Tag Archives: football

NFL18 Cherry Picks W14: St. Nick’s Maybe Memo to Packers, ‘Better a Big Fish Than Small Fry’

8 Dec

Fish n’ Chips

If there’s no news, then make some news. That could be a placard above the entrance to the managing editor’s office at SI.com.

Someone at the long-running magazine got it in their head this week to float the wobbly notion that Alabama football coach Nick Saban should become the next Packers guru to fill the vacancy created by the panic-driven firing of Super Bowl winning Mike McCarthy who’d been at the Green Bay helm for over a decade (06). Where there’s M&M (money & motivation), anything can happen.

But the Packers Executive Board doing what it takes to pry Nick away from UA where he rolls towards what could be his sixth national title in Tuscaloosa (7 + LSU), in money & position (club president), well, that’s about as likely as the forever frugal Brewers signing Bryce Harper to a 5-year deal: Not very.

There are plenty of reasons why someone of Saban’s caliber would never coach the green & yellow, starting with the fact the Packers would never go after someone with a celebrity carrying such a high price tag. That’s for the Yankees, Lakers and Cowboys of sportdom who like to throw money around.

Green Bay likes to think they can find diamonds in the rough, and they have, on occasion, but usually of the already cut variety (Wolf (OAK) – Holmgren (SF) – Lombardi (NYG)). Below the radar might be the better metaphor.

Besides that, the Packers Board of Directors ‘throw nickels around like manhole-covers (See also: Bears).’ But then all this has been common knowledge amongst real NFL fans for quite some time now.

And Saban himself might not like giving up the near reverential status he’s held in college football for about twenty years. At Alabama, Nick is becoming the John Wooden of college football (JW: 10 basketball titles @ UCLA). There’s Saban, and there’s everybody else, now that Urban Meyer has hung-up his head-set, again. The West Virginia native just might want to keep it that way, until he retires and goes into consulting and motivational speaking.

Though, it would not surprise that Saban has buried in the back of his mind a belief that he could do in Green Bay, or another NFL city, what Pete Carroll has done so marvelously in Seattle after his own great success at USC (2 titles 2003-04) and two brief NFL head-coaching stints with the New York Jets (94) and in New England (97-99 27-21), in winning back-to-back Halas trophies (NFCC 2014-15) with Wilson, Lynch and Legion of Boom. But such a build-from-scratch success story as Carroll fashioned is a rare feat indeed.

A Packers post means accepting the challenge of winning big in the Fox Valley. Key word there is ‘big.’ Winning’s not enough in Packerland. Titles must be won. That’s titles, plural. Once, as they said in the movies (75), is not enough.

Success in Green Bay does have its rewards.

The Packers are one of the most storied franchises in American sport. The head coach is a big fish in a small pond. That means you can gobble up pretty much whatever and whomever you want whilst you swim in it. They’ll probably name a street after you if you win a Super Bowl. Make that two, at least, two Halas trophies (NFCC). But if you don’t win early and often, they’ll hand you your walking papers right quick and might even string-up your family pet if the rabble get riled-up enough (See; Dan Devine 70s).

A former NFL Coach of the Year, Ray Rhodes, lasted but one 8-8 season before getting his pink slip from the Packers, even as Brett Favre had a sore thumb on his throwing hand most of that 1999 season.

Now this unexpected, rather ignominious mid-season firing of McCarthy, and you tell me, would you want take the reins in Green Bay? And it’s not like they’re gonna’ fork out the big bucks to help you assume the risk. No sir-ee, Nick.

This is a recent statement made by Packers All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers on his relationship with Mike: “We would finish every time that we talked.”

And I know what Rodgers meant: Listening in kind. That means, hearing each other out and responding. Not always in agreement, but in understanding: That’s maturity, that’s respect and that’s not easy to find today anywhere.

The coach community is a club. They understand the ups and downs, risks and rewards that come along with being a head coach. Some of those risks are unanticipated, like getting fired in-season with a 125-77 overall. That then creates a community wide impression, and not a good one.

Another name that’s being bantered about for the Packers’ HC job in 2019 is Northwestern’s resourceful Pat Fitzgerald (95-70 / 3-5 (3-1 since 2012)).

Pat’s done a marvelous job in Evanston but the former All-American linebacker is a defensive specialist. And as any real football fan knows, while the HC must delegate duties to capable staffers, they must also have a near expert understanding of play on both sides of the ball. Not that the Pack couldn’t use a boost on the D side of things, but with a guy like Rodgers running the offense, it’s scoring that is Green Bay’s forte, at least in the forceable future.

And therein be the carrot on Packers President Mark Murphy and GM Brian Gutekunst’s stick, Mister Aaron Rodgers.

Sure, money is important to a coaching candidate but so too is the prospect of winning quickly and winning often so you can keep earning that money, and that’s what Mr. Matriculator gives his coach, in all likelihood.

But Aaron, future Cantonese he be, is no spring chicken, as he will be entering his fourteenth season come next summer training camp in 2019.

While his first three seasons were limited to clipboarding, the fact Rodgers has recently suffered two semi-serious injuries (broken clavicles), missing half of 2013 and 2017 seasons, makes one wonder if he‘s become … susceptible?

How many NFL seasons does the Berkeley Bear have left?

He’s not the type to play just to break records or get a paycheck. His endorsements have him set for life. But the beatings in the backfield take their toll, even with new rules in place to protect the field general. I’d say 4-6 year, and that may not be enough to pull in the biggest names.

Then there’s interim, Joe Philbin, who led the Dolphins for parts of four seasons, compiling a so-so record of 24-28 as Bullygate unfolded. Not impressive but capable enough to get a short-term deal as search goes on as needed, or not.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 14

Saints @ Tampa: 12.9 Fox 1:00pE: Saints
Patriots @ Dolphins: CBS 1:00: Pats
Baltimore @ KansasCity: CBS 1:00: KC
Indianapolis @ Houston: CBS 1:00: Colts
Atlanta @ Green Bay: Fox 1:00: Packers
Panthers @ Cleveland: Fox 1:00: Browns
Denver @ 49ers: CBS 4:05: Broncos
Cincinnati @ Chargers: CBS 4:05: Cincy
Detroit @ Arizona: Fox 4:25: Lions
Philadelphia @ Dallas: Fox 4:25: ‘Boys
LosAngeles @ Chicago: NBC 8:20: Rams
Vikes @ Seattle: 12.10 Disney 8:15: Hawks

Record: 44 – 42

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, 2011; Fish-and-Chips, wc.cca, Mathias-Meckel, Blackpool, 2018; N.Saban, wc, 8.18.09, Ramma-Jamma-Yella; cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.08; Willie-Wood, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 12.7 @ 10:49pE, edit 12.8; Copyright © 2018

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NFL18 Cherry Picks W12: Pegging the Pretenders In a Contender Poor Playoff Picture

22 Nov

They‘ve gotta’ pick SOMEBODY, right?

The Halls of Fame, the Oscar®, that Mark Twain thing, we can’t make everybody happy with these honors and award shows but we sure can try, right?

And at the end of each NFL regular season the owners hold a playoff to spread the joy, selecting as many post-season participants as they can stuff into that PS bird, satisfying regional interests and keeping those coffers filling fat.

That meant expansion, adding teams (1971 AFL-NFL merger), crafting cute little divisions and then adding the wild card clubs which rarely have any wild about ‘em at all. So far, that means two more playoff participants per Conference.

Those slots must be filled, even if half the clubs are, for most the NFL weekends, just about as likely to stink up the joint as they are to shine bright.

Like most seasons, there are about 6 to 8 teams that have a pretty fair chance of winning their respective Conference (Halas (NFC) / Hunt (AFC) trophy) and then taking the Super Bowl, teams that look sound, front (O) and back (D).

We’ve got a ways to go before the twelve (12) playoff berths are awarded (Please, no cork-popping just yet, fellas (oy vey)), but it’s not too early to sift out the pretenders, those who’ll show their weaker hand and falter before the regular season winds up, while others will pass the mettle-test, in win or loss.

National Football Conference

Serious Contenders: Saints, Rams, Seahawks and Packers

We know New Orleans and Los Angeles have offense, but Saints are near top half in defense (Rams middle), while Hawks and Packers rank respectable on both sides, kinda-sorta.’ Even as their clubs sit around .500 each, I like the experience of Wilson & Rodgers, the latter whose club has a nice remaining slate. GB’s lost three close contests on the road vs top dogs, are better than half the clubs with winning marks and going 5-1 gets ’em into the PS where anything can happen.

Possible pretenders: Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Washington

Bears got growl that’s been hibernating since Lovie days and it’s not just Mack. Second-year QB Trubisky, like AFC counterpart Mahomes, has high confidence, though, with fewer weapons at his disposal. But Mitch also has a rabbit-habit which will cost him and his club dearly as quality of competition and game-importance grows. Cats and Vikes O&D ranks are respectable but both compete for 2018’s Fickle Franchise Award (+ Titans, etc.), while Washington’s solid season went down with Alex Smith’s broken leg in W11 action.

American Football Conference

Serious Contenders: New England, Pittsburgh and Houston

Houston (7-3): Texans started slow (0-3) but’ve found their mojo since (6-0), albeit on maybe the NFL’s easiest schedule. Nice win at DC in W11.

Possible Pretenders: Chargers, Colts, Ravens, Titans, Dolphins and Chiefs

Bolts loss at home to 3-6 Denver was telling and their remaining schedule, besides AZ (W12), is a bear. Indy, on the other hand, while a slow start has an easy remainder but probably won‘t gel soon enough to impact. Maybe 2019, if Andy can stay healthy. Baltimore is not better with Flacco floundering. Get him healthy again and back on track and we’ll talk about contending.

And the much touted Chiefs? They get their own separate breakdown.

The last Monday Night Football fiasco makes it clear (Rams 54-51 KC), the NFL, all four major American sports, for that matter, are now just about offense. Kids and the Jr.-media, especially the sabrheads who voted Mets’ deGrom NL-CY last week, just adore score. We adults like it too but, if unbridled, it makes us nervous because we understand that old adage, ‘what goes around, comes around’ or ‘careful what ya’ wish for, you just may get it.’

Defense, football, was born in a much more brutal time when boxing was big. Bad still happens today, of course. Selfishness, greed, dishonesty and cowardice abound, but your average fan, player and coach, are just not built that way, not like Chuck Bednarik and Lawrence Taylor. They loved to stick, to punish.

Today’s team must score early, often and be comeback capable. No pouting when your D miscues. Your offense must pull on their big-boy pants, get back out there and put another TD on the board, not settling for FGs. It’s a fair measure that the club with higher Super Bowl potential is the one that’s scoring proficient and at least defense capable, rather than the other way around (top D, so-so O).

The Chiefs clearly have offense, scoring well against some of the better Ds in early going (PIT, DEN, JAX, LAC). Keep in mind that those same teams will, as season progresses, figure better the habits of a newcomer like Mahomes which were unfamiliar in earlier weeks of play.

But KC’s own defense is atrocious, even when you adjust for the MNF disaster, which will haunt them in this final regular stretch and the playoffs where the level of competition is more clear and certain.

Kansas City is on their bye this Thanksgiving week to lick wounds and afford Reid & Co. time to figure a new plan. And don’t count on it. Andy is one of NFL’s senior gurus and made a Super Bowl with the Eagles, but defense has never been his stronger suit. The HC must delegate duties (DC), but it all starts at the top.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 12

Falcons @ NO: 11.22 NBC 8:20pE: A-Birds
Jaguars @ Bills: 11.25 CBS 1:00: Jacksonville
Hawks @ Carolina (GOTD): Fox 1:00: Seattle
New York @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Eagles
Dolphins @ Indianapolis: CBS 4:25: Colts
Pittsburgh @ Denver: CBS 4:25: Steelers
GreenBay @ Minnesota: NBC 8:20: Vikings
Titans @ Houston: 11.26 Disney 8:15: Tenn

Record: 40 – 38

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; D.Welniak-A.Reid, wc, J.Beall, 12.31.17, KCTV5; cherries, Hispalois, wc, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain; Jim-Marshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 11.22 @ 5:07pE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W10: Absent Super Bowl Berth, Big Decision Befalls Packers Brass

11 Nov

It’s that time of year again. That time when talk begins about Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy getting the boot by his betters on the Board.

It’s a routine that began around 2013, a couple years after Mike & Company’s Super Bowl triumph over the Steelers. It, of course, has never amounted to much, not amongst practically-minded folk, anyway, except for periodically re-shuffling the play-calling duties to appease the gripers.

But this season might create a different mood, a cheese of a different color, so to speak, if a terrific turnaround and trip to Atlanta doesn‘t come to fruition.

At the midway, the Pack sit at 3-4-1, the tougher half of their schedule behind them where they faced maybe the two top Super Bowl contenders in the Rams and Patriots, back-to-back and on the road, suffering close losses versus both.

And if you think Packers’ R-back Aaron Jones’ fumble to start the 4th quarter of play against those Patriots as both were knotted at 17, was the reason for the green & yellow’s loss in Foxborough, you might want to stick with the NBA.

A more likely cause, one that’s reared its ugly head in nearly every Packers’ loss since White and Butler exited the Fox Valley (early 2000s): Poor defense.

On 3rd and seven at their own 27 in first series after recovering said Jones fumble to start the 4th quarter, Green Bay’s Swiss cheese D allowed Brady to connect with Dorsett for a 17-yard gain, giving the New Englanders good breathing space for a drive that would eventually end in a TD to take the lead, harness momentum and get the win.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to predict the Packers going 7-1 the rest of the way, a final regular season tally (10-5-1) that might be good enough to take the NFC North, a competitive division but with no juggernauts in the bunch.

Current division leaders Chicago (5-3) are improved with new QB Trubisky under center but look more a pretender with a youthful signal-caller prone to rabbit, a red-flag for fumbles and INTs in crucial game moments.

A visit to Seattle in week 11 (TNF), then traveling to arch-rival Minnesota ten days later on Sunday and one more seriously challenging home match-up versus Atlanta in W13 is the stretch that will decide the Packers and Mike’s fate.

All three, the Seahawks, Vikings and A-Birds are playoff contenders but of the fickle variety in 2018: One weekend they can look serious, the next, downright pathetic, even with fairly talent laden rosters.

Even at 9-6-1, a team can probably take the NFCN, the runner-up seriously challenging for one of the two wild-card spots in a down season for the NFC.

And with their remaining schedule, not terribly tough, unless you stand at 3-5, I’d not expect the Lions to get that wild-card spot.

But even a playoff spot and deep run may not be enough to save Mike. Anything short of a Super Bowl will be seen as a failure by Packers elite and fandom.

Aaron Rodgers is a rare talent, even as Green Bay had such fortune just prior to the Berkeley boy’s arrival in the person of Brett Favre. Once Rodgers hangs ‘em up, maybe less than five years with recent the injuries starting to take their toll, to nab a third consecutive Hall of Fame caliber QB is highly unlikely. The point being, Packers window for returning to the Big Game is closing.

McCarthy is not a great coach, but he’s a pretty darn good one (124-74-2 / 10-8 PS / SB45-W). He’s in that grade with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin (SB 1-1) who himself is looking to solidify a place in the history of another storied franchise.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 10

NO @ Bengals: 11.11 Fox 1:00pE: Cincy
Detroit @ Chicago: Fox 1:00: Lions
Washington @ TB: Fox 1:00: Buccaneers
Buffalo @ New York: CBS 1:00: Bills
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Jags
Los Angeles @ Oakland: CBS 4:05: Raiders
Seattle @ Los Angeles: CBS 4:25: Hawks
Dolphins @ Green Bay: CBS 4:25: Packers
Dallas @ Philadelphia: NBC 8:20: Eagles

Record: 38 – 31

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Aaron-Rodgers, Mike-McCarthy, wc.cca, 9.9.12, M.Morbeck, Lambeau-Field; ripe-cherries, Chirak, 6.24.07; Harold-Jackson, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 11.11 @ 2:45aE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W9: Patriots and Red Sox Making New England America’s Region of Champions

4 Nov

Traditionally, after the War, it was b-ball (Celtics) and hockey (Bruins) that gave Bean-Towners their steady source for sportful community pride.

It’s when names like Bobby Orr, Cousy, the Joneses, Esposito, Kev McHale, Bill Russell, Cheevers, DJ, Chief Parish, Hondo, Bird and Red Auerbach made those cold Noreasters just slightly more bearable.

Today the tables have turned, in a good way.

Besides a singular season in the sun (Celts 08; Bruins 11), the Hub City has become the mecca for America’s two top entertainment venues, able to claim superiority in both the MLB and the NFL, the defending yet struggling Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) being of little consequence.

The New England Patriots of Foxborough and the Boston Red Sox have won collectively, nine (9) world championships since 2001, Bill Belichick’s Pats hoisting the Hardware in 2002, 04-05, 10 and 17, the BoSox, under three different managers, in 2004, 07 (Francona), 13 (Farrell) and in 2018 (Cora), nearly sweeping the Dodgers, 4-1. Those World Series titles to add to previous five (5) championships in the earlier part of the twentieth century.

Both clubs show no sign of fading from the title picture anytime soon.

So how do the other metropoli and national regions stack-up in the image department when it comes to tumultuous merriments?

Gotta’ start with the Big Apple (NYC-NJ), but that doesn’t look too shiny these days. The New York Yankees have had their share of World Series titles of late (2009 + 4), but the Mets, Knickerbockers, Nets, Islanders, Rangers (94), Jets and Giants since 2012 (08) have been pretty dog-gone pathetic.

As for Philadelphia, the 76ers and Flyers have been bad since Bobby Clarke and Julius Erving left town while the more recent championships seem to happen in the one-hit-wonder variety (Eagles: 2018; Phillies 2008). In the Western part of Pennsylvania, the Pirates, like Milwaukee, are beset with frugal ownership which, unless you’re talkin’ about the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, usually translates into no titles. But the Steel City does have Big Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers: 2006, 09) and Sidney Crosby (Penguins: 2009, 16-17).

Heading south, it’s been the collegians who’ve given fans something to cheer about: Duke in men’s basketball where Mike Krzyewski has taken up where Adolf Rupp left off in winning five (5) NCAA titles during his 39-year tenure, the last in 2015, and, since Florida football hit the skids and LeBron bolted Miami, it’s been mastermind Nick Saban at The University of Alabama scoring big, where his Crimson Tide have garnered five (5) national titles, the last in 2017.

Then there’s NFL owner Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys who had their 2nd run as America’s Team (1993-94, 96). Now they look done.

Out West, the Los Angeles Dodgers win Pennants (2017-18) but no more World Series (88) and the Lakers these days are just dreamers. But the Steve Warriors (Kerr and Curry) of the NBA’s San Franscico Bay area representative and Pete Carroll, first at USC (03-04), now at NFL Seattle (2014), are the leaders who’ve been carrying the Pacific time zone banner of greatness.

Continuing clockwise and heading to the Midwest, the St. Louis Cardinals still win on occasion (2011, 06) while the Detroit Red Wings were Hockey-Town for a time (2008, 02, 97-98) but have turned into a weigh-station.

The Old Northwest Territory’s biggest metropolis, Chicago, has been doing itself almost as proud as Boston has in the sporting venues, the Cubs finally breaking through again in 2016 with their first World Series title in over 100 years (1907-08), the White Sox winning the fall classic in 2005 (last in 1917), the Blackhawks recently winning three (3) Stanley Cups in six seasons (2015, 13, 10) and the Michael Jordan Bulls taking their final of six (6) NBA titles in 1998. Only the once proud George Halas’ Bears going long without a championship since their remarkable Super Bowl win in 1986 under Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan.

And while they can only claim two world championships since Vince Lombardi parted company with Green Bay faithful in 1968 (1997, 2010) and must concede the Titletown moniker to their opponent this Sunday nite in the Tom Brady-led Patriots, the Packers have enjoyed one heck of a quarterback run in the persons of Brett Favre (1992-2007) and Aaron Rodgers (2005-present). Never in the history of the NFL has a franchise, for over 25 straight seasons, entered so many games with such hope for victory as have the fans of the green and yellow.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 9

Bears @ Buffalo: 11.4 Fox 1:00: Bills
Buccaneers @ Carolina: Fox 1:00: Bucs
Chiefs @ Cleveland: CBS 1:00: Browns
NewYork @ Miami: CBS 1:00: Jets
Steelers @ Baltimore: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Detroit @ Minnesota: Fox 1:00: Vikings
Atlanta @ Redskins: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Houston @ Denver: CBS 4:05: Denver
LosAngeles @ Seattle: CBS 4:05: Hawks
LosAngeles @ NewOrleans: Fox 4:25: NO
GreenBay @ NewEngland: NBC 8:20: NE

Record: 34 – 24

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject 2011; T.Brady, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison; cherries, 6-2011, wc, picdrome; Jim-Otto, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 11.4 @ 1:11aE (edit 6:05p (PA)); Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W7: On Jim Taylor’s Death, One Can Ask, Where Are the White Ball-Carriers Today?

21 Oct

Perspective can be everything.

The angle, the light, the timing, the placement, they’re all important.

When you’re talking about performing a biopsy or having a tire mounted properly on your automobile, perspective matters not very much, but for many a circumstance in this life, it can matter plenty.

Debating the greatest ball-carrier in NFL history requires perspective.

Many believe the Vince Lombardi Packers of the 1960s, a team that won five (5) NFL championships and the first two (2) Super Bowls, to be the USA’s greatest pro football team of all-time (See also; CFL).

And a key cog in that magnificent machinery was fullback, Jim Taylor (1935 – 2018), who died recently at the age of 83.

Jim was a regular 1000-yard rusher in the mid-60s when 12-14 regular season games was the schedule and when the ground game, at least in the high-tone NFL (See also: Gillman, Hadl & Alworth (AFL Chargers)), was still the gridiron game plan.

So, arguably the best offensive player (Paul Hornung, Bart Starr and Boyd Dowler were three pretty key cogs, too) on the best team ever could fairly be called the greatest ball-carrier that ever laced ’em up, right? But that might be called having too narrow of a perspective, eh?

Around the same time JT was churning out yards and scoring TDs (83 career), there was another guy in Cleveland named Jim Brown who was doing what the guy in Wisconsin was doing but even better (led NFL in rushing eight (8) times, amassing 1863 yards in 1963 and averged 104 per game for his career), on a team you could say he carried on his back, or with his legs, more specifically, leading the original Brownies to the 1964 NFL title under head coach Blanton Collier.

Okay, so Jimbo Taylor might not’ve been the greatest ball-carrier in NFL annals, but he’s certainly in the discussion and was probably the biggest money back you could find in the golden age decade of the 1960s.

Both which, Taylor’s death and his football legacy, beg the question, where are the white ball-carriers in today’s NFL?

The last one of note I can recall was Mike Alstott, who played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Bucanneers (1996-06), being chosen All-Pro three (3) times and helping the Bucs to their first Super Bowl and victory in 2007. And of Mike’s eleven (11) campaigns, just over half could be considered highly productive.

White man can’t jump? Don’t tell that to Dick Fosbury or Dwight Stones. And don’t tell Paul Hornung or John Riggins he can’t motor with the pigskin, either.

But coaches at both the collegiate and pro levels are opting almost strictly for black running backs, a preference (bias) that carries over to the defensive side of the ball where the secondary is as well, almost entirely of one race, black. What Jim Taylor thought of the development I can just image. I’m sure he was asked.

Is the state explained by a clear and substantiated superiority of strength, speed, technique and tenacity by one race? I would think not.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Titans @ LAC (Ldn): 10.21 9:30aE: Bolts
Houston @ Jacksonville: 1:00 CBS: Jags
Carolina @ Philadelphia: 1:00 Fox: Eagles
Minnesota @ NYJets: 1:00 Fox: Vikings
New England @ Chicago: 1:00 CBS: Pats
Cleveland @ Tampa Bay: 1:00 Fox: Bucs
Detroit @ Dolphins: 1:00 Fox: Lions
Saints @ Baltimore: 4:05 Fox: Ravens
Cowboys @ Washington: 4:25 CBS: DC
Cincinnati @ Kansas City: 8:20 NBC: Cats

Record: 24 – 17

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Jim-Taylor, wc.cca, 1967, New-Orleans; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc,7.2.12; Jim-Marshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 10.21 @ 2:29aE; tag edit 11.27; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W6: Stackers, Slackers and Uff-Da, Memories of the Heidi Game

14 Oct

“We’ve just gotta’ keep stackin’ those wins”

Quoting James Conner, Steelers running-back in interview just following his club’s clobber of the visiting Atlanta Falcons, 41-17, to go to 2-2-1 (10.7).

Truer post-game words were never spoken: Stay positive, stay focused, keep it simple and keep that winning momentum going.

Conner’s a man who aught be trusted, and not tagged Pollyannaish.

*He’s the man who has proved quite capable in filling the breach created by All-Pro ball-carrier LeVeon Bell who has been holding-out for a new contract and seen his stock drop precipitously in recent weeks as Conner, a 2d-year back out of the University of Pittsburgh (b.Erie), has seen his own on the rise. Jim’s numbers through Week 5 of NFL18: 5g, 84r, 342y, 4.1ypc, 5td, 22rec – 239y.

Other stackers of recent wins include the Bengals (4-1), the Chiefs (5-0), Bolts (3-2), the defending champ Eagles (3-3), the Bears (3-1) (Did I just type the Bears (?)), Vikes (2-2-1), Saints (4-1), Panthers (3-1) and the Los Angeles Rams (5-0) whose decision to return to the white ram‘s horn on their helmet (gold in St.Louis – yellow in last years of prior L.A. residence) must be credited in some small way for their resurgence.

And whilst Jim spoke words of reason, Tom Brady spoke some of the weirdest words in recent memory in saying this week the NFL is now a “glorified college football.” If anyone’s earned the right to say silly things, it’s the New England Patriots starry quarterback. But right does not always make might. Oy vey.

— — —

Where there are stackers, there must also be slackers, teams that, plain and simple, are stinkin’ up the joint.

Some we figured would be rank in 2018 (Jets Bills Cards Giants etc.), but others we believed might just have found the formula to turn it into contendership but turned out to be so much pie-in-the-sky, hence, the term, slacker: 49ers, Seahawks, Falcons, Lions, Dallas, Oakland, Broncos and the Texans.

I was just a little tike when the Heidi Game made BIG news.

The date was November 17, 1968. The New York Jets were in Oakland to take on the Raiders in an AFL showdown, the precursor league to today’s AFC. Both clubs were contenders with Joe Namath and Daryle Lamonica quarterbacking for their respective clubs, and the New Yorkers just about two months away from their date with destiny, i.e., Super Bowl III versus the Baltimore Colts.

The game was close with the Jets taking the lead late in the 4th. Then NBC in all its wisdom decided to switch to its scheduled programming for the East coast viewership, a TV movie of Heidi. As you might guess, while millions in the Eastern time zone were marveling at the Swiss countryside, the Raiders roared back to score two TDs and win the game, infuriating Jets fans and the like.

In this NFL’s Week 5 action, a similar happenstance in Carolina as Fox network decided to switch national viewers to the later Vikings – Eagles game as scheduled. But low & behold, the hometown Panthers came from behind on the final drive with place-kicker Graham Gano booting a massive 63-yarder to win the contest against the Giants. The difference in THIS switch-a-roo was that NYG and Carolina viewerships stayed-tuned to their game, even as other viewers were deprived of the exciting finish in NC.

Not exactly a Heidi Game, but not exactly a foxy programming call, either.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

Tampa @ Atlanta: 10.14 Fox 1pE: A-Birds
Carolina @ Redskins: Fox 1:00: Washington
Seahawks @ Oakland: Fox 1:00: Raiders
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Steelers
Los Angeles @ Cleveland: CBS 1:00: Bolts
Chicago @ Dolphins: Fox 1:00: Miami
Baltimore @ Tennessee: CBS 4:25: Ravens
Jacksonville @ Dallas: CBS 4:25: Jaguars
Chiefs @ Patriots: NBC 8:20: New England

Record: 17 – 15

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, Wikiproject, 2011; Pittsburgh-Steelers-enlarged-helmet, wc, Daniel-X-Oneil, 4.28.15, Chicago-Draft; Heidi-film, 1937, wc, Jean-Hersholt, Shirley-Temple; cherries-ripe, wc, Chirak, 6.24.07; Harold-Jackson, wc, Topps-Chewing-Gum
Posted: 10.14.18 @ 3:47aE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Cherry Picks W5: Mayfield’s the Manziel Equalizer, Mahomes the Mr.Smith Memory Buster

7 Oct

When all is finally written on his professional football achievements, it’s likely they won’t compare to those of the Cleveland Browns (maybe NFL’s) greatest quarterback in their long, hyphenated history (AAFC-NFL 1946-95, 99 >), that being Otto Graham (8 pro championships).

But if the University of Oklahoma Heisman trophy winner and #1 overall draft pick (2018) keeps playing with the composure he’s shown in just his first two NFL games, Baker Mayfield, will, at very least, last long enough to make Forest City faithful forget about the Johnny Manziel crap shoot (2015-16) (oy).

As an Aggie (Texas A&M), Manziel was a freak talent where he might’ve become the greatest NCAA signal-caller to ever lace ‘em up, had he hung around for his junior and senior seasons to grow physically and emotionally.

But John, currently rostered with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, was also a freak-show, obsessing with beer, sugar (“Skittles®), chicken-feed signature fees, celebrity and the hanger-ons who worship it.

The Browns play in the first quarter of NFL18 can be summed-up in one word: Improved (1-2-1). That doesn’t read very exciting but for a franchise that’s been down in the dumps since, excepting a couple playoffs (02, 94), the Kosar-Schottenheimer era (85-89), it’s plenty good enough, at this stage, anyway.

In the team breakdown, no blowout losses at this juncture (1-2-1: PIT NO NYJ OAK), and that’s important for a club in rebuild. Every game’s been a battle and a possible win. If you can keep it close into the 4th, anything can happen. But that works both ways. If ahead, you better protect that ball and play some D.

Individually, #1 running back Hyde has five TDs on an unimpressive 3.4ypc, veteran QB Taylor hurt his back but is not very missed on a 48.8 C% (2t-2i), Landry is the leading receiver (24r -312y), Joseph is perfect with the foot (4-4 / 3-3xp), Schobert is the tackler (37) and Garrett the sacker (4.5).

On Mayfield’s ledger, in one start, two games, he has a pleasing 59.4 C%, 2 TDs, 2 picks, a pretty spiffy 7.8ypc average and has showed a poise in the pocket in opposite of his collegiate scamper-style, rushing just six times for eight yards.

The rest of the slate leading up to Cleveland’s bye (W11), a total of six games, will make or break the season. And it’s quite challenging. Just two on the road but the tough teams look to be the Ravens this Week 5, plus KC, Atlanta, @ Pittsburgh and two .500 clubs in the Bolts and the Bucs in Tampa Bay.

That stretch will also do much to test young Baker (b.4.14.95 Austin), who will come through a winner if he shows judgment capability in protecting the ball and then keeps reining in the rabbit habit, the latter being more likely if he gets protection and same-page reads with his receiver corps.

*The numbers on 2d-year Patrick Mahomes, another Texas native (Tyler), are nothing short of astounding, if one can be that good in just the first four games of a season: A 4-0 mark as the starting quarterback, a 65C%, 1200 passing yards, 14 touchdown passes, zero (0) interceptions and a stellar 8.7ypc average. And these numbers with just one prior starting assignment in 2017.

Might this be a case of the new pitcher no one’s seen yet who gets the best of a lineup that’s still a bit befuddled (Dak Prescott?), but once they figure out his delivery, they make him pay but big?

The Chiefs slate so far might support such a belief (opposition unawares).

The four clubs the Chiefs have bested have a combined total of seven (7) wins. That’s pretty pedestrian. But 3 of 4 contests were on the road, always a big challenge in the NFL, and Pittsburgh is sneaky bad right now while the Broncos were 2-1 entering their W4 match with eventual victor, KC.

Of biggest concern to Andy Reid and his team is not be whether they keep matriculating on offense, for proven stars Hunt (289y – 3t – 4.1), Hill (23r – 3t) and Kelce (23r – 3t) are all again on the All-Pro track, but whether the defense, ranked poorly in points and yardage allowed (25 / 32), can do enough to hold leads late in the game against those teams that can put up points anytime, i.e., Packers (Rodgers), Pats (Brady), Saints (Brees), Rams (Goff) and the like.

Of most encouragement is Mahomes has kept his own flash to a reasonable infrequency, averaging just under five (5) rushes per game. That semi-poise will be tested well in the Chiefs upcoming schedule, one that include matches versus the Jags, Pats, Cincy, Denver and the Rams. Reid likes a West Coast system, so scamper will not be well tolerated. That means, Pat, take your licks and like it.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 5

Falcons @ Steelers: 10.7 Fox 1pE: Pitt
Jaguars @ Kansas City: CBS 1:00: Jags
Packers @ Detroit: Fox 1:00: Lions
Baltimore @ Browns: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Dolphins @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Cincy
Oakland @ Chargers: CBS 4:05: Raiders
Minnesota @ Philly: Fox 4:25: Eagles
Los Angeles @ Seattle: Fox 4:25: Hawks
Redskins @ NO: 10.8 Disney 8:15: Saints

Record: 13 – 10

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, Wikiproject, 2011; Browns, 8.17.18, wc.cca, EricDrost; Patrick-Mahomes, wc, US-MO-Air-National-Guard, Mstr-Sgt.M.Crane, 8.14.18, St-Joseph; Cherries-cloth, 6-2011, wc, picdrome; Jim-Otto, TCG, 1970
Posted: 10.7.18 @ 2:39aE, edit 10.9; Copyright © 2018