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NFL15 Cherry Picks W10: Cat’s Meow

12 Nov

Eating Crow Down at the Watershed

You might not think it, but crow’s not all that bad. Tastes kinda’ like…chicken.

A little gamey, and that road-kill diet they ingest, not…too…appetizing (eek), but you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do, right, if you’re gamer. When it’s time, dig in.

This writer fed on a plate of the caw cuisine after predicting Pack would devour the Panthers in Week 9 action and leave North Carolina with victory in hand.

.....Rivera.6.10.11.R.Paraglide.wc.thmBut the Cats proved me and a few others wrong in whoopin’ the perennial juggernaut, 37-29, sealing the deal early with a killer quarter (24-2Q), looking a true playoff contender in 2015, at home (GB) and on the road (SEA).

And what of reigning MVP man, Aaron Rodgers (25-48, 369, 4-1i)? So “The Beatles” had a couple bad songs (“(AR) having a bad day…is kinda’ like a bad Beatles song”). On that, Hey Jude rates NHRA (drags) and Revolution 9 pure sound-collage, oh my gosh.

But the Fab Four were game-changers and had more hits in one year than 98% of bands will record in a life-time. All meaning, Rodgers is game for alot more chart-busters before it‘s all through. That’s a certainty.

.....Newton.9.28.14.wc.K.Allison.thmAnd Camster-the-Hamster (15-30, 297, 3-1i), he’s still scrambling’ up field (9-57, 1t) but made his connections (air) when needed, due in no small measure to a seasons-long, stout Carolina O-line (13sk (8g)) that stymied GB’s pressure (0sk) long enough to give the 5y QB time to breath, while his counter-part was hurried & harried (5sk).

One should wonder if this win could be the watershed event in the Rivera – Newton – Kuechly era, catapulting Cats into a better bracket and be sign that championship hardware is on the not too distant horizon?

Better not bank on it.

I’m not buying into Carolina, not yet. That last part is called covering yourself.

....Kuechly.1.28.14.Sgt.A.Martinez.wc.thmTeam ranks at midway are good, just outside top-ten in key defensive measures (#13 yapg / 11 papg) and in or hovering near T10 on that side of the ball that’s been their weaker half, offense (#12 ypg / 4 ppg). Of Cats eight Ws, only GB currently has winning mark (SEA / IND .500) but they came through a tough stretch in W6-9 with flying colors, besting both NFC’s 2014 top dogs (GB-SEA), though both at BofA.

The remaining slate will test their mettle.

Majority of Carolina’s contests are roadies with five consecutively against what can be called formidable foes, including three intra-divisionals: @ DAL, @ NO, ATL, @ NYG, @ ATL. Cats want Super respect? They’ve gotta’ keep earning it.

A few bumps in the road wouldn’t hurt, handle some adversity before vesting heavily and do-or-dies (PS) come into play. Same goes for Cincy, one of three remaining perfectos. The Patriots, they’ve proven their worth and then some. When they’re undefeated there’s little doubt about their juggernitiousness.

If Ron & Co. get through the formidable five (11.26 – 12.27) no worse than 3-2, vesting-in-full could be in order. Oh yeah, and don’t overlook the closer (TB): Never embark the post-season off a loss. Mood matters.

MVP Watch

1) Tom Brady
2) Andy Dalton
...Brady.8.28.09.K.Allison.wc.thm.DC3) Aaron Rodgers
4) Julio Jones
5) NaVorro Bowman
6) D’Qwell Jackson
7) Reshad Jones
8) Telvin Smith
9) Cam Newton
10) Steve Gostkowski

Good Spot (W9)

Antonio Brown

The Pittsburgh end and 3-time Pro Bowler had a $100,000 game v. Oakland (17r-284y – 2c-22y). There are more than a few NFL offensive rosterees that take a paycheck in similar amount and total those numbers for an entire season.

Marcus Mariota

Titans’ rookie QB comes off a 2-week injury-out to lead his team to an OT win in New Orleans (28-39, 371, 4t), running the final drive like a seasoned vet, going 6-6, the last a 5-yard loft to Tony Fasano for the game-winning TD. It’s a wow.

Bad Spot

“They have a (DC) with a history. I’ll leave it at that (NFLN / 11.8).”

....Zimmer.9.20.14.wc.MN-NG.thmComment made by Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer and directed at Rams’ DC, Gregg Williams, in post-game presser following Vikes OT win over STL (21-18) where their quarterback Ted Bridgewater was knocked unconscious in a run – slide in what was reported by some an a dirty hit by STL safety Lamarcus Joyner.

I’ll trust in NFL’s assessment of film, whether validating the UR flag on Joyner or over-turning (looks possible). But there’s one certainty from this unfortunate play: We cannot expect defenders to anticipate slides during play or tailor tackles when QBs initiate a slide five yards or less prior to contact, not at those speeds.

And don’t forget, Mike, Adrian has a “history,” too. Old wounds (Bountygate) are not to be ‘opened’ with acrimony unless new, damning evidence comes to light or a ‘repeat performance’ has been established. It’s all part of giving second-chances, a new life that most everyone deserves at least once in their lives.

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kb

Curious Quote

“I take full responsibility for this frustration and the inaction that has occurred. Use my resignation to heal and start talking again (“University” / SI.Wire / 11.9).” Words of Tim Wolfe, former President of the University of Missouri.

The reports of campus racism, attendant university policies and threat of football boycott aside, it’s nice to see someone “take…responsibility” in action (“resignation”), not simply words, even if his was merely a matter of timing and golden parachute (K) / peer-support (new gig) likely lets Tim down easy. Such statement today (“(ITFR)”) too often has no serious ramification for speakers, self-imposed or otherwise.

And like that NFL defender who can’t be expected to change course ‘on a dime,’ neither can US government, as part-time regulator of our greed and corruption, can’t be expected to prevent, find and punish purveyors of all prejudicial expressions. What they can do is create a system of redress and an environment where ignorant, mean-spirited people don’t feel at ease and, in rare case, might even find courage to grow.

...cherries.ripe,thm.wc.Chirak.6.24.7

Cherry Picks Week 10

Bills (4-4) @ Jets (5-3): 11.12 NFLN 8:25: NYJ wins
Dallas (2-6) @ TB (3-5): 11.15 Fox 1:00: Dallas wins
Cats (8-0) @ Titans (2-6): Fox 1:00 (GTW): TEN wins
Chicago (3-5) @ St. Louis (4-4): Fox 1:00: Bears win
Saints (4-5) @ Redskins (3-5): Fox 1:00: NO wins
Miami (3-5) @ Philadelphia (4-4): CBS 1:00: Eagles win
Cleveland (2-7) @ Pittsburgh (5-4): CBS 1:00: Pitt wins
Jaguars (2-6) @ Ravens (2-6): CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Minnesota (6-2) @ Raiders (4-4): Fox 4:05: Oakland wins
New England (8-0) @ NY Giants (5-4): CBS 4:25: Pats win
Kansas City (3-5) @ Denver (7-1): CBS 4:25: Broncos win
Cards (6-2) @ Seattle (4-4): NBC 8:30 (GTW2): AZ wins

Record: 41 – 45

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: C.Newton, wc.cca, 9.28.14, K.Allison; R.Rivera, 6.10.11, wc, R.Paraglide; L.Kuechly, wc, 1.28.14, Sgt-A.Martinez; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.08, DC; M.Zimmer, 9.20.14, MN-NG, wc; cherries-ripe, Chirak, 6.24.7, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 11.12.15 @ 2:17pm; Copyright © 2015

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NFL15 “Cherry Cherry” & The Lost Super Bowl 49

30 Jan

Call it the Damn Shame Bowl.

Super Bowl 49’s match-up looks a dandy. Stellar class.

The Seattle Seahawks versus the New England Patriots portends to be a glittering gem in NFL’s cavalcade of crowning moments, the best face-off since Dallas and Pittsburgh last tangled for title in ‘79 in maybe the greatest high-top hootenanny of ‘em all (PIT 35-31).

The balance of team talent is superb.

The head coaches are nonpareil.

...............Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumb

Pete Carroll plans to become the first man to dynastisize the college scene (USC / 2-NC) and bring that over into the pros (SEA / SB48), while Bill Belichick takes the Patriots to a record tying 9th Super appearance (DAL & PIT) and hopes to join that upper echelon of NFL gurus with four or more championships, joining Halas & Lambeau (6), Lombardi (5), Guy Chamberlin (Canton & Frankford) & Chuck Noll (4).

The franchises: commonalities and contrasts.

...........P.Carroll.wc.cca.12.29.13.M.Morris.thumb

Neither is old guard (Bears, Pack, Giants) as Seahawks are NFL expansion (‘76) and Patriots of the rival AFL (‘59). Both so successful, so innovative, so non-conforming in approach to the game, it’s a damn shame Deflategate has dampened the spirit and blown the bloom off the rose of this championship, so much so that no matter who mines the Lombardi silver, the ne’er-do-well narrative will be an unwelcome hanger-on.

The competing quarterback styles, like SB48, shout, ‘Changing of the guard!’

Patriots’ Tom Brady is old school pocket passer who rarely leaves ‘the bridge,’ versus his opposite Russell Wilson who is no run-QB in Kaepernick vane but new version of the old single wing tailback and may be sign of things to come: mobile-manager QB.

The immovable object (SEA-D) vs the unstoppable force (NE-O).

And the Second-chance Bowl, i.e., Misters Lynch, Blount, etcetera.

But the gates, not the Bill variety, are killing us.

..............gate.Strasbourg.Kayser.wc.thmb.Ji-Elle

Give an anti-NFL hooligan a media-bandwagon from which to pelt the shield with virtual vegetables whenever a League issue appears on social stage (Rice, Redskins, Sam, flag-gates), and they’ll board in bunches. Splat!

Which should then come as no surprise that Democrats, bound by a PCB dictate, have, in one poll, anyway, been found to be more likely than Republicans, to disbelieve Patriots denial of game-ball mischief (PPP / 1-27 (SI (FS) / 1-28)). Maybe not on veracity as much as Bob Kraft’s friendship w/Roger Goodell who’s backer of Dan Snyder and his Redskins motif. The Kev Bacon thing.

Age, regional resentment and self-loathing (jealousy), may play roles as well.

Be that as it may, as the big game nears, which I’ll watch next day on NFL Replay (NFLN), sans the insufferable IR-delays, high school half-time and over-hyped commercials, we‘ll be sure to get our fill at the traditional media smorgasbord of fun factoids, player over-analysis and press-con overload.

Two weeks of hype has always been one-week mood-kill, but this time, maybe it’s a mood-enhancer, as evidenced in Bill Belichick’s Wednesday press conference.

In one of the more light-hearted but heavy-in-clever exchanges, and god knows we need some light moments these days, Belichick was tossed an “oddball” by a reporter, asking if he was aware of the unique circumstance in store: the first All-Croatian head-coach heritage Super Bowl. Reporter added, “they’re dancing in (Zagreb?) already.”

Kick-off is set for Sunday evening (6:30 / NBC).

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s world turns on a historical defense w/Kam Chancellor and Bob Wagner setting the tone. Other keys may be less-than-100% on game-day, i.e., Earl Thomas (arm) and Rich Sherman (elbow), who‘s reportedly completed his treatment but whose loved one is expecting their first born sometime post-Sunday. Another sub-plot, better variety.

...............Sherman.8.18.12.J.Beall.wc.cca.thmb

Unless Ashley dissaudes his attendance so he can play, it’s most likely Dick will be bedside for the delivery, whenever it occurs. Child birth has elements of risk and then it’s #1 or 2 on ‘life’s most special moments’ list. Besides, he’s done the Super and his non-sport fandom expect full-faith & compassion here. Pete can fill the void.

So why such a ballyhooed defensive unit?

Besides topping the NFL rankings, there’s no compromise on the basics: tackle efficiency and over-lap in zones of responsibility, a team tactic that was SOP in olden days but in 2014 gets bumped by glory-stat strategy (sacks / INTs).

..............Chancellor.8.22.14.wc.M.Morris.thmb

For the scoring side, it starts with a Tom Cable-capable offensive line and a pound & astound run-game featuring stalwart RB Marshawn ‘speaks with feet’ Lynch.

Lynch has been a force-in-motion of late but was fairly “silent” (See: SB5) in last Super Bowl and better find his rev this time or his friend-in-backfield will duck for cover.

Clearly, Russ Wilson can excel under pressure and is key cog in Hawks’ O-machine. But he’s still learning his trade (NFCT15 (4 INT) and will have tougher time vs Patriots pass defense (Revis & Collins) than he did Denver’s. His fast-track to fame was paved in managing from the pocket and reversion back to college curriculum (Rabbit 101), while unlikely in SB49, is a risky road onto which Pats D hopes they can divert.

Upside: When Wilson does bolt, his excursions are textbook for novice run-QBs.

He slides before the hit, has a motive in mind in sideline or end-zone and even in mobile-mode has a cohesion, a synchronization with his receiver corps (Wilson, Baldwin & Kearse) that translates into a fine ‘14 completion (63%).

............Wilson.wc.cca.12.29.13.L.Maurer.thumb

Lateral mobility is key to Russ’ game, but hanging in, fighting urge to bolt, letting the big men (ML) carry the freight and implementing the boss’ game-plan, from the pocket, are reasons why Wilson & Seahawks’ offense clicked in Super Bowl 48.

Hawks rebounded nicely after Harvin’s high tail but their field of competition post-KC was so-so and had to pull their fat outta’ the fire vs visiting GB w/Rodgers limited.

And for master-craftsman Pete Carroll, looking the “new Belichick,“ the words football genius are waiting in the wings as he’s thrown down the gauntlet as challenge to his opposite for NFL’s best gladiator guru.

Carroll is leading that new wave of team scheme threatening to replace the west coast offense that’s defined NFL matriculatory methodology ever since Bill Walsh took the reigns in San Francisco.

..............Blitz.Seagals.SB48.2.2.14.w.ccca.A.Quintano.thmb

It’s a scheme with Western flavor and plays big in NFCW. It begins with top defense that values tackling skills and loathes the late-game prevent mode. The offense works off play-action by establishing the run game to open the passing lanes for a manager-QB, pocket (Flacco) or mobile, who keeps it simple & sound (25-30a).

Word is, Wilson will become the highest paid QB in the land this off-season. But owner Allen best make sure he pays Pete a comparable king’s ransom, coach class. Man is Belichick West but the personas are worlds apart.

William the Conqueror plays it cool, almost aloof at times, though, with today’s petulant press corps it’s hard to find much fault there, while Peter the Great can’t talk enough. When he’s not jawing with the zebras he’s jawing his gum like nobody’s business.

A well structured, leader-laden defense (Kam & Dick) doesn’t require the same sideline symbiosis as the offense, where strategizing play-call is quick & constant.

...............Seahawks.wordmark.76-01.wc.cca.thmb

Seahawks world spins on an axis of defense but it’s the harmony between it’s coach and quarterback that creates, sustains an atmosphere of life from which victory grows.

Carroll and his young protégé Wilson are ‘same-pagers.’ In a manager-QB system, the composer (Carroll) is as important as the conductor (Wilson) to making music.

It takes all styles to forge a championship caliber offense. Ditka and McMahon (’85-86) were kismet for brief time, but longevity requires rapport in style & purpose. Lombardi & Starr had it, Tom & Bill still have it and Pete & Russ are building to perfection.

Any imperfections aside, Pete Carroll & Crew have earned a reputation for making super teams (DEN (’14) / GB (’15)) look super-silly-us.

If Pete-harmonic continues to orchestrate happy tunes to which his men can play, Hawks could have a dynasty and a new football genius in the Emerald City by February 1st.

New England Patriots

Count Seahawks with the public (80%?) who wish Deflategate had never been.

On that Conference Sunday night when the story broke, there may have been feelings of disbelief, a little smugness, even some sympathy, but now, the NFC and Super Bowl defending champs know it’s only likely to give their AFC opponent better focus and more motivation to achieve that end that helps to cleanse the soul of the “cheat” talk that’s been driving dialogue for days. Pats have to win, they don’t have a choice, so they’ll tell themselves.

..............Patriots.wordmark.60-92.wc.cca.thmb

And with a better balance they can boast this time around (’14-15), it’s pretty fair chance they will…win.

Offense has always been a Patriots’ preference under Bill Belichick, defensive credentials notwithstanding, and this season is no different.

Ranking #11 in yards per game (365+), just behind Giants (10) and Hawks (9 / 376), they were neck n’ neck with GB (1 / 30.4), DEN and PHI in upper echelon of points per game (4 / 29.2) with Seahawks rounding out top ten (10 / 24.6).

...............Collins.wc.cca.1.19.14.J.Beall.thmb

Defensively, Minutemen are led by Jamie Collins (LB). They’ll come into University of Phoenix will respectable ranks. In ypg, they sit at #13 (344) (SEA 267 (1)) in virtual tie with MIA (12) & IND (13) and a strong #8 rank in ppg (19.6), about a FG off Seattle’s stellar #1 post (15.9).

Quarterback Tom Brady had another MVP-caliber season and would’ve positioned better for the trophy had he pulled off the road win at Lambeau W13 (L 26-21).

This season Tom had a quartet of inter-changeable run-support (Vereen, Ridley, Gray & Blount (W12)), a personnel shift that can pose a challenge for any caliber defense and then Shane possessing of the Chuck Foreman hands (52r / 447y).

.............Brady.wc.cca.mongomez93.thmb

As to the hardcore hand-corps, that’s been Patriots power-point for years. I count 4 Level-1 pair-a-mitts (Gronk, Edelman, Vereen & LaFell) and 2-4 Level-2 guys. They’re stacked. And nobody puts it in the old “bread basket” like Brady. Just ask Mr. Berman (ESPN).

It would be prudent to predict the stronger suits of both teams will determine SB49’s outcome: Seattle’s super-stout defense (IO) pushing back on Patriots scoring punch (UF).

But then you realize, their work-a-day ensembles aren’t too shabby. Hawks have their own tested TD tactics and Pats are no slouches at holding their ground too.

Seahawks’ defense can be a reincarnation of the rocks of granite 1932 Chicago Bears (44 pts allowed) and yet the Patriots are gonna‘ put up some points, “gar-ohn-teed.” Question is, can they keep Wilson & Co. from finding their happy zone, a la SB48?

..............UoPhxStd.2.4.08.USDoHS.wc.thmb

Some think that incorporating the sprawling metropolis that is Russell Wilson-in-motion to be the key to stopping Seahawks flight. And that would be a red-herring.

Wilson’s mobility is merely an extension of the Carroll play-call. The former Badger is not a run-QB per se in category of Kaep, RG3 or Cam, all who run-at-will and funkify a game plan in the process of frequently futile free-lance, aka, misnomer read-option.

Hawks matriculate because Russ sticks to Carroll’s management plan: establish run and work the pass (short-to-mid) off play action (See: BAL, etc.). Mobility simply affords more time behind the line to execute an air-route or footwork at breakdown as Wilson has a nose for the 1st-dwn marker and sideline safety.

The keys to stopping Seattle scores: 1) frustrating Lynch, 2) stopping progress at point of pass completion and 3) flushing-out the young QB into vulnerability.

.......cherries.B.Kua.thumb

Super Bowl 49: Cherry on Top

Pre-season, this was the match-up most NFL fans envisioned, coast-to-coast.

Both coaches are smart, successful and capable of being bold and creative. Patriots held slight edge in TA/GA differential (12 v 9) and turnovers always play big. As to kicking games, something to always keep in mind in waning moments of Super play, New England holds small lead there, too, in place (94.6% / 83.8) and punt (46y / 44).

As Seattle has played a notch below last season’s Super showing, are fortunate to be in Glendale after shocking GB late and this is probably the best New England team in 10 years, one now vested with a morality mission of sorts, Patriots will win Super Bowl 49 and maybe, before the hoist, stop by the lost & found and retrieve its spirit.

Record: 96 – 55 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Belichick, wc.cca, K.Allison, 8.28.09, 2m; Belichick crop; Carroll, 12.29.13, M.Morris, wc.cca; baroque-gate, wc.cca, Strasbourg, Ji-Elle; Sherman, wc.cca, 8.18.12, J.Beall; Chancellor, M.Morris, wc.cca, 8.22.14; Wilson, wc.cca, 12.29.13, L.Mauer; Blitz-Seagals, wc.cca, SB48, A.Quintano; Seahawks, wc.cca, 76-01, wordmark; Patriots, wordmark, wc.cca, 60-92; Collins, wc.cca, J.Beall, 1.19.14; Brady, wc.cca, mongomez93; UofPhx.Std, wc.cca, Glendale, 2.4.08, DoHS; cherries, 6.1.08, wc.cca, B.Kua.
Posted: 1.30.15 @ 6:54pm; edit @ 11:48 EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W16: Poli-Spo 101

20 Dec

Soliciting Sport

Poli-sci: That’s college slang for a course in political science. Basically, it’s the study of government and people, powerful ones in particular, usually at the federal level and with a little history, economics and psychology mixed in for flavor. Life, essentially.

It was my minor while I matriculated, majoring in history. Surprisingly, not much politics, just the facts. Teachers are smart like that.

Today there’s a new subject sweeping America, it’s called poli-spo. That’s short for political sportician, which is the more likeable cousin of the sport technician (Costas, KO, SAS, sport radio, etc.), which is the former college roommate of the sport mortician (sabermetrics, fantasy) who can bore you to death.

They’re men and women who use the sport subject to achieve political and / or monetary ends. Left-wing, right-wing, it’s open enrollment, but definitely Machiavellian, i.e., ‘ends justify the means.’ Sincerity is an elective.

It’s a course that’s not yet been officially sanctioned by Harvard trustees (I just made it this week), but it’s actually been taught for many years now, going back to the Caesars who tossed victory garlands at the Coliseum, the stone one, in Rome, old days. History.

Politicians used to kiss babies. Now they tour on the sport cycle. Here’s a short list of some of the most recognizable, recent enrollees in poli-spo 101:

Chris Christie

The New Jersey Governor (‘10) is a Cowboys fan since childhood. No surprise there, as Dallas became America’s Team in Chris’ formative years (70s) under leadership of Tom Landry and Roger “the dodger” Staubach. Only the Favre phenomena has compared.

............Christie.2.9.11.wc.nightscream.thmb

Now he’s taken his passion on the road to back his ‘boys. Funny it happens to coincide with Cowboy contention and a likely Presidential run. Maybe CC sees their stars aligning. But he best tread lightly. Hitching your wagon to Romo’s star is a risky association as Tone has a panache for ‘falling’ in clutch-time, not exactly what we seek in a Chief.

And I’m guessing, if Christie happens to run for New Jersey governor again, he won’t be donning the ten-gallon in AC.

President Obama

When the Commander-in-Chief spoke on ESPN’s “The Herd” last week, chiding the NFL (and NFLPA?) for being “behind the curve” on issue of domestic violence (Rice), Mr. Obama piled-on in manner not unlike Ken Starr and his politicizing of the Lewinsky affair (’98), a fishing expedition that left America holding its nose, bitter at the GOP and sympathetic with the bungling and personally humiliated President Clinton and his embarrassed family.

Just as the President cut a deal with the “monster(s)” of healthcare to fashion the ACA, Roger Goodell too took the easier route in relying on the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s template for his initial handling of the Ray Rice susp‘n (2g).

Had Mr. Obama been ahead of the curve on the issue himself, given federal guidance beyond the slew of standard speeches Chiefs and Cabinet members give on various topics and been proactive on this matter typically governed by State criminal codes, before it became hot, trendy topic on which other agendas might ride, his criticism here might carry weight with the public.

Voters of all ages are looking for independent minded leadership that works with others for solutions, not bandwagon-jumping and piling-on. Poor play, Mr. Prez.

Hillary Clinton

I count three ball caps she’s worn (Cubs, Sox & Yanks), but if Hillary hits the campaign trail again, the former First Lady and Secretary of State may give former MLB traveling-man Octavio Dotel (13 hats) a run for his money.

Wearing different hats, glad-handing, as it were, in the political arena, is a-okay. They gotta’ give voters what they want, i.e., “sweet little lies.“ We voters don’t handle the truth so well.

...........H.Clinton2.wc.cca.ChathamHouse.10.11.13.thmb

But when Clinton boards the anti-Redskins bandwagon in 2014, after decades of tacit public approval of the 80-year old Washington motif, leadership and sincerity become issues of concern for the would-be presidential candidate.

Want to create millions of named racists in America over-night? Start a logo war.

One could consider it mean-spirited and irresponsible to join and further a national campaign, begun surprisingly the same year Nike® assumes the NFL uniform contract (’12), that tries to add millions & millions of supposed racists to America’s roll of ignorance. That roll necessarily must include all connected to the NFL, the production, distribution and consumption. That probably comes to about 85% of the nation, give or take.

Those who’d validate those attaching harsh label (“racist”) to those who’d vote ‘yes’ on the under-siege motif, a vote absent the hate, the prejudice that makes-up racism, seem more than happy to do just that in adding mass amounts of names to their bad-people list.

Not exactly what Martin, Jack, Cesar and Bobby had in mind, Hillary.

“Tanks for Nut’in!’”

If “Maggs (Caddyshack)” were in with the Brownies, not the girls club, the footballers, she’d be livid. I wouldn’t say Cleveland tanked it against intrastate rival Cincinnati last Sunday (30-0 CIN), but this Browns team was clearly dispirited in W15 action.

It’s been a season of highs & lows for the Forest City bunch, playoff contenders through much of 2014 with some nice wins. But injuries to key cogs (Mack / Gordon) and a late-season switch-a-roo at quarterback (J.Manziel) by head coach Mike Pettine has got to have players somewhat befuddled.

Manziel.Hoyer2.wc.cca.7.25.14.Drost.thumb

It’s not as if head honchos must poll their rosters to make a QB change. That can’t work. But taking the pulse, getting a read from team leaders is a favored tack. Maybe Mike did as much, though, it doesn’t look that way.

As for the LeBron-Nike-LRMR-Manziel promo tour, the Cavaliers star is, like Christie, a Cowboys fan. Unlike the Governor, LJ keeps his Dallas devotion under his new Browns hat as he does his part to back his new friend and keep their shared interest trending.

Benched starter and just capable Brian Hoyer was not looking All-Pro in ‘14. He kept mistakes to a minimum in most games, helped forge viability for a stagnated Cleveland franchise but then the Browns hit a brick wall. Maybe ‘mates saw this as Brian’s year past midway, win or lose. They can hardly blame Jon for Sunday’s crash but he clearly wasn’t ready to start as his fumble bungle at Buffalo attested.

This week is about Pettine. Will he run the team or will the media keep assisting?

The Cutler Conundrum

Bears headed into hibernation early in 2014.

Chicago’s sorry state is not unlike the Giants of Meadowland. Though contention was expected, both under-achieved (5-9) with poor defense (CHI #30 ypg (Allen 5s – 34t) / NYG #26) and talented quarterbacks who’ve found no synergy. One difference being, G-men have recent ring-hauls (’08 / ’12) which carry weight.

........J.Cutler.wc.cca.11.1.09.M.Schadle.thumb

Former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith, now at Tampa Bay, couldn’t beat Green Bay, while Marc Trestman can’t seem to beat much of anyone else in the League. But the prospect of re-boarding the coach carousel is one the Halas Hall brass must simply dread.

They feed off eachother, offense and defense, and it’s clearly a team effort in futility at Soldier Field in ’14 with Forte, Mundy & Willie Young the few bright spots. Trestman, Pres. Ted Phillips and GM Phil Emery know all too well it’s a seller’s market in the NFL for quality QBs and were they taking inquiries for Jay Cutler’s services the calls would be incoming.

Bears wouldn’t have been unwise this week to’ve stayed the course and ridden it out with Jay, rather than throw Jim Clausen into the frying pan. Then, in off-season, among other needs, add a favored backup QB if they can locate one and hold a competition next summer.

Curious Quotes

“Wow, that was a shocker.”

Shocking words from former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci (NFLN) Sunday night after the Niners loss to division rival Seattle (7-17) knocked them out of the playoffs (7-7) for first time in Jim Harbaugh’s short yet quite successful San Francisco tenure (3 NFCTs).

...........Harbaugh.M.Dempsey.CJCoS.7.26.12.wc.cca.Cullen

When linebacker extraordinaire NaVorro Bowman went down (ACL) in last season’s NFCT (SEA), the Niners 2014 season was pretty much mapped out (.500 (+/-)). All-Pro Pat Willis’ absence (W6) compounded the problem: a talent and leadership mix that’s sorely missed. Not that the fill-ins aren’t very capable, they are, but there’s more to this game than shear talent.

Had Packers or Patriots’ seasons gone south because Aaron or Tom were sidelined the entirety, no one would be expressing such “shock.”

Jim Harbaugh’s structure centers on defense, no surprise there, it’s a NFCW trait, though, pocket passer Palmer at Arizona gives Arians another dimension.

And again, as we’ve seen in Chicago, the offense will take cues from the defense and vice versa, though, again, Arizona’s defense has broken with that tradition in carrying their offensive-challenged team of late, and with pluck to burn.

With run-QB Kaepernick’s broad learning-curve (red-zone blues) and defense stalwarts down, most should’ve seen 7-7 coming last January. That written, unless it’s personality clash or disparate visions, Yorks would be mistaken to let Jimbo go elsewhere. It’s not exactly a buyer’s market for top coaches, either.

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Cherry Picks Week 16: Mix & Mingle

Chargers (8-6) @ San Fran (7-7): 12-20 CBS 8:25: Bolts win
Ravens (9-4) @ Houston (7-7): 12-21 CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Browns (7-7) @ Carolina (5-8-1): 1:00 CBS: Panthers win
Lions (10-4) @ Chicago (5-9): 1:00 Fox: Detroit wins
KC (8-6) @ Pittsburgh (9-5): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Steelers win
Falcons (5-9) @ New Orleans (6-8): Fox 1:00 (GOTW): NO wins
Colts (10-4) @ Dallas (10-4): CBS 4:25: Cowboys win
Seahawks (10-4) @ Arizona (11-3): NBC 8:30: Seattle wins
Denver (11-3) @ Cincy (9-4-1): 12-22 ESPN 8:30: Broncos win

Record: 78 – 47 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Christie, wc.cca, Jagendorf, 3.2.11; Christie, wc.cca, 2.9.11, nightscream; H.Clinton, wc.cca, ChathamHouse, 10.11.13; Manziel & Hoyer, wc.cca, 7.25.14, Drost; Cutler, wc.cca, 11.1.09, Schadle; JimHarbaugh, wc.cca, M.Dempsey, CJCoS, M.Cullen; ripe.cherries, wc.cca, Chirak, 6.24.07.
Posted: 12.19.14 @ 8:56pm; edit 12.20 @ 12:24am EST

Can Sport Topic Turn Elections?

19 Nov

Can sporting events swing an election? Short answer: not likely.

You wouldn’t think sport and its figures would ever play much of a role in voter-think, nationally or on the local level, apart from credentialing the candidate with a notoriety, i.e., Jack Kemp, Jim Bunning and Bill Bradley.

When there’s no one, single topic that stokes the fires of voter passion, like a military matter or an inspirational persona, well known (Reagan) or new to the national scene (Carter, Obama), that’s when mood can play a decisive role.

Results from Election 2014 have seen the GOP back in congressional clover, retaking the Senate to add to a House majority and, with lame duck Democrat Barack Obama manning the Oval Office, divided government is set to rule these United States for at least 2 years.

But before that all takes full affect, many are asking, why? Why did Republicans receive a mini-mandate from voters, coast-to-coast?

Theories abound as to the cause(s) of the Democrats demise.

Mid-terms are notorious for poor voter turnout. And when one party has held the top spot for six years and one of the two Congressional chambers for quite a spell, change feels right to a majority. No pun intended.

That usually bodes well for Republicans. Unless there’s a hotly contested local election, the citizenry doesn’t get all that jacked-up about the supporting cast. Because we ex-colonialists are still monarchists at heart, it’s the Presidential vote that really floats our boats, especially younger voters. And unfortunately for the donkey-set, da’ Dems had precious little in the way of victories to motivate base and swingers.

The economy, immigration, foreign stability, race relations (“That could’ve been my son”), all either saw little forward progress or seem to’ve taken a step backwards.

War on terrorism (2001) has had real success and faces new challenges including clarification of mission, while the ACA (Obamacare) is working for some folks but has created angst, not just amongst GOP’ers but downcast Dems who’d sought single payer and see ACA as only validating the “monster(s)” of healthcare who keep costs and profits grossly high.

And that‘s where a pervading and prevailing national mood comes into play. America’s on-edge.

..........C.Cassius.Longinus.63BC.CNG.wc.cca.thumb

Candidates and pundits know well, emotion is a powerful potion in politics.

It can be a passion, one that arises from an tragedy (post-JFK (LBJ), 9-11-01 (GWB)) or builds over time (The Depression (FDR)). It can sweep across party lines, or it can simply reflect a general malaise, an apprehension that weighs heavy on the national spirit.

That’d be 2014.

What then on the sporting scene could possibly affect the national spirit?

Point-shaving scandal? Nope, but if Silver gets his way the odds are favorable.

ESPN (Disney) has decided to change course and return to its former state as an independent-minded, high-standard sport network? Pure fantasia.

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley teaming up for 2016 Presidential run? Nope, though there have been dicier combos. I would listen.

It wasn’t one event but a series of manufactured topics in the sport world, as short on substance as they were sincerity. And when Democratic leaders and mainstream media jumped on board each topic, moderate and even some Dem loyalists may’ve begun to see the party of Jefferson, Jackson, FDR & JFK in a whole new, dim-bulb light.

The disenchanted, feeling disenfranchised, didn’t all vote GOP, they just didn’t vote.

Democrats look more and more like their Republican counterparts every year.

The party platform remains divergent:

Dems are pro-choice, GOP anti-abortion;
Dems favor gun restrictions, GOP favors gun ownership & presence;
Both will engage militarily with all due speed where alliance or interest exists;
Dems raise taxes on corporations & cufflinks, GOP cuts ‘em down…the taxes.

It’s the mission and tactics that’re the same: raise lots o’ money, spend it, hope to sway voters, achieve power, then leave office and join the firm for some serious profit-taking.

Democrats have taken a page outta’ Republican play-book. They haphazardly throw out the ‘racist’ word whenever it suits, just as the GOP used the ‘commie’ tag in the 50s.

We voters may get a tad lazy when it comes to casting but we’re not nitwits. It’s plain to see how both parties are now captured by their respective lobbies and extreme wings.

It’s angry Christians who ride atop the pachyderm and work the party megaphone, while the politically correct bullies dictate the donkey‘s dance tune.

PC is nothing new, but dictating party directives, that‘s a whole new ball-game.

Blind obedience to a faction is especially disturbing for a party that had, in perception if not always practice, prided itself on the tenets of rational discourse, democracy and due process. It may’ve begun as a limited tenency (white, propertied males), but expanded progressively over the decades (See; U.S. History, unrevised edition).

The manufactured storylines that made it onto the sporting goods shelf:

Anti-Redskins

............Redskins.wc.cca.thumb

A disingenuous, late-to-the-game faction that arose from a small sect that protested logo-art in the 80s and found friends in the ivory-towered elite of America’s college campuses, into a media movement coinciding with the year Nike® assumed NFL uniform duties.

Donald Sterling

A TMZ dissemination of a recording of a senile 80-year old’s racially insensitive rant is used by the new NBA czar to bounce the batty billionaire and may now have A. Silver in line for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last part’s a stretch but Adam’s definitely got PR boogie, even as his roughshod ride showed complete disregard for the social right to privacy, which, ironically, is sacrosanct in liberal circles (See; Roe v Wade).

Adam played his hand well, so it must’ve seemed fine time to pitch the greed grab that is gambling & sport, a marriage made in hell. Sterling’s ouster gave Silver the cachet “to boldly go where no (principled Commissioner) has gone before,” the sport-betting biz.

The man with the Mona Lisa smile is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the 2016 presidential candidate who has sporting sense and spine to shout down such dangerous co-mingle of interests that Hi-Yo Silver proposes, could set the tone for a likely rancorous campaign.

Roger Goodell

..........Goodell.thumbnail.flag

Then there was the lynch-mob that sought (seeks) the job of NFL Commissioner Goodell who honored a Prosecutor’s plea-deal and a victim’s wish (Palmer) in giving Ray Rice his initial 2-game suspension. Roger’s not outta the woods yet as we wait on Mr. Mueller.

Mike Sam

Sam’s pre-Draft promotion in announcing his sexual orientation last spring brought out the media buskers in full force, even as his notoriety-giving pronouncement clearly conflicted with his claim to have only a singular interest in “football player” anonymity.

Dish Network v. TCM (TimeWarner)

Not a sport story but one that may shed light on just how pervasive PC can be.

Money’s always at the root of corporate conflict but the one between Dish Network and TimeWarner may have less to do with coinage than it does with political sensibilities.

In late October, one of TW’s top networks in Turner Classic Movies was bumped from Dish’s programming slate, along with other TW channels including CNN, in what Dish claims in an unreasonable negotiation made by the multinational media conglomerate.

The fat-cats are greedy but they’re not dumb. They know how far they can / can’t push that money envelope in contract negotiations before it falls off the table.

More likely this supposed stand-off is about format and politics.

The leaders at Dish or even TimeWarner itself who may not be negotiating in good faith, might be objecting to TCM’s catalog of films that can send PC rage-meters red-lining.

The network of classics does not edit their film stock (silent-70s), even scenes with black-face, nudity, harsh dialogue, unflattering Indian portrayals, animal brutality or misogynistic male leads, choosing instead to respect creativity, mature message and mores of the time.

In short, Turner Classic Movies is an entertainment entity that respects history and art, not exactly favored subjects of today’s politically correct bully, one of two contemporary versions of book burners (See also: anti-evolutionists, etc.).

..........Derriere.2003.wc.cca.Greudin.thumb

Excepting the Dish – TW battle, all the above topics were short on material value but were nonetheless taken up by the Democrats and their cooperative sport media allies in a singular effort to sway the LDAs (least discerning audience), 18-26 voter block.

And it worked, as social media comment threads were flooded with feigned PC outrage for every topic that hit the fan. Trouble was, LDAs didn’t vote.

It’s a tawdry tactic the Democratic party has whole-heartedly embraced. It paints a picture of a once progressive assemblage that’s fast losing touch with the standard of fairness, its long-time loyalists and those swing voters who on occasion joined its ranks.

Sport news won’t get out the vote and it won’t guide the hand of those who happen to make it into the booth. And given the nonchalant attitude most politicos exude when sport, its leadership or accoutrements (logos, etc.) are topic, it’s safe to write that they, along with most elitists and religious devotees, don’t hold the sporting class in very high regard.

But “tumultuous merriment” has been around a long time and will remain a microcosm of our nation’s mores and beliefs.

Until that person appears on the political scene who can, with charisma, brains & courage, steer Democrats back onto inclusiveness, the blue bloods would be wise to poll & heed their majority or can expect to keep playing the party pooper in too many future elections.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credits: NH-vote, M.Buckawicki, 11.5.13, wc.cca; C.Cassius.Longinus, 63BC, CNG, wc.cca; Redskins, wc.cca; Goodell, USMA, 8.30.12, SSG-T.Wade; M.Sam, wc.cca. 11.30.13, M.Qwertyus; Derriere, wc.cca, 2003, Greudin.
Posted: 11-19-14 @ 1:45pm; edit @ 6:44 EST

Chin Music’14: Batty for Balls & Strikes

28 Oct

Forest for the Trees

In an age of monopoly where one brand or theme will hog the shelf, baseball too has its fair share of conforming, domineering trends.

On the diamond, it’s been performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), drag-pants, walk-off bunny-hop hysteria, maple bats (& their attendant shards), sugar-water baths, shave-cream pie-in-the-face and hair, lots & lots o’ hair.

Cue the Cowsills, please:

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for the fleas
A hive for the buzzin’ bees
A nest for birds
There ain’t no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my…
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair…,
I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied (“Hair (‘69)”)!”

In the marketing & media biz it’s the billion-dollar fantasy fad, its kissing cousin in the promotion department, sabermetrics, and the ever-present ranking that stock the shelf.

On TV, the new wave in producer-think has given viewers such innovations in coverage as graphic sound-effects (“Bam! Wham! Sock! Zap! Ka-pow!) and the always scintillating in-game dugout interview (Zzzzz). “Holy perfect pitch, Batman!”

And when it comes to the talking heads, the bias is downright batty.

.............bat.english.1875.wc.cca.PSM.thumb

Color-commentators and in-studio analysts will whittle a whole 9-inning contest down to one topic: balls & strikes. Aaron Boone and Orel Hershiser must talk about it in their sleep. ‘Uh, what, what’s that honey, a slider low & outside is his money pitch? Oy vey!’

Typifying of the trend was the Baseball Tonight segment on Sportscenter (ESPN) following Giants G2 win over host Royals (7-2).

Karl Ravech presided over a panel of experts that included Kurt Schilling, Barry Larkin & John Kruk, all of whom spent 10 minutes talking of nothing else but pitch selection, as if it were the ‘be all and end all’ of baseball. It ain’t.

But the batty breakdowns are just one more de-humanizing trend that mistakenly proclaims sport to be entirely quantifiable with numbers, category or ranking.

Unless there’s fantasy tie-in, saber-think considers it boring, trite and unprofitable.

Sport technicians couldn’t have gotten away with this 50, hell, 10 years ago. The adults would not’ve stood for it. They’d have demanded more, in substance and humanity.

With the NFL cruising along, poised to knock Jesus off his long-held perch atop the Sunday ranking (AM game), its biggest rival in the sporting biz in baseball has hard enough time getting and keeping viewers glued to the tube and is ill-advised to bore the begeebers out of fans in a simple kow-tow to some intangible trend in quantus.

“More feeling,” producers.

Joe Maddon Sweepstakes

It came as no shock, but the timing was a bit surprising, when noted Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to opt-out of his contract w/Tampa Bay on Friday, a team he’d guided for 9 seasons, including a pennant-winner in ‘08.

The reason? Take your pick:

1) Money, or lack of it, from an ownership (Sternberg) who was unwilling to pay for either players or proven leadership (Mgr), but now wants to move that to Montreal;

2) A dispassionate fan-base who got more worked-up over Jeter than their own Rays;

3) Craves a bigger market w/bigger spotlight and more plentiful opportunities.

Rays’ President Matt Silverman: “We’re turning the page (ESPN 10-24).” Guess so.

Marc Topkin of TBT (ESPN 10-24) believes Gabe Kapler, a former Rays player, is on a short-list, and that the Rays may consult with players on their choice. The players? Huh. Asking the students who they want for a teacher. A club going nowhere fast.

............Maddon.4.1414.wc.cca.K.Allisonthumb

Maddon’s agent Alan Nero has stated Joe is “prepared to take a year off,” unless “the situation is right (“Joe” / TSD (Pioneer Press) / 10-25 / M.Birch). Ballsy.

Joe’s a popular guy, outside the Boston and New York areas. But even there, that disdain is accompanied by an overall respect for the man’s managerial talents, just as long as he’s not in the opposite dugout from their beloved Bombers & Beaneaters.

If he does sit for a spell, the opportunities will grow.

Dodgers

Only a man who’d managed a Yankees’ dynasty (Torre) might see LAD as anything less than baseball heaven. Donny “Baseball” is set in blue, at least for 2015, so says GBM. If Dodgers don’t look playoff primed post Home Run Derby & Family Fun Extravaganza (all star week), the non-negotiation negotiations may start in earnest with JM.

Cubs

Some folks idea of a good laugh, but Cubbies have won more games (10,551) than any other ball-club, excepting the Giants (10,780), and fielded what’s arguably the greatest team in history (1906 – 10). So there‘s that.

Beyond their glory and status as America’s most beloved sports team, owner Ricketts and GM Epstein are set to spend serious specie on the man who can do for Northsiders what Moses did for the Israelites. BoSox rebirth was grand, but this’d be a national celebration.

Current Cubs’ skipper Rick Renteria receives good marks for his performance since signing a 3-year deal in 2013. Maddon might like the challenge, and the payoff.

Mets

As it stands today, Terry Collins will be managing the final year of his contract in 2015 with the Mets holding an option for 2016. Anywhere Maddon would land will be a challenge to build a winner, but New York is New York.

Small market clubs

Not a likely destination for one of Maddon’s reputation and asking price (reported to be $5M), but don’t rule ’em out as Joe might just favor being ‘big fish in a small pond,’ and the tempered expectations that wade in the water. If the money’s right, small may win.

California Dreamin’

Though Royals are regal opponents, Giants are “one small step (win)” away from certain baseball dynasty, but “one giant leap” from ever becoming California’s favorite club.

.............Hollywood.8.3.07.Sorn.wc.cca.thumb

As the Cowboys will always be America‘s Team, so too the Dodgers will forever hold a special place in hearts of most Californians. Title droughts won’t change the sentiments, not as long as these two franchises remain true to their missions to field competitive ball clubs and honor their storied pasts in uniform & logo. Nike don’t know style.

The Giants do have one, outside chance to win over hearts & minds of Californians.

If San Francisco can string together multiple, championship campaigns, relatively close in time, and the Dodgers continue to come up short, they might win over the Golden State.

............GoldenGate.wc.cca.1.1.07.R.Niewiroski.thumb

Their Oakland rivals across the bay were on the verge (Swingin’ As (‘72 – 74) & Brothers Bash (‘88 – 90)), but couldn’t keep the good times rolling, not with the financial frugality of Moneyball running the operation.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Batman – Girl, 8.24.67, ABC, wc.cca; english bats, 1875, wc.cca, PSM; J.Maddon, wc.cca, 4.14.14, K.Allison; Hollywood, 8.3.07, Sorn, wc.cca; GoldenGate, wc.cca, R.Niewiroski, 1.1.07
Posted: 10-28-14 @ 2:16pm EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W8: Green Bay Gouda

23 Oct

Semi-Hard

Chocolate, it’s good stuff. Some of it’s even good for you (70% cocoa).

Bread is the staff of life, if it’s whole grain (See; gluten-sensitivity).

Beer is a gift from the gods, if appreciable (21+) & enjoyed in moderation.

And then there is cheese, a true staple, world-wide.

............cheese.zamorano.Spain.wc.cca.07.thumb

You’ve got your soft cheeses, like ricotta, brie, camembert and limburger.

There are the firm varieties in colby, provolone, mozzarella, Swiss and my personal favorite, sharp cheddar. Mmmmm.

The hard palate-pleasers (graters) including parmesan, gouda (semi) and Romano.

And then there’s the Big Cheese, Midwest variety: the Green Bay Packers.

There was a time when, defensively speaking, hard was the only variety of Packer one would encounter on the tundra, frozen or otherwise.

...........Packers.logo.1959.wc.cca.thumb

Names like Dillon, Nitschke, Tunnell, Forester, Jordan, Davis, Adderley, Robinson & Wood struck fear into the hearts of lesser, and some very up-to-the-challenge opponents, the fearless Jim Brown and Joe Kapp not among ‘em.

But the cheese line turned muenster in the 70s & 80s, w/notable exceptions in hit-men like Hendricks, Carr, Harris, Anderson, Douglass, Gray, Buchanon and Ezra Johnson.

On arrival of Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren (‘91), the Packerland Awakening began and continues today. It’s been marked by a West Coast offensive pass scheme that relies on a keen, highly-accurate, quick release QB. Enter Favre (’92) and then Rodgers (‘07). And when they‘ve gotten time (OL), and they usually have, it runs smooth as Cheese Whiz®.

Defensively, when Reggie White left Philly for greener Wisconsin pastures (93), he and LeRoy Butler gave gBay a stature it hadn’t had since the 60s. When both were gone, so too was the balance that had made the Packers back-to-back NFC champions (‘97-98).

Today, that balanced formula is a concoction too often left in the lab.

............McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.07.TJ.Grant.thumb

Oh, the Pack’s been plenty good since the Wolf era, winning lots o’ games, NFCN titles and SB45 (31-25 PIT) under stewardship of Thompson – McCarthy. There have been gamers (Burnett & Hawk) and the glory-stat guys (Matthews / Woodson), but too often, in the big game, the hard-bodies have looked more like Swiss cheese than the ‘grater gang’ of old.

That may be changing in 2014.

While green & yellow resorted to trickery for a 27-24 win in Miami by way of the spike-that-never-was, no such chicanery was needed last Sunday as the they jumped on visiting Carolina quickly and relentlessly, putting 21 first quarter points on the board enroute to a 38-17 de-clawing of their opponents, holding the visiting Cats to just 3-pts through 3Q.

Coming into week 8, Packers defense ranks at #19 in ypg (362), just below the resilient Arizona Cardinals (357), but crack the top-ten in Pts/G (21), tied w/ Dallas at #9.

Their next foe: the Saints, GB’s first mettle game of 2014. Week 1 is week 1 (SEA).

............Capers.8.5.11.G.Cervantes.thumb

Set to take the Dome Sunday night versus snake-bit Saints, keeping prolific passer Brees from working the scoreboard will be a major challenge for upward trending Pack who are a bit over-sold this week w/wins vs NYJ, CHI, CAR, MIN and chicaneried MIA. Saints are ticked-off (2-4) and do favor that home-cooking on the big bayou. Should be good.

Be wary, cheese crew, as “Doug Heffernan” once quipped: “I don’t know why they call this place the Big Easy, it’s hard, very hard (“No Orleans”)!” Romano hard.

A World of Headache

Former Seahawks now Jets receiver Percy Harvin has been hot topic since the Seattle brain-trust suddenly, to public eyes, anyway, decided to part ways last week with the talented but rumored cantankerous, fleet-footed football star.

Back in his Minnesota days (’09-12) when rumors of personality conflict surfaced, Harvin was plagued by migraine headaches, keeping him out-of-action with some frequency, including their memorable run at the Super Bowl (‘09-10) when Favre still had ankles.

...........Harvin.wc.cca.10.6.14.K.Allison.thumb

Curious that in their first game post-Percy, the normally stout Seattle crew atypically fell behind big (3-21) to the 1-4 host Rams w/green QB Davis at controls who’d normally be feeling the wrath of a historically strong Seahawks’ D. The word ‘tank’ began to filter its way into the brain, until Hawks made it respectable late (L 26-28). Now word of locker-room grumbling that QB Wilson isn’t “black enough,” for some. Percy pay-back?

Not much is known about the causes of such malady, but stress is a known contributor. Broncos great running back Terrell Davis has talked publicly about his suffering similar headaches, a pain that reportedly abated upon his exit from the stress & rigors of NFL.

Neither a medical doctor nor privy to all the facts in Percy’s case, it wouldn’t be careless to presume an attitude adjustment or a personal inventory, if you prefer, is in order for PH after ugly separations from his prior clubs. If not for his career, then for piece of mind.

“Air Coryell” Remembered

.............Cardinals.wood.wc.cca.66.thumb

The year was 1976. Carter came out of Georgia to edge incumbent Ford in the November Presidential, the Big Red Machine was cruising, Gifford, Meredith & Cosell made MNF a national habit w/half-time highlights & witty banter and disco dominated the charts.

It also marked the last time the Cardinals started an NFL season with an impressive 5-1 record, a tally matched by their present-day descendents heading into week 8 (PHI).

The late, great head coach Don Coryell (1924-10) was mastermind behind the St. Louis revival of the mid-70s when the League’s charter member (w/Bears) made back-to-back playoff appearances (‘74-75) with a signature offensive scheme that came to be known as “Air Coryell,” a reinvigoration of Sid Gillman’s (SD) air-it-out invention.

Big names like Jim Hart (QB), all-purpose Terry Metcalf (PR/RB), Jim Otis (FB), Mel Gray (WR), J.V. Cain (TE), Ike Harris (WR), Roger Wehrli (CB) and Dan Dierdorf (OT) were known to most fans around the nation who knew the Redbirds would come to play.

After bowing out in Divisional round in both ’74 and ’75, Coryell’s bunch posted a spiffy 10-4 record but missed the post-season in ‘76 and would not return until, briefly, in ‘82.

The brass ring eluded their grasp but those 70s Cardinals rarely failed to excite.

The Real McCoy?

On Monday, Redskins rookie head coach Jay Gruden shelved the Kirk Cousins project and opted for 3rd-stringer and former Longhorn Colt McCoy as his starting QB after Mr. .45 played admirably (11-12, TD (Garcon 70y)) in 2nd-half duty in leading Skins to a win over Titans last Sunday, 19-17. Presently, the McCoy project is contingent on return of Rob Griffin who is still rehabbing from a serious ankle injury a month back.

Virtù isn’t exactly trending today, but given Washington’s bleak outlook for the rest of 2014, some serious patience with Cousins might’ve produced good results in the long run. Let’s hope Colt, unlike his predecessor, is less willing to step aside when Sir Runs-a-Lot. Good luck with the carousel, Jay.

Canton-bound Sticky Glove

I’ve not paid much mind to Peyton Manning’s on-field wardrobe of late (jacket & tie post game presser is impressive), but w/his surpassment of Favre’s career TD total (509 & counting) last weekend, the photo folk had a field day w/ the future HOF’er and noticed he had on the now standard year round shill gear for rough & tough footballers, a sticky-glove. Cute.

.............Manning.wc.cca.8.26.12.J.Beall.thumb

Johnny Unitas and Sammy Baugh are spinning.

I’ve just one question for Mr. Manning: Do you wear the glove when you eat pizza, too? Hot hot hot!

Not Ready to Bite

The Lions are enjoying a 5-2 start and are one of a handful of media darlings this week 8 (GB, DAL, IND, DEN). This writer isn’t ready to bite.

A come-from-behind, 1-point win, at home against an up & down (mostly down) Saints club, doesn’t yet qualify this Detroit team as down-the-road contenders, not with their long history of flame-out to overcome (See; 1960 – 2013).

Play a blinder versus Falcons (2-5) in London town this Sunday, a talented bunch just as ticked as are their arch-rival to the West (NO), then master November’s slate (MIA, AZ, NE & CHI (3-1)) and best the Packers at Lambeau (W17), and I’ll start consuming.

Book of Matthew (McConaughey)

It’s just… I love the emblem (Washington Redskins). I dig it. It gives me a little fire and some oomph. But now that it’s in the court of public opinion, it’s going to change. I wish it wouldn’t, but it will.” (“Matthew“ / SI.com (E/M) / 10-21 / Maloy).”

...........McConaughey.7.17.12.wc.cca.MAD.thumb

Such a back-handed, defeatist endorsement of the beleaguered motif is hard to figure. Dis-information? Hmmm, doubtful, but who can say in these times.

Don’t raise that white flag just yet, Mr. McConaughey (“change”), “Rome wuddn’t (lost) in a day (B.Hopkins),” it took five centuries. Plenty of time to gauge “public opinion.”

As for the “court” you reference, if lady justice is truly blind in her balancing-act (“public opinion“), pro-Redskins should remain a winner. But if she lifts that veil and winks at the PCB bunch, I fear too, a sad result, something like the OJ and Pistorius “court(s).”

Popularity and justice need not be mutually exclusive outcomes.

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Cherry Picks Week 8: Mettle Match-ups

Chargers (5-2) @ Broncos (5-1): 10-23 CBS 8:30 EST: Bolts win
Lions (5-2) @ Falcons (LON) (2-5): 10-26 Fox 9:35am: Birds win
*Nice start time State-side. For Mom, “maybe no.” “Over there?.”
Ravens (5-2) @ Cincinnati (3-3-1): CBS 1:00: Bengals win
Seahawks (3-3) @ Carolina (3-2-1): Fox 1:00: Seattle wins
Bears (3-4) @ New England (5-2): Fox 1:00: Bears win
Eagles (5-1) @ Arizona (5-1): Fox 4:10 (GOTW): Cardinals win
Colts (5-2) @ Pittsburgh (4-3): CBS 4:30: Steelers win
Packers (5-2) @ New Orleans (2-4): NBC 8:35: Saints win

Record: 38 – 20 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: hard gouda, J.Sullivan, 6.15.06, wc.cca; cheese, zamorano, Spain, 4.07, wc.cca; Packers wordmark, wc.cca, 1959; M.McCarthy, wc.cca, 8.11.07, TJ.Grant; D.Capers, 8.5.11, wc.cca, G.Cervantes; P.Harvin, 10.6.14, K.Allison, wc.cca; St.Louis Cardinal wood print, wc.cca, 1966; P.Manning, 8.26.12, wc.cca, J.Beall; M.McConaughey, 7.17.12, wc.cca, MAD; cherries, Hispalois, Spain, 7.2.12, wc.cca
Posted: 10-23-14 @ 6:32pm; edits 10:52 & 10-24 @ 1:37am EST

NFL14 Cherry Picks W7: Ohio Express?

17 Oct

“Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Only “Gomer Pyle, USMC” could’ve said it best, capturing the spirit and yet conveying the cautious optimism and perplexity (that was Gomer) most NFL fans feel this week about the eye-opening Cleveland Browns.

The Brownies come off a somewhat surprising 31-10 thumping of their regional rival and 3-year slumping Pittsburgh Steelers, putting Cleveland at 3-2 in the AFC North division that remains very much in play as NFL14 approaches the midway.

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The Bengals are beginning to bumble, the resilient Ravens rising, the Hoyer-led Browns contending (or pretending) and the Steelers are still in that post-Super Bowl 45 funk.

In pre-season, had a soothsayer told me the Browns, who, like 50s arch-rival and equally surprising Detroit Lions (4-2), never made a Super Bowl in their long, sometimes glorious (40s – 60s), interrupted history, would be looking viable nearing mid-point, I’d have said she should find a new profession and wondered if “Johnny Red-flag” were giving the spark.

..........Haslam.Pettine.wc.cca.7.25.14.Drost.thmb

When first-year head coach Mike Pettine tabbed 6-year clip-board vet Brian Hoyer for starter’s role in the exhibition period, over 1st-Rd draftee and junior-media favorite, Jon Manziel, it was seen as the prudent choice but more a stop-gap measure to afford time for the sideline-smiling, playbook-fearing rookie to mature.

But Brian appears to have no intention of being demoted.

After 6 games, his numbers are strong: top C% (60.4), smart TD-ratio (7-1) and while he has no GWDs as yet, he’s displayed a pocket poise befitting a seasoned QB and a savvy disdain for rabbit (6-att / -2y). But then that stat requires some elaboration.

..........Hoyer.wc.cca.7.26.14.ED.Drost.thumb

Buoyed by a capable run-trio in West, Tate & Crowell (4.8 ypc), Hoyer’s been getting top shield, too (Sk-6). That wall suffered a crack on Sunday when All-Pro center Alex Mack went down with “broken left fibula” and is “likely lost for 2014 (“Cleveland” / Cabot / 10-13 / Cleveland.com),” as is rookie contributor Armonty Bryant (DE) with a torn ACL (“Browns” / Hanzus / 10-13 / nfl.com).

Cleveland’s sore spot is defense, ranked 29th (409 ypg). They’ve one of the best in Karlos Dansby (LB) but he’s gonna’ need more contribution to keep the fun going. The schedule is a mixed bag. Next three contests are winnables (JAX / OAK / TB), so they better feast, for after that it’s a pretty tough row to hoe.

...........Dansby.wc.cca.7.25.14.ED.Drost.thumb

This week’s darling (DAL/PHI) can turn persona non grata by Sunday night (NYG/CIN).

For now, Cleveland Browns are showing a moxie that’s “Yummy, yummy, yummy” for every tummy, tummy, tummy in the greater Forest City metropolitan. And if you didn’t know that line was coming, you just gotta’ get hip to the 60s (See: title).

“Shame, Shame, Shame”

Mobile America. That’s us in 2014.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Green Bay Packers could pack-up home-field advantage and bring it with ‘em to sunny Florida when facing the Miami Dolphins.

This is what 95 years of membership (not charter, mind you) and a dozen NFL titles will get you, though, some States do impose strict travel restrictions (See; Seattle ‘11).

Either that, or the zebras were blinded by the Sun’s glare in those waning moments of last Sunday’s Packers – Dolphins game when Aaron Rodgers drove his team for the game-winning TD to topple their hosts, 27-24.

In need of a 1st down, w/time running short and GB approaching Miami’s red-zone, the starry QB, upon center snap, began moving backward and, w/head staring straight down at the spheroid, appeared set to spike the ball, but instead, pulled the old slight of hand trick, except, in Rodgers’ case, it was his cabeza that did the slighting.

..........A.Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumb

Rather than spike it, the expectation of which is likely what cued (baited) the Dolphins’ defenders to freeze for that all important split second, the wily signal-caller pulled his head up, continued back and then threw pass for first down. Cute.

That frozen second is critical to give your guys a jump at the line of scrimmage.

And because eyes always start on the QB like a pitcher in baseball, you can bet your bottom dollar everyone was watching Mr. Signal-caller: the fans (at Sun Life), TV viewers, Dolphins defenders and the referees.

A quarterback and his center have a rapport, a trust in transfer (snap) of football to hands. They must. If a veteran like Rodgers has his gaze downward to the ball, he’s not worried about transfer, but rather, he’s sending a clear message to the world of an intent to spike.

Apart from deception and unfair advantage this trickery gives, the bait & switch move will weaken carefully crafted League rules designed to prevent QB bull-rushes.

Some were captured by the moment, the celebrity of the trickster (State Farm®) and termed it “magic (“Is This Real” / King / 10-13 / SI.com). Fiddlesticks.

It was about as “magic” as that dicey referee call back in 1989 that let Don Majkowski’s out of bounds TD throw stand, and help the green & yellow similarly snatch victory from certain jaws of defeat against Mike Ditka’s befuddled Chicago Bears.

Message to Aaron: “Don’t stop the motion if you get the notion” to pass, or “shame on you.” Shirley & Company (‘74), they knew the score.

American “Yutes” & Washington Redskins

As Dan Snyder took in the Skins-Cards game last Sunday in Phoenix, the NFL owner had some noteworthy guests seated along side: Navajo nation leader, Ben Shelly and his wife.

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Manufactured Redskins-debate aside, Shelly’s presence raised eye-brows because the soon-to-step-down Indian President had recently reached a settlement (“$8, 250”) in lieu of “fraud, conspiracy and theft charges (“Redskins” / SI.com / Mascaro & Kay / 10-12).”

The public display of friendship between the NFL enthusiasts sent sirens to scramble the politically correct bullies (PCBs) and their media minions into flight pattern, who, right on cue, dropped their anti-Redskins pay-load on their football targets.

...........Shelly.Sebaz86556.wc.cca.thumb

SI.com, in cooperation w/CBSSports.com (Can anyone say, concerted campaign?) saw fit to use the opportunity to dredge-up an April quote from a Jacqueline Keeler, aboriginal American descendent and creator of the entity known as EONM: Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry.

Keeler was “alarmed” that Shelly, in his capacity as Navajo President, had permitted Snyder and his OAF to participate in a tribal-sponsored, fund-raiser golf tournament:

“I think it is unfortunate the Navajo Nation administration of Ben Shelly is so out of step with the Navajo people, particularly, the young people, regarding this issue (“Redskins”).” Keeler tipped her hand.

This War of 2012 may‘ve been instigated by corporate (Nike®) and personal power-grabs (Halbritter Oneida), and supplied by celebrities (Obama, McCain, Costas, Pelosi) & media, but it’s being mercenaried in large part by America’s socially-driven youth.

What’s really “alarm(ing)” is the low regard in which Ms. Keeler, the “young people” to whom she refers and their 5-star general benefactors, hold the views of sport fans, commercial art and “particularly,” those of the elder generation.

The people whose biggest contribution to Mother Earth, so far, appears to be history’s most single-minded pursuit of consumerism, in gadgetry, gambling (fantasy), music, body additives (sugar, PEDs, THC, metal, tattoos) and soft shoes, are in poor position to be lecturing the nation on any definitions, least of which is the word racism, Don Sterling and his reported age-related dementia, notwithstanding.

“And a child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)?” I don’t think so, not on this one, anyway.

One request of Jacqueline: put the Redskins logo issue to a vote (or poll), of rank & file Indian tribal membership, ages 18+, coast-to-coast, and take it out of the hands of “tribal council(s)” & media tools, that is, if you believe in democracy.

“Nothing to fear but fear itself,” kiddo.

.......cherries.B.Kua.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 7: “And (we’ll) have fun, fun, fun…”

Panthers (3-2-1) @ GB (4-2): 10-19 Fox 1:00 EST: Pack wins
Dolphins (2-3) @ Chicago (3-3): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Bengals (3-1-1) @ Indianapolis (4-2): CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
Saints (2-3) @ Detroit (4-2): Fox 1:00: New Orleans wins
Chiefs (2-3) @ San Diego (5-1): CBS 4:10: Kansas City wins
Giants (3-3) @ Dallas (5-1): Fox 4:30 (GOTW): NYG wins
49ers (4-2) @ Denver (4-1): NBC 8:35 (GOTW2): Broncos win
Texans (3-3) @ Pittsburgh: 10-20 ESPN 8:35: Steelers win

Record: 33-17-1

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: Manziel & Hoyer, wc.cca, E.D.Drost, 7.25.14; Browns.logo, M.Epsilon, wc.cca, 9.3.12; Haslam & Pettine, 7.25.14, wc.cca, Drost; Hoyer, 7.2.14, Drost, wc.cca; Dansby, 7.25.14, wc.cca, Drost; Rodgers, M.Morbeck, 08, wc.cca; Snyder, 11.5.04, wc.cca, J.Wallace; Shelly, wc.cca, Sebaz86556
Posted: 10-17-14 @ 10:58am; edit 10-18 @ 1:06am EST