With the NFL season all wrapped and the draft as well as free agency still some time away from this point, I wanted to take a look at the newest quarterback, who got paid. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco for a second-round pick in the middle of the 2017 season and completely turned the franchise around, helping a 1-10 team win their next five games. That resulted in the front office making him the highest-paid player in NFL history, by giving him a five-year, 137.5 million dollar contract. After just seven career starts, it is fair to question if he is worth all that money. Therefore, I watched every snap of his time with the 49ers to offer an analysis on the young QB. I looked at his two games with New England as well, but decided to leave those out for now, since I’m judging him based on the system he will be a part of going forward, with Kyle Shahan signing a six-year contract himself, just a year ago. Let’s dive into the tape:
This was a unique matchup. While New England went into the AFC playoffs as the number one seed and favorite to win it all, Philadelphia took on the underdog role throughout the NFC race, with the opposing team favored in both games at Lincoln Financial field. Despite earning the top seed in their respective conference as well, not many people believed that backup Nick Foles would be able to match MVP and five-time champion Tom Brady in the big game. All the analysts talked about how Philly’s defensive line would have to harass Brady throughout the game, to keep the score low and give them a chance to win the game. Yet, 74 points and, an all-time NFL record for any game, 1151 total offensive yards later, it was the Eagles hoisting the Lombardi trophy with Foles being named Super Bowl MVP. How was this possible?
This week down in Mobile, Alabama is one of my favorite ones of the year. More than a hundred of Senior prospects for this upcoming draft are put into positions, where they are comfortable in, but also some they are not used to. The organization’s staff does an excellent job bringing together some of the top talents in the country and it’s not just about these kids from the big-name schools, but rather they give some lesser known guys a chance to show off. This really is a chance for young players to boost their draft stock. Look no further than Temple’s Haason Reddick a year ago, who went from being considered a potential late day two pick, to being selected 13th overall by the Arizona Cardinals. We saw some superstars emerge from this event in recent years and there’s a good chance someone on this list will be in that category a few years down the line.
Before I say anything else – Congratulations to the New England Patriots organization for reaching the Super Bowl for the third time in four years and eight time in 17 years. Nobody in the league has been able to even come close to the consistent excellence they have displayed. With that being said, I can’t help but see a theme that has followed the team throughout the 2017/18 season – they have had a lot of crucial calls go their way. I’m not suggesting to any degree, that they haven’t earned a spot in this title game, but rather I want to point out a few incidences I have noticed over the course of their campaign. Let me elaborate:
With the conference championship games coming up this weekend and some of the top defenses still in the race, I thought about talking about those two matchups, but since I previewed games the last two weeks, I decided to go a different route. I always like to look back at the rookie class and see what those first-year guys made of their opportunities. Once again, we have had some diamonds in the rough and they deserve to be honored, but so do the players, who have lived up to the hype. Therefore, I put up my starting lineups on offense, defense and special teams, plus some key substitutes. Here they are:
The Saints and Vikings faced each other in the season-opener at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota never really was in trouble that day and won the game 29-19. Both team have evolved throughout the season and they are set for a rematch on Sunday. After losing their first two games of the year, New Orleans went on to win ten of their next twelve and an NFC South title, to set them up as one of the biggest contenders in the conference. The Vikings won the North with a 13-3 record and earned the number two seed, possibly giving them home-field advantage all the way through the Super Bowl. In week one their starting quarterback still was Sam Bradford and everybody thought this was the same old Saints, who air it out and play no defense. Times have changed and both teams need to be reckoned with. This should be a huge matchup and looking at both squads, I believe the final score could look a lot different this time around. Here’s why:
After having two different conferences represented in the title game for the last six years, this is the first time since 2012 the two contenders are coming from the SEC. While Georgia won the conference title, Alabama didn’t even get the chance to play in the championship game. With Kirby Smart facing off against his former head coach Nick Saban and two teams that are built similar, there’s lots to talk about. Over the next couple of paragraphs, I want to analyze the paths of both these programs heading into the matchup, how they will approach it, under-the-radar contributors and the outcome of the game. Alabama has been crowned national champions four times since 2009, while Georgia is looking to do so for the first time since 1980. It’s dynasty versus contender, teacher versus student, the Tide versus the Bulldogs.
It was really hard to compile this list, because of all the moving pieces, players being injured and just what these defenses have become as units. So the base I judge them on is the way they are constructed right now. Therefore, I couldn’t quite put the Seahawks and definitely not the Texans on this list, since they have suffered immensely with injuries to top of their three best defensive players. Sometimes the major statistics, like total yards allowed, can be misleading, for example, until a week ago, the Denver Broncos were the number one defense in terms of yardage allowed. Even though they still have an excellent trio of cornerbacks combined with Von Miller to rush the passer and they could easily bounce back big-time next season, that’s absurd, considering since after a hot start to the season at 3-1, they gave up an average of just over 30 points per game during an eight-game losing streak. The numbers I do care about are points allowed, takeaways, third down and red zone percentage allowed. Most importantly though, I want to look at the scheme each unit runs, how well they execute, and what my eyes tell me.