BACK IN THE BOX! Returned last season as the host of "the Penalty Box", the post game call in show for Rochester Americans broadcasts on Sports 1280 WHTK, as well as studio host for game broadcasts and intermission updates. Looking forward to starting a second straight season this upcoming year.
Weekend morning newscaster on WHAM.
Sometime fill in host for Bob Matthews or John DiTullio, as well as hosting call-in shows during Yankees and Red Wings rain delays.
Graduated from West Irondequoit high school (in 1984) where I was the sports director at the student run radio station, WIRQ, as well as the "voice of the Indians" football and basketball radio broadcasts.
Graduated with a B.A. degree from Florida Southern College (in1988). Announced FSC basketball games on local cable TV. Also announced local high school football games on local cable TV.
Have worked for WBBF-AM, WPXY-AM, Sportsradio 990, and then moved on to Clear Channel in 1997, where I have worked for WHAM and WHTK since as a board operator, producer, newscaster, traffic reporter, weatherman and sports host, as well as all-around good guy.
I am also psyched to be back on the air hosting "the Penalty Box", the post game call in show for the Rochester Americans radio broadcasts on 107--3 FM and 1280 AM.
I recently also started reading newscasts on Newsradio 1180, WHAM. It is a good opportunity for me, although I never saw myself as a "news guy". I am still enjoying the opportunity.
It's finally that time of year again. Let the pigskins fly! Passing the ball has become the way to sure fire success, well, unless you are the Houston Texans, who are finding better success with a great running game and improved defense. Passing the ball though is the key for most other great teams, and the Patriots still do it better than anyone in the AFC. So let's begin there in the AFC East, where the road to the Super Bowl still goes through Foxboro.
1. New England Patriots (13-3). The Pats lost the Super Bowl to the upstart Giants, and then got even stronger in the off-season. The Patriots added former 1000 yard receiver Brandon Lloyd to the stable of pass catchers that rivals any NFL team in history. I ask you: Has ANY team in history ever had TWO possible 1000 yard, 10 touchdown tight ends? No. But Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez could accomplish that feat. Same thing at wideout, where Wes Welker gets 1000 yards routinely, and now has to share the ball with Lloyd.
Tom Brady must be licking his chops thinking about it. Add in a young, quick and powerful runner like Steven Ridley, and this team could average 40 points a game. The defense is decent, but can be scored upon, so I figure at least three teams will win a scoring fest. It adds up to 13-3 to me.
2. Buffalo Bills (8-8). There is no doubt the Bills improved their defense, probably the most in the AFC, but there was a LOT to improve on. The addition of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson will give this team a pass rush, and they are better at corner and in the defensive backfield with first round pick Stephen Gilmore, and a healthy Jarius Byrd. That defense will keep the Bills in many more games this year, but the problem is still the offense.
No problem with the running game. Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller and Tashard Choice provide quality depth and Spiller finally proved his worth if Jackson goes down again. The Bills led the league in yards per carry, so they can run the ball. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still the anchor of this offense, I.E., a boat that left its anchor in the water and is slowing them down. Fitzy can't throw deep. Every other great QB in the league--you get excited when they wind up to fire one deep. With Fitzpatrick, you cringe! If the Bills can somehow find a way to pass the ball when opponents pack men in the box, and do it mistake-free, they will surprise. I don't think they will. 8-8.
3. New York Jets (7-9). I am torn here, because if they give up on Mark Sanchez when the Jets start out 1-4, which they most likely will based on the schedule, and turn to Tim Tebow, this team will go 9-7 and make the playoffs. If they don't, they will go 7-9 and miss. I'm betting on the second one.
This team can't score. They will have trouble moving the ball even. The offensive line has gotten old, and there are plenty of holes. LT's retirement means most of the running load will be on Shonn Greene, who has backslid the last few years. The defense is still strong and will keep them in games, but the Jets will find themselves on the wrong end of too many of them.
4. Miami Dolphins (5-11). Watching Hard Knocks, you get the feeling the Dolphins are on the right track with Joe Philben, but it won't be this year. A rookie quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) will most likely start, but he has no wide receivers that anyone has EVER heard of to throw to. Reggie Bush is an injury waiting to happen. Their defense will lead them to a few close wins, but thats about all I see.
1. Baltimore Ravens (11-5). The Ravens have worked long and hard to dethrone the Steelers but it just hasn't happened...until this year. The Ravens have perhaps the best mix of run and pass and will succeed only if Joe Flacco is finally ready to take the next step. With Ray Rice in the backfield, and Flacco throwing to the likes of speedy Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Ed Dickson, the offense should move the ball.
The defense still has plenty of playmakers, and has the ability to shut down great offenses. I just think the Ravens have the best chance to maintain or better what they did last year.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6). The Steelers are starting to get old at many key positions and that may start showing this year. The one thing Pittsburgh still has is the intangible Ben Roethlisberger brings. The guy knows how to win games. Mike Wallace ended his holdout and is ready to go, and Antonio Brown should be a HUGE upgrade over Hines Ward, giving Big Ben some good targets. The Steelers will stretch the field for sure. Isaac Redman should be a fine replacement at running back until Rashard Mendenhall is ready after 4-6 weeks and might even steal his starting job outright.
The defense is where much of the age is. Ike Taylor is a step slower each year, and Troy Polamalu gets hurt every other game. The Steelers don't seem to have the playmakers other top teams do and I think they will get torched in the secondary this year.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8). The Bengals strike me as a team who has "taking a step back to the pack" written all over them. Andy Dalton showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, but the term "sophomore slump" has his picture next to it in my opinion. Benjarvis Green-Ellis is an improvement over Cedric Benson, but they Bengals lost Jerome Simpson to Minnesota and will need AJ Green to improve on his great rookie year, because there is no one else to throw to. The defense doesn't have a lot of household names, but they are pretty good. It all adds up to 8-8 to me.
4. Cleveland Browns (6-10). I still wonder what the Browns were thinking when they took Brandon Weeden in the draft. They must have known their plan because he will be their starting QB. That always means growing pains, especially with a rookie running back like Trent Richardson and a #1 wideout who is in his 2nd year, Greg Little. The defense isn't terrible and the offensive line is very good. The Browns could surprise if Weeden plays well as a rookie, like Dalton did for the Bengals last year, but I doubt it.
1. Houston Texans (12-4). As good as the Patriots are throwing the ball, the Texans are running it. Arian Foster and Ben Tate give the Texans two back who are capable of putting up 1500 yards (they won't of course, but either could depending on injuries). The Texans can still throw the ball if need be with Matt Schaub firing the pigskin to Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels.
The defense is still one of the AFC's best, even without Mario Williams. JJ Watt and Shawn Cody are top notch linemen, Brian Cushing is solid in the middle and Brooks Reed is a monster at the outside linebacker slot. Look for him to have a breakout year and become another Bryce Paup in his prime. This team is ready to make the next step.
2. Tennessee (9-7). Chris Johnson is back, healthy, and ready to atone for a lousy 2011 campaign. Watch out! When he is healthy and motivated, perhaps no runner in the NFL is more capable of a 2000 yard season. They may need him to be at his best because young Jake Locker is the starting quarterback, which is almost like a rookie being there. He has great potential though and some good young talent to throw to like Nate Washington, rookie Kendall Wright (who could be a rookie of the year candidate) and Kenny Britt, if he is healthy. Like the Bengals, they don't have a lot of household names on D, but they are solid. If Locker doesn't play like a rookie, the Titans could be better than 9-7.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9). The Jags could improve by leaps and bounds this year, but only IF Blaine Gabbert improves greatly on his sub-par rookie season. At least he has people to throw to now. The Jags signed Laurent Robinson away from the Cowboys after his surprising 2011 season, and drafted the stud reveiver of the draft in Justin Blackmon, who has looked like the bomb-diggedy in the pre-season. Maurice Jones Drew is still holding out, but Rashard Jennings has looked just as good as Drew in the pre-season. The D, led by former Bill Paul Posluszny, is underrated.
4. Indianapolis Colts (4-12). The Colts may not win a ton more games this year, but they will be fun to watch. Andrew Luck promises to be one of the great ones, and he has Reggie Wayne back to throw to as well as Coby Fleener, his favorite target at Stanford. The defense, other than Dwight Freeney, who is getting older and more injury prone, is still awful. I still think Luck will be able to win a few shootout games this year unlike the Colts were able to do last year.
1. Denver Broncos (10-6). The addition of Peyton Manning says it all. The Broncos will go from the Tebow-style read-option offense with a 80-20 run-pass ratio to the Peyton-style west coast short passing attack. Manning may have lost some arm strength but should still have pinpoint accuracy and can succeed well with guile. Willis McGahee returns from a stellar 2011 season and Knowshon Moreno looks good as he returns from injury. If Manning can makes stars out of DeMaryious Thomas and Eric Decker, along with ol' buddy Jacob Tamme, the Broncos will be ridin' high in the Mile high.
Denver's defense grew up quickly last year and is primed to be the best in the west behind beast Von Miller coming off the left side, and Elvis Dumervil off the right. Champ Bailey still anchors a strong secondary as well. Denver has a tough, first place schedule though and will be tough to be better than 10-6.
2. San Diego Chargers (9-7). How does Norv Turner still have a job? That's the toughest question to answer in all of sports, because no answer would make any sense. The Chargers have underperformed every year under Turner. They always have a great offense, great defense and poor record. This year, they will try to be more balanced with Ryan Matthews running more and Philip River throwing less. Perhaps that will work, because what they have been doing, hasn't.
Matthews was a powerhouse the second half of last year, and if he gets healthy in time for the start of the season, seems primed for a 1400 yards/10+ touchdown type year. Vincent Jackson defected to Tampa, and the Bolts replaced him with younger and faster Robert Meachem. Malcom Floyd is back after a nearly 1000 yard season, where he averaged an impressive 19.9 yards per catch. The defense doesn't pressure the QB much from the D-line, but the linebackers are active and good pass rushers and now add rookie Melvin Ingram, their first round pick. The Chargers could be as good as 12-4 or as bad as last year.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8). The Chiefs are a team very much like the Bills. They have a very good defense, explosive running game, and good interior lines. The one thing holding them back is consistency at the quarterback position. It is becoming obvious that Matt Cassel was overpaid and is better suited to being a backup, but he is forced to start in KC because of his salary. If Jamaal Charles can come back from injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, and be as explosive as he was, and Cassel makes plays and not mistakes, the Chiefs could contend for the division title. If not on both accounts, they will finish last again.
4. Oakland Raiders (6-10). Raider fans are hoping Carson Palmers first full season in silver and black will magically restore him to all-pro status and turn him into the next Jim Plunkett, leading the Raidaaaz to Super Bowl glory. Many realists and football experts think there is a reason the Bengals made little effort to resign him, and that his skills or pocket presense is gone. I am leaning to the latter. His numbers were pedestrian last year with an 82.6 rating and only 13 TD's compared to 16 interceptions. Granted many were early, when he was still learning the offense, but Palmer still thinks of himself as a gunslinger. Combine that with the Raiders vertical passing game and there will be a bevy of mistakes and bad, rushed throws this year. Darren McFadden could run for 1500 yards and average 5.5 yards per carry, but it has become a question not of if, but when he gets injured.
The Raiders defense is very good, especially up the middle with Richard Seymour, Rolando McClain and Michael Huff, but they will need to be great to make up for all the short fields they will give their opponents after turnovers. And they are still among the most penalized teams in the league. They have the talent to surprise me, but I'm saying 6-10.
In the playoffs, in week one, the wildcard Titans are in the mile high, where their season comes to an end as Peyton Manning has too much experience for young Jake Locker and the upstart Titans, leading Denver to a 34-17 win.
In the other wild card game, the Steelers head to Baltimore to renew their rivalry against the Ravens. This time, the Ravens D will be too much for the Steelers, whose passing game makes too many mistakes on a cold early winter day in Bal-more. The Ravens win a close one.
In the conference semi-finals the next week, the Broncos head to Foxbore for another Peyton vs Brady matchup. Much like last year, the Patriots will be too much for the Denver defense to contain, as the Pats roll 30-20.
The Ravans head down to Houston to go mano-a mano, with Arian Foster vs Ray Rice, also much like last year. This time, it's not dejavue all over again, as the Texans ride the home crowd to a hard fought win over Baltimore in a battle of field goals 18-15.
In the AFC Championship game, on a cold, blustery winter day in Foxboro, even the home crowd isn't enough to help Tom Brady and the Patriots, as the Texans grind down the Patriots vaunted passing attack, while Arian Foster runs wild, 180 yards and 2 scores. The Houston Texans go to their first Super Bowl with a 27-20 win over New England.
Check back Friday for my fearless NFC forecast!