Blue Chip Receivers…Who Needs Em???

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Let’s just say, for arguments sake, that you are in a non-keeper league. Let us also say that you had the good fortune of drafting Peyton Manning last year. Oh God were you a happy pup, from his Opening Day 7 TD throttling of the Reigning Superbowl champion Ravens, to his wooden, bootleg scamper TD against the Dallas Cowboys and every record breaking TD in-between, it was an unforgettable wave of euphoria.

Let’s just say that you want that feeling again in 2014.

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Now, keeping that in mind, let us turn our attention to the running backs. I submit that there is a complete dearth of quality starting bell cows and it is imperative to take two of this dying breed in the first 3 Rounds of your draft because if you choose to neglect, the quality gets grim in a hurry.

It is with this mentality that I will be going into this draft with the full intention of selecting RB QB RB.

The QB is most certainly going to be Peyton, Rodgers or Brees and of all the mocks I’ve seen this year all three are gone by the end of the second round. The Sheriff will be gone by the end of round 1, Rodgers most likely by mid second and Brees near the end, so my draft pick will play an important factor but whatever the outcome, I want my first three selections to look something like this:

Peyton, Morris, Bush

Lynch, Rodgers, CJ Spiller

Forte, Brees, Ellington.

 

The dropoff in RB talent after this third round is substantial so I consider it very wise to strike while the iron is hot.

This method, however, does not come without its own pitfalls. The glaring obvious one is that you can kiss goodbye to those stand out, beastly blue-chip receivers. You can forget all about Megatron, wave to AJ Green as he floats off the draft board and keep a stiff upper lip when one of your enemies provides Dez Bryant with a loving new home.

Now, as I lock the metaphorical doors to keep the disgruntled fantasy football old timers from storming out en masse, let me just draw your attention to the sheer depth of the receiving class and I believe calm will be restored.

 

So let’s say by now you are sitting pretty with Peyton Manning, a man whose most ardent critics still hail as the best “regular season” quarterback of all time and of course you’re as giddy as a school girl because regular season is all we care about in fantasy land.

You are also equipped with your two powerhouse running backs that you will trot out every week for a glorious return. Be it Jamaal Charles and CJ Spiller, Arian Foster and Reggie Bush or Eddie Lacy and Gio Bernard. Any combination is a winner.

It is at this point we turn our attention to the remaining receivers and, I envision, we will be pleasantly surprised at the pool of pass catchers that still await our greedy fingers.

I will now go through the different rounds and highlight my favourite WR’s that should still be hanging around.

Round 4

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Pierre Garcon. Victor Cruz. Keenan Allen. Larry Fitzgerald. Percy Harvin. Andre Johnston

Now it would be silly to assume those players will all be there, especially in a 12 man league but some of them definitely will be. My personal favourite here would be Pierre Garcon. When I watched him last year, he must have been the most targeted receiver in the league bar maybe Megatron. He made catch after catch and seemed to always end up with stellar yardage. His only downfall  was his low TD return but I can forgive that, I suppose, because Washington’s offense was decidedly rancid. It seemed to me like RG3 was running for his life on almost every down. I say with better O-Line play and the addition of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon becomes freed up to post points-a-plenty.

Round 5

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Michael Crabtree. Torrey Smith. Michael Floyd. TY Hilton. Jeremy Maclin.

By this point it becomes clear to me that there are still real studs available for the taking and by looking even further down the list I know there will be for quite some time. So if it snakes around to me in the 5th and Vernon Davis still happens to be around (as he was in most mock drafts I participated in) then I would hold no scruple against snapping him up, instantly alleviating my TE worries.

If however, you are happy to wait for your Tight End then by all means snap up another receiver. I would be happy with any one of these receivers but if I was pushed for a preference I think I would have to go with Maclin. There’s really nothing in it but I always thought he was a much better receiver than DeSean Jackson and after seeing those numbers DeSean was able to put up in Chip Kellys offense under Nick Foles, the sky is the limit. I think a healthy Maclin puts up a monstrous return especially with two games against each of those Dallas and Washington secondaries.

Round 6

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Emmanuel Sanders. Julien Edelman. Roddy White. Wes Welker. Cordarelle Patterson.

I must say I have no idea what to expect from Roddy White this year. Can he put up the highlight reel plays of yore or is he ready for the scrap heap? You’ll almost certainly get him around the 6th round if you are interested in the risk but then again, if you are partial to a bit of a gamble; Sammy Watkins will be going at this point. I shall not be looking to the rookies this year however, as I was one of the sorry individuals who placed his trust in both Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins last season.

I’m torn between Emmanuel Sanders and Julien Edelman here. I feel with Peyton throwing the ball to an athlete like Sanders, it can only produce big numbers. From what I observed of Sanders last year in Pittsburgh, I guess he has slight hand issues, he will drop the odd pass but with his ability to get open and Peytons ability to get the ball out to him quickly I see no reason he won’t put up the numbers Decker put up last year…maybe even better.

I love Julien Edelman. He is the very definition of scrappy. Tom Brady loves him too and always does his best to get him the rock. You can never let up on Edelman as he will always be a threat. He works ten times harder than any other receiver and he catches EVERYTHING. I had to play against him twice last year and both times he put up next to nothing in the first half then came out in the second and absolutely killed it.

Round 7

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Golden Tate. Eric Decker. Reggie Wayne. Tavon Austin. Cecil Shorts. Riley Cooper. Mike Wallace

By this stage you will realize the talent pool isn’t letting up and there are still home run threats all over the place. I had Riley Cooper last year during his 3 TD game…albeit he was on my bench but that was a mistake I never made again as he put up great numbers for the rest of the season. Tavon showed the world what he could do near the end of the year when the Rams finally decided to start using him and boy was I sorry I had cut him loose.

I fancy a big year for Golden Tate with the Lions. That team has been crying out for a legitimate No.2 receiver across from Megatron for years and I think they’ve finally found it. With Calvin always drawing the double team, Tate should be getting all the joy on the other side. He no longer carries the responsibility of being the Seahawks No.1 and I think this should enable him to relax and enjoy his game.

 

As we get to this point you should be coming to the realisation that this list goes on and on but the only running backs left are career backups and spare parts. My method will allow you to lock up that golden quarterback and two stud running backs and in turn free you up to go receiver shopping.

I’ve always had an eye for a good bargain, and like a realtor buying a cheap house then flipping it for huge profits I see the potential in fixer uppers like Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith. These are the type of receiver still out there in the late rounds just waiting for your selection and with a little bit of luck they’ll be starting alongside your two powerhouse running backs in your fantasy playoffs.

 

 

 

The Big Hairy League Draft-O-Rama 13′

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“Good God!” I exclaimed as I shot up in the bed. “It’s Marshawn Lynch!”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” she snapped back, fixing me with a half crazy, one eyed glare, “It’s 3.30 in the morning”

“It came to me in a dream” I said, “It’s been Marshawn Lynch all along.”

“Im gunna fucking stab you first thing in the morning” she snarled, and it dawned on me that she could be serious. “Now go back to sleep.”

And back to sleep I went, dreaming about Marshawn Lynch going into Beast Mode, trucking the shit out of every Linebacker to cross his path, running for 150 yards with 3 TD’s per game in 2013.

A month earlier myself and the other 9 coaches of the infamous BHL gathered to determine draft order for the upcoming season. We had thrown around so many scenarios as to how we could decide but after multiple arguments it seemed we were never going to agree.

That was until the idea of beer pong was presented by highly unpopular commish Gary McAfee. It was one of the few times he manages to get something right but as they say, even the sun shines on a dogs asshole every once in a while.

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We huddled into the living room of second year coach Matthew Weir where the table was set up with 30 plastic red cups, filled with beer and ready to go. 10 of the cups were numbered 1 -10 for the corresponding draft picks but the majority of the rest had either SHOT or crude drawings of ejaculating penises (peni? whatever the plural is) on the bottom.

The cups were shuffled around so we could not possibly know which ones were which, not that it mattered however, as some of the shooting was so utterly spasticated-to-the-core that it became a case of bounce and hope.

Basically the idea was every one takes it turn about to bounce a ball into the cup, if you didn’t get it in you had to take a shot of some rancid liquor. If you did get it in you had to sink the beer and reveal either your draft pick or one of the aforementioned penises.

I cannot recall the order the numbers went but the No.1 overall pick was gone pretty early to second year curtain jerker Gareth McStravick. As was No.10 which went to veteran mid-card jobber Paul “Cheese” Corr.

My own shooting was so poor that I missed almost every go and the few times I got it in, I downed my beer only to reveal SHOT which certainly wasn’t going to improve my aim.

It came down to just 2 cups, between me and disgraced reigning Sacko champion Niall Corrigan. 3 and 9 were all that remained.

It has to be said that Corrigan was an absolute mess by this stage simply because he has the stomach of a pre-pubescent girl but his aim is surprisingly good. He must have drank three times as much beer as the next guy but still could not find that all important draft pick.

He stepped up and plopped the ball into one of the last 2 cups with his very first attempt. We decided to sink the 2 beers together and reveal our numbers at the same time but as I was half way through the beer I was told to slow down to let poor Niall catch up. After a slight pause I guzzled the rest and slapped down the No.3 pick on the table leaving poor Niall with the realization he has a terrible pick and is still only 1/4 of the way into his beer.

A good day we all agreed.

But the month that followed, leading up to draft day was nothing but pure hell. The number 3 pick is a strange one this year because you can concede the fact you have no chance drafting either Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster but after that there are some pretty big question marks.

As reigning champion of the BHL I’m under quite a bit of pressure to set the bar even higher in 2013. The No.3 pick certainly gives me a great head start but I absolutely could not settle on a player I really wanted.

Obviously it had to be a Running Back, of that much I was certain but it wouldn’t do to pick Doug Martin or whoever and have to watch 4 or 5 Running Backs, (that I passed on) outperform him every week.

I found myself dismissing Lynch early on, almost subconsciously.

Martin was my original target but something didn’t seem right, I think I was scared off by the potential for the dreaded sophomore slump. When I said to myself “I’m going to take Doug Martin with my first pick” it failed to excite me.

I thought about Ray Rice but then got scared off by the flashes of brilliance shown by Bernard Pierce during the Ravens superbowl run.

I read articles boasting that CJ Spiller was in for a 2000yd season but surely that was too risky.

Finally I asked myself “Is Jamaal Charles glamorous enough for me to take third overall?” and the answer to that of course was no.

Fresh faced rookie coach Mark McLarnon, who has yet to experience the joyous highs and crushing lows of a year in the league was picking fourth overall just behind me so was very keen to know if I was yet to settle on a particular player.  I kept humoring him and gave the impression that I knew for sure who I was selecting but the truth is that I had no idea until I experienced the epiphany  the night before draft day.

The draft was to take place at the Sandy Bay Marina. We actually managed to scare up a boat for ourselves to sail around aimlessly in a drunken stupor once our drafting was complete. We chipped in for all sorts of BBQ and beer and as soon as we arrived we attacked the supply like a bunch of famine victims being set loose at a buffet.

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Mc Stravick even managed to hook us up with a couple of Cuban cigars and I brought two bottles of the finest Merlot £7.49 can buy. We were ready to draft.

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There was no internet access so I assumed my hastily prepared, scribbled notes would give me a huge advantage until the rest of those losers started producing colourful charts, laminated lists and pretty booklets. I tutted in disgust and secretly wished I had done the same.

I talked with Gareth earlier in the day and knew he was going with Peterson but as we sat down and lit up our cigars like two Tony Soprano wannabes he said that he would not be at all surprised if second year enigma Johnny Robb (The Host from the Broncos v Ravens ordeal) passed on Foster and instead opted for Quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“Jibberish man!” I said “Surely he wouldn’t do something that silly so early.” But the seed had been planted. Maybe my epiphany was wrong I brooded. Maybe Foster is going to fall into my lap. Was that what I really wanted?

In the end it was all for naught as the first round went as follows

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Arian Foster

3. MARSHAWN LYNCH

4. Doug Martin

5. Jamaal Charles

6. Ray Rice

7. Alfred Morris

8. LeSean McCoy (It should be noted that crusty old commish McAfee took McCoy with his first pick after arguing tooth and nail not one month earlier that MJD was the better back and anyone who said otherwise should be buggered by large perverts.)

9. Calvin Johnston

10. CJ Spiller

The Freddy Morris selection with the seventh overall pick may seem like a slight reach but you must understand that Coach Mazzy Weir has a certain sentimental attachment to the player. Faced with being crowned the 2012 Sacko loser in the final week of the season, with just one player left to play, Alfred Morris had the game of his life running for an outrageous amount of yards with multiple TD’s to pull him just slightly ahead of disgraced veteran Niall Corrigan.

For the majority of the draft it was all business from every player. Most of the selections mirrored a mock draft carried out by 10 CPU’s and went pretty much by the books with just a few key anomalies.

Tight End Jimmy Graham went at the end of the second round, not a crazy pick but with the rest of us scrambling to get another of those precious elite RB’s or a stud receiver in the Julio Jones mold I felt it was risky. I knew I didn’t even have to worry about Jimmy Graham because there was always going to be someone who liked him more than I did and would draft him too early. By this stage I had picked up Maurice Jones Drew giving me 2 of the best powerbacks in the whole league.

Going in my strategy had always been to go RB, RB, WR, RB with the first 4 rounds and then get my QB, TE and WR2 in the next 3 rounds in no particular order just best available i.e either take Witten in the 5th and get Matt Ryan in the 6th or go Cam Newton in the 5th and get a lesser TE or WR in the 6th.

When the 5th round came I already had Lynch, MJD, Randall Cobb and Montee Ball. To my total amazement Peyton Manning was still not off the board and being a huge Broncos fan I had set my sights on The Sheriff. Gareth took Cam Newton with the first pick in the 5th and when I noticed Johnny had still not selected a QB I was sure he was going to steal my man but to everyone’s surprise he strolled up and slapped RG3 down on the board. The room erupted and poor Johnny had to face vitriol so severe that it would make a lesser man cry, especially given the fact that most of it was heaped on by his wife who was also in attendance.

I immediately jumped up and selected Manning, content in the knowledge I now had a top 3 QB but imagine my joy when the draft snaked back round to me and my Tight End of choice Jason Witten was still available. My plan was working perfectly, I quickly snapped him up and went to work trying to find my WR2. I ended up being rewarded again when I drafted Redskins freak of nature Pierre Garcon. The starting lineup had all but fallen into place.

About five minutes later the first real cardinal sin was commited by host Matthew Weir  when he sauntered up to the draft board with all the grace of a dead whore on a church pew, broke kayfabe and took the Seahawks Defence in the 7th Round.

Everyone got nervous, and started scribbling furiously on their notes, was there now going to be  a rush on premiere defenses we all wondered. Order was quickly restored however and the next 2 Defenses selected were during the 11th or 12th round. The Texans taken by Gareth and the 49ers selected by me.

I actually listened to an NFL podcast a week or so later advising players not to bother drafting a defense and just select the team playing the Jets every week.  Probably not too bad of a strategy.

Speaking of Round 12 Matthew struck again and took Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, an absolute reach of the highest order. I was able to take perennial top five kicker Matt Bryant in the second last round.

One more round of backup quarter backs and tight ends and the draft was complete. Some very exciting looking teams were put together. I finished up with..

P Manning

Marshawn Lynch

Maurice Jones Drew

Randall Cobb

Pierre Garcon

Jason Witten

Shane Vereen

Matt Bryant

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BENCH: Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins, Jay Cutler and Fred Davis

A team I could not have imagined putting together in my wildest dreams. I am especially excited to see what rookie receivers Tavon Austin and Hopkins can come up with. The only slight concern is the handcuff of Ball and Hillman. The plan was to drop whichever one of the 2 that falls down the depth chart in Denver but every single indication is that both backs will feature heavily along with Knowshon Moreno for that offense. It would be a nightmare scenario trying to figure out which one to start every week unless a clear No.1 emerges.

My week 1 opponent Gareth also fared very well drafting a team that I cannot wait to play against. Such matchups as Peyton v Cam Newton, Lynch v Peterson, Cobb v Demaryius Thomas, Witten v V Davis and loads more will make it the most anticipated matchup of opening weekend.

As the draft concluded we all packed up the supplies and got ready to set sail on the greatest drunken boat trip ever. Everyone in the group was beyond tipsy by this stage and making the leap towards hammered drunk. I supped down the last swallow of Merlot and stubbed out my cigar like the badass I am and climbed aboard. There isn’t too much else that I remember at this point as everyone roared and celebrated, toasting the awesome teams put together. We sailed over to some forsaken island at some point and attempted a barbecue but everyone got pretty fed up from biting into raw sausage and chicken drumsticks that refused to cook through.

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It was only after we sailed away from the island that the days sole atrocity occurred…my beloved Denver Broncos new era flat cap blew off the top of my head as I perched myself at the front of the boat and after many failed rescue attempts by Parkinsons sufferer Mark McLarnon we sailed on without it. (If you look closely you can just about make out the orange dot floating off to the abyss.)

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We arrived back at the Marina in pitch black darkness, voices hoarse from inarticulate shouting and terrible singing. The final damage to the boat was estimated around £100 – £200, I suggested we add the price of a replacement Denver Broncos baseball cap into the final total but found myself thoroughly booed and hissed at.

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Now that the teams are set in stone the anticipation for the new season is absolutely overwhelming. September 5th almost seems like a mirage in the distance. I know eventually I’ll get there however and hopefully before one of my studs blows an ACL.

You can bet your bottom dollar once that glorious weekend finally arrives that Coach Frank Connolly and The Von Millers Chicken Coop Fumes will be ready to rock and roll.

The London Jet-Lag-uars

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The International Football League?

Phew! Where to start on this one. I don’t know if this is a case of the screaming minority against the silent majority but I get the feeling most of the state-side football fans are dead against this proposal. But if I can change at least one mind, no matter how unlikely a feat, I will consider this post a success so try and hear me out.

I am a football fan first and foremost, who just so happens to be from the UK, and until recently I was of the opinion that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if a London franchise never materialised but anytime the discussion came up I liked to play devils advocate in an attempt to cure some of the sufferers of xenophobia who happened to crawl out of the woodwork. I reference a few of the ProFootballTalk commenters who used lines like “American Football should be played on American Soil only” or one fellow who called London a “dump”, which I found a bit rich.

On my way to work on the train the other day I spotted a homely, middle-aged gentleman wearing a Steelers hat who didn’t quite look “all there.” Now..you have to be careful round these parts these days because a few of the people you see wearing American sports teams logos are merely doing so as a fashion statement without having a clue who the teams are. It is usually accompanied by a pair of lenseless glasses and oversized headphones. It angers me to no end when really it probably shouldn’t.

Anyway, it was a Friday and I was in a good mood so I decided I would strike up a conversation with the man, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was actually a Steeler fan.

I asked him what he thought about the possibility of the Jags moving to London.
“Fuckin stupid idea” he muttered “do they not realise we have our own teams that we support already? nobody is gunna watch The fuckin Jags every week just because they moved to London”

I opened my mouth to offer my rebuttal but the train came to his stop, so he gathered up his stuff and pushed out past me. I can only assume he was going to wait for the bookies or pubs to open.

I do see where the man was coming from and this seems to be a popular argument. I have been a huge Denver Broncos fan for as long as I’ve watched football and nothing I can foresee would ever change that.
Were the Jags to move to London I would certainly keep an eye on them and like to see them do well but a passing interest is all it would ever be. But here is the kicker as pointed out by Neil Reynolds… There are always more and more fans getting into the game from the UK every year, who would immediately pick up the Jags as their team. The game is growing at such a fast pace over here that it would be impossible for the team not to pick up an ever increasing fanbase. So imagine the spectacle a couple of years down the line when a team like the Patriots or Steelers (who already have huge fanbases over here) roll into town to play a London franchise with their own personal army of fans.

I gather that a lot of fans from the US seem to think UK fans only see the game as a novelty, so it doesn’t surprise anyone that we could fill Wembley for a couple of games a year but that would be the pinnacle. This could not be further from the truth however. The vast majority of fans from Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe that I’ve ever came in contact with are deadly serious about this wonderful game and possess a wealth of in-depth knowledge. I can assure anyone who thinks the Wembley games are sold out (at those ticket prices) to a bunch of morons who turned up to see the pretty colours and hot cheerleaders, whilst asking each other how come its called football when they use their hands? that they are sadly mistaken.

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Another point I often see made, which again I find absurd is the whole “it’ll-never-work-because-we-gave-them-NFL-Europe-and-they-didn’t-like-it-very-much” angle. The simple answer to that is, because it sucked. The dearth of actual NFL quality was so huge that there was nary a game worth paying attention to. There were a couple of exceptions, like the fact Kurt Warner played in it for a while but honestly any time I ever watched it, which was seldom, the passing game was non existent, the O-lines were just a collection of very un-athletic fat guys, the kickers maybe managed to get one in every seven field goal attempts from ricocheting off the back of a lineman’s head. There is no way you could compare that to the excitement an actual NFL franchise could generate with the whole of Europe behind it. I mean do any NBA fans watch the WNBA? That was basically the difference in quality.

One has only to look at the pressure cooker environment the Ryder cup has become to get a feel for the intensity that could be generated by a competitive European ball club travelling to compete in America and wouldn’t our American friends love to see their franchises travel to London and come away with the W?

The two biggest obstacles I feel are the travel issues and the question of whether or not college kids and free agents would ever want to move to England.

I don’t think the travel obstacle is insurmountable though. The journey from the likes of New York etc. on the east coast to London couldn’t be that much further than the journey from New York to San Francisco. The biggest problem that arises is when a team like San Francisco or Seattle have to make the trek to London. Now a lot of the proposals I have seen put forward are for half of the games to still be played in Jacksonville and the other half to obviously be played here. I’m sure that the west coast teams could be accommodated by that but if every home game was to be played in London would it be possible to arrange the schedule so that west coast teams get their bye week before or after travelling to London to make sure they are always in tip top condition and don’t ever have jet lag or lack of preparation as an excuse?
I also watch quite a lot of baseball and I know it is by no means the same but when you look at the travel schedules for some of those teams who are jetting around multiple cities all season and see them make it work, surely the NFL could get over this obstacle.

The question about whether players would want to come here right away however is a serious one. I would hate nothing more than to see a team set up in London and absolutely suck season after season.
Could the team get by with the same salary cap as the rest of the league? factoring in higher taxes and the fact they would probably have to offer top dollar to players maybe not deserving of such money. That’s a huge question and to be honest I don’t have an answer.
Any time a franchise makes the journey over nowadays for the yearly game though it seems as though the younger players really enjoy it and the veterans not so much. I watched a few interviews from a few of the younger Buccaneers and Bears when they were over a while back and they were all thrilled to take in the sights and attractions London has to offer but I watched an interview with Brian Urlacher who absolutely hated it. I’m not sure if I’m making this up but I think I also heard Jeremy Shockey talking trash about it, but sure, what else is new?

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That is the big worry because there is absolutely no point in taking this huge step to make a perennial joke of a franchise. Some people might say that Jacksonville hasn’t been an overly impressive outfit up until now anyway but I really think they have started putting the right foundations in place. I have heard it said that new coach Gus Bradley has the ability to fire you up to the extent that you would happily run through a brick wall. They just got a great pick in the draft in Luke Joekel, who most people thought would go first overall to The Chiefs right up until the day before the draft. They have an exciting receiving corps, and one of the best running backs in the game when he’s healthy and not knocking out Doormen.

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Their biggest problem seems to be the quarterback position, Blaine Gabbert was taken in the first round a couple years back and it seems he will never be the franchise player they had hoped for. Chad Henne seems like a great backup as he really injected some life into the team last season when Gabbert went out injured but the general consensus basically states he is not a starter.
They do have their own wildcard QB/RB in this Denard Robinson kid (think thats his name) who was really turning heads in minicamp but basically they need help at the most important position in the game.

Just to go off on a minor tangent you do have to marvel at the fortune of the Colts when so many teams struggle to find “their guy,” they have Peyton Manning for all those years, then following one suckey season Andrew Luck falls into their laps.

I do still applaud their front office for not kicking the tires on Timothy though because it would have been so easy to cave in to the demand for him, but Tebow fans ask yourself in your heart of hearts is he a better QB than Henne? Oh he is? please excuse my ignorance.

Anyway if anybody can assure me that there is a plan in place to make sure a London Franchise could attract players and that they wouldn’t end up being the proverbial punching bag for the rest of the NFL then I am all ears.

Before I make my final point I would absolutely love to hear from a current Jacksonville Jaguars fan because if the move does go through my heart will go out to those people. I know soccer is not that popular a sport in America but I’m sure the majority of you will have heard of Manchester United, a team I have adored since I was old enough to comprehend what was going on. And although this never happens in this game, I know I would be absolutely devastated if someone tried to take my team and move it elsewhere, completely re-brand it and pander to an entirely different market.

To wrap up I want to say that when I started writing this article I didn’t really know what side of the fence I stood on… I mean I could see the pros and cons to both sides of the argument so I didn’t feel too strongly about it either way, I know I’ll still have my broncos no matter what but the more research I did and the more I think about it.. I really would like to see it happen.
As I write this I’m in the shitty little room in my house my girlfriend banishes me to when I want to watch sports or play X-Box and I’m currently taking in the US Open golf tournament. I’ve had a couple beers so try and forgive me if this come off a little foolhardy but this game is so unbelievably entertaining simply because people from every country in the world can compete. It does not matter if you went to the greatest university in all of the United States on a full golf scholarship or whether you grew up in South Africa smacking balls into a field. The beauty is that if you have the talent and the desire then you can become the greatest in the world.

A London Franchise, over time, would open up an infinite amount of doors. The sport of American football would explode. Now I’m not a stupid man, I realise there are currently a few international players in the NFL, Vollmer in New England comes to mind, Bjoern Werner was just drafted, there is a Scottish kicker and I’ve noticed the 9ers decided to give a shot to a British Olympian Discus thrower, I know I’m forgetting loads more but these are nothing but exceptions to the norm.

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Picture a few years down the line, The London Jaguars with a good foundation in place consisting of experienced American talent. They ride an avalanche of momentum which opens the game up to outstanding athletes from the UK, Germany, France, Russia, Italy and further a field. Imagine the next Tom Brady comes from Sweden, imagine the next Adrian Peterson comes from Ghana, imagine the next Ray Lewis is currently starting high school in Portugal.

I know a lot of Americans may feel that they are compromising by opening up a sport created on their soil to the rest of the world but I would say look at it as your gift to the world. There are no limits to the popularity this sport can achieve.

You may say I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one.

Fear and Loathing in Mile High 12′

There was something in the air that night that made me almost certain something very bad was going to transpire.

On my way over to watch the game in a house owned by two of the most crass and rabid Ravens fans you could ever imagine I felt like Shane on his way into a seemingly deserted saloon, totally on edge and expecting someone to pop up from behind the bar with a shotgun at any moment.

Hailing from Northern Ireland (Famous for Rory McIlroy and not a whole lot else) and having never set foot in the US, I could forgive you for wondering how someone could love an American Football team from Colorado so passionately for no obvious reason. But the truth is I have been hooked ever since I watched my first NFL game on late night channel 4. This was around the time of the great Rams team loaded with gamechangers like Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Kurt Warner. The greatest show on turf.

I downloaded a Madden demo on our ridiculously oversized PC which the neighbours could hear loading up from about two miles away, it must’ve took three days of downloading whilst I guarded the house phone like a doberman, snarling at family members anytime they even motioned as if they were going to make a call as lifting the receiver would’ve set me back to square one.

The demo finally completed on a sunday night and I remember sprinting home from school on the monday in a fashion that would embarrass Chris Johnstons 40 time.

The only 2 teams you could be were The Packers or Elways Broncos (I believe it was a superbowl.) From the first moment I set eyes on a heavily pixelated Terrell Davis I knew this was the team for me.

I never got to witness a great Elway/Broncos team but after years in the doldrums with qbs like Jake Plummer, Kyle Orton and “The Chosen One” I can tell you that it is truly thrilling to be watching this team these days.

Anyway back to the game.

I remember when it was set in stone we would be playing The Ravens in the playoffs I was kind of nervous. Ray Lewis had just announced his retirement and had everyone in Baltimore riled up like a bunch of crazy junkies with his great play and even better dance moves. The fact that Denver had just beat them in a fairly one sided affair a couple of weeks earlier in Baltimore seemed to make it worse. I was terrified they would be coming to Mile High with a real chip on their shoulder whilst the Broncos would be lazing around and smoking weed whilst Peyton went around telling knee slappers to anyone within earshot.

So I arrived at the house in my ridiculously fake Kyle Orton top about ten minutes before kickoff and there were my two hosts dressed from head to toe in full Ravens garb already drunk and hooting up a storm.

I felt a panic attack coming on so I did the only thing I could, shotgunned an insane amount of heineken, reached for my phone and placed a large bet on The Ravens , not because I had zero faith, it was a sabotage attempt due to the fact I have an almost 0% success rate when it comes to gambling.

Then the screaming started.

Trindon Holliday took a return to the motherfuckin house, my cautious demeanour went out the window like the cloud of marrywanna smoke from my hosts nostrils. My exhuberent hollering became so high pitched that nobody could hear a thing but for some reason all the dogs within a five mile radius started barking like it was going out of fashion.

A lot of the game after this point is a blur. And I may have the order of events slightly jumbled

We will get to the real burning issue of Peyton Mannings performance in a little while,, but I remember at one point in that game he threw a TD pass to Eric Decker (I think) that was an absolute thing of beauty. More screaming ensued.

Just when I started to really relax however Champ Bailey was made to look like an elderly Alzheimers sufferer who has wondered out of the confines of his asylum and into the traffic, totally naked except for one sock. I think Torrey Smith was the offending party. At this point I was forced to witness two wild Ravens fans jumping around the room, breaking lamps and kicking over coffee tables in some mad delirium.

The screaming got worse and insults started flying, t’was no place for the faint hearted. The hosts girlfriend asked me if it wasn’t too much trouble to “stick that up your fucking pee hole.”

Before I go on it needs to be said that for the neutral spectator this must’ve been a truly special game. It had absolutely everything you could ask for in a playoff game, but for me it felt like the aftermath of a six day stint of consuming nothing but peach schnapps.

Anyway, passes were made, interceptions were thrown, flags were all over the place, Trindon Holliday brought a 2nd to the house and Joe Flacco seemed to have a protective bubble around him.

It all came down to one play, one final showdown.

The Broncos were up by a touchdown, and there was little to no time left on the clock. As uneven as Manning was all game, he was still over on the sideline drinking gatorade and thinking about New England in the AFC championship.

We sent out our Defence with one task and one task only. DO NOT under any circumstance allow Joe Flacco to connect on a mad rainbow throw downfield and the game is over.

The play that followed has to go down in history with the likes of Bill Buckner. It was the sort of thing you would expect to see in a Disney movie. I think I saw Emilio Estevez nod at Flacco from the sidelines just before he turned and let loose.

Granted the play only tied the game and it went to overtime before we were eventually knocked out but the fact is the writing was on the wall as soon as that ball dropped into Jacoby Jones’s waiting hands.

In overtime the Broncos resembled a punch drunk old fighter just waiting for the young contender to put him to sleep.

I was still clinging to a shred of hope when Manning eventually threw an insane pick down in our own half which led to Justin Tucker, who by all means has the look of a clutch kicker, (something The Ravens were badly missing the year before when New England squeaked past them in the AFC championship game) knocking over the game winning field goal with relative ease in the 2nd period of overtime. Game Over

Anytime I see a post even slightly related to this game there always seems to be an absolute horde of citizens, none of whom support Denver, spouting absolute bile towards Peyton Manning for this game. I know it shouldn’t get to me but when I see lines like… “Manning just cant get it done in the playoffs” or “Tim Tebow is Mr Clutch, Denver will rue the day they got rid of his winning attitude” I really just despair.

Peyton Manning has been to 2 superbowls, one of which he won. The man does not become a different quarterback in the post season. His record is by no means awsome but there are so many intangibles that it cannot possibly come down to just him. I truly believe he is a victim of a whole lot of shitty circumstances. Baltimore really came to Mile High to win, they played really well and should be applauded. The difference between the Defensive performance from the Tebow Steelers game to the Ravens game is startling. How can you possibly compare a game Tim Tebow won by throwing 1 meaningful pass against a lackluster Steelers team to a game Manning had come  within inches of winning against an outstanding team that went on to win the Superbowl.

Tim Tebow is awful, everyone with a shred of football knowledge and dignity is very aware of this fact.

Now the burning issue is obviously the Rahim Moore blunder, I cant believe I’ve been writing for this long and his name is coming up now for the first time.

Although I find the idea that he cannot walk down the street without some punk yelling at him absolutely abhorrent, he still basically lost this game for us. As I’ve agreed on multiple occasions, yes Manning was inconsistent, Bailey got turned inside out and Vonn Miller and Dummervil were bystanders all night. The fact is the game was already sewn up.

It was the simplistic nature of the task at hand (ummmm dont let Jacoby Jones behind you for a 70 yard bomb) and what was at stake that made me so furious when I watched him leaving the ground, flailing wildly at the ball. I guess he just saw his name in lights and decided to make a play but it really was neither the time nor the place. What he did is surely the quintessential example of “what not to do” in Safety 101.

By all accounts Rahim Moore has said all the right things anytime I’ve seen him interviewed since and from what I hear he is a stellar, young, up and coming safety who has made leaps and bounds in his game and I must say I am looking forward to seeing him perform next year.

But boy did it take me a long time to forgive him, I went through a 2 month long period where I refused to start him when I played Madden even though he was far better than his replacement Jim Leonhard.

I have since let it go and made peace with it and as trivial as that sounds I’m telling you it was hard. I felt like petitioning politicians and congressmen for a Broncos anonymous group where we could all sit around wailing in some church hall clawing at our eyes and tearing our robes. But the fact is its over, we have to let it go Broncos faithful and look to next season. The addition of Wes Welker especially is something I am absolutely salivating over.

Sometimes at night though just when I think its safe to sleep, I think I can still hear that horrible screaming of The Ravens fans and see that winning bet screen on my paddypower account.