• The Zone Blitz



    The Zone Blitz is a new article on FP that will be featured on a weekly basis throughout the football season. The idea behind this article is to simply bring your typical bar room debate to the front page. Each week, 2 FPers will discuss a variety of topics, ranging from what happened last week, what will happen next week, and any other random and sometimes relevant topics that may pop up in between. To kick-start this thing, I'm thrilled to be paired up with Amy, who is one of our most popular user contributors.


    Trumpetbdw:

    Hey Amy!

    (As of this writing) The season is just over 24 hours from getting kick-started, and I'm excited to begin a new venture with you, and look forward to your weekly contributions. The idea behind this article is to take on a no-holds-barred, anything goes-type of format. Each week, someone will start things off with a few discussion topics, and we'll see where that takes us. I'm looking forward to some FP Freestyle!

    I'm really glad that we're starting this thing, because the most interesting topic heading into the 2013 NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE season involves your Patriots, and whether or not they're merely reloading, or are finally in the beginning stages of an official decline. I'm curious to hear your take regarding their {relatively quiet} offseason, and why we should buy into the Patriots still being the Patriots.

    Then again, in my view, haven't the Pats been in a steady decline since 2004? {Afterall, there are 9 year old Patriots fans that have never experienced anything but heartbreak. 3rd grade classrooms around the country are wondering when Tom Brady "will ever win a big game". Please tell these 3rd graders that reports of the Patriots' demise has been greatly exaggerated.}

    In other not-so-big-but-it's-big-in-my-own-little-world news, the Steelers have apparently signed the great Zoltan Mesko, fresh off of his release from your Patriots. A punter is only a punter, of course, unless he is blessed with a name such as Zoltan. I'm not sure how well he'll do in Pittsburgh, but I'm completely taking this as a sign. My Pirates are only 1 win away from their first winning season since Boyz II Men were first crooning "End of the Road" (a sentiment the Pirates must have taken a little too much to heart). Anyway, this Pirates team celebrates big hits by flashing a "Z", which represents the sign of the Zoltan from "Dude Where's My Car". So if for nothing else, perhaps the Steelers are taking one for the city, and signed the Great Zoltan simply to pass the good vibes along to the Pirates as they make a push for their first playoff appearance since Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ross Perot were in a battle for the White House.

    Don't worry, I'm not asking you to discuss the Pirates. But I am curious whether or not you think the Pats be able to survive the loss of the Zoltan? {What about the 9 year decline in Brady's clutch performance?} What are your predictions for the coming season? Are there any sleeper teams you have a particular feeling about? And perhaps most importantly, what about your FP Dynasty team? I know it's a dynasty and all, but isn't it ridiculous that Tom Brady was the 10th QB off the board? And even more ridiculous that you didn't end up with him?

    Feel free to discuss these, or any other topics you'd like. And don't take it easy on me. I'll be ready for whatever complex scheme you throw at me!


    Amy:

    Hey Brian!

    Ok, let's get this started.

    I have to say the offseason was crazy for the Pats. Losing Danny to the team formerly known as the Super Chargers, sucked. Finding out we didn't ask Lloyd back because not only did he not become a deep threat, but because he's a locker room whacko (according to reports) was interesting. Add to that the worst murder plot in Boston History. Yes, I think AH is guilty, and I think it will be hard to prove, and Welker going to Denver for *less money* than we offered him last year, and, it's been interesting.

    I'll happily take a decline that's Super Bowl followed by AFC Championship game. Brady is literally two drops (and slightly better officiating) from being 5-0 in Super Bowls. (Samuel the play before the Helmet Catch and Welker). Another key Welker drop and a fumble that wasn't were the keys against the Ravens (though, to be fair, I had picked the Ravens all season long last year).

    All we did this year was reload. Amendola is a better Welker. He beat all of Welker's college numbers - they went to the same school - and his stats with the Rams are better than Welker's were with the Dolphins. Given Brady has made bad WRs look great, what can he do with a good one. Gronk is still there - even if not fro the first two games - and out Top 10 running game should be even better. Vereen should be a better Danny, and Ridley is a feature back. The young quartet of Thompkins, Boyce, Dobson, and Sudfeld look to be the real deal. And the defense is better.

    Let's jump to the Pirates! I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I think it's great what they're doing.

    Zoltan Mesko: I'm sad to lose him. But, I'm glad that he went to a contender. Wait, what was that? The Steelers a contender? Yes, I think they will be. I think too many people are writing off the Steelers. I see them as the #5 seed.

    Now, to the Insane Unicorns, my dynasty team. I wanted Brady! He was my plan in 5, but Gronk at 4 was too tempting. My first three picks were Rice/Ridley/RG3. It's a good foundation for a multi year team, and Gronk is young. Brady next would have been sweet. I wanted all the young Pats, but at least I got the deep threat. That draft was crazy. But, yeah, it was really mean *fake cry* that all you boys kept stealing my Pats!

    How do you think the Black and Gold will do? Are the Ravens one and done? Are the Bengals doomed to lose to the Texans in round 1, again? Why did Wallace get to walk? Is he that bad? Do you have a Oline? If you do, will Ben bribe them to play bad so he can run around like an effective Tebow? Is Troy back? Will the Ravens games feel the same with 52 and 20 missing?


    Trumpetbdw:

    Ah yes, the AFC North. Is 'I have no idea' an acceptable answer? I feel like the Bengals have the best top-to-bottom roster, but I just can't trust Andy Dalton. Maybe he takes that next step (it is only year 3, after all), but I won't predict it until I see it. Baltimore has talent on defense, but how well will that unit come together, and do they have enough offensive weapons? And yes, it will be weird without Ray Ray and Reed on the other side of the field, but those when I see those hideous purple jerseys, nothing has changed. My son still spits at the site of that logo! Cleveland even interests me, and I'll go on the record to say that they don't finish in last place this year. I liked their move to a 34 defense, even if all of their pieces didn't fit. And I do see some real offensive growth there. The Brownies could easily surprise.

    But ohh my Steelers. I'm not gonna lie, things are a little scary this year. The preseason means nothing, but not winning a game is still frightening. I don't see them repeating an 8-8 finish. In fact, I think things will either go really well for them, or really badly. 5-11 is in play, but so is 12-4. I'm optimistic in what I see from the defensive line. Dick LeBeau is changing things up a little this year, and is planning on utilizing the athleticism of Ziggy Hood and Steve McClendon to penetrate from the DL, as opposed to just taking up space as in years' past with guys like Casey Hampton. I think that style will play into each of their strengths, and also help out Cam Heyward as well. Add in the most underrated player in the league in Lawrence Timmons, a healthy Lamarr Woodley, a healthy Troy Polamalu, and breakout performances from Cortez Allen and Jarvis Jones, and the defense could be absolutely electric.

    On offense, the line is still shaky, but at least now it's young and talented across the board. I expect that they'll gel as the season wears on. I'm also becoming more confident that Le'Veon Bell is going to be healthy enough to play a significant role for them this year, which is big. And keep in mind, prior to Ben's yearly injury last year (not self-inflicted, mind you), the Steelers offense was clicking, and he was a top 3 MVP candidate mid-season. I think Ben carries this offense more than ever before, Bell contributes enough, and the defense returns to dominance. And I don't think they'll miss Wallace all that much. He's a good player, but Miami overpayed him. The Steelers had serious cap issues, and chose to re-up AB instead, since he's the better all-around receiver. Plus, don't sleep on this Markus Wheaton kid. I'll take the Steelers to win the North.

    I think the Pats are in a dogfight in the East this year. Miami should be breathing down their neck, and Buffalo has the talent to surprise as well. The key for the Pats could be how they use Shane Vereen. I'm picturing a Darren Sproles-like role for him this year. If he's good, he can keep defenses honest enough to allow that young WR corps to give solid production, and allow Ridley to improve upon his very good 2012. To round out the AFC, I like the Colts over the Texans in the South, and Denver to barely hold off KC in the West. The Bengals will get in as a WC, and win a game, but I like the Steelers over the Colts in the AFC Championship.

    In the NFC, I actually think things will get crazy. Give me Dallas and Carolina to win the East and the South. SF will repeat in the West, and Chicago will rise up and take the North. Washington and NO will be the 2 WC (yup, no GB, no ATL, no SEA...). In the end, I think people are sleeping on the Bears. The defense is still great, and the offense will get a huge jolt from Trestman, who's the perfect coach for Cutler and Forte. I'll take the Bears over the Cowboys in the NFC Title game.

    So the Insane Unicorns went with RGIII? I think that was a great call. He's going to be just fine. In fact, you swiped him in round 3 right before my pick, otherwise, I'd have taken him over Eddie Lacy. But really, I can't complain with getting stuck with Cam, who I had ranked right with RGIII. I got very lucky that he was still there in round 4. Add Cam to Spiller, Demaryius, Lacy, AB, Garcon, etc, and I'm expecting big things. Who knows, maybe we have an Insane Unicorns/Toxic Avengers championship awaiting us at the end of this year.

    Well, I went way too long there, so I'll pass it back over to you. Go ahead and close this thing out, Amy. If need be, we can always continue the debate in the comments.


    Amy:

    I agree about Dalton. A.J. Green is amazing, but Dalton doesn't inspire confidence. I'm also wondering how long it will take Harrison to make headlines for saying something stupid. I think the Ravens will be ok, though I'm annoyed at the Orioles. Really, making your hometown team play on the road after winning the Super Bowl, cause it's sooo hard to move 1 of your 81 home games up a few hours? I'm not sold on the Browns at all. I agree with you on the Steelers. I'd say 10-6 to 11-5. The Steelers just don't slump for long. Bell does look like he can help them. And, as much as I think Ben should be AHs cellmate, you can't deny he can play. Much like with the Pats, too many people are writing off the Steelers before the first snap.

    I disagree about Buffalo and Miami. The Jets are a disaster, and, thanks to those Meddling GMs, I think they'll be that way for a while. The Bills have a few good players, but what teams don't, and they have two rookie QBs. The 'phins are overrated. The D is solid, but they lost some guys. The O, outside of Wallace - who the Steelers didn't even try and keep, which is a *huge* red flag - who scares you? Not the QB, who does have potential - not the running backs, no one. Well, maybe Incognito! Barring a Brady injury, we should walk away with the East.

    Denver is the team I think is most overrated. No established back. They lose their #1 and #2 centers, for the year, in training camp. The center is really importsant to Manning's offense. And, let's not forget Peyton is 38 with 2 neck surgery's. He's been super durable, but one wrong hit, and they're asking Tebow to come back. And, let's not forget, Peyton Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs. That's a large enough sample size to say that there is a trend here. Peyton is better the first 16 weeks of the season. Eli is more clutch. On D, they lost Dumervil to front office stupidity, Miller to his own for six weeks, and who knows how long Champ will be out. While I, personally, think PEDs in all sports, and especially football, is well over dramed by the media, if it's against the rules, don't do it.

    If I had to pick, I'd go Pats/Ravens/Texans/Denver as Division Champs, with the Steelers and KC as WCs. Yeah, I'm drinking the Andy Reid Kool Aid.
    In the NFC: Philly/Green Bay/Atl/San Fran. WC: Giants and Seattle.

    Pats over the G-Men in the big game, as I said on FP.

    I was hoping for Luck in Dynasty, just because of the injury risk with RG3. But, at QB, I have Schaub and RG3, which gives me solid matchup possibilties each week. Going with Schaub this week, since no one really knows how RG3s knee is *and* the Texans draw the Chargers, and I'm not sold on SD at all.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      awesome stuff, guys
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      Nice...
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Nice close out, Amy. I agree with you 100% on Denver, despite their performance on Thursday night (we finished out back and forth a few hours prior to kick off of that game). Their ground game is inspiring no confidence. Is it me, or despite being a rookie, does it already feel like Montee Ball is about 28 and nearing the end of his career?

      And you're right about the playoff sample size with Peyton. That's a full season and a quarter worth of games. He was ok last year, and they should have won that game over Baltimore, but Manning gift-wrapped a few plays to Baltimore that kept them in it, and eventually led to the Ravens win.

      Anyone else get a kick out of Raheem Moore calling himself "The Dream" on Thursday night?

      One last concern with the Pats. Health is a skill. It is clear that Amendola does not possess that skill. MAYBE he stays healthy, but I'm highly doubting it. He's already dealing with a groin issue. His issues are continually of the soft tissue variety, and those are exactly the types of things that tend to reoccur. He goes down, and suddenly Brady's throwing to nothing but rookies until Gronk returns. And how long until he gets hurt again?

      Prediction: The Pats leading receiver this year is Shane Vereen.