4:28 p.m. Eastern
-Miami has reached a deal to sign WR Mike Wallace.
4:20 p.m. Eastern
-Another tight end is off the board, with Anthony Fasano going to the Chiefs.
4:03 p.m. Eastern
-The first move of the league year appears to be Martellus Bennett signing with the Bears.
2:15 p.m. Eastern
-Anthony Spencer signed his franchise tender with the Cowboys, says Dan Graziano.
-Arizona re-signed S Reshard Johnson to a three-year deal.
-The Jets will likely lose DL Mike DeVito with several teams in pursuit, says Aaron Wilson.
1:45 p.m. Eastern
-Jets rumors: They have interest in WRs Brandon Gibson and Mohammed Massaquoi and could lose Dustin Keller to the Titans if Tennessee can’t re-sign Jared Cook.
-St. Louis has interest in CB Brent Grimes, Jim Thomas reports.
-Pittsburgh plans to re-sign Plaxico Burress to a one-year deal soon, says Jason La Canfora.
-Houston released WR Kevin Walter, says Adam Schefter.
-Four to five teams are interested in LB D.J. Williams.
1:15 p.m. Eastern
-Tony Gonzalez is officially coming back next season for the Falcons, as first reported by Jay Glazer.
-The Eagles, Colts, Saints and Titans are all interested in DT Ricky Jean-Francois, says Ian Rappoport.
-The Jets will seriously pursue WR Brandon Gibson, says Manish Mehta. *The Chiefs and Jets are interested in QB Chase Daniel.
-Minnesota re-signed WR Jerome Simpson to a one-year deal.
-Baltimore re-signed James Ihedigbo to a one-year contract.
-Pittsburgh will cut OL Willie Colon today.
12:40 p.m. Eastern
-The Broncos have interest in CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, says the Denver Post.
-Indications are that Tony Gonzalez could indeed return to the Falcons.
-New Orleans is interested in DT Ricky Jean-Francois.
12:20 p.m. Eastern
-Chatter from Adam Schefter’s SportsCenter hit: The Rams and Vikings would be two teams that could make an offer for RFA Victor Cruz. *The Bears, Rams, Eagles and Dolphins are among the teams that are going after OT Jake Long.
-Ian Rappoport reports that the Patriots have not yet made a contract offer to Wes Welker.
-Could Quintin Mikell go back to the Eagles?
-DE Chris Canty is visiting with Baltimore today. He has previously visited Tennessee, Kansas City and Green Bay.
-Washington restructured the contract of WR Santana Moss.
-Minnesota restructured the contract of TE John Carlson.
-Green Bay won’t tender a contract to TE Tom Crabtree.
11:25 a.m. Eastern
-The Titans, Broncos, Colts and Bills are all interested in G Andy Levitre, says Ian Rappoport.
-Tampa Bay is among the teams interested in DE Cliff Avril, along with QBs Chase Daniel and Drew Stanton.
-Free agent LB Dan Connor visited the Steelers, ProFootballTalk reports.
-San Diego released TE Randy McMichael.
11 a.m. Eastern
-Chicago is interested in top free agent offensive linemen Jake Long and Jermon Bushrod, according to Alex Marvez.
-The Jets are cutting DT Sione Pouha, according to Adam Schefter.
-Pittsburgh restructured Lawrence Timmons’ contract, while Carolina released James Anderson to help its cap number.
-Detroit is interested in safety Glover Quin.
10:20 a.m. Eastern
-Some D-Line news from Aaron Wilson: Cleveland is closing in on a deal for Paul Kruger, while the Colts are the front-runners for Cliff Avril.
-ProFootballTalk reports that a quick run at RFA Victor Cruz is unlikely.
-The Eagles, Saints, Patriots and Broncos all have interest in James Harrison.}
-Detroit is in the lead to land Reggie Bush, PFT says.
-Chicago is interested in Minnesota OL Phil Loadholt, says the Chicago Tribune.
-San Diego has interest in CBs Derek Cox and Jerraud Powers.
10 a.m. Eastern
-Jason La Canfora: Expect Percy Harvin to get $12 million per season on his new Seattle contract and for more trade to occur around the league. *Kansas City has interest in Chase Daniel and Minnesota likes Matt Cassel. Drew Stanton will land in Arizona, Tampa Bay or Jacksonville. The Bears, Jets and Browns are options for Jason Campbell. *The Cardinals, Lions and Packers are all in the mix for Reggie Bush. Steven Jackson could go to Atlanta or Green Bay, and the Broncos and Dolphins are interested in Rashard Mendenhall. The Giants may end up bringing back Ahmad Bradshaw. *Minnesota and Miami are all in on Mike Wallace, and it’s possible Greg Jennings stays with the Packers. Philadelphia has interest in Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman could replace him in St. Louis. There isn’t a huge demand for tight ends right now. Follow the link for a lot more from La Canfora.
-Baltimore re-signed WR David Reed for two years as they look to re-sign Darnell Ellerbe.
-Adam Kaplan reports there are at least six teams interested in QB Chase Daniel.
9:30 a.m. Eastern
-There were two major trades in the NFL on Monday, and there could be another enormous deal in the coming days. After Minnesota sent WR Percy Harvin to Seattle for first, third and seventh round picks and San Francisco acquired WR Anquan Boldin from Baltimore for a sixth rounder, the NY Daily News reports that the Jets are prepared to trade CB Darrelle Revis “in the coming days.” New York prefers to trade Revis to an NFC team. The Jets also made a move on offense, signing veteran QB David Garrard.
-Could another Super Bowl winning Raven go to the 49ers? If San Francisco doesn’t re-sign Pro Bowl Safety Dashon Goldson, the Niners could go after Baltimore legend Ed Reed, Adam Schefter reports.
-After releasing CB DeAngelo Hall on Monday, Washington could go after free agent corner Aqib Talib, Schefter reports. *Cleveland will also be in play for a CB, FOX’s Alex Marvez reports.
With rising star Colin Kaepernick clearly entrenched as the San Francisco 49ers QB, the team has reportedly agreed to send backup Alex Smith to Kansas City, as first reported by FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer. No trade can become official until the start of the league year on March 12, but Glazer reports that a deal has been worked out and Kansas City has committed itself to Smith.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the Chiefs have agreed to send a 2013 second round pick, which would be the 34th overall selection, and another 2014 pick for Smith. Smith is an accurate QB who guided the Niners to the 2011 NFC championship game and should be able to ably guide the young KC offense.
As I reported in November, Smith is due a $1 million roster bonus in March, and then he could work out a new contract with a team. Expect the Chiefs to give Smith some sort of security and the team’s starting job.
The two-week wait, the hype, the side-shows and the controversies are all over. It’s finally time to watch the big game between the Ravens and the 49ers. Here’s what you should be looking out for and what you should expect the final score to be.
When Baltimore Has The Ball
-Protecting Joe Flacco is clearly key for Baltimore, but the 49ers only recorded a total of two sacks in its two postseason games with the same number of interceptions. But the Niners are still able to get pressure and they forced Matt Ryan into some critical second half mistakes in the NFC Championship game. Expect San Francisco to cause some disruption this evening as well.
-Interestingly, this is only the second game Baltimore has played indoors all season. They got crushed in Houston 43-13 on Oct. 21. Joe Flacco was 21-43 for 147 yards with a TD and two interceptions. It’s unclear how that impacts this game, but Flacco has clearly matured since then and put up two amazing performances against Denver and New England in the playoffs.
-Baltimore’s running game has only improved as the season progressed. After only averaging 118.8 rushing yards in the regular season, that number has increased to 148.7 in the playoffs. A lot of that has to do with rookie bruiser Bernard Pierce, who has been great in giving Ray Rice a spell and powering through tired defenses later in games. Rice catching the ball out of the backfield will obviously be a major concern for the Niners’ defense, but success could be achieved on the ground. The 49ers had only 39 runs against them in their two playoff games, but the Niner defense allowed 4.7 yards per carry. Expect the Ravens to try to set the tone with the run game.
-Tony Gonzalez’s 8/78/1 performance could bode well for Raven tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, because the Niner safeties may not be that great in coverage. But one thing we should definitely expect is some deep shots with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Ryan was able to complete four passes of at least 20 yards in the NFC title game, and Flacco is a better deep thrower than Ryan is.
When San Francisco Has The Ball
-Baltimore’s ability to get to the QB and create turnovers (especially on tipped passes, which is how they picked Tom Brady off on two occasions in the AFC title game). The Ravens have the most sacks (six in three games) and interceptions (five) of any team in this postseason. But the Ravens have not gone up against an offensive line like San Francisco’s or a mobile QB like Kaepernick. It will be interesting to see Baltimore’s game plan.
-One clear answer to the Niners’ read option is to hit Kaepernick at every opportunity and keep him in the pocket (even though we saw how Kaepernick could throw the ball against Atlanta, but you don’t want him running wild like he did against Green Bay). Hitting the QB will deter Kaepernick from freelancing and make 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman think twice before calling a designed run play.
-Should we compare Colin Kaepernick to any other QB? Is Robert Griffin III an apt comparison? On an awful field in DC, RG3 threw for 242 yards and rushed for 34 in a Ravens OT loss on Dec. 9. RG3 left the game with an injury, and the better field conditions in New Orleans means that it could benefit Kaepernick.
-San Francisco’s rushing numbers are obviously inflated because of the Green Bay game, but Baltimore has allowed just 3.9 yards per carry in its three postseason games, bested only by New England’s 3.8 YPC average among teams that played more than one playoff game this year. The Ravens’ success at stopping the run surely won’t deter the 49ers, who prefer long, drawn out drives. Frank Gore and LaMichael James are different types of runners just like Rice and Pierce with the Ravens. Expect a ton of different looks and packages from the Niners early as they try to confuse and tire out the Baltimore defense.
-Aaron Hernandez went for 9/83 in the AFC title game and Vernon Davis’ role (5/106/1 in the NFC title game) is increasing in the Kaepernick offense. The Raven defense is the only playoff D to have more interceptions than TD’s, and Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss aren’t the threats that Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are.
The Bottom Line
-Joe Flacco hasn’t faced a defense this strong, but he won’t be the reason why the Ravens lose this game. The run game of the Niners and San Francisco’s long drives will tire out the old Baltimore D, which hasn’t faced an offensive line like the 49ers have. Davis will give Kaepernick a run for the Super Bowl MVP trophy, but Jim Harbaugh will take the Bro Bowl and bring a six championship to San Francisco.
San Francisco 49ers- 23
Baltimore Ravens- 20
NEW YORK– By Joseph Wasserman
This past Sunday, I was fortunate enough to attend the NFC title game in Atlanta, a game in which the Falcons once again came up short when it mattered the most. Although an Atlanta team once again failed to win a big game, Matt Ryan proved he is not incapable on the big stage.
He played nicely in his first career playoff win a week before against Seattle, leading a game-winning drive with 31 seconds remaining. But like Rocky Balboa, it was in defeat that Ryan truly showed his mettle.
As devastated Atlanta fans exited the Georgia Dome with a solid sprinkling of euphoric Niners fans around, I couldn’t help but feel a legitimate star had arrived in Atlanta. In the ensuing weeks before the Super Bowl, you are sure to hear a lot about the arrival of Colin Kaepernick. “The City by the Bay” has at last found its next franchise quarterback, one that will look to join legends Joe Montana and Steve Young as a 49ers Super Bowl winner. And while that would be quite impressive, it was Sunday’s loser that won me over.
The usual rowdiness and trash-talk that exists in an NFL football game is raised to another level in the playoffs, and it was no different on Sunday in the Georgia Dome. For all that Southern hospitality (I could tell I wasn’t in the Meadowlands) there is a tougher side down South as well. But after the 49ers clinched its spot in the Super Bowl, there wasn’t much to be heard from fans of the home team.
Amidst the feeling of devastation on the way out of “The Dome”, Falcons fans could see no silver lining in their playbook. It was pure heartbreak yet again for this city that has seen its fair share of disappointment. As thunderous as it was inside the building throughout the entirety of the game, the silence afterwards was deafening.
The bitterness was palpable. The little that could be heard was unhappy muttering about how the critics were right. The Falcons were simply not that good, certainly not for a 13-3 team with a number one seed.
But in their sorrow, these fans could care less about how their franchise quarterback performed. All that mattered was that he could not get it done in the clutch, on that decisive 4th and four. In those moments after the loss, I can’t blame them for feeling that way. But hopefully by now they have come out of their depression just enough to realize that their quarterback is indeed well on his way toward the elite.
During the season, Ryan put up the numbers of an elite quarterback:
422-615, 68.6% 4,719 YARDS, 32 TD’s, 14 INT’s, 294.9 Y/G, 99.1 RATE
His 68.6% completion percentage is exactly equal to Peyton Manning’s for this past season, and better than any other elite quarterbacks you can think of. He was top five in passing yards, yards per game, and touchdowns. He also did lead his team to a 13-3 record, good for home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
But Ryan has long been considered a great regular season quarterback, sure to go early in most fantasy leagues. The case against him is that he does not show up in the playoffs. Until he manages to come up big and make a Super Bowl, or even win one, he will never be among the elite.
It is going to be very difficult for Ryan’s critics to say he failed to show up this time around. Yes the Falcons lost in the end, but the blame for that should not be directed at Ryan. He tossed three touchdowns, and completed 30 of 42 passes for an astounding 396 yards. And this was in the biggest game of his life. That “Matty Ice” nickname may not be so far-fetched after all.
The 17-0 lead that drove the crowd into an absolute frenzy should have been more than enough to hold onto. But the defense could not do its job, and was unable to generate any pressure on Kaepernick. According to Pro Football Focus, the Niners quarterback was under pressure only four times the entire game as he completed 16-21 for 233 yards.
It was the lack of pressure on Kaepernick, as well as a non-existent rushing attack that cost Atlanta the game and a trip to “The Big Easy.” If not for Ryan, the Falcons never find themselves on the cusp of the Super Bowl. He did more against the San Francisco defense than Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers did a week earlier.
While the heartbreak is sure to linger, Falcons fans should be optimistic about the future. Losing perhaps the greatest tight end of all time in Tony Gonzalez is sure to leave a major void, but if Atlanta can come up with a serviceable replacement, or if they’re lucky convince Gonzalez to return, they’ll continue to be that same scary offense they’ve been. Roddy White and Julio Jones will continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses for many years to come.
Atlanta does not need respect from anyone. They need to improve their defense, particularly their pass rush, and find a running game. If they are able to do that they can shut the critics up for good. Blame him all you want, but Matt Ryan is not the problem at all. In fact, he is key to the Falcons success. If he can get the necessary help around him, that success will translate to the postseason and give Atlanta its first sports title in nearly 20 years.
NEW YORK– BY Sam Blackstone
In 2008, they said it. In 2012, they said it again. And now, in 2013, they want to perpetuate the idea once more. “Tom Brady is an elite quarterback, arguably the best quarterback in today’s NFL, and quite possibly the greatest quarterback of all time,” some random NFL analyst will utter, simultaneously peering down to a stat sheet filled with objective numbers, yet allowing only subjective opinion to spew from his mouth.
“No other team has Tom Brady. That is why the Patriots will win the Super Bowl.”
Flacco, Ryan, and Kaepernick combined: 9
Advantage: Brady & Co.
Super bowl rings?
Flacco, Ryan, and Kaepernick combined: 0
Advantage: Brady & Co.
Presented in this manner, the conclusion seems logically infallible. Joe Flacco is good, but not great. Matt Ryan is really good, but not elite. Colin Kaepernick could be elite, but he’s too young. Tom Brady is elite, so he, and his team, will surely win.
This line of argumentation is simple, easy to follow, and will surely persuade many a bettor to place a pretty penny on the Patriots. There’s only one problem: Tom Brady hasn’t won a Super Bowl since he became elite. Don’t believe the subjective opinion spewing from my mouth? Let’s me peer down at my stat sheet for a moment then. First, let’s look at the three seasons when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, regular season stats first, postseason stats second.
2001 Regular Season (15 games)
2,843 yards, 18 TD’s, 12 Int’s, 63.9% completion, 86.5 QB rating
2001-02 Postseason (three games)
572 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int, 61.9% completion, 77.3 QB rating
For comparison, a certain Minnesota Viking had nearly identical numbers in 2012. One quarterback was called a liability, the other a Super Bowl champion.
Tom Brady (2001): 2,843 yards, 18 TD’s, 12 Int’s, 63.9% completion, 86.5 QB rating
Christian Ponder: 2,935 yards, 18 Td’s, 12 Int’s, 62.1% completion, 81.2 QB rating
2003 Regular Season (16 games)
3,620 yards, 23 TD’s, 12 Int’s, 60.2% completion, 85.9 QB rating
2003-04 Postseason (three games)
792 yards, 5 TD’s, 2 Int’s, 59.5% completion, 84.5 QB rating
Nearly 800 yards in the playoffs was an impressive run, but again for comparison, here’s another quarterback from this season with similar numbers whose his team had to win five of their last six games to finish 7-9.
Tom Brady (2003): 3,620 yards, 23 TD’s, 12 Int’s, 60.2% completion, 85.9 QB rating
Cam Newton (2012): 3,869 yards, 19 TD’s, 12 Int’s, 57.7% completion, 86.2 QB rating
2004 Regular Season (16 games)
3,692 yards, 28 TD’s, 14 Int’s, 60.8% completion, 92.6 QB rating
2004-05 Postseason (three games)
587 yards, 5 TD’s, 0 Int’s, 67.9 % completion, 109.4 QB rating
Okay, now these numbers are certainly on the way to where Tom Brady is today, but even with a third ring, he still wasn’t producing the mind-boggling numbers he is today.
Tom Brady (2004): 3,692 yards, 28 TD’s, 14 Int’s, 60.8% completion, 92.6 QB rating
Andy Dalton in 2012: 3,669 yards, 27 TD’s, 16 Int’s, 62.3% completion, 87.4 QB rating.
The difference between the two: One lost in the Wild Card for the second straight year and is being labeled a good, young quarterback with a limited ceiling and a bunch of 9-7 and 8-8 records in his future. With the same numbers, the other was being labeled the next Joe Montana at this point.
To further hammer home the point, Tom Brady’s past five seasons, starting with the 2007-08 season, when he began his reign as elite, and firmly established himself as the best quarterback in the league. *Note: 2008-9 season is omitted due to a season ending knee injury in the first game of the year.
2007: 4,806 yards, 50 TD’s, 8 Int’s, 68.9% completion, 117.2 QB rating
2009-10: 4,398 yards, 28 TD’s, 13 Int’s, 65.7% completion, 96.2 QB rating
2010-11: 3,900 yards, 36 TD’s, 4 Int’s, 65.9% completion, 111.0 QB rating
2011-12: 5,235 yards, 39 TD’s, 12 Int’s, 65.6% completion, 105.6 QB rating
2012-13: 4,827 yards, 34 TD’s, 8 Int’s, 63.0% completion, 98.7 QB rating
In conclusion, here’s the argument in two lines, prose, gimmicks, and confusing rows of statistics aside.
Tom Brady’s average during his past five seasons:
4633 yards, 37.4 TD’s, 9 Int’s, 65.8% completion, 105.7 QB rating
Tom Brady’s average during the three Super Bowl winning seasons:
3385 yards, 23 TD’s, 12.7 Int’s, 61.6% completion, 88 QB rating
If anyone reads this, they will surely nitpick with the typical, cliché lines listed here:
1) It’s only the playoffs that matter. Tom Brady is clutch, performs his best in the playoffs, and that is why he’s is great and his regular season numbers don’t matter.
2) Tom Brady was young when he won his rings, so of course his numbers are going to better now that he is more experienced, smarter, better, etc.
3) Passing yardage statistics in the past 5-10 years have ballooned as the NFL transformed into the pass happy league it is today. You can’t compare his numbers from 2001, 2003, and 2004 to the numbers being put up today.
4) How dare you put Tom Brady and Christian Ponder in the same story together.
5) Wait, what?
1) Excluding preseason and the soon-to-be defunct Pro Bowl, the regular season accounts for nearly 96% of the games played in a typical NFL season. I’m pretty sure the regular season matters. Don’t let the “championship or bust” mentality befuddle your brain.
2) That is correct, but that doesn’t have anything to do with my argument.
3) I can’t? Because it seems we do that in every other sport every day. Any story you ever see on someone breaking someone else’s record. Yeah, it’s the same damn thing.
4) Too late because I’m not going back and editing it now.
5) It was all the numbers and words mixed together, wasn’t it?
So what the hell is my point? Put simply, Tom Brady is a great quarterback, a clutch quarterback, an elite quarterback, and certainly the best quarterback remaining in the playoffs. Here’s the thing though. It doesn’t even matter. Still don’t believe me? Ask Tom Brady about Super Bowl XXXVI.