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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: Mojo Magic

The final Play that Paid Off for Week 3 looks at one of the most common running plays used in the NFL - the Power O - and shows exactly why it is so popular: when executed properly, it can lead to huge plays on the ground.
Remember, we are always wanting more nominations to be broken down, so when you're watching the football tomorrow and on Monday night, any time you see a play that particularly impresses you, please nominate away! You can nominate either by tweeting a description of the play with the hashtag #TPL5plays or by nominating in our Facebook group. If we break down a play you nominated, you'll get a mention in the blog and everything!

On with the play...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: InSanuty

Our next Play that Paid Off serves as a warning to teams who do not respect wildcat quarterbacks' passing ability, especially on deep balls. This play, the first play from scrimmage in the matchup between the Bengals and the Redskins, was nominated by Kyle Clark is our Facebook group - nice one Kyle! As always, I'm going to noodge you (that's right, I'm breaking out the Yiddish) to nominate as many plays as you like this Sunday and Monday, either in the Facebook group, or by tweeting out a description of a play with the hashtag #TPL5plays - if we go with a play you nominated, you'll even get a mention, just like Kyle!

This play highlights how pre-snap adjustments by the defense, in this case a reaction to the 'wildcat' package,  can take a team out of sound coverage and put them in bad positions that the offense can easily exploit. The play also shows how Cincy OC Jay Gruden, younger brother of Chucky, was able to use the formation to create a favourable mismatch between the team's best receiver and an out-of-position Redskins defender. Enjoy!

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: The Music City Miracle - Motown edition

When I decided to start the 'Five Plays that Paid Off' series, I wasn't expecting to break down two punts within the first three weeks of the season, but then again, who was expecting Tennessee to pull out this sneaky little number? This play comes nominated by James Tipper in our Facebook group - nice one James! Remember that you too can nominate a play to be broken down - and get your name in TPL - by nominating a play in the group (which you should be joining anyway, for all your Facebook-hosted football-y goodness) or by tweeting a description of a play you would like to see broken down using the hashtag #TPL5plays.

Right, on with the play, a callback to one of the most famous returns in Titans history...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Michael Pick League & Games of the Week - Week 4

It's official, Ed Hochuli and his buddies are back!! Personally, we're going to miss the #FreeEdHochuli campaign, as well as some of the madness that ensued from poor refereeing (well, it was enjoyable when your team wasn't the one getting screwed over).

The spotlight has never been on the officiating to such an extent before, and we can only imagine the uproar if the returning refs have a bad day, but it will be great to see Ed Hochuli's biceps back, and Mike Carey's exaggerated hand gestures.

The replacement refs have made picking games this season even more tricky than usual. Most teams have felt that bad calls have cost them games, or at least damaged their chances. No where was that clearer than on Monday Night Football with the crazy ending in Seattle. You could see the anger in Steve Young's eyes in the postgame discussion, mostly because it was also being reflected back off of Trent Dilfer's head.

But we're back to normal now, and every weekend won't be full of whining at the refs (it definitely will) or constant second guessing of calls (again, this will definitely still happen). So without further ado, lets get into our games of the week:

Week 3: Interceptionless In Seattle

Aaaaall the talk has been about the replacement referees botching calls left, right and centre. And no where was it more impactful that in Seattle. You all know the story, and I won't talk up your time with it here, but the important point from this pieces persepective was that it favoured one of our rookie quarterbacks, and saved the rookies from a winless weekend.

With the real refs returning for week 4 we might get a better sense of just how good these rookies are when they don't get the benefit, or injustice, of bad calls. And as the volume of tape builds, will defenses start to figure them out?

But for now, let's look at their week 3 performances, and it's a familiar name at the top:

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: Cash & Kerry

When the Eagles were dominated by the Cardinals last Sunday, perhaps no play summed up Philadelphia's night as well as James Sanders' fumble return for a 93-yard touchdown. Now, the return itself is incredibly straight forward, and doesn't really need analysing - he simply picked up the ball, with all other 21 players on the field behind him, and outpaced them for a touchdown thanks to some blocks thrown by team mates. More interesting to us is the actual fumble, caused by Kerry Rhodes on a blitz. So, in a break from our regular Plays that Paid Off, we delve a little bit into speculation and look at who we believe was responsible for Rhodes coming unblocked on the blitz, what could have been done to block Rhodes, and what options were open to Vick that would have prevented the fumble. Enjoy!

This play was nominated in our Facebook group by Nick Wadlow, though I missed his nomination until after this piece was written - an example of great minds thinking alike! So, a retroactive shoutout to Nick for nominating this play to be broken down - nice one Nick!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Rimington Profiles - Episode 4

It's finally back, the next episode in our Rimington Profiles series. After a long hiatus (thanks in so small part to there actually being some football to talk about), Episode 4 is now with you. Today, we look at another 5 guys in the running for consideration as the best Centre in college football, including representatives from the WAC, ACC and Big Ten. How have they fared on Saturdays, can we expect to see them playing on Sundays some time in the next few years? Find out after the jump.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Wild (NFC) West

M.D. Jennings interception - Touchdown Seahawks!!
For years now, the NFC West has been the laughing stock of the NFL. Over the last 5 full seasons (’07-’11) the NFC West is 68-132 in non-divisional games, easily the worst record in football, it’s been picking up top 5 picks with regularity. They even managed to send a 7-9 team to the playoffs. But now, three teams are restoring the reputation of a tarnished name. San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle are legitimately good. More than that, they’re dangerous. 

Off the back of a strong 13-3 regular season, and overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers were the pre-season favourites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy with Vegas. They backed that up with an opening week win in Lambeau Field against Green Bay. The very same Packers were just man-handled by Seattle (and the refs) on Monday Night Football. Arizona, predicted by many to finish with the worst record in football, went into Foxboro and shutdown the much vaunted Patriots offense to come away with a 20-18 win before bullying a 2-0, and much fancied, Philadelphia Eagles.

All of a sudden, these teams have turned the NFC West from a laughing stock and walk-over to a scary prospect.

The NFL is cyclical, teams wax and wane, but how did an awful division get itself 3 teams that cause opponents fits every week?

OLR Week 3: Also Rans? Nevermore.

With week 3 of the NFL in the books, it's time to check in on the OLR rating for each team and have a look at how they performed. In previous weeks we've seen how the New York Jets dominated in week 1, before being surpassed by the Buffalo Bills to the OLR Weekly Title in week 2. Whilst neither of these teams was a disaster in week 3, the Jets had a fairly anaemic running game once again, and the Bills finally allowed their first sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick for the season, and so neither team makes it to the top of the pile. Indeed, only one of the previous winners scrapes into the top 10! This week we have a new #1, and with a score that beats anything we've seen previously, they can be very proud of their achievement.

At the other end of the table, there are some very obvious (and increasingly regular) selections who, if you watched any of their games at all, will see just why they're rooted down in the late 20s and 30s of this all-NFL ranking. For a full breakdown of the week scores, check after the jump.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid off - Week 3: Charles in Charge

Well, what a crazy weekend of football! The 49ers losing to the Vikings? The Raiders, our 32nd-ranked team, coming back against the Steelers? Kevin Kolb getting his revenge on the Philadelphia Eagles? Who saw any of that coming! (Except the Cardinals win. All three of us saw that one coming)

Anyway, it's a new week, so that can only mean one thing - it's time to obsessively pore over film from the weekend to bring you our Five Plays that Paid Off! Our first Play that Paid Off of the week comes nominated by Oliver Inwards (@oinwards) - that's his second nomination in two weeks, nicely done Oliver! If you want to become as much of a TPL celebrity as Oliver has now become, you too can nominate a play to be broken down - and you can still nominate a Week 3 play from MNF tonight, so keep your eyes peeled for big plays! All you need to do is tweet a description of the play with the hashtag #TPL5plays and if we break down that play, you'll get suitably rewarded, just like Oliver. And who doesn't want to be like Oliver? Terrorists. Terrorists don't. So, don't be a terrorist, nominate a Play that Paid Off!

This play features no trickery, no gadgetry, no bells or whistles, but is rather just an incredibly successful, almost perfectly executed play (we're looking at you, Eachus), but it offers us a fantastic opportunity to explore how outside zone blocking schemes work, as it features examples of pretty much every aspect and every scenario of the outside zone.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 2: Wacco Flacco

Our next Pay that Paid Off was not directly nominated by a reader, but rather came out of a reader's nomination. Before any of the games had even kicked off on Sunday, one of the members of our Facebook group, Joel Day, an Eagles fan, nominated a future play to be broken down - specifically, he requested (direct quote) "Can you break down one of Vick's many interceptions that he will throw tonight against the Ravens? As much as I love my Eagles, and I'd love to see them win, I'm not holding out hope". Well, luckily for Joel, his hopelessness was unfounded as Vick's 1-yard touchdown run inside the 2-minute warning saw them scrape a victory over the Ravens to remain undefeated. Nonetheless, Vick did throw two interceptions in the game - how did you possibly know that was going to happen Joel? You must have a crystal ball stashed somewhere! - but, when deciding which plays to break down this week, I was actually drawn to an interception by his opposite, Joe Flacco. Vick's first interception was a case of a misplaced throw under duress; his second was the result of a freak bounce off the hands of his intended receiver, and not actually his fault. Flacco's interception, on the other hand, was all on him, and gives us a great opportunity to show how disguising coverages on the part of the defense can trick quarterbacks into throwing interceptions - before the ball is even snapped.

Remember, you too can have your name in the blog, just like Joel, by nominating a play to be broken down for next week. You can follow Joel's example and nominate a play in our Facebook group (which you should definitely join even if you don't want to nominate a play, but just want somewhere to actually discuss and debate football, instead of people swearing at each other for supporting a different team). Alternatively, you can tweet out the description of a play you'd like to see broken down using the hashtag #TPL5plays - if we break down a play that you nominated, you'll get your name in the blog, just like Joel. Now, onto the play...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 2: Andy-to-Andrew

Our next Play that Paid Off comes nominated by Oliver Inwards (@oinwards), and boy did he select a great play to be broken down! Football is, of course, an intricately and meticulously planned sport, with coaches spending countless hours breaking down film to discover weaknesses and tendencies, and put even more into developing strategies and tactics to exploit them. Still, football is a sport, not a scientific experiment - you can craft plans all you want, but all it takes is a single unexpected action, or ill-executed assignment, to undo all that hard work. In those circumstances, the players on the field just have to wing it.

All of the plays we have broken down so far this season, with one exception, have been where the plays were executed successfully, as drawn up in the playbook. This time, thanks to Oliver's nomination, we're looking at a play that did not occur as planned, but rather one that quickly broke down; it gives us a chance to showcase how players can use their instincts and their recognition to not only salvage some good out of a broken play, but can actually make them even more successful than might have been originally hoped.

You too can nominate a play to be broken down as one of our Five Plays that Paid Off. Just tweet a description of the play with the hashtag #TPL5plays, or alternatively you can nominate a play in our Facebook group. If we break down a play you nominate, you'll even get your name mentioned - just like Oliver has. Nice one Oliver!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 2: The Inconvenient Trey

So far in our Five Plays that Paid Off series, we've broken down a punt returned for a touchdown, a fake field goal for a touchdown, and lots and lots of play-action passes - but now, we finally turn to every lineman's favourite part of football - the run game. Being an offensive lineman is, at its heart, about imposing your physical will on people, literally taking them in your hands and forcing them to go wherever you want to take them. If you've never played the position, it's hard to describe that rush of euphoria that only comes from manhandling a 300-pound defensive lineman and putting them on their backside, an act of physical dominance that screams out to man's most primal core.

The play in question comes from last week's Sunday Night Football, a variation of the counter-trey run play that the Washington Redskins rode to Super Bowl XVII. This play illustrates how true it that old cliche of football being a chess match between coaches can actually be, as San Francisco uses the Lions' formation against them in an excellent showcase of blocking execution.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 2: How to Fake It Convincingly

With a few hours to go before Week 3 kicks off, it's high time for some breakdowns of the Five Plays that Paid Off for Week 2! Alas, I have been away from the TPL London branch (a.k.a. my house) for most of the week, and have only just been reunited with my trusty whiteboard, so without too much further ado, here's our first Play that Paid Off.

This play, some special teams trickery from last week's TNF, was nominated by Greg Roscow (@gregroscow) - nice one Greg! You too can nominate a play to be broken down by tweeting a description of the play you'd like to see analysed, with the hashtag #TPL5plays - if you are the first person to nominate a play we end up using, you'll get a mention in the blog just like Greg. Alternatively, you can nominate a play in our Facebook group. What, you mean you're not a member of our Facebook group yet? You're missing out! Make sure you join the group to take part in our regular polls, debates and arguments. Anyway, on with the play!

Larry Picksgerald League - Plus GOTW - Week 3

Week 3 is upon us, and therefore so is the next installment of our prediction competition and Games of the Week series. Once again, Toby, Phil and Gur are presenting their recommendations for games you should check out this weekend, this week alongside the guest GotW from Tom and/or Tom at the TomTom Sports Podcast.

Last week was tough for predictions, with the Cardinals shocking the Patriots, the Eagles managing to scrape their way past the highly fancied Ravens, and the Saints defense proving it was worse than everybody had feared. That said, no one in the competition scored below 7-9, with Phil taking the overall lead 20-12 thanks to his second 10-6 week in a row. Check out who we're backing in week 3, but first have a little shuffle through what we think are the biggest and most exciting games of week 3.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Week 2: Home Is Where The Wins Are

With the opening week jitters behind them, our rookies settled down into a nice rhythm in week 2.

There were marked improvements by those who found themselves at the bottom last week, making ranking them very difficult indeed. As ever I'm looking past the basic stat lines and even the scoreline to try and guage just how well they played. Having sat down and watched all these games I've got to say that this was an impressive week for all the rookies, even in defeat for some of them.

Brandon Weeden remains the only one without a win, but that can hardly be a surprise. Still, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill were all able to pick up their first wins in their home openers which will have been a welcome sight for their fan bases, and one can only imagine how crazy Washington is going to be next week when RG3-mania comes home for the first time to face the Bengals. But until then, here's my week 2 rankings and break down. Enjoy.

September Power Rankings

Welcome to the first Power Rankings of the regular season!

Initially we were going to wait a bit longer to do one of these, and let the league settle a bit more before ranking the good and the awful among NFL teams. But who wants stable and ordered!? So what we give you is our take on the first 2 weeks of the regular season. As ever you can see where each of us ranked the teams and where they were in our pre-season rankings. A lot has happened since then and it's been reflected in some big winners and losers in our rankings. So enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment about why your team is too high/low.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

TPL Interviews... Les Brown V

Hard Knocks may be over with the season under way, but for some players they're still hoping their time in the NFL didn't end with the completion of HBO's fly-on-the-wall series inside the Miami Dolphins 2012 Training Camp.  Last month we brought you an interview with Offensive Guard Derek Dennis, who featured in the very first episode of the series - his time numbered from the outset as he was cut by the Dolphins before even taking part in a kitted practice. Today, we bring you a second Hard Knocks interview, this time with Tight End Les Brown. Les featured right the way through the series, highlighted for his unusual route into the NFL, and his fight against the odds to make it onto the final 53 man roster in Miami.  We'll leave him to tell you in his own words how he found the whole experience, his interesting past, and his ongoing fight for success.

I've got a bad kneeling about this... - Schiano's dick move and why it was the right call

There was no shortage of topics for debate that emerged from the Giants’ win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. There was the complete Jekyll-and-Hyde performance from Eli Manning, whose three first-half interceptions – all of which led either directly or indirectly to touchdowns – should have put the game out of reach for Big Blue, before throwing for as many yards in the fourth quarter (243) as his pewter-clad counterpart had done all game. There was the total collapse on both sides of the ball for Tampa Bay in the second half, from an offense that failed to hit any sort of groove whatsoever at halftime to a defense that, in part due to the 79 snaps they faced, began to wear out against the run while they were abused all day through the air.  There were blatant penalties on both sides that could have had a significant effect on the game – from an unquestionable hit to the head of a defenceless Vincent Jackson (which, by not being called, put the Bucs in 2nd & 10, leading to Freeman’s first interception on a play call that likely would not have been called had Kenny Phillips been correctly flagged), to countless hold by DBs on Giants’ receivers (the biggest, though not only, offender being Aqib Talib, who appeared to be constantly holding Hakeem Nicks) that could have made the game much less close than it ended up being.
But despite all that, the one thing from the game that has sparked fierce debate across both sports journalists and football fans is a play that, ordinarily, is completely innocuous – the QB Kneel.

Monday, 17 September 2012

OLR Week 2: Paying The Bills (Their Dues)

When we introduced OLR to the world last week, we didn't expect anywhere near the kind of response we got. Our new Offensive Line Rating system, scoring each unit based on 6 simple stats, went down like a house on fire, and we got a load of great feedback - including some excellent and useful constructive criticisms. We're certainly working on improving the OLR over the coming weeks, perhaps to include the penalties conceded by offensive linemen, but for now let's take a look at the OLR scores from week 2 using the current system, and see why people need to start giving the Bills some genuine credit.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 1: Punt Returners are People Too

For our last Play that Paid Off of Week 1, we'll be looking at what is by far the most chaotic play in all of football - the punt. Twenty two men cover a huge length of the field, and use the entire width, during the course of the play. It is the least easy play to plan, due to the unpredictable nature of punts; long hours put into designing running lanes for returners, blocking schemes, counter-blocking schemes, coaching untold varieties of techniques to shed blockers, to split double teams, jamming gunners and gunning past jammers - all rendered utterly irrelevant by a punt landing even two or three yards in an unexpected direction. It is football at its most primal, the only time when players can be expected to go off-script and rely solely on their instincts.

Due to its complex and chaotic nature, this breakthrough may require a little more patience than the others, but it is necessary when breaking down the most interesting play in all of football - and we've got a doozy of a punt return to break down...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off: Week 1 - The Torrey you Can Support

After breaking down three play-action passes we now... break down a play-action pass. This time, however, the play was nominated by our friends over at the v2journal/606v2 sports forum. We want our weekly Five Plays that Paid Off to be about you, the reader. So, make sure that if you see a play that particularly impresses you during TNF tonight, or any of the games on the weekend, tweet out the game & the description of the play you want broken down, using the hashtag "#TPL5plays" - the five best plays will get broken down next week, and if YOU were the first person to nominate a play that we use, you'll even get a shout-out in the blog!

In the mean time, hit the jump for our fourth Play that Paid Off, which, after the great Mike Carlson, we've named The Torrey you Can Support...

Week 1: The Good, The Bad & The Weeden

5 rookie quarterbacks started week 1, that’s a crazy-high number.

But at the same time, most of the situations really limited the options of teams. Either they had to start the guy, or he forced his way into the starting job (or the GM’s seat is so hot he needs to get the rookie in there straight away).

So with all eyes on the top picks from April Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III I thought, after my piece in pre-season about rookie QB’s, I would start a weekly piece about just how they all performed.

Yes, I’m aware that this means subjecting myself to not only the horrific uniforms of Seattle, but also the terrible, terrible Cleveland Browns. But I will get the fun cutaways to Mrs. Tannehill, the joys of Mike Shanahan’s skin colour being EXACTLY the same as the Redskins maroon and I just plain love Russell Wilson.

So let’s get into this. Every week I’ll rank the 5 rookies (and any others that might start their game that week like Philly’s Nick Foles or maybe Denver’s Brock Osweiler) on their performance THAT WEEK. Nothing carries over week to week, I’m not overly interested in stat lines for this. I want to see the QB make their progressions, sense pressure and stay calm. I expect to see mistakes of course, but it’s how do they bounce back from those. Do the mistakes snowball into awfulness or spur them to better things?

Five Plays that Paid Off: Week 1 - More Tight Ends than You Can Shake a DB At

For our third Play that Paid Off, we've decided to choose a play that is much more straightforward than the previous two. It again feature our old buddy, play-action, with a pulling lineman thrown in too for good measure; but it demonstrates that sometimes, all you need is a quarterback and a receiving threat who can diagnose coverage and find the weaknesses. The play also illustrates some of the ways how defenses try and fool quarterbacks by using exotic coverages - though they may have had more success against a quarterback who isn't quite as great as Tom Brady is...

Reminder: we want YOU to nominate the plays for next week. When you're watching TNF tonight, or any of the games this weekend, if you see a play you want broken down, tweet out a basic description of the play with the hashtag "#TPL5plays" - if we choose your play, you'll even get a shoutout in the blog! What more could you ask for?

D'Pickashaw Ferguson League and Games of the Week: Week 2

The NFL season has officially started, and what a first week it was! We saw some huge upsets in New York (Jersey) and New Orleans, we saw playoff-favourites in the Lions and the Eagles struggle to narrowly eke out wins against bad teams, and we saw #18 play as if he had never been injured at all.

As Week 2 kicks off, we check in on our inaugural Inter-Blog Prediction Game... or, as it's now known, the D'Pickashaw Ferguson League. As a whole, we must be doing something right, as seven of eight unanimous picks won their games, with only Braylon Edwards letting both the Seahawks, and all five blogs, down. Individually, the guys from v2journal are bringing up the rear as the only blog with a sub-.500 record so far, but, of course, it's still early days yet. On the other side of the spectrum, we have a tie between Until Kickoff and our own Gur (who finished last among the blog in 2011) at 11-5, with Phil just a step behind at 10-6. You can find all our picks after the jump, but first, here's our Games of the Week, which this week features Second City Fanatics' Olly Dawes in the guest slot...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off: Week 1 - What Neck Injury?

In our first Play that Paid Off, we showed you how the Redskins used play-action effectively to open up one side of the field for Garcon, leading to RG3's first professional touchdown (that counts). In our second play, we show how deadly play-action can be when coupled with a well-executed screen to the outside.

Be sure to check out our the intro to the first play we broke down for details on how YOU can nominate a play to be broken down for next week.

Offensive Line Rating - A New Grading System

Sanchez was safe all day long (P: Paul Schultz)
The NFL is becoming a more and more stat driven league. Fans are hungry for figures they can rate they favourite players on, use in arguments as to why their QB is better than yours, and for some small factor that might give them the edge in their fantasy draft this year. For a running back, you can analyse his YPC and his every-down-capability. For a receiver, you can look at his catches, targets, drops and YAC. For a quarterback, there are a plethora of measurements you can make, from simple completion % and TD:INT ratio, to the Passer Ratings and the new ESPN Total QB Rating (QBR) that take into account a myriad of different numbers boiled down into one simple figure. But what of the offensive line? The 5 guys at the heart of every offensive snap get very little love at the best of times, from all quarters, and now they're being left behind in the statistical revolution too. Of course, each player can be graded on their assignments for each play: Did they pick up the blitz? Did they move their DT out the hole? These can be accumulated to give each player, and each unit, a % score on their performance, but is it really enough? An O-line is a unit. You can't separate each players performance and rate it, as if 4 guys block perfectly but the 5th allows a free blitzer through at the QB, you can't call them 80% successful really can you? No, what we need to really grade an offensive line is a score that covers the performance of the unit as a whole, that gives the linemen credit when a team scores 3 rushing TDs in a game, that puts value in their QB only being hit once all game, and that considers a rush for negative yards a failure on their part.

The Pulling Linemen would like to exclusively introduce the OLR - Offensive Line Rating.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off: Week 1 - Griffin-to-Garcon

While we hope all our readers enjoy TPL, we do get some suggestions about ways we can improve the blog. One suggestion we've gotten a few times is a request to deal more with the X's and O's of football, to try and break down for the more casual fan how the theory of football works in practice.

Well, we've decided to give the people (person) what they want: we're proud to introduce our new weekly series, Five Plays that Paid Off. Each week, we'll break down five plays from the recent slate of NFL games, showing how the play unfolded, and why it worked.

But we want your help too! Next Sunday, when you're watching football, if you see a play that impressed you and you want to see broken down, let us know. Tweet the play you want broken down, and use the hashtag #TPL5plays (for example, if you wanted to see this play broken down, you could have tweeted out "Griffin 88 yard TD to Garcon #TPL5plays"). We'll choose our five favourite plays, and if you were the first person to suggest that play, you'll even get credit in the blog!

So keep your eyes peeled for those plays next Sunday; until then, check down our Week 1 Five Plays that Paid Off.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

NFL 2012: NFC South Preview

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

This time last year, I was proclaiming in my Pulling Linemen Preview that the NFC South was the best division in football.

I don't believe that anymore, not this year. 2012 will see the NFC South being more wide open than it's ever been since it was formed in 2002 as part of the league's 8-division realignment. All four teams have significant question marks hanging over their heads. For the Falcons, the pressure to win a playoff game is building to a head - when the team's owner feels the needed to publicly deny on multiple occasions that the head coach is on the hot seat, that coach is on the hot seat, something that may not be helped by brand new offensive and defensive systems being installed. For the Panthers, it comes down to a question of sophomore slumps, for Cam Newton and for second-year head coach Ron Rivera, tasked with getting the team their first winning record since 2008. For the Saints, the question is obvious - how they will respond to the Bountygate fall out. For the Bucs, this season will be the story of how quickly that can adapt to a radical and comprehensive overhaul of the entire culture of a franchise.

In a division where every single year up until last season (thanks, Carolina), every team that has finished last has gone on either to a playoff berth or double-digit wins the following season, where no team has ever won the division back-to-back, you can never rule a team out in the NFC South. That's more true this year than it has ever been in the past.

NB: Due to time constraints thanks to real life, this preview is shorter than it otherwise would have been; sections on the strengths and weaknesses of each team will be edited in after Week 1 as a result, but I have tried to reference the strengths and weaknesses during each team's preview instead.

NFL 2012: AFC South Preview

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

The AFC South is considered by many to be the weakest division in the NFL. And they might be right. 3 of it’s teams will be starting a quarterback in either his 1st or 2nd year in the NFL. Star running backs have held out for 2 training camps in a row now, and the great Peyton Manning has departed from Indianapolis.

But it also plays host to a fearsome running attack, a team who were perhaps the best in the AFC last season, 2 of the best defenses around and the next Peyton Manning. 

So what does the AFC South have in store for us this season? Have a look and find out...

Friday, 7 September 2012

NFL 2012: AFC North Preview

You can see the rest of Brian Huntington's logos here
AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

Welcome to the AFC North. In 2011 it was home to 3 play-off teams. And the Browns. It's a division where the 2nd oldest starting QB is a rookie. It's sent 4 representatives to the AFC Championship Game in the last 4 years and houses one of the hot favourites for this year's Super Bowl. It hosts one of the most brutal rivalries in sports with 2 of the fiercest defenses in the league. It has one of the best young teams around, oh yea, and the Browns!!!

So how will it all break down? My pick for the top of the division may surprise some of you, but I think it's going to be extremely close at the top.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

NFL 2012: NFC North Preview

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

The best division in football? It might well be. The NFC North is a division truly blessed with talent in all phases of the game, particularly on offense. Arguably the best QB in the world, one of the top 3 RBs, and almost certainly the best WR all ply their trade here, and that doesn't even really do justice to the talent on display. The question is, however, which of these strong teams can make a push at the playoffs, or perhaps more pertinently, how many of them can?

Monday, 3 September 2012

2012 Pulling Linemen Predictions

Earlier today, we gave you our Week 1 predictions, as part of the UK Inter-Blog Prediction Competition (please, please suggest a catchier title!). But, not content on giving you just one set of predictions to help you while away the time until the 2012 season kicks off, we thought we'd set our sights a little further down the road to make sure you get your fill of clairvoyant goodness. Hit the jump for our predictions of this year's playoff teams, Super Bowl winner and the annual end-of-season awards!

The UK Inter-Blog Prediction Competition and Games of the Week: Week 1

There's a buzz of excitement in the air - and why shouldn't there be? In just two days, the 2012 NFL season kicks off in New Jersey as the reigning champion New York Giants take on "America's Team" (allegedly), the Dallas Cowboys; and that means it's time for TPL to start publishing our weekly predictions.

But this year, we're doing something a little different. In 2011, we had an internal competition as to who predicted the most games correctly. In 2012, we're going bigger; we are delighted to announce the first ever UK Inter-Blog Prediction Competition! Each week, alongside our own predictions, we'll have predictions from three excellent British blogs, as well as those of an equally excellent British sports podcast: Until Kickoff, v2journal, Second City Fanatics, and TomTomSports. Only one blog can be crowned King of NFL Predictions. We might even get a trophy made. (We probably won't.)

We're also bringing back our "Games of the Week", where each of us argue which game is the must-see matchup of the weekend; but this year, you'll have four different cases made, as each week, one of the four blog in the competition will give their opinion too.

Games of the Week, and the first set of predictions for the 2012 season, after the jump...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

NFL 2012: AFC West Preview

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

Few divisions are as up in the air as the AFC West. If you asked 100 neutral fans you’d get a fairly even spread of votes for who might walk away with the division title. For me this it's a 3 horse race this season, but it might not be the 3 you think. Obviously all the talk this off-season has been Denver's transition from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning, and all the issues that come with a 36 year old fresh off 4 neck surgeries. We'll start with the team I think have the best shot at taking the division...