Tag Archives: Carolina Panthers

NFL17 Cherry Picks W14: MIN @ CAR, PHI @ LAR Marquee Week’s Heavy Mettle Jams

9 Dec

It’s the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings (10-2) versus Southern stalwart the Carolina Panthers (8-4) in the League’s marquee match-up for their Week 14 slate of games, one smothered high with like heavy mettle jams.

More than any other time in the NFL’s long season (September – February), the first week in December traditionally serves up games that will test the mettle of those teams who hold playoff aspirations and Super Bowl dreams. It’s a time that separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the truly wise and tenacious from the occasionally clever, so to speak.

In fact, the largesse creates a playoff field bursting at the seams (12), laden on pretenders diluting the pool, getting invites to the party but only passing glances from Sporting Gods who soon enough send ‘em packing for family trips.

What makes these merry match-ups so important is not just that a win will raise chances of getting a PS-ticket punched, but also for shaping future seeds and just simply toughen-up teams for the championship road that lay ahead.

Vikings @ Panthers

Vikes are a surprise. Starting QB Sam Bradford goes down early on a knee bang as former #1 Bridgewater was still in injury-rehab. Then blossoming rookie run-back Dalvin Cook exits on an ACL tear. With all that gloom opens the door of opportunity. The 6th-year man in Case Keenum, 9-15 with Houston, 8-2 presently (67.5% / 16-5) and sporting a bit of Favresque (you read it hear first), steps in to fill the breach, Murray & McKinnon carry the pigskin capably, local boy Adam Thielen (Minnesota State) is bucking for an All-Pro selection (bigger bucks preferred), defensive specialist Mike Zimmer has the stoppers ranked high (#2 / 2) and Aaron Rodger won’t be back until 2018.

Heavy Mettle Match-Ups

Saints @ Atlanta: Already in the books (ATL). A-Birds got a little D
Raiders @ Chiefs: AFC’s biggest rivalry and in a West up for grabs
Eagles @ LosAngeles: Rams rebound in AZ, Philly loses strong in WA
Hawks @ Jacksonville: Jags slipping as the Seahawks are solidifying
Ravens @ Pittsburgh: AFC’s #2, both clubs climbing to Super seeds

Composite Mettle Match-Ups

Lions @ Bucs: Detroit still has a shot, TB can surprise sometimes
Redskins @ LosAngeles: Chargers are hot but remember W10 (v Jax)
Titans @ Arizona: AZ’s up’d it of late so it’s a good Rd-test for Tenn
Pats @ Miami: Intra-rivals rock and the Fish wanta make statement

Cherry Picks Week 14

Dallas @ Giants: 12.10 CBS 1:00: NewYork
Detroit @ TampaBay: Fox 1:00: Buccaneers
Raiders @ Chiefs: CBS 1:00: KansasCity
Vikings @ Panthers: CBS 1:00: Carolina
Redskins @ LosAngeles: CBS 4:05: DC
Tennessee @ Cardinals: CBS 4:05: Arizona
Eagles @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:25: Philadelphia
Seattle @ Jacksonville: Fox 4:25: Seahawks
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh: NBC 8:30: Steelers
Patriots @ Dolphins: 12.11 Disney 8:30: Pats

Record: 52 – 40

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; C.Keenum, Vikings, wc.cca, 11.12.17, MD, K.Allison; HeavyMetalViking, Unleased, wc, 2.12.07, Vassil; cherries-ripe, B.Kua, 6.1.08, wc; J.Otto, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 12.8 @ 11:11pE; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W12: Frothy NFC Fast Filling Its Half of Super Bowl 6-Pack

25 Nov

NFL 2017: What a difference (less than) a year can make.

At the ¾ mark of this NFL season (Week 12), it is the NFC flexing its football fortitude, showcasing, as I count ‘em, nine (9) clubs that display a skill-set and team spirit theoretically capable of putting any one of ’em into Super Bowl 52.

The Junior Conference AFC (70), the group that looked loaded with good teams in 2016, are lucky if they can claim five (5) worthy of title-game consideration.

Post-Thanksgiving results, in the National (1920) it’s the Lions, Vikings, Eagles, Falcons, Rams, Saints, Cats, ‘Hawks & Falcons who rate contender status.

In the American it’s the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Jaguars and Tennessee.

But as any sports prognosticator worth his weight in Stove-Top® stuffing knows, contender status will often not amount to a hill o’ giblets (Mmmmm).

Here then is the Super Six-Pack preview, three top squads from each Conference plus one extra-brew that might change the whole buzz. Not all the best records but clubs that look to possess the wisdom and wherewithal to be more than mere contenders and nearly locks to play into the playoffs and then some.

Halas trophy hopefuls

New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings
Beer binge: Seattle Seahawks

Cats: Sit where they usually do on offense in key categories (#15 ygpg / 17), the oft-concussed defensive leader Kuechly is a concern, now and post-career.

A-Birds: Picked by many to repeat as Halas hoisters, they’re hanging tough but their forte in offense is fickle (#10 / 12). Defense? Seems like not since Claude Humphrey and Tommy Nobis roamed the turf (#10 / 13). Oy vey.

*Hawks: Kamster’s injury exit is a big blow (Sherman’s not so) but Pete Carroll, Russ Wilson and Bobby Wagner together make Seattle a possibility, always.

Lions: I’m not even gonna’ look at their offensive ranks because their defense screams ‘No Super Bowl (#23 / 14).’ Okay, I’m a curious sort (O: #16 / 5 pgpg). There’s a chance, a whiskers chance they get in and make a run.

Pack: Welcome to mediocrity. Rodgers will return, a little older, a little more brittle and maybe just one more hard tackle away from another long exit. Come NFL Draft 2018, Ted should start thinking defense for the first time in his GM tenure, i.e., find men who can tackle, not flex (See; the Hair).

Hunt trophy heavies

New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
Jacksonville Jaguars
Hidden bottle: Kansas City Chiefs

Patriots: The name says it all, as long as Brady and Belichick are all in. D had been grading a D- but now its doing its homework and making the honor-roll in all-important papg (point allowed per game): 20.3 (10).

*Pittsburgh: Defense is the strong suit (offense #11 / 13) while BigBen just keeps rolling and Tomlin keeps, like a cat, landing on his feet.

Jacksonville: Newcomers to contendership, post-Tom Coughlin era, it’s tempting to mistrust this team (B.Bortles: 58.4C%, 12t-7i). But they like to tackle (#1 / #1), understand scoring (#8 / 9 papg) and have a promising remainder with four-winables (softer opponents) and just two 50-50s (tougher foes).

KC: I like Andy and Alex but when the Chiefs should’ve been settling scores and making statements they reverted to inconsistency. What’s new, since Hank Stram? But in a weak AFC and a 4 & 2 remaining slate, I’d not be surprised.

Titans: O: #20 / 16, D: #14 / 24. Next.

Bolts: Nice turnaround but too little, too late and too bad for Phil who’s getting on in years (36). And that OT loss to Jax (W10) was a sin, or a sign (?), Mr. Lynn.

Ravens & Bengals: Both conundrum but Harbaugh’s job is safe (He’s always angry, that helps) but Marvin, the nice guy he is, won’t get one more in Cincy. He should finish the season, he’s earned that much (122-109).

NFL17 Cherry Picks Week 12: Slim Pick’ins

Buffalo @ Chiefs: 11.26 CBS 1:00: KansasCity
Carolina @ Jets: Fox 1:00: NewYorkJets
NewOrleans @ Rams: CBS 4:25: LosAngeles
Denver @ Raiders: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Texans @ Ravens: 11.27 Disney 8:30: Baltimore

Record: 43 – 32

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wc.cca, Wikiproject, 2011; Corona-Six-Pack, wc, NLangeDe, 10.28.06; K.Rudolph, ProBowl, wc, 1.27.13, M.Holzworth, USAF; B.Roethlisberger, 9.29.08, wc, Andy; Cherries, Hispalois, Careces-Spain, 7.2.12, wc; WillieWood, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 11.25.17 @ 3:05pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17: A Patriots Peer, It’s Back To Top-Tier or These Packers Turn Flat-Beer

28 Mar

Pretendership: It’s an NFL station most Green Bay Packers devotees have never knelt before in prayer for guidance and delivery. Anyone rooting for the Acme club yet having no recollection of the play that made John Brockington and Lynn Dickey house-hold names in the badger state is probably in that blessed group.

But that’s for later.

For now, just imagine rooting for an NFL team, one that not only wins most of its regular season games but will have on display any given year a future Cantonese or two roaming the turf, that for most of your conscious life has been an NFL contender. Imagine that. Easy enough for New England Patriots faithful but for the rest of fandom it’s a little hard to picture even in the mind’s eye.

Twenty-five years of pretty much football bliss in Northeastern Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, thanks in large part to two men (GMs), four if you count the coaches (Holmgren / McCarthy), six if you include the QBs (Favre / Rodgers).

Sure, there were some struggles, a few 8-8s seasons, even a couple losing campaigns, but there was always an easy scapegoat to find (Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman, Bill Schroeder) and soon enough the Good Ship Green & Yellow would find its contender course again and all was ship-shape.

The Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson Packers have never dominated the sport as did former Green Bay juggernauts under Vince Lombardi (60s) or founding father Curly Lambeau (20-40s) but playoff births have been nearly automatic since 1992 and the two Super Bowl victories (1997 & 2011) have given the period of prosperity a legitimacy that can only come with championships.

While the Patriots recent reign of championships is incomparable in this still newish century of play, it’s not hyperbole to write that it is actually the Packers, hang with me here, by way of a crafty continuity in success that’ve been the more impressive of NFL’s two most juggernautious franchises these past 25 years.

Sure, New England coaching genius Bill Belichick and his sure-to-be 1st ballot HOF quarterback extraordinaire in Tom Brady are likely the most terrific title tandem in the Super Bowl era (See also; Noll & Bradshaw, Landry & Staubach, Walsh & Montana), but the manners in which both Wolf and then Thompson engineered their respective coach – QB tandems-in-terrificness are the templates in ‘How To,’ 1) Acquire a diamond-in-the-rough bench-warmer (Brett (ATL)), and 2) draft a replacement (Aaron) for a living legend.

Just imagine, two consecutive GMs who respectively displayed an expertise in post-draft patience (Ron) and then prediction on player longevity (Ted), that player in Favre being, to Wisconsin sports fans, next to God, making it very risky business to draft any heir apparent in 2005 (Aaron).

Wolf’s persistence and then shrewd calculation in extracting Favre from Atlanta’s roster in trading a #1 pick (respectful enough to get their interest but not so generous to get ’em wondering) should be an example to every GM and fantasy fan, i.e., that post-draft follow-up can be of greater value than draft day doings.

And Thompson, in showing Brett the door by drafting the Berkeley Bear Rodgers in 2005, took one humongous gamble. To appreciate just how bold a move it was you have know just how popular was the man from Southern Miss.

Directly north up in Wisconsin, Favre was bigger than Lombardi had ever been, in part because every female sport fan in America’s Dairyland had become enamored with the dude. And that’s putting it mildly.

You think Tom Brady’s huge in 2017? He is, but Brett Favre was huger. Hell, Brett was bigger than the NFL. The Green Bay Renaissance that he and his team fashioned, back-to-back Super Bowls and plenty o’ playoff action, briefly put them in the America’s Team seat, after the Aikman Cowboys disbanded, a starry status that played no small role in facilitating formation of the still budding international game in the early 2000s (Mexico City (05), London (07)).

Consider that when “Onslow (Geoff Hughes)” dons Packers gear on the hit British TV comedy, Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95),” it’s not because of NFL rules changes or networks addition of female sideliners. It was Favre, plain & simple.

So if Rodgers doesn’t pan out when handed the offensive reins in 2008, Ted probably gets run out of paper-mill country on a rail, figuratively speaking, after hustling out the family dog first (See; Devine ‘74). But instead, the pan turned up gold and Ted will get a street named after himself, if he hasn’t already.

“Mississippi,” as Falcons Jerry Glanville referred to the rookie QB in smirk, had a couple good seasons left in the tank when he exited Lambeau: An injury-affected Jets campaign (10-6) and two seasons with arch-rival Minnesota, the first in 2009 which would be his best single statistical show and see the Vikes fall to the Bounty-gate Saints in the NFCC10-OT and finale when he dragged himself back for one more go before hanging up his Canton-bound cleats.

♫ Shades of Mediocrity ♫

Mercurial might aptly describe the 2016-17 Green Bay Packers.

Hovering around .500 to the midway, then going three (losses) in the hole, the Pack found some consistency the rest of the way (6 + 2PS) until getting stomped in the NFCC at Mercedes-Benz (Georgia) Dome (44-21 (24-0 H)).

The party isn’t over, not by a long shot, not while perennial MVP entry Aaron Rodgers has his legs underneath and maintains his pin-point passing precision. But some of the good-times have started to head for the exits and a few of those that remain are looking a bit green around the gills (gulp).

One of those always in attendance is the Green Bay defense. It’s a curiosity for even as they helped raise a Lombardi for head coach Mike McCarthy in 2011, it’s also a unit that’s looked wather wobbly since the Reggie White – George Koonce – Sean Jones – LeRoy Butler bunch broke-up.

Team ranks tell the tale. In 2016, the Green figured about where they usually do in the McCarthy era, 22nd in yards allowed per game (364), 21st in points (24+). In the NFCC17 those middling marks came home to roost as Atlanta feasted.

At the center of the defensive scheme has been The Hair, sack-minded linebacker Clay Matthews. Never a top tackler, perplexing for a middle-man, Clay’s numbers have been trending down since that Super season to the point where real value should be a real question for GB staff. He does make a fun soup commercial.

The run game, as party-goers go, hasn’t had much to say lately.

The weighty part of the ball-carry was spending most of its time at the buffet. But Lacy’s gone now and won’t find better eats in the greater Seattle metro, that is unless you really like salmon. And maybe that‘s the point. Bon appétit, Eddie.

Ty Montgomery (2y-SU) filled the void nicely in 2016, for a time, then faded late, 2010 draftee James Starks was not re-signed of , another 2d-yr. in big guy (6’1 255) Aaron Ripkowski (Sooner) will full-back just fine (4.4 – 2td), F/A pick-up Don Jackson (Nevada) had 10 carries last year while former Seahawk Christine Michaels was inked to a deal but has much to prove (9-GS from 2013 (4.3)).

Finding replacements, not mockery, is why the draft matters.

And then there’s Mike ‘What Have You Done For Us Lately’ McCarthy.

Coaching the Green Bay Packers, an early NFL entrant (1921) with accolades enough to fill a cruise liner (sink it along with its Captain in rough waters), is like riding a tiger: When times is good, everybody purrs, but when the champagne rarely flows, the big kitty pitches a fit and sometimes eats its own (gulp).

Mike’s got a monkey on his back clutching an NFCC runner-up trophy in symbol of GB’s disaster known as Cheese-Melt 2015. Packers 1st half lead frittered away and overtime nailed their coffin shut as the Seahawks returned to the Super.

Mike McCarthy has been suffering the “slings and arrows” of regional critics with no return trip to the Big Game. But the rather disappointing playoff runs, enabled by a rather terrific career regular mark (.651), is just part of a pattern he’s displayed since being hired to replace Mike Sherman in 2006. Some good years, a few pedestrian and patience, more patience.

There’s only one Bill Belichick, folks.

Mike’s big mistake was caving to pressure after the Melt to concede offensive play-call, a concession he…revoked (?) at last season’s midpoint. Trust then becomes an issue. But remember, MM turned Packers back into champions when all looked discombobulated, six (6) years after the guy who was prone to sideline temper tantrums left for the State of Washington.

It wasn’t easy filling Favre’s sizable shoes…wait…come to think of it, it actually was pretty easy for Thompson. But Brett was bigger than life and there’s only been one mobile pocket-passer the likes of Mr. Rodgers, a player who, as he will enter his thirteenth (13) NFL summer camp shortly, I’d give four (4) 1Rs in trade today if by some fluke he became free and I a GM in need.

Such a smooth succession in kingly QBs in Packerland in pass of the bejeweled scepter of signal-caller royalty, the Patriots (Belichick – Brady) have not yet displayed. Course, they haven’t had the need. When Tom retires, likely same time Bill hangs up his headset, we’ll see how they do it in Foxborough.

But the Pack are on the championship clock. They need to return to elite status in 2017 (12-4) or their royal carriage may turn pumpkin before anyone expects it.

Last season’s road to the Halas Trophy (NFCC) was not exactly strewn with pot-holes in serious contenders. It was more like the E-ZPass® highway.

The Atlanta Falcons were the real deal in 2016-17 yet may still feel the reel this upcoming campaign from their colossal collapse in SB51.

To write that the rest of the NFC was deficient would be an understatement.

Though much ballyhooed after a W1 loss to the Giants, the Cowboys much anticipated playoff turned Texas-sized soufflé in loss at home to Green Bay; G-Men and Lions proved pretenders, not because they lost in the PS which, by itself is no fraud, but in both getting shellacked; Seattle, never quite the same since losing SB49, gave one of those shellackings (DET) but then got one themselves (ATL); and while Tampa surged to respectability, Redskins never got rhythm, Vikes were extra-mercurial (6-0), Panthers licked their wounds all season (SB50 – L) and pre-season hopeful Arizona never got going.

Residence in the once vaunted North divsion, f/k/a Black & Blue, always boosts the Packers pre-season rank which sits just under Atlanta as NFC favorites, ahead of Seattle (Lacy ≠ Lynch), then Arian’s Cardinals sure to rebound, the Giants, Lions, Dallas who won’t surprise in 2017, D-Vikes, maturing Bucs and sometimes capable conundrums in Redskins, Eagles, Saints and Carolina.

Procuring a reliable run-game is not the challenge that is finding a top-flight, resilient pocket passer, but good ball-carriers don’t grow on trees, either.

Letting lunch-a-lot Lacy exit looks prudent now, but if McCarthy, Thompson and OC in former GB ball-carrier Edgar Bennett cannot in trade or late-April draft find that impactful runner(s) to spell Rodgers and give opposing DCs a ground-attack to diagram, and then the bodies to shore-up a defense that too often turns leaky in rough waters, Packers will continue to get bounced too early from playoffs, Mike will get pink-slipped with no contribution to anyone’s awareness and this era of exuberance will creep to a close, great QB, notwithstanding.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: A.Rodgers-M.McCarthy, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12; Packers-print, wc, 1959; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.08; Minnesota-Vikings-GreenBay-Packers, P.Loadholt-C.Matthews, wc, 11.14.11, M.Morbeck; M.McCarthy, TJ.Grant, wc, 8.11.07; NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao
Posted: 3.28.17 @ 11:39am EST, edit 11:01; 3.31; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W4: Presidents, Field Generals & Super Chiefs

28 Sep

One down, two to go. Phew!

With the first presidential debate of Election 2016 now in the books* and media spin-cycle on full-tilt, this NFL fan got to thinking about the prestigious prize Dollar Don and Capital Hill are both eyeing, the Commander-in-Chief job (adjustable hat included), and then what it takes once you’ve been voted the reins of leadership to make it a memorable tenure.

This phase in the Oval Office Chase is a little like the playoffs in sport: The TV camera test for the candidates is a whole ‘nother season, with both contenders starting over at 0-0.

On a gaffe (Ford, “No Soviet domination of E.Europe,” Carter using Amy as a “nuclear arms” standard (76), Dukakis playing opossum in failing to dress-down question-poser Bernard Shaw (CNN) for needlessly making Mike’s wife Kitty part of a crass death penalty hypo (“raped and murdered“) (‘88) and Papa Bush checking his watch (‘92)), a lead in the polls can evaporate faster than a fat NFL lead at the half (Swing Time), just as the candidate who tosses a tight, talking spiral for TD can make-up a poll deficit quicker than Tom Brady finds pay-dirt.

ford-851k-wc-grfl-1933-umFootball forensics aside, an NFL quarterback won’t bear near, nor near beer, the burdens of our Chief Executive, to be sure. He is, however, often referred to as a field general, empowered to muster his offensive troops in a Ulysses S. Grant-like forward-thrusting campaign to gain territory and vanquish an opponent. That’s the plan, anyway.

On the other hand, it’s also fair to say that while Presidents can sadly suffer the greatest of physical harm (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, JFK (JV squad Harvard), Reagan wounded), rarely, if ever, must they bear the weight of a 200+ lbs, muscled-out, charging defender landing on his person as does Joe Quarterback.

In truth, QBs and CICs are pretty much worlds apart in the duties department. They do, however, have one thing in common: As Big Kahunas, both get the credit in victory, nearly all the blame in a loss.

So with that as backdrop, it’s a champion time to honor all those who bear lonely burden of leadership, in whatever endeavor, but here in particular, today’s top NFL field generals teamed with our nation’s finest Presidents over these past 240, both who’ve supped the champagne yet most certainly “suffer(ed) the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (Hamlet (de Vere)).”

Note: No QBRs have been referenced (I can read a stat-line) and no greenhorns considered (R -> 2y). As in politics, top candidates must be vetted and the highs & lows assessed with a dispassionate eye in order to gain a substantive read.

America’s Best Signal-Callers

brady-8-28-9-k-allison-wc-cca-2m-dc1) Tom Brady: New England Patriots, pocket-passer;

FDR: The only Commander-in-Chief besides the Cherry-chopper who could’ve been king (4x), his economic vision (New Deal) prescribed emergency medicine in seriously Depressed times, taking federal policy beyond simply feeding the greed, then he and his wife Eleanor undertook to save the world (WW2);

2) Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers, mobile-PP;

Lincoln: Made the union whole, more human and gave his life in the process;

3) Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers, mobile-PP

Washington: Iconic leader who led world’s first revolt against Imperium slavery since Spartacus (d.71 BC), gave the new office stature and nation a good start;

4) Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints, pocket-passer

Jackson: Old Hickory was the first non-elitist President who fought Indians, British invaders, banker thugs and brought the people and democracy to DC;

wilson-edithbolling-galt-wc-11m-6-1920-harrisewing-loc5) Eli Manning: New York Giants, pocket-passer

Wilson: Professor President (1856 – 24) with steely resolve to make America a world leader in war (WW1) and peace (LoN), whose 2nd wife Edith (Ellen) co-ruled after his stroke (1919) making her unofficially the first female U.S. President (1872 – 61);

6) Joe Flacco: Baltimore Ravens, pocket-passer

JFK: He saved planet Earth (CMC (’62)) and then lost his life in the risky battle against entrenched power;

7) Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks, mobile-manager

Cleveland: Should’ve been first 3-term Prez, designing the template for modern-era “government of the people, by the people, for the people;”

8) Phil Rivers: San Diego Chargers, pocket-passer

Jefferson: Crafty Purchase (Lou.) doubled nation’s size decades after he drafted America’s Declaration of Independence (‘76) and our first public college (UV);

lbj-fdr-allred-5-12-37-wc-259k-nara9) Alex Smith: Kansas City Chiefs, manager-PP

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

10) Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons, pocket-passer

Polk: Pragmatic, fiscally sound and productive, James was Mr. Manifest Destiny, adding thirteen (13) States in whole or part to America’s family of stars. Worn to the bone, he died 3 months post-term;

11) Andy Dalton: Cincinnati Bengals, pocket-passer

Truman: Plain-talking, former farmer, WWI major, haberdasher and pianist (Bacall) proved critics & premature press-men (Chicago Tribune, etc.) wrong with a strong, spirited & common sense administration;

12) Tony Romo: Dallas Cowboys, pocket-passer

Teddy: “Big Stick” policy boosts US clout, trust-bust sent checks monopoly-greed and initiates our national parks system. Celebrity turned progressive;

teddy-wc-loc-thmRounding Out Top 15

13) Cam Newton: Carolina, run-QB / James Madison;
14) Carson Palmer: Arizona, PP / Andrew Johnson;
15) Andrew Luck: Colts, mobile-PP / William McKinley

 

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7Cherry Picks Week 4: “Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Miami (1-2) @ Cincy (1-2): 9.29 NFLN 8:25: Bengals win
Seattle (2-1) @ NY Jets (1-2): 10.2 Fox 1:00: ‘Hawks win
Bills (1-2) @ New England (3-0): CBS 1:00: Patriots win
Carolina Panthers (1-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (2-1) (GTW): Panthers win
Oakland Raiders (2-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-0) (GTW): Ravens win
Denver Broncos (3-0) @ Tampa Bay Bucs (1-2): CBS 4:05: Buccaneers win
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) @ Arizona Cards (1-2) (GTW): Fox 4:25: AZ wins
New Orleans Saints (0-3) @ San Diego Chargers (1-2): Fox 4:25: Saints win
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) @ Pittsburgh (2-1) (GTW): NBC 8:30: Steelers win
NYG (2-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-0) (GTW): 10.3 ESPN 8:30: Giants win

Record: 14 – 17

* No clear winner from Monday night’s dialectic (WU in STL), though, there was little debate in the contest directly South in the Big Easy (ATL 45-32). But as Ms. Clinton, pre-debate poll leader, former White House decorator (1992-00) and of a much lengthier political résumé than her veritable newcomer opponent in Mr. Trump, her failure to deliver a haymaker of sorts might give the Don the win on points. But there are more rounds to go and whomever claims victory in this first foray had better not rest on their laurels and come out swinging-with-style in the next. Like NFL16, it’s still anyone’s fight to win or lose, i.e., wide open.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: G.Cleveland, wc.cca, 1903, Library-of-Congress, F.Gutekunst; G.Ford, wc, GRFL, 1933, UM; T.Brady, wc, 8.28.9, K.Allison, DC; W.Wilson, Edith-Bolling-Galt-Wilson, wc, Harris&Ewing, 6.1920; Edith-Bolling-Galt-Wilson, First-Lady, 1915-21, wc, LoC; FDR-Allred-LBJ, wc, 5.12.37, NARA; T. Roosevelt, wc, LoC; cherries-ripe, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 9.27.16 @ 9:22pm, edit @ 11:38 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Jam: Denver’s Inside Man & Peyton’s Plan

11 Feb

Michel Mode

..........Michel.TheDeposition(JA).wc.1553.Sailko.thmMichelangelo (1475-1564), the great Italian sculptor of the Renaissance, understood the art of masterpiece. He’s credited with saying something along this line: There exists inside every block of granite a form of which it is the task of the artist to find, give life.

Likewise, inside every football team is a champion’s medallion, a little Vince Lombardi trophy of which it’s the job of every coach, player and GM to help find, form and then ultimately showcase in pomp & pageantry for generations come.

The 2015-16 Denver Broncos found their little Vince.

Sculpted Sorrow

.....Newton.2011.wc.thm.Pantherfan11Team success requires not only coordination, a synthesis of skills but a subjugation of the brimming selfishness that fills the vessel of the star athlete (or Cufflink) and can turn a roundtable of knights into a sniveling pack of paupers or, after an especially hard defeat, “sore loser(s) (See; C. Newton, 2.9.16, BoA-Stdm).”

That line between “sore” and insolent is a fine one but as bright as the gleen that streams off the Vince Lombardi silver.

“Sore loser” may make it’s way onto t-shirts, hats and into rap lyrics but it ain’t never gonna’ be “cool,” Cam.

All in the Family

And like the sculptor’s quest in quarry, the gridiron version of chop n’ block does not happen overnight. It can be a long, arduous journey, sometimes an Odyssey, fit with demons and demi-gods all along the way.

........Bowlen.wc.9.26.10.J.Beall.thmDenver’s discovery process began in 2011 when owner Pat Bowlen, acting a modern day de’ Medici, hired former Carolina coach John Fox and VLT – QB John Elway for front office duty. Four consecutive playoffs followed, including the Tebowmania win in 2012 (v PIT) and Super Bowl runner-up at MetLife (SEA) with the emotionally indomitable Manning (‘12) under center.

Out goes Fox, in comes Gary Kubiak who, before a brief stopover in BAL (OC ‘14), had guided the Texans (‘06-12) to their first 9-7 and playoffs (2012-13), as well as having served as John Elway‘s back-up in pads (‘83-91). Gary brought with him his offensive coordinator (DEN) and QB-coach (BAL) in Rick Dennison, then signed former frequent head coach (NO(i), DEN, BUF, ATL(i), DAL, HOU(i)) and his DC in Houston (‘11-13), Wade Phillips (‘15).

The nucleus of granite (players) was already set in stone. Now, all the artisans had to do was finish the form with a whittle here, a hammer there, and, le voilà, there it was, the pièce de résistance: 2015-16 Denver Broncos.

........Ware.8.7.14.wc.J.Beall.thmWhile finding that matriculatory QB is critical to the sculptor‘s success, a top D is clearly key in this age of Sir-Runs-Alot and aging pocket passers.

But like many great works and ideas before them, public appreciation is not always immediate (See; Copernicus, Columbus, Van Gogh, Bill Belichick, Marshawn Lynch (’07-15); Jim Plunkett ‘71-86), etc.).

Adversity Trail

Typically, any memorable creation is fashioned in a journey that was visited by some sort of adversity. And these Denver Broncos had their share.

.......Harpie.wc.JJ.Zeiller.Bavaria.W.Sauber.thm.1748The harpies (See; Clash of the Titans (‘81)) made their first appearance in SB48 when the Mustangs took a drubbing at the hands (talons) of Seahawks (43-8). Nothing’s so painful as having something within your grasp to only see it slip away.

But Denver stayed the course and returned to the PS in 2014-15 (IND (L)). As this season got off to a fine start (7-2), Manning went down midway but capable back-up in Brock Osweiler, bolstered by stout lines on the O and D sides both, kept the ship steady until Peyton’s return where Broncos proceeded to run the playoff gauntlet of AFC favorites (PIT / NE) and punched their ticket for a return visit to the Super Bowl, this one in Santa Clara.

Odd Bowl

Forget sabrmetrics. Look no further than simple team stats in SB50 comparison and you soon discover this may‘ve been the strangest of all NFL title tussles.

......Broncos.IF@MH.6.27.11.Jkinsocal.tm1) Though they lost 24-10, the Panthers had nearly double (21) Denver’s 1st-down total (11) while both clubs were a combined 4 for 29 in 3/4th down efficiency. Ugh.

2) Panthers out-paced Denver in nearly every offensive category (plays, avg.per, total yards, rush, pass, TOP), but also key red-flag tallies in fumbles-lost (3 to 1) and penalties (12 to 6); and

3) Glory stats (INTs / sacks) get the ga-ga (CAR: 5; DEN: 7). But it’s tackles that set the tone and close the deal. There the Denver bested the Cats, 48-38, while their place-kicker Brad McManus was perfect for the PS: 10-10 (3-3).

Manning Over Mind?

Denver had the answer for the Carolina question in SB50. Now, the League and it’s followers have two more questions for the Broncos’ Peyton Manning: The fans, Denver brass, friends & family all want to know if he’ll lace ’em up to play another season, while the NFL wants to know all the facts behind the Al-Jazeera / HGH story that ran last January.

.....Manning.thm.9.14.14.J.Beall.wc.ccaThe first query is a two-parter: On Pey-Dirt’s pondered pathway, 1) Should he return for 2016-17, and 2) will he decide to get “♫ back in the saddle ♫?”

The first one’s the toughie.

His domestic side says, ’Go out on top as you did what Mr. Favre made valiant effort to accomplish (MIN) but couldn’t do (SB Ws w/2 clubs), give My bones a break (breather), get My golf clubs primed, line up My endorsements, spend more time with My and wife Ashley’s two kids and help My legal team by boning-up on issues & facts relevant to the claimed ‘Indiana Connection (HGH)’ NFL is investigating.

The answer awaited on the League’s Manning et al inquiry is “The ($50 million) Question.” It’s a game-show in which the powers-that-be want no part. The last two NFL titlists QBs (Brady) have had legal clouds hanging over their heads and it’s no way to close a Super season.

Manning undoubtedly has his sources in the League office. What they tell him on the tenor of the investigation must be minimal at this early stage. If he returns for another season in Denver, and the Broncs should be his only desire, the notion that NFL would go easy on an active, reigning champ is a poor one indeed. Whether playing or retired, neither state will have any bearing whatsoever on the thinking of Roger Goodell, as it shouldn’t.

......Osweiler.8.4.12.wc.J.Beall.thmBut being in uniform may, emotionally, be a better place to be if the news is bad. If it’s good, Peyton is clearly still vested with the spirit to play or he’d not be pondering it now. His throwing arm, well, that’s another story. From the looks of it his wily wing is pining for the La-Z-Boy® and remote control.

Broncos, they want their titlist QB back for a celebratory year, even if that means he’s on the sideline giving Brock pointers and back-up as needed. His ego can stand it. The contract, not an issue. Bowlen & Co., Manning, they’re all on cloud 9 and will work the deal to all’s satisfaction.

Will Peyton return for one more year? Little man inside says, ‘yes.’

Qurious Quote

“I’m too young to retire.” Sentiment of former New York Giants and currently contemplating NFL return…coach, Tom Coughlin (Fox News / 2.8.16).

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: P.Manning, wc.cca, 11.12.15, D.Overstreet, CO-NG; Michelangelo, Italy, The-Deposition-(JA), 1553, Sailko, wc; C.Newton, 2011, Pantherfan11, wc; P.Bowlen, wc, 9.26.10, J.Beall; D.Ware, wc, J.Beall, 9.26.14; Harpies, JJ.Zeiller, wc, 1748, W.Sauber, Bavaria; IF@MHS, Denver, wc, Jkinsocal, 6.27.11; Manning, wc, 9.14.14, Beall; B.Osweiler, wc, 8.4.12, Beall; NFL-sign, wikiproject.
Posted: 2.11.16 @ 11:53am, edit 11:20pm; pic-fix 5.13 @ 10:51pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 – SB50: Cam Cues Days of Dart & Dash

4 Feb

Modern Maximus at 50

Old Rome had it’s Circus Maximus where chariots raced, gladiators got jugular, arts performed, gods were honored and general revelry ensued for the masses.

........Newton.wc.C.Brice.9.11.11.thmWe have our “great Circus” in 2016. We call it the Super Bowl. Next in line, #50 (’67).

And for the first time since the merger, the Romans, numerals, that is, got the heave-ho. About time, we say, Mr. Goodell, no offense, Julius, Caesar, that is.

Our version of the High Hootenanny is a bit tamer than the Empire’s public shindig, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ancients were more adept than are we today in the art of restroom deployment. Very ‘public’ but very present (See; Rick Steve’s Europe (Rome)). Terrific engineers, were those “world shakin’” Italians.

.......CircusMaximus.wc.04.Xeospeed.thmHigh-light of Super Bowl week is, of course, the NFL championship game held Sunday night in Santa Clara, Ca-li-for-ni-a (CBS 6:30 EST), pitting the slightly surprising AFC champ Denver Broncos against NFC titlists, the Panthers of Carolina.

Both are, as Gen. Allenby would’ve said, “riding the whirlwind (J.Hawkins).”

Though Gary Kubiak head coaches his first Super, like his counterpart in Carolina’s Ron Rivera, about half the Broncos remain from the squad that took a shellacking in SB48 at hands of Seattle (43-8). The Cats make only their 2d showing, first since they came up short in SB38 versus the Patriots, 32-29.

Team records are out the window before a championship. And it’s defense that defines both clubs in this one. It is on that side of the ball, as it was with Seattle, upon which their offenses feed for emotional fire.

Cats are led by perennial All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Kurt Coleman (LB T. Davis plays with screws in his arm and DE K. Short a bunged knee), while Denver features ILBs Dan Trevathan and Brandon Marshall with outsider Von Miller specializing in the sack (11).

.......Trevathan.9.9.12.J.Beall.wc.thm,JPGUsually overlooked in pre-game analysis, even as one of the oldest, key aspects of the football contest, the kicking games, compare well. Punters Britton Colquitt (DEN) and Brad Nortman (CAR) rate equal as do the place-kickers, though, edge to Denver (B. McManus) in the PS (7-7 (Gano 2-2) and 50+ (5-7 (2-2) v 2-4 (0)).

But as always in this quarterback league, the signal-callers are the focal points of Super Bowl spotlight and scribery.

And excepting their Southeaster Conference heritage (TN – AU), the two guys at the offensive controls could not be more different.

Some dissimilarities are obvious, in age and race.

This season, like the past five, Cam has been near epitome of physical wherewithal, playing in 78 of 80 RS games for the Cats while Peyton has struggled to stay suited with various maladies, missing all of 2011 (neck) and about 1/3 of 2015. Though, fair to point out he had made every start in 2012-14.

......Newton.wc.7.12.11.thm.sportiqeLess noticeable to the casualite is their difference in style: Peyton’s proto-typical pocket passer who relies on his not-what-it-used-to-be arm, savvy and run sufficiency. That necessarily includes a stout O-line, backs that can block, his own ability to read D with proficiency and handy men who can hang on.

Cam is flash. Forgoing education time in the pocket classroom, Newton bolts quickly when the pressure comes and first-look receivers are covered, carrying more of the load but also living on the wild-side by inviting downfield hits and making his tendency to rabbit a red-flag to defenders and their strategists.

Ironically, if Cam & Co. hoist the VLT Sunday it’ll mark the beginning of the end of the pocket-passer’s NFL dominance, given how coach-free run-QB proliferates in college, just as one of the greatest passers all-time in Manning is pondering his final curtain call on a storied career in what may be his swan song game.

Rumor (“report”) says SB50 will be Manning’s last game (NFLN). Someone has even planted the LA Rams seed as a possible new home in 2016 for the Broncos starting QB. Story slots need filling for Super week and the latter one was fun.

.....Manning.thm.9.14.14.J.Beall.wc.ccaThe reasons why Peyton would retire post-SB50 are multitude. But if Manning-the-Elder-Son plays well in a win or even a close loss there’s reason to believe he’d return for one more go at it in 2016-17, health permitting and Broncos’ (another club) braintrust concurring, making this “report” appear more speculatory even as Ian Rapoport generally hits his marks.

Unlike Favre in finale (2010-11), Manning still seems vested with desire to compete. His next game (“one week at a time”) will have everything to do with how long he maintains that desire, making it unlikely he’d have a “plan” in place, let alone reveal it to anyone outside immediate family. Someone made a mis-read

But even if Sir Runs-Alot does not hoist it Sunday, the day of run-QB’s dominance is just a hop, skip & jump away. Pocket passer will rule the roost for this and into the next decade but “the bell tolls” for the glory days of the dynamic & diverse NFL offense.

Age of the new millennial QB is here and Newton is it‘s John Hancock.

♫ Rock Your Baby ♫

It’s been presaged since he hoisted the heavy hardware at Auburn in 2010: The BCS title trophy, Tigers’ 2d national (’57), and the still-coveted-in-some-circles (Disney (ESPN)) huge Heisman doorstop.

Now Cam Newton preps to play on the biggest stage in American sport, the Super Bowl, hoping to hoist the heaviest in accolade in the vaunted VLT (Vince Lombardi trophy). And the 2015 MVP? That race looks like Newton will take the tape since Brady & Palmer stumbled late and the top NFL defender almost always crosses the finish-line unnoticed or with little fanfare (See; N.Bowman).

.....Newton.2011.wc.thm.Pantherfan11The man from Atlanta was made for the spotlight: Ear-to-ear smile, 6’5 frame, multi-faceted skill-set and a showmanship that exhibits on cue. Cam’s “bursting with country fresh flavor (Seinfeld),” gosh darnit!

It’s been quite an NFL ride for Carolina’s 3-time All-Pro signal-caller, if you like roller-coasters. Beats the Zipper or that spider thing.

Rookie year (‘11) seemed to bode well for big things to come.

The Panters went 6-10, Camster-the-Hamster scampered for a frosh record 14 TDs and passed for 4000+. Not too shabby for a rookie. But with every step forward there was another step back. The C%’s and TD-ratios fluctuated as did W-L records: Good (12-4 (‘13)), not so good (5-8-1 (‘14)).

But when expectations are high those up & down swings won’t, as they used to say in the Napoleonic Wars, cut the mustard. Sacré bleu!

Now comes NFL 2015-16.

Just when many fans were losing patience, beginning to waver, having serious doubts about his game and whether he could channel physical talents into sustainable team success, Cam plays a turn-the-corner type season.

.....Rivera.6.10.11.R.Paraglide.wc.thmDoes that mean Cam’s come of age? Depends on the venue.

In the home setting, he and his love were just recently blessed with a bouncing baby boy (“Chosen”). Key to the first year of rearing: Parents “buying (each other’s) chairs (Phenomenon ‘96).” Stack ’em on the porch if need be. It’s worth it.

On gridiron he’s finally looking pro-efficient, comfortable.

Generaling the Panthers’ offense to a 17-1 record and cusp of greatness can qualify as professional maturity. The fact that 2015 was the worst year in this memory for quality of competition amongst the NFL ranks should detract little from that assessment.

Those who gripe about his fly routine on TD are working OT to find fault. He’s a hot-dog (70s), there’s no doubt there. Superman never boasted. But success, i.e., taking the VLT, will automatically fit one with suit of maturity to market pizzas and pop, commercially convenient as that may be (See; Lynch & Gronkowski).

Kurious Kindred Spirits

Ironically, it was 30 years ago last week Cam’s kindred spirit was also drinking in the limelight and would lead his offense to victory in SB20 (1.26.86).

....McMahon.93.wc.Diz28.thbThe man who invented the helmet head-butt, battled Commish Pete Rozelle over headband displays and teammate of Cam coach Ron River, Bears’ QB Jim McMahon, was constituting the offensive and emotional catalyst for Chicago’s magical run in 1985-86, culminating with their resounding win over the Patriots (46-10) in the Louisiana Superdome.

The sporting gods were busy in the Windy City in 1985, a season of “gods and monsters (“Dr. Pretorius”)”), endowing liberally (Dent, Marshall, Singletary, Payton, Frazier, etc.). But it was McMahon who set the run in motion that MNF in Minnesota when he came off the bench to engineer a killer-quarter with three quick TD strikes.

Numbers never lie? Fiddlesticks. They can tell tall tales. Jim’s 1985 totals were almost Igor-ish in comparison to most but his leadership and moxie were immeasurable. After that game the Monsters of Midway never looked back and finished the regular like Carolina at 15-1, a trip to Miami in W13 the lone blemish when Fuller started and the noise-meter red-lined to no avail.

...Bears.AIoC.wc.2.19.07.thm.SenorCodoThe Bears big season didn’t forge a “new world” of dynasty for Halas Hall but it did set a standard for singular season prowess by which all modern NFL champions are measured.

As for the New England Patriots, the Super Bowl stage is the Great Exaggerator: Winners who ride a wave, the defeated who can often be living Murphy‘s Law. The Patriots got a taste of title (AFCC) and wanted more (See: the Bills of Foxborough).

Cam Newton hopes in possessing that same McMahon cocky-charisma, his teammates can feed off it to fuel the fire to victory.

One issue to note for both QBs: If adversity hits (DDD: down double-digits), can Cam and Peyton keep cool and turn air-of-superiority into resilient resurgence? Broncos have had a wealth of adversity in this campaign, Carolina’s mostly cruised. How one handles adversity may be the truest test of a champion.

Flash Cam

Newton still struggles a bit with the celebrity, bristling at criticism, not unlike another kindred spirit in Sir Isaac Newton. England’s Mr. Motion was said to run from counter-takes like the plague. Nobody likes flak. But unless perfect or all powerful it’s a life reality. Some know it better than others and adapt as need.

...FlashCam.Kodak.6.15.15.J.Haupt.thmIn a Super Bowl press conference last week Cam had this to say: “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare alot of people because they…they haven’t seen nothin’ that they can compare me to (1.27.16).”

Showing his race card may’ve over-played the hand.

Last time a run-QB was on the Super stage he got handed his lunch (Kaep). Then the lights went out and SF feasted (SB47). Maybe Newton’s the one feeling the jitters. When he tables the race topic and keeps on football he can make a fair point. Many fans do disfavor the flash form that Cam displays. Don’t count the “yutes (My Cousin Vinny ‘92)” among them. Kids have no interest whatsoever in cartoon-football (Pro Bowl Rice v Irvin) but they just adore muscle-bound run-QB (See also; the Home Run Derby).

Why the pass on run-QB? Because Sir Runs-Alot is a ball-hog, taking touches from receivers and ball-carriers both, making them less relevant and the game less diverse, though, Panthers’ faithful aren’t complaining. In college, where run-QB has come to dominate, they’re nearly unstoppable (See; Saban).

...Kapp.wc.EllensburgDaily.73k.12.26.69.thmIt’s a style throwback to the single-wing tailback (40s), a “wide open” type of quarterbacking, “not contained (NFL Films).” Vikings’ Joe Kapp may’ve been the last true SWTB, Cunningham and Young reviving the form slightly, though, showing top talent for pass. Russ Wilson’s style stirred the debate but is cut more from the Staubach cloth: Mobility as necessity (1st-downs).

Will Cam’s style come to dominate the pros?

That’s been the debate since “nothin’” Mike Vick exploded onto the scene in ’02. Kaep, another “nothin’” in Cam’s view, gave flash a boost but got red-zone blues in crunch. And therein lay one of it’s fatal flaws: Exiting the (pocket) classroom early to avoid hits but forgoing the education in D-read comprehension that rounds out the “skill set.” ‘No pain, no gain’ should begin in the juniors.

....cherries.cloth.picdrome.6.2011.thmGiven the law of supply n’ demand (See; NCAA), if Carolina can cash-in for Santa Clara gold the debate may be over. Either outcome, run-QB is here to stay.

As T.E. Lawrence might‘ve said, “this is going to be fun.”

 

Super 50 Cherry Pick: Denver Broncos

Record: 104 – 101

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: C.Newton, 9.28.14, wc.cca, K.Allison; Newton, wc.cca, C.Brice, 9.11.11; CircusMaximus, wc, Rome, 8.14.06, G.O’Beirne; CircusMaximus, wc.cca, Rome, 2004, Xeospeed; D.Trevathan, wc.cca, 9.9.12, J.Beall; Newton, wc.cca, 1.26.14, HI, M.Bragg, USArmy; Newton, wc, 7.12.11, sportiqe; P.Manning, 9.14.14, wc.cca, J.Beall; Newton, 2011, wc.cca, Pantherfan11; R.Rivera, wc.cca, Paraglide, 6.10.11; McMahon, Diz28, wc, 1993; Bears, AIoChicago, SenorCodo, wc, 2.19.07; FlashCam, Kodak, 6.15.15, 1950s, J.Haupt, wc; J.Kapp, BC.Lions, VancouverPL, wc, 1960; J.Kapp, EllensburgDaily, wc, 12.26.69; cherries-cloth, picdrome, 2001, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 2.4.16 @ 2:19pm, edit 4:34 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 – SB50: Peyton’s Progress

28 Jan

♫ Don’t stop believin’ ♫

For the true football fan, the sort who stays clear of the sabrheaded soothsayer, it’s always the toughest part of predicting game results: separating who you think will win from the who you want to win. For most, that’s easy enough.

But as you get to the nitty-gritty of the NFL spectacle, the playoffs, a greater challenge presents. That’s when the want will bull-rush your brain “like a crazed dog” to take hold of your will and smack it to the ground. It’s a battle, for sure.

.......Pilgrim.Hat.8.16.10.B.Wesley.wc.cca.thmMy own mind-line held off the pressure to cast aside good sense for favorites. You must. Had to throw a few chop-blocks but then my minds-eye is a “wide open” game.

That doesn’t mean I’ve run the table but 7 of 9 (78%) for the post-season ain’t too shabby. It’s a welcome improvement over a middling regular season showing that had hovered around the .500 line-of-despair.

One of my ‘wrong number’ calls was Cards v. Cats.

Some of us figured Newton & Company would cave and failed to give sufficient value to Arizona’s recent troubles. In particular, the thumping Cardinals took at the hands of rival Seattle to close the regular. Injuries take a toll and a top D will force foul-ups (Palmer: 5 TOs).

My other coin-flip came up Broncos.

.....CA.49er.1850.tm.wc.LC.McClureGolden Super Bowl 50, fittingly fixated in California’s gold-rush country, Levi’s field in Santa Clara (2.7.16 / 6:30 CBS), is shaping-up to be another in that emerging line of clash-in-QB-style, i.e., pro pocket-passer versus collegiate flash (run-QB), aka, single-wing tailback (40s).

Same dichotomy as SB47. Defense then showcased like-talents in Lewis (BAL) vs Willis & Bowman (SF). But on offense the clash featured cool as a cucumber Joe Flacco (BAL) and Colin “Kaep Krusader” Kaepernick (SF). Ravens came out on top in a game whose nail-bitter finish (34-31) belied it’s lop-sided nature, up until the lights oddly went out after the lop began siding too much into the 2d half.

It’s a quarterback polarity that figures to become more & more common with run-QB having become the norm on the college scene.

Camster-the-Hamster rushed for over 600 and scampered for 10 pay-dirts (4.8 ypc / 3837p, 35t-10i) in the 2015 campaign that saw Carolina compile a 15-1 mark (See; Chicago ‘85), while his wily opposite in Manning threw wounded-ducks in Joe Kapp fashion to lead Broncs to a 7-2 mark, exited with injury, saw his back-up Osweiler help keep the ship afloat before the vet re-took the reins.

......Newton.9.28.14.wc.K.Allison.thmThe difference in flash form this time around is that Cam, in year five, has more miles on his meter than did Kaep who’d subbed for injured Smith in 2012 and had but ten starts under his belt when he took to the Superdome in SB47.

Now the table’s set for SB50.

But there’s an unexpected guest who seated itself at the Super setting, again (See; Deflategate 2015). And no one, ‘cept naysayers, is smiling.

NFL announced Wednesday that they’ll be looking into report by Al Jazeera (HP) earlier this month contending Manning and other players (Clay Matthews, etc.) procured HGH by way of an Indiana connection in 2011.

I welcome sincere efforts by NFL/PA that works to spot and sanction those who violated the rules and integrity of the NFL presently or in the relevant past.

........Manning.wc.8.26.12.J.Beall.thmAnd I suspect the powers-that-be who initiated this investigation did so after perusing the story’s details and formed a belief that there is valid cause to look further, that the dark cloud hanging over Manning’s and NFL/PA’s heads was already stationary atop and that this announcement might help dissipate the formation. Fine.

And I don’t expect the League to look the other way simply because the story relates to dated events and involves one of the faces of the NFL in Peyton. Their hand was forced, it would seem.

But an announcement that does not include…no, highlight a concomitant, joint effort (player’s union) to put into place for 2016-17, blood-draws of every player in-season (randomness be damned) at optimum testing time to close window of opportunity that remains ajar, makes this effort ring somewhat hollow.

With that as the backdrop, “Mr. Valiant,” Gary Kubiak and Denver’s wagon train of football prowess moves forward with the righteous determination of a pilgrim’s purpose, progressing each day closer to proving they’re the chosen ones to raise the VLT in victory to the sporting gods.

....Pilgrim.exile.MA.1930s.wc.BPL.Smith&Tichnor.thmThe numbers on Peyton Manning since he return to action in week 17 aren’t all that pretty.

His comp-% is fair-to-middling and in 2+ games has thrown two TDs. Peyton’s become a manager-QB, banking heavily on his wherewithal and teammates’ talent more than ever, biding time to shake the rust in what may be his sunset ride. He has a Joe Kapp quality now, guts galore, but with an arm that’s re-written the NFL record book and taken him and his teams to the highest of peaks. Some good signs: No picks and 3 wins.

The Carolina Panthers will be favored in SB50.

They’ve played like a class above. But keep in mind, while the pre-season NFC was seen as the Conference keenest on competition that’s not how it played out.

Expected to be contender laden, most finished around .500. Giants, Dallas, Eagles, Rams, Chicago, New Orleans, Lions, Atlanta all proved pretenders, and those that produced seemed a year off (MIN / DC) while the top dogs all found thorns in their paws along the way. Ouch!

...AFC.Hunt.trophy.2.2.13, A.Kirk,thumbChancellor’s holdout started things wrong for the defending champs who lost key cogs Lynch and super-sub Rawls to injury exits; Packers turned erratic after receiver extraordinaire Jordy Nelson went down; and my tab for NFC topper, AZ, started stout, had a nice win streak but got thumped in W17 (SEA), at home, then too caught the winter injury bug. Not QB Palmer this year but 2/3rds of their run-game and then their Mister defensive do-it-all in safety Tyrann Mathieu.

AFC on the other hand proved more competitive with risers in Houston, KC, the Jets, Pitt, even Oakland and Buffalo making late-season moves. Had Dalton returned for the PS we might be seeing a purrrr-fect Super in Santa Clara.

All this meaning Denver may be more tested, mother approved than their glossy NFC opponent. Since close loses to OAK (14) and Pittsburgh (15), both sans Pey-Dirt, the Broncos have been gutting out wins.

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbOne could interpret that as sign Denver’s just hanging on, ready to topple. But quality of competition is key. Mustangs topped the defending champs, a bit injury-bugged themselves, but still the champs, and a Steelers squad many in media had pegged as the team most likely to rise & surprise. In contrast, Cats clawed a couple of NFC enigmas (SEA / AZ) on their way to the big Circus.

But with a D that’ll go toe-to-toe with Carolina’s formidable force, a run game that motors and O-line that protected no matter who was under center, insert a savvy field general who’s now got a motivating bur-of-investigation under his well worn saddle (See: Pats & Deflategate Feb 2015), and those PVC-producing wins of late might just be signs from above, i.e., a team of destiny, manifestly.

Next week: SB50: Newton’s Laws of Motion and ♫ Rock Your Baby ♫

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: P.Manning, 9.14.14, J.Beall, wc.cca; pilgrim.hat, 8.16.10, B.Wesley, wc; CA-49er, wc, LC.McClure, 1850; C.Newton, 9.28.14, K.Allison, wc; P.Manning, 8.26.12, J.Beall, wc; pilgrim‘s.exile, MA, Smith&Tichnor, BPL, wc, 1930s; AFC.Hunt.trophy, 2.2.13, A.Kirk, wc.cca; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 1.28.16 @ 5:08p EST; Copyright © 2016