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In Depth 2015: Cleveland Browns

It was an up and down year for the Cleveland Browns, who used a mid-season surge to get into playoff contention in-depthbefore sliding to 7-9 in 2014.

But for a team on its third head coach in three seasons – one that made two first-round picks, neither of whom produced in their first year – and missing its biggest weapon in Josh Gordon for most of the season, to still produce the team’s best record since a 2007 10-6 mark shows signs of growth.

Can they sustain the indications of momentum? Or will the failure to solidify a long-term QB solution keep this team in the doldrums for more than the foreseeable future? Pete Smith, a contributing writer for Football Savages and former editor of Dawg Pound Daily, rejoined Zoneblitz to share his thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The Browns looked for a while like a postseason challenger before falling apart a bit at the end. How would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: Minnesota Vikings

Mike Zimmer’s first year as head coach of the Vikings got off to a great start, as Minnesota trounced the St. Louis in-depthRams. Then Adrian Peterson’s child abuse situation cost him the rest of his season and things started derailing a bit. Matt Cassel got hurt, thrusting Teddy Bridgewater into the starting lineup before the team really wanted him there.

All things considered, an improvement from 5-10-1 to 7-9 in year one doesn’t look all bad. So where do the Vikings go from here? How far is this team from rejoining the postseason ranks? Jon Merckle, staff writer for The Viking Age, shares some thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The Vikings improved to 7-9 in 2015 and looked like they might finally have a long-term QB solution. How would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: St. Louis Rams

The NFC West is as competitive a division as the NFL has seen in years, but as the St. Louis Rams entered the 2014 in-depthseason, hopes were high that a strong defense and a healthy Sam Bradford could bring the team closer to the postseason.

Then disaster struck. Bradford again tore his ACL, missing the entire season and sending the team on a slow tailspin. There were moments of hope – such as a big, dominant win over Denver – but the combo of Shaun Hill and Austin Davis didn’t have what it took to lead the team to the playoffs.

As 2015 approaches, Bradford is gone. Nick Foles is at the helm, at least for the time being. And a strong defense again gives St. Louis at least a glimmer of hope that this will be the year.

How close are the Rams? Blaine Grisak, editor of Ramblin’ Fan, shares his thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The 6-10 record in 2014 was actually a one game step back from 2013. What caused that and how would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: New York Giants

There was very little middle ground for the streaky New York Giants in 2014. They opened the season with two in-depthdouble-digit losses, won three games in the same fashion, lost the next seven – four of which were blowouts – knocking themselves out of the playoffs and then finished winning three of four.

The end result, however, was a 6-10 record that, despite an aggressive free agency push toward improvement from a 7-9 mark in 2013 actually resulted in a one game regression.

That said, Eli Manning appeared to pick up the new offensive system as the year rolled on. And Odell Beckham showed signs during his rookie year that he could be one of the league’s top up and coming stars. So where does that leave the Giants going forward?

Ed Valentine, editor in chief of the Big Blue View, stopped by with some thoughts.

Zoneblitz: The Giants were as streaky as streaky gets in 2014, which ultimately resulted in a 6-10 mark. How would you assess the season? Continue reading

In Depth 2015: Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones continued performing as one of the most entertaining QB-to-WR combos in the NFL last in-depthseason, but the Falcons as a whole foundered through a 6-10 season, good for just third place in the bad NFC South.

While Tony Gonzalez and Steven Jackson are gone, there’s still plenty of offensive firepower on the roster to compete with anyone during a given week. But is there enough supporting cast to contend for the playoffs under new coach Dan Quinn in 2015?

Allen Strk, staff writer for The Falcoholic and co-host of the FalcFans podcast joined us to share some thoughts.

Zoneblitz: Atlanta went 6-10 last year and finished third in a bad NFC South – how would you assess the season and how it matched expectations? Continue reading

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