Tag Archives: NFC

NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 – SB50: Peyton’s Progress

28 Jan

♫ Don’t stop believin’ ♫

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

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

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

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

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

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

My other coin-flip came up Broncos.

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

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

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

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

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

Now the table’s set for SB50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Carolina Panthers will be favored in SB50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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