NFL14 Cherry Picks W1: Thursday Football?

5 Sep

Thursday Night Football

Not a fan of the Thursday night game, am I, and especially not to kick-off the 2014-15 NFL season.

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It’s a terrific inaugural match-up this season, as the Packers, winners of Super Bowl 45 (’11), return to Seattle, the site of Simultaneous Catch 2012, to face the defending champs, the Seahawks, in a battle of NFC juggernauts.

The caliber of TNF team won’t usually be this high.

Tens of millions will watch tonite’s game. Of course, it’s pro football on TV.

But who in their right football mind prefers to watch the first contest in mid-week, at night, with work & school the next morning? Not many. Sunday would’ve suited fans, probably players & coaches too, just fine. And that’d be the fan-friendlier NFL world.

The memo that proposed TNF, along with the same that hatched the in-game pink-wear idea that shocks in October, and the likely Nike memo (‘12?) that may’ve discussed new logos for what some non-sporting, agents-for-change had hoped would be an easily ousted Washington Redskins motif, oughta’ all be framed. Then hang it in a prominent place at NFL headquarters as a reminder of how not to do business. But that’s another world, too.

The Braun Line in Denver

From sympathetic figure (preseason-concussion) to sorrowful scoundrel in a matter days, Broncos’ starry slot receiver Wes Welker was scrambling for answers Wednesday morning after report he’d tested positive for PEDs (amphetamines, reported “Adderall”) as part of NFL / NFLPA’s Policy & Program for Substances of Abuse and would serve a 4 game suspension after losing his appeal (Aug).

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I’m as shocked as everyone at today’s news. I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I would NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way…I now know, that (drug-policy procedures) are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’t negatively affected so rashly like this. I have worked my whole life to be the best that I can be, and I have encountered many obstacles over my career, and THIS WILL BE NO DIFFERENT (“Wes Welker” / denverpost / 9-2-14 / Klis).”

Welker’s public response has an air of Braun about it.

Like the Brewers’ slugger and former MVP (‘11), Wes sings an old tune in appearing determined to blame everything but himself.

He hasn’t as yet called into question the integrity of his tester as did Ryan, but has “clearly” made the process the culprit. He’s also thrown out the possiblity his beverage at the Kentucky Derby, where testing occurred, may’ve been laced with the banned drug.

Strange, corrupt things do happen sometimes, but Wes is gonna’ have to produce reliable evidence of such a mickey-plot to clear his name. As things stand presently, “The (man) doth protest too much, me-thinks (Ed de Vere (Hamlet)).”

In all likelihood, given that Wes’ appeal was “denied,” only thing “clearly flawed” about NFL’s PED-prevention program is the absence of HGH-blood draws, thanks in large part to Welker’s NFLPA and Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith.

Dark Horses

Prognosticating is in vogue this first week of NFL play, as everyone and their Grandma dives into the pool of picks, giving their best guess on post-season participants for 2014-15: divisional, wild-card, Conference and of course, the big kahuna, the Super Bowl.

But even an un-distinguished foreteller as myself can, mostly likely, correctly pick most of those stalwarts who’ll end up in the winner‘s circles.

More challenging are the dark horse selections.

Those are the teams who clearly have some talent, their fair-share of obstacles to over-come and showed enough moxie in the prior year to make them hard to keep out of the contender category. They’re the teams that, if they do make the playoffs, you won’t be kicking yourself: ‘Damn, I should’ve tabbed those guys winners.’

AFC

Thoroughbreds: Denver (even Welker-less); New England (especially w/out Gronk-itis); KC (ended high (v. IND), offense, anyway) and Cincy (changing of da’ AFCN guard).

Dark Horse: San Diego

Never say die: Chargers’ unofficial motto in 2013. After a home loss to Bengals in W13 things looked bleak. But Bolts went on a 4-game tear, then took revenge in taking wild card in Cincy and finally succumbed to AFC thoroughbred Broncos by 7 in Divisional.

It was a nifty Y1 for coach Mike McCoy who might’ve won COY (Rivera) if playoffs factored. Likewise for Phil Rivers who was given time (30sk) and played superb (69.5%, 32-11), while run-back Ryan Mathews finally stayed healthy and performed to potential (1255y / 4.4). With Don Brown signed (537 / 5.3), Woodhead (429 / 4.0) is insurance.

AP’s CPOY, San Diego mainstay Rivers is cut from same pocket-passer cloth as Cutler but better bang-immunity, starting every game for 8y straight: Jr. Iron-man. At 32 you’d expect QB fade but Phil’s a live-wire cut from Mickey Rooney cloth (we miss ya’ Mick (d. 4-6-14)). And with kindred spirit in Mike, who played QB and coached NFL offense since 2000 w/ specialty in QBs, the scoring synergy should stay energized (R5 / 393).

But Diego’s different on defense. Bolts reside in lower echelon (R23 / 366.yapg), only adequate in manufacturing opportunities, i.e., find few fumbles (15), so-so sacks (34) and few picks (11). But Weddle, Butler, Gilchrist, Marshall & Liuget are solid core.

The obstacles: Can star run-man Mathews stay healthy for 2 in a row, Whisenhunt (OC) is now in Tennessee and will core defenders Weddle & Butler get enough stoppage support keep games close. Strong finish (PS loss v. DEN) gives Bolts followers best hope in a decade, in a Conference ripe for change.

NFC

Thoroughbreds: Seattle (If Dick Sherman ever starts tackling, watch out); Green Bay (Did defense upgrade?); New Orleans (better than ‘09-10) and Atlanta Falcons (Bounce-back).

Dark Horse: Arizona Cardinals

Were best-record the playoff tabulator, Arizona would’ve made the cut in last season’s PS instead of North division ‘champ’ getting an invite, as Pack (8-7-1) went one & done in a home loss to, who else, the 49ers who, of course, ran wild, yet again.

Cards came in at 6 (D) & 12 (O) and fairly active in agency. Only team to top the titlists in Seattle (W16), but couldn’t handle success and closed out w/ home loss to the Niners. Trouble is, now they’re scrambling on defense with stalwarts Karlos Danby gone (CLE), Daryl Washington susp‘d (plea-a/a) and Ty Mathieu (knee) working back.

Carson Palmer’s getting toothy but had one of his best in yards (4274) & C% (63+) while INTs tallied high (22). His target pool grew w/ FAs Ginn & Carlson (TE), O-line beefed up w/ Raiders alum J. Veldheer who missed most of ‘13 w/triceps, but backfield re-work is in order as Mendy retired (3.2 ypc) and 2y Ellington (5.5) looks to fill the void.

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Cherry Picks Week 1

Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks: 9-4 / 8:35 EST: Seahawks win

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: 9-7 / 1:00 (GOTW): Falcons win

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins: 1:00: Patriots win

Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens: 1:00: Bengals win

San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys: 4:30: Cowboys win

Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos: 8:30: Broncos win

New York Giants @ Detroit Lions: 9-8 / 7:15: Giants win

San Diego Chargers @ Arizona Cardinals: 9-8 / 10:25: Cardinals win

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credit: cherries / Hispalois / wc.cca / 7-2-12 / Spain; W.Welker / J.Beall / wc.cca / 8.29.13

Posted: 9-4-14 @ 10:18pm EST

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