GridironGrit.com http://gridirongrit.com NFL, College Football, NFL Draft and Fantasy Football News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 01:03:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Washington Redskins: Who Will Burst Onto Scene in 2014? http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/washington-redskins-who-will-burst-onto-scene-in-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/washington-redskins-who-will-burst-onto-scene-in-2014/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 01:03:01 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25471

Star players often steal the spotlight around the NFL. But every year, we also witness plenty of promising young playmakers who step out of the shadows and make a name for themselves with a breakout season.

Some of these guys were merely backups or barely even played the previous year (if they saw the field at all), while others were full-fledged starters who are just on the cusp of reaching their immense potential.

But all of them appear to be ready to take a big leap with a breakout campaign in 2014.

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For All 32 NFL Teams in 2014]

Photo Credit: Redskins.com

Photo Credit: Redskins.com

[RELATED: Age Brings Wisdom: The NFL's All Over-30 Team]

Who will break out for the Washington Redskins in 2014? Our answer is second-year tight end Jordan Reed.

Despite having a history of injuries and admitting to hiding a concussion in his rookie season, the Redskins’ 2013 third round pick (No. 85 overall) out of Florida managed to set franchise rookie records with 45 receptions for 499 yards through just nine games during his rookie campaign and looks to take things to the next level and create even more damage over the middle of the field as one of Robert Griffin’s favorite targets in a much-improved receiving corps that also features Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.

“I feel like we’ve got a whole bunch of targets on offense that Rob can throw to and I feel like the defense is not going to be able to double-team or anything like that with so many weapons,” Reed said, via NFL.com. “I think I’ve got a chance to get open a lot.”

The 6-foot-2, 237-pound tight end came in the No. 12 spot in NFL.com’s Making the Leap series earlier this summer.

“Reed is often compared to a pre-incarceration Aaron Hernandez for a reason,” NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus writes. “He possesses many of the same tools that once made the former Patriots tight end a rising star.”

Who do you think will have a breakout season for the Redskins? Sound off in the comments!

Stay tuned to GridironGrit.com for the latest news and analysis on the Redskins and the rest of the NFL.

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Miami Dolphins: Who Will Be the Breakout Star in 2014? http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/miami-dolphins-who-will-be-the-breakout-star-in-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/miami-dolphins-who-will-be-the-breakout-star-in-2014/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 23:27:23 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25465

Star players often steal the spotlight around the NFL. But every year, we also witness plenty of promising young playmakers who step out of the shadows and make a name for themselves with a breakout season.

Some of these guys were merely backups or barely even played the previous year (if they saw the field at all), while others were full-fledged starters who are just on the cusp of reaching their immense potential.

But all of them appear to be ready to take a big leap with a breakout campaign in 2014.

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For All 32 NFL Teams in 2014]

Photo Credit: MiamiDolphins.com

Photo Credit: MiamiDolphins.com

[RELATED: Age Brings Wisdom: The NFL's All Over-30 Team]

Who will break out for the Miami Dolphins in 2014? Our answer is starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill hasn’t lived up to expectations during his first two seasons, but he should take his game to another level under new OC Bill Lazor, who worked under Chip Kelly in Philly last season.

Some expect Lazor to showcase a similar tempo and style for the Dolphins in 2014. Tannehill has been very efficient through the team’s first three preseason games, connecting on 28 of 41 passes for 291 yards.

The former 2012 first round pick (No. 8 overall) credits Lazor for helping him improve his footwork.

“It’s helped me get the ball out faster, have more velocity on some of my throws, and just be more consistent,” Tannehill said, via the Miami Herald. “Some of the incompletions I’ve had in the past are due to inconsistent footwork.”

Layer onto that the additions of rookie WR Jarvis Landry and veteran RB Knowshon Moreno, the inevitable emergence of Mike Wallace in Lazor’s offense and a completely overhauled offensive line after the unit allowed a whopping 58 sacks in 2013 (no QB has been sacked that many times since Jon Kitna in 2006), and it’s easy to see why Tannehill expects to “make a big jump” in 2014.

Who do you think will have a breakout season for the Dolphins? Sound off in the comments!

Stay tuned to GridironGrit.com for the latest news and analysis on the Dolphins and the rest of the NFL.

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Funniest Fantasy Football Team Names of 2014 http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/funniest-fantasy-football-team-names-of-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/funniest-fantasy-football-team-names-of-2014/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:53:06 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25450

With the start of the 2014 NFL regular season just about a week away, excitement is sweeping across the country as players, coaches and fans of all 32 teams get pumped up for real game action and their team’s chances of taking the next step. Fantasy football owners are equally excited to make a statement this season.

Coming up with a championship-caliber roster can be a real challenge, but it’s really only part of the battle. Picking a good team name can also mean the difference between year-long bragging rights and winding up as the laughingstock of your league.

Photo Credit: Eric Lars Bakke/DenverBroncos.com

Photo Credit: Eric Lars Bakke/DenverBroncos.com

If you’re having trouble coming up with the right moniker, don’t fret—we’ve got you covered with our list of the 20 funniest fantasy football team names of 2014.

1. Peyton Manning’s Audibles: The five-time NFL MVP, top-rated player in the game and DirecTV rapper/comic has been calling audibles at the line of scrimmage for ages, but his relentless “Omaha” calls became world-famous last season.

2. The Real Slim Shady: Widely regarded as arguably the top fantasy player entering 2014, “Shady” set the league on fire last season in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense with a career-high and NFL-high 1,607 yards on the ground and 2,146 yards from scrimmage. After recently eliminating “Doritos and sauce” and tossing a 45-pound plate like a frisbee, McCoy is setting his sights on even bigger and better things in 2014—like becoming just the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season.

3. Suh Kids On the Block: The Lions ‘ secondary is still a concern, but their front seven is about as scary as any in the league. Ndamukong Suh is the leader of the ferocious unit and was just voted the last person NFL players want to fight. The former 2010 No. 2 overall pick and three-time Pro Bowler was already regarded as the league’s most feared player.

4. Decker Like Rice: The Jets are hoping their new No. 1 receiver beats defensive backs to a pulp.

5. Ngata Problem: The Ravens have lost a few longtime key staples on the defensive side of the ball over the last couple of years, but the unit remains in good hands with their All-Pro run stuffer collapsing the pocket and devouring running backs at and behind the line of scrimmage. Ngata made his fifth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and looks to wreak even more havoc as he moves back to 3-4 end.

6. Hand Schaub: The Raiders’ new quarterback was a pick-six machine in 2013, but perhaps he can bounce back with a new change of scenery. Regardless of his play, he’ll still be popular in fantasy circles for his last name.

7. Coples Therapy: This is pure gold, especially in light of an early May report that claimed that the Jets’ 2012 first round pick has been “testing the patience of the coaches from the day he arrived.” Gang Green is hoping for a breakout campaign from the newly slimmed-down edge rusher, who is already rock-solid against the run and led the team in QB hurries in 2013, but managed just 4.5 sacks.

8. NickFoleon Dynamite: We’ve all seen the hilarious Nick Foles/Napoleon Dynamite memes.

9. Hakeem Like A Wrecking Ball: Nicks did just that in the Colts’ second preseason game against the Giants—Hakeem’s former team—and he continued his efficient play against the Saints last week. Nicks, 26, has lost some of his dynamic ability due to lower-leg injuries, but he still possesses plenty of promise on the perimeter in Indianapolis’ emerging offense.

10. Belichick Yourself Before You Rex Yourself: The Patriots and Jets have two of the most prominent and entertaining coaches in the league, and for very different reasons. And their rivalry may be bigger and more fun to watch than any other in the NFL.

11. Hernandez Pistol Offense: The former Patriots tight end was a very productive player, but he’s known much more for his ugly rap sheet, which includes seven charges on two counts of first-degree murder from July 2012 and another first-degree murder charge for allegedly causing the death of Odin Lloyd in 2013.

12. Wilfork On First Date: Four team names on this list deal with the Patriots, and this one might be the best. New England could yield a Top-5 defense in 2014, and a big reason is the return of their 32-year-old lane clogger.

13. Johnny 8 Ball: Whether you love him or hate him (or just find the media’s coverage of him excessive), JFF is an exciting magician at the quarterback position. Manziel in Distress is also pretty popular team name.

14. Turn Down For Watt: You knew this name was coming. Watt may be the best defensive player in the game today, and despite his physical freak on-field style of play, he’s one of the NFL’s best role models for his off-field image.

15. Plaxidently Shot Myself: The former No. 8 overall pick out of Michigan State had a productive career, hauling in 553 receptions for 8,499 yards with 64 touchdowns through 148 games (143 starts) in 11 NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2000-04; 2012), New York Giants (2005-08) and New York Jets (2011). But Burress will be remembered most for accidentally shooting himself in a Manhattan nightclub and then spending 18 months in prison.

16. Favre Dollar Footlong: Brett has been out of the NFL for over four years, but this well-known play on Subway’s slogan is still quite popular and remains one of our all-time favorites.

17. Henne I Shrunk the Kids: Henne’s days as the Jaguars’ starting signal-caller appear to be dwindling with each passing week as third overall pick Blake Bortles continues to impress. But he has a couple of team names (along with Henne Nut Cheerios) that will live in infamy.

18. Bjoern To Be Wild: The Colts are hoping for a breakout campaign from their 2013 first round pick, who will need to step up, especially in the team’s first four games during Robert Mathis’ suspension.

19. Cecil’s Jorts: My fantasy football team name, JacquizzNCecilsShorts, would also suffice.

20. Yo Soy Fiesta: The Patriots’ star oft-injured tight end certaintly has a way with words.

Our friends over at SpoonFedSports.com also have some funny team names on display.

Do you have any funny fantasy football team names to add? Sound off in the comments!

Stay up to date with GridironGrit.com throughout the season for more lighthearted posts and fantasy football content, as well as the latest news and analysis on the NFL and College Football.

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Jacksonville Jaguars: Sleeper Team To Watch in 2014? http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/jacksonville-jaguars-sleeper-team-to-watch-in-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/jacksonville-jaguars-sleeper-team-to-watch-in-2014/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:04:15 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25413

The offseason presents a ray of sunshine across the NFL landscape. Each team is presented with a clean slate and a golden opportunity to fill various holes through the draft and free agency.

It’s no wonder that nearly every year about half of the teams that made the trip to the postseason the previous year fall short of returning to the NFL’s tournament.

The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans came into 2013 widely regarded as legitimate Super Bowl contenders and finished the season with just six wins—combined. The Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens also managed just 16 combined wins after each making the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2012.

Meanwhile, San Diego (improved from 7-9 to 9-7 in 2013), New Orleans (7-9 to 11-5), Carolina (7-9 to 12-4), Philadelphia (4-12 to 10-6) and Kansas City (2-14 to 11-5) took their place as the five new teams to punch their tickets to the playoffs last season. So which non-playoff teams from 2013 will turn things around this season?

Despite missing the cut on our list of 10 NFL sleeper teams poised for a potential playoff run, the Jacksonville Jaguars are among the 10 most improved NFL teams for 2014 and could be a sleeper team to watch.

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For Every NFL Team in 2014]

Photo Credit: Jaguars.com

Photo Credit: Jaguars.com

The Jaguars haven’t had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2007. That’s unlikely to change in 2014, but the team has clearly taken plenty of positive steps this offseason and could contend for the AFC South title in 2015.

Don’t be surprised if Blake Bortles takes over for Chad Henne before the midway point in the season. He’s shown a lot of promise in the preseason, and will have some nice young weapons to work with when he hits the field.

Justin Blackmon may never play for this team again, but Cecil Shorts (121 receptions for 1,756 yards and 10 TDs over the last two seasons) and second round rookies Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee have loads of potential. Toby Gerhart is also operating as the heir apparent to MJD and looks to make a massive impact as the workhorse out of the backfield.

Let’s not forget that the team also improved in the trenches, landing ex-Broncos OG Zane Beadles (who will line up alongside last year’s No. 2 overall pick, Luke Joeckel) and third round rookie OG Brandon Linder.

The club also picked up fifth round edge rushers Chris Smith and Telvin Smith (a phenomenal steal) and ex-Seahawks defensive linemen Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who reunite with former Seattle DC and current Jags HC Gus Bradley.

How well do you think the Jaguars will do in the upcoming season? Sound off in the comments!

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Arizona Cardinals Strengthen Pass Rush, Depth On Defense http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/arizona-cardinals-strengthen-pass-rush-depth-on-defense-3/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/arizona-cardinals-strengthen-pass-rush-depth-on-defense-3/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 23:46:40 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25452

The Arizona Cardinals are coming off an impressive 10-6 campaign in 2013 and look to do bigger and better things on offense in 2014. The club has also done a nice job of upgrading the secondary over the offseason with the addition of first round rookie safety Deone Bucannon and veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

But the team as a whole seems to be headed for regression this season, particularly on defense after losing ILB Karlos Dansby via free agency, ILB Daryl Washington to a year-long suspension and DE Darnell Dockett to a torn ACL.

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For Every NFL Team in 2014]

Photo Credit: AZCardinals.com

Photo Credit: AZCardinals.com

[RELATED: Age Brings Wisdom: The NFL's All Over-30 Team]

Nevertheless, Bruce Arians, Steve Keim and the rest of the Cardinals brass are doing what they can to try to alleviate some of the inevitable struggles by adding proven veterans off the open market to serve as band aids.

On Wednesday, the team signed 33-year-old defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who was just released over the weekend by the New England Patriots. In his first nine NFL seasons (2004-12), the undrafted product out of Mississippi State amassed a total of 419 tackles with 34.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles through 129 games (117 starts) with the Oakland Raiders.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound DT was limited to five games with the Pats in 2013 after going down with a torn ACL. To make room on the current 75-man roster, recently signed DE Ryan McBean was released.

Check out the video below on why the Cardinals are a team to watch out for in 2014.

Stay tuned to GridironGrit.com for the latest news and analysis on the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL.

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Houston Texans Are Making Out Like Bandits http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/houston-texans-are-making-out-like-bandits/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/houston-texans-are-making-out-like-bandits/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 22:11:30 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25428

The salary structure in the NFL is imperfect because a player’s salary doesn’t always match his production. Often times a player’s only recourse to achieve fair value is to to hold out. We nearly saw that with Kansas City Chiefs star running back Jamaal Charles, who was severely underpaid before getting his well-deserved long-term contract in late July.

Charles’ rich new contract got us thinking about the most underpaid players in the NFL today.

[RELATED: Ranking the Most Underpaid Players in the NFL]

Photo Credit: HoustonTexans.com

Photo Credit: HoustonTexans.com

[RELATED: Ranking the Most Overpaid Players in the NFL]

Last Tuesday, J.J. Watt said he’s “outplayed” his rookie contract and wants an extension,” per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport has also reported that the Texans have been “very engaged” in contract talks and the sides have been “making progress,” but we don’t expect a deal to get done for a while.

Arguably the best defensive player in the game, Watt was recently voted the No. 12 best player on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2014 (he placed No. 5 in 2013) and is referred to as a “game-wrecker” and “a menace in the trenches” by his peers.

The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year and back-to-back first-team All-Pro is set to make a base salary of $1.9 million as the 39th highest-paid defensive end plays out the final year of his rookie contract.

The Texans exercised Watt’s team option in April, increasing his salary to $6.9 million for the 2015 season, but Watt may be the most anticipated payday from the star-studded 2011 draft class.

“J.J. Watt should be the highest paid defensive player in football when he signs an extension, no iffs, ands or buts, said Joel Corry, a former NFL/NBA agent who writes for CBS Sports and the National Football Post.

[RELATED: It Would Behoove Texans To Extend Watt's Contract Early - Chron.com]

“I love the fans that we have, I live the relationship that we have,” Watt recently told Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle. “The city’s so great and the way that they’ve treated myself and my family, I couldn’t ask for a better place to play.

“I sure as heck hope that we can make something happen … And I hope that I’ve given the effort and everything they could want to hopefully show that appreciation (back).”

[RELATED: Age Brings Wisdom: The NFL's All Over-30 Team]

Stay tuned to GridironGrit.com for the latest news and analysis on the Texans and the rest of the NFL!

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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The 10 Best NFL Free Agents Still Available http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/the-10-best-nfl-free-agents-still-available-3/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/the-10-best-nfl-free-agents-still-available-3/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:09:43 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25426

We’re just a week and a half away from the start of the 2014 NFL regular season, but there are still some notable players with potential and big-play ability available in free agency. As teams continue to aggressively trim down their rosters (from 90 players to 75 by Tuesday and then down to 53 by Saturday), more and more talented players are hitting the open market.

Photo Credit: Bengals.com

Photo Credit: Bengals.com

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For All 32 NFL Teams in 2014]

Let’s take an updated look at the 10 best unemployed players looking for new homes.

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Minnesota Vikings: Sleeper Team To Watch in 2014? http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/minnesota-vikings-sleeper-team-to-watch-in-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/minnesota-vikings-sleeper-team-to-watch-in-2014/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 14:33:25 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25419

The offseason presents a ray of sunshine across the NFL landscape. Each team is presented with a clean slate and a golden opportunity to fill various holes through the draft and free agency.

It’s no wonder that nearly every year about half of the teams that made the trip to the postseason the previous year fall short of returning to the NFL’s tournament.

The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans came into 2013 widely regarded as legitimate Super Bowl contenders and finished the season with just six winscombined. The Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens also managed just 16 combined wins after each making the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2012.

Meanwhile, San Diego (improved from 7-9 to 9-7 in 2013), New Orleans (7-9 to 11-5), Carolina (7-9 to 12-4), Philadelphia (4-12 to 10-6) and Kansas City (2-14 to 11-5) took their place as the five new teams to punch their tickets to the playoffs last season. So which non-playoff teams from 2013 will turn things around this season?

Despite missing the cut on our list of 10 NFL sleeper teams poised for a potential playoff run, the Minnesota Vikings are among the 10 most improved NFL teams for 2014 and could be a sleeper team to watch.

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For Every NFL Team in 2014]

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

[RELATED: Age Brings Wisdom: The NFL's All Over-30 Team]

Matt Cassel is expected to open the season as the starter, but it’s worth remembering that he did perform well down the stretch last season. Teddy Bridgewater has time to develop and provides a bright future for the Vikings.

We’re not exactly blown away by the Vikings offense, but the two quarterbacks have enough tools to work with in the form of Adrian Peterson, big-time breakout candidates Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph and third-year WR Jarius Wright and rookie RB Jerick McKinnon. Minnesota put much of its focus into improving the defense this offseason, and for good reason.

Despite losing valuable All-Pro leadership with the departures of Jared Allen (now in Chicago) and Kevin Williams (now in Seattle), Minnesota managed to overhaul its front seven with the additions of ex-Bears DE Corey Wooton and former Giants DT Linval Joseph via free agency and first round LB Anthony Barr (No. 9 overall) and third round DE Scott Crichton through the draft.

The defensive backfield also took a step forward with the additions of  former Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn, veteran safety Chris Crocker and rookie cornerbacks Kendall James and Antone Exum.

It’ll be tough for this team to punch its ticket to the playoffs, but the Vikings are definitely a sleeper team to watch.

How well do you think the Vikings will do in the upcoming season? Sound off in the comments!

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Denver Broncos Catch Big Break in 2014 http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/denver-broncos-catch-big-break-in-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/denver-broncos-catch-big-break-in-2014/#comments Sun, 24 Aug 2014 17:34:45 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25421

The Denver Post reported early Sunday morning that Broncos kicker Matt Prater will serve a four-game suspension to open the 2014 regular season for an alcohol-related violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

This is a pretty significant blow to the the Broncos considering the 5-foot-10, 195-pound kicker is arguably the best player at the position in the game today. Prater has connected on 141 of 170 field goals (82.9 percent) since taking over as Denver’s starting kicker in 2008. The former 2006 undrafted product out of UCF is also coming off the best year of his career, as he led the league with a staggering 96.2 field goal percentagenailing 25 of 26 field goals, including a 64-yard FG in December that broke the NFL’s 43-year record.

Matt Prater, Denver Broncos

Prater, 30, also led the league with a whopping 81 kickoff touchbacks and finished second with 150 points.

His absence will lead the Broncos to either pick up a veteran fill-in or run with undrafted rookie Mitch Ewald. But as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports, the Broncos actually got a huge break with Prater’s suspension.

“No one feels worse about this than Prater,” Steinberg said, via the Denver Post. “He feels terribly for his teammates. It’s cost him personally, both professionally and financially. I wonder if we shouldn’t take a second look at the policy when only a couple beers were consumed at home while he was on vacation. Having said that, the NFL under the constraints of the policy couldn’t have treated us better.”

If Steinberg’s claim is true that Prater only had a couple of beers at home during his vacation, than you could make a case that not only is the NFL’s policy against marijuana ridiculously archaic, but the entire substance abuse policy is, too.

“I’ve made some mistakes,” Prater said. “I’m accepting full responsibility. I’ll learn from it and come back a better person. I want to apologize to my teammates, my coaches, the Broncos’ organization and the fans.”

Prater has been in the league’s alcohol program since August 2011, when he was charged with DUI.

Denver’s high-flying offense will try to make up for Prater’s absence by finding the end zone more, but that could be difficult task given that the team led the league with 71 TDs in 2013, 55 of which came from the arm of Peyton Manning.

Stay tuned to GridironGrit.com for the latest news and analysis on the Broncos and the rest of the NFL.

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sleeper Team To Watch in 2014? http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/tampa-bay-buccaneers-sleeper-team-to-watch-in-2014/ http://gridirongrit.com/2014/08/tampa-bay-buccaneers-sleeper-team-to-watch-in-2014/#comments Sun, 24 Aug 2014 16:32:58 +0000 http://gridirongrit.com/?p=25403

The offseason presents a ray of sunshine across the NFL landscape. Each team is presented with a clean slate and a golden opportunity to fill various holes through the draft and free agency.

It’s no wonder that nearly every year about half of the teams that made the trip to the postseason the previous year fall short of returning to the NFL’s tournament.

The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans came into 2013 widely regarded as legitimate Super Bowl contenders and finished the season with just six winscombined. The Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens also managed just 16 combined wins after each making the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2012.

Meanwhile, San Diego (improved from 7-9 to 9-7 in 2013), New Orleans (7-9 to 11-5), Carolina (7-9 to 12-4), Philadelphia (4-12 to 10-6) and Kansas City (2-14 to 11-5) took their place as the five new teams to punch their tickets to the playoffs last season. So which non-playoff teams from 2013 will turn things around this season?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among our 10 NFL sleeper teams poised for a potential playoff run in 2014.

[RELATED: Breakout Candidates For Every NFL Team in 2014]

Photo Credit: Buccaneers.com

Photo Credit: Buccaneers.com

[RELATED: Age Brings Wisdom: The NFL's All Over-30 Team]

We firmly expect this team to emerge from the bottom-feeder in its division to a legitimate playoff contender this season after all of the offseason additions, particularly in the trenches—signing ex-Bengals DE Michael Johnson and OT Anthony Collins, along with a quality run-stuffer in ex-Seahawks DL Clinton McDonald (also another former Bengal) and former Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Smith and Collins will certainly help out Josh McCown and/or Mike Glennon this season—who will also be working with massive set of weapons in wide outs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but the loss of Carl Nicks leaves the team with arguably the league’s weakest depth chart at guard heading into 2014.

Oniel Cousins is now the projected starting left guard to open the season, with Jamon Meredith and Patrick Omameh batting on the right side. This could become a major roadblock for the Bucs’ ground game, which was looking very promising with a two-headed monster in Doug Martin (aka the Mustle Hamster) and rookie Charles Sims.

[RELATED: Who Will Have Breakout Season For Bucs in 2014?]

And even though the move has taken a back seat to all of the other additions in the trenches and at the skill positions, Tampa Bay did a brilliant job of replacing Darrelle Revis. Former Titans corner Alterraun Verner is an excellent fit in Lovie Smith’s Cover 2-themed scheme. He’s also three and a half years younger and comes at roughly half the price of Revis.

How well do you think the Buccaneers will do in the upcoming season? Sound off in the comments!

Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com.  He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website.  Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.  Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!

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