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7 on 7: Hot Topics and Some Midseason Awards

Discussion in 'Hard Knocks' started by JFace907, Jan 11, 2016.

  1. JFace907

    JFace907 Ron F'n Swanson

    Jul 1, 2010
    Here at the Hard Knocks Periodical we like to span the league and take the temperature on various topics the league has given us. Today we grabbed 7 journalists and asked them 7 questions. We look to get their hot takes and maybe even some insight on the team they make a living covering.

    The 7 journalists joining us in this edition are…

    Hugh Morris – Hawk’s Nest (Bellevue, WA)
    Chip Dawson – The Bumblebee Tuna Report (Atlanta, GA)
    Bill Plaschke – LA Times (Los Angeles, CA)
    Shonn Moorhouse – The Burgh Report (Pittsburgh, PA)
    Jason Span – The ‘Nati Herald (Cincinnati, OH)
    Shiloh Stintson – New York Post (New York, NY)
    Joseph Falco - Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD)

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Questions were sent to journalists in middle of Week 12 and had until Week 13 conclusion to answer. Timeliness of stats may vary

    1. The Seattle Seahawks starting the season 4-0 and have gone 1-5 since. Who are the real Seahawks?

    Hugh Morris : It pains me to say this as I cover this team for a living, but it has to be the Seahawks that we’ve seen in the last 6 games. Since the heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl 49 Russell Wilson has become an interception throwing machine. He threw 34 in ’15, 29 in ’16, and already has 18 through 10 games this season (12 of those 18 here in this 6 game spell). A plus for this team is that they have only played 2 division games thus far and while they’ve lost them both, winning the remaining 4 could help this team win the division.

    Chip Dawson : It seems that the Seahawks schedule gets tougher and tougher. To line up against the Niners, Texans, Titans, Cardinals, and Skins is a tall task and it doesnt seem to going to get any easier. The Seahawks good talent and I still think is a playoff team but Russell Wilson is going to have to generate more offense than he has the past few games

    Bill Plaschke : The Seahawks are somewhere in-between; which is exactly where their record has them. Looking at not making the playoffs for a third straight year the Seahawks are stuck in league mediocrity where they aren't quite good enough to make the playoffs yet aren't bad enough to tank and get a top pick. The team already made waves trading Jimmy Graham last offseason - would another year with no playoffs signal the end for Russell Wilson in Seattle?

    Shonn Moorhouse : Although Seattle has lost 3 of their last 4 games, only last week against an 8-2 powerhouse in Washington was the most lopsided. Fortunately for the Seahawks, their schedule is loaded with .500 or under teams, minus 6-4 San Francisco coming up next. Unfortunately for Seattle, I don't see much of a change as they're going against some tough opponents. Success would be 3 wins over their final 6 games, taking them to a crucial offseason for that franchise to turn it around.

    Jason Span : The Seahawks have hit a bit of a rough patch but I think they're better than their last 5 games indicate. Seattle's last 6 opponents are a combined 37-23 and only one of them is below .500 on the season. During the stretch, Seattle lost their identity, finding themselves with a -5 turnover differential in their last 6 games after being +7 in that department through their first 4 games. If Seattle can bring their turnover differential back into the positives, I think we'll start to see that this is a playoff-caliber team.

    Shiloh Stintson : Well it seems to me once they started playing teams that were actually good and contenders for the playoffs, they began to struggle. Their first 4 games they played (1-10) Falcons, (5-6) Cowboys, (3-9) Eagles, and (7-4) Vikings, which is the best win on their schedule although I'll point out that was the first game of the season where teams exactly don't know how their personnel is going to respond to other team's personnel and changes over the offseason. And I'm not saying the Seahawks aren't a good team but when they stepped up in competition, they scored 10 points in a loss to the Niners (6-4). They were blown out by the (7-3) Texans 33-6. Then they continue to lose 3 more games all to teams over .500 (Redskins, Cardinals and Titans). The Seahawks need to prove they can play with the big boys. Unfortunately, they won't have that opportunity as they play a lot of mid level teams...teams with the same record near .500. They can capitalize here and go on a run.

    Joseph Falco : On the east coast, its pretty hard to keep up with Seattle. But from what i've seen they look like a very middle of the road football team. Schedule started off favorably, and that got tougher, and as a result they started to struggle. I see 8-8 as a likey record for them down the stretch. The NFC West is a super talented football conference and I just don't see them tunring it back on like they did to start the year.

    2. Staying out west, the two divisions from their respect conferences feature the only 3 or more team races in HK. Project for me which division stays logjammed the longest.

    HM: The left coast has provided HK with all of the fun as of late. It was a West v West Super Bowl for SB 52 and here the two divisions are again giving us the best fights for their respective division crown. The NFC West has honestly been a log jam since the 2015 season. It really hasn’t changed and I don’t see it changing. All four teams are extremely even with the team arguably the least talented on paper currently leading the division. While I’m sure the AFC West will provide some fun, I ultimately think the Raiders and Chiefs will separate themselves as the contenders for the division crown.

    CD : The NFC West definitely however they still have a good bit of division games between each left , but it will come down to the wire possibly week 17 to determine the division. The Raiders will eventually separate themselves from the rest especially how David Carr has been balling lately

    BP : The NFC West is a weird one with 3 teams fighting tooth and nail for that division title while the other team, namely the Rams, have an owner who is spending all his free time getting the new LA stadium ready and is refusing to even be around the team this season. Coming off a Super Bowl win this was supposed to be the start of something great for the St. Louis franchise, but it's been a downward spiral ever since and at the end I guess the owner is more concerned with the money than the team this season. Keeping it in the NFC West, I can see this division coming down to the final weeks but the 49ers favorable schedule, as well as the fact that they have already beat the Cardinals and the Seahawks earlier in the season, makes them the clear favorite for this divison.

    SM : What is going on in the NFC West can not necessarily be contributed to what is going on on the football field, especially in St. Louis. I think the more interesting race will be in the AFC West, as each one of the top 3 teams could make a statement in the playoffs. That division will get the most attention between the two. Oakland has been playing really good football, but is facing a gauntlet to finish the season. That Denver/Kansas City game will be huge for that division. If Oakland can win 4 of their final 6 games, look for a three team jam at the top of the division. I think you will see the NFC West turn into a two horse race between San Francisco and Arizona.

    JS : While the top of the AFC West may have better teams, the NFC West easily stands out to me as a division that will stay close until the very end. All 4 teams are at least .500 and the last place team is only a game back from first. I do expect the Niners to pull away from the pack as they hit the home stretch as their last 3 opponents are currently a combined 7-23.

    SS : This one is a tough one because I feel the strongest division is the AFC West. You have the Chiefs who've been to the last two HK super bowls, the Raiders who seemed to have found their niche as an air raid passing team and the Broncos, who have arguably the best offense in HK.

    Meanwhile the NFC West is more of a "who can get out of their own way" type of division. The Rams have been battling coach issues and may not repeat as champions after making all those splashy moves...it's just unfortunate their coach won't be on the sidelines for the time being. The Seahawks are a solid team but have struggled to beat top tier teams on their schedule. The Niners have the best points scored vs points against in that division, but I'm just not a believer in that offense. The Cardinals are the team to watch in that division, tied with the Niners at 6-4 but they need to get out of their own way. Gun to my head, I'll say the AFC West stays a logjam the longest...they will easily get two from their division into the playoffs at around 10-11 wins.

    JF : I think I've got to pick the AFC West on this one. The Raiders have been close to breaking through the past couple of season, and I think they finally have all of the pieces in place to finally do that. With that said, the Broncos and Chiefs are talented and methodical football teams. Consistent playoff teas and with the highpowered Raiders offense making moves also, I don't see how this doesn't stay log jammed. The NFC West I see starting to spread apart in the next two weeks as the 49ers start to seperate themselves from the pack.

    3. The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be on track to dethrone the back to back division champ Baltimore Ravens. Contender or Pretender for Super Bowl participant?

    HM: Contender. Just when you thought Father Time was getting the best of Big Ben he turns around and puts out one of the best (if not the best) halves we’ve seen from him. He’s turning Luke Willson into the stud tight end the Seahawks should have kept. Le’Veon Bell is looking unstoppable as well. I think the bigger question is, does Big Ben ride off into the sunset if he indeed does bring the crown back to Pittsburgh?

    CD : Take a look at the Steelers linebacking core. Go ahead. I'll wait.

    BP : The King of the North finally looks to be getting the Joffrey treatment this season and will be giving up his throne to its rightful owner in the division. The Steelers are a scary team this season as they look to make it their mission to take the franchise back to a Super Bowl. In a conference where the two "true" contenders are both in the same division (looking over in the AFC East) the Steelers have to be seen as a contender.

    SM : I cover a lot of Steelers football and I will say they are a contender, but to not give them a real shot just yet. Their schedule has only seen one playoff contender since the alterations after Week 4 in Houston, and we are now in limbo in the state of the Texans for the Playoffs. A nail bitter against Jacksonville has me concerned, but every team shows a little struggle at some point in the season. I won't count out a team as a SB contender this early in the season, especially one that has only 1 loss on the season, but they will need to impress me over the final 6 weeks. I do think they have the defense to do it, but I need to see more.

    JS : As long as Tubb is at the helm, the Steelers will always be contenders. Pittsburgh has already passed their win total from two seasons ago and is just one win away from equaling their total from last season, all with 6 games still left on the schedule. The Steelers have found a balanced attack on offense, boasting the #4 rushing attack and the #11 passing attack. The two combined have given him the 5th ranked offense. Couple that with their #2 defense, I expect the Steelers to not only be contenders, but to be the favorites going into the playoffs.

    SS : I think a lot of teams around the league have been waiting for the Steelers to show up to the party. They have been a disappointment the first two years but have shown something here. Trading Antonio Brown can do that for you I guess...but this bunch is relying on Bell as their "bell cow" and their constant whining about their defense is actually paying off with moves to get more players on that side of the ball. Grabbing a corner super high can work wonders I'd say...

    I think they are desperate for a title this year more than ever because there's rumbling that Big Ben is retiring after this season and they really don't have much confidence in their backup QB, a 3rd round rookie who has some talent but he's really not ready to take over as the starter even for next year. They are a contender though.

    JF : Well this is a sore subject around these parts. Earlier this season when the Ravens and Steelers met, I would have said definite contender. The way they manndhandled the Ravens for four quarters on the road was very impressive. But they have had some injuries of late and their most recent showing against the Ravens raised some serious question marks.

    They have a good schedule down the stretch and they could finish realistically at 14-2. But they've only played 3 playoff teams (if the season ended today) so I still need to see more from them before calling them a contender for the crown.

    4. We’re a little past the midseason point, so let’s toss out some first half rewards. Who’s your first half AFC and NFC Offensive Rookies of the Half?

    HM: We’re going to Houston for the AFC rook. Running back AJ Gates is leading the first place Texans and shows no signs of slowing down. I go home with the trophy at year’s end. In the NFC its gets a little murky as consistency hasn’t been a trait their rookies share. But the hottest name right now is Normando Bell of the Carolina Panthers. The former Sooner has eclipsed 100 yards in 3 consecutive games in matchups against the Bears, Bucs and Pats. He’s also found the endzone 7 times on the year so far.

    CD : AFC: A.J Gates; also 3rd in NFL rushing yards, owner JMustang has an eye for talent. NFC: Oh my goodness, Cam has a receiver now. His name is Normando Bell

    BP : AFC is easy - AJ Gates; given their owner's recent hissy-fit over the lack of touches given to the great talent out of Florida look for the back to get the ball 30 times + a game as he goes chasing for the rushing title.

    NFC I would have to give it to Normando Bell but that is only for the lack of options in this conference. Bell is having a stellar year, don't get me wrong, but his competition in the NFC is few and far between for rookie of the half.

    SM : I think the offensive side of the ball is the easiest as there really aren't any Rookies that have a role capable of making a huge statement. It is no secret that the Texans have been feeding AJ Gates all season in the AFC. In the NFC, I think you look at WR Normando Bell. He is on a winning team with the numbers to show he is making an impact.

    JS : Let's start with the AFC. This one is easy. AJ Gates, of the Texans, has not only been the best rookie this season, he's arguably been one of the best players in the NFL period. He's 3rd in rushing so far this season with 1,193 yards and 9 TDs, averaging just under 6 yards per carry. He is currently on pace to eclipse 1,900 yards, which would be by far be the best rookie season for a RB of all time.

    The NFC race is a little tighter, though I think it comes down to either Patrick Mason of the Giants or Normando Bell of the Panthers. Mason has impressed this season, throwing for 17 TDs and 11 INTs, but I would have to give the nod to Normando Bell due to his team's success. He leads all rookie receivers in yards and TDs, and with his team sitting as the 2-seed in the NFC right now, he gets my pick for NFC Offensive Rookie of the half.

    SS : AFC- RB AJ Gates (HOU)- When you put the Texans and a rookie together, it's like instant stats for that person. The Texans love stats more than winning a game me thinks...but that's why Gates is up and leading this race at the moment and is the clear AFC ROTY.

    NFC- QB Patrick Mason (NYG)- Hey first of all, being a fellow lefty, it's refreshing to see a lefty QB back in the NFL. More importantly, he's completing 65% of his passes and has a 17/11 TD-INT ratio

    JF : AFC offense has to be AJ Gates. He is in the running for MVP I'd say so far this season, so amongst rookies its no contest. 9TD's, 5.9 YPC, do I really need to say anything else?

    For NFC I'm gonna go with Normando Bell for the Panthers. He leads all rookies in receiving yards, and is 12th overall. This kid has been a real weapon for the panthers, and could be a big part down the stretch for them as well.

    5. How about AFC and NFC Defensive Rookies?

    HM: In practice, my offensive rook sees the defensive rookie across the line of scrimmage in Lenny James. The former Buckeye is living in the backfield in the Texans 3-4 scheme and isn’t too shabby when he needs to fall back in coverage snatching a couple interceptions. In the NFC, I like David Scott. Typically you don’t see tall corners come away with a lot of interceptions because if you’ve got a big body with solid hands, he’s typically playing on the other side of line of scrimmage. Scott bucks that trend leading all rookies with 5 picks.

    CD : AFC: Lenny James Houston Texans another JMustang product. Houston ties J. Clowney in team sacks NFC: Tywon Benson Washington Redskins. Benson has been all over the field this breaking up passes with 2 INTs, 5 deflections and 6 tackles for losses.

    BP : Oh look another Texan here as Lenny James' 39 tackles has him 2nd of all the rookies while his 7 sacks has him clear of the #2 spot by 3 picks. James has brought with him a demeanor that is usually only seen in veterans and has fit into the Texans' linebacking corp seamlessly.

    I'll give a shoutout to a local kid for the NFC side as UCLA's David Scott currently leads all rookies in INTs with 4. It's been a rough season for the Eagles but Scott has quietly been justifying his 1st round selection with his play so far this season.

    SM : Defensively, things get much more interesting. In the NFC, Cornelius Dixon on the Lions has been playing good football and making tackles. On the AFC side, CB Trey McCray has been shutting down opposing passing games in Pittsburgh's 3rd ranked pass defense.

    JS : Defensive rookies are a bit tougher, but in the NFC, I'd have to pick Tywon Benson from the Washington Redskins. He's 4th among rookies in tackles and has also added 2 interceptions, guiding Washington to the 4th ranked defense so far.

    In the AFC, Lenny James for Houston has stood out amongst a strong crop of AFC rookies. He's 2nd in tackles amongst rookies but his 7 sacks have separated him from the rest of the group, helping Houston boast the #4 scoring defense in the league.

    SS : AFC- OLB Lenny James (HOU)- I could literally copy and paste what I said about AJ Gates. James has come in and is leading rookies in sacks and has 2 INT's to boot. He's well on his way to becoming one of the top LB's in HK.

    NFC- CB David Scott (PHI)- Scott has been thriving well in the Eagles' man press philosophies and is leading all rookies with 5 INT's on the year..

    JF : What's defense? All joking aside we have seen a lot of scoring this season, but I think I have to go with another rookie out of Houston, and pick Lenny James. 7 sacks, FF, 2 INT's and 39 tackles is not only balanced, but those numbers lead his team in several categories, very impressive, especially for a rookie.

    For NFC, I'd say David Scott out of Philly. With all of the points being scored, the ability to take to ball away is pretty important. 5 interceptions this far in the season and a decent number of tackles to go with it. All that without even being a top 2 corner on his own team.

    6. Who is your MVP of the first half?

    HM: Big Ben. It’s honestly not even close for me. What has impressed me the most about his season is his ability to protect the football. I look at the quarterback I cover in Russell Wilson and see that he has 3 times more picks thrown than Big Ben. THREE TIMES. That’s impressive.

    CD : Big Ben. Check out the line.

    Cmp Att Pct Yds Avg TD Sack Int Rate
    185 261 71 2876 11.0 20 0 7 122.5
    Id say he is having a good year

    BP : Is there anyone other than Derek Carr who even deserves a shout here? His completion percentage of 72% is currently a 12% jump over his numbers last season and his 113.4 QB rating has fans of the often sad and sorry Oakland Raiders believing he is the messiah who will lead them to the promised land. The Raiders WILL make the playoffs and its all because of Carr's play so far this season.

    SM : This is a tough one. Derek Carr and Le'Veon Bell both have their teams playing really good football. I have to give the edge to Carr. A 75% completion percentage with 32 TDs and more than 3,600 yards is impressive, especially with "only" 14 INTs. His gameplay will be huge for the Raiders to close out the season for a playoff run.

    JS : Derek Carr is my runaway MVP vote at this point. Carr currently boasts a 113.4 QB rating with a 72% completion percentage. He is also on pace to throw for nearly 6,000 yards and 51 TDs while also leading his team to a 7-3 record that puts him atop the AFC West right now. It looks like the MVP is his to lose at this point.

    SS : RB Le'Veon Bell- Bell has thrived on becoming the top dog for the Steelers offense. He's on pace for 1800 rushing yards and in total, over 2300 yards from scrimmage. He's not only the reason why the Steelers are 9-1, but the reason why their defense has been better because they simply haven't been on the field as much. The Steelers are controlling the clock and are a much feared team, just as long as Bell stays healthy.

    JF : I guess I've got to go with Derek Carr for this one. #1 QB is usually a safe bet. Oakland loves to air the ball out, and this season it looks like they finally have the weapons around Carr for him to get it done. This is an exciting offense to watch and if Carr can maintain his 36:16 TD to INT ratio and lead the league in yards, he will win MVP in a walk. #StartTheCarr

    7. Give us a storyline to pay close attention to in the second half. It could be a player you see bursting out or crashing down, a team on the rise, or even a relocation of a franchise. What is going to blowing up Sportscenter on a consistent basis the second half?

    HM : Shady McCoy and the Buffalo Bills. Shady is having the best season of his career but has been known to take a knock at the worst of times. If he can stay healthy, the Bills and Steelers are on a crash course for the AFC title game.

    CD : Don't be surprised to see the Bills finally get over the hump and hold up that Lombardi Trophy. That offense and offensive scheme is something serious

    BP : With LA finally getting a team next year - the Rams - this was supposed to be a joyous time for the city. However, with a team that barely has enough time to even show up on the field is this move going to end up being the ultimate disaster? Only time will tell, but when the deal was struck to bring the team to the great city of Los Angeles the fans were hyped to see a Super Bowl calibre type team in the city, but their play and effort this year has the fans a little wary of exactly what the Rams will bring to LA.

    SM : I've touched on it, but I think a big thing to pay attention to is will some of these division leaders survive and close out the season. Pittsburgh has taken the reigns in the AFC North, but a loss to Baltimore this week could change things dramatically. Oakland was showing off at the beginning of the season, but Denver and Kansas City are nipping at their heels with a tough schedule ahead. The NFC West is a cluster of teams where nobody seems to want to win or lose that division. Can the 9ers hold on? New Orleans is making a push to change the course of the NFC South, while Tennessee is apparently in position to run away with the AFC South, depending on what becomes of the Texans.

    JS : As we already talked about, I think the NFC West race is going to be something to pay close attention to. No other division is as close as that one and it also is the only division where all 4 teams are at least .500; it'll be hard to find a division with a more tightly contested race as we hit the home stretch.

    The Packers are a team to watch after their 0-5 start. They've reeled off 5 straight wins and now stand just 2 games back of the Vikings, who have suffered 2 losses in their last 3 matches. It's up to Green Bay to take advantage of their hot streak now.

    SS : I'm looking to the Oakland Raiders where Derek Carr likely will destroy all types of passing records as far as yardage goes. The Raiders decided to go all Texas Tech on the NFL and are passing at an absurd level. Derek Carr is on pace to go well over 6000 yards passing. What's impressive is the switch to go exclusive as a passing attack, Carr's INT's numbers have drastically dipped (had 42 picks last year, only has 18 in 12 games). He's likely gonna throw for over 50 TD's and is passing at a 73% clip. And yes he's left off my MVP ballot and I liken that to the college game where we could easily take any TTU or WSU QB and give them the best QB award...well when you pass on 80-85% of your plays, it's easy to get insane numbers. Still, I'm intrigued in seeing if Carr can reach some lofty numbers

    JF : Its got to be the AFC Wild Card. With the Ravens looking like they are going to be in the thick of it, I've really been looking into the possible outcomes, and this could get messy. You currently have 7 teams all within a game of eachother. We could have a scenario in which a team could go from leading their division to out of the playoffs all in the last week of the season. I started doing the tiebreaker math, and it will be a mess. AFC Wild Card is where all of the attention will be
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
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  2. JFace907

    JFace907 Ron F'n Swanson

    Jul 1, 2010
    • Like Like x 6
  3. xxkimura

    xxkimura Walk On

    Aug 12, 2013
    Nice work guys
  4. independent739

    independent739 Walk On

    Oct 29, 2014
    This was awesome. Well done!
  5. Mogriffjr

    Mogriffjr Walk On

    Feb 10, 2009
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