Tag Archives: NFL 2016-17

NFL17 – SB51 Super Cherry Jam: Make Way Fred & Ginger, Swing Time Has a New Team in Foxborough

9 Feb

Top hoofers Astaire & Rogers were hip to it, now Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and rest of the reigning NFL champion New England Patriots are discovering swing time, an odd, devolutionary trend in football that comes by way of the rise in the colossal and inalterable shifts in game momentum.

The typical swinger plays out like this: First he orders a martini…wrong swinger (ba-dum tish!): In the first half, team #1, the eventual loser, charges out to a commanding and seemingly insurmountable lead, only to lose all of their traction and watch helplessly (?) as its once dormant opponent awakens from its doldrums and begins to play like gangbusters (See; SB51).

I first noticed the oddity back in the early part of NFL 2012-13.

Peyton Manning was in year one with Denver who was off to an inauspicious start at 2-3. In San Diego (MNF), however, Mustangs caught swing time, roaring back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to score 35 unanswered for a head-spinning win.

astairerogers-fdtr-1933-rko-l-brock-47kAnd that ’unanswered’ word is key. When used in a football context, it’s synonymous with the word, defense, both the good (NE) and the ugly (ATL). Every stop the Pats D made of the Falcons offense after their 28th point was like a B-12 booster shot to their own offense while at the same time demoralizing the A-Birds.

Back in the day when a team built an early lead, especially if aided by points off a turnover, you could pretty much put the result in-the-books by the middle of the 3rd quarter. The betting window is closed!

In Super Bowl One it was Cantonese safety Willie Wood who intercepted fellow Hall member Len Dawson’s 3Q pass to stave off any thoughts the KC Chiefs had of besting NFL juggernaut Green Bay in 1967.

Reliable outcomes were the standard in earlier Super Bowl play as sad sack clubs like Minnesota (4L), pre-Shanahan Denver (4L), then Buffalo (4L) would usually fall behind fast and never catch up. Bills almost broke the trend in 1991 when scapegoat Scott Norwood’s late field-goal try went slightly wide (20-19).

Hotly contested affairs like the terrific Steelers – Cowboys (76, 79) and 49ers – Bengals Bowls (82, 89) were the exceptions to the rule, i.e., game over early.

Come the 2000s, opening with Rams v. Titans (23-16) and then every Patriots Super Bowl since where the point differentials have averaged 3.7 per (7), the championship game began to see some serious competition throughout.

sb47-coin-1-28-13-a-kirk-4-2mThen came Super Bowl 47 (2.3.13), pitting the Ravens against the 49ers. A watershed event in football history for it’s the first time a swinger took center stage, and I don‘t mean the halftime pseudo porn-fest (ugh). It’s true, a massive power outage at half swung momentum San Fran’s way but then the same emotional ups & downs that define swing time were triggered, too.

Football teams have been losing leads since Melbournian turned Madisonian Pat O’Dea was kicking for glory (1898-99) and Walter Camp fueling the forward pass. But today’s player is clearly subject to mood swings like no generation before.

Why so? Why does one team go near catatonic in the 2nd half, collapsing like a house of cards while the other rises from the early ashes like a phoenix? It’s a real puzzler. “Monsters from the id (fear, etc.)?” Maybe not enough monsters (anger, greed, etc.). I’ll take a stab at another answer to explain this phenomenon.

Most males today under the age of 45 were weaned on rap, most lyrics of which dismiss rules (cheat), teach converts that might makes right, to act with impunity and then portray women are chattel. It’s a boyish arrogance that can’t cope with loss and learns nothing from mistake. And though it thrives in an era that’s seen advances (desegregation – AA), it’s also one where every participant gets a trophy and athletes get coddled from the minute they suit up in junior-high.

A little false bravado (machismo) won’t typically upset the apple cart and might even help with the digestion. But to saturate one’s mind with rap from age eight (8) onward can create a dysbiotic state that’s hard to change.

mathewson-wc-1904-c-conlen-160kIt would follow then that when a team starts to fall behind, especially after having been in firm control, that those players whose constitutions have been forged with a composite (cheap) mettle, would then be unable to muster the confidence, the resilience to bounce back when their opponent begins to make in-roads.

You never stop thinking you can win. Tom and Bill didn’t.

But what about the Patriots, you ask, it’s likely most of them grew up hip-hoppin’ too. Maybe more of them just outgrew their childhood mindsets. I don’t know. What I do know is that having Tom Brady at your offensive controls is like having an IV of confidence flowing through the veins of every man on his team, including and defense who may’ve been SB51’s real MVP, collectively speaking.

What I also know is that psychology, not just pep talks and sideline pad-smash, must now be a serious, integral part of team training and game strategy.

The New York Giants pitching great Christy Mathewson (1880-25) said it well: “You can learn little from victory, you can learn everything from defeat, i.e., “winning is (definitely not) the only thing.”

There’s a whole semester of learning just waiting for the Atlanta Falcons this off-season, and 30 other teams. And while they’re at it (Dan Quinn will get ‘em at it), they can ditch the ditties, or better yet, jump a new music train:

♫ Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream (Rodgers & Hammerstein) ♫

Final record: 88 – 93 – 3 (8 – 3)

straight_shooter-thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; Astaire-Rogers, RKO, FDTR, 1933, wc, L.Brock; SuperBowl.47-coin, wc, A.Kirk, 1.28.13; ChristyMathewson, wc.cca, C.Conlen, 1904; Straight-shooter produce label
Posted: 2.9.17 @ 11:55am, edit 3:29 EST; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 – SB51 Super Cherry Pick: It’s ‘Follow You Follow Me’ With MVP Models Matt Ryan & Tom Brady

1 Feb

Seems only fitting that the two NFL teams, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, that showcased the two top players in 2016 in MVP favorites Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, should’ve successfully run their respective E-ZPass® playoff gauntlets and made it to the biggest sporting showcase on the planet, held this year at NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas, for Super Bowl Five-One.

Making his first appearance in the NFL championship game is Ryan, aka, Matty Ice, the Exton, Pennsylvania native who finally gets the Platform to showcase those super signal-caller talents he‘s been displaying in the NFC South for near a decade. In that span, Falcons have compiled a PS mark of 3-4 (67.6 C%, 16-7i).

For Brady’s part, the San Mateo, California native is just doing what he does. Mere mortals might go to the Florida beach once a year but Tom, when all that AFC fun is done, usually takes a trip to the Big Game, this being his 7th (4-2).

brady-8-28-9-k-allison-wc-2m-dcThere’s not much more to write about the sure-fire Canton candidate, except that Tom’s risen above the junior media’s rolling bitch-fest on Roger Goodell (likely the same scribes who’d vote in Barry & Roger), the Commissioner who meted-out Brady’s 4-game susp’n to open the season, stating that he, Tom, who did not make his phone available in the inquiry, holds no ill-will towards NFL’s top Cufflink. A Progressive in the spirit of Robert La Follette is Mr. Brady. His Dad? What are ya’ gonna’ do?

Fitting too that the two teams most in control of their seasons (flagging destiny), would end up facing-off in the Super Duper. Delivering on destiny is never a sure thing (See; Cats SB50, Dallas 2016), but one team in Houston will truck it.

The Patriots (14-2) began their 2016 campaign without Tom Brady under center, using a duo of QBs in Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, together managing a better-than-expected 3-1 mark, then lost Rob Gronkowski but just a mere one game the rest of the way. The A-Birds (11-5) stumbled outta’ the gate in a home loss to rival Tampa Bay (24-31), went on a 4-game streaker, the up & down at midway (2-3) but kept their heads about them and finished strong going 5-1.

Most certainly fitting is that the top head coach in the pros today in Bill Belichick will be strategizing across the NRG field from NFL’s hottest new head coach in the Falcons’ Dan Quinn. The Mighty one (with a win) is no stranger to the Big Game in having served expertly as DC to Pete Carroll in Seahawks two Trips.

cherries-cloth-6-11-picdrome-wc-cca

Super Cherry Pick: For All the Marbles

New England Patriots (16-2) v. Atlanta Falcons (13-5): 2.5 Fox 6:00 EST

This one is simple: Defense. We know both teams are offensive juggernauts this season (NE 15 consecutive) and possess generally reliable kicking games, so it comes down to which can stop the scoring best over four quarters, the last being the key-Q. Falcons defenders, having stopped previously potent offenses in the Seahawks and Packers, have been playing over their heads, closing the regular season ranked #25 (yapg) and #27 (papg) while the Patriots are playing to form (#8 / #1), keeping opponent scoring totals close to their season average (15.5). In B&B’s two Super Bowl losses, both to the Giants (2008 / 12), their opposite in head-coaching was Tom Coughlin who’d previously turned Jacksonville into contenders as soon as their 2d year of existence (1997: AFCC loss to NE, 20-3), meaning, by the time TC signed with NYC, he’d seen it all and had become a post-season pro. It’s Belichick Time. Patriots win.

Record: 87 – 93 – 3

wood-topps-1970Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; cherries-cloth, wc.cca, picdrome, 6-2011; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 2.1.17 @ 11:40am EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 – SB51: Lombardi’s Legend Lives But It’s Bill Belichick’s Trophy Now, Vince

27 Jan

When the Big Game (SB51) is over n’ done, when all the “whohoopers” have blown and “tartookas” have bung, when the champions raise the Lombardi as a prize they’ve just won, serious discussions should begin at NFL Central about the prospect of re-naming the Big Trophy, after he hangs up his headset, of course, for the New England Patriots head football coach Bill Belichick who has for the better part of two decades mastered the sport like no other before.

— — —

It is Vince Lombardi’s name that is etched onto each Super Bowl trophy since 1971 (SB5), the year after the great NFL coach, teacher and cultural icon died from colon cancer in the nation’s capital city, Washington, D.C.

belichick-wc-d-shankbne-4-24-12-m176Vince’s pro journey began as the offensive coordinator on the 1950s Jim Lee Howell Giants (Landry as DC), then on recommendation of the Packers first choice, Iowa’s Forest Evashevski, was offered and accepted the project of resurrecting the greatness that had been Green Bay football under its founder, Curly Lambeau. When he was done in the Dairyland (‘68), having piled up five (5) NFL titles, including Super Bowls I & II, the Brooklyn-born taskmaster (Thurston: “He treats us all the same, like dogs”) was the standard of excellence in coaching and then started to tackle a new project in Washington, D.C. in guiding the long-suffering Redskins to their first winning season since Harry Truman’s first year as President in 1945 (7-5-2 (69)).

Lombardi’s Packers dominated much of the 60s, became the pride of Wisconsin football fans once again and, in its earlier days, the source of no small joy for the #1 Catholic and Vince’s friend in the White House, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

With his winning ways and confident, at times arrogant air, his legend grew to colossal size, so big that the name Lombardi become sacrosanct in sporting circles. All of which means a call to replace the name on the Silver Swag would lead Packer-backers and media friendlies to just about freak.

But the Vince Lombardi brand of ball is as old as a pair of Johnny Unitas high-tops. Not lesser in its importance, just older.

His style of coaching (“Captain Ahab” to Mike Tomlin’s “cheerleader(ing)?”) and game plans that dominated the gridiron are long gone, unknown to younger fans as the NFL’s Network rarely showcases their vintage & voluminous NFL Films library, fixated instead on gab & top ten lists to bring in the teeny-boppers.

lombarditrophy-wc-safetycap-6-16-16-619kThe last remnants of the Lombardi / pre-pass game retired when his rival Bud Grant handed-in his clipboard (‘85). Though personalities far apart (See; MMQB – SI.com), Vince & Bud were like-minded in their passion and emphasis on ground-game, team-play and toughness: No gloves, warming or sticky, nor heaters on the Metropolitan Stadium (d. 1983) or Lambeau Field sidelines, no matter the frigidity (-13°). It was a man’s game, though, on occasion, brutish ball (See; Ice Bowl).

‘So what’ you say, ‘Lombardi’s name is a terrific tie to the NFL’s glorious past!’ Agree. Nobody loves history more than this scribbler but the trophy should be fairly current in name-plate, more representative of the National game as it stands. Not to cue a change every ten (10) years but when 2+ generations have spanned and a good candidate is present (BB), a renovation is in order. Frankly, the Tiffany-designed trophy needs an update, a new model to lose the tail-fins.

This pitch isn’t about pegging the best head coach in NFL history. We know who the best assistant coach is in Buddy Ryan (d.2016), Hall-worthy anyway, voting snobs, but trying to make permanent the best ever by etching a name is foolish.

There’s never been a better football coach, motivator, than Vince Lombardi. But then one could safely say the same about Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs, NFL founder George Halas (NFCC trophy), Weeb Ewbank, Hank Stram, Curly Lambeau, John Madden and so on and so on.

sb-trophy-wc-2-5-12-l-tyrnes-s-lukeNot just any ol’ championship coach should be knocking the great Vince Lombardi off of his lofty, symbolic perch.

And Bill Belichick ain’t just any ol’ champion coach.

New England’s hoodie-wearing, gridiron guru is nonpareil and stands as the League’s new standard of excellence, a winning method as clear and consistent, as admired and feared by opponents as was the Green Bay Packers power-sweep in the 1960s. Success seems almost automatic.

What about Spygate? With ever-changing technologies there’s a corresponding rapid change in societal mores and then challenges in defining new boundaries.

His detractors might diss this on Bill, ‘Without Brady, Belichick is fair at best.’

But every great coach has his great player(s): Holmgren had Favre, Jackson had Michael, Huggins had Ruth…and Gehrig, Pop Warner had Thorpe, Riley had Magic, Bill has Tom and Vince had Bart Starr, who, if not the master-motivator behind the success was the master implementer of Lombardi‘s vision.

The difference? Some have a flair for innovation. In the Big Name group, men like Pop, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Sid Gillman, Hank Stram, Halas, Walsh, Lambeau, Paul Brown, Lombardi, Tommy Gorman, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, Dick Irvin, Adrian “Cap” Anson, Pete Carroll, John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Knute Rockne and Belichick invent ways to win while putting an emphasis on fundamentals.

lombardi-starr-wc-cca-gbBeauty of Belichick is best illustrated, not in Pats 2016 regular season mark (14-2), almost ho-hum for a B&B team, but that even as Tom was out, NE went 3-1 (Ws v. AZ, MIA and HOU), guided by two quarterbacks who, though played with composure, had zero (0) starts prior between them in Jim Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

By the time Bill retires, probably not long after his #1 (Tom) hangs up his cleats, Lombardi’s name will have graced the Big Trophy for over fifty (50) years. That’s a long, respectful time.

When the Powers-that-Be named the trophy in 1970, it was about excellence, empathy & remembrance. Another naming (2020+) could be about excellence, remembrance and relevancy. But even if, Belichick, as was Lombardi, is proud and would likely refuse the honor. Great minds think alike. Vince wasn’t all too keen either about renaming City Field for the legendary Lambeau. But one can hardly imagine today the famous frozen tundra titled any other way.

Will Bill Belichick hoist his 5th Lombardi when SB51 comes to a close? That I have not yet decided. Whether he does or doesn’t, the name game will begin.

ford-851k-wc-grfl-1933-umSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; B.Belichick, wc, D.Shakbne, 4.24.12; LombardiTrophy, wc, Safetycap, 6.16.16; SB-Trophy, wc, 2.5.12, Tyrnes, S.Luke; Lombardi-Starr, wc.cca; G.Ford, wc, GRFL, 1933, UoM
Posted: 1.27.17 @ 1:40pm, edit (+BW) 1.28 @ 9:42 EST; Copyright © 2017

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

25 Dec

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

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

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

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

Take Adrian Peterson for example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFC Run-Lite

Detroit Lions

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

New York Giants

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

Seattle Seahawks

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

Green Bay Packers

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

Wanted: Clipboard Saviors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL16 Cherry Picks W16: Holiday Pigskin, Christmas Songs & My Favorite Things

20 Dec

Minute Waltz – NFL Week 15

Sherman on TNF = “poopfest.” Classy, but what took ya’ so long, Dick?

LA – Seattle: Rams helmets rocked but the game, and Hawks uniforms, color that looked “a cross between piss yellow and puke green,” that was all fertilizer.

No tears for axed Jeff Fisher but cow-pies for Jr.-media who campaigned.

Mike Zimmer might wish he’d had patches over both eyes (Colts win!).

Pack peaks at perfect time (CHI) and showed shades of Chandler (Crosby).

Sooooo sticky-glove: Garment game-changers aid Odell’s TD grab (DET).

To NFL GameDay Live: No more on-air Michael Jackson “love”-fest.

— — —

My Favorite Things

No “raindrops on roses” or “whiskers on kittens” in this write. No siree, Bob. That kinda’ imagery is just fine when it emanates from the beautiful & talented Mary Martin and Julie Andrews as they nurtured their youthful yodelers in the pre-War Austrian Alps, but not from this blogisphere burgermeister.

Instead, fasten that imaginary seat-belt, tune in gold standard sounds of Xmas royalty like Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Vaughn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Sinatras, Jo Stafford, Al Hirt, Jack Jones, Barb Streisand, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Vinton, Peggy Lee, Neil Diamond, Mel Tormé, Ella Fitzgerald or Gene Autry and page through this sport fan’s Yuletide album of holiday favorites.

Among those favorites, America’s greatest music genre that takes center-stage throughout the month of December, getting continuous playtime in nearly every faithful home & spirited store in the land. Though, for some, maybe those who Santa disappointed or have begun to see the season’s activity start to appear on their credit card bills, the season’s songs begin to overstay their welcome (grate on the nerves) by the month’s end. Ah.

And you won’t see Blue Christmas or Mele Kalikimaka here, either. Sirius favorites this 2016 holiday season, my song list is already jam-packed.

♫ Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet ♫

belichick-wc-cca-k-allison-8-28-09-110kSport: Yule football, outside, daytime, cold (15°+), no promotions and won on a scoring bomb

Athlete: That baller who refuses (@ 20°+) to don cheat (sticky) gloves and realizes that his personal success turns, in measurable part, on team

NFL coach: New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick. A favorite press-conference retort in deflecting a cub reporter‘s criticism of Bill’s non-devotion to metrics strategy: “You (reporter) could attend Northeastern Analytics Conference, get your fill of it there”

NFL team: In the Black & Blue division (NFCN)

College team(s): Wildcats, Northwestern (Ill.) and Arizona (Tucson)

Christmas film: Holiday Affair, Mitchum – Leigh – Corey – Morgan (49)

Song: Winter Wonderland, Johnny Mathis (58) – Bernard & Smith

♫ Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ♫

soundofmusic-wc-salzburg-c-plummer-j-andrews-1964-20cf-831kVoice: White Christmas, Bing Crosby, Trotter Orchestra & Darby Singers (42),  Irving Berlin

Pop: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year, Andy Williams – Pola & Wyle (63)

Rock: Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms, Hank Garland & Anita Kerr Quartet – Beal & Boothe (57)

Rockette: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee, Johnny Marks (58)

Tribal: I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Jerry Vale (64), Kent – Gannon – Ram

Global: O Tannenbaum, Nat King Cole (60) & Army Band, Anschütz & Franck

Film song: Have Yourself, Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland – Martin (44)

Duet: Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, That Holiday Feeling album (64)!

♫ Tiny tots with eyes all a-glow ♫

armstrong-wc-2-76m-1953-nywt-staff-locKid: Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Ray Coniff Singers (59), Coots & Gillespie

Hymn: Joy to the World, Philadelphia Brass Ensemble (67), Watt – Handel

Orchestra: Sleigh Ride, Boston Pops (49), Fiedler – Leroy Anderson & Mitchell Parish

Jazz: Cool Yule, Louis Armstrong & Commanders – Steve Allen (53)

Blues: I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, Billie Holiday (58), Berlin

Fun: You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, Ravenscroft & Geisel – Hague (66)

Warm: It’s a Marshmallow World, Dean Martin (66), Sigman & DeRose

Glow: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Lena Horne (66), John Marks

♫ Thumpety thump-thump, thumpety thump-thump ♫

charliebrown-wc-1-3m-j-flannery-usps-2015Hot: Santa Baby, Kitt – Javits & P.Springer (53)

Cold: Frosty the Snowman, Patti Page – Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson (50)

Hope: There’s Always Tomorrow, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV (64)), Janis Orenstein

Swing: The Little Drummer Boy, Count Basie Orchestra (15), K.Davis

Elvis: Here Comes Santa Claus, Presley (57), Haldeman & Autry

Beatles: Happy Xmas (So This is…), J.Lennon – Y.Ono – HCC (71)

Instrumental: Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (65)

Chorus: We Need a Little Christmas, Percy Faith – J. Herman (66)

♫ Fire’s dying but we’re still good-bying ♫

tudor-football-johnmaxmena-j-mena-wc-1974Christmas toy: Tudor Electric Football

Holiday TV: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (64), A Charlie Brown Christmas (65) and Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (66)

TV spot: André Champagne, “Ring in the holidays (1970-80s)”

Holiday snack: Salty, Pistachios & cashews; Sweety, dark chocolate & fruit

Dinner: Baked ham, twice-baked potatoes, corn niblets & chilled Chardonnay

Good Cheer: Retail: Baileys Irish Cream; Homemade: brandy spiked egg-nog

Date: The day Nike’s NFL contract terminates (See; Color Rush, Bucs, etc.)

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7Cherry Picks Week 16: Lambeau hosts Bad Blood II

NYG (10-4) @ Eagles (5-9): 12.22 NBC 8:25: Eagles win
Miami (9-5) @ Buffalo (6-8): 12.24 CBS 1:00: Bills win
Titans (8-6) @ Jags (2-12): CBS 1:00: Jacksonville wins
Minnesota Vikes (7-7) @ Green Bay Packers (8-6): Fox 1:00: Pack wins
Washington Redskins (7-6-1) @ Chicago Bears (3-11): Fox 1:00: Bears win
Atlanta Falcons (9-5) @ Panthers (6-8) GTW: Fox 1:00: Carolina wins
Indianapolis Colts (7-7) @ Oakland Raiders (11-3): CBS 4:05: Colts win
Tampa Bay Bucs (9-5) @ Saints (6-8) GTW: Fox 4:25: New Orleans wins
Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1): Fox 4:25: Hawks win
Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) @ Houston Texans (8-6): NBC 8:25: Cincy wins
Baltimore (8-6) @ Pittsburgh (9-5) GTW: 12.25 NFLN 4:30: Ravens win
Denver Broncos (8-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-4): NBC 8:30: Chiefs win
Detroit (9-5) @ Cowboys (12-2) GTW: 12.26 Disney 8:30: Detroit wins

Record: 68 -80 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Sound-of-Music-play, Martin, wc.cca, 1959, T.Frissell; Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 5.28.9; SoM, Plummer, Andrews, wc, 1964, 20CF; Armstrong, LoC, NYWT, 1953, wc; Charlie-Brown-Christmas, J.Flannery, USPS, 2015; Tudor-Electric-Football, wc, 1974, J.Mena; cherries, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.20.16 @ 11:32am EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W15: Young Guns Blazing But Stars Tom Brady, Big Ben, Eli & Aaron Stand Ready

13 Dec

Minute Waltz – NFL Week 14

Who better than Giants to play giant-killers: Packers (08/12), Patriots (08/12) and now Dak’s Dallas Cowboys (16 (2))? Oregon State Beavers (67)?

With Ryan “Rodney Dangerfield” Tannehill now out on an ACL sprain, mature Mike Moore (32, 6‘3“ (OSU)) should fill-in fine for the Fish: Career: 13-12, 60C%, 33t-28i; 2009 (CAR): 4-1, 62C%, 8t-2i.

Whatever happened to the 6-foot+ defensive back (Dillon, Barney, Krause, D.Woodson, Lott, Tunnell, Atwater, Christiansen, Lewis, Blount, Vincent, Scott, Harrison, Easley, Harris, Fencik, Browner, etcetera)? Mr. Mighty Mite loves to fire in missile-mode but just can’t cover on the catch and nobody seems to care.

Kudos to Colts Frank Gore in passing Tony Dorsett to claim #8 on AT-rush list.

— — —
winston-wc-10-8-13-d-july-3-1mThey are the Young Guns of NFL 2016.

They are the bounty of budding pro quarterbacks, aged 22 to 25, many of whom are leading their respective teams to more victories than most of us could’ve imagined just a few months back. And with every win that keeps their teams over the .500 mark, they, their teammates and teachers (coach), give their NFL fans hope for the future.

Jared Goff (Los Angeles): 22, rookie, 0-4, 54C%, 4-5
Cody Kessler (Cleveland): 23, rookie, 0-8, 66%, 6-2
Dakota Prescott (Dallas): 23, rookie, 11-2, 66%, 20-4, 4 GWD
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay): 23, 2d-yr, 8-5, 62%, 23-12, 2 GWD
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee): 23, 2d-yr, 7-6, 62%, 25-8, 1 GWD
Carson Wentz (Philadelphia): 24, rookie, 5-8, 64%, 13-12, 1 GWD
Trevor Siemian (Denver): 24, 2d-yr, 7-4, 61%, 16-7, 2 GWD
Blake Bortles (Jacksonville): 24, 3rd-yr, 2-11, 58%, 21-15, 1 GWD
Jacoby Brissett (New England): 24, rookie, 1-1, 62%, 0-0
Jimmy Garoppolo (Patriots): 25, 3rd-yr, 2-0, 70%, 4-0, 1 GWD
Bryce Petty (New York Jets): 25, rookie, 1-1, 56%, 2-4
Derek Carr (Oakland): 25, 3rd-yr, 10-3, 64%, 24-5, 6 GWD

For signal-callers Kessler, Goff and Petty, sizable slack should be cut each as their respective teams are so discombobulated that their combined win-total wouldn’t even make double-figures (8).

carr-wc-e-drost-9-27-15-oh-1-2mBlake Bortles was dealt a similar sad hand when he took controls of Jaguars’ offense two years ago (4-12 (‘13)), a franchise that hasn‘t had a winning season since 2007. It’s a team sport, sure, but it’s also a quarterback-League and while Jags upped the win total to five (5) in 2015 they’ll be hard-pressed to match that number in 2016.

And then the New England Patriots young backups in Jim Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett will likely need new teams if they plan on using those guns (arms) to fire off many spirals, with starter Tom Brady looking like he could be playing well into the next decade.

brady-8-28-9-k-allison-wc-cca-2m-dcThose are the guys still a bit wet behind the ears.

There are other NFL quarterbacks who clearly qualify as veterans of the game but having just entered their prime, far from that stage where a QB contemplates retirement (Roethlisberger, Romo, Cutler, Brady, etc.) and can still be fairly classified as younger guns.

Those priming pigskin professionals include Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Brock Osweiler, Kurt Cousins, Ryan Tannehill (5), Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor (6).

But before you get in a tizzy about the youthful talent, remember who runs this NFL Town, Misters Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Phil Rivers, Carson Palmer (Romo opted-out), Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Tom Brady and Alex Smith.

Not all those guys are playoff bound but may still play a role in deciding who does get their ticket punched for the Super Bowl tourney.

One of the best things about Brady? His arms. That’s right, his arms. Not just the tight spirals his right arm tosses but that they look normal, like your average guy, like he doesn’t spend half his life in the weight room. Best QBs work their mind more than their biceps. And they’d better with the on-rushes they face.

No doubt Tom’s in top physical form and can press close to 300, a benchmark for football men. But he’s mastered the pro game largely with his mind, not in over reliance on the muscled athleticism so much in vogue today, i.e., flash-QB.

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 15

Dolphins (8-5) @ Jets (4-9): 12.17 NFLN 8:25: Miami wins
Packers (7-6) @ Bears (3-10): 12.18 Fox 1:00: Packers win
Philadelphia (5-8) @ Ravens (7-6): Fox 1:00: Ravens win
Tennessee Titans (7-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) GTW: CBS 1:00: KC wins
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1): CBS 1:00: Bengals win
Detroit Lions (9-4) @ New York Giants (9-4) GTW: Fox 1:00: Giants win
Indianapolis Colts (6-7) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-6): CBS 1:00: Colts win
New Orleans Saints (5-8) @ Arizona Cards (5-7-1): Fox 4:05: Cardinals win
Oakland Raiders (10-3) @ San Diego Chargers (5-8): CBS 4:25: Chargers win
New England Patriots (11-2) @ Denver Broncos (8-5) GTW: CBS 4:25: Pats win
Tampa Bay Bucs (8-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (11-2) GTW: NBC 8:30: Dallas wins
Carolina Cats (5-8) @ Washington (7-5-1): 12.19 Disney 8:30: Redskins win

Record: 61 – 75 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: D.Prescott, wc.cca, 9.18.16, K.Allison; J.Winston, wc, D.July, 10.18.13; T.Brady, 8.28.9, K.Allison, wc, DC; D.Carr, E.Drost, wc, OH, 9.27.15; D.Carr, wc, Sgt.B.Parrish, DVIDS, USArmy, 1.31.16, PB-HI; A.Rodgers-P.Willis, wc, 9.9.12, M.Morbeck; cherries-cloth, wc, 6/11, picdrome; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.13.16 @ 1:25am EST: Copyright © 2016

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

5 Dec

Monday Minute Waltz – NFL Week 13

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Record: 58 – 68 – 2

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