NFL15 Wild Cherry Picks: “Got (Destiny)?”

2 Jan

New Beginnings

It’s a whole new season, the NFL playoffs.

For the player, his body’s telling him it’s time to pack it in for winter, catch up on sleep, reacquaint w/friends & family, read the mail, walk the dog, anything but more football. But the contract, the bills to be paid and the desire to be the best, all drive him onward & upward in hopes of greater glory.


Every team is even-Steven. And is that really true?

The slates are clean, that’s true enough. Everyone kicks off their post-season at 0-0. No bodacious personal or team stats to boost egos while any on-field shenanigans are just yesterday‘s newspapers (See; Suh), so to speak.

But some teams clearly have a leg up on the competition.

Home-field and 1st-round byes, deserved as it they are, make a decided advantage. And while all twelve invitees are endowed with the spirit and physical skills to take the Lombardi trophy, only a handful, can we say, are cloaked in that garb of destiny.

Patriots: Belichick, Brady & Co. drip destiny, though, haven’t hoisted since ‘05;

Seahawks: Defending champs righted the ship at a fine time, made better by having overcome adversity earlier in the season when a malcontent (Harvin) had to be moved;

Packers: Returning the Lombardi silver to its place of forging (Lambeau) seems apropos and Mike & Aaron the men to engineer it. Chink in armor? GB’s been wobbly away;

Broncos: Balanced, as Peyton has ‘em #4 in pypg (291), rush is fine (112 (15)) and the defense stout-ful (305 ypg (3)). Strong wins late (@ KC & SD) are qualified by troubling losses in 2nd-half (NE, STL & CIN) making one wonder if SB48 funk is past or present;

Steelers: The trademark Pittsburgh defense must’ve run afoul of the politicized P&T Office and been ‘revoked’ because it’s been less protective in 2014 (353 (18)), but Big Ben’s been MVP-ish in demeanor and digits (302 (2));

Cowboys: The D is middle-of-the-pack (#15 ppg / 19 ypg) but offense clicks (4 / 7). That is an old ditty in Dallas, so question is, can Romo stay healthy and prove Mr. Clutch?

High Wattage or Road Warrior Romo?

Evolution, like time, marches on. They’re the champs. Undefeated.

What doesn’t evolve are opinions. Once someone sets their mind it’s unlikely to change. New perspective is as rare as a solar eclipse, but not half as interesting.

And sometimes the heavens open wide and the unexpected happens: re-think.

The MVP campaign for J.J. Watt, the man who’s fall-back candidate for Packer-backers (Rodgers), kicked into high-gear around mid-season. I let the bandwagon ride right on by. Too much emphasis on glory stats (sacks), not enough on substance (tackles).


But in his final games with playoff hope, JJ turned up the voltage.

Versus the Ravens and Jaguars, Watt had 10 tackles and 4 sacks, a difference maker when it counted most (59t / 19a / 20.5s / 10pd / 4ff / 5fr). And while the tackles total is off his career high (69 ‘12), his assists and fumbles were up noticeably.

DeMarco Murray was an MVP darkhorse, looking Peterson-esque (‘12), but late season slowage shelved any more thought of a 2nd runner in 3-yrs nabbing the trophy. Besides, while a back need not break 2000 (1845) to be MVP-worthy, and DM was integral (12-4), TDs better be biggish (15+ (13)) and some raucous highlight runs sure help (34 lg).

Peyton was another darkhorse in ‘14. Stats pretty great and some nice road wins late but INTs up (15) and road loss at Cincy (4i) ends the candidacy for ‘13 winner.


As for the guy whose super stats, including wins, give him a slight edge over his QB contenders, and seems to’ve been penned-in by voters in November, Mr. Rodgers need prove nothing in the Clutch & Game departments. But I wouldn’t vote MVP for a guy who, in ‘14, played poor enough in every road mettle-match from start to finish: (L) Seattle, Detroit, Saints & Buffalo (wins at MIA (spike-gate), CHI, MIN & TB).

That leaves the top contenders: Tony Romo, Brady, Kuechly, Roethlisberger and Watt.

A key element to winning MVP? Momentum. You need numbers and wins will help, but allies in the media are a big boost. In Luke’s case, he led the NFL in tackles (153t, 54a, 3s, 11pd) but is a defender and, unlike JJ, got no push whatsoever from the pens.

Same can be said for Big Ben. Terrific digits, spirited team (11-5) but poor press.

To Tony & Tom, the numbers are close. While Dallas’ road record (a clutch measure) was perfect 8-0, ‘Boys had a slightly easier slate. But that Romo came back from injury and won his signature game (@ SEA), while Brady lost his (@ GB), gives edge to Tone.

Quarterbacks like Brady we hold to a higher standard, one to which other performers will never themselves be held. Unfair? Ah, it’s the cost of greatness.


Now there are two: Misters Romo and Watt.

JJ’s leadership (2nd in team tackles (Joseph (70)), on a club going another year (9-7) with competent (Keenum, Fitz & Mallett) but uncertain QB play, was enormous.

Tony just did more. Gargantuan. Putting up wins & stats, working through a bad back, excelling under a dark cloud of past failures and thriving on the road should earn Mr. Romo his first MVP.

But once most minds get locked in, there’s no key to open it to reason. Likely Mr. Discount Double-Check, clouty with casters, wins his 2nd trophy. Whoop-de-doo.

Drunk With Virtue

On Monday’s First Take (ESPN), the dour, less popular re-configuration of the network‘s formerly delightful and decidedly different sport debate show, 1st and 10, co-host Skip Bayless referred to the Cleveland Browns’ rookie QB Jon Manziel as an “alcoholic.”


Jon’s made no secret of his taste for gatherings, public & private, and party-favors that accompany. The stories of his extra-curriculars have been popping up with regularity for two years, ever since the former Texas A&M phreshmon phenom took the Heisman.

That Manziel man-child has a behavior problem is of no debate. Not because he parties. Guy’s not long out of high school. But because of what he’s earned and then might lose.

Libation in moderation (including high-fructose corn syrup based beverages, i.e., soda pop), but Johnny Twelve-Pack or not, “alcoholic” is a haphazard diagnosis by Dr. Skip. And any claim of concern as motive is a too convenient fall-back where ratings figure.


If DUIs, DCs and the hung-over look start adding chapters to the Book of Johnny, talk of “alcohol(ism)” may be in order. Until then, it still looks like a straight maturity issue.

As for First Take, it’s always been the bad brother of OTL (ESPN), a network standard which has been sliding itself of late. Disney stirs the pot and we all stand in line to sup-it-up like it were “soup Nazi” blend. Ugh.

As for the Brownies, a good QB, coach and GM, for that matter, are all hard to find. They say ‘patience is a virtue,’ but some of us got virtue coming out our ears.

Browns fans deserve better, but so too, those that still watch First Take.

Wild Cherry Picks: Money up front

AZ Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers: 1-3 ESPN 4:35 EST: Cats win
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers: NBC 8:15: Steelers win
Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts: 1-4 CBS 1:05: Colts win
Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys: Fox 4:40: Cowboys win

Record: 89 – 52 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Brady, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison; Brady, mongomez93, wc.cca, 2012; Wilson, 12.29.13, L.Maurer, wc.cca; Roethlisberger, 9.9.12, J.Beall, wc.cca; JJ.Watt, wc.cca, 9.23.12, J.Beall; A.Rodgers, M.Morbeck, 2008, wc.cca; T.Romo, wc.cca, 10.13.10, bigcatsliar, wc.cca; ESPN, J.Kinsocal, 2.1.13, wc.cca; Manziel, wc.cca, 7.25.14, ED.Drost, wc.cca; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12, wc.cca,
Posted: 1-2-15 @ 2:37am; edit @ 6:30pm EST


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