until they announced their new Head Coach, I am now no longer certain of the Utah graduate’s next team after a relatively successful career with the San Francisco 49ers. I am a big fan of Smith’s and think that if he is to move on come the summer, it should be to a starting QB spot. He is not the media darling that Tebow is, which may not fit perfectly with the Jacksonville project of building their profile, yet he is perhaps the better rounded player with playoff experience, which could be an attractive enough profile for the Jaguars. The question is will that be seen as an underestimation of his own ability in favour of playing time?
Many mock drafts are heavily littered with Defensive-Ends projected high up the order hence it may be a bit more of a struggle for Osi to find a new team quickly. It may be a case of playing the waiting game until mid-summer when players with big reputations become attractive for their experience.
In Wes Welker there is a player with the consistency of which is expected at a franchise like New England, but a tendency to err when it really counts against them. Hence the reason why Bill Belicheck has seen fit to ‘phase out’ Welker. Ironically, the manner which he has done this has still seen the wide-receiver play a big enough role in their AFC title-match run to earn a good deal elsewhere. The Dolphins are divisional rivals of the Patriots, but that could just be an incentive enough for a player with plenty left in his tank to return to Foxboro and put a few doubts to bed.
The NFL Combine and Draft… Try Not To Mention Te’o…
Projected drafting is a discipline it seems, yet goodwill and statistical nous can suddenly be deconstructed and rebuilt into a completely different perspective come Combine time. Besides the trailed sideshow of Manti Te’o in the wake of the ‘fake girlfriend’ reports, the Combine can still be looked forward to as a chance to glimpse who may be lighting up the rookie stakes come the autumn. On the other hand, it is mainly a chance for coaches and media to run the rule over a collective of eager players but in a form of analytical manner which fans could find a tad obsessive.
As for the draft, well it’s a great opportunity to play a bit of a guessing game and issue an elementary cheer or groan depending on how well your predictions have gone. Or in the case of a section of mainly New York Jets fans, boo the guy in the suit. In my relatively amateur opinion, with the top prospect a QB yet again, I believe we may see the dawn of the next ‘Big Ben’ in Luke Joeckel (in a purely athletic sense) and expect him to be one of the rookie QBs to watch next season.
As for the rest of my half-baked predictions, well I’ll leave that until nearer the time.