Archive | November, 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W12: Pegging the Pretenders In a Contender Poor Playoff Picture

22 Nov

They‘ve gotta’ pick SOMEBODY, right?

The Halls of Fame, the Oscar®, that Mark Twain thing, we can’t make everybody happy with these honors and award shows but we sure can try, right?

And at the end of each NFL regular season the owners hold a playoff to spread the joy, selecting as many post-season participants as they can stuff into that PS bird, satisfying regional interests and keeping those coffers filling fat.

That meant expansion, adding teams (1971 AFL-NFL merger), crafting cute little divisions and then adding the wild card clubs which rarely have any wild about ‘em at all. So far, that means two more playoff participants per Conference.

Those slots must be filled, even if half the clubs are, for most the NFL weekends, just about as likely to stink up the joint as they are to shine bright.

Like most seasons, there are about 6 to 8 teams that have a pretty fair chance of winning their respective Conference (Halas (NFC) / Hunt (AFC) trophy) and then taking the Super Bowl, teams that look sound, front (O) and back (D).

We’ve got a ways to go before the twelve (12) playoff berths are awarded (Please, no cork-popping just yet, fellas (oy vey)), but it’s not too early to sift out the pretenders, those who’ll show their weaker hand and falter before the regular season winds up, while others will pass the mettle-test, in win or loss.

National Football Conference

Serious Contenders: Saints, Rams, Seahawks and Packers

We know New Orleans and Los Angeles have offense, but Saints are near top half in defense (Rams middle), while Hawks and Packers rank respectable on both sides, kinda-sorta.’ Even as their clubs sit around .500 each, I like the experience of Wilson & Rodgers, the latter whose club has a nice remaining slate. GB’s lost three close contests on the road vs top dogs, are better than half the clubs with winning marks and going 5-1 gets ’em into the PS where anything can happen.

Possible pretenders: Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Washington

Bears got growl that’s been hibernating since Lovie days and it’s not just Mack. Second-year QB Trubisky, like AFC counterpart Mahomes, has high confidence, though, with fewer weapons at his disposal. But Mitch also has a rabbit-habit which will cost him and his club dearly as quality of competition and game-importance grows. Cats and Vikes O&D ranks are respectable but both compete for 2018’s Fickle Franchise Award (+ Titans, etc.), while Washington’s solid season went down with Alex Smith’s broken leg in W11 action.

American Football Conference

Serious Contenders: New England, Pittsburgh and Houston

Houston (7-3): Texans started slow (0-3) but’ve found their mojo since (6-0), albeit on maybe the NFL’s easiest schedule. Nice win at DC in W11.

Possible Pretenders: Chargers, Colts, Ravens, Titans, Dolphins and Chiefs

Bolts loss at home to 3-6 Denver was telling and their remaining schedule, besides AZ (W12), is a bear. Indy, on the other hand, while a slow start has an easy remainder but probably won‘t gel soon enough to impact. Maybe 2019, if Andy can stay healthy. Baltimore is not better with Flacco floundering. Get him healthy again and back on track and we’ll talk about contending.

And the much touted Chiefs? They get their own separate breakdown.

The last Monday Night Football fiasco makes it clear (Rams 54-51 KC), the NFL, all four major American sports, for that matter, are now just about offense. Kids and the Jr.-media, especially the sabrheads who voted Mets’ deGrom NL-CY last week, just adore score. We adults like it too but, if unbridled, it makes us nervous because we understand that old adage, ‘what goes around, comes around’ or ‘careful what ya’ wish for, you just may get it.’

Defense, football, was born in a much more brutal time when boxing was big. Bad still happens today, of course. Selfishness, greed, dishonesty and cowardice abound, but your average fan, player and coach, are just not built that way, not like Chuck Bednarik and Lawrence Taylor. They loved to stick, to punish.

Today’s team must score early, often and be comeback capable. No pouting when your D miscues. Your offense must pull on their big-boy pants, get back out there and put another TD on the board, not settling for FGs. It’s a fair measure that the club with higher Super Bowl potential is the one that’s scoring proficient and at least defense capable, rather than the other way around (top D, so-so O).

The Chiefs clearly have offense, scoring well against some of the better Ds in early going (PIT, DEN, JAX, LAC). Keep in mind that those same teams will, as season progresses, figure better the habits of a newcomer like Mahomes which were unfamiliar in earlier weeks of play.

But KC’s own defense is atrocious, even when you adjust for the MNF disaster, which will haunt them in this final regular stretch and the playoffs where the level of competition is more clear and certain.

Kansas City is on their bye this Thanksgiving week to lick wounds and afford Reid & Co. time to figure a new plan. And don’t count on it. Andy is one of NFL’s senior gurus and made a Super Bowl with the Eagles, but defense has never been his stronger suit. The HC must delegate duties (DC), but it all starts at the top.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 12

Falcons @ NO: 11.22 NBC 8:20pE: A-Birds
Jaguars @ Bills: 11.25 CBS 1:00: Jacksonville
Hawks @ Carolina (GOTD): Fox 1:00: Seattle
New York @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Eagles
Dolphins @ Indianapolis: CBS 4:25: Colts
Pittsburgh @ Denver: CBS 4:25: Steelers
GreenBay @ Minnesota: NBC 8:20: Vikings
Titans @ Houston: 11.26 Disney 8:15: Tenn

Record: 40 – 38

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; D.Welniak-A.Reid, wc, J.Beall, 12.31.17, KCTV5; cherries, Hispalois, wc, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain; Jim-Marshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 11.22 @ 5:07pE; Copyright © 2018

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NFL18 Cherry Picks W10: Absent Super Bowl Berth, Big Decision Befalls Packers Brass

11 Nov

It’s that time of year again. That time when talk begins about Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy getting the boot by his betters on the Board.

It’s a routine that began around 2013, a couple years after Mike & Company’s Super Bowl triumph over the Steelers. It, of course, has never amounted to much, not amongst practically-minded folk, anyway, except for periodically re-shuffling the play-calling duties to appease the gripers.

But this season might create a different mood, a cheese of a different color, so to speak, if a terrific turnaround and trip to Atlanta doesn‘t come to fruition.

At the midway, the Pack sit at 3-4-1, the tougher half of their schedule behind them where they faced maybe the two top Super Bowl contenders in the Rams and Patriots, back-to-back and on the road, suffering close losses versus both.

And if you think Packers’ R-back Aaron Jones’ fumble to start the 4th quarter of play against those Patriots as both were knotted at 17, was the reason for the green & yellow’s loss in Foxborough, you might want to stick with the NBA.

A more likely cause, one that’s reared its ugly head in nearly every Packers’ loss since White and Butler exited the Fox Valley (early 2000s): Poor defense.

On 3rd and seven at their own 27 in first series after recovering said Jones fumble to start the 4th quarter, Green Bay’s Swiss cheese D allowed Brady to connect with Dorsett for a 17-yard gain, giving the New Englanders good breathing space for a drive that would eventually end in a TD to take the lead, harness momentum and get the win.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to predict the Packers going 7-1 the rest of the way, a final regular season tally (10-5-1) that might be good enough to take the NFC North, a competitive division but with no juggernauts in the bunch.

Current division leaders Chicago (5-3) are improved with new QB Trubisky under center but look more a pretender with a youthful signal-caller prone to rabbit, a red-flag for fumbles and INTs in crucial game moments.

A visit to Seattle in week 11 (TNF), then traveling to arch-rival Minnesota ten days later on Sunday and one more seriously challenging home match-up versus Atlanta in W13 is the stretch that will decide the Packers and Mike’s fate.

All three, the Seahawks, Vikings and A-Birds are playoff contenders but of the fickle variety in 2018: One weekend they can look serious, the next, downright pathetic, even with fairly talent laden rosters.

Even at 9-6-1, a team can probably take the NFCN, the runner-up seriously challenging for one of the two wild-card spots in a down season for the NFC.

And with their remaining schedule, not terribly tough, unless you stand at 3-5, I’d not expect the Lions to get that wild-card spot.

But even a playoff spot and deep run may not be enough to save Mike. Anything short of a Super Bowl will be seen as a failure by Packers elite and fandom.

Aaron Rodgers is a rare talent, even as Green Bay had such fortune just prior to the Berkeley boy’s arrival in the person of Brett Favre. Once Rodgers hangs ‘em up, maybe less than five years with recent the injuries starting to take their toll, to nab a third consecutive Hall of Fame caliber QB is highly unlikely. The point being, Packers window for returning to the Big Game is closing.

McCarthy is not a great coach, but he’s a pretty darn good one (124-74-2 / 10-8 PS / SB45-W). He’s in that grade with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin (SB 1-1) who himself is looking to solidify a place in the history of another storied franchise.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 10

NO @ Bengals: 11.11 Fox 1:00pE: Cincy
Detroit @ Chicago: Fox 1:00: Lions
Washington @ TB: Fox 1:00: Buccaneers
Buffalo @ New York: CBS 1:00: Bills
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Jags
Los Angeles @ Oakland: CBS 4:05: Raiders
Seattle @ Los Angeles: CBS 4:25: Hawks
Dolphins @ Green Bay: CBS 4:25: Packers
Dallas @ Philadelphia: NBC 8:20: Eagles

Record: 38 – 31

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Aaron-Rodgers, Mike-McCarthy, wc.cca, 9.9.12, M.Morbeck, Lambeau-Field; ripe-cherries, Chirak, 6.24.07; Harold-Jackson, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 11.11 @ 2:45aE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W9: Patriots and Red Sox Making New England America’s Region of Champions

4 Nov

Traditionally, after the War, it was b-ball (Celtics) and hockey (Bruins) that gave Bean-Towners their steady source for sportful community pride.

It’s when names like Bobby Orr, Cousy, the Joneses, Esposito, Kev McHale, Bill Russell, Cheevers, DJ, Chief Parish, Hondo, Bird and Red Auerbach made those cold Noreasters just slightly more bearable.

Today the tables have turned, in a good way.

Besides a singular season in the sun (Celts 08; Bruins 11), the Hub City has become the mecca for America’s two top entertainment venues, able to claim superiority in both the MLB and the NFL, the defending yet struggling Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) being of little consequence.

The New England Patriots of Foxborough and the Boston Red Sox have won collectively, nine (9) world championships since 2001, Bill Belichick’s Pats hoisting the Hardware in 2002, 04-05, 10 and 17, the BoSox, under three different managers, in 2004, 07 (Francona), 13 (Farrell) and in 2018 (Cora), nearly sweeping the Dodgers, 4-1. Those World Series titles to add to previous five (5) championships in the earlier part of the twentieth century.

Both clubs show no sign of fading from the title picture anytime soon.

So how do the other metropoli and national regions stack-up in the image department when it comes to tumultuous merriments?

Gotta’ start with the Big Apple (NYC-NJ), but that doesn’t look too shiny these days. The New York Yankees have had their share of World Series titles of late (2009 + 4), but the Mets, Knickerbockers, Nets, Islanders, Rangers (94), Jets and Giants since 2012 (08) have been pretty dog-gone pathetic.

As for Philadelphia, the 76ers and Flyers have been bad since Bobby Clarke and Julius Erving left town while the more recent championships seem to happen in the one-hit-wonder variety (Eagles: 2018; Phillies 2008). In the Western part of Pennsylvania, the Pirates, like Milwaukee, are beset with frugal ownership which, unless you’re talkin’ about the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, usually translates into no titles. But the Steel City does have Big Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers: 2006, 09) and Sidney Crosby (Penguins: 2009, 16-17).

Heading south, it’s been the collegians who’ve given fans something to cheer about: Duke in men’s basketball where Mike Krzyewski has taken up where Adolf Rupp left off in winning five (5) NCAA titles during his 39-year tenure, the last in 2015, and, since Florida football hit the skids and LeBron bolted Miami, it’s been mastermind Nick Saban at The University of Alabama scoring big, where his Crimson Tide have garnered five (5) national titles, the last in 2017.

Then there’s NFL owner Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys who had their 2nd run as America’s Team (1993-94, 96). Now they look done.

Out West, the Los Angeles Dodgers win Pennants (2017-18) but no more World Series (88) and the Lakers these days are just dreamers. But the Steve Warriors (Kerr and Curry) of the NBA’s San Franscico Bay area representative and Pete Carroll, first at USC (03-04), now at NFL Seattle (2014), are the leaders who’ve been carrying the Pacific time zone banner of greatness.

Continuing clockwise and heading to the Midwest, the St. Louis Cardinals still win on occasion (2011, 06) while the Detroit Red Wings were Hockey-Town for a time (2008, 02, 97-98) but have turned into a weigh-station.

The Old Northwest Territory’s biggest metropolis, Chicago, has been doing itself almost as proud as Boston has in the sporting venues, the Cubs finally breaking through again in 2016 with their first World Series title in over 100 years (1907-08), the White Sox winning the fall classic in 2005 (last in 1917), the Blackhawks recently winning three (3) Stanley Cups in six seasons (2015, 13, 10) and the Michael Jordan Bulls taking their final of six (6) NBA titles in 1998. Only the once proud George Halas’ Bears going long without a championship since their remarkable Super Bowl win in 1986 under Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan.

And while they can only claim two world championships since Vince Lombardi parted company with Green Bay faithful in 1968 (1997, 2010) and must concede the Titletown moniker to their opponent this Sunday nite in the Tom Brady-led Patriots, the Packers have enjoyed one heck of a quarterback run in the persons of Brett Favre (1992-2007) and Aaron Rodgers (2005-present). Never in the history of the NFL has a franchise, for over 25 straight seasons, entered so many games with such hope for victory as have the fans of the green and yellow.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 9

Bears @ Buffalo: 11.4 Fox 1:00: Bills
Buccaneers @ Carolina: Fox 1:00: Bucs
Chiefs @ Cleveland: CBS 1:00: Browns
NewYork @ Miami: CBS 1:00: Jets
Steelers @ Baltimore: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Detroit @ Minnesota: Fox 1:00: Vikings
Atlanta @ Redskins: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Houston @ Denver: CBS 4:05: Denver
LosAngeles @ Seattle: CBS 4:05: Hawks
LosAngeles @ NewOrleans: Fox 4:25: NO
GreenBay @ NewEngland: NBC 8:20: NE

Record: 34 – 24

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject 2011; T.Brady, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison; cherries, 6-2011, wc, picdrome; Jim-Otto, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 11.4 @ 1:11aE (edit 6:05p (PA)); Copyright © 2018