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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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NFL16 Cherry Picks W17: MVP Field Is Fat But Houseman Meter Says Brady Ain’t In It

27 Dec

Even as New England Patriots starry signal-caller Tom Brady, on a brilliant but semi-season (12g), may win the MVP on the anti-Goodell vote, a group not dissimilar to that which decided Election 2016, Brady nevertheless must be ineligible, opening the door to the widest field of candidates in years, winner who won’t be clear until the regular season is in the books. With Falcons’ Matt Ryan frontrunner entering final Week 17, its match-ups bearing on this rank, player and to a smaller degree team performance will decide the winner, making the baker’s dozen below as tight a pack as a Friday afternoon subway.

Top contenders for NFL 2016 MVP:

1. Matt Ryan
2. David Johnson
3. Landon Collins
4. Dak Prescott
5. Ezekiel Elliott
6. Alec Ogletree
9. Kwon Alexander
10. Le’Veon Bell
11. Aaron Rodgers
12. Bobby Wagner
13. Justin Tucker

— — —

The football MVP might just be an award more valuable than a championship ring, at least Cam Newton and Rich Gannon hope so.

The biggest personal prize in professional football this side of the 49th parallel is about momentum, early on (W5 >), on-going (consistency) and uninterrupted.

ryan-m-10-19-14-k-allison-702kWith one more game remaining for all 32 in NFL 2016, one more chance for players with MVP aspirations to prove their worth in the eyes of the Associated Press, the obscure but finely calibrated John Houseman MVP Meter is presently pointing to Matt Ryan as the most valuable and deserving player for the coveted prize.

Be aware, this meter gauges the player who most deserves to win the MVP, not the man who ultimately receives the most AP votes and then the hardware.

Wondering, as you should, what is the Houseman MVP Meter?

John Houseman (1902-88) was a noted producer of theater (Federal / Mercury) and then films who later in life became an actor of note in supporting roles in such movies as The Paper Chase (73 (Oscar®)), Three Days of the Condor and the classic sporting flick, the original Rollerball (75). But he may be best remembered for his Smith Barney TV ads uttering in his distinctive high-hat voice, “They earn money the old-fashioned way, they eaaaaaarn it.” Get it?

— — —

The time of announcing the MVP winner should change.

In recent years, the NFL – NFLPA decided it’d be cute to announce MVP winner at a ceremony the nite just prior to playing the Big Game (SB), someone I expect who has no real knowledge of athletics or interest therein. For if they did, they’d know that receiving word of having won what is admittedly a terrific recognition, is about the LAST thing a player, his coaches & teammates, want (or need) to hear < 24 hours before suiting-up for the biggest game of their lives.

Think Cam Newton needed to know he was voted League’s top player in 2015 the nite before kickoff? I doubt it (See; SB50).

— — —

Who Won’t Win

ogletree-wc-8-15-13-johnmaxmena2-119kDefenders

The AP – MVP awarding is, of course, a flawed process, not unlike the Heisman awarding for the supposed best player in a collegiate season. One defender has taken the college equivalent to MVP in its 83 years in Michigan’s Charles Woodson (DB / 97), two NFL defenders winning MVP in Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Alan Page, as member of the vaunted Vikings’ Purple People Eaters (71) and Giants’ game-change linebacker in Lawrence Taylor (86).

As in most years, a defender will not win the MVP. Not because Landon Collins, Alec Ogletree & Kwon Alexander don’t deserve it, quite the contrary. When the fat field of contenders is assessed with a football savvy mind, tacklers rank high. And with no clear-cut offensive frontrunner this season, a defender should rate high. But AP voters, like most sport observers, think they understand offense best and can’t get enough (sticky-gloves), on field or off (MVP).

Receivers

2016 Toppers like Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, they’ve gotta’ have well over 1500 yards gained in reception, along with 20+ TDs just to be considered. No qualifiers this year.

INT quarterbacks

Big Ben, Luck, Brees (71.C%), Jameis & Eli have too many INTs, i.e., mistakes. Hit the high-40s in TD passes and double-digit INTs won’t weigh so heavy, a huge toss total none of the above mentioned have approached in 2016. In fairness to field generals, until NFL starts judging INTs with an eye for accuracy, detracting deflected-pass INTs from QB tallies, we can’t know for certain exactly how many true interceptions signal-callers actually threw in a season.

Who May Win

Running backs

The last to haul in the AP was…AP, Adrian Peterson in 2012. If he’s the standard, your team need not win their division (NFCN – GB), you need not score a ton (13 TD) nor forge top receiving stats (40 – 217). But pass that 2000 rush barrier (2097) and get good mojo going with media (and blogisphere (moi)) around mid-season and you’ve got a serious shot at the MVP sans a blazing QB.

1. David Johnson (Cardinals): 1233y – 16.TD (run) // 77 – 841y – 4 (rec)
2. Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys): 1631 – 15 // 32 – 363 – 1 (ROY)
3. Le’Veon Bell (Steelers): 1268 – 7 // 75 – 616 – 1

brady-11-29-15-wc-j-beall-2-45mQuarterbacks

Firstly, Tom Brady does NOT qualify for the 2016 MVP. Derek Carr doesn‘t either, going out in W16 with injury, but he’s closer than Tom.

Tom’s terrific but missed one-quarter of the season due to his Deflategate suspension. That’s weighty. Knowingly choose to destroy a phone in an inquiry and you’ll suffer consequences that celebrity won’t deflect.

And if you think the late start somehow worked a burden which TB’s fine play overcame and then now deserves some reward, you can throw that cockamamie theory in the trash with all that Xmas wrapping.

I like Brady. He’s a champion, looks un-enhanced by weight room residency or PEDs and when he speaks, people listen because he thinks about what he says. You won’t hear words like “poopfest” coming from Tom, not publicly, anyway. And it’s that thinking that’s made him maybe the greatest pro QB ever.

But the 2-time winner does…not…qualify. Period.

When Brady receives votes for the award, and he will, those casting will likely have done so, not because they really believe Tom to be 2016’s most valuable man, but instead as pay-back of sorts to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who ultimatley approved the QB’s Deflategate suspension. But one who thinks it better to show-up Goodell for meting out discipline than to vote with sincerity should not have that vote to cast in the first place. Period.

No Tom in the pool, no problem. It’s a QB league and there are plenty of MVP-caliber quarterbacks in 2016 to fill the bill without working pay-back (See; top).

The QB standard

1) TD-ratio
2) W-L (QB League)
3) Completion %
4) yards-per-pass (ypp), and
5) GWD (CC: clutch & composure)

As nearly every starting quarterback today will, with relative ease, surpass the 3000 yard passing mark, that category’s of lesser importance in MVP think.

Unlike the 1960s – 80s where completion percentages (%), even with great QBs like Bart Starr and Roger Staubach, were often in the mid-50s, in the 2000s the MVP-caliber quarterback should be well over the 60.C% mark.

1. Matt Ryan; 34-7, C% 69.5, 10-5, 9.3, 2gwd
2. Dak Prescott: 23-4, 68, 13-2, 8.0, 5gwd
3. Aaron Rodgers: 36-7, 65.5, 9-6, 7.2, 2.gwd
4. Derek Carr: 28-6, 63.7, 12-3, 7.0, 7gwd
5. Matt Stafford: 22-9, 66.1, 9-6, 7.2, 8 (4Q) gwd

Who Will Win?

Not the reigning MVP. Cats’ Cam Newton, for whatever reason (Super pout or strains of fatherhood?), has probably performed more poorly in defense of the prize than any prior (QB) winner since Brian Sipe in 1980, and, like Camster, proceeded to end his season too with a disastrous post-season game versus Tom Flores Raiders when Sipe went 13-40 with 3 INTs in the loss (Plunkett: 14-30, 2 INT). 2016 Newton: 6-6, 54.C%, 17-9, 7.1 (ypp); Sipe: 5-11, 55.C%, 17-25, 6.8.

It’s a tight race so this final slate of game is crucial for all the candidates.

Rivalry match-ups are in store, most of which could decide the outcome and then be fairly termed as ‘the MVP game.’

New Orleans @ Atlanta (Ryan)
Green Bay (Rodgers) @ Detroit (Stafford)
Dallas (Prescott & Elliott) @ Philadelphia
Arizona (Johnson) @ Los Angeles
Giants (Collins) @ Redskins

Of course, New England @ Miami, a GTW no doubt, is not listed.

Tom Brady would be eligible for the Super MVP if Patriots make it that far. But while Brady is ineligible for the regular MVP, fairness & logic are not always in play for voters, as Tom knows full well. If he performs in Miami, expect the junior-media element in the AP (anti-Goodell) to swing the vote, the trophy and the annoying night-before-the-Super-Bowl phone call, Tom’s way.

Ezekiel Elliott is having a tremendous rookie review but his scoring and multi-facet skill-set falls just short of Johnson’s.

Matt Stafford & Derek Carr’s GWD tallies are super but both relied more heavily on the short pass (7-7.3 ypp), an MVP detractor. It’s a measure which should boost ranking of the other resplendent Dallas rookie in Dak Prescott who’s been very careful with the ball (4 INT) in Ted Bridgewater fashion but unfortunately looked very average in Cowboys’ losses and a few wins, as well.

And Aaron Rodgers, already a vested member of the MVP Club (‘11 / 14), he played pedestrian in clutch time in season’s first half and didn’t get on radar soon enough to build sufficient voter support, especially when Tom is in the mix with many. And Rodgers’ 7.2 ypp , that’s junior league for a quarterback in his class. But there is the Favre Factor (Packer power in the press since 1992) and if Pack pound the Lions, Aaron could steal the trophy.

Who Should Win?

See above list and final game performances. Falcons’ Matt Ryan should take the trophy with strong final show against arch-rival Saints but New Orleans has been playing like contenders this second-half and might derail the Ryan Express, opening the door to the next in line (Johnson), and so on and so forth.

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 17

Texans (9-6) @ Titans (8-7): 1.1 CBS 1:00: Titans win
Carolina (6-9) @ Tampa (8-7): Fox 1:00: Panthers win
Cowboys (13-2) @ Eagles (6-9): Fox 1:00: Philly wins
New England (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5) GTW: CBS 1:00: Patriots win
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10): 4:25 CBS: Bolts win
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11): 4:25 Fox: Cards win
Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ DenverBroncos (8-7): 4:25 CBS: Broncos win
New York (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1) GTW: 4:25 Fox: Giants win
New Orleans (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5) GTW: 4:25 Fox: Falcons win
Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6) GTW: NBC 8:30: Lions win

Record: 73 -88 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-MVP-trophy, wc.cca, 6.23.13, Teo’s89; M.Ryan, wc, K.Allison, 10.19.14; A.Ogletree, wc, Johnmaxmena2, 8.15.13; T.Brady, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc, 6.2011; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.27.16 @ 2:42pm, edit 6:06 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL17: Playoff Bound? Reliable Run-Game’s a Must, Keen Clipboarder a Plus

25 Dec

A savvy signal-caller and a defense that makes an impression: Two team traits well-known amongst keen footballers as essentials for a playoff contender.

But in this era of downfield divas and near 100-point results (NO 48 @ AZ 41 (W15)), it’s easy for even the most studious student of the game to overlook the Super necessity of a complementary run-game. Not a dominant ground attack, but integral, responding when called to balance the attack and spare the QB.

The days when power-backs like Earl Campbell and John Riggins, thoroughbreds like Walter Payton and Eric Dickerson could carry their clubs through much of the playoffs, seem as long gone as the gloveless receiver. While their exploits are greatly missed by those of us who remember watching them run, today’s top team doesn’t necessarily need the gargantuan ground-gainer.

blount-wc-j-beall-1-19-14*In fact, the most successful coach won’t ask his running game to carry the team and will rarely have a backfield guy contending for MVP.

Take Adrian Peterson for example.

In his seven full seasons, All-Day has led the League in rushing 3x and won one MVP (12). But only once, in 2009-10, have the Vikes been top contenders in that span, owing much of it to the arrival of 3-time Valuable man, Brett Favre who had his best statistical showing that season in leading Purple to the NFCC (v NO).

Then look at the NFL standard for most of the 2000s, the Patriots.

Since Bill Belichick took the reins in Foxborough he’s had five 1000-yd rushers, with Corey Dillon topping at 1600+ in ’04 but most (Antowain Smith, Ben Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley & LeGarrette Blount) coming in around the 1100 mark. A strong number but not in category with Peterson or prime Emmitt Smith.

No running-back MVPs, no League leaders in year-end rushing totals. And yet, Belichick teams have made it to six Supers and how many playoff spots.

Check the box scores: Quantity in rush, say, 90-100+, is not so important, not a weekly total, as much as quality. That when Belichick, Brady, New England’s OC, want a good ground gain, it’s likely to happen and give the D more to think about.

In Jim Brown’s day (64), the big, bruising back could carry a club all the way but it’s a rare occurrence in the day of play-action pass. Yet, without a strong, reliable run game (900 – 1200), one man or tandem, your team’s Super Bowl aspirations will most likely remain just that, a pipe-dream.

brownj-wc-tsna-m-emmons-315kReliability + timeliness are the watchwords for today’s Supernicitious run-game.

In the present, Mr. Blount has been Mr. Reliable for the Pats these past two seasons, averaging a modest 50-60 per (900 yr.) and fashioning one of the most inspirational football career stories in recent history.

Getting all blame (& susp‘n) in the Byron Haut punching incident, sophomore Blount and his Oregon Ducks opened their 2009 season against Boise State in loss, crushing team national title and Heisman hopes. The Madison, Florida native was then drafted by Tampa Bay, met the 1000 benchmark, was shipped to the juggernautious Patriots in 2013, started 2014 in Pittsburgh only to be returned to the Patriots to finish that season and then contributing (3td) to New England’s PS run that culminated in besting defending champ Seattle in SB49.

In 2016, Blount is the go-to guy in Patriots’ run-game, topping the 1000 mark in W15 and at this posting, leading the NFL in rushing TDs (15). Quite…a…story.

NFC Run-Lite

Detroit Lions

Run totals of Theo Riddick (357 / 3.9), Dwayne Washington (243 / 2.9) & Zach Zenner (198 / 3.5) just puts more pressure on Stafford to work his arm.

New York Giants

When the Coughlin Giants won Super #1 (09), Brandon Jacobs was top grounder, posting 1009 (5.0). Returning to the Big Game in 2011 to top the Patriots, again (SB46), to spoil NE’s perfect run, their fine backfield tandem in Jacobs (571) and Ahmad Bradshaw (659) proved effective. In 2016, no top GG and a tandem that hardly impresses: Rashad Jennings, 541 (3.3) & Paul Perkins, 354 (3.9).

Seattle Seahawks

Having not found Lynch’s replacement, no easy task, Pete Carroll & Darrell Bevell have relied on the Christine Michaels (469) / Thomas Rawls (327 (3.5)) duo. And if you figure in your QB tally (Wilson / 219), you’re asking for trouble.

Green Bay Packers

With Lacy out (IR) and Starks fizzling (2.3), new starter Montgomery (4g) was a godsend to tear up the turf (6.5). But in facing a rated Minnesota Vikings defense, Ty Anthony stumbled on Christmas Eve (23 – 2.6). If the Packers braintrust think they can ride the Rodgers – Nelson hook-up to Houston (2/5), there are gonna’ be alot of cheeseheads crying in their beer n’ curds come January.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Injuries have taken their toll on former great Doug Martin (2.9) who’d passed the 1400 mark twice in his relatively young career. Jacquizz Rodgers (4.4) and rook Peyton Barber (4.1) average well but not many carries. Upside, fresh legs for PS.

Wanted: Clipboard Saviors

It’s not often a playoff team loses their starting QB, but it does happen. Lucky for those teams who plan ahead in the off-season and pay the piper for a capable clipboard-holder to fill the void when needed.

l-olivier-pp-wc-1940What did “Zeus (Olivier)” say in Clash of the Titans (81)?: “Fortune is ally to the brave.” Wise god was (is) the Zeuster.

Bravery must be at a premium in the Oakland front office these days. With the lose of their inspiration & MVP-caliber QB in Derek Carr, going down with a broken fibula in W16 action, the Raiders’ prospects took a major hit. Not just in Carr’s exit but in the caliber of clipboard stepping into the breach. But then, an unknown like McGloin or Cook may only need an opportunity to show the world just how capable a marticulator they are. Maybe

The Tennessee Titans, losing their starter as well when Marcus Mariota was lost for the remainder on a leg fracture, are in a slightly less precarious position in that they signed veteran Matt Cassel last off-season. The career won-loss is uninspiring but the Pro Bowler did quarterback two teams (Chiefs / Patriots) to two double-digit win seasons, respectively. So there’s that.

Here then are the playoff contenders and their back-up state.

New England: Jim Garoppolo (2-0)
Miami: T.J. Yates (4-3)
Pittsburgh: Landry Jones (1-2)
Baltimore: Ryan Mallett (3-5)
Tennessee: Matt Cassel (33-44)
Houston: Brock Osweiler (13-8)
Oakland: Matt McGloin (1-5) & Connor Cook (0-0)
Kansas City: Nick Foles (20-16)
Denver: Paxton Lynch (1-1)
Dallas: Tony Romo (78-49)
New York Giants: Ryan Nassib (0-0 / 9-10 (C90%)) & Josh Johnson (0-5)
Washington: Colt McCoy (7-18) & Nate Sudfeld (0-0)
Detroit: Dan Orlovsky (2-10) & Jake Ruddock (0-0)
Green Bay: Brett Hundley (0-0)
Atlanta: Matt Schaub (47-45)
Tampa Bay: Mike Glennon (5-13)
Seattle: Trevone Boykin (0-0)

The list of names doesn’t inspire much confidence. Makes you wonder what these coaches and GMs are thinking in the off-season. Football’s a very physical game and quarterback is usually at the epicenter of the earthquake. But then nobody but Ron Wolf apparently thought very much of Brett Favre either when the HOF’er GM snatched him away from Atlanta in 1992. FFT

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL wikiproject; Peterson, wc, Arvee5.0, 1.28.12; Blount, wc, J.Beall, 1.19.14; Brown, wc, TSN, Emmons; Olivier, wc, P&P, 1940; cherries, wc, Kua, 6.1.8
Posted: 12.25.16 @ 2:50pm, edit 11:27 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W14: Are 11-1 Dallas Cowboys Super-Sizing or Just Surviving?

5 Dec

Monday Minute Waltz – NFL Week 13

The two most annoying words in sport today: fantasy points.

Mr. Bortles: “Trying to do too much (NFLN)” or just…plain…bad…judgment?

Larry Fitzgerald’s 2Q sideline handshake w/Redskins opponent DeSean Jackson was probably not the un-“selfish” play Cards’ coach Bruce Arians had in mind.

— — —

I don’t know who first uttered that buoyant phrase, ‘a win is a win is a win,’ but it’s point is pretty hard to dispute.

It’s the sentiment I expect was expressed by each and every Dallas Cowboys player & coach on their return flight home last Thursday nite following their narrow victory (17-15) over the hosting Minnesota Vikings.

cowboyshat-wc-5-16-8-dukeha-109ksb4That the Cowboys won their eleventh (11) straight contest and continue to have most people in the sporting biz thinking them colossal are morale boosters, for sure. That they won by the skin of their collective teeth is not all that disconcerting in that nearly every title team that’s hoisted the hardware had a close game or two on their road to Titledom.

The Minnesota win was valuable. Dallas won on the road, on short rest, topped a contender, a team that should’ve been highly motivated for victory to 1) keep playoff hopes alive that’ve been fast fading and, 2) win one for the Zimmer as head coach Mike was unexpectedly absent having emergency eye surgery (Detached retina?).

But how you win can be as important as how you lose.

‘Winning ugly’ has become a cute characterization today but in fact can be an omen, a warning sign of deficiencies that if not attended to forthwith will turn into big trouble down the road upon entering the playoff expressway.

The foreboding flipside to the Cowboys win last Thursday is in their failure to trounce a team that started hot (5-0) but has gone fairly frigid (1-5) since a week 5 win over the equally troubled Houston Texans.

garrett-j-wc-1998-user-archbridge-11kAdded to that, the host club’s home-field advantage was just lesser in that they were without their head coach and spiritual guide in Zimmer. Special teams man Mike Priefer, a key figure in the Chris Kluwe case, did a fine job filling-in and may’ve made identical calls to his absent boss but it’s just not the same.

In short, the Vikings were vulnerable, easy prey and the Dallas Dudes didn’t take full advantage. Cowboys’ failure to flex goes not only to the skill issue (do they have enough), but also to psychological aptitude as well, i.e., killer instinct.

Put more philosophically, does Dallas have the spirit of a champion?

Since their bye week, and setting aside the cakewalk win over Cleveland (35-10), in their five following victories, the Cowboys have won by an average score of 5.6 points. That’s less than a TD and that’s a close game. And had the Vikings game officials viewed the closing helmet hit on Vikes QB Bradford with an eye keener to protect passers from unnecessary harm, that average might even be lower.

Now comes the final stretch. All four of the Cowboys’ remaining opponents are contenders, some more serious than others but contenders, nonetheless.

First up are the Giants, a scheduled meeting whose timing is probably much to the liking of head coach Jason Garrett.

prescott-9-18-16-k-allison-187kThe division rival from New York (8-4), even with last Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, G-Men are the only team in 2016 with moxie enough to topple the ‘Boys, taking the win in opening week (20-19). Garrett would just assume play the re-match now in the Metropolis having enjoyed a 10-day rest in preparation.

Next up is an AT&T call from the Buccaneers, who are, at least this week, one of the hottest clubs in the League at 7-5, followed by a visit from the roaring Lions (8-4), at least this week. Closing out the regular slate is a rematch with division foe the Eagles (5-7) whose losing mark should not belie their competitive play and the fact they’ve chalked up convincing wins over the Steelers, Vikes and bad-luck birds of Atlanta.

If the Cowboys, who qualified for the post-season on their Minnesota win and Redskins loss (@ AZ), close out strong (3-1), do so with emphasis (8+) and hold home-field, Super LI may be just their size come February.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 14

OAK (9-3) @ KC (8-5) GTW: 12.8 NFLN 8:25: Chiefs win
Steelers (7-5) @ Buffalo (6-6): 12.11 CBS 1:00: Bills win
Broncos (8-4) @ Tennessee (6-6): CBS 1:00: Denver wins
Washington Redskins (6-5-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles: Fox 1:00: Philly wins
Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5): Fox 1:00: Cardinals win
Houston Texans (6-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-6): CBS 1:00: Colts win
New Orleans Saints (5-7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): Fox 4:25: NO wins
Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) @ Green Bay (6-6) GTW: Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
Dallas Cowboys (11-1) @ New York Giants (8-4) GTW: NBC 8:30: Giants win
Baltimore (7-5) @ New England Pats (10-2): 12.12 Disney 8:30: Patriots win

Record: 58 – 68 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Garrett, wc.cca, K.Allison, 9.18.16; Cowboys-helmet, wc, DukeHa, 5.16.18; Garrett, wc, User.Archbridge, 1998; RD.Prescott, wc, K.Allison, 9.18.16; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.5.16 @ 4:20pm EST; Copyright © 2016