Archive | October, 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W8: Poise’n in the Pocket, Philip Rivers Just Keeps Rollin’

27 Oct

Live-wire.

Fully charged.

Gung-ho, go-getter.

The Decatur Dynamo.

Jay Cutler’s bizarro-world opposite (Sorry JC, it‘s not you, it’s ‘dem (‘da Bears)).

All tags that hang well on San Diego Chargers sanguine quarterback, Philip Rivers. Some seem tailor-made, given that Rivers (‘04) has been signal-calling for over a decade on a team nicknamed, the Bolts.

rivers-1-12-14-wc-j-beall-2mIn the football vernacular, Phil Rivers is best described as such: Prototype pro-set pocket passer, aka, PPPP. And with all those peas it’s no wonder Phil’s “bursting with country fresh (goodness) (ahem).”

Why the fawning over a signal-caller with a career playoff mark of 4-5? Because in all sport there are men, top-tier players, who 1) Seem destined to toil on teams that are incapable of fully utilizing their talents (under-staffed), 2) happen to join a club just after the cork-popping has ceased (Lafontaine (NYI) / Murcer (NYY)), or 3) get traded the same season it all comes together, his former acquiring what’s supposed to’ve been the missing piece to a championship puzzle.

In baseball, such a soul would be Ernie Banks, though, you could just as well throw in Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins.

Then there’s Akron’s first great NBA power-player, HOF center Nate Thurmond (d.2016) who for thirteen San Fran seasons battled the best big men in history, then got shipped to Chicago (C. Ray) the year the Warriors got title #2 (‘74-75).

In the NHL it’s current superskate Alex Ovechkin (DC) and past greats Gilbert Perreault, Marcel Dionne, Rod Gilbert and Peter Stastny to name a few.

It’s always a somewhat tenuous claim that one particular player could’ve won titles on a better club or should be held largely blameless for their current team’s struggles, no matter the stat-line and pollyannaish persona he may possess.

chargers-cheer-wc-1-2m-dirk-9-4-9The dynamic of team sport is a complicated creature.

Who knows then if Rivers would’ve gone deeper into the playoffs and made a Super had the Chargers opted to keep Drew Brees on board (30-28) and chosen to jettison Phil instead to New Orleans? You just can’t know.

What you can know are the numbers.

Here then are the numbers Phil has compiled in his 10+ at Chargers’ helm: 98-76, 65C%, 43K+ pass, 294-139 TD-ratio and 25 GWDs. If he keeps matriculating as he has PR’s gonna’ have his #17 retired and join that Cantonese sect like former Bolts’ quarterback great, Dan Fouts (’93 (#14)).

Interesting to note is the steady rise in the Bolts QB-sack totals.

In the Decatur Dynamo’s first 4 years as a starter, Chargers averaged just under 25 sacks per (24.75), whereas, since 2010 that number’s risen to 37+, a figure the 2016 Chargers’ offense is on pace to match (17). And though not privy to numbers on quarterback-hurries, common sense would say they’ve increased at a like rate.

So what’s in store for the Chargers the rest of 2016?

Standing at 3-4 in the AFC West and the NFL in the full throes of parity, Bolts are still very much in the thick of the playoff hunt. But if there’s a team more plagued by injuries than San Diego, I know not who they be. I count 21 in SD sick-bay.

mccoy-wc-8-28-13-tl-fenney-usn-471kHead coach Mike McCoy is in his fourth season with a win-loss mark of 25-30.

An undrafted QB out of Utah – LBS (b. SF ‘72) and having brief stints in both NFLE and CFL, Mike’s signal-caller savvy was expected to be the tonic to turn Phil’s game up a notch and the Chargers into Super Bowl contenders.

Things looked promising early on as San Diego went 9-7 in 2013, made the post-season, beat the Cincinnati Bengals convincingly in the wild-card (27-10) and then played eventual AFC titlist the Denver Broncos close in the Divisional, falling 24-17.

But since then, progress has stalled.

Going 9-7 again in 2014, the Bolts missed the PS and then stumbled badly to 4-12 last season. Inconsistency has marked the 2016 campaign, not helped by all those hurts, but nevertheless playing every Sunday to win, their four (4) loses, three on the road (@ KC, IND & OAK), having happened by a total of just 14 points.

Encouraging as well are the team ranks: In yard gained per game (ygpg), Bolts come in at a respectable #13 (365.3 (#1 ATL 433.6)) and hold down the vaunted #2 spot in points scored (pspg (29.4)), then defeating the #1 in the Falcons (32) in OT last weekend on the road in Atlanta. A-1 confidence booster.

On the defense side is where SD’s injuries have taken their biggest toll as the Bolts rank a pedestrian 21st in yards allowed per game (yapg) and are trending trouble at 24th in points allowed per (papg). Ugh.

rivers-k-allison-wc-10-1-06-1-5m-baltimoreSchedule-wise, the Chargers have to be hopeful.

A challenging game at Sports Authority (DEN) awaits in W8, but the Bolts’ bye comes at an opportune time (W11) while the rest of the slate is not too imposing, meaning, most opponents wouldn’t frighten a Girl Scout troop on Halloween. Boo!

With a steady offensive attack that can recall & retain what seems a lost art of pass-protection, a tightened-up D, especially late, a little luck from the sporting gods (injuries) and San Diego should slip into the playoff party, by the backdoor, but in. Then, as any sport fan worth their units in amperes knows, anything can happen.

For Philip, a man who appears iron-laden in not having missed a start in ten-plus campaigns (See Also: D.Brees), he could have 3-to-4 productive seasons left in those limbs, if those offensive sack totals start trending the other way (down).

So while most in the sporting biz are preoccupied with the movements of Colin Kaepernick, the musings of Tom Brady and the whereabouts (bench or under-center) of hotter than a West Texas sidewalk in July, Rayne Dakota Prescott, Phil Rivers will just keep playing and lighting up that scoreboard.

cherries-hispalois-7-2-12-caceres-spain-wc-4-4mCherry Picks W8: Even Steven

DC (4-3) v. CIN (3-4): 10.30 Fox 9:30a (L): Cincy wins
Chiefs (4-2) @ Colts (3-4): CBS 1:00: Kansas City wins
Cardinals (3-3-1) @ Carolina (1-5): Fox 1:00: Cards win
Oakland Raiders (5-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3): CBS 1:00: TB wins
Seattle Seahawks (4-2) @ New Orleans Saints (2-4): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Detroit Lions (4-3) @ Houston Texans (4-3): Fox 1:00: Houston wins
New England Pats (6-1) @ Buffalo Bills (4-3): CBS 1:00: Buffalo wins
San Diego Bolts (3-4) @ Denver Broncos (5-2): CBS 4:05: Chargers win
Green Bay Packers (4-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-3): Fox 4:25: Falcons win
Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-1): NBC 8:30: Eagles win

Record: 35 – 35 – 1
Chargers (LA – SD (b.1960)): 424 – 424 – 11

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Chargers-wordmark, wc.cca, sportslogos, 8.25.15; P.Rivers, wc, 1.12.14, J.Beall; Chargers-cheer, wc, 9.4.9, Dirk; M.McCoy, wc, TL.Fenney, 8.28.13; Rivers, wc, K.Allison, 10.1.06; cherries, wc, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12; NFL-symbol, wikproject
Posted: 10.26.16 @ 11:14pm EST, edit 10.28 @ 11:15am; Copyright © 2016
References: Pelletier’s greatesthockeylegends.com; (PFR).com; Wikipedia

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NFL16 Cherry Picks W7: Dallas QB Dilemma Asks, ‘What Would Tony Do?’

19 Oct

If you like to write and then have habit of coupling that hobby with a love for everything that is the NFL, everything, that is, except Disney (ESPN) and Deion Sanders FaceTime chats (NFLN (ugh)), this particular hour in the week is one that either has you grooving with good thoughts or fumbling for a feature.

That time is Sunday afternoon around 4 o’clock (EST). It’s when everyone and their Grampa should be taking it easy, when NFL’s early slate of games have come to a close and the twilight tussles are just about to kick-off. It’s also when themes begin to emerge from the game results to work a collage of motifs that’ll be used in promotion of next weekend’s match-ups.

Side-bar: If you want to read a good definition for ‘Grampa,’ …this is difficult, go to urbandictionary.com (“sm1l3 (8.21.8)”). Too often a post place for petulance and porn-obsessed whatevers, this person’s insightful, heartfelt, humorous and non-conforming rendition gives UD a much needed injection of class.

hammock-wc-9-13-07-bjorn-som-tenger-45kSome topics are on-going but in the course of the game crystallize into a clear controversy (Dallas QB, hot-seat sizzle, etc.), others having just sprouted and quickly blossomed into fragrant fodder for the media to breath-in and exhale (injuries, officiating).

A few toppers from Week 6:

Did Kaep Krusader meet his Lionheart (or Saladin) in Buffalo loss? It wouldn’t take clouty customers the caliber of Richard or An-Nasir to expose the limited repertoire emanating from Colin-of-the-Crude-Socks (27-21 W-L / 57t – 26i).

Will Chuck Pagano, Todd Bowles, John Fox and any number of other struggling NFL coaches last the duration of campaign 2016?

Big Ben injured again (“I’ll be back”) while Ryan Tannehill staves off boyish boo-birds for one more week, keeping GMs around the League wondering ‘what if.’

Are the Packers in full throes of decline and rapid exit from the juggernaut category? Maybe, maybe not, but the Chicago Bears in this newish century (W7 @ GB 10.20) are the cure for whatever ails any NFL team.

How did the Cardinals’ David Johnson (UNI) fly under so many radars in D15?

But Ben hurts his knees near every season now, Pack’s been trending down since Cheese-Melt (@ SEA 1.18.15) and Oddball Odell is strictly Disney (ugh).

prescott-helmet-9-18-16-k-allison-thmSo that leaves the Dallas quarterback quandary at the top of the topic pile until Cowboys come off their bye to take on visiting division rival, the Eagles (W8).

With rookie Dak Prescott leading Cowboys offensive charge in timely triumph over Green Bay (30-16) (fifth consecutive W), a place steeped in sad outcomes for the Dallas gang, and deep-rooted veteran All-Pro Tony Romo set to return from his injury in the not too distant future, owner Jerry Jones and HC Jason Garrett are presented with that most wonderful of all coaching conundrums, having two capable QBs at the ready.

Nobody, not Jerry nor Dak, was happier post-Packers rout than was Mr. Garrett whose doubters could line the length of the old Chisholm Trail.

The Cowboys’ 2015 divisional playoff loss at Lambeau (Sometimes the sporting gods do take a hand (See: Cheese-Melt above)) still sits wrong in the saddle for Dallas dudes and dudettes and this win buries a few of those Fox Valley demons.

Yet the demons in Dallas still remain, those that’ve been keeping America’s Team from putting together their first Super Bowl run since 1996. And as every football fan knows, the decision to fill that quarterback slot is too important to be swayed by public opinion poll or political fronts that move in and out.

Many have been weighing in on this Texas-sized topic, including former signal-calling stalwart, Mr. Brett Favre, he now of the Cantonese sect (2016) and most recently uniformed with the Minnesota Vikings (‘09-10).

favre-dugan-wc-11-15-9-mn-ng-1-8mFavre backs Dak, who happens to wear the same #4 jersey and did his pro apprenticeship, like Brett (USM), in the great State of Mississippi (State).

Stepping into the Fox telecast booth last Sunday, “Mississippi” claims friendship and respect for Tony but believes you don’t mess with chemistry.

But then Brett in his playing days was not the sort to happily concede to another (Rodgers?), team chemistry or whatnot, not as long as the NFL ironman could walk upright. Had a former QB the likes of Jay Schroeder been invited to step on the Dak-Romo scale, you could expect a whole different take on the topic.

Inconsistent views aside, Favre was a gridiron king, and a demigod to boot in the grand State of Wisconsin, oh my gosh. Such players can return to action anytime they choose, damn that chemistry thing. ‘I‘ll take it from here, Sport, so you take a seat and watch how it’s done!’

Had Jim Garoppolo remained healthy and taken Pats to 4-0 during Brady’s 2016 susp’n, nobody would’ve begrudged Tom’s return to the starter role no matter if Jim had tossed 20 TDs to that point.

Tony’s not a king. He’s a prince among men and Jerry loves him dearly but he has no throne upon which to sit (stand), i.e., a record-of-note, an MVP nor Super Bowl title. The ring-bearers are about the only guys who can make that long-standing (lame) line on ‘injury won’t lose your starter’s job’ make any sense.

What Would Tony Do (WWTD)?

jones-12-7-15-k-allison-wc-339kThis might be how the decision goes down:

The braintrust will call Romo into Jones’ office for a chat. They’ll talk about his health status (back), his thoughts on team chemistry and the Dak dynamic since the rookie took the ball and Tony’s eagerness to getting back in the saddle.

Tone’s been a performer for Dallas (‘04) and deserves his say, maybe even the final version. And that’s just what Jerry and Jason will likely to do: Holding off any public discussion – announcement on the matter until Romo is in full re-possession of his health and is game ready (to do otherwise would only ding Dak’s confidence), J&J will play out the Romo string and ask Tony to make the call. Meaning, the long-time Cowboy will get back under center to resume the starter’s job when fit and expect to continue that good chemistry at the first opportunity.

Recent reports have Romo continuing his rehab beyond the bye and Cowboys’ game against the Eagles (W8), meaning, Dynamic Dak will likely have at least one more start to either enhance his aura of invincibility or expose an Achilles heel.

Not as unpredictable as portrayed, Jerry Jones loyalty can be counted upon, at least that’s the perception. And if Prescott progresses as Cowboys hope, the Louisiana native can expect the same treatment.

I too got caught up in Dak-delirium. ‘If it works don’t fix it’ is one of my favorites and Prescott is working just fine (5-1, 69 C%, 7t-1i, only 3.5 rush per (man’s poise-n in the pocket)). But also mindful that the Dak-led-Cowboys have topped five teams with a collective 14-16 record, minus the five Dallas drubbings.

romo-10-13-10-bigcatsliar-wc-343kAnyone with a winner’s heart, a champion’s spirit, will take the reins when given the chance and damn any torpedoes that come their way on knowledge that that‘s your duty. With numbers like Tony has put up in his ten years riding Cowboys‘ point, even as his clutch capability has been questioned (127 GS, 74-49, 65+ C%, 247t-117i), he holds ample depth-charges to drop any naysayer’s way. Ka-boom!

How would rookie Dak respond to clipboard duty? Like a trooper, I’d suppose, making the standard pitch to play but having wherewithal to accept the switch (demotion), tune out the nincompoops captured in his moment, know his day will come again soon enough and even appreciate the reduction in pressure. Consider DP still has alot to learn, much of which Tony Romo can teach.

A key to success in Romo’s return (and giving him the choice essentially tabs him to start) is that Dak is fully supportive. That helps keep the junior media in check when Romo has an off game and the squawking ensues for their new fantasy fave and lessens likelihood that socially-driven teammates will take to brood.

As to those teammates, if possessing of a champion’s heart they’ll take to Tony’s return like a professional and play with gusto. That’s the Cowboys’ way. If not, Jerry knows where to ship-off a sour-puss. Somewhere with lots o’ snow.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 7: Tussle in Twickenham

NYG (3-3) @ Rams (3-3): 10.23 (L) NFL 9:30a: LA wins
Saints (2-3) @ Chiefs (3-2): Fox 1:00: Kansas City wins
Vikings (5-0) @ Philadelphia (3-2): Fox 1:00: Eagles win
Washington Redskins (4-2) @ Detroit Lions (3-3): Fox 1:00: Detroit wins
Buffalo Bills (4-2) @ Miami Dolphins (2-4): CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
San Diego Chargers (2-4) @ Atlanta (4-2): Fox 4:05(GTW): Bolts win
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) @ Arizona (3-3): NBC 8:30 (GTW): Cards win
Houston Texans (4-2) @ Denver (4-2): 10.24 Disney 8:30: Texans win

Record: 30 – 33

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: T.Romo, ProBowl, wc.cca, EV.Gonzales, USN, 2.10.08; Romo, hat, wc, K.Allison, 12.7.15; Man-in-hammock, Bjorn-Som-Tenger, 9.13.07, wc; D.Prescott, wc, K.Allison, 9.18.16; B.Favre-Dugan, wc, 11.15.09, MN-NG; Favre, wc, M.Morbeck, 10.24.10; J.Jones, wc, 12.7.15, K.Allison; T.Romo, wc, bigcatsliar, 10.13.10; cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject;
Posted: 10.19.16 @ 5:38pm, edit @ 7:50 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W6: ‘Dr. (Dart) or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the (Pocket)’

13 Oct

Rabbit Test

With most amateur coaches today nixing the quarterback model that’s play-oriented, teaching intensive and preparatory for pro-style pocket-passer, opting instead for Coach-Lite®, i.e., chisel on the job specs in relying on the make-it-up-as-you-go run-QB to execute his mini-playbook and whatever offensive scheme there is, NFL inventories on savvy signal-callers have dwindled to a dangerously low level not seen since the pre-Otto Graham days (1930s) when single-wing tailbacks were running wild.

Think of a car-pool analogy: NFL Coach and the cufflinks are cruising along at a pretty good clip, having just stuffed at a nearby Golden Corral® (“How’s the fricassee?“), window cracked to air-out the Cuban cigar smoke and the QB-fuel light begins to blink. A warning they’d better pull over soon for some field general premium to fill a current or anticipated void created when their well-decorated QB (Brady, Big Ben, Brees, etc.) soon hangs up his cleats for retirement to slide into that gig at Disney or NFLN (ugh).

Fuel options:

1) Run-QB ethyl

Supplies are endless. Disclaimers: 1) This grade needs miles on the meter before engine knock smooths, aka, a project, and 2) other grades (ball-handlers) must subjugate their need for possession counts which will be impacted downward (ball-hog QB) with correlating drop in team morale.

Flash-QB’s been changing the football landscape since Mike Vick tore up the turf in Atlanta in 2001 and then helped feed the Cheese-eaters their first ever home – playoff loss (1.4.03 (27 -7)).

newton-9-28-14-668k-wc-k-allisonKaep Krusader ran wild over that same Green Bay tundra (Vince was spinning) in two playoffs, getting San Fran to the cusp in SB47, but only after the lights came back on to swing momentum. Yet when it appeared Ravens collapse-for-the-ages would be realized in game‘s final moments, Colin got the “red-zone blues.”

Camster-the-Hamster took the 2015 MVP and his Cats to their 2d Super Bowl, cruising through a pedestrian NFC playoff field, then proceeded to lay an egg in the big game (0 TDs) in falling to the Broncos in Peyton Manning’s finale.

Lacking advanced field comprehension and wherewithal (hit-takes), run-QB (8-10 attempts per) will never be a great one, not unless flash becomes omnipresent.

Flash-QB will one day hoist a Lombardi. Supply makes it a certainty (Wilson’s a mobile-manager who left the pocket just three (3) runs en route to SB48 win (v DEN)). But it’ll have to come against a title opponent who scores lite with a D that can’t stop the scamper. How such a foe makes it to February is hard to imagine but then NFL’s road to a title is an E-ZPass® highway, i.e., two wins, you’re in.

2) Defense high octane

Instead of digesting the QB-lemons Drafts keep serving, it’s time for NFL teams to start dictating their own agenda, shape their own destiny and turn sour citrus (run-QB Ltd.) into sweet lemonade (WRs & TEs) instead of desperately seeking quarterbacks that continue to disappoint with under-developed skill-sets.

kuechly-128-14-sgt-a-martinez-wc-thmWith the pro-ready pocket passer fast becoming an endangered species, a commitment to defensive fundamentals, including de-emphasis on glory stats guys (sacks, close-down corners, etc.) who rarely go the distance, then utilization of the mgr-QB system and the shortage of elite passers becomes largely irrelevant.

And if that elite defense comes to fruition, it may also afford the time needed to develop that quarterback project who possesses a modicum of pocket poise and read-ability upon which to build.

3) Pocket Passer premium

He’s endangered but not extinct, down but not out.

With every year that passes the proficient pocket-passer will become harder to find, but if you do draft a dandy, the possibilities can be stupendous (See; Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Montana, Brees, Moon, Marino, etc., etc.). And then, good defenders aren’t exactly growing on trees themselves. So there’s that.

You‘ll need two things to troll-in that golden-arm: 1) Keen scouts who can spot ’em (See; Ron Wolf (Favre)), and 2) if you do, better hope he’s under-the-radar or be prepared to fork out the bullion in bushels.

But whatever you do, don’t ever deceive yourself into thinking you can convert run-QB into the pro-set passer. “Forget about it.”

brady-8-28-09-k-allison-dc-wc-cca-thmBeing a pro quarterback is not a whim nor a simple ego-trip. It’s an avocation, an artist’s craft, requiring as much mental finesse in instinct (audible), wherewithal (pocket poise), synergy (coach – teammates), as it does physical prowess, maybe more.

It’s a tough call for today’s young football aspirant.

Learning pocket poise is a trial (& error) that will last for years, taking much patience and no small amount of pain.

Rabbit-habit and its concomitant ball-hog trait is instinctive to some, especially those not inclined to leadership. Touch that pigskin and it’s only a man’s mind that can give it up to another for sake of the team. Sharing is not instinctive but must be taught at an early age.

Run routine will serve one well in school where Coach Chisel rides it to victory. But there’s a price the player (and his future OC) must pay, for once partaken a rabbit-habit’s impossible to break, while the toughness-training (Jr. high) needed to ascend the QB ladder with behind-the-line hits cannot be replaced. ‘No pain no gain’ is no popular proverb in 2016 (concussion) but it’s never been more fitting in QB development, or non-development, as the case may be.

En Vogue

tarkenton-wc-themiaminews-1-9-74-320kQuarterback design still trends heavily towards those of the CliffsNotes® class, i.e., run-QB, but a new breed of field general is appearing on the football plain with more frequency and producing fruits for his labor (Ws): Pocket passer with mobility. He may be the best of both worlds.

In truth, he’s not so new a breed as a return to the signal-caller popularized in 1960-70s by the likes of Fran “The Scrambler” Tarkenton and Roger “The Dodger” Staubach. Former holder of most career passing marks, Tark spent half his time in zig-zag behind-the-line to extend vision (Listed 6’0,” looked closer to 5’10”) and wear pursuers ragged (Deacon Jones (d.2013) was livid!), while his NFC nemesis in one of the Super Bowl’s GATs in Roger had more moves in open-field than did Mr. James Brown on stage.

Leading the list of today’s MPP is Packers 3-star field general, Aaron Rodgers.

Next in line, Russ Wilson (49-19), then Colts’ Andrew Luck. All cucumber cool in the red-zone, capable of threading the needle for a score but swift in leaving the pocket to avoid pressure or move up-field, not for fear or read-funk but because sometimes the pass just ain’t there and 1st-down marker is an easy scamper.

On the newcomers it’s Tyrod Taylor (BUF), Blake Bortles (JAX), Jameis Winston (TB) and Cowboys controversy-causing (See; T.Romo) 2d-year quarterback, Dak Prescott whose biggest challenge in mid-season may be beating the Sports Illustrated cover-curse. ‘Damn!’

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 6

Denver (4-1) @ San Diego (1-4): 10.13 CBS 8:25: Bolts win
San Fran (1-4) @ Buffalo (3-2): 10.16 Fox 1:00: Bills win
Philly (3-1) @ Washington (3-2): Fox 1:00 (GTW): DC wins
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) @ Miami Dolphins (1-4): CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
Bengals (2-3) @ New England Pats (4-1): CBS 1:00 (GTW): Cincinnati wins
Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) @ Oakland Raiders (4-1): CBS 4:05 (GTW): KC wins
Atlanta Falcons (4-1) @ Seattle (3-1): Fox 4:25 (GTW): Seahawks win
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) @ Green Bay (3-1): Fox 4:25 (GTW): Packers win
Indianapolis Colts (2-3) @ Houston (3-2): NBC 8:30 (GTW): Texans win

Record: 23 – 31

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: D.Prescott-point, wc.cca, 9.18.16, K.Allison; C.Newton, wc, 9.28.14, K.Allison; L. Kuechly, 1.28.14, Sgt-A.Martinez, wc; T.Brady, wc, 8.28.09, K.Allison, DC; F.Tarkenton, wc, The-Miami-News, 1.9.74; cherries-cloth, 6.2001, picdrome, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 10.13.16 @ 5:29pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W5: Fine Lines in the Trench

6 Oct

Men in the Midst

Stoppers who plug the drain,
Orange cones that close the lane,
Coach banks he’ll make the run stop,
Signal-caller trusts he throws timely block,
Men in the midst are not nameless in fact,
So big a Steinway could balance on back,
It’s the sack that’ll pull in the fantasy views,
But it’s battle of brawn to decide win or lose.

— — —

In pro football where nearly all the guys are a 3XL (even most the kickers are pumped today), they are the biggest men on the block, bar none. And that’s BIG.

They are the offensive and defensive linemen, the men in the trench, each hovering around 300 pounds. A mass of rumble and wrangle, they’re the ground troops manning the line of demarcation, that “dividin’ line” as “Lonesome Rhodes” would’ve called it, separating both teams at the snap. And whomever controls that ebb n’ flow will, more than likely, control the battle’s tenor and then the outcome of the war.

thomas-wc-4-14-15-6-6m-e-drost*Though highly valued by teammates, coaches and cufflinks, linemen work for the most part in anonymity, shunning the spotlight that naturally swings onto the glory-stat guys handling the pigskin for pass, province (rush), picks and put-downs (sacks).

A lineman, either side of the ball, will not win the NFL’s most valuable player award for the 2016 regular season. You can take that to the bank.

The Minnesota Vikings Alan Page (DT) was the first defender and lineman to cart home the award in 1971. He remains the last lineman and only one of two defensive stalwarts (Lawrence Taylor (‘86)) to win it since the Associated Press (AP) began awarding its version in 1958 (J.Brown).

The chance of another lineman winning the trophy are about as poor as a pro-choice candidate winning the Republican party’s presidential nod, or vice versa (anti-abortion Democrat winning their party‘s delegate count…): < 2 percent.

Quiz time: What’s the most valuable skill on the defensive side of the ball?

A) Interception – fumble finesse
B) Pressure on the quarterback
C) The art of tackling, or
D) Stopping – slowing the run

page-wc-ebony-1-1970-342kIf you answered ‘C’ you’re a football aficionado, possessing a broad understanding of the game and ample appreciation for what makes it tick.

Interceptions and forced-fumbles are terrific. They stop opponents dead in their tracks and flip it all around, i.e., you get the ball back. But they’re rare and too much focus on their fruition takes your game away from the major tasks at hand: Stopping momentum by more practical means in tackling and pass disruption.

Sacks too are sweet and give an emotional boost but again, they’re a rarity. The high is fleeting and the effort afforded in their unlikely event is better spent elsewhere, hello Mr. Linebacker (Matthews, etc.). It’s why J.J. Watt was a better player when his tackles began trending upward, regardless of the sack count.

How do you know a good rope? Personal stats won‘t do ya‘ much good. There aren’t many. A fine line more than any other aspect of football is a team effort.

That takes you to the team league-leader tallies to rate the top lines.

For offense the categories of concern are as follows: 1) Total offense (yards gained per game), 2) passing ygpg, 3) rushing ygpg and 4) QB-sacks allowed.

mangold-wc-nycmarines-11-13-09-554k-sgt-r-clintonAt Week 5 the Falcons, Cowboys and Raiders’ lines are faring pretty well and it shows in the W-L. See the sacks-allowed so far (NFL average = 8+): CIN (13), IND (15), JAX (12), KC (13), CHI (11), DET (10), TB (10), CAR (13), AZ (12); NYJ (6), HOU (7), DC (7), OAK (2), PHI (4), DAL (6), NYG (6), MIN (6), NO (7), SF (3).

The 49ers and Saints are conundrums.

One statistic for a team or player by itself won’t tell the whole story. Put all your prognostication chips on one number and you’re bound to lose the farm. But they do give clues. Of their three (3) losses, New Orleans, beset by injuries already, two (W1-2) were by a total of only 4 points. They may not be as bad as their won-loss purports.

And the best defensive lines? You take the same route: Total defense (yards allowed per game), passing yards, etc. (See: http://www.nfl.com/stats/team and http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams).

When rating the individuals, the team experts know best (coaches, GMs, scouts, players, favorite press), but Pro Bowl selection, even as the game itself has devolved to a dangerously dull level (Rice v. Irvin), still offers some standard.

Active NFL linemen with five (5) or more Pro Bowl selections: Joe Thomas (CLE), Dwight Freeney (ATL), Jason Peters (PHI), Jahri Evans (NO), Nick Mangold (NYJ), Vince Wilfork (HOU) and Haloti Ngata (DET).

cherries-hispalois-spain-wc-thm-7-2-12Cherry Picks Week 5: “Sufferin’ succotash!

AZ (1-3) @ SF (1-3): 10.6 CBS 8:25: 49ers win
NE (3-1) @ CLE (0-4): 10.9 CBS 1:00: Pats win
Eagles (3-0) @ DET (1-3): Fox 1:00: Lions win
Bears (1-3) @ Colts (1-3): Fox 1:00: Indy wins
Tennessee Titans (1-3) @ Dolphins (1-3): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Washington Redskins (2-2) @ Baltimore (3-1): Fox 1:00: Ravens win
Houston Texans (3-1) @ Vikings (4-0): CBS 1:00 (GTW): Texans win
Falcons (3-1) @ Denver Broncos (4-0): Fox 4:05 (GTW): Atlanta wins
Cincinnati (2-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (3-1): CBS 4:25: Bengals win
Buffalo Bills (2-2) @ Los Angeles (3-1): CBS 4:25 (GTW): Rams win
San Diego Chargers (1-3) @ Raiders (3-1): CBS 4:25 (GTW): Bolts win
New York Giants (2-2) @ Green Bay (2-1): NBC 8:30 (GTW): GB wins
Tampa Bay (1-3) @ Carolina (1-3): 10.10 Disney 8:30: Panthers win

Record: 18 – 23

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Thomas-Whitner, wc.cca, 4.14.15, E.Drost; J.Thomas, wc, 4.14.15, E.Drost; A.Page, Ebony, wc, 1.1970; N.Mangold, wc, NYC.Marines, Sgt-R.Clinton, 11.13.9; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, wc, 7.2.12; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 10.6.16 @ 12:58am EST; Copyright © 2016

NBA17: Colin Curries Conflict, Lego® LeBron Builds Legends and Lives

3 Oct

Caring to Coalesce

It is our task to provide the nation of Turkey with the match to inflame the people against Russia.”

Words of Nazi “Colonel Robinson (Sydney Greenstreet)” in the George Raft – Brenda Marshall wartime drama, Background to Danger (‘43), summarizing for his provocateur charge their sinister plan to draw the neutral nation into war.

— — —

You knew it was gonna’ happen. Colin Kaepernick would become a GTG, aka, go-to-guy. For the junior media, anyway.

Now they’re going to the Krude one for political insights. The dude with the prison-yard tattoos and, before he got benched and started sitting out the national anthem, seemed to always be tuned out to the world and tuned into his headphones (Beats-by-Dre).

kaep-10-27-13-wc-cca-d-hartwig-thumbSo what does Kaep Krusader think of Dollar Don and Capital Hill? No likey (“lesser of two evils”). The “evil” is a bit harsh but I can’t argue with the “lesser (We get what we ask for, or don‘t, as the case may be).” ‘But even a blind pig will find an acorn.’

On the gridiron is where Kaepernick should’ve been a GTG all along, i.e., tight-end. But Jimbo’s offensively-challenged so he decided to bench Alex Smith, who’d gotten ‘em to the cusp of Superduperville (NFCC11 (NYG)), missing out for a teammate with fumblitis, and went with improvisation-on-the-run, i.e., flash-QB.

As for mining for socio-political nuggets from the mind of Colin, you could add his intellect to his personality and it wouldn’t fill up a shot glass. So there’s that.

Once the 49ers reserve QB (might get a start soon), decided to spark controversy with his national anthem sit n’ stew, then tapped into hate with his racist mock-socks (white cops (“pigs”) only), an incendiary that leaders Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and President Obama did not see fit to condemn, you knew the Boys & Girls who run our media would take the strike-match Krudesader tossed their way and “inflame” the masses, about 16%, anyway, then paint with broad stroke as racially hostile, anyone in the populace who dared criticize the headphone promoter turned “provocateur.”

belafonte-dc-wc-8-25-63-655k-nara-usiappAs if Mahatma, Martin or Bobby would’ve used racist mockery to foment change, and then never get called on it. But those guys were old skool, their problems couldn’t compare to ours today, right (ugh)? Wrong. Goof-think 2016.

Iconic status was never in the cards for Kaep, not like a Rosa Parks or tireless civil rights advocate of 89-years, Harry Belafonte.

For one, it was a whole different ball-game back then, before desegregation took hold with help of federal courts and National Guard units, before southern Democrat President Lyndon Johnson (TX) convinced majority of white America to back his strong-arm of Congress into passing civil rights & voting legislation, and before Affirmative Action made the other two changes worthwhile. We’ve made real progress in the past fifty years that’s as permanent and part of the American fabric as the Stars n’ Stripes that grace the flag that Francis Scott Key immortalized in poetry & song.

And two, while Colin’s boycott does not come without some risk to his career and probably his person as well as there have been reports of threats, and will most certainly test his mettle as not many things before ever did, it’s also probably safe to write that the burden he bears, lightened somewhat by ensconcing effects of a very supportive, almost coddling media, pales in comparison to those which many civil rights volunteers in 1950s – 60s bore in their efforts to bring about change, especially in the South (See; Chaney – Goodman – Schwerner (d.1964)).

gandhi-wc-pre1942-155kKaepernick, like all of us, is subject to the era in which he lives. He is shaped by its events and mores, enabled and limited both by time-space continuum, choosing to alter or satisfy his surroundings . Short of super-human state (Gandhi, King, RFK, etc.) or an H.G. Wellsian “Time Machine,” Kaep has little control over his circumstances. What he can control is his message: Content, delivery and desired end.

His non-conformity in refusing allegiance to what Colin claims is hypocrisy in our national anthem was bold enough, but had he kept his protest constructive, conceding the progress we have made as a nation that for 350 years sanctioned slavery and its deformities (Jim Crow, etc.), showing courage and vision in dialoguing, inviting response and actually listening-for-content at the words of his rationally-minded detractors, rather than lobbing grenades (mock-socks), the Milwaukee-native might’ve been impactful in a culturally substantive way.

Enter LeBron James. He’s another GTG, for cub reporters and their betters.

When LeBron speaks, people listen, not because he’s the eloquence of a Mahatma (“I want to change their minds, not kill them for weaknesses we all possess“), but because he’s the biggest sport celebrity on the planet who sometimes appears to have a mind of his own.

So what does King James of Akron think of the two major candidates for the White House? See no “evil,” not in Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, anyway. He endorsed the former First Lady on Sunday.

james-sing-home-e-drost-8-8-14-wc-506kWith a net worth of over $250 million, the NBA champion Cavaliers main-man carries considerable clout. It’s not in league with Oprah Winfrey ($2.9B), but it’s sizable, maybe exceeding that of President Obama whose pathway to power appears not so fraught with serious hardships, never having met an issue he couldn’t or wouldn’t appease.

Unlike Michael Jordan’s slightly less-than-challenged rein of success on the Finals hardwood, most with the Bulls (1985 – 03), James has had to persevere through painful periods of unfulfilled great expectations in his pro journey that began in Cleveland (Phase I) 2003, expectations heaped mostly upon his shoulders alone (See; Wilt-the-Stilt).

Money alone won’t buy happiness but battle-scars build character and James persevered, meeting his two prof’l objectives: First, fashioning a title with his 2nd team, the Miami Heat, then in return of the prodigal son to the Forest City in 2014, leading the way for their own long awaited championship, defeating a Warriors team (73 wins) many in the junior media had pre-maturely crowned the greatest of all-time (GAT, not GOAT).

Descending from his well-earned place in 7th- heaven last week to field questions, James broke ranks with some of his people and peers, those who are hell-bent on hate and finger-point in maligning America‘s police forces. He responded to a query on the Kaep case, uttering at some point the phrase, “All lives matter.”

It was a big moment, catching the media off guard. So they did what normally they’ll do when free speech gets too free and pushed his response to the margins.

legobausteinevon-gnufdl-5-28-14-roletschekSuch generosity and hope conveyed in speaking to “all lives” is never well received by those who’re steeped in blinding, egotistical anger. And those who sign-post the way to a better, more progressive place, a destination we never reach without some self-sacrifice and compromise along the way, put themselves in precarious position, risking popularity and drop in sales receipts, among the lesser vitals of life.

James also declared that he won’t be boycotting any national anthems.

Lending credence to James’ words is the fact that he has not been one to sit on the sidelines when it comes to social issues. Earlier this year Lego® made statement on the very issue of police tactic and, by some, its postulated misuse.

In wearing a t-shirt that read “I can’t breathe,” referencing to a typical choke-hold law enforcement can employ to immobilize a dangerous suspect but which can also inflict what some deem unnecessary harm, may have been a facilitator to Kaepernick’s sit-statement, but at very least puts the basketball player’s motives well beyond the reach of reproach.

Different strokes for different folks. When it comes to social engineering, maybe a little social change ($), too, that’s Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James.

All lives matter, and all prejudice stinks. And all that LeBron James has done in three little words is more than our sitting President has done for race relations in nearly eight years.

Who says sports don’t “matter?”

net-wc-1995-88k-staticSteven Keys
Nothing But Net
Photo credit: L.James, wc.cca, K.Allison, 4.27.8; C.Kaepernick, wc, D.Hartwig, 10.27.13; H.Belafonte, wc, 8.25.63, NARA-USIAP&P; M.Gandhi, wc, pre-1942; L.James-sing, wc, E.Drost, 8.8.14; Lego-BausteineVon, wc, gnufdl, 5.28.14, Roletschek; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.28.7; b-ball.net, wc, 1995, static.
Posted: 10.3.16 @ 2:22am, edits @ 4:18pm and 10.4.16 @ 12:30pm Eastern Standard Time; Copyright © 2016