Tag Archives: Luke Kuechly

NFL17 Cherry Picks W7: Minus Rodgers, Packer-Backers Brace For Future Shock

21 Oct

For the Green Bay Packers and their frothy fandom, NFL 2017 has poured them a big brimming beverage of Future Shock to imbibe. Drink up, blessed ones.

But the title of their novel state reads different than the 1970 best-seller: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Football Without a Great Quarterback Under Center. It should fly off the shelves. Sure, Steve.

— — —

Future Shock was a non-ficition write penned by New Yorker Alvin Toffler (1928 – 2016). It was a well-received prediction on how change, through technologies and their profit-seeking managers, will become a constant in the lives of every person on the planet. It’s a prediction that’s proved fairly accurate.

Now the Pack are faced with the toughest change any team, any not sporting a defensive leader the likes of Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, will face in a season: The loss of their offensive field general in Aaron Rodgers. A difference here: Most changes today are designed to optimize profits. This one wasn’t designed and definately won’t spur gains as Rodgers happens to be that rare, well-decorated four-star variety commander (five-star: Baugh, Graham, Clark, Layne, Van Brocklin, Starr, Namath, Griese, Jurgensen, Staubach, Unitas, Bradshaw, Montana, Brady, Aikman, Favre, Roethlisberger, Mannings).

— — —

The green & yellow stand at 4-2 in this still fairly early yet angstful NFL season, thank you, knee-jerks, tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North. The 2-time MVP Rodgers sustained a 2nd collarbone break in 3+ seasons (13) early in last week’s road contest versus the Vikings who currently hold the tie-breaker.

But this time the injury is a bit more troubling for Rodgers.

The Chico, California born and Cal-Berkely educated Rodgers is 3-years older than when he had the last CB-fracture, expecting then the heal process to be slightly slower and maybe less certain. The body ages, skin gets thinner and bones more brittle. We can slow the process, but it still ages. Worse is that the injury this time fissures on his better half, his right, throwing side.

The surgery is complete and it’s postulated the 2010 Super Bowl winner and Kaepernick fan will miss the rest of the 2017 season. But don’t be surprised if he makes a return before the regular slate finishes. That would be fine timing for GB because his Packers team will no doubt still be in the thick of it, having only to compete in the typically sad-sack North Division (1960s). That is, if his backup in 2d-year man out of UCLA (5R-2015), Brett Hundley (2g / 56C% / 1t-3i), can muster enough offense to help his team take 3-4 victories and make Rodgers’ task (making the post-season) that less daunting.

In 2013, Rodgers went down in W9 (v CHI). Under Matt Flynn the Packers played to 2-5-1. Upon Aaron’s return W17 versus those Bears, GB won the game to make the playoffs at 8-7-1 where they lost a nail-bitter at home to none other than the Harbaugh 49ers (20-23) and Kaepernick who, as he always did to GB in the post-season, passed poor (16-30) but ran wild (98y) to victory.

Any new signal-caller, especially in Green Bay where expectations run higher than the cholesteral count of a tailgating, beer-guzzling, cheese-inhaling, bratwurst hound on game-day, can use some serious help from his backfield. Maybe ‘use’ isn’t the right word: desperately needs the help of his backfield mates. Brett might have that in Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones.

Montgomery looked somewhat promising last season: On 77 attempts he scored 3 TDs with a spiffy 5.9 YPC. That average has come down in 2017 (3.2) but the Stanford man has only carried the pigskin around 10 times per contest. Some guys need regualr action to get it rolling and Ty may be one of those guys.

Rookie Jones (2017 – 5R – TX-EP) had a great game in Dallas where he gained 125 (6.8) and scored a touchdown (45-215y / 4.8 / 2t). But of couse, Aaron’s largely an unknown at this point in time. And promising is promising.

— — —

Since the early 1990s, the Green Bay Packers roadway to the championship has been one paved mostly with easy victories, MVP awards, a plethora of All-Pro selections, more Super Bowl trips than most NFL clubs (3) and lots o’ lots o’ friendly national press coverage for the green & yellow gang.

It began in 1991 with the arrival of one crafty General Manager in Ron Wolf (HOF15), he of the Oakland Raiders chamipionship ways. Wolf would secure the key components to Green Bay’s long-awaited post-Lombardi revival.

In 1992 Wolf persuaded 49ers assistant Mike Holmgren to take up residence in a place that’d become a graveyard for coaches ever since the Great One’s departure following the Pack’s victory over AFL Raiders in SB2 (68).

Then he pulled off the master-stroke, the deal that proved linchpin to the whole Green Bay renaissance and his eventual election to Canton when he snatched a rookie bench-warmer quarterback / party-animal with a rocket arm named Brett “Mississippi” Favre from Atlanta’s roster for one 1st-round draft pick.

In 1993, shoring up the Packers’ defense became Wolf’s focus as he enticed Philadelphia Eagles free-agent sack-master Reggie White to “boldly go where (fewer of his black race had been going) before,” Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After that group had won two NFC titles, Wolf retired and the torch was passed to Ted Thompson (2005) who “boldly (went) where no man had gone before” in drafting a 1R QB (Rodgers) to replace a still vibrant, iron-willed, Wisconsin demi-god in Favre, and show the future Hall-of-Famer the proverbial door.

— — —

In this run of success, Green Bay has returned to the Super Bowl three times, won an arm-load of NFC North trophies and muscled their way into becoming a Thanksgiving regular along with traditionals Detroit & Dallas. And while it’s fallen short of the Walsh – Seifert string and Cowboys title tally of the 90s, you wouldn’t know it by the cock-sure confidence most ‘Backers exude from every pore, every minute, everyday since the rebirth began.

But “the times they are a-changin.’”

The first collarbone crack heard ‘round Wisconsin in 2013 sidelined the master matriculator in W9 and the Packers nose-dove (0-3-1). Expect something similar this time around. It’s just a taste of something they haven’t had to stomach since the days of Lindy Infante‘s final campaign: mediocrity.

In fact, there’s a whole generation of Packerland folk who’ve never know the despair most the rest of NFL fandom experience with a certain regularity, who’ve never had their faith tested, week in, week out, year after year.

A great QB is a god-send. His ability to read D (fluid intellect), implement a plan, take hits in the pocket while possessing an innate ability to move the ball, all add up to wins and may mask what is otherwise an uninspired team.

Someday the Packers will be slumming, blue bloods without a great signal-caller, without even be a ‘can’t miss’ college draftee in their sights (See; 1970s-80s). But in the not-to-distant future, Mr. Rodgers will return and will win many more games. So if you’re a Packer-backer, just “relax.” Know that both of those futures will come to fruition and that a little humility goes a long way in preparation.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 7

Ravens @ Vikes: 10.22 CBS 1:00: Baltimore
Saints @ Green Bay: Fox 1:00: New Orleans
New York Jets @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Dolphins
Panthers @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams: Fox 1:00: AZ
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis: CBS 1:00: Colts
Dallas @ San Francisco: Fox 4:05: Cowboys
Bengals @ Pittsburgh: CBS 4:25: Cincinnati
Seahawks @ New York Giants: CBS 4:25: Seattle
Falcons @ New England: NBC 8:30: Atlanta
Redskins @ Eagles: 10.23 Disney 8:30: DC

Record: 22 – 15

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; A.Rodgers, 12.30.12, Minneapolis, wc.cca, JoeBielawa, E.Griffen; Rodgers, M.Morbeck, wc,12.27.09, LambeauField; B.Favre, Dugan, wc,11.15.09, MN-NationalGuard; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain, wc; Jim-Otto, 1970, TCG
Posted: 10.20.17 @ 10:47pE; Copyright © 2017

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NFL16 – SB50: Cam Cues Days of Dart & Dash

4 Feb

Modern Maximus at 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some dissimilarities are obvious, in age and race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♫ Rock Your Baby ♫

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now comes NFL 2015-16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurious Kindred Spirits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flash Cam

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Cam’s style come to dominate the pros?

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

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

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

 

Super 50 Cherry Pick: Denver Broncos

Record: 104 – 101

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

NFL15 Cherry Picks W12: Cards, Cats & Colby

26 Nov

For the first time in NFL15 it’s the National Conference that’s looking boss.

Besides defending champ New England, who at 10-0, still ride atop the American and most team rankings, about the only other AFC Super contender appears to be Cincinnati who went down to defeat to Arizona in W11 action (34-31) but did so with gallantry.

Though Denver sit’s at 8-2 they’re a bit shaky with Peyton injured even as Brock gutted out a win in Chi-Town on Weil-power (17-15), while the rest of the playoff possibles, including KC, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the Jets and Houston feel far from safe enterprises in which to invest your dreams of Santa Clara (SB50).

Arizona Cardinals

Leading both conferences to start Week 12 in key offensive categories of yards and points scored per game (#1) and a run attack that’s been strong with the firm of Johnson, Ellington and Johnson, defensively the Cards look pretty spiffy too in yards (3) and points allowed (13). Where AZ could use some spit & polish is in the press-dept (18sk), tight-end corps where touches trend a bit low (29r) and a few more 50+ tries to test-out kicker Catanzaro for playoff readiness.

........Palmer.wc.9.3.15.J.Beall.thmThree of Arizona’s next four games are roadies (@ SF, @ STL, MIN, @ PHI), the final two toughies (GB / SEA). The plan: Beef-up on the so-sos then tone-up (no benchings if healthy) on the top-talent to enter the post-season well-tuned.

Carolina Panthers

Standing at 10-0, many, including this fan, can’t seem to get behind the Cats as NFC’s top dog. When Green Bay’s down, it’s the Cardinals on top. When AZ stumbles, we look to the fickle G-Men of Meadowlands or the slow-starting Seahawks, rather than Cats of Carolina. Even the media hems & haws.

Why? NFL’s largely about offense, creating and sometimes stopping it. That’s not the side of the ball which we’ve come to think of Carolina. They’ve had scorers, season’s where points piled-up but it’s always been the D-side (#4 (yapg) / 6 (papg)) that’s defined the Coastals. One concern: A complete return to form of linebacking star Luke Kuechly who sat W2-5 from concussion.

Presently, Cats yardage at #18 and #3 in pspg. That means they capitalize and are opportunistic. Good traits but not always reliable, like that offensive scheme that will matriculate with consistency (See; GB, AZ, SEA, Romo, NYG, NO).

And it’s the QB at the core, fueling offensive expansion or contraction, depending much on his leadership and skill, though, the men in the trenches (OL) are key in keeping the core whole (20sk).

Cam’s in his 5th year, a critical campaign in a career marked by highs & lows. He’s a 1-2 PS mark, the sole win coming against a hobbled AZ club. Hamster is back to regular rabbit (9 runs per) and if not for a 5td tally versus 4-6 Redskins (W11) would have a pedestrian ratio (20-9) on top of lowest C% (57) of his tenure.

Green Bay Packers

Nothing cures Green Bay blues (0-3 W9-11) like an intra-division game in the old Black & Blue. Enter the cure for what ails the Packers, the purple-pumped Minnesota Vikings riding a 5g winning streak. The result: Same old, same old. Pack breezes to a win on Norseman’s UoM turf, 30-13.

.......colby.12.30.10.Jeffthequiet.thmbWhen Minnesota needed to match Packers 10 points in 2Q, Bridgewater, Zimmer & Norv Turner laid a goose egg: 0. With Ted’s limited range, defenders key on Peterson (13-45y) and you can pretty much close the book on Vikings’ offense. On the other side, only intense pressure on Rodgers stifled the master-matriculator and all Vikes could muster were 2 sacks while green & yellow got to Ted six times.

Only W16 match-up in Arizona looks daunting for the Pack, while a Thanksgiving feast on Chicago, followed by a leftover gobble in Detroit (W13) and Green Bay’s losing streak lemons will get turned into lesson-learning, playoff-prep lemonade.

Wild & Woolly

Seahawks: Finally finding their stride with boost from Mr. Rawls (6.0 ypc), Seattle is best of the rest and with a slightly favorable remaining slate could jump to Super class by Week 17’s end.

Falcons: Explaining Atlanta’s slide is simple enough. Three loses by a total of seven pts: 23-20 (TB (OT)), 17-16 (@ SF), 23-20 (IND). Sometimes lucky breaks just don’t come, especially when TOs come in bunches. As the remaining schedule is not formidable, Mr. Quinn should have A-Birds flying again.

Giants: With Romo revitalizing Dallas, Cousins looking capable and Eagles not as bad as media has decreed, NFCE may be most competitive of the lot, even if nary one club gets party invite. Giants are as fickle as antebellum “Scarlett O‘Hara (See Also: STL, CHI, NO, TB, etc),” so deciding where they end up is for “another day.”

Vikings: With so much on the line versus GB, Vikings played minny and appear the classic case of pretender. Ahead in the wild card chase, the Purple may squeak into the playoffs but won’t last for long.

Houseman MVP Meter: Ranking “old fashioned way,” leader’s gotta “earn it.”

Tom Brady
Andy Dalton
Carson Palmer
......Brady.8.28.09.K.Allison.wc.cca.thmbAaron Rodgers
Cam Newton
Julio Jones
DeAndre Hopkins
D’Qwell Jackson
Telvin Smith
NaVorro Bowman

Good Spots W11

GB 30 (5sk) @ MIN 13: Pressure Packed
GB wins coin-toss, defers to MIN; outcome: Vikes punt (GB 41)
NE wins coin-toss, defers to BUF; outcome: Bills punt (25)
DEN 17 (8 penalties) @ CHI 15 (0): Weil-power
Brock Osweiler (DEN): 20-27, 250, 2 (1st GS, 8tgt)
DeAndre Hopkins (HOU): 5r-118y, 2t
Julio Jones (ATL): 9-160
Jameis Winston (TB): 19-29, 246, 5tp (5tgt)
Cam Newton (CAR): 21-34, 246, 5tp
Russ Wilson (SEA): 24-29, 260, 3

Bad Spots

US Department of Labor Disses on Pro-Choice

For throwing an NFL-themed party but requesting no Washington Redskins attire be worn by attendees. Not too clever, and kinda’ snooty too, but the DoL bandwagoneers did manage to make the news wire.

It’s the low-level topicality where this non-issue is at with media & political sects who’ve caved to PC bullies and those interests who energized this topic (2012), when, by chance, Nike ascended NFL uniform throne and most everyone, likely most attending this “party,” were silent on the claimed “disparaging” aspects of Redskins historical logo. The general public, PepsiCo et al and most aboriginal Americans (Indians), I suspect, are not buying bully-line. We know it to be artful. So let’s go polling, eh?

John Fox

Ill-effect of Seattle’s SB49 play calling lives on. Bears’ head coach Fox and OC Adam Gase, maybe fearing backlash from fickle fandom for going pass rather than running for a closing 2-pt. conversion attempt that would’ve tied it at 17 versus Denver, chose to keep it on the ground.

Result: Conversion attempt failed as rookie Jeremy Langford was stopped cold. Though JL had just previously scored the TD from 2y out, his digits on the day were not too impressive, going 13a – 25y (1.92).

“Nothing to fear but fear itself (FDR),” Mr. Fox. Besides, those SB49 cry-babies were all wet.

Redskins: 5 TOs (1i – 4fl)
Redskins: 12 carries – 14 yards
Cowboys (10) @ MIA (9): 19 penalties

Kicker’s Korner

.....Crosby.wc.10.7.07.1.6m.P.Cutler.thmJason Myers (JAX) K: 4-4 (38), 1-1x
Matt Darr (MIA) P: 7 (5 < 20), 38.1
Matt Prater (DET) K: 3-3 (51), 1-1x
Graham Gano (CAR) K: 3-3 (48), 5-5
Dustin Colquitt (KC) P: 5 (4), 40.6
Mason Crosby (GB) K: 5-5 (52), 1-1

 

♫ Here, There & Everywhere ♫

Damon Harrison (NYJ): 9t, 3a
J.J. Watt (HOU): 8, 2sk
Kelvin Sheppard (MIA): 10, 4
Tamba Hali (KC): 5, 2sk
Rob Ninkovich (NE): 4, 2, 1.5sk, 1ff

Boogie Shoes

Darren McFadden (DAL): 29-129
Doug Martin (TB): 27-235
Tom Rawls (SEA): 30-209, 1
Eddie Lacey (GB): 22-100

What Not

“Rex Ryan!” Bills celebrity coach was part of a Tom Brady line-call in early 1Q action of Patriots MNF game versus long time rival, Buffalo (20-13). The mind of Belichick can work in mysterious ways. But when you’ve won four Super Bowls, played in six, it’s not crazy, it’s “eccentric (The Rockford Files).”

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

Cherry Picks Week 12

PHI (4-6) @ DET (3-7); 11.26 Fox 12:30: Lions win
Cats (10-0) @ DAL (3-7); CBS 4:30 (GTW3): ‘Boys win
Bears (4-6) @ Packers (7-3); NBC 8:30: Pack wins
Saints (4-6) @ HOU (5-5); 11.29 Fox 1:00: NO wins
Rams (4-6) @ Cincy (8-2); Fox 1:00: Bengals win
Vikes (7-3) @ ATL (6-4); Fox 1:00 (GTW4): Falcons win
New York (5-5) @ Redskins (4-6); Fox 1:00: Giants win
Tampa Bay (5-5) @ Indy (5-5); Fox 1:00: Colts win
Bills (5-5) @ Kansas City (5-5); CBS 1:00: KC wins
Raiders (4-6) @ Titans (2-8); CBS 1:00: TEN wins
Dolphins (4-6) @ Jets (5-5); CBS 1:00: NYJ win
Cardinals (8-2) @ San Fran (3-7); Fox 4:05: AZ wins
Pitt (6-4) @ Seattle (5-5); CBS 4:25 (GTW2): SEA win
NE (10-0) @ DEN (8-2); NBC 8:30 (GTW): DEN win

Record: 54 – 57

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Cardinal-mascot, wc.cca, DM.Gibson, 4.21.09; C.Palmer, wc, 9.3.15, J.Beall; colby, wc, 12.30.10, jeffthequiet; T.Brady, 8.29.09, wc, K.Allison; M.Crosby, wc, 10.7.07, P.Cutler; cherries-on-cloth, wc, 2011, picdrome; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 11.25.15 @ 11:57pm EST; Copyright © 2015

NFL15-W1 HunchLine: Minute Waltz

17 Sep

Good Spot

New England Patriots

Sure, Brady’s win in Rd-2 of Deflategate was, in Bart Simpson® vernacular, awesome, for Tom and all camped in his corner (See also; NFL bean-counters), but the months of legal wrangling had to take emotional toll on the boys in red, white & blue. So hats off to Tom who was, in cool 60s vernacular, groovin (25-32, 4td)’ and Rob Gronkowski who was totally TD (3). Nod too to Steelers’ RB DeAngelo Williams (21-127).

Tennessee Titans

Four TD tosses (Mariota) in a road win are a confidence-builder for an opening-act. The effusive praise is to be expected given Marcus’ following, even versus a reclamation project like Tampa. Good thing his head seems screwed on straight. Titans aught send NFL schedulers a muffin-basket. It’s not bad (@ CLE next), with four contenders-in-a-row at home. The closing’s a toughie (NE & IND late).

More impressive was that Mariota, with fair defensive pressure (2sk), only reverted to scamper mode 2x (Winston: 6x) and left the rush to the men built for carry (Sankey / West). He’ll need pocket poise down pat before season’s end.

Buffalo Bills

.....Ryan.8.3.8.K.Allison.thmbCount me among the jaw droppers when Rex announced Tyrod Taylor, who’d never started a game in his 4 NFLs (BAL), would lead the Bills’ offense against favored Indy. But TT made a monkey out of me in leading his club to an impressive 27-14 win (14-19, 1td). The secret, like with Mariota, may be keeping the call uncomplicated. Red-flag: Ty took off nearly 10x, a rabbit habit that’s gotta’ stop.

St. Louis Rams

Training in an atmosphere of uncertainty (LA move?), Ferguson feelings still frayed and taking on NFL juggernaut and division rival in the Seahawks, the Rams, Jeff Fisher and new QB Nick Foles (18-27, 297-1t) fell behind early, kept cool, took the lead, lost it (2 LFs), came back and won it in OT. Moxie to burn.

Unga-Chaka Unga Unga (“Hooked on a Feeling (Blue Swede)”)

It was a heart-wrenching loss to Dallas (26-27) but Giants bright spot might be in finding a hidden gem in L-backer Uani Unga (10t-2a-1int), formerly of BYU, while Cowboys’ range-boss Sean Lee looks to’ve recovered from injury that sidelined him in ‘14 (7t-2a). If Miami LB Koa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi becomes a regular, he’s gonna’ live-up to that tremendous name (9t-2a). Tall tackler Anthony Barr (6-5) gave the Vikes something to crow about (10t-2a) and J.J. Watt is off to an MVP-ish season, not just because he got to the QB twice but the 9 solos, too. That’s the ticket!

Keen Koncentration (SD)

Chargers’ receiver Keenan Allen hauled in 15 receptions for 166 yards in Bolts come-from-behind win over Detroit who let one slip through their paws, while leg-hampered Julio Jones did his best to top his Eagles counterpart J. Matthews (10-102) and made sure Falcons didn’t throw this one away (9-141, 2td).

Smooth as Cocoa Butter

Carson Palmer came through with flying colors in his first game back from last year’s season-ending knee injury and Arizonans breathed sigh of relief. The C% was a bit rusty (19-32) but three TDs and no INTs is fine form. Fewer fingers crossed on reliable Alex Smith but who put on his typical terrific but off-the-media-radar performance versus the Texans (23-33, 3td). And if you’re perplexed on the “Cocoa Butter” call, ask any woman who’s experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of childbirth, what the brand-name ‘Palmer’ means to her. She‘ll be impressed.

Bad Spot

Bad form to do a Week 1 power ranking or to employ the word panic to tag any team that may stumble outta’ the gate (0-1). Ugh.

Johnny on the Spot

....Manziel.8.2.14.ED.Drost.wc.thmb.headJon Manziel threw his first pro TD vs the Jets but fumbled away two possessions and tossed an INT. “Big steps and little ‘uns,” Jon, big ones and little ‘uns. God how I miss “All Creatures Great and Small.”

Two teams (HOU / OAK) passed on vet QB in Matt Schaub (BAL (64C%, 130-86 TD-ratio) but most likely could’ve given their seasons good hope but who now sits idle on Ravens bench behind NFL’s new ironman QB in Flacco. Go figure the football mind, eh?

Sad Spot

Anyone who suffered a serious, side-lining W1 injury.

More notables include Panthers tackle-titan Luke Kuechly who suffered one of a plethora of concussions and hamstring pulls (Mike Evans (TB)) in NFL W1. Luke’s in protocol, as is Browns’ starting QB Josh McCown who should think twice next time before choosing to fly over traveling by land.

And all the trench-men and kickers who go largely unnoticed by fans.

See Spot Run

Cowboys will need a run game of note (Randle (16-65); McFadden (6-16)) before this 2015 enters 2nd half (Nov) with Murray’s exit (PHI) and Bryant’s foot bang.

Like Romo, Palmer too will need consistency from his run game (Ellington (12-69) & C. Johnson (10-37)) to seriously contend with Packers alive & well. Giving rookie RB David ‘Stiff Arm’ Johnson (NIU) time to shine could work a pressure-release valve for the Palmer-centric AZ offense.

And for all the negative press media-trolls scribble on the ‘Skins, the name they nearly never drop is Alfred Morris who just keeps doing what he does best: push the pig (25-121). Ditto on Bears’ Matt Forte who keeps on keeping Chicago respectable (24-141, 1td) and Niners’ Carlos Hyde who may make San Franers forget Gore but fast (26-168, 2td).

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: J.Fisher, wc.cca, E.D.Drost, 8.23.14; R.Ryan, wc, 8.3.8, K.Allison; J.Manziel, wc, 8.2.14, E.D.Drost; NFL-wikiproject.
Posted: 9.16.15 @ 11:28pm; Copyright ® 2015

2014 Duds Look to Re-Launch in NFL 2015

18 May

Now that NFL Draft 2015, brought to us by the City of Big Shoulders (Chicago), is in the books (Is there any event less deserving of its big build-up than the televised dice-roll that is the draft?), it’s a good time to glance back at what was, and what lay ahead.

.........Eli.1.15.12.M.Morbeck.wc.GB.thmb.1

Though, safe to write that a plan to look back and examine the past (history), a tradition that’d bonded families, communities and a nation for centuries long, would not exactly meet with applause from your average audience in 2015.

Nothing to do with sage Satchel Paige (“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”), but due to these two states: 1) a tendency today to love ourselves, our times with a fulsomeness, and 2) not much moolah to be made in getting too reflective.

It’s why Disney in its youthenization movement has forsaken its Classic and ESPN News channels to make way for the likes of ESPNU and scads of re-broadcasts, while their History channel (Hearst 50%) airs almost anything but, i.e., Pawn Stars, Swamp People, Ax Men and the like.

But while Mr. Obama doesn’t appear to put history too high up on his list (See; D-Day gum gauche) and the GOP can have selective memory, we sport fans put a premium on the past.

Whether it’s records & sabrmetrics, throwback uniforms, collectibles or the passing of a former great, oh-so sport fans will not soon forget from where their own journey began.

........Bubblegum.12.5.06.wc.Mary

And looking back over NFL 2014-15, it’s safe to write that it was one of the most memorable in recent years, for better and for worse.

Had it not been for the plethora of spotlight-grabbing storylines, i.e., Hernandez arrest, Rice-gate, the Peterson case and then post-season inflatables (exaggerated stories) like Catch-gate, or non-Catch, as it were (DAL @ GB), Meltdown-gate (poor Mike McCarthy (SEA @ GB)), Deflate-gate, featuring ‘Frick & Frack (J&M), and finally, 2nd-Guess-gate (poor Pete Carroll (SEA v NE)), this particular topic might’ve hovered above the radar and been spotted: the Duds.

Not in this writer’s memory have so many pre-season hopefuls seriously under-performed and played like they had something better to do but hung around anyway, to our chagrin. Largely on the QB issue, Houston, the Jets, Buffalo, Cleveland, Minnesota, St. Louis and Washington were not considered by most to be serious contenders pre-2014.

I count three American clubs (MIA, SD & KC) and six in the National Conference (NYG, CHI, ATL, NO, CAR & SF) who either made lift-off but veered off course into oblivion or never got off the launching pad in the first place.

AFC

Miami Dolphins: 8-8 (2014)

........Tannehill.wc.J.Rivera.9.16.12.thmb.2

Finishing 8-8 in ‘13 in midst of Bullygate, Joe Philbin survived the fallout and young QB Ryan Tannehill looked a keeper, even as fickle fans called for change. Despite low support in ‘14, Ryan had MIA in top-half offensively (ypg (14)), saw C% rise nicely (66%), hit 4000 mark and had nifty 27-12 TD ratio. But MIA couldn’t build momentum, even as LB Jelani Jenkins finished with 110 total tackles and the D finished #12 (ypg), just ahead of eventual Super champ and intra-divisional rival, the Krafty Patriots.

Draft‘15: Devante Parker, Louisville, WR, 1R-14; Jordan Phillips, Okla., NT, 2-20.

San Diego Chargers: 9-7

Having gone deeper into ‘14 playoffs with loss to Denver in divisional (24-17), Bolts were expected to take the next step up to serious contender. But while Phil Rivers kept up his end (66.5%, 4286y, 31-18), legs of Ryan Mathews which’d been a catalyst in ‘13 reverted to old form as he stared only 7g and moved to Philly in FA. Defense held the fort with FS Eric Weddle roaming wide (114t) and the stoppers coming in respectable ranks: 9th ypg (338) and 13th in ppg (21.8). Expect 3y head coach McCoy to right the ship.

Draft‘15: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, RB, 1R-15; Denzel Perryman, Miami, R2-16

Kansas City Chiefs: 9-7

........Smith.1.26.14.Cpl.M.Bragg.wc.USMC.thmb

Bolts, say howdy-do to your kissin’ cousins, figuratively speaking, intra-division foe, the KC Chiefs. Another 2013 achiever (L 44-45 IND ‘14 WC) who had justifiably high hopes of rising above the rabble in ‘14. So much of hope, figuratively so. Chiefs rollercoaster in ‘14 left observers scratching heads, their own, of course. QB Smith was stout again (65%, 18-6) even with leaky line (45s). Run-QB should be so brave. Charles settled to earth (1033 / 291 / 9td) from a Wow! ‘13 as offense finished w/in sight of cellar (#25 ypg). Like SD, defense carried at 7th ypg and 2nd ppg. And like his Chargers‘ counterpart, Andy Reid’s got the men. Whether he’s got plan, even KC faithful aren’t sure anymore.

Draft‘15: Marcus Peters, Washington, CB, 1R-18; Mitch Morse, MO, OL, 2R-17.

NFC

I don’t know if the Packers, Cowboys and Seahawks were as good as their spiffy records sported or just that their competition was so lacking that they simply had no choice but to win, lots and lots of games.

Lions, Cardinals and Eagles were others clubs who had seasons of note.

Detroit won 11 games (11-5) for first time in over two decades (12-4 ‘91) under new HC Caldwell and actually knocked off intra-division stalwart Green Bay in W3 (19-7). That alone is big doings for the usual also-rans of the NFC North.

.......Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.Swami

The surprising Cards looked the new force in the NFC until vet QB Carson Palmer went down midway and rising star head coach in Bruce Arians did his best to answer the rash of injuries that decimated his bunch as they limped into the playoffs.

And the Eagles missed the cut at 10-6 but showed spunk in staying respectable after QB Foles (STL) hit the DL and Sanchez entered. Chip Kelly and owner Jeff Lurie’s response: shake-up the roster (Bradford, Tebow (?), Murray, etc.) and give it another whirl.

New York Giants: 6-10
Draft‘15: Ereck Flowers, Miami, OB, 1R-9; Landon Collins, Alabama, S, 2R-33.

Chicago Bears: 5-11
Draft‘15: Kevin White, WV, WR, 1R-7; Eddie Goldman, Florida St., DT, 2R-7.

Atlanta Falcons: 6-10
Draft‘15: Vic Beasley, Clemson, LB, 1R-8; Jason Collins, LSU, CB, 2R-10.

New Orleans Saints: 7-9
Draft‘15: Andrus Peat, STAN, OT, 1R-13; Steve Anthony, LB, Clemson, 1R-31.

So similar, it’s then only fitting these four sorrowful squads get lumped together.

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

If you didn’t predict rebound for all four in 2014 (Saints did go 11-5 in ‘13 after falling to 7-9 (’12) in Bountygate year) you’re not much of an NFL‘er.

That looked to be an easy call as all four possess well-est’d QBs (Eli Manning, Cutler, Ryan & Brees) and had proven head coaches directing the action. Both Coughlin (NYG) and Peyton are Lombardi lofters, Mike Smith (ATL (Dan Quinn)) is the winningest coach in Falcons history (66 (7)) and Marc Trestman (CHI (John Fox)) had an NFL resume won along w/ back-to-back Grey Cups (Montreal ‘09-10). Cool credentials all around.

But look no further than the woeful defensive showings of all four clubs and it’s easy to see how things once again came unraveled for this football Gang of Four. All four brought up the defensive rear in the all-important categories of yards per game (ypg) (32-29) and fell to the bottom ten in points per game (ppg).

Carolina Panthers: 7-9-1

.......Newton.9.28.14.wc.wc.K.Allison.thmb

Though Cats sparkled at 12-4 in 2013, their pitiful playoff loss at home to the 49ers (10-23) had to make one wonder if the gaudy record was more mirage than matter. And sure enough, Carolina sunk to a losing mark in 2014 but did manage to take the South and win back smidgen of respect in knocking off the MASH unit that’d become Arizona in Wild Card round (27-16) before falling prey to Super-bound Seattle in divisional (17-31).

Camster’s moving in wrong direction as the scamper trends up again (103a / 539y) while pocket poise proves elusive (58.5% / 18-12). But as long Luke Kuechly keeps the defense top-tier (171tt (CAR 340 ypg (10))), Panthers are players.

Draft‘15: Shaq Thompson, WA, LB, 1R-25; Dev Funchess, MI, WR, 2R-9.

San Francisco 49ers: 8-8

Something tells me it may be awhile before we see the Niners trolling again for Super Swag. When that brass ring swings around (NFCC ‘12 & ‘14 / SB47), you’d better grab it with gusto and hold on tite for it may not come again for quite…some…time.

......Kaep.9.9.12.GB.M.Morbeck.wc.thumb

Anyone who thought San Francisco was a top contender in 2014, and there were many, might want to consider covering a different beat in 2015. Mediocrity was an easy call.

More troubling than Colin Kaepernick and coach’s inability to master the red-zone in crunch time (NFCC’14 / SB47) was the loss of arguably the game’s top defender in NaVarro Bowman to a torn ACL during the ‘14 NFC title match (v SEA).

Master motivator Jim Harbaugh (Jim Tomsula (E. Mangini DC)) has returned to his alma mater pump life back into a gasping Michigan program, perennial All-Pro Pat Willis has hung up the cleats and Bowman is hoping to return to form even as there is no position in football that puts more pressure on the intricate knee-joint than rover-in-the-middle.

Draft‘15: Arik Armstead, Oregon, DT, 1R-17; Jaquiski Tartt, SAM, S, R2-14.

.......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credits: E.Manning, M.Holzworth, wc, USAF, 11.19.13; E.Manning, wc, GB, M.Morbeck, 1.15.12; chewing bubblegum, 12.5.06, wc, Mary; A.Smith, wc, 1.26.14, Cpl.M.Bragg, USMC; R.Tannehill, wc, J.Rivera, 9.16.12; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; J.Cutler, wc, 11.1.09, M.Schadle; C.Newton, 9.28.14, K.Allison, wc; C.Kaepernick, wc, 9.9.12, GB, M.Morbeck; NFL-symbol, Wikiproject.
Posted: 5.18.15 @ 6:47pm; edit @ 11:08 EST