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Houston, the Patriots have landed! Just when you thought the Atlanta Falcons would win their very first Super Bowl, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come back from half time with an incredible performance. History was made at Super Bowl LI for being the first time a Super Bowl game went into overtime. The Patriots were down 28-3, Tom Brady makes a historic comeback rallying 25 points and scoring the two point conversion that tied the game. The Patriots had the ball, and as they had done so many times in Brady’s career, marched down the field going 75 yards in 8 plays and winning on James White’s 2–yard touchdown run. Brady set a new record with 5 Super Bowl wins and 4 MVP’s. Did Tom Brady just cement his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time??

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was announced and there were a few surprises. The biggest surprises were when former Wide Receiver Terrell Owens and former Safety Brian Dawkins did not make it in. The class did have a pair of inductees from the running back position in both LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis. Quarterback Kurt Warner, Kicker Morten Anderson, Safety Kenny Easly, DE Jason Taylor, and owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys were a few others that were also inducted into the Hall of Fame. “LT” LaDainian Tomlinson was one of the bigger highlights as it was his first year for eligibility and a no brainer that he got in, as he was consistently one of the best Running Backs in the league for majority of his career while he was with the San Diego Chargers.

So all in all this 2016/2017 season has brought us a whole lot of thrills, chills, and wows. There were teams that were undefeated or only having one loss that did not make it to the playoffs or lost just after the 1st round. Tom Brady, now 39 years old, is the oldest QB in the NFL and has no plans of retiring after winning Super Bowl LI, but will embark on the next season and play all 12 games. He is definitely a Hall of Fame QB who will be aiming for his 6th ring. Will he do it again? Can Bill Belichick and the Patriots be stopped? This is something to look forward to in the 2017/2018 season.

Are you ready for some football?! The NFL is back with the season starting September 8th there are a lot of headlines surrounding America’s game from Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady, and Tony Romo, all the way to PED accusations by the NFL. We are here to talk about the season and team expectations, not the drama surrounding the league and the headlines such as Kaepernick has been.  Instead, we will look at some interesting match-ups in week one along with injuries and trades. We will begin with number five.

#5 Pittsburgh Steelers vs Washington Redskins

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On this special Monday night, we will be treated to two games, the one to watch is the first one. This game is going to show off arguably the best offensive team in football, the Steelers going up against the Redskins who really showed promise at the end of last season and look to build on that this year. Kirk Cousins is the starting QB with a lot of good receivers along with what will be a good defense after adding DB Josh Norman. Big Ben and Antonio Brown will be out and spectacular as always, but they will be missing two other big time players from their offense, Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. This like the next match up could light up the scoreboard and be a very entertaining game, but this game could also be a defensive battle depending on if they can shut down the explosive offenses.  If for no other reason to watch it, it’s Monday Night Football!

#4 Oakland Raiders vs New Orleans Saints

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Oakland has had many disappointing years since the Super Bowl loss in 2003, but they showed flashes of real progress last season and it looks to continue. New Orleans, on the other hand, has been above average since acquiring Drew Brees, even winning a Super Bowl in 2010. This game should be pass heavy with a high scoring potential, which is always fun to watch.  Both teams’ defenses are still looking for a defined leader and are not the cream of the crop in the league. Kalil Mack for Oakland is developing into the leader they need, but he is not there yet. New Orleans gave up 45 passing touchdowns last year, which is an NFL record and doesn’t bode well for them with Derek Carr leading Oakland’s offense. Even with Oakland’s potentially potent offense, it will be hard to stop a Saints team led by Drew Brees who is one of the most prolific passers of the modern era with multiple 5000-yard seasons.

#3 New England Patriots vs Arizona Cardinals

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This game is interesting for more reasons than just Tom Brady’s suspension. Reason number one, these are the teams that lost their conference championship games last season. This is a big time game between two big time teams, that both have the chance of getting to Super Bowl 51. Reason number two, this is a chance to see the Patriots without Brady. Brady is 39 years old now and usually, after the 40 mark, not many quarterbacks hold up, best example Peyton Manning, another example in case you need it is Brett Favre. Yes, they were good after 40 but not the same player they once were. Seeing Garoppolo play in the first four regular season games this year is going to be a good or bad sign for the Patriots and what better test than the second best NFC team last year. To mention the Cardinals, they have a great defense lead by one of the best DB’s in the game and with Carson Palmer leading the offense, I imagine they will be in a good position for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

#2 Green Bay Packers vs Jacksonville Jaguars

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This game is here because it’s not only the chance to see if the Packers will be back to form with the return of Jordy Nelson after missing last season, but Jacksonville on paper appears to be much improved and is a contender for the AFC South division title this year. The Packers are often mentioned to be the team this year to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, primarily due to their strength of schedule which is the easiest in the league. With Aaron Rodgers having all of his receivers healthy, a thinner Eddy Lacy, and a defense that is capable of creating turnovers, it is easy to see why the Packers are a favorite this year. The Jaguars are not to be ignored, with Blain Gabbert in his third year, and a team really beginning to find their stride, on both sides of the ball, the Jags may surprise a lot of people after countless below average seasons.

# 1 Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos

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This shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s the rematch of Super Bowl 50! Well almost, Peyton Manning will not be leading the defending champion Broncos into this game. Instead, they will be led by Trevor Siemian who has never started a game in the NFL. Minus one or two key players, these rosters have remained mostly the same. Both team defenses are still going to be a force in the league but the question is will the Broncos offense be able to produce like it did in the Super Bowl with Manning?  For the Panthers will Cam Newton be able to generate more than 10 points against the Denver defense this time around. Cam will have all of his weapons healthy, a good running game, capable receivers, and a good offensive line, so he should be able to light up the board but Thursday night will tell the tale. For Siemian this is going to be an above average test of his ability because the Panthers team is no joke. This could be his toughest game of the season and its only week one. In my opinion, if this is a close game that the Panthers win, it is still a win for the Broncos. It would show that Siemian can be the quarterback for the future. If it’s a blowout, then Denver may have an issue but it is week one. Who’s to say he won’t rebound moving forward and prove to be the offensive leader they need now.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants

Aside from being a division game, in a division any team can win, it will be interesting to see how Dak Prescott responds to being the starter for the Cowboys and if he can lead the team effectively. The Giants, on the other hand, have a good QB in Eli Manning and receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. but will their defense hold up.

Minnesota Vikings vs Tennessee Titans

After Teddy Bridgewater’s injury, the Vikings traded a first round pick for Sam Bradford to the Eagles. It will be interesting to see if this will be what the Vikings need to be relevant in the NFC North. The Titans have a young team that I am excited to see. How they mesh this year will be telling and will set up what is potentially a good team in the future.

Water Cooler Talk isn’t too proud to admit that he was wrong in the prediction of Sunday’s game. While I was confident in my pick and potential game situations, I may have either had too much bias or allowed the betting line to sway my opinion. Either way, it’s all said and done now, so let’s recap the game before taking a short recess from NFL talk. Sit back, relax and enjoy the memory of Super Bowl 50 one more time while enjoying the sweet site of snow coming down.

The Broncos had a great start to the game as they marched down the field with ease to open the game, but couldn’t quite cap off the drive as they only came away with three points. Carolina seemed nervous while Manning and the Broncos offense seemed to have just been playing a typical game on a Sunday in America.

Carolina’s offense on the other hand struggled mightily to start the game, and it really didn’t improve much moving forward thanks to a smothering Denver defense and mental mistakes. Cam couldn’t be Cam, receivers had a hard time getting open and the running game just couldn’t get a flow.

When you look past Denver’s opening drive, there really wasn’t anything to talk about. With the exception of C.J. Anderson, who had 90 yards on 23 carries with a TD, there wasn’t a bright spot. 191 yards was the total offensive output from the Broncos, the fewest yards gained by a Super Bowl winner. But as I and the other 147 million people watching now know, the offense didn’t need to do anything to win this game.

Forcing four Carolina turnovers assured the Broncos that they would never trail in this game. It appeared that when the Panthers were finally gaining some momentum, a turnover, penalty, dropped pass or sack stifled any chance of a shift in confidence.

I’ve heard some of the rumblings, as I’m sure you have as well, that the game was rigged since the NFL figured this would be Manning’s last game. While there were some questionable calls on the field, don’t think for one second that this game was rigged for Carolina to lose. Carolina lost this game, simple as that. They averaged less than two turnovers per game over the regular season…they committed four on Sunday. They averaged six penalties per game prior to Sunday…they got flagged 12 times on Sunday. Carolina averaged 31.3 points during the regular season…they could only muster 10 in Santa Clara. Cam had not been hit more than six times in any game this season…he was sacked seven times on Sunday and hit repeatedly.

When you think about the Panthers season, they went 17-2 and lost by a total of 21 points. While that seems redundant to most, it’s impressive when you think about how Carolina was without Kelvin Benjamin all season, Luke Kuechly for three games and having Charles Johnson and Jonathan Stewart missing time during the season as well. This team will be one to watch out for in the years to come, this will not be another Carolina one-trick pony.

Denver needs to enjoy their moment for as long as they can. They had a very up-and-down season with an extremely inconsistent offense along with QB changes between Manning and Brock Osweiler that called for Manning to retire before the season even ended.

It’s going to be a tough offseason for Denver now as it appears Manning will retire and having a slew of to-be free agents to include Von Miller, Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Evan Mathis, Danny Trevathan, C.J. Anderson and Brandon Marshall. They can’t keep them all, so it looks as if John Elway will have to do a bit of rebuilding. Considering all of this, it’s still tough to say that Denver will take a backseat to competing for another Lombardi trophy for next season.

It’s sad to know the NFL season is over, but before we know it the Scouting Combine will start which means the NFL Draft will soon arrive, then OTAs, and then training camp will start. It’ll be a fast six months, so fight back those tears.

Thanks for reading this week, be sure to come back as we’ll begin delving into college basketball and start gearing up for the upcoming MLB season. Everyone have a great week and have a fun time in the snow!