Tag Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

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

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NFL17 Pre-Play: Bloom Is Off But Arians Still In League’s Elite Coach Class

5 Sep

NFL 2017 head coach ranking with Bruce Arians of Arizona Cardinals @ #5:

1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
4) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
5) Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

— — —

It was a rough 2016 for the Arizona Cardinals and their 5th-yr HC Bruce Arians who still gets mentioned when the NFL’s best are bantered about.

Arians must be a firm believer in aberration, i.e., an unpleasant deviation from the norm. He HAS to be because he won’t, he CAN’T believe that his fairly talent-laden NFC West squad would again lay an egg like they did in NFL 2016 when, in oppposite of many favorable prognostications by fans & press and general roster health they finished a disappointing 7-8-1. Eek.

Progression can be a wonderful thing. From it will spring forth hopes, learning experiences and maybe, just maybe, a 5-year, $25M ($15M guaranteed) contract with a nice buyout clause ($7.5M). Maybe.

I don’t know how the Paterson, New Jersey native’s, who is set to turn 65 in October (10.3.52), contract with owner Bill Bidwell reads but given his former progression, its terms are most likely fair & balanced to both sides.

The problem with progression is that any sudden halt in one’s steady forward progress and it can be bone-jarring. Ouch!

— — —

Beginning his coaching career at Virginia Tech in 1975 as a graduate assistant, Bruce didn’t get his first top NFL gig until late in the game at age sixty when he took over as Indianapolis interim for the ailing Chuck Pagano who was out in cancer treatment (2012) and proceeded to win the first of his two AP-COY awards (+ 2014). In 2013 he took the reins at Arizona and kept winning, going 34-14, a total that excludes his 9-3 Colts mark (11-5), W-L numbers diverted to Pagano‘s career tally by NFL’s record keepers.

2012: Colts 9 – 3
2013: Cards 10 – 6
2014: Cards 11 – 5
2015: Cards 13 – 3
2016: Cards 7 – 8 – 1

Odd as Arizona’s 2016 devolution, odder still was that it happened even as there were some quite notable individual and team bright spots.

Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, the Bengals’ 1st-Rd draftee out of USC in 2004, appeared to’ve fully recovered from his 2014 knee injury, making fifteen starts and putting up reasonable if not great numbers.

Career-long Card and another 04 draftee in receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his eight 1000-yd season in 2016, surpassing the 100 career total in TDs (104).

On defense, Arizona sported a double-digited sack-duo in linebackers Markus Golden (12.5 / tie 3rd) and Chandler Jones (11 / 8th). Not how I’d use my main-defenders (sacks) but it got the job done in part as AZ’s defense ranked a spiffy #2 in yapg (305 (301 HOU)) but a so-so #14 in papg at 22.6 (15.6 NE).

The brightest spot was rising star and MVP candidate (I had him #2 heading into W17), running-back / receiver David Johnson, the 2nd-year man out of Northern Iowa who ran for 1239 (+ 16td), caught 80 passes for 879 yards (+ 4td) and led the League with 20 pay-dirts in total.

Some small comfort for Arians & Crew may’ve been the fact that 2016 was, as Winston Churchill put it in describing the Soviet Union circa 1939, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” especially in the ho-hum NFC which may help to account for this prognosticator’s worst effort to date.

In the American, surprise disappointments were the Jets (10-6 (15) > 5-11 (16)), the Ravens (10-6 (14) > 5-11 > 8-8 (16)) and the Bengals (12-4 (15) > 6-9-1 (16)) who were expected to contend and then, of course, el-foldo come playoffs.

In the NFC, Cards and defending Halas hoisters, Carolina, were favored to shine but stumbled in start and never recovered; Seattle didn’t find the fierceness and only Atlanta & GB looked worthy of taking on New England. And if you thought Dallas (13-3) was the real-deal with the rookies, you don’t watch much NFL.

Will Arizona rebound in 2017? League’s looking pretty pathetic these days, bound to get worse with the art of tackling fading fast and flash-QB filling the ranks, meaning, any team with pro talent in key positions, and that means AZ, should have a good shot a taking the Hunt or Halas trophy come January.

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-sign, wikiproject; B.Arians, G.Skidmore, 8.5.16, Glendale, wc; L.Fitzgerald, wc, Al-Anbar, Al-Asad, USO, 3.8.09, Cpl-J.Hernandez, Cpt-J.Daniels; Arians, 3.22.17, DoC, T.LaRussa, G.Skidmore; Topps, J.Otto, 1970
Posted: 9.5.17 @ 4.28pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Wild Cherry Picks: Veni, Vidi, Vici

8 Jan

‘I came, I saw, I conquered’

The NFL playoffs.

They mark a new beginning in the championship campaign of conquest, a whole new season, in fact (0-0), and you could even say afford an extension of the holiday season if your team happens to get its ticket punched.

....winter.wood.2007.wc.NinoBarbieri.thmIt’s when the crème de la crème get mettle tested by the fiercest foes and not infrequently the worst weather Mother Nature can doll out (See; SEA @ MIN (-0°?)).

For the player, his body tells him it’s time to settle for winter, catch up on sleep, reacquaint w/friends & family, read the mail, walk the dog, anything but more football. But the contract, bills to be paid and desire to be the best drive him onward in hopes of greater glory.

Which team can prove Julius Caesar, conqueror of the vast playoff landscape of combatants that lay ahead?

Some teams clearly have a leg up on the competition in weaponry, positioning and the art of field tactics & technique.

....RomanLegion.wc.StoriadItalia.1979.Mainz.tmHome-field and 1st-Rd byes, deserved as it they are, give a decided advantage. And while all 12 invitees are endowed with the spirit and physical skills to take the VLT (Vince Lombardi trophy), only a handful are cloaked in that garb of destiny.

Panthers at 15-1 and bye-ing time to polish their armaments and fine-tune strategy look best suited to wear the victor‘s laurel. But their lack of battlefield experience (1-2 Rivera – Newton – Kuechly) and atypical command tactic (Camster-the-Hamster (run-QB)) makes them a questionable conqueror.

In Mark Antony fashion, Seattle sent strong message to Arizona (36-6) that they are not ready to relinquish their tight hold on National Conference supremacy.

And Caesar Augustus that rules from New England always shapes the map.

Roll Call

Patriots: Coach (Bill), player (Tom) and sports success story of 2015, injuries all around are taking heavy toll on the Empire as the ranks are in depletion.

Seahawks: The thumping they gave rival & riser AZ, run-game modifications that work and 3-year playoff prowess all make them NFC’s team-to-beat;

....Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumbPackers: Early loss of catch-machine Nelson was either underestimated or has proven a too frustrating fill-in. Mobility & quick-release are Rodgers’ keys.

Broncos: Pey-Dirt’s back in the saddle and will be given ample opportunity to work off rust and find the end-zone;

Steelers: Trademark Steelers D must’ve run afoul of Patent Office politics and been revoked because it’s been lesser in 2015 (#21 / 11). And with Williams hobbled, Big Ben must, as he often does, carry offensive load;

Panthers: Cats are 1-2 in recent PS and have not faced the toughest of slates. Keeping Cam pocket poised or letting him rabbit-at-will is Rivera’s big call.

Chiefs: Like Cats, another so-so slate but KC too balances like a top (O/D) and QB Smith looks for his first Super (10y) after 2012’s chance slipped away (SF).

....Dalton.wc.emeybee.9.17.13.thmBengals: The monkey on Cincy’s back is so big (PS 0-5 Lewis) it could buckle their collective knees if they fall behind in early going but this year’s squad has a cool confidence and determination that bodes well.

Vikings: “Baby It’s Cold Outside (Loesser)” is theme in Land of 10.000 (frozen) Lakes. Good thing it’s a 1:00 start. Will Peterson’s back injury warm and can 2y-QB Teddy move-the-chains and forge TDs to match a potent ‘Hawks offense?

Redskins: NFC Cinderella favorite for NFL’ers who appreciate commercial art and history (See; logo). Run-game quirky but hosting befuddled GB a blessing.

Texans: AFC’s underdog favorite for having turned injury-lemons into lemonade. Coach O’Brien, JJ Watt and their QB crew now seek February champagne.

Cardinals: Were on the march until Seahawks stymied. Bruce Arians is not one to panic nor placate his troops so expect a donnybrook in divisional.

....cherries.B.Kua.wc.cca.thumb.6.1.08

Wild Cherry Picks 2016

Chiefs (11-5) @ Texans (9-7): 1.9 ESPN 4:35: KC wins
Steelers (10-6) @ Bengals (12-4): CBS 8:15: Cincy wins
Seattle (10-6) @ Vikes (11-5): 1.10 NBC 1:05: Hawks win
Pack (10-6) @ ‘Skins (9-7): Fox 4:40: Green Bay wins

Record: 97 – 98

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Julius.Caesar, wc.cca, AV.Domaszewski, 1914; winter.wood, wc, Nino.Barbieri, 07; RomanLegion, StoriadItalia, 1979, wc, Mainz; Packers.cheer, wc, M.Morbeck, 9.26.10: A.Rodgers, wc, 2008, M.Morbeck; A.Dalton, wc, 9.17.13, emeybee; cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.8; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 1.8.16 @ 3:06pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Minute Waltz: Closing Take 2015

6 Jan

Now that the 2015 curtain’s come down on NFL’s regular play, a four-month run filled with more surprises than a Christmas day at the Cratchit household, (post-raise), it’s time to reflect back on the good, bad, the happy & sad.

R.I.P. “NFL Scoreboard”

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbTo kick-off coverage of early action on NFL Network (1:00 EST), a scoreboard format, featuring 6-8 games at one time, offered an oasis, a sanctuary for those who love everything football offers in highlights, sensible stats, clear, clever & concise radio commentary and a minimum of commercial interruptions.

But sadly, Scoreboard is no more.

In their finite wisdom (Sorry, but I‘m steamed), the Suits & Skirts at NFLN opted in 2015 to perpetuate the tired trend (See; Disney et al) in walkie-talkie, where a host (or ‘tess) toggles takes, usually standing, from former footballers on games-in-progress. Yippee.

A reversion back to the scoreboard format won’t ever happen. TV does not improve today. But I’ll always have my memories of how good NFL coverage could be. Like Fred sang it so long ago, “♫ No no, they can’t that away from me ♫ (Shall We Dance (Gershwin ’37)). No they cannot.

Green Bay Packers

....McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.7.TJ.Grant.thmLosing at Lambeau to their biggest rival to close the regular (It ain’t da’ Bears), letting the North slip through their green & yellow sticky-gloves on a night the Vikes’ QB couldn’t crack a 100 (99, 0-1) and All-Day only made it part-way (67y), does not bode well for the playoffs nor Mike McCarthy’s Fox Valley future.

New York Giants

Whomever’s responsible for the long-running deficiencies in defense and run, that person(s) (Mara, Tisch or Reese?) should give up the calling. If that’s Tom Coughlin, his exit makes sense. If it’s not, his exit still makes sense, for it was unlikely the 2-time winning (& weary) Super Bowl coach would’ve been given much more to work with, regardless.

When eligible, Tom should be Cantonized, no matter the result of any future gig. Quickly turning an expansion (Jags) into a contender and besting one of the top teams to ever lace ’em up (Patriots), twice, in bringing two NFL championships to the Metropolis is Hall-worthy. But at near 70, golf may be his game

Miami Dolphins

There are valid reasons for not re-investing in an interim coach (Mularkey (TN 2-7); Campbell (MIA 5-7, fired) but I’d not use W-L records as the sole basis. Taking reins from a fired former (Philbin – Whisenhunt, both questionable moves at the time) in-season is insufficient test of a man’s leadership and planning ability.

Given Miami’s tumultuous times of late, and a pretty nifty win over rival powerhouse Patriots in the closing contest, staying with Dan Campbell for at least another season seemed a prudent course. So much for prudence.

Cool Quarterback Continuity

....O'Brien.8.9.12.wc.BenJones88.thmHistory shows QB platoons can work (old Rams) but what happened in Houston in 2015 may be unprecedented in the near 100 years of NFL annals (1919). What Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien and OC George Godsey worked is something of a teensy-weensy miracle: Making the post-season (9-7) on the leadership of four different starting QBs, all having snagged a win to help the effort.

The four links in the chain-of-victory: Hoyer (5-4), Mallet (1-3), Yates (2-0) and Cowboys’ cast-off, Weeden (1-0). Kudos, relay-men.

Not Like This, We Didn’t

For those who remember George Allen and his Fearsome Foursome, early Eric Dickerson and even a few old-timers who can recall the glory days of Van Brocklin & Waterfield calling the signals, the return of the NFL to Los Angeles seemed a good idea long in coming.

But not like this, it didn’t. Uprooting established clubs and leaving fan-bases out in the cold was not how we envisioned the LA addition to the NFL family of franchises, Misters Goodell and Smith.

Rams return to their 2d home (CVD-LA-STL) has plausibility but charter AFL’ers the Bolts belong in San Diego as do Raiders in Oakland, just as much as Packers belong in Green Bay and Vikings in Minneapolis.

Ownerships of the Chargers, Raiders and Rams have all reportedly this week applied for the job in Los Angeles. Whoopty friggin’ do.

“Surprise, surprise!”

Chip Kelly firing (26-21 (PS 2 of 3y)):

The Murray (3.6) signing for big bucks that only a Dickerson-like résumé should support, putting one too many ‘cooks in the backfield kitchen,’ plus the odd QB exchange with St. Louis for talented but oft-injured Sam Bradford (Kolb) were wild dice rolls that came up snake-eyes. The problem: Owner Jeff Lurie and club President Don Smolenski had their hands on one of those dice.

Chuck Pagano contract ext’n (41-23 (PS 3 of 4y)):

One .500 season (8-8) in amongst three double-digit years is not necessarily cause for change, but Pagano’s failure to even consider keeping his resurgent 17-yr substitute QB in Matt Hasselbeck (5-3) in starter‘s role upon Luck’s healthy return, flying in the face of mojo, couldn’t have helped Colts’ moral, not Matt’s, anyway, and calls into question coach’s appreciation for the spirit of sport.

NaVorro Bowman

....Bowman.wc.9.8.13.D.Hartwig.thmHaving sat for all of 2014 regular in recuperation by repair of a torn ACL, the 49ers All-Pro linebacker returned to a different 49ers’ team in 2015, from staff (Tomsula) to co-workers (Willis retire). No matter, for NaVo took up right where he’d left off: top-notch tackle-machine, leading the NFL in solos (116) and combo (154) and aught win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year honor over surging sack specialist, J.C. Watt.

Dousing Dilemma in Denver and Cincy

Mustangs understudy Osweiler played like a pro (5-2) and will have his day in the sun (& snow) again but is a work-in-progress and likely did not exhibit enough natural inclination to matriculation to win total trust of team & staff where a healthy Pey-Dirt stands on the sideline. His first stalled drive and eyes would be turning to the old war horse. Of course, it’s fair to write, if Manning stalls those eyes will be turning Brock’s way just as likely, though not as quickly.

Same holds true for fill-in signal-caller A.J. McCarron in the Queen City. The former collegiate champion (Ala.) similarly performed in admirable fashion (2-1)) but a fit Andy Dalton, even at 0-4 in playoff games, gets the no-brainer nod.

The PED Monster

Reporting last week, Al Jazeera attempted to tie one of the faces of the NFL, Peyton Manning, to the use of PEDs (HGH) by way of mailings he supposedly received at his home addressed to his wife Ashley from an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis in 2011.

Though the report would seem to cry out for clarification and possible corroboration or disproving of claims and may trigger legal actions in libel or defamation, it has a small upside: It shines a necessary light on NFL/PA’s poor PED-prevention policy that leaves wide open window of opportunity (invite) to those who cheat the game, fans and themselves with HGH and the like.

Goodell, like Manfred, must use his bully-pulpit and press union leadership (DeMaurice Smith) to in turn to press player membership to vote to close that window tight (in-season blood draws for every…rostered…player), once and for all. “Build (a movie (“concussions”)), and they will (listen)?” Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Joe Pesci & Angela Bassett could all star.

As to the report, too soon for this reader to vest, up or down. I’d let this soufflé sit for a time, see if it stands or sinks. More facts is always “a good thing.”

MVP 2015

......Newton.9.28.14.wc.K.Allison.thmThe Cam campaign would look now to be set to pop those champagne corks 2.6.16, in celebration of taking home the MVP trophy, though, no bubbly for Mr. Newton if he and his Cats are still vying for the VLT.

It would be a deserved awarding for Newton but with timely assists from fellow QBs and former leaders in Brady and Palmer whose pedestrian play in closing, along with the traditional voter bias for offense (See; defenders N. Bowman & R. Jones), opened the door for Cam’s probable first win of the honor.

Rushing stats must be assessed with a different eye where QBs (single-wing tail back) are concerned, even a deduction of points on the rabbit-habit (vs mobility (Wilson, Young, Tark)). It will too often leave the field general’s mind wanting in the clutch, as recent times have shown (See; Kaep (SB47 & NFCC14)).

.....macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.2011.wcSteven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credit: B.O’Brien, wc, BenJones88, 8.9.12 ; NFL-symbol, wikiproject; M.McCarthy, wc, 8.11.7, TJ.Grant; N.Bowman, wc, D.Hartwig, 9.8.13; C.Newton, 9.28.14, wc, K.Allison; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, 2011, wc
Posted: 1.6.16 @ 1:36pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL15 Cherry Picks W17: “Uncertain Glory”

31 Dec

“O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun
And by and by a cloud takes all away!”

....deVere.1575.Brown&Harding.wc.thumbTwo Gentlemen of Verona
“Proteus,” A.1, S.III, Shake-a-Spear (Ed de Vere (1550-04))

Surprised? Don’t be. Everything’s connected, right? Right.

And it’s that uncertainty of success that hovers over every team in this topsy-turvy NFL15 like a building cumulus.

Yet there are certainly front-runners. Vikes, the Jets, Pittsburgh all inspire healthy optimism but none is without at least a few serious question marks (?).

Injury-laden rosters are a commonality in December. It’s a sorry state that enlists all 32 teams to a war of attrition and will make onlookers-in-prognosticate, hesitate, especially when key cogs go down, i.e., C. Johnson & Mathieu (Arizona), Blount & Edelman (New England), Lynch & Rawls (Seattle).

But other clubs have deeper concerns entering the playoffs, making their “path(way) to glory” an uncertain one.

Carolina Panthers

......Newton.9.28.14.wc.K.Allison.thmRon Rivera’s Panthers are 1-2 in playoff games, losing at home to San Fran in the 2014 NFC divisional (23-18) and last January taking out a Palmer-less Arizona in the wild-card before getting bounced by Seattle (31-17).

Fifth-year field general Cam Newton is a bona-fide MVP candidate in 2015 (#4). He’s also a bona-fide flash QB and it may be his and his team’s undoing. Cam’s rising rabbit-habit red flags (9a+ per). With one regular game remaining (TB) the Carolina signal-caller is likely to surpass his career mark for rush attempts in a season (127 (‘12)) and may pass the 700 yard mark for the third time (626).

Every time a QB runs up field for a gain he loses, sometimes necessarily, an opportunity to hone his passing trade, an artisan’s craft that will be called upon and tested-in-full in critical times against the toughest opponents, as fellow run-QB Colin Kaepernick discovered to his detriment in SB47 and NFCC (‘14): Pass-challenged. RIF: Reading (D) is fundamental.

Kansas City Chiefs

....Reid.wc.USAF.SgtSTSturkol.thm.8.6.08If by the end of W6 (1-5) you weren’t seriously wondering whether Andy Reid would be back for 2016, especially with the late-season slumps KC’s had since he arrived (2-5 (’13), 2-4 (’14)), then you’ve not been paying attention.

Remembering the lose of all-purpose Jamaal Charles (ACL) in W5 action and it all makes this 2d-season 2015 renaissance in Kansas City just that much more terrific and unexpected.

A schedule that has not been ‘toughest this side of the Pecos (PIT win (W7) was Ben-less)’ has played it’s part in the win-streak (9), though, fair to write that some of similar slate have found ways to lose (See; NYG, CHI, NO, MIA, etc.). Like the Panthers & Cincinnati Bengals (Lewis 0-5), playoff wins have been elusive of late for Kansas City and a W will go a long way to certify them as mettle-grade.

Green Bay Packers

....Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.08.thumbNFL fans have a soft spot for QBs. Good ones. They’re not easy to find. It’s a quarterback game, ever since Cleveland signal-caller Otto Graham and coach Paul Brown teamed-up in the late 40s and turned the football world on it’s head.

The Pack has a dandy in reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. He fell out of contention for back-to-backs as GB took some serious hits along with his stat-line, but he, like his predecessor in Favre, always makes his team a contender.

Sometimes we’re blinded by the brilliance of a quarterback, overlooking his and surrounding shortcomings. Such has been the case in recent times with names like Rivers, Brees, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler, highly skilled practitioners of the art-form who make their struggling squads look better than they actually are. Those four alone may account for 15-20% of my poor picks in 2015 (whine).

Packers and Mike McCarthy have done it all (SB45) and represent the National’s standard-bearer franchise (Pats AFC). But there’s something seriously wrong with the formula in 2015 (See; AZ) and if they can’t brainstorm an answer soon the purple’s gonna’ rain at Lambeau in 2016 (1.3).

Guiding Line

“Fortune is ally to the brave (“Zeus (Olivier),” Clash of the Titans (‘81))”

Baker’s Crazy-Dozen

....baker.M.Andaya.USS.JC.Stennis.11.7.06.PJ.Perkins.thmIn Week 16 action, Seattle lost to a 6-8 Rams, GB lost like a 4-10 (AZ), Cats cave to a 7-7 Falcons (an earlier loss could’ve been beneficial but this late-in-the game, a perfect record (16-0) would’ve been a plus), Steelers lose by 3 to an intra-rival (BAL 4-10), Pats lost in OT to a 9-5 they might’ve won had Bill not over-thunk it (elect to kick) and homer KC squeaks by CVD. That leaves AZ, the Rodney Dangerfield of NFL (“no respect“), as the no-brainer #1 tab.

Some had AZ at or near #1 for some time now (“Hail (Arians)!”). I say, welcome.

In pre-playoff ranks, experience and quality-of-play, not just W-L, matter much.

1. AZ
2. NE
3. CIN*
4. PIT
5. SEA
6. DEN*
7. GB
8. CAR
9. NYJ
10. MIN
11. KC
12. HOU
13. Tie: ATL & DC
* Presumes Dalton & Peyton make full returns for their team’s playoff openers.

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

Cherry Picks Week 17: Predicting Inconsistency

NYJ (10-5) @ Buffalo (7-8), 1.3 CBS 1:00: Jets win
Patriots (12-3) @ Miami (5-10), CBS 1:00: Pats win
Saints (6-9) @ Falcons (8-7), Fox 1:00: Atlanta wins
Lions (6-9) @ Chicago (6-9), Fox 1:00: Detroit wins
Philadelphia (6-9) @ NYG (6-9), Fox 1:00: Giants win
Redskins (8-7) @ Cowboys (4-11), Fox 1:00: Dallas wins
Titans (3-12) @ Indianapolis (7-8), CBS 1:00: Colts win
Ravens (5-10) @ Cincinnati (11-4), CBS 1:00: CIN wins
Steelers (9-6) @ Cleveland (3-12), CBS 1:00: Pitt wins
Jaguars (5-10) @ Houston (8-7), CBS 1:00: Texans win
Raiders (7-8) @ KC (10-5), CBS 4:25 (GTW3): OAK wins
Chargers (4-11) @ Denver (11-4), CBS 4:25: Broncos win
Buccaneers (6-9) @ Carolina (14-1), Fox 4:25: Cats win
Seahawks (9-6) @ Cards (13-2), Fox 4:25 (GTW): AZ winw
St. Louis (7-8) @ San Francisco (4-11), Fox 4:25: 49ers win
Minnesota (10-5) @ GB (10-5), NBC 8:30 (GTW2): GB wins

Record: 89 – 90

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Ed.deVere, wc.cca, T.Cooper-YUP, Brown&Harding, 1575+; C.Newton, 9.28.14, K.Allison, wc; A.Reid, wc, USAF, Sgt.ST.Sturkol, 8.6.08; A.Rodgers, wc, 2008, M.Morbeck; baker, wc, M.Andaya, USS.Stennis, 11.7.06, PJ.Perkins; cherries-ripe, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.31.15 @ 4:23pm, edit 7:06 EST; Copyright © 2015

NFL15 Cherry Picks W16: Super Sizing

24 Dec

Measuring the Material

Maybe you’re not buying any new cloths this holiday season. Some don’t.

.....tailor.1888.wc.Meggendorfer&Bonn.tmYou’re one of those rare individuals whose wardrobe is A-okay. You’re covered: No frays, no tears, not sos anyone would notice, and still setting the right mood with what ya’ got. All is hunky-dory. That’s grand.

Me, I need mood alteration, new material and variety-spice. And so thinks my beautiful wife, a judgment I trust (“I’ve got alot of faults…but ingratitude isn’t one ‘em (Patton ‘70)).”

Most of this shopping happens online. And before you give that credit card and click the ‘Order’ button you will have to size-up. Typically, it’s no problem unless your spree runs into December when sizes & supplies run low. Side-track: Is it just me or are those button-fly blue-jeans (Levi’s 501®) the kookiest koncept to come down the pike? A string of buttons…down there? Those knobs “gotta’ go.”

.....SuperBowl.Ring.7.3.14.wc.USEmbassyCan.thmAnd the same kind of sizing-up goes on in the NFL: Who‘s a contender, who‘s a pretender and so-on. With just two games remaining in the regular slate, measuring the playoff material in the holiday rush has become a standard operating procedure for footballers.

But volatility is the word in 2015. Up one week, down the next is the norm for far too many teams this year. And it‘s not just about injuries, either, though, they‘re mounting (See; Denver, etc.). It’s not the rule, as Carolina, New England and Arizona’s consistency attest but it might just as well be one.

Baker’s Dozen

1. New England
2. Arizona
3. Seattle
....baker.M.Andaya.USS.JC.Stennis.11.7.06.PJ.Perkins.thm4. Green Bay
5. Carolina
6. Pittsburgh
7. Kansas City
8. New York Jets
9. Cincinnati
10. Denver
11. Minnesota
12. Washington
13. Houston

Cardinals

.....Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.SwamiDefense matters on a Arians team (#7 / 7) and loss of key cog Mathieu is big, someone Dick Sherman might emulate (tackling). Arizona took a chance on “Honey Badger” after drugs came to light at LSU but the former Tiger has come up aces. Torn ACL (v PHI) creates a void (80t – 16pd – 5i) that’s hard to fill this late in the game. Last year it was Palmer, this year Johnson & Tyrann. But Bruce Arians is a wizard and Cardinals feel destined for Super things this go-round.

Panthers

Another team feeling manifest destiny will take them to Santa Clara and the balanced ball backs up the feeling (O: #8 / 1; D: 3 / 10). But quarterback Camster-the-Hamster’s rabbit-habit (9a per) is red-flagging. Not just the injury invite (See; TJ Yates, RG3, etc.) but the failure to fully fashion pocket poise and reading ability necessary in the toughest games in the most critical moments by caving too often to athleticism.

Packers

Hard to imagine Rodgers-led team flying under-the-radar but that’s just where GB’s been cruising in the NFL analysis stratosphere since hitting the skids (1-4) midway. But they didn’t lose faith, found focus and hit the high-life again with a budding balance (O: #21 / 10; D: #17 / 5) that post-season stalwarts need. ‘Hawks & Cards may rate better in full capacity but Green Bay packs more pieces today.

Seahawks

Like Packers, ‘Hawks hung tough in a tough stretch (open 2-4) and now find themselves in the thick of the NFCC race. Cats ‘showed ‘em what-for during that tough time (23-27 W6) but Seattle favors a re-match. Problem: Run game ‘got gone’ with injury exits of Lynch and super-sub Rawls. Solution: Mind of Carroll. If it’s close, Steve Hauschka is a go-to kicker: 96%, 4-4 50+.

Patriots

...Brady.11.29.15.wc.J.Beall.thmDeflategate ain’t over (NFL filed appeal reply this week) but Pats excelled when it hung heavy (SB49) and figure to do the same. Brady’s playing for another MVP trophy and hands-man Edelman might return for the PS but like the ’Hawks, the RB slot is a question-mark with main-man Blount’s hip-injury. And like Denver, defense has been superb (#6 / 6) but injuries are mounting. Solution: Mind of Belichick. If it’s close, Steve Gostkowski is the man: 94%, 4-5 50+.

Steelers

If Big Ben stays mobile, Pitt, still not playoff set, may prove too big a test for any AFC playoff’er. All other individual talents (Brown, etc.) blend into team ranks at this time in the campaign and Steelers top-out in scoring but need to hunker down on the D-side (O: #2 / 4; D: 24 / 11), traditionally a Steel City strength. Run game reliant on vet Williams but Tomlin has these guys believing.

Chiefs

Andy has ’em thinking February football, something unthinkable in 1st 3rd when KC opened with road win (HOU) only to give up next five. A win over Ben-less Steelers in W7 started the current ride (8-0). QB Smith is All-Pro‘ing in 2015. As ygpg is low (O: #24 / 336y), Chiefs find ways to score (8 / 26): Opportunistic, and talent for modification (West (Charles)). Issue: 2nd half slate < challenging.

...Kubiak.wc.J.Beall.105.08.thmBroncos

Battle of Back-Ups (Brock v AJ) Monday as Andy & Pey-Dirt mend. On their returns, rust issue is no biggie as both automatic but they’d like their ‘house in order.’ Broncs riding a 2g L-streak as both were close. Upside of Ls: No QB controversy; Down: road playoffs & mood. O-side’s been struggle in 2015 (#23 / 18) but now D’s giving points (#1 / 29). “(Bolts) Without a Country (Hale)” come calling for finale. If it’s close, Prater splits-the-uprights: 94%, 4-4 50+.

Jets

Big surprise of 2015 contenderships as Arians protégée, where Bowles was voted first AP-ACOY for NFL14, helped shape Cards’ stout Ds before taking his first hired-as-head gig in Jetsland (MIA interim 2011 (2-1)) (Fitz & BM, co-surprises #2). Had midway rough patch but have strung 4 Ws and face good playoff primer vs Pats and Bills. Trouble is, losses will bump ‘em out of PS altogether.

Bengals

No house of cards, Bengals “Got (Growl)” whomever’s under center, though Andy makes it near purr-fect. Playoffs? That’s a whole ‘nother kitty, with monkey-on-its-back (Lewis & Dalton: 0-4). But Cincy shows indisputable growth (O: #11 / 4; D: 9 / 1) from prior years and seeks showcase at home for the PS. Trouble: Denver has it’s own agenda.

Bad Spot

NFL/PA greedmeisters: Games on Thursday and Saturday work but both should’ve been scheduled in day-light hours for the holidays. “Grabbing with both hands,” Rog & DeMaw.

...cherries.cloth.picdrome.6.2011.thm

Cherry Picks Week 16: Back in the Black

San Diego (4-10) @ Oakland (6-8): 12.24 NFLN 8:25: Raiders win
Redskins (7-7) @ Philadelphia (6-8): 12.26 NFLN 8:25: Eagles win
San Francisco (4-10) @ Detroit (5-9): 12.27 Fox 1:00: Lions win
Pittsburgh (9-5) @ Baltimore (4-10): CBS 1:00: Steelers win
Dallas Cowboys (4-10) @ Buffalo (6-8): Fox 1:00: Bills win
Chicago (5-9) @ Tampa Bay (6-8): Fox 1:00: Buccaneers win
Carolina Cats (14-0) @ Atlanta (7-7): Fox 1:00: Falcons win
Indianapolis (6-8) @ Dolphins (5-9): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Patriots (12-2) @ NY Jets (9-5): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Pats win
Texans (7-7) @ Tennessee (3-11): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Jaguars (5-9) @ New Orleans (5-9): CBS 4:05: Jaguars win
Green Bay (10-4) @ AZ (12-2): Fox 4:25 (GOTW1): Cards win
St. Louis Rams (6-8) @ Seattle (9-5): Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
New York Giants (6-8) @ Minnesota (9-5): NBC 8:30: Giants win
Cincy (11-3) @ DEN (10-4): 12.28 ESPN 8:30 (GOTW3): CIN wins

Record: 83 – 81

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: SuperBowlRing, wc.cca, 7.13.14, US-Embassy-Canada; Tailor, wc, Meggendorfer&Bonn, 1888; baker, wc, M.Andaya, USS.Stennis, 11.7.06, PJ.Perkins; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; Brady, wc, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries-cloth, picdrome, 6-2011, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.24.15 @ 2:27pm; edit 10:53 EST; Copyright © 2015

NFL15 – W16: Bengals Nor Broncos a House of Cards

21 Dec

Besides the inevitable pink-slip or eagerly encouraged exit, it’s the biggest fear of every single NFL head coach, that his starting quarterback will go down & out for extended time with an injury.

In 2015, head honchos of the Ravens (Flacco), Colts (Luck), Broncos (Manning), Eagles (Bradford), Cowboys (Romo) and Bengals all had that fear realized and were forced to improvise as their top signal-callers went out with hurts that sidelined them for anywhere from two games (Sam) to indefinitely (Peyton).

.....Romo.10.13.10.bigcatsliar.wc.thmbHalf of those clubs were struggling as it was (BAL – PHI – IND) whereas the Cowboys (2-0) were looking back-in-the-saddle and the Mustangs (7-2) and Bengals (10-2) were well on their way to Playoff-land when trouble hit.

But as things have gone with the clip-board boys at the controls both Denver’s Gary Kubiak and Cincy’s Marvin Lewis might say, ‘Embrace the fear!’ as their teams have been fairing pretty well since their stars-under-center exited the field to heal.

Fourth-year man Brock Osweiler (62%, 8t-4i) has played competently during a 3-2 run keeping the Broncos in the hunt, losing a close one at Pittsburgh in W15 play (27-34), while not-far-removed from Crimson campus A.J. McCarron (70%, 2-0, 3t-2i) has guided the Tigers offense with a similar calm, cool & collected demeanor.

That dread that will drape over coaches, crew & coliseum faithful at losing their favored gladiator is not unfounded.

.....McCarron.0.17.13.EOoP-USGov.wc.thmMore often than not those proverbial wheels come off the winning wagon as the under-study usually doesn’t have the playbook down nor exhibit the same rapport with his co-workers as did the injured field general. Pull out the key card and the structure will usually come crashing down, tumble like a house of cards that never should‘ve stood in the first place.

So when the wheels stay on sprockets it feels like a blessing.

And so far the Broncos and Bengals are “Houses of the Holy (Led Zeppelin ‘73),” set to square off in a Battle of the Blessed in the Monday Night feature (12.28 / 8:30 EST) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.

Odds-makers will have a tougher time picking a favorite in this holy war than they will the point-spread, but this worn & weary NFL15 prognosticator, one that advises against making any wager beyond the friendliest sort, is tabbing the Bengals (11-3) to pull-off the win over the Broncos (10-4). Neither Dalton nor Manning are expected to make a return at this stage in the season, aiming, at best, for the post-period.

....Osweiler.wc.9.29.13.J.Beall.thmWhile Bengals (#11 / 4) advantage over Broncs in team offensive ranks (#22 / 18) was compiled largely with Andy at the controls, McCarron’s shown a talent-in-transition that inspires confidence while his defensive ‘mates are leading (papg: #1 v 4 (DEN)) and closing the gap on their equally orange-clad enemy’s season-long hold on the key stoppage category (yapg: #9 v 1 (DEN)).

This Denver donnybrook will be one of three certified mettle match-ups that will highlight Week 16 action as Patriots (12-2) visit division rival and unexpectedly resilient New York (9-5) in Sunday’s early slate (12.27 / 1:00 EST) as the Packers (10-4) travel to the land of saguaros to take on fellow NFC contender Arizona (12-2) in later play (4:25).

.....macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.2011.wcSteven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credit: M.Lewis, 9.16.13, wc.cca, emeybee; M.Lewis, wc, AJ.Allmond, 6.29.10; T.Romo, wc, bigcatsliar, 10.13.0; A.McCarron, wc, 10.17.13, EOoP, US-Gov; B.Osweiler wc, 9.29.13, J.Beall; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, wc, 2011
Posted: 12.21.15 @ 11:59am EST; Copyright © 2015