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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

OLR Week 8: London Ballin'

Like much of TPL this week, we'll be focusing on the London game with our OLR analysis from week 8. Luckily for us, it just so happens that one of the offensive lines that played in London had a pretty damn good day, and find themselves at the top of OLR table for the week.

I don't think it's any surprise that the Rams aren't that OL. No, this week's OLR winners are the New England Patriots.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Time To Talk About M-V-Peyton

Let's get things straight. As a Patriots fan, I both hate and respect Peyton Manning. He's been our rival for as long as he's been in the league, and with almost continuous "Brady or Manning" debate it feels like I've had to talk about him more in NFL discussions than any non-Patriots player, both in and out of TPL Towers.

Since his return from multiple neck surgeries and missing the 2011 season, Peyton has come into Denver and looked... well not quite his usual self, but pretty damn close. The offense is like the Colts just decided to wear orange this year.

The Manning-led Broncos sit atop the AFC West at 4-3, with their only defeats coming against the "elite" teams of Atlanta, Houston and New England. They look like a much more potent team than the 8-8 team last year that made it through to the 2nd round of the playoffs.

And as for Manning? Well he could be in line for a 5th MVP title.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Week 7: Griffin Goes To New York

Apologies for the delay in getting these week 7 rankings out. It's been a busy week for me and I've been away from a computer for most of it, so only just gotten the time to sit down and watch these games properly.

Week 7 saw out first rookie vs. rookie match-up as Brandon Weeden took his Browns into Indy to face 1st overall pick Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile Russell Wilson traveled to San Francisco for a TNF divisional matchup against the 49ers and Washington's Robert Griffin III was also against a divisional foe, the defending champion New York Giants.

Friday, 26 October 2012

TPL Interviews... The Rams @ Thursday Practice

Finally, I got my chance at Rams practice this week. Gur's been having all the fun, but whilst he was off interviewing Marcell Dareus, Stevie Johnson and Kelvin Sheppard of the Buffalo Bills, I took my turn at the Arsenal FC Training facility for a cold and wet St Louis Rams Thursday practice.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

TPL Interviews... Stevie Johnson, Kelvin Sheppard and Marcell Dareus

As by now you surely know by now, especially if you're following us on Twitter as we live tweet Rams practices, press conferences and media events (HINT HINT), TPL are all over the various bits and bobs the NFL are running around London in the build up to this weeks' International Series clash. You'd be mistaken if you thought that all the events are being organised just by the NFL or NFL UK - and you'd be equally mistaken if you assumed that the events would only feature teams involved with the International Series (which I'll generously extend to include Fred Taylor, with the Jaguars starting their four-year residency next season). While I've been dutifully reporting on every single thing the Rams have done over the two days since they landed (well, not quite) in north-west London, as Ram-o-phile Phil was coming down from Nottingham to cover his beloved St Louis team in the flesh (which you'll know if you follow us on Twitter HINT HINT HINT), I instead today found myself on the absolute other side of the Capital this afternoon, in the newly-built Westfield Stratford City shopping centre (the one they built because of that little 'Olympics' thing that went on a few months ago which no-one really paid attention to).

"But Gur (and/or Fred, if you're that-way inclined)", I hear you ask (yes, I bugged your laptop), "why on Earth would you do such a thing?" Well, hypothetical reader, it was because those wonderful guys and gals at New Era decided that there was no better time than the present to piggy-back on the pre-Wembley hype and cash in on London's football fever by teaming up with JD Sports to bring over three members of the Buffalo Bills to talk with the media and have a good ol' fashion sign-and-greet with the fans.

As you can see, our followers were divided
over the Bills' boys look
However, as the hour delegated for media access was scheduled at the same time that, 36 miles away on the other side of London (that's road distance, not as-the-crow-flies), there was the media access to the Rams players and coaches in a top-class training facility with fully-equipped media room, it was perhaps less than surprising that most of the sports media chose to attend the Rams' session London Colney. However, there was still plenty of reporters in line ahead of me waiting to interview the Bills' triumvirate of Stevie Johnson, Kelvin Sheppard and Marcell Dareus. Almost every single one of them, however, this being a New Era event, was from a fashion website or 'lifestyle magazine'. I must admit, I grew concerned that we would be told the media access portion of the day would be over before I had time to ask my questions, and was almost indignant that I, a widely respected* NFL analyst**, may not have access to these three players, while the Bills themselves looked utterly bored as they answered generic questions that could be applied to any sport ("when did you first know you wanted to play in the NFL?"), or, worse still, suggested that the interviewer didn't even know who they were speaking to, or why they were famous ("so... what is your favourite range of New Era caps, the fitted or the snapbacks?"). With the exception of two interviewers who (shock!) knew the game of football and (double shock!) actually knew who they were interviewing, I don't think the Buffalo players were posed an actual question about football. At last, though, my time had come. I marched purposefully up to the table, laid down my trusty dictaphone before them (which, by the way, can be seen in this NFLUK video, pointed at the mouths of Chris Long and Cortland Finnegan - that's right, my equipment has more celebrity than I do), and fired away with my first question...

*in my house **in the most utterly loose and generous sense of the word

London Picking - Prediction League + GOTW: Week 8

Welcome back!

After an iffy week 6 everyone bounced back well in week 7, with Toby and TomTom Sports going 12-1, missing out on a perfect week by 2 points thanks to the Bills allowing Chris Johnson to run all over them.

With all the NFL Wembley coverage going on this week that Toby is unfortunately unable to get to, he's made the Patriots @ Rams game his Game of the Week, outlining what is needed for either team to come away victorious. You can see that, plus our guest game of the week and our week 8 picks below...

Sights and sounds from the Rams - 25/10/12 (Part 1)

We attended the Rams' practice yesterday, bringing you all the breaking news from the day on our Twitter feed - yes, we reported Amendola's return first (in your face Schefter) - and we're going to be doing the same today, so make sure you're following us! In the mean time, we've got lots of pictures, videos and quotes to share with you from yesterday. So much, in fact, that we didn't have time to put them all up in one go! So we're splitting all the things we recorded from yesterday into two parts - hit the jump for some videos from the day, and quotes from Michael Brockers, Bradley Fletcher, Chris Dahl and Quintin Mikell. Check back later for part two, which will feature a bunch of photos, quotes from Chris Long and Cortland Finnegan, transcripts of Jeff Fisher's and Sam Bradford's press conferences, and a general write up of the day.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Play 60: UK style - an account of yesterday's Rams Community Event in London

An understandably groggy St. Louis Rams
roster (having literally been bused over from
the airport) arrive at Regent's Park to kick off a
week of events, building up to Sunday's game.
As I got to the top of the escalator at Camden Town, the station exit was far more packed than it should have been on a late Tuesday morning. Perhaps more surprising, for the casual observer at least, was that the majority of the traffic clogging the ticket barriers was comprised of young schoolchildren, most of whom looked to be no older than twelve or so. Personally, I had my own theory as to why these kids were doing their best to disrupt the flow of commuters attempting to enter the station, one which was confirmed by what one must hope was their teacher, raising his umbrella and leading the children towards Regent's Park – and just happened to be wearing a Redskins hoody. Clearly, this was one of five delegations from different schools in the area invited to take part in the first event held by NFL UK in the run up to the sixth International Series game on Sunday, a special British edition of the NFL's Play 60 initiative – to be run by the entire St. Louis Rams roster.

TPL Interviews... the St Louis Rams at the UK Play 60 event

Rams linemen cheer on the
kids at the Play 60 event at
Regent's Park in London

We kick off our coverage of the buildup to to the International Series game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots at Wembley on Sunday with some choice quotes from today's Play 60 event hosted by the Rams, where children from five different schools took part. We were able to get some quotes and short interviews with some of the Rams players, who gave different takes on whether the Rams have an advantage over the Patriots by arriving in the UK earlier, the keys to slowing down Tom Brady, and the whole concept of the International Series. We'll be bringing you a full report of today's event tomorrow, and make sure you're following us on Twitter, as we'll be live-tweeting the Rams' first practice at Arsenal's training facility, as well as the press conferences from Jeff Fisher and Sam Bradford. In the mean time, hit the jump for quotes and answers from players such as Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis, Cortland Finnegan and others.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

OLR Week 7: Saints or Sinners

Until the start of the 2012 season, many thought of the New Orleans Saints as having the best offensive line in football. If not, certainly one of the strongest interiors. The pairing of OGs Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans was a formidable one, and undoubtedly gave opposing DTs sleepless nights before games.

This year, however, the Saints team in general has been poor. Really poor. Without Sean Payton at the helm, the team was slumped at 1-4 before week 7, and their offensive line was consistently amongst the worst in the NFL in terms of OLR, our unique offensive line rating system. Perhaps losing Carl Nicks in Free Agency has been key in this (they replaced him with another OG standout in Ben Grubbs), or perhaps running game co-ordinator Aaron Kromer has been having to focus on his role as interim HC too much to give the OL the support they need. Either way, this unit has been poor.

Could week 7 signal a turnaround?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bill Belipick Prediction League + GOTW: Week 7

Last week was, what's the word... Crap.

There were a whole bunch of upsets, which ended with just one of us, TomTomSports, being above .500.

This week sees 6 teams on a bye, so there's not a lot to predict, but with big clashes between the only 2 AFC teams with a winning record, divisional battles on primetime and two rookie quarterbacks squaring off, let's take a look at our games of the week, and our picks...

Week 6: Maiden Win For Weeden

Welcome back to our rookie quarterback rankings. This week sees the last of our fab 5 finally get his team going in the win column, while a usually stellar member takes a nose dive and we have a new name at the top of our rankings.

There were some tricky fixtures this week. With the improved Minnesota Vikings coming into Washington to face Robert Griffin III, the high-powered Patroits visited Seattle and Miami played host to a feisty Rams team.

October Power Rankings

We're at the midpoint of the October games, so the time is ripe for us to unleash our power rankings for the month. Perhaps surprisingly, over half of the teams are did not move much in the rankings, with five teams remaining exactly where they were ranked in September, and another fifteen moving by three spots or less. Still, there are a few bigger moves - four teams dropped by seven places, while two more made double-digit jumps. As always, you can tell us why you think we're wrong in the comments below, or by heading over to our Facebook group.

We kick of the rankings with the only team left with a '0' in their record...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

OLR Week 6: Bill-ding A Reputation

Firstly, I'm sorry for the pun. I know it's awful.

Week 6 of the NFL is done, and a quick look at the performances of the league's offensive lines shows a few surprises, some dominant performances, and some usual culprits languishing at the bottom of the table. That said, our OLR (our unique scoring system for grading offensive line units) top scorers for week 6 are second time victors, and a unit that has found itself consistently in the top tier of performers - The Buffalo Bills.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Pick Mangold League Plus GOTW: Week 6

Week 6 is here, and so is our weekly prediction competition and GotW feature. It's still a close battle for the yellow jacket of predictions, with a tie for 1/2, 3/4, and 5/6, with all 7 teams separated by just 3 points. Week 5 was a good week all round, Toby leading the way with a 12-2 record and no-one falling below 9-5, but this set of games looks much more difficult to call. Pre-season favourites for the NFC and AFC in Green Bay and Houston face off down in Texas, the top teams in the AFC West, the Chargers and Broncos, battle it out in a matchup with potential playoff implications even this early in the season, and last years NFC Championship teams NYG and SF will go head to head at Candlestick.

Take a look after the jump for our Games of the Week, plus predictions for week 6. There might be a few surprises...!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Week 5: Upsets & Injuries

What an up and down week for our rookies, one had a huge 2nd  half comeback at home, another jumped out to an early lead only to see it disappear. While we had our 1st new sighting of the season, but at the expense of one of our usual 5.

The matchups this week weren't great. Indianapolis and Andrew Luck, with their head coach Chuck Pagano in hospital, had to host Green Bay. Washington were playing the undefeated Atlanta Falcons while Brandon Weeden travelled to the defending champs in New York.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

OLR Week 5: Introducing Defensive Adjustment

As we showed last week, OLR is a stat that can be influenced hugely by the strength of an opposition defense. When Green Bay, an offensive line unit that has consistently ranked amongst the worst in the NFL, came out top in week 4 thanks to facing a terrible Saints front 7, it was clear we needed to introduce a defense factor into the OLR calculations.

And so we have.

This week sees the first OLR statistics that factor in the strength of the defensive front 7 based on their performance through the first 5 weeks of the season, and straight away we can see the effect of this new addition on our top 5 scorers from week 5. Although as sods law would have it, one team's OL performed so well in week 5 that even a weak opposition couldn't drag them out of the top spot.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Five(ish) Plays that Paid Off - Week 4: Bush It to the Limit

Apologies for how late these Plays that Paid Off have come! Unfortunately, real life has gotten in the way this week with familial duties, so will likely have to put most of Week 4's breakdowns up next week. Still, at least we got one off this week! This play comes nominated by Greg Roscow on Twitter, who nominated two plays in one tweet. If I have time, I may look at the Manningham run (though there is a different play from that game that I will break down when and as I can get to it), but for now, we'll focus on Reggie Bush's 21-yard effort that started a drive ending in Miami's first touchdown of that game. After explaining how outside zone run blocking works last week, this play gives us an opportunity to explore its cousin, the inside zone. Enjoy!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tashard Choice League - & Games Of The Week - Week 5

Last week saw something of a picks explosion, with 10-5 being the worst record. Was it  luck, or are we finally beginning to get a handle on what has been a crazy season so far?

This week sees 4 teams take their bye, and all 4 have some work to do. Dallas and Detroit have found themselves with serious issues to face if they're to live up to the playoff expectations of their fan base, while Oakland need to figure out how to perform on the road and Tampa need to start putting up 60 minutes of football so they can claim real victories as opposed to moral ones.

Week 5 sees the only divisional game take place in what has quickly become the most fun division in football, the NFC West. With the undefeated Arizona Cardinals looking to make it to 5-0 on the road in St. Louis on Thursday night. After that sunday sees the renewal of hostilities between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as Denver travel to New England.

So sit back and enjoy week 5 with out recommendations of what to watch, and out picks.

Week 4: Not All Interceptions Are Made The Same

With Andrew Luck and the Colts on a bye week we're down to a fab 4 in week 5. And with that comes a new name to the top of these rookie ranks.

We've also seen the first rumblings that one team may need to move away from it's rookie quarterback to someone with more NFL experience, which we disagree with.

So let's get into these 4 games now, starting with someone I really didn't expect to see top the rankings this week...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

OLR Week 4: Packing A Punch

What a turnaround. The Packers Offensive Line should have been lambasted for their horrendous performance in week 3 on Monday Night Football, but they managed to get off (almost) for free thanks to the Inaccurate Reception that ended the game. Of course, their terrible game versus an admittedly inspired Seahawks DL did not escape our OLR analysis, and the Packers graded out as 28th in the NFL allowing 8 sacks in the game. Cut to week 4, and there is a huge turnaround, with the Packers the NUMBER ONE offensive line unit in the NFL! How can this be? They've not ranked above 26th so far this entire season? The answer is simple, and they're down in the Bayou.