NFL15 Cherry Picks W5: Feel No Pain

8 Oct ....cherries.Hispalois.7.2.12.Spain.wc

“Comfortably Numb”

This week’s theme was served up in the early going in post-game interviews after Ravens Thursday night win in Pittsburgh (23-20 OT), a Steelers stumble due in some measure to their kicker, Josh Scobee, whose two field-goal misses (2-4) enabled the visitors opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

....Scobee.wc.9.14.14.thm.AllisonScobee’s opposite in Baltimore, kicker Justin Tucker, did most the snatching by-way of three 4Q boots of 40, 42, 52 yards, the last proving the game-winner in OT.

In locker-room Q&A that queried his foot-fail, Josh closed with this: “It’s time to get beyond it and move forward,” a sentiment echoed by his coach, Mike Tomlin.

The casual tenor Scobee displayed in afterburn of a loss he helped permit took this sport fan back a decade to that day on Capitol Hill (3.17.05) when slugger Mark McGwire spoke in front of Congressional House Government Reform Cmte investigating use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in MLB.

Mark‘s memorable line: “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

The McGwire Line never sat well with Cmte members nor the American public, though, AM radio jocks did their part to dismiss the affair as a witch (warlock) hunt on a matter of drugs that, in their odd expression, didn’t matter one iota.

...McGwire.1989.wc.SilentSensei.thmPED usage and the integrity void that fostered the blight did matter then, matters even more today and McGwire has since ‘opened-up’ on the subject and admitted to having taken performance enhancers. “Little steps and big ‘uns.” It’s a little one, but a step.

But what his bob & weave, evasiveness to a clearly relevant question (Did you use PEDs?) ultimately did was set a troubling precedent for anyone, not just athletes, who chooses to avoid taking responsibility and then the bitter medicine needed to learn, grow and finally move forward from miscues.

Would it’ve been asking too much that Josh and coach reflect on the events that led to failure for some measurable time? Not to a depressive, self-destructive state, but long enough (into the next day) to absorb it’s lessons and toughen-up the psyche a little, build some mental calluses, so to speak. I think not.

‘No pain, no gain,’ is no more in 2015. Today’s it’s outta’ sight, outta’ mind, then check your account for messages.

Maybe Scobee, along with co-workers, did assess what went wrong Thursday as preparations for W5 get underway. If that’s the case, good, but those hours immediately following a loss are a critical time to begin the process. The longer you wait, the more you bury unpleasant memories, the harder it’ll be to engage and learn from ‘em later on.

Curious Quote

“They’re (Carolina) clearly the worst of the 3-0 undefeateds, but that’s no reflection on them (Skip Bayless, First Take, Re-Take (10.1.15)).”

A Bit of Alright (Good Spot)

Mike Vick (PIT) QB: 19-26, 124, 1t, run 9-33: Rabbit-habit dies hard
Justin Forsett (BAL) RB: 27-150: Good sign for Ravens
Drew Brees (NO) QB: 33-41, 359, 2td: Getting it back
Todd Gurley (STL) RB: 19-146 (52): Nice debut-in-start
Josh McCown (CVD) QB: 32-41, 356, 1: Johnny Who?
Duke Johnson (CVD) RB: 8-31, rec 10-85-1: Double-duty dandy
Kirk Cousins (DC) QB: 4g, 68.6 C%, 1004y, 4-4: Good enough for this team
Vincent Jackson (TB) WR: 10-147, 1: Like clockwork.
DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) WR: 9-157 (4g, 31-409, 3t)
Bennett (CHI) WR, Maclin (KC) & Hurns (JAX): 11r: Buy ‘em all a steak
Chris Ivory (NYJ) RB: 29-166, 1
Matt Hasselbeck (IND) QB: 30-47, 282, 1: The old man’s still got it
Tavon Austin (STL) WR: 6-96, 2: ‘Pocket Rocket’ looking a 1st-Rd’er (#8 (13))

A Bit of Bloody Awful (Bad Spot)

Jaguars: 13 penalties (92y)
Jets: 14 penalties (163y)
Vikings OL: 7 sacks (T.J. Ward (DEN): 2)
DeAngelo Williams (PIT) RB: W1-2: 41a-204…W3-4: 3a-7): In coach’s doghouse?
DeMarco Murray (PHI) RB: 8-36 (3g, 29-47, 1): More “touches” might be ticket
Cam Newton (CAR) QB: 12r-51 (4g, 43 (10.8 per) – 195, 2): Run won’t get ‘er done
Jameis Winston (TB) QB: 26-43, 287, 2, 4 (7 (54.9 C%)): Some support, Lovie?
Arian Foster, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Cecil Shorts (HOU): fumbles lost (3), game lost
Ryan Tannehill (MIA) QB: 19-44, 198, 2-2: “Best laid plans of mice & men…”

Kicker’s Korner

Chandler Catanzaro K (AZ): 5-5 (42), 1-1 (16p)
Johnny Hekker P (STL): 7-45, 2 [-20]
Andy Lee P (CVD): 4-46.8, 3
Josh (Curly) Lambo K (SD): 3-3 (46), 3-3 (12p)
Dustin Hopkins K (DC): 3-3 (38), 2-2 (11)
Brad Wing P (NYG): 8, 41.9, 4
Colton Schmidt P (BUF): 7, 49.3, 2
Robbie Gould K (CHI): 3-3 (54), GWF (49)
Cairo Santos K (KC): 7-7 (51)
Brian Anger P (JAX): 8, 36.4, 5
Adam Vinatieri K (IND): 3-3, 1-1, GWF (27)

“Here, There and Everywhere”

Broncos: 7 sacks
Packers: Held SF to 8 1st-downs, 6s (Perry 2)
Desmond Trufant (ATL) CB: 2t, 2rf
Josh Norman (CAR) CB: 4-2i-TD
Manti Te’o (SD) LB: 13t
D’Qwell Jackson (IND) LB: 10-7
Daryl Smith (BAL) LB: 9t-4a-1sk
Larry Timmons (PIT) LB: 10-1-1
Tony Hitchens (DAL) LB: 8-3-0.5
Calais Campbell (AZ) DE: 10-1-0.5
Thomas Davis (CAR) LB: 8-3-1i
Corey Graham (BUF) S: 8-5-1sk
Vincent Rey (CIN) LB: 10-5
John Cyprien (JAX) S: 11-3
NaVorro Bowman (SF) LB: 7-1 & 3/5ths of the way back

Week 5 Cherry Picks: Bushel of Upsets

Colts (2-2) @ Texans (1-3): 10.8 CBS 8:25; HOU wins
Bears (1-3) @ Chiefs (1-3): 10.11 Fox 1:00; KC wins
SEA (2-2) @ CIN (4-0): Fox 1:00 (GOTW); Hawks win
DC (2-2) @ Atlanta (4-0): Fox 1:00; Redskins win
Saints (1-3) @ Philly (1-3): Fox 1:00; Eagles win
Rams (2-2) @ GB (4-0): Fox 1:00 (GOTW2); STL wins
Bills (2-2) @ Tennessee (1-3): CBS 1:00; Titans win
AZ (3-1) @ DET (0-4): Fox 4:05 (GOTW3); Lions win
NE (3-0) @ Dallas (2-2): CBS 4:25; New England wins
Broncos (4-0) @ Raiders (2-2): CBS 4:25; Denver win
49ers (1-3) @ Giants (2-2): NBC 8:30; New York wins
Steelers (2-2) @ SD (2-2): 10.12 ESPN 8:30: Bolts win

Record: 16-15

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Cherries, wc.cca, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Spain; Scobee, wc, 9.14.14, K.Allison; McGwire, wc, SilentSensei, 1989; Cherris, wc, Hispalois; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject.
Posted: 10.8.15 @ 5:16pm: Copyright ® 2015

“Hurry-Up” Harbaugh? Hold ‘Yur Horses!

5 Oct .....Harbaugh.12.30.14.wc.E.Upchurch.216k

They were the days of raccoon coats and day-time donnybrooks telegraphed by wire, amplified in radio and devoutly devoured in newsprint;

Co-eds and flappers were beginning to fill the wooden stands with regularity;

The guys on gridiron wore leather helmets, metal spikes, lots o’ wool and none of those sissified ($) sticky-gloves in sight;

The forward pass was still a curiosity and the occasional ‘ringer’ was rostered by some to beat the big rival at homecoming.

College football in the days of the doughboy.

One believed ringer of the day, at least in opinion of Pennsylvania “Quakers” and press, was the young man who’d just a few years later embark on a legendary coach career at University of Michigan, “Hurry-Up” Yost (1901-23, ‘25-26).

Fielding Harris Yost, born and schooled in West Virginia, would become the man who put Wolverines football on the college map, bringing Michigan national prominence with six national titles (165-29-10 (198-35-12)) and a win in the inagural Rose Bowl in besting California’s Stanford, 49-0 (1902).

Before his halcyon days in the cherry State, Yost distinguished himself playing tackle at UWV but caused a ringer-ruckus in 1896 when he made an impromptu and temporary transfer to nationally prominent rival, Lafayette, helping them to victory over those rough & tumble Quakers, 6-4. Fielding denied any impropriety and the brouhaha blew over.

Yost then headed straight into the coaching life in a string of jobs that’d set Larry Brown’s hair on fire, taking five posts in just four seasons, beginning at Ohio Wesleyan (’97), then Nebraska (’98), Kansas (99), Stanford (’00) and San Jose (‘00) before settling down in Ann Arbor.

Other memorable coaches followed Yost, like Harry Kipke (NT ‘32-33 (“punt, pass & a prayer,” “great defense is a great offense“)), Fritz Crisler (‘47 / “platoon” system and today‘s helmet design)), Ben Oosterbaan (‘48), Bo Schembechler (194-48-5), Gary Moeller (44-13-3 / 4-1) and Lloyd Carr (’97 / 122-40).

The years after Carr was shown the door (resigned (‘07)), have seen big blue turn a shade of baby blue. Rich Rodriguez (15-22) and Brady Hoke (31-20), winners in prior coaching stints could not translate that success to the “Big House.”

.....Harbaugh.12.30.14.wc.Upchurch.thmIn 2015, enter former 49ers guru and Wolverines star signal-caller (‘83-86), James Joseph Harbaugh to right the listing ship that had become Michigan football.

The UM Board of Regents voted Jim a pile o’ cash to lure him from a pretty rosy NFL life in San Francisco and the early signs are showing it to be a wise investment.

After coming up short against Utah (4-0) to open the Harbaugh era, Wolverines (4-1 (#18)) have run off four straight wins and line up against the #13 Wildcats of Northwestern (5-0) in Ann Arbor on Saturday (3:30 EST) for what should prove a classic Big Ten grinder and good test of both teams true capabilities.

Jim Harbaugh clearly brings a verve to Michigan. He had his trouble in NFL red zone (SB47 / NFCC’14) but he’s been a winning coach at both levels (Stanford), recruits with the best of ’em and should have Wolverines back in the mix quick.

And when he does it’ll likely swing a national spotlight that’s been fixated on the SEC, back onto the Big Ten. In particular, a showcase of the formerly anticipated and highly rated TV event that is the long-running UM – TOSU rivalry game.

You’ve gotta’ look for small signs when a new coach takes the reins.

One that this writer noticed was the subtle alterations made in the Wolverines uniform design and then other clothing accoutrements.

Gone is the fluorescent maize and fat ‘M’ lettering, replaced by a darker yellow hue (school bus) and a tapered, classic line.

It may read infinitesimal but speaks a volume or two on Harbaugh’s confident, focused persona in that he and his staff don’t have to scream at fans, a tack taken up in tired trend by today‘s logo & uniform Lilliputians. Jimbo, like more sport-minded people, will let the record speak for itself. And a little throwback to the good times doesn’t hurt, either.

...brass.thumbtack.J.Dalton.wc.ccaSteven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credits: JimHarbaugh, wc.cca, 12.30.14, E.Upchurch; brass-thumbtack, wc.cca, J.Dalton.
Posted: 10.5.15 @ 2:31pm EST; Copyright ® 2015
Source reference, UM football history: Wikipedia.

NFL15 Cherry Picks W4: Collision Course

2 Oct ....Rodgers.McCarthy.9.9.12.wc.Morbeck.250k

Go-Getters & Grass-Legs

It’s early in NFL 2015, or as Steve Buscemi (Fargo (‘96)) would say, the season “still has that new car smell (gulp),” and as such, hard to be drawing too many or certain a conclusion on any concern.

While Atlanta, Denver, Cincy, Arizona and Carolina remain unbeaten, one feeling that cannot be denied is that perennial powerhouses Green Bay (3-0) and New England (3-0) appear both to be on missions to right past poor perceptions (Cheese-Melt 2015 / Deflategate), hitting on all cylinders and seemingly on collision course to meet in Santa Clara (SB50) next February.

Three games under your belts ain’t a whole lot to bank on and much can happen between now and January, but the manner in which these two clubs have been handling themselves and their opponents speaks volumes.

Besides the teams spirit, the two glamour pusses (cats) in Tom (72.2, 1112, 9-0) and Aaron (73.6, 771, 10-0) look to be early frontrunners for the individual hardware (MVP), with fellow QBs Andy Dalton (66.3, 866, 8-1i) and Matt Ryan (66.4%, 5t-2i, 946y) not far behind and Adrian Peterson who’s getting back those grass-legs and doing his part to dictate the dialogue (291, 2t, 4.9).

Also worth noting: Pack head coach Mike McCarthy and OC Edgar Bennett would appear to be taking a page out of Bill Belichck and Josh McDaniel’s playbook.

In Monday night’s contest (KC @ GB 38-28), the green & yellow engaged in a bit o’ tomfoolery (mischief) themselves in some irregular snap-counts, harkening back to Packers fake ball-down at Miami two season‘s past and the Patriots floating line versus the Ravens in last season‘s AFCC.

That anyone can do it won’t be the standard (fair-play) when NFL rules committee muses the topic.

That Haynesworth Feeling

It’s premature to tab new Eagle DeMarco Murray (Q’able W4 (ham)) a bad buy in class with former Redskin Albert Haynesworth, but the newly well compensated RB who, along with Romo & Bryant, helped carry Dallas back respectability in ’14 (2261 YFS), has been so strangely ineffective in his two outings (21a-11y, 0.5, 1td) that that dreaded Haynesworth feeling is beginning to creep into the mind.

Monster (K)s followed immediately by non-productivity gives the heebie-jeebies. Most likely it’s a health issue that should clear-up soon. Fingers crossed.

It’s a Quarter League

Half-dozen or so of W3 contests were decided in one 15-minute quarter where one team looked a bit lost while the other decided it a good time to pull away. Watch for it.

Nice Spot

Across the League: Penalties down in W3 where combined team tallies trended below 20, excepting CIN @ BAL (22), KC @ GB (19) where hosts got hit with 12.

Speaking of Green Bay, WRs James Jones (7-139, 1) and Randy Cobb (7-91, 3) are making the angst following Jordy Nelson’s injury exit seem wholly hyperbolic.

Tip o’ the cap to those who, even in loss, give it their all. CIP: Bears Jarvis Jenkins (4t-6a-2sk) & Pernell McPhee (6-1-2), Rams Alec Ogletree (5-4-2), new (old) QB Luke McCown (31-38 (81.6), 310, 1int), younger brother of Josh (CLE) in only 10th start dating back to ‘04 and ageless Raven Steve Smith (WR / 13-186, 2).

Tyrod Taylor QB (BUF / 21-29, 3td, 3r-12): I had my doubts but Rex knew best and TT is taking to it like duck to water. Scamper started bad (9-41 IND) but he appears to be fighting the rabbit habit. Rookie teammate Karlos Williams (R5 (FSU) 2015)) is doing his part to help. Through W3: 24-186 (7.8), 3td.

Patriots (JAC / 35-15) and Texans (TB / 30-14) 1st-down ratios. That’s balance.

Paul Posluszny, LB (JAX), 14t-4a: Were he a QB, that’d probably translate roughly to 600 passing yards and 7 TDs. A.J. Green, WR (CIN): 10-227, 2td.

Travis Benjamin, WR (CLE): Not that many hauls (10r), but the conversion is fantastico: 249y, 24.9, 4td. Similarly small total but Cowboys’ QB Brandon Weeden is w connected: 2g (1-1), 1td-1i, 29-33.

Bad Spot

W4 byes (NE / TEN): Though R&R&R (rest, relax & recover) may not be a goal, it should in a long season and later versions (W6-10) may offer unfair advantage.

Kansas City Sieve: Offensive line allows 7 sacks to Green Bay (Matthews 2).

4Q el-foldo: Giants foible is still the 4th set, nearly letting Redskins win get away.

M.I.A. run-games: DC, NYG, DEN, DET, STL, TEN, PHI, JAX, CLE and in serious trouble and about a half dozen other clubs in need of a boost but soon.

DeAngelo Williams RB (PIT): Had but one (1) carry v. STL (Bell, 19-62) after a 127y (NE) and 3-TD (SF) performances priorly. Wonder what Mike‘s thinking?

Bill Belichick leaving Brady in the game w/13m left in the 4th and Pats up 44-10. Tom wasn’t throwing for the end-zone but plenty of good reasons to bring in Garoppolo (came in at 1:22 for two kneel-downs). Wonder what Bill’s thinking?

Teddy Bridgewater QB (MIN): Fine C% (67.6) but 1 TD toss in 3g suggests Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer getting a little too cute with caution. No pain, no gain.

Justin Forsett RB (BAL): from 5.4 (1266y) in 2014 to 3.2 (39-124) in 2015.

Kicker’s Korner

Matt Darr P (MIA): 4-47.3, -20 (3)
Brad Pinion P (SF): 6-44.8, 4
Pat McAfee P (IND): 5-50, 1
Donnie Jones P (PHI): 9-41.2, 2
Steve Gostkowski K (NE): 3-3fg, 6xp
Andy Lee P (CLE): 4-51.3, 2
Kyle Brindza K (TB): 1-4 (58y). On a bad day he made the toughest one.


Week 4 Cherry Picks

Ravens (0-3) @ Steelers (2-1): 10-1 CBS 8:25: Ravens win
Jets (2-1) v. Miami (LDN) (1-2): 10-4 CBS 9:30am: MIA wins
Jaguars (1-2) @ Colts (1-2): CBS 1:00: Indianapolis wins
Eagles (1-2) @ Redskins (1-2): Fox 1:00: Philadelphia wins
Chiefs (1-2) @ Bengals (3-0): CBS 1:00: Kansas City wins
Carolina (3-0) @ Tampa Bay (1-2): Fox 1:00: Buccaneers win
Giants (1-2) @ Buffalo (2-1): Fox 1:00: New York wins
Browns (1-2) @ San Diego (1-2): CBS 4:05: Chargers win
Vikings (2-1) @ Denver (3-0): Fox 4:25: Broncos win
Cowboys (2-1) @ New Orleans: NBC 8:30: Saints win
Lions (0-3) @ Seattle (1-2): 10-5 ESPN 8:30: Seahawks win

Record: 9-11

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: A.Rodgers-M.McCarthy, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12; cherries-ripe, wc.cca Chirak, 6.24.7.
Posted: 10.1.15 @ 8:20pm EST; Copyright ® 2015


NBA15 Tip-Off: Top Storylines

29 Sep ....Curry.2.24.15.wc.653k.K.Allison

“An old Indian game. It’s called put-the-ball-in-the-hole (“R.P. McMurphy“ to “Chief (One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest (’75))).”

* * * *

NBA 2015-16 is about to take the court.

Camps have opened with pre-season play beginning on October 2nd. The regular season is slated for tip-off at month’s end (27th). The opening act is a cross-country twin-bill pitting last season’s Finalists against a pair of playoff opponents, both with new head coaches.

The reigning champ Warriors get to unfurl their championship banner in hosting 1st-Rd foe New Orleans (0-4 (Alvin Gentry)), while the Cavaliers head due West to face the Chicago Bulls (Fred Hoiberg) at the banner-filled United Center.

1) Golden State Warriors

You can’t pen a piece about an upcoming season without first giving the champs their due. It’s made easy by the fact that the Warriors are expected by many to get back into the Finals, given the woeful competition and barring the dreaded injury influenza.

What 1st-year head coach Kerr and team accomplished still feels a bit fantastic.

His court leader in guard Steve Curry took regular season MVP honors and became the first 3-point specialist to lead his team to a title. All pretty special stuff that must’ve left victory parade participants Al Attles (coach) and Rick Berry (superstar) beaming with pride (’75 NBA title).

But a smoother roadway to title-town hath never been paved.

The Warriors breezed by the Pelicans (R1 4-0), did get tested by Memphis (4-2 (R2)) but then swept hot-house orchids Atlanta (4-0) and faced a Finals opponent in the Cavaliers who were without their #2 in Kev Love and hobbled elsewhere. LeBron James is special but he ain’t that special. Even Magic (Jabbar-Cooper-Wilkes-Worthy) and Larry (Parish-DJ-Maxwell-McHale) needed their buds.

2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Love re-signed in the off-season. What else do you need to know, except that LeBron James (2y ext’sn) is, if not giddy with optimism, fairly content with State of Cavalier-land and should fully expect a return visit to the Finals next May.

Mr. Blatt was a little shaky in the playoffs (“Not alot you can do (Curry)”), but then Eric Spoelstra came under frequent fire before guiding the Heat to a couple of O’Briens. And the East is pretty barren of serious contenders these days, the West not much better. That points to a quality of competition issue that was in all likelihood absent from everyone’s agenda this off-season. And that’s a shame.

3) Kobe Bryant

He’s denied having decided this’ll be his last run as a player, in opposite of GM Kupchak‘s public musings. Instead, Bryant speaks of a personal renaissance (“rebirth“). He did live in Italy. But Kobe’s body may have more to say about the decision than does his desire. And then planning on a final season absent formal annoucement may simply be his way of forgoing what he and many fans disdain, that being the “farewell tour,” aka, attendance-enhancer & memorabilia-booster.

Like the pantheon of pinstripers populating the long, mostly successful history of the Yankees, Kobe’s been a part of a similar near unbroken chain of great Lakers links since big George Mikan (d.‘05) and “Kangaroo Kid” Jim Pollard (d.‘93) were filling the peach-basket (it was steel rimmed) in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Some nicknames have surfaced over the 19 seasons he pounded NBA hardwood after enlisting straight from high school (Lower Merion, Ardmore, PA (‘96 R1-13 (Hornets-to-Lakers)), “Black Mamba” being the oddest. But like Wilt, Yogi & Cher, the worldly lad from Philly has always been known by one name, Kobe.

Suffice to say Bryant has scored lots o’ points and garned plenty o’ personal hardware in his long NBA tenure (MVP, All-Star, etc.), but it’s the title haul (5), equaling 80s Showtime, that will define his b-ball legacy.

To his character, well, let’s just say the sexual assault arrest (‘03), then case dismissal (‘04), a Bryant apology (sans admission of guilt) and final civil settlement, will likely afford the Lakers great the privilege of not having a statue erected outside Staples Center (x6) in his honor. Then again, these decisions aren’t cast in stone: 2030?

4) Spurs Forever?

There’s been discussion recently as to whether or not the Gregg Popovich Spurs have constituted a true dynasty. My initial view was that five titles in sixteen seasons was qualification aplenty and denial of such was stingy (P.Jackson).

Thinking more on it, a reflection triggered by the baseball Giants failure to once again defend their World Series or even Pennant titles, I’ve come to the belief that San Antonio’s inability to win back-to-backs or even get back to a Finals the season following a championship may very well disqualify them of the dynasty tag. No big whoop.

What owner Peter Holt (‘93) and his Spurs have accomplished since they took their first title in ‘98-99 may be more significant than achieving the dynasty thing: a space-time continuum (Poe). Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but weighty matters seldom do.

The core for 4 of the 5 O’Briens, Tim Duncan (C), Tony Parker (PG) and Manu Ginobili (G), all return for one more season as the Argentinian hints this one will be his last. When any of the three exit it won’t be long before the others follow.

Can the Spurs hold form and fashion one more title run in this staggered 2015-16 season? The infusion of more young talent with the vets didn’t take them too far last spring, bowing out to the Clippers in R1. But the door to title-town is wide open in this NBA and the humble Spurs seem to never stop learning.

5) Commissioner Adam Silver

Commissioners rarely rank high on those most-admired lists. Making money for the owners (and college Presidents), presiding over draft events and dolling out player punishment is what they devote majority of their time. Rarely, one will take the job to heart and go beyond the money rake (Landis / Giamatti (MLB)).

But don’t include Mr. Adam Silver in that select group. The name is apropos.

What can you say that’s inspirational about a point-man Silver who seeks to co-mingle gambling with sport (“good for business”) and handled the sad, multi-sided Sterling matter with all the finesse and courage of a corporate raider? He’s a media darling?

It can’t be an easy job, Commissioner of a major sport. But some leaders are more suited to the task than others who have no more love for the game than the politician who dons whatever ball-cap the campaign whistle-stop dictates.

Bold moves like paring down of an excess of franchises that might pump life’s blood in quality of competition back into the sport, and elimination of gimmickry like the 3-pointer (ABA) that’s destroyed b-ball’s dichotomy, could work wonders for a popularity of that’s ebbing at lowest in decades. Odds on that: 1000 to 1.

6) Team Potentiality

Before the 2015 Conference finals, if you asked me to name-off teams likely to contend for next season’s showcase venues, I’d have included the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks with no hesitation. That was four months and “a 1000 years ago.”

Both front-runners flamed-out in their respective CFs, winning one measly game between ’em both (4-0 (ATL v CLE) / 4-1 (HOU v GSW)).

While the Grizzlies and Clippers didn‘t advance as far in 2015 post-season play, both showed something to build upon. Los Angeles’ addition of wily vet Paul Pierce may be the binding-agent they truly need to become a cohesive crew.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: S.Curry, wc.cca, 2.24.15, K.Allison.
Posted: 9.29.15 @ 2:18pm EST; Copyright ® 2015

NFL15 Cherry Picks W3: Mighty Quinn?

24 Sep

Come all without, come all within
You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.”

Opening line to Manfred Mann’s 1968 hit single, “Quinn the Eskimo,” known alternatively as the “Mighty Quinn.” It reached #1 in the UK and, unbeknownst by most oldies lovers, was written by Robert “Bob” Dylan. Imagine that?

Why the melody mention? To flag the Atlanta Falcons new hot commodity head coach, Dan Quinn.

Okay, I’m pressing.

The Falcons are just one of nine teams starting the season in perfection, a group that includes the unlikely likes of Carolina and the turbo-charged Jets.

But the A-Birds haven’t started 2-0 since 2012 in Mike Smith’s glory when they cruised to 8-0, eventually meeting their end in NFCC versus the 49ers (28-24).

What makes this different is that Quinn comes into the Georgia Dome with a kind of élan: a pair of championship rings on hand. Biggest for coordinating Pete Carroll’s defensive Legion of Boom in Super Bowl 48 win over Denver, the second for taking (stealing) the NFC title in Green Bay last January to earn trip to SB49 where ’Hawks came up short against Bill Belichick’s Patriots (28-24).

Presently, the Falcons are flying high on offense, ranking 5th in yards per game (398+) and 11th in points per game (25) but bottom-feeding in Quinn’s specialty, defense, where they come in at an embarrassing #27 in yapg (393+, ahead of Bills (28), Pats (29) and Lions (30)) but a respectable 13th in papg (21).

It’s all very early, way too early to be putting much stock in any trend. Not too early, though, to be wanting more from their youthful run attack in the persons of Devonta Freeman (2y) and rookie Tevin Coleman who better deliver some consistency (125+) or Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are gonna’ wear out by midway.

Most encouraging to Dan and GM Tom Dimitroff in their quest to return to contender status is a schedule that appears not the most challenging and aught trigger a muffin-basket mailing to the NFL office. “Thanks a bunch,” ya’ll!

Of course, for this particular year, playing in the NFC South does help. This week’s Dallas tussle looks to be one of the A-Birds toughies. But given last week’s plethora of upsets, one never knows how a game will go.

You do know Cowboys’ rover Sean Lee and punter Chris Jones (45.8 / 2-20) will bring their A-games to AT&T but will Weeden extend his tidy C% (7-7) compiled in brief Eagles stint, and Randle & McFadden start filling the Murray void?

Super Slate

It’s a most intriguing schedule of games for football fans to fix their glims this W3 of NFL action, beginning with the rejuvenated Redskins heading to the Meadowlands to take on intra-division rival the Giants who may hear the bell toll if they go 0-3. It closes Monday night with a top-shelf match-up between the conundrum Chieftains traveling to Andy Reid’s old stomping grounds (‘92-98) Lambeau Field to face Mike McCarthy and his happy-Packers.

Cherry Picks Week 3

Redskins (1-1) @ New York (0-2); 9-24 CBS 8:25: Giants win
Atlanta (2-0) @ Dallas (2-0); 9-27 Fox 1:00 (GOTW): Falcons win
Bengals (2-0) @ Baltimore (0-2); CBS 1:00: Ravens win
Eagles (0-2) @ New York Jets (2-0); Fox 1:00: Philadelphia wins
Chargers (1-1) @ Vikings (1-1); 1:00 CBS: San Diego win
Steelers (1-1) @ St. Louis (1-1); 1:00 CBS: Pittsburgh wins
San Francisco (1-1) @ Arizona (2-0); Fox 4:05 Cardinals win
Buffalo (1-1) @ Miami (1-1); CBS 4:25: Dolphins win
Denver (2-0) @ Detroit (0-2); NBC 8:30: Lions win
Chiefs (1-1) @ Packers (2-0); 9-28 ESPN 8:30 (GOTW2): KC wins

Record: 4 – 6

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: M.Quinn, wc.cca, 2.3.15, youtube-pUltS9FjyEA; M.Quinn, wc.cca, 12.29.13, M.Morris; T.Dimitroff, wc.cca, 8.14.14, Thompson200; cherries-on-cloth, wc.cca, picdrome, 2011.
Posted: 9.24.15 @ 3:10pm EST; Copyright ® 2015

NFL15-W2 Minute Waltz: Gambler’s Woe

22 Sep

Results from Week 2 offer reason #11 why you don’t gamble on games: topsy-turvy tally. “It’s all one big crap-shoot anyhoo (“Needlenose Ned,” Groundhog Day (‘93)).” That pretty much holds true even if it’s GB or NE. Watch & see.

I count nine upsets, if Dallas and Atlanta road-wins can be called ballyhoo.

A friendly wager for fun is fine but becoming a dedicated investor in chance (See Also: FanDuel® & DraftKings®), that’s foolhardy, indeed.

Countdown to Team Rankings: Week 4

Disraeli Marker: “There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics”

Time of possession:

1) 49ers 36:59 v Steelers 23:01 (PIT 43-18);
2) Titans 35:11 v Browns 24:49 (CLE 28-14).

It’s not necessarily time you possess but what you do with it that matters most.

All in the Family or The Brothers Colquitt (DEN 31-24 KC)

Not a true upset, W2 began with it’s kissing-cousin, the slip-away, leaving KC fans and Reid wringing their hands. Jamaal Charles OT fumble wasn’t the biggest boo-boo, nor Alex Smith‘s two INTs. Instead, it was watching what’s become the saddest thing in pro-ball: prevent defense. It is like watching a homicide in slow motion and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.

With a team up late (KC 7), it seems SOP with most every DC in the land to pull pressure and instruct pint-sized D-backs to lay-off and let master matriculators, here, Peyton, do his thing: move the ball at-will. He did. Tie game. OT.

Wondering who won Battle of Colquitts? If yes, consider yourself an NFL expert as the name is synonymous with pro punting. Craig Colquitt punted on two of Super Steelers’ teams in the 70s, brother Jim briefly suited for Seattle (’85) and CC has two sons now doing Dad proud. Dustin continues to handle duties in KC (11y) while younger brother Britton is booms bombs for Broncos (6y). This round goes to the elder on average: 52.4 (4p) v. 42.7 (7).

Sharp Cheddar (GB 27-17 SEA)

Packers are leaving fans fulfilled (2-0), first toying w/rival Bears, then new nemesis Seattle who’s red-flagging at a spot they’ve been as stable as Microsoft the past 3y, QB. When Wilson (10-78) out-rushes Lynch (15-41), there’s big trouble on Puget Sound. Tip o’ the cap to GB’s M.Crosby: 4/4 + 54-yarder.

Good News First,… (DAL 20-10 PHI)

If you’re a Dallas fan, good news is your ‘Boys beat another division foe in Eagles (0-2) who’re struggling for answers. Sub QB B.Weeden made most of his chance (7-7, 1-0) in sealing the win late and LB leader Sean Lee is making up for lost time (9t – 5a – 1int). Bad news: Romo’s out, again, for a spell (clavicle).

Back n’ Forth Bruiser (OAK 37-33 BAL)

Even-Steven until Raiders channeled spirits of old glory in Upshaw (d.‘08), Davis (d.‘11) & Stabler (d.‘15) showing Ravens what-for in taking a surprise win. Tucker did his part (4/4) but BAL misses Suggs. Another 2y QB in Raiders’ Carr shone bright (30-46-351-3/1), Crabtree & Cooper clicked with over 200y combined and LBs Smith & Lofton made the stops when Oakland needed ‘em.

Sunshine Supermen (JAX 23-20 MIA)

Jaguars jump out early and held on to beat intrastate, history-laden rival, Miami. Dolphins were suppose to be contenders in 2015 and losing in JAX is a big no-no to that purpose. Two-year QB Bortles (18-33-273-2), handyman A. Robinson (6-155-2) both impressed while kicker J.Myers went 3-3, booting a 58’r.

Watch & Learn (PIT 43-18 SF)

Athleticism has it‘s limitations.

Kaep performed (33-46, 335-2 (9a)) but aught take lesson from a master craftsman in Big Ben who knows what‘s key (21-27, 369-3 (1a)) while Shazier (11t) & Blake (10) enabled the separation. Keep bolting Colin and you’ll never Super again. Pitt’s Brown (9-195-1) was all hands, Williams is in rebirth (77y-3td (4-rec)) while SF’s J.Hayne experiment may not deliver. And anyone who thinks a linebacker (Bowman) can be the same superstar after ACL tear & tie is not a football fan nor medically qualified.

Ram Fluff (DC 24-10 STL)

Up & comers St. Louis lay an egg in DC, falling behind early and stymied the rest of the way as Redskins showed moxie to chagrin of NFL-haters nationwide. Cousins spread it nicely (8 WRs) and star RB Morris (18-59) has company in rookie M. Jones who ran to daylight (19-123, 2td). Rams’ Foles is competent (17-32, 150-1) but bright spots were Ogletree (8t-8a) and punter J.Hekker who kicked the heck outta’ the pig (8-46.1).

Giant Fizzle (ATL 24-20 NYG)

All talk will be New York’s 4Q funk but give credit to new Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn whose scheme closed the door late on the Giants. DQ is making a mark in hip-hopping Atlanta after Super success in Seattle (DC). But A-Birds, like Denver, best find consistent run before Matt Ryan (30-46, 363-1) & Julio Jones (13-135) wear out.

“Hail, (Arians)!” (AZ 48-23 CHI)

Looks another long season in City of Big Shoulders (0-2) and wary warrior Jay’s banged again. Even Force Forte will fade (15-61). Cards, they look like GB’s NFCC foe. Sloppy too (24 PEN total) but Carson’s (17-24, 185-4) raising Aaron for MVP pot, Johnson & Johnson (David “Stiff Arm,” 5-42 (108 KOR)) give balance, Larry lives large (8, 112-3) and desert D (R.Johnson 9t-1-1td) did well (CHI 6.6 yppa, 17%-3DE)).

Saints’ Woes March On (TB 26-19 NO)

Like Giants and Bears, more of the same sluggishness for Saints. Lose focus for just one quarter and all may be lost (3Q: TB 13 – NO 0). Brees is fine (24-38, 255-1-1), but unlike Brady (Bill) & Rodgers (Mike), his man Payton is not filling void left by Graham exit (SEA), who’s learning, as should Kam, the big-money-grab has it‘s risks: He and Drew clicked. Sloppy stuff: 21 PEN – 7 FUM total, as Brees is sacked 4 more (6).

Luke-less Win (CAR 24-17 HOU)

Ref’s arms are as tired as some QBs, throwing flags in W2 with V&V (20 PEN). Texans’ Mallett nearly hit 60a mark (27-58), being w/out Foster (Polk 14-38), while Camster-the-Hamster keeps taking touches from his backs (10-76 (4.6 yppa)). This time it covered, but post-bye (@ SEA) will be a test. Lechler was HOU star: 8, 43avg, 3 (20).

Bengalicious (CIN 24-19 SD)

Now if Lewis & Dalton (16-26, 214-3) could just get into the fall canning spirit, Ball®-up (Jarden) up some of this mojo for the PS we might see tiger stripes back in the Super for the first time since SB23 (SF 20-16). Chargers’ backfield performed (Rivers: 21-27, 241, 2-1 / Gordon: 16-88 / Woody: 6rec-68) but 4sks and 2TOs can give it away.

Johnny Renaissance

Whether Jon makes All-Pro one day or not, he’s a better QB, man in 2015 than in NFL debut (‘14). Marcus looks to have mental playbook already well in-hand, for while he lost this Battle of Heismen (W1: 42-14 TB), he kept rabbit (3-16) and INT (0) down. Two fumbles + poor C% (21-37) are learning curve and by-product of a leaky Titans‘ OL (7sks (ouch)). No pain, no gain, and that’s no joke.

Purr Like a Kitten (MIN 26-16 DET)

Thought Detroit would challenge GB supremacy in 2015? Not bloody likely. Caldwell brings it hard in preseason (See: RG3) but Lions are kitty so far this regular. Stafford’s staunch (32-53, 286) but when he out runs his backs (20 v 18), it’s bad. Adrian’s finding his grass-legs (29-134) and Ted managed but better start spreading it far & wide and find a go-to guy or scamper will hamper (6-21).

Don’t Even THINK Unbeaten (NE 40-32 BUF)

Belichamps play like they’re on a mission. What’s new? But they beat Pitt in NE, a team sliding since 2010, and Buffalo’s testing a new QB who‘s got a ways to go (Taylor: 23-30, 242, 3-3). Brady or not, a Ryan team allowing 500+ TY (<60 rushing) is not dialed-in. Gronk (7, 113-1) gets the love but Edelman (11, 97-2), Collins (8t-4a) & Hightower (8-3) are the workaday wonders. Penalties: 25!

Meet the New Jets (NYJ 20-7 IND)

Won’t be a QB controversy in NYJ when Geno returns if this keeps up. Fitz’s been slightly splendid while the run game’s been fairly capable and defense pretty darn stout (2g: 17pts + top T/OD’l). For Indy (0-2), look no further than turnovers. A ground game that tabbed a 10y vet (Gore) as anwwer for a old issue didn’t help.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: worry, wc.cca, P.R. Simoes, Lisbon, 7.27.11
Posted: 9.22.15 @ 1:57pm, edit 4:53 EST; Copyright ® 2015

NFL15 Cherry Picks W2: Swivel-Head

18 Sep

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbPlaytime’s Over

Week 2 in the young NFL season is far from what incendiary scribes can make out to be a make or break (“panic”) game. But suffice to say that it’s time to get down & dirty (figuratively speaking), i.e., dead (figuratively) serious or this thing might get away from you real fast.

Two themes run through the second act: 1) Keep it going, for those who jumped out to 1-0 start; and 2) Get it in gear for those who needed a jump-start or couldn’t close the deal.


Cherry Picks Week 2: Flash v. Form

Broncos (1-0) @ Chiefs (1-0): 9-17 NFLN 8:25: KC wins
Pats (1-0) @ Bills (1-0): 9-20 CBS 1:00 (GOTW): NE wins
49ers (1-0) @ Pittsburgh (1-0): Fox 1:00: Steelers win
Cardinals (1-0) @ Chicago (0-1): Fox 1:00: Bears win
Chargers (1-0) @ Cincinnati (1-0): CBS 1:00: Bengals win
Falcons (1-0) @ New York (0-1): Fox 1:00: Giants win
Rams (1-0) @ Washington (0-1): Fox 1:00: St. Louis wins
Cowboys (1-0) @ Philadelphia (0-1): Fox 4:25: Eagles win
Seahawks (0-1) @ Pack (1-0): NBC 8:30 (GOTW2): GB wins
Jets (1-0) @ Indianapolis (0-1): 9-21 ESPN 8:30: Colts win

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Cherries, Hispalois, wc.cca,, 7.2.12, Spain; NFL-symbol, wikiproject; cherries, wc.cca, B.Kua, 6.1.8.
Posted: 9.17.15 @ 8:24pm EST; Copyright ® 2015


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