AFC East: Marcellus Wiley

Burress 'absolutely' a match for Sanchez

June, 17, 2011
At a book-signing event Thursday night, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan dodged questions about whether he'd be interested in signing free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress once the lockout ends.

But ESPN analysts Herm Edwards and Marcellus Wiley, a couple of guys with AFC East pasts, weren't bashful in sharing their opinions. They pondered how Burress would fit in with the Jets and agreed he would look good in green.

Edwards said the Jets "absolutely" should pursue Burress.

"This is a receiver that's a big, physical receiver," Edwards said. "He fits the bill. He's used to playing in the cold.

"The thing you like about Plaxico, he adjusts to the football. He's quarterback-friendly. When you think about the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez threw 17 touchdown passes. That has to pick up.

"They got a good running game. This guy is a matchup problem in the red zone. That's where this guy can make hay for you."

Wiley also emphasized the help a target like Burress would provide to Sanchez.

Mailbag: Readers demand answers

June, 9, 2011
AM ET's recent Power Rankings of the toughest NFL venues urged a few folks to drop notes into the AFC East mailbag. Some of them were printable.

Aaron in Los Angeles "can't begin to tell you how much of a moron" I am and that I "shouldn't be covering football" for ranking Lambeau Field ninth on my ballot. He can understand how I have Gillette Stadium, Heinz Field and Lucas Oil Stadium all higher than Lambeau, but certainly not Arrowhead Stadium, Qwest Field, Soldier Field or Lincoln Financial Field.

That just goes to show how subjective taste can be. The examples Aaron gave for what is acceptable or unacceptable illustrate how people can emphasize different criteria when formulating an opinion. Based on the response from readers and writers the past couple of days, the most questionable stadiums I rated highly were the ones Aaron finds OK. writer Mike Reiss asked New England Patriots fans about Gillette Stadium, and 69 percent of them disagreed it's a tough place to play. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky didn't list Lucas Oil Stadium on his ballot at all.

Meanwhile, former players Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley said there was no doubt Arrowhead Stadium is the toughest place to play. Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Kirk Morrison agreed with Arrowhead and also listed Oakland Coliseum, Heinz Field, Soldier Field and Qwest Field ahead of Green Bay in a piece on the AFC South blog. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, entering his ninth NFL season, didn't mention Lambeau anywhere in his top 10.

Jon in Watertown, Wisc., wrote (in all caps) that I couldn't rank Lambeau ninth "with a straight face" because he's a Packers season-ticket holder who has been on the field, and he couldn't hear himself think down there. Jon also points out "Lambeau Field in December is like none other."

I know it's quite loud at Lambeau Field, but it's loud in a lot of stadiums. I would expect a season-ticket holder who loves the Packers to defend Lambeau Field as the best place on Earth. But let's not pretend Lambeau Field is the only place where noise is a factor and the only miserable NFL venue to visit in the winter.

NFC East blogger Dan Graziano had this to say about why he voted Ralph Wilson Stadium his toughest place to play:
"I personally did not factor in the home team in my choices because I think it's a variable. Right now, the toughest place is Gillette Stadium because the Patriots have been so great. But if the Pats stink for the next five years, no way that place makes the 2016 list. But that frigid old dump in Buffalo will still be a miserably unpleasant venue that players will hate to visit."

To which I reply, isn't weather a variable? If a stadium needs nasty weather to be considered a difficult place to play, then should there be a separate list for when conditions are moderate? I then would have to consider Sun Life Stadium in October or November to be a tough place to visit, too.

Steve in Minnesota and Brian in Fallbrook, Calif., took exception to my quote that appeared in the main Power Rankings story. In the article, I explained why I had trouble rating Lambeau higher than I did:
"I distinctly remember a mediocre Miami Dolphins squad traveling a long way to beat the Packers at Lambeau last season. The Packers have gotten lit up at home a few times the past three years despite having very good talent. I guess I couldn't get past that."

Steve pointed out the Packers were banged up in that Week 6 defeat to the Dolphins and that "was an easy call for a loss." So I guess Lambeau Field wasn't a tough enough place for a 7-9 team to escape with a victory. It must be about the teams on the field.

Brian combed through the records the past three years and couldn't find any games where the Packers have been "blown out at home" by more than 12 points. That's true. I didn't say the Packers were blown out. I said they were lit up. In 2009, Cincinnati scored 31 and Minnesota scored 38. In 2008, Carolina scored 35 and Dallas and Atlanta (with a rookie quarterback) scored 27.

Upon seeing where I listed Lambeau Field, readers obviously went back through my previous Power Rankings ballots because I received an unusual number of notes about polls we did months ago. Sergio in San Francisco was curious about why I ranked DeMarcus Ware ninth among linebackers. Chris in Merced, Calif., wanted to know why I had Darren McFadden 10th among running backs.

As I explained when we did the linebacker Power Rankings, I was in total disagreement with the concept. It's unfair to compare inside linebackers to 3-4 outside linebackers because in a 4-3 scheme, outside linebackers wouldn't be linebackers at all. They'd be hand-on-the-ground defensive ends. With that in mind, I gave considerable weight to players who would be linebackers regardless of the defense. That favored inside linebackers significantly. Besides, had previously rated the best pass-rushers. I rated Ware the best.

As for McFadden, I don't think 10th is out of line when you consider the players who were rated ahead of him. There are a lot of talented running backs. Four of our eight panelists didn't rate McFadden at all. I'm sure if he can put together another season like last year, then he'll be considered elite.

Arrowhead Stadium makes visitors quiver

June, 7, 2011
A few hours ago, I thought "NFL Live" analysts Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley were off base by not including the New England Patriots in the conversation for most explosive offense.

We're in alignment again.

This week's Power Rankings deal with the league's toughest venues. I was alone among the eight divisional bloggers in putting Arrowhead Stadium atop my ballot. Nobody else had it higher than third. NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas didn't list it at all.

Schlereth and Wiley played there, and they expressed no doubt that Arrowhead Stadium was the most difficult place to go. Wiley said it always felt like the Kansas City Chiefs were up 3-0 by the end of the national anthem.

"It's Arrowhead Stadium, and it's hands down," Wiley said, adding that it's the only place he ever had to insert earplugs to get through a game.

Schlereth recalled that whenever he played at Arrowhead Stadium, the Denver Broncos would scrap 25 percent of their playbook and eliminate all seven-step drops because of the noise.

My complete ballot:
  1. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Colts
  3. Qwest Field, Seattle Seahawks
  4. Soldier Field, Chicago Bears
  5. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Invesco Field, Denver Broncos
  7. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles
  8. Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots
  9. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
  10. Metrodome, Minnesota Vikings

The biggest discrepancy with my ballot and the overall list was my ranking of Lambeau Field, which was first or second on six ballots. It was a subjective process, and I distinctly remember a mediocre Miami Dolphins squad traveling a long way to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field last season.

The Packers have gotten lit up at home a few times the past three years despite having terrific talent. I guess I couldn't get past that. I realize the Chiefs have gotten destroyed at Arrowhead, too. But it's not the stadium's fault Kansas City has fielded poor rosters.

NFC East blogger Dan Graziano gave Ralph Wilson Stadium his No. 1 vote, but the Buffalo Bills' home venue didn't appear on any other ballot. Graziano explained weather conditions buoyed his thinking.

Bills fans are some of the most dedicated and lively in the league. Their tailgates are off the charts, and their loyalty remains strong despite being tested by bad teams. But too many visiting teams have left Ralph Wilson Stadium with smiles on their faces the past decade.

Patriots belong in explosive O discussion

June, 7, 2011
In an "NFL Live" segment, ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley discussed the most explosive offense.

Each spoke definitively about his choice. Wiley went with the Philadelphia Eagles because of team speed. Schlereth backed the Green Bay Packers.

Yoo-hoo! Fellas?

What about the New England Patriots? All they did last year was score the most points in the league, averaging 4.8 points per game more than the team than finished second, the San Diego Chargers.

The Patriots scored a league-leading 56 offensive touchdowns. They did so on 986 scrimmage plays, just 22nd in the league. To give a better idea of what kind of neighborhood the Patriots were in when it came to snaps: Of the 10 teams that had fewer plays than the Patriots, the Tennessee Titans scored the most offensive TDs with 37.

In other words, the Patriots scored most frequently and on much fewer plays than most other clubs. Isn't that the definition of explosiveness?

The Patriots also added six more touchdowns on defense and three in the return game, but those aren't germane to this conversation. The Patriots still had the most potent offense last year and should be at least as dangerous in 2011. The whole crew is back.

Granted, the Patriots won't have a bunch of players drafted in the first three rounds of your fantasy league like the Eagles and Packers probably will, but quarterback Tom Brady is the reigning MVP and spreads the ball to a contingent of reliable players such as Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't a superstar, but he was the AFC East's only 1,000-yard rusher last season. The line consistently performs at a high level and allows the Patriots to remain a balanced -- and explosive -- offense.

Wiley: Bills will 'take a little piece' of Pats

May, 20, 2011
The topic on "NFL Live" was a playoff team from last year that will struggle in 2011.

Studio analyst Darren Woodson pointed to the Kansas City Chiefs. Host Michael Smith thought the Seattle Seahawks were the easiest answer.

Woodson's partner, Marcellus Wiley, had a different idea. And if his nomination wasn't surprising enough, his reasoning should raise eyebrows among AFC East followers.

Wiley picked the New England Patriots.

"Just because they went 14-2 and, to me, with that record they did overachieve," Wiley said. "You remember they lost Randy Moss. Everyone thought the team would take a dip. They rebounded from that, but going into this season you didn't really see the upgrade in the draft.

"I'm just saying other teams out there ... you know the Jets. Hey, the Bills have to be on the rise. They have a lot of weapons. Time for those teams to take a little piece of the Patriots."

Video: Jets at Bears predictions

December, 24, 2010

Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley give their thoughts on Sunday's game between the New York Jets and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Both ESPN analysts predict the Jets will win because they'll generate plenty of pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

Video: Patriots at Bills predictions

December, 24, 2010

ESPN analysts Marcellus Wiley and Mark Schlereth preview Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Both predict the Patriots will extend their win streak over the Bills to an outrageous 15 games.

Video: Dolphins at Raiders predictions

November, 27, 2010

ESPN analysts Marcellus Wiley and Tedy Bruschi previewed Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Both liked the Raiders to win, but the video was shot before we learned Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne likely will start instead of Tyler Thigpen.

Even so, Wiley and Bruschi stated the Raiders should pounce on a wounded opponent. The Dolphins are hurting and have already ruled out receiver Brandon Marshall with a hamstring injury.

Video: Steelers at Bills predictions

November, 27, 2010

Former AFC East stars Tedy Bruschi and Marcellus Wiley preview Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Breaking down Brady-Manning in every way

November, 19, 2010
ESPN convened a panel of five experts to deliver a comprehensive examination of the ongoing debate.

Who's the better quarterback? Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

ESPN analysts Herm Edwards, Marcellus Wiley, Eric Allen, Tim Hasselbeck and Matt Williamson each voted on 15 categories.

Edwards has gameplanned against both quarterbacks as a head coach. Wiley and Allen played against them on defense. Hasselbeck is a former NFL quarterback. Williamson is a former NFL scout.

A winner was declared. Click on the story to find out which iconic quarterback came out on top with a breakdown of how each panelist voted along with their reasoning.

You can check out the winners per category here (with how the panel voted).

Better deep ball: Brady (3-2)

More accurate passer: Manning (3-2)

Choice to win one playoff game: Brady (4-1)

Choice to orchestrate last-minute drive: Manning (4-1)

Tougher to prepare for: Manning (3-2)

Better remembered in history: Manning (5-0)

More durable: Manning (5-0)

Stronger arm: Brady (3-2)

Smarter: Manning (4-1)

Better pocket presence: Brady (4-1)

Better leader: Manning (3-2)

More mobile: Manning (4-1)

Better mechanics: Manning (3-2)

More quality seasons left: Manning (3-2)

Make a better coach: Manning (3-2)

Video: Patriots at Chargers 'Field Pass'

October, 23, 2010

ESPN football experts Marcellus Wiley, Mark Schlereth and Matthew Berry share some insights for Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium.

Video: Steelers at Dolphins 'Field Pass'

October, 23, 2010

Marcellus Wiley, Mark Schlereth and Matthew Berry of ESPN break down key matchups within Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium.

Video: Vikings at Jets predictions

October, 9, 2010

The "Countdown Daily" crew previews Monday night's game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets at the Meadowlands. ESPN analysts Tedy Bruschi and Marcellus Wiley each predict the Jets will win.

Video: Jets at Dolphins 'Field Pass'

September, 26, 2010

ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth, Marcellus Wiley and Matthew Berry preview Sunday night's game between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium.

Henne, Jets DBs in Friday night spotlight

August, 27, 2010
"NFL Live" host Michael Smith and analysts Marcellus Wiley and Eric Allen broke down the matchups of Friday night's four preseason games, including the New York Jets versus Washington Redskins at the Meadowlands and the Miami Dolphins versus Atlanta Falcons in Sun Life Stadium.

Wiley said he wanted to see how Chad Henne looks in an important third preseason game.
"This is going to be a team that's in a tough division, the AFC East. They're flying under the radar right now. But it's important that a young Chad Henne develops some chemistry with someone outside of Brandon Marshall. They got rid of Greg Camarillo, traded him to the Minnesota Vikings. Now it's going to be about guys like Brian Hartline to establish that chemistry, because you know Brandon Marshall throughout the regular season's going to get double-teamed, and they're going roll coverage his way. So there's going to have to be another receiver to step up and take off that pressure."

Allen will focus on how the Jets' defensive backs continue to perform without Darrelle Revis.
"All eyes on the secondary for the New York Jets. Without their outstanding cornerback, Darrelle Revis, all eyes are on Kyle Wilson, a young rookie, and, of course, Antonio Cromartie, who's been showing flashes of greatness -- yes, greatness! -- like he showed in his first and second year in the league. He's doing an outstanding job of making guys be patient. He's doing a wonderful job of using his athleticism to break up balls. Both of these guys are doing a great job until 'the man' gets back."



Sunday, 1/25