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NFL19 Super Cherry Pick: A Bowl of Contrasts Topped With Pocket-Passer Poise

3 Feb

It’s what they used to call the ‘Big Game,‘ usually referring to the college kind.

Hollywood loved it, fitting fandom in racoon coats and waved pennants as co-eds in the outdoor stands rooted for their pigskin-carrying hero who typically ran it into the end-zone for a touchdown and swell hugs all around.

As marketing matured, that high-spirited, collegial hoopla eventually gave way to pro game profits and creation of the super serious, late (6:30p k/o), long, commercial laden NFL Championship, aka, the Super Bowl, known as such since the 1970 game (SB4), this one presently numbered 53.

And when the Big Game rolls around, even as late as February when baseball begins to bud in the consciousness, its midnite conclusion (EST) marking the end of the holiday season, we look for themes to stoke interest and set it apart.

In 2019 there are three themes I spot: 1) The stark contrasts between the two participants in the New England Patriots (AFC) and the Los Angeles Rams (NFC); 2) no few commonalities, and 3) possible conflict in protests.

Contrasts

1) East coast (Pats) versus west coast (Rams)

2) AFL original (Pats 1959) versus NFL oldie Rams (1937), though, interestingly, the Cleveland locale originated with the second AFL (1936), the first lasting just one season (1926), the third born in 1959 and merging into the NFL in 1970 (66) as the AFC (NFC) in the present-day set-up.

3) A very experienced coach-quarterback tandem (Belichick-Brady) versus one in just their second season together (McVay 17 – Goff 16), as were B&B in SB36 (02), though, the Rams head coach does have the very experienced Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator, a man with two Super Bowls under his belt, the first in 1981 with Denver in loss (SB24 90 SF), the second, having returned to Denver, but that one with a victory result (SB50 2016 W CAR).

4) Franchise history: More recently, New England has been template for success, winning ten Hunt trophies and five Lombardi in the Robert Kraft era, while the Rams have made two location moves the past twenty-five years (LA > STL > LA) and played in two Supers, both as St.Louis residents, one a win (00 TEN), and two years later a loss (02), that being the Patriots first championship hoist.

Commonalities

1) Defense: No forte for either club, both are quite capable. In the regular, even-Steven on ypg (359), edge Pats in ppg (20 v 24), but Rams tighten it better in the PS (22 DAL – 23 NO) (NE: 28 LAC – 31 KC).

2) Offense: If you know football, you know these two teas can put up the points, scoring almost at-will in regular (LAR #2 ypg – ppg / NE #5 in both), with Patriots holding slight edge in the playoffs, NE 41 LAC – 37 KC; LAR 30 DAL – 26 NO, though the Rams lesser totals accrued against slightly better defenses in Saints and Cowboys.

3) Pocket-passers: Both Brady and Goff are mobile when need-be but stand tall under pressure, running up-field only rarely. And the coaches like it that way, i.e., less injuries, more completions and fewer fumbles. Duh-hey.

4) Sort-of-a-rematch: Patriots and Rams first Super Tussle was in SB36 at the Louisiana Superdome (Feb-02), as New England topped St. Louis version of Rams, 20-17 to start the great Belichick-Brady run of championship play and effectively end the Rams, who’d taken the Lombardi (v. TEN) two years earlier in this same same host city of Atlanta, in the now demolished Georgia Dome, replaced by Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the summer of 2017.

Not much to gleen from those two facts, except that Brady-Belichick have been here many times and Rams can win in Georgia. But then, a similarly under-experienced coach-QB tandem in Pederson-Foles topped the B&B in last year’s Super, giving us all something to keep in mind: Experience matters but it’s not everything .. when your opponent has poise.

Conflict?

Will one, two or three players, take a knee for Colin Kaepernick in the biggest spotlight on Earth? If they do, he and his vague mission don’t seem worth it. CK is to some people believed to’ve been black-balled out of the NFL for his on-field protests, though, his same supporters will never include Tim Tebow in their line of gripe. That difference speaks to the sincerity question: Answer, not very.

The Win

The Patriots will again face another recently-tenured head coach (Pederson SB52) employing a not-inexperienced but not-well-tested quarterback (Foles). But Doug was an NFL signal-caller for ten-plus seasons, and though of the clipboard variety, certainly learned his share under Holmgren – Favre in Green Bay and as an assistant with offensive specialist, Reid in KC. That background proved invaluable to the Eagles QB Foles in SB52.

McVay handles his own OC duties, played receiver at Miami of Ohio and coached the same for half of his time in NFL (TB / DC) before taking the reins in Los Angeles. Against a highly-decorated club like the Patriots, knowledge by experience is everything, poise included. I don’t believe the Rams will have that deep well of knowledge at QB (Zac Taylor) to top New England through four quarters, the last as critical. Phillips has the years of experience but that’s D-side, edge Rams, and even then, his Super Bowl win was over the Panthers, not known as an offensive juggernaut. Brady & Company are not Newton & Friends.

Turnovers are always the wild-card, but not the officiating. The zebras are human, I want to keep it that way and champions don’t give game officials the power to decide the outcome. They win, regardless of penalties.

Super Cherry Pick 53: Patriots

Record: 64 – 52 (4-2)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, 4.25.15, White-House, USDoS; J.Goff, Rams, wc, 7.31.16, Praveer-Sharma; T.Brady, Patriots, wc, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries, Hispalois, Cacares-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; J.Marshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 2.3.19 @ 5:33pE; Copyright © 2019

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NFL19 Conference Cherry Picks: Presidents, Field-Generals & Super-Chiefs

20 Jan

The National Football League quarterback: He’s sometimes called a field general, a commander-in-chief who musters his troops into an offensive, forward thrusting campaign to gain territory and vanquish the enemy.

Though America’s Chief Executive and gridiron signal-caller live worlds apart in the duties department, there is a commonality their jobs share. Even as both are just one part their respective operations, as Big-Kahunas (A2-US Const.), each will in good times receive much of the credit while, in bad, most of the blame.

As the partial federal government shutdown remains a reality and new accusations of illegalities fly concerning the investigation into current President Trump’s prior campaign tactics, blame is being apportioned, some to the White House, some to Congress (Pelosi-McConnell), some to the lead investigator (Mueller) and some to the press (journalist / junior-media). Surprising, in this democracy called the United States of America, is that no blame will be assigned to the public who assume none of it on their own, THAT you can bank on.

Followers of the NFL too have, as is customary, been engaging in their own critique in apportioning praise and blame on recent playoff game results.

While the blame has occasionally been debited, in part, to a coach (Harbaugh Garrett), kicker (Parkey) or receiver (Jeffery), as mentioned above, most has been layed at the doorsteps of the respective losing quarterbacks, though, all of it easily enough recycled with yesterday‘s news.

In this final round of post-season Conference championships in lead-up to the Super Bowl pairing, the League’s crème de la crème are in the spotlight.

Typically, these are the best contests. The wheat has been separated from the chaff, making most games real barnburners with outcomes often decided late.

Adding to the watchability this go-round are the two quarterback match-ups.

Each game will pit a wily, well-decorated field general (Brady – Brees), against a much younger upstart, both Patrick Mahomes (KC) and Jared Goff (Rams) in offensive leadership of clubs in quest of their first NFL title in many moons.

It’s not far-fetched to pen, these four signal-callers are, this season, the best four in the business, given that two of them in Mahomes (1) and Brees (2) are the top contenders for AP-MVP award. And Tom, even on a less-than-stellar statistical season, is almost always terrific, while Mr. Goff (and team) has compiled a sparkly 24-7 RS mark after a learning-curve rookie year (0-7 – 55C%).

Tom Brady: New England Patriots

1) FDR: The only Commander-in-Chief besides the cherry-tree-chopper who could’ve been king (Defacto?). Elected four times, his economic vision prescribed emergency medicine in seriously Depressed times (New Deal) and took federal policy beyond simply feeding greed, then undertook to save the world (WW2). He had a wife who was pretty swell, too (Eleanor).

Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints

2) Lincoln: Made the union whole, more human and gave his life in the process.

Jarod Goff: Los Angeles Rams

3) Washington: Iconic leader in War and government who led the world’s first revolt against Imperium slavery since Spartacus (d.71 BC), gave the new office of President serious stature and the budding nation a good head start.

Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs

4) Jackson: Old Hickory from Tennesse was his nickname, he was the first non-elitist President who fought hostile Indians, British invaders, banker thugs and brought the people and democracy to the nation‘s capital.

Cory Littleton: Los Angeles Rams (ILB)

5) Wilson: Prof President (1856–24) with steel resolve to make America a world leader in war (WW1) and peace (LoN), whose 2nd wife Edith (Ellen) co-ruled after his stroke (19) making her first unofficial female President (1872–61).

Aaron Donald: Los Angeles Rams (DE)

6) JFK: He saved planet Earth (Cuban Missile Crisis ‘62) and then lost his life in Dallas (11.22.63) in the risky battle against entrenched, corrupting power.

Anthony Hitchens: Kansas City Chiefs (ILB)

7) Cleveland: Should’ve been the first 3-term President, designing the template for modern-era “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

John Johnson: Los Angeles Rams (SS)

8) Jefferson: Crafty Louisiana Purchase doubled nation’s size, after drafting Declaration of Independence (‘76) and blue-printing first public college (UV).

Demario Davis: New Orleans Saints (OLB)

9) LBJ: Mis-policy in Vietnam did not derail efforts of this legislative juggernaut in making civil rights reality and protecting America’s seniors (Medicare);

Chris Jones: Kansas City Chiefs (DE)

10) Polk: Pragmatic, fiscally sound and productive, Mr. Manifest Destiny added thirteen (13) States in whole or part to America’s flag family of stars. Worn to the bone, he died only 3 months after leaving Office.

11) Truman: Plain-talking, former farmer, WWI major, haberdasher and pianist (See; leggy Lauren Bacall) finished out the big War with gutsy call on Japan A-bombs and proved critics and premature press-men, wrong (Chicago Tribune) with a strong, spirited and common sense administration.

12) Teddy: “Big Stick” policy boosts US clout, trust-buster checks monopolist greed and initiates our national parks network. A celebrity turned progressive.

13) James Madison
14) Andrew Johnson
15) William McKinley

Conference Cherry Picks: “Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Rams @ NewOrleans: 1.20 Fox 3:05pE: Saints
NewEngland @ KansasCity: CBS 6:40: Patriots

Record: 63 – 51

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; The-Conways, USCMC, D.Brees, E.Kirk-Cuomo, 11.2.09; cherries-ripe, Chirak, wc, 6.24.07; A.Jackson, wc, 1844, Boyer-Houghton-Mifflin
Posted: 1.20 @ 2:33pE; Copyright © 2019

NFL17 Cherry Picks W6: Skin CAN Be Topical, When Thickness Is the Theme

12 Oct

We’re 1/3rd the way through NFL 2017 and only the Kansas City Chiefs’ mark remains, like that rare high school mug, unblemished (5-0), having avoided the deflating though brief malaise that will accompany that first loss of the season to keep the hopeful if naïve notion alive that ANYTHING is possible (16-0).

Five games in is when you’ve had enough ball under the belt to get a good idea of what’s working and what’s not, but not so late you can’t right the ship after a couple losses have begun to blow the vessel off course.

Since the 1960s, only the Dolphins (72) and Patriots (07) have managed to make it through the entire regular season Clearasil® clean (no losses), New England finally breaking-out (succumbing to the Giants in SB42) while Miami bested the Redskins in SB7 to stay Stridex® sound (undefeated). So in all likelihood, every team will post a pimple (loss) at some point early in the season. Eek.

It’s how a team HANDLES losing that’ll prove the biggest test.

Here’s what some famous people have had to say about winning, losing and how lemons can get turned into lemonade:

I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened: New Zealand (London) writer, Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Murry, 1888-1923)*

You can learn little from winning, you can learn everything from losing: New York Giants baseball great & WWI veteran, Christy Mathewson*

What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate: Donald Trump*

It is not enough to conquer, one must learn the art of seduction: Voltaire*

Okay, so that last one’s a bit bawdy for football but you get the idea, i.e., there’s more to it than winning. Holding onto power can be tougher than taking it.

But to handle a loss, even one that embarrasses badly, a good team with a champion’s constitution must have thick skin, thick enough to withstand the burning remarks of critics. And then, after the pain subsides, a mind-set for learning from the miscues that led to the collapse in confidence and play.

Who needs thick skin at this juncture? Prit near everyone, but those with a contender capability might be having their’s tested the hardest.

Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

Pre-season hopefuls, the Desert dwellers have had their skin tested in the next best (worst) manner, serious injury to a key cog, that being MVP-caliber running-back David Johnson who went out in W2 with a dislocated wrist.

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Pack are always contenders for the Halas trophy (George must crack a smile up there every time someone ties his name to the Green & Yellow) with the likes of Rodgers under center, but giving ’em 20 points in the 4Q, at home in a game you had in control from the get-go has to burn the Boys skin bad.

As to some folk’s notion that last Sunday’s tussle (GB 35-31) constitutes NFL17’s game of the year, I say ‘Oh brother.’ Besides being premature (W5), any game where 30 points are allowed in the closing quarter can’t rank too high. Defense still has to count for something in the game of football.

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Looked to be the surprise contender of 2017 and might still fill-the-bill. With Russ Wilson, Wagner, Kam, Thomas, Wright and Coach Carroll, the Hawks, like GB, are an NFL Elite who own their Division, now that AZ has degressed. As such, there’s no shame in losing a close one to Seattle, even in LA. And when was the last time a Rams v Jaguars game seemed worth a look-see, eh?

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

Ben Ben’s talk of his demise is disheartening. Ever since Tomlin did his $100K (fined) turkey-trot on T-Day (13), I’ve hoped for better leadership to utilize best the final years of Pittsburgh’s future HOF quarterback. No such luck. But here’s more advice from the sage Giants moundsman: You must have an alibi to show why you lost. If you haven’t one you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained. But keep it (alibi) to yourself, where it belongs.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

Eagles @ Carolina: 10.12 CBS 8:25: Cats
Packers @ Vikes: 10.15 Fox 1:00 GTW: GB
Detroit @ New Orleans: Fox 1:00: Lions
Patriots @ New York Jets: CBS 1:00: Patriots
Buccaneers @ Arizona: Fox 4:05: Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams @ Jaguars: Fox 4:05: Rams
Chargers @ Raiders: CBS 4:25: Los Angeles
Pittsburgh @ KansasCity: CBS 4:25: Steelers
New York Giants @ Denver: NBC 8:30: NYG
Indianapolis @ TN: 10.16 Disney 8:30: Colts

Record: 16 – 11

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Katherine-Mansfield, Archives-New-Zealand, wc, “thick-skinned-toady,” T.S.Eliot-critique, 1915 (+/-); Rhinoceros, India, wc.cca, Brehms-Life-Of-Animals, 1895;
Posted: 10.12.17 @ 4:55pE; Copyright © 2017
References (*): Mathewson: 1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts, Nemec & Palmer, 1994; Pres. Donald Trump, Google; Mansfield, Wikipedia; Voltaire, Wikipedia.