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What to expect from Johnny Manziel's 1st start

Ever since the 22nd draft pick was announced in the NFL Draft, fans knew it was only a matter of time before Johnny "Football" Manziel would be inserted into the starting lineup of the Cleveland Browns.  After incumbent and hometown QB Brian Hoyer struggled down the stretch playing poorly in the last couple games Mike Pettine announced that Manziel will receive his 1st start of his career against the Cincinnati Bengals.  

In his first true action of the season Manziel relieved Hoyer November 30th against the Buffalo Bills, going 5-8 for 63 yards and an additional 13 yards and a TD rushing.  Comparisons between him and Hoyer were evident in the first couple plays as Manziel displayed nice zip and accuracy on his throws (something Hoyer appeared to lack), as well as the ability to improvise with scrambling and making plays happen (an ability that Brian Hoyer does not possess).  It was this outing that gave Browns fans hope that Johnny Football was ready to compete on the big stage and take the reigns of this team as they push towards a playoff berth.  If Manziel can display all the attributes he showed at Texas A&M and during his limited action in the NFL, he could prove to be a serious upgrade over Brian Hoyer.

When Johnny Manziel steps on the field against the Cincinatti Bengals, Manziel and the Cleveland Browns will be not only be going against a division and in-state rival, but the hype of the media and fans alike, as well the inexperience that seems to doom all rookie quarterbacks coming into the league.  The record for rookie QBs in their first year is a dismal one over the years, with the win percentage diving even more during their 1st official start.  While Manziel could be special in the long run, it is not wise to believe that he will change this statistic.  

There will be times that Manziel will resemble the Johnny Football that won him a Heisman trophy in college like improvising and displaying the natural ability that made him famous, but he will make rookie mistakes that could prove to be the difference in his first game.  Every player that has made the transition from NCAA to NFL will say the game is much faster and opponents are much smarter, and this is something Manziel will soon experience.  

The one thing more than anything that could prove to be on Johnny Manziel's side is the Cincinnati Bengals defense.  The Bengals defense has been a below average unit this year, ranking 28th out of 32 teams while giving up roughly 378 total yards a game (131 rushing & 247 passing).  Cincinnati will give Manziel opportunities to make plays and be successful, but he will have to learn to take what the defense gives him.  Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan has said he has looked at old Texas A&M, as well as RG3/Washington Redskins tape in order to give Manziel more familiarity with certain plays so he does not feel the need to force plays in pressure situations.  Forcing plays (which is what most rookies tend to do) will lead to turnovers and wasted possessions and tiring out his exceptional defense he has behind him.

When the clock hits zero on the scoreboard on Sunday it is safe to say that Johnny Manziel will make some highlight plays as well as some plays that will have coaches and fans alike shaking their heads.  As Browns fan Chelsea Thomas stated "I think he will run a few good plays. But he is going to make mistakes obviously." The key to Manziel keeping the starting job will be limiting the bad plays and maximizing the positive plays in order to keep the Browns playoff hopes alive.



Winners and Losers from Week 6 of NFL

Winners

Dallas Cowboys - Defeated Seattle Seahawks



In a game that they were not supposed to win, in a place that NOBODY is supposed to win, the Dallas Cowboys pulled off a huge upset in defeating the Seattle Seahawks in front of the 12th man.  Tony Romo went 21-32 for 250 yards and 2TDs, while DeMarco Murray 29 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown.  The Cowboys defense showed up too by limiting Russell Wilson to 126 yards passing and Marshawn Lynch to 61 rushing, neither reaching the endzone.  Dallas now owns the best record in the NFC, outscoring opponents by 64 points since halftime of week 1.

Joe Flacco - 5 TD Passes in 17 minutes

It was one of those days Joe Flacco will never forget.  Flacco connected on a team record 5 touchdown passes...on the 1st 5 possessions of the game.  The Baltimore QB ended the game with 306 yards as he completely torched the Bucs defense.  As a QB who has persistently gave supporters and detractors reason for debate, this could give him the push he needed to take this offense to the next level.

Cleveland Browns - Defeated the Steelers 

1-18. That was the Cleveland Browns record verses the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger as starting quarterback.  In front of a home crowd that has rallied behind their upstart team, the Browns avenged all their demons by handing Pittsburgh a 31-10 defeat that wasn't as close as the lopsided score may indicate.  The win moves the Browns to 3-2 and on the right path going into a stretch of 3 upcoming games they will be favored in.  This team could soon be 6-2 going forward.

Branden Oliver - 100 yards in SD Chargers win

The rookie running back from Buffalo may have snagged the starting job on the best football team in the AFC.  After getting praise from college teammate Khalil Mack, Oliver went out and ran for 101 yards and a touchdown, his 2nd 100+ yard rushing game in a row.  The Chargers have the best record in the AFC and are clicking on all cylinders.  If the unheralded back Oliver can provide stability in the backfield, the Chargers could be in for a special season.

Phillip Rivers - Topping MVP conversation

While RB Branden Oliver has been a good story coming out of San Diego, THE story has been QB Phillip Rivers, and his MVP play this season.  Since the narrow 18-17 loss to start the season Rivers has been nearly flawless, throwing for at least 250 yards and 123+ QB rating while leading the Chargers to a share of the best record in the AFC.  While many expected Peyton Manning to run away with another MVP, but at this point the award may go to another AFC West QB.


Losers

Detroit Lions FG Kicking - Matt Prater missing FG, 10 misses as a team

Oh Lions fans, this nightmare just won't end.  Detroit signed former Broncos kicker Matt Prater (the 3rd kicker signed to the team this year) to end their kicking woes, and all he did was make things worse.  Prater was 1-3 for the day, bringing the total number of missed field goals for the year to 10.  Keep in mind that the top total number of misses last year by any team was 9.  Detroit has already lost 2 games behind their kicking game this season, and the team can only hope that somebody....anybody...can provide stability to the unit.



Pittsburgh Steelers Coaching Staff - Poor performance on offense/defense

Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley, Dick Lebeau...you are all officially put on notice.  Steeler fans are used to being in the playoff hunt, having an efficient offense, and having a defense that plays well on almost every sunday.  After a horrid showing against the Cleveland Browns that saw the offense seem to have no identity, a defense that appeared completely overmatched, and a team as a whole that did not come into Cleveland ready to play, grumblings are getting louder as some are calling for the heads of Tomlin, Haley, and even Lebeau.  Steeler Nation wants a turnaround, and it is up to these three to provide it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Horrible showing vs Ravens

It was one of those days for Tampa Bay.  Before they could blink Joe Flacco had thrown 5 TDs, and the Buccaneers were down 35-0.  The only positive to take from this situation could have been that only 17 minutes of the game had passed...or that could have been a negative?  In retrospect it really did not matter because by the time the 1st quarter ended the game was essentially over as Baltimore pummeled Tampa Bay 48-17.  This was one of those games where they should just move on, forget it happened, and  hopefully count on the fact they do not have to face Joe Flacco or the Ravens anymore this season.

Victor Cruz - Torn Patella Tendon

Poor Victor Cruz.  Just as the New York Giants season was turning around, the star wideout tore his Patella Tendon Sunday night against the Eagles, and will miss the rest of the year.  It was a sad scene seeing him writhing and screaming on the ground in pain as the trainers tended to him, and even worse seeing him sobbing uncontrollably while being taken off the field.  The Giants are saying they "hope" he can come back sometime next season, but are admitting it is just a hope and they are not sure at this point.

New England Patriots - Lost Mayo & Ridley for year

In the midst of the New England Patriots appearing more vulnerable than at any point during the Tom Brady era, they took two big hits when they lost not only running back Stevan Ridley to a torn ACL & MCL, but starting linebacker Jerod Mayo to a lower leg injury that sources out of New England are describing as "bad" and "severe".  Reports are already indicating that both players will miss the remainder of the season.

The Patriots had seemed to have lost its luster during parts of the season, with its Tom Brady led offense seeming out of sync, and the defense not seeming to match expectations.  Losing key contributors on both sides of the ball will undoubtedly not help matters.  The running game will have to look to Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen, while the loss of Mayo will have Bill Belichick scheming around not having his talented linebacker.

The Patriots may have won in Buffalo on Sunday, but they may have lost the most of any team playing on week 6.




Takeaways from the first two weeks of NCAA Football

The first two weeks of the 2014 college football season has already come and gone (fast huh?), giving us a few surprises, highlight reel plays, and storylines to follow as the season progresses.  Some players have already shown to exceed expectations placed on them, increasing draft stock as well as the play of their team overall.  One conference has shown to be on the decline while another made a huge statement week two.  Finally, a former power of college football has made a statement to the rest of the nation that it will be back, and back sooner than some would have thought.

-Everett Golson will be a top QB prospect.

When Everett Golson was taking the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the National Championship game, some wondered if they were winning in spite of their young QB.  After he was suspended, question was raised if he would start when he came back, and if he deserved to both on and off the field.  After taking his punishment and returning to the team this year, Golson has taken the reigns of this team and pushed them to the same National Championship level they were at two years ago.  In Notre Dame’s two games, Golson is 37 of 56 (66%) for 521 yards, 5 TDs and 0 Ints.  The most telling stat however is that Notre Dame has outscored their opponents 79-17.  Golson is the real deal, and people can either accept it now or wait for the bandwagon later.


-Big Ten is full of teams that have not adjusted to the evolution of college football

As good a day that the ACC had, the Big 10 had that horrible of a day.  The day started off in crises mode when Nebraska was tied with McNeese St, 24-24 with less than a minute left.  That crisis was averted when Ameer Abdullah took a screen pass 58 yards for the game-winning touchdown.  After that Ball State took Iowa to the last minute before the Iowa Hawkeyes came away with the win.  Unfortunately, a winning result could not said for Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State.  All four of what would be claimed to be the Big Ten’s “Better teams” failed to deliver for not only them, but their conference. 
Part of the reason for this conferences decline can be attributed to their tradition being so rooted that they are almost easy to gameplan for.  Most of the teams in this conference have played roughly the same way for years, if not decades.  It appears at times that all of the innovation and evolution that has happened to college football over the past decade has completely been ignored by the Big Ten.  Until their teams can get with the times and out of the dark ages, they will continue to struggle when facing teams that are outside the conference.


-Marcus mariota is the best qb in college football

We may have made a case why is Everett Golson is a top QB prospect, but lets make it clear that Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is THE top QB prospect.  Everything he does is crisp and every game appears to have gained that much more knowledge of the game and how to be that much more successful.  This year he has gone 31 of 48 (64.6%) 585 yards with 6 TDs and 0 Ints.  Marcus Mariota may need an offense that can spread the ball around and push it vertical, but he is a polished NFL QB right now.  The sky is the limit for the Oregon Duck.


-USC will again be a powerhouse once they recover from their NCAA sanctions
For all the glitz and glamour that the University of Southern California may produce, they have also produced some of the greatest powerhouses in NCAA history.  After going through the turmoil of the Reggie Bush scandal, Pete Carroll leaving, NCAA sanctions, and the tenure of Lane Kiffin, the Trojans may finally be on the road back to dominance.  In their first game against Fresno State, USC ran over 100 plays in a crushing 52-13 win.  The word was out that Southern Cal had finally adapted to the spread uptempo offense craze sweeping the world.  The only question would be if they could handle their first big test against conference rival #13 Stanford.  This team, still recovering from NCAA sanctions only suited up 57 of 64 players, with many being injured or fairly young inexperience players.  Still, they managed to escape the tough road test with a 13-10 win.  It may not be the dominance of their first game, but USC gained a lot of confidence that they can compete with anybody on their schedule.  The most horrifying question the rest the nation now all has to ask themselves, “ What happens when USC gets back to full strength health/scholarship wise”?


-The ACC is the most improved conference

With all the top teams and players doing what they were supposed to, one whole conference has managed to stay under the radar while making the biggest statement.  The ACC managed to go 11-0 for the day, a record for the conference besting their old record of 8-0 in non-conference games.  It seems as though every year the ACC is disregarded as teams who have “good teams, but not elite championship teams”.  With defending National Champion Florida State looking to repeat, the ACC posting numbers like this has to do nothing but help the Seminoles chances of at least making the playoffs.  Last year Florida State had to go underfeated to make it to the National Championship.  If the ACC keeps improving and building on their record day, Florida State could find themselves in the position of not needing an unblemished record to compete for another National Championsip.