Tag Archives: NFL 2017-18

NFL17 Cherry Picks W6: Skin CAN Be Topical, When Thickness Is the Theme

12 Oct

We’re 1/3rd the way through NFL 2017 and only the Kansas City Chiefs’ mark remains, like that rare high school mug, unblemished (5-0), having avoided the deflating though brief malaise that will accompany that first loss of the season to keep the hopeful if naïve notion alive that ANYTHING is possible (16-0).

Five games in is when you’ve had enough ball under the belt to get a good idea of what’s working and what’s not, but not so late you can’t right the ship after a couple losses have begun to blow the vessel off course.

Since the 1960s, only the Dolphins (72) and Patriots (07) have managed to make it through the entire regular season Clearasil® clean (no losses), New England finally breaking-out (succumbing to the Giants in SB42) while Miami bested the Redskins in SB7 to stay Stridex® sound (undefeated). So in all likelihood, every team will post a pimple (loss) at some point early in the season. Eek.

It’s how a team HANDLES losing that’ll prove the biggest test.

Here’s what some famous people have had to say about winning, losing and how lemons can get turned into lemonade:

I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened: New Zealand (London) writer, Katherine Mansfield (Kathleen Mansfield Murry, 1888-1923)*

You can learn little from winning, you can learn everything from losing: New York Giants baseball great & WWI veteran, Christy Mathewson*

What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate: Donald Trump*

It is not enough to conquer, one must learn the art of seduction: Voltaire*

Okay, so that last one’s a bit bawdy for football but you get the idea, i.e., there’s more to it than winning. Holding onto power can be tougher than taking it.

But to handle a loss, even one that embarrasses badly, a good team with a champion’s constitution must have thick skin, thick enough to withstand the burning remarks of critics. And then, after the pain subsides, a mind-set for learning from the miscues that led to the collapse in confidence and play.

Who needs thick skin at this juncture? Prit near everyone, but those with a contender capability might be having their’s tested the hardest.

Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

Pre-season hopefuls, the Desert dwellers have had their skin tested in the next best (worst) manner, serious injury to a key cog, that being MVP-caliber running-back David Johnson who went out in W2 with a dislocated wrist.

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Pack are always contenders for the Halas trophy (George must crack a smile up there every time someone ties his name to the Green & Yellow) with the likes of Rodgers under center, but giving ’em 20 points in the 4Q, at home in a game you had in control from the get-go has to burn the Boys skin bad.

As to some folk’s notion that last Sunday’s tussle (GB 35-31) constitutes NFL17’s game of the year, I say ‘Oh brother.’ Besides being premature (W5), any game where 30 points are allowed in the closing quarter can’t rank too high. Defense still has to count for something in the game of football.

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Looked to be the surprise contender of 2017 and might still fill-the-bill. With Russ Wilson, Wagner, Kam, Thomas, Wright and Coach Carroll, the Hawks, like GB, are an NFL Elite who own their Division, now that AZ has degressed. As such, there’s no shame in losing a close one to Seattle, even in LA. And when was the last time a Rams v Jaguars game seemed worth a look-see, eh?

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

Ben Ben’s talk of his demise is disheartening. Ever since Tomlin did his $100K (fined) turkey-trot on T-Day (13), I’ve hoped for better leadership to utilize best the final years of Pittsburgh’s future HOF quarterback. No such luck. But here’s more advice from the sage Giants moundsman: You must have an alibi to show why you lost. If you haven’t one you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained. But keep it (alibi) to yourself, where it belongs.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

Eagles @ Carolina: 10.12 CBS 8:25: Cats
Packers @ Vikes: 10.15 Fox 1:00 GTW: GB
Detroit @ New Orleans: Fox 1:00: Lions
Patriots @ New York Jets: CBS 1:00: Patriots
Buccaneers @ Arizona: Fox 4:05: Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams @ Jaguars: Fox 4:05: Rams
Chargers @ Raiders: CBS 4:25: Los Angeles
Pittsburgh @ KansasCity: CBS 4:25: Steelers
New York Giants @ Denver: NBC 8:30: NYG
Indianapolis @ TN: 10.16 Disney 8:30: Colts

Record: 16 – 11

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Katherine-Mansfield, Archives-New-Zealand, wc, “thick-skinned-toady,” T.S.Eliot-critique, 1915 (+/-); Rhinoceros, India, wc.cca, Brehms-Life-Of-Animals, 1895;
Posted: 10.12.17 @ 4:55pE; Copyright © 2017
References (*): Mathewson: 1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts, Nemec & Palmer, 1994; Pres. Donald Trump, Google; Mansfield, Wikipedia; Voltaire, Wikipedia.

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NFL17 Cherry Picks W5: Post-Tragedy, Sport Isn’t So Trivial As Tonic, Even With Knee-Jerks & Blessed Bullies

7 Oct

In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last Sunday, NFL 2017 happenings might seem rather trivial to anyone not a gambler or working in the myriad of League-related enterprises, on the field of play and off.

On the other hand, as a national unifier, sporting events can be quite valuable in the healing process (See; President Kennedy’s murder (11.22.63) and Cmsr. Pete Rozelle’s decision to play the games post consult with WH-PS Salinger). Almost any activity that brings people together to think, talk and listen to eachother, yes, listen, can be a therapeutic. “It’s a good thing.”

This Sunday, NFL athletes have an opportunity to ditch the arrogance, find light in the darkness, take hold of truth and stand together ♫ for hope.

— — —

The shocking massacre where over 50 people were murdered and hundreds more were wounded by a deranged hotel high-rise gunman Stephen Paddock will likely have NFL knee-protesters conjuring up some sort of gesture of sympathy that they hope lends credence to their self-serving symbolic piggy-back upon the national anthem‘s moment of reflection.

To the speculation on what drove the crazed killer to such an awful act, it’s appropriate to toggle the gun-control topic as it relates to the caliber of weaponry used in the mass killing. Even the NRA agrees on that point (bump-stock ban).

Paddock’s rapid fire capability increased the carnage greatly. In comparison, the Texas Tower shooter on Austin campus, Charles Whitman, killed fifteen people and injured over thirty on August 1, 1966 in using bolt-action rifle. But it’s fair to say that a person of normal mental state could have an armory at their disposal and not seek to harm anyone, while one possessed of hateful thoughts could have no weapons readily available yet find enough to wreck havoc.

How can a freedom loving people correct or combat an oppressive, corporately captured government that is unresponsive to a clearly-stated will of the people without armaments? It’s a different world from 1776 but the principle of preparedness still applies, one incorporated in the 2nd Amendment with its affordance of the personal right to bear arms, a right recognized over time by those who emerse themselves in discerning the true and full meaning of America’s ruling document, the Constitution.

Then there’s Paddock’s mental state.

Investigation of his medical records, cabinets and autopsy will give a picture of whether the mass murderer had pathological and / or a pharmacologically-aided mental malady. His behavior seems to fit a recent pattern seen in shooters where medications were present and strongly suspected of playing a major part in their change from manageable psychosis to rampaging killers.

— — —

Acts of heroism can occur during and immediately after tragedies and Las Vegas had its share of brave Samaritans. They speak to humanity‘s better side in caring, courage and giving hope while also standing in stark contrast to other not-so-heroic acts in troubled states.

I’m referring to NFL player and protester, Michael Bennett.

The Seahawks defender was at a Las Vegas gambling hall during the Mayweaher-McGregor fight August 26th and took to skedaddle during reports of gun-fire. Caught on camera running through the facility, he certainly drew the attention of responding police. They detained Bennett for questioning, then he was released. In viewing the videos made public last week, I’d not say the police were friendly, though, checking his handcuffs for comfort was sporting. But they did appear and sound reasonable in the force applied, far different from the “excessive” or brutal tags the Seattle celebrity affixes in his claims.

That MB took flight when reported shots rang out is something for he, his conscience and lawyer to ponder. But that he diverted attention from his embarrassing behavior by what appears either mistaken or known false claims of racial profiling (detained at gunpoint “for doing nothing more than being a black man”)* and mistreatment by the Las Vegas Metro, at a time when honest racial dialogue is needed, and then boot-strapped his rickety claims onto Mr. Pig-Socks protest show, THAT is disturbing indeed.

— — —

It is the anthem’s period for reflection that has always been a sanctuary from our present personal troubles and team differences, a respite from bickering and bad-mouth to focus on the good in our lives, communities and planet. No nation’s flag is unstained with misdeeds but such reality need not prevent honest, brave agents-for-change from pursuing more sincere avenues for dialogue.

But that all changed long before the Kaepernick knee-jerks started to make conformity a bad word. After the 9-11 attacks, GOP conservatives used Francis Scott Key’s unifier as a means to push their OWN selfish agenda by adding religion into the mix in form of God Bless America (Berlin), still forced upon fans by many sport team owners, a fandom who, likely in majority, would just assume leave religion at home or place of their own choosing.

Will sport prove a tonic this Sunday for survivors of the hellish attack, their friends and families, the empathetic fandom and NFL players who take to field for Week 5 competitions? It’s a choice they all have.

Think on this little bit of philosophy, NFL protesters: Sometimes it is of necessity but other times conformity is just “pure (cowardice).”

Cherry Picks Week 5

Buffalo @ Cincy: 10.8 CBS 1:00: Bengals
Panthers @ Detroit: Fox 1:00: Lions
Chargers @ NYG: CBS 1:00 GTW: Giants
Cardinals @ Philadelphia: Fox 1:00: Eagles
Jacksonville @ Steelers: CBS 1:00: Jaguars
Baltimore @ Raiders: CBS 4:05: Ravens
Seattle @ Rams: CBS 4:05: Seahawks
Packers @ Cowboys: Fox 4:25: GreenBay
Chiefs @ Houston: NBC 8:30: KansasCity
Vikes @ Bears: 10.9 Disney 8:30: Vikings

Record: 8 – 9

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Posted: 10.6.17 @ 8:04p EST; Copyright © 2017
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Grieving, Sarajevo, 1992, wc.cca, Lions-Cemetary-Funeral, MikhailEvstafiev; Michael-Bennet, wc, J.Beall, 8.7.14; Kate-Smith, wc, Radio-Mirror, 5.1.34; ripe-cherries, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; Jim-Marshall, TCG, 1970
References (*): Si.com / “Police Release Videos” / 9.29.17 / D.Rapaport

NFL17 Cherry Picks W4: ‘Comes The Revolution?’ Not Without a Message of Hope

27 Sep

Last season ex-QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Last week President Donald Trump reflected on the protest at a political rally by putting a foot (in his mouth). His words then incited NFL’ers from all walks on Sunday to stand arm & arm prior to W3 action as a show of unity in response to the Chief Executive’s unflattering though not exactly shocking remarks.

All of it constituting a snoozer of a class in NFL Anatomy 101.

And for once it wasn’t Roger Goodell at the center in the storm of player and junior-media discontent. Though, I haven’t yet seen a picture of the Raja hand-in-hand with any players or fellow Cufflinks in defiance of the President’s remarks. If I do I may get a print and have it framed. Oy vey.

The hubbub created a distraction not unlike that in the days just after sleazoids at TMZ released the Ray Rice – Jinay Palmer punch video, another topic tornado that tore through the entertainment media terrain only to weaken in strength when the slate of W3 games turned out to be quite watchable.

*Kaepernick wasn’t directly responsible for this knee-jerk show of League unity and apparent reinvigeration of his vague, racism-laced protest (See; white-only pig socks). The Commander-in-Chief can take full responsibility for the current melodramatic State of the Players’ Union.

The President, in lambasting (“fire”) NFL nappers (national anthem protesters), owners, fans (“leave the stadium”) and even League efforts to reduce post-career concussion-related maladies (“ruining the game“)* was kind of like that kid on the playground who unexpectedly grabs the football only to run around wildly while the regulars stand motionless in amazement, a bit befuddled, except THIS time, instead of letting the energetic ball-hog run himself out in seclusion, the populars decided to lock arms, feign anger and spotlight the little devil.

I like a bold President who speaks plain when occasion calls (“buck stops here (Truman)”), but a little bit o’ judgment (“son of a b#tch” was bad), even when stumping for votes (Sen.Strange (AL)) goes a long way in making the Term a success, especially when you’ve got your index primed to press (v. N.Korea).

Presidential PC Push Back

The one truly disturbing aspect about the President’s comments on the NFL was his disregard for the League’s effort to reduce the post-career onset of what has become a national health tragedy in neuro-degenerative disorder, mainly in trying to make helmets more effective and ban certain tackling techniques that always cheapened the spirit of sport. Football players and real fans understand.

If Trump’s family have been spared the scourge of Alzheimers and like dementia, referred to today by some in the medical community as diabetes of the brain (sugar), they can consider themselves very lucky because most Americans are becoming very familiar with the sorrow and stress, mental + financial, that accompanies the disease, including afflicted patient and tireless caregivers.

Better that both sides protest the harm that the nation’s sugar-diet wrecks upon its collective body and soul. But what would sponsor PepsiCo say?

There’s hypocrisy on both sides of this protest aisle.

The Trenders (NFLPA), more than a few who take childish pride in on-field & social-media trash-talk, have lined up behind a person (CK) they may not like, whose specific message is unclear and who they probably wish to just fade, are taking on a politican who rags about a monopoly (See; USFL 83-86) yet whose economic game-plan aims to, just as did former-President Obama, secure those very cartels that leave consumers powerless.

While many cite Donald’s USFL venture for comparison, I happened upon a curious quote by actor Aldo Ray whose birthday was on Monday (1926-91). Here is what the 50-60s tough-guy and co-star in one of the great sport comedies, Pat and Mike (52), had to say about…saying things: “I regret I don’t have more control of my tongue because I speak too frankly and honestly, and this world is not meant for frank, honest people. They don’t mix. Reality is pretty phony.”*

Yes, honesty is not always the best policy. It’s subject to common sense or, again, that mental ability we call judgment capability. Tell a Yank they can’t reasonably protest and you’re in for a fight. That one goes WAY back (See; 1776).

But the NFL platform today presents a unique stage for protest. It’s a symbolic power-grab where progress sits the bench for political profiteering by displays of anger, much less justified than in 1968 (Olympics), with little risk of ramification as entire teams lock arms and cocoon themselves cozily in the spirit of club.

Try pulling this kneel thing at your Walmart company picnic during a pledge or anthem and you may not last too long with the Arkansas-headquartered operation, whether in Little Rock or Kalamazoo.

“Comes the revolution?”* Not bloody likely.

For a successful movement you start with seriousness, then add hope to the message, not just self-serving anger and nervous conformity. But hope needs truth, a good share, anyway and honesty-patriots in 2017 are in shorter supply than were clean meat and woolen socks at Valley Forge (1777-78).

Marriage Rocks

What then is the end game here?

The mass player protests seem intended to spite the President while owners and coaches most assuredly joined up to keep it all cool. Not the most sincere protest, so don’t expect it to continue indefinitely, not in the same form, anyway. And with Kaep short on truth and his goals lacking clarity, like, were he seeking due process or specific facts in cases of investigated police misconduct from City, State or Justice Department watchdogs, player passion for protest will likely give way to career concerns, sooner than later, for most of the hand holders.

Will NFL owners put the ‘welcome mat’ out for Mr. Pig Socks and recruit an owner to roster the flashman to further spite the Oval Officer? Probably not, as the majority of fans, even minorities, are not too cool with Kaep and his agenda. But expect the NFL Cufflinks, even as President Trump serves their economic interests, to have a good chuckle or two postulating the possibility.

The marriage between sport and patriotism has been a long one. Like all recognized unions in bliss, it has had its ups and it has had its downs but for the most part it’s been one of purpose and contentment.

If the NFL and it players continue to use that consecrated coupling as a means to vet-out every feeling and foible facilitated by any trend that on-ramps the virtual highway, the divorce proceedings will begin in earnest, not between the partners sport and patriotism, but that joining of loyal football fans and the discretionary relationship they’ve long had with the game and its well-paid profiteers.

Perhaps wiser heads can impress upon the faux protesters the realities of life: ‘Your conference call to Misters Goodell and Smith is ready now, Ms. Nooyi.’

Cherry Picks Week 4: Back to Business

Bears @ Packers: 9.28 CBS 8:25: GreenBay
Titans @ Texans: 10.1 CBS 1:00: Houston
Steelers @ Baltimore: CBS 1:00: Ravens
Detroit @ Minnesota: Fox 1:00: Vikings
LosAngeles @ Cowboys: Fox 1:00: Rams
Buffalo @ Atlanta: CBS 1:00: Falcons
Philadelphia @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:05: Eagles
Raiders @ Denver: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Indianapolis @ Seattle: NBC 8:30: Seahawks
Washington @ KC: 10.2 Disney 8:30: Chiefs

Record: 2-5

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; President-D.Trump, Transition-2017, wc.cca, 11.9.16, 450k; IndraNooyi, PepsiCo, 1.23.08, wc.cca, Davos, 3m, WEF; British-General Cornwallis-Surrender-At-Yorktown, 115k, JohnTrumbull, oil, 1797; JimOtto, NFL, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.27.17 @ 12:16aE, edit 9.28; Copyright © 2017
References: *Cnn.com, “Trump: NFL Owners Should Fire Players Who Protest,” S.Tatum, 9.23.17; “The Battle Cry of Aldo Ray”. Movieline, 1.1.91 (Wikipedia); Glenda Farrell, Here Comes Carter (36), WarnerBrothers

NFL17 Cherry Picks W1: Nuff With Knees & QBs, It’s Time For Bridesmaids & Tacklese

8 Sep

Even the best NFL tacklers like Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner could enjoy the chick-flick Bridesmaids (2011). That’s no foolin.’

When the thin one (Kristen Wiig) starts to panic on the jetliner (pills + liquor), triggering the air-marshal plan, it’s on-the-spot volunteer “Megan (Melissa McCarthy),” a G5 federal employee, who lays her friend flat with the best flying tackle seen by this football fan since Pat Willis patrolled the tundra (ret. 2015).

‘That was acting, Steve.’ Sure, but then sport itself can be fairly fantastic.

Take soccer (fútbol) for example. ¡Ay, caramba! Those guys fall to the turf more than The Bad News Bears (76), pre-“Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley)” and “Amanda (Tatum O‘Neal).”

— — —

For all the fascination with scoring by guys like Tom Brady and David Johnson, the foundation of every team will lay in its defense. It’s football 101.

And if you don’t have it for the whole shebang, i.e., 4Qs for 16Gs and the entire post-season, you’re in for a shootout at worst possible time, something the Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers for that matter (NFCC), know about all…too…well.

The two key measures in team defense have traditionally been yards allowed per game (yapg) and point allowed per game (papg). Why? Because you can’t pile up points without both of ‘em. Get it?

In NFL16, Houston (301), Arizona, Minnesota, Denver and Seattle (319) held down the top five (5) spots in the former category (yapg). Combined, they were eight (8) games over .500, two division titles, three (3) had winning marks with the Vikes even-Steven and Cards ½ game under. Not proof-positive of the D’s value, but not too shabby an indicator, either.

A better gauge might be the later rank, papg.

Those top five (5): New England (15.6), Giants, Seahawks, Broncos & Cowboys, a combined thrity-five and one-half games (35.5) over .500. “Zowie!”

The short story, and that’s what you’ll get most often at NFLCherryPicks in opposite of the trend to long story (See; sabrmetrics), is that defense matters, alot.

We know about the Patriots positioning prior to the playoffs (#8 / 1) but where’d the Falcons finish up in the top D rankings?

An inglorious 25th (yapg) and 27th (papg) is where the A-Birds settled in. And like I wrote above, those deficienies will not remain hidden forever. Great teams will expose them in the brightest of lights.

So if Atlanta was so deficient on the defensive side, how would you think they could make it through the post-season and into the Big Game?

Besides stellar offensive efforts by their quarterback and League MVP Matt Ryan, 3rd-year RB Devonta Freeman, another monster stat-season by receiver Julio Jones and offensive line that did their job (37s), the non-team-related reason was that the NFC was a veritable graveyard of competition in 2016.

Youth-movement-led Cowboys rolled after a W1 loss to the Giants but proceeded to flop in the PS, Green Bay had to kick-start its campaign and lost home-field in the process, Seattle hasn’t been the same since Lynch went wingnut and Arizona, expected by some to make the SB51, proved the Big Enigma of 2016.

Falcons’ defense did have its performers that shone bright when it counted most, of note was the League’s top sack-master in Vic Beasley (15.5) and the 25th best tackler in Deion Jones (75s – 33a). Those aren’t eye-popping stats but Jones was busy elsewhere, having 14 PDs and 3 INTs. Another player, or two, like Deion and A-Birds might make a return trip to the Big Game in 2018.

Cherry Picks Week 1: On the right foot

Chiefs @ New England: 9.7 NBC 8:30: NE
Cardinals @ Detroit: 9.10 Fox 1:00: Arizona
Buccaneers @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Tampa Bay
Raiders @ Tennessee: CBS 1:00: Titans
Ravens @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Seahawks @ Green Bay: Fox 4:25: Packers
Giants @ Dallas: NBC 8:30: New York
NO @ Minnesota: 9.11 Disney 7:10: Vikings

2014: 97 – 55 -1 (NE)
2015: 105 – 101 – 1 (DEN)
2016: 88 – 93 – 3 (NE (8 – 3))

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: NFL-icon, wikiproject; B.Wagner, wc.cca, 10.6.14, K.Allison; M.Ryan, 8.8.16, wc, E.Drost; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; Wood, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.7.17 @ 8:28pE; Copyright © 2017

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

5 Sep

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL17: Adrian Peterson Pressing For Saint-hood On a 2d Miracle Comeback

27 Apr

Adrian Peterson v. Marshawn Lynch

If New Orleans Saints new superstar in Adrian Peterson can pull off yet another miracle comeback as he did in 2015 when, post-injury, he led the League in rush yards and the Vikes to an 11-5 mark, it won’t qualify him for sainthood by Vatican standards but it should help to return the NFL Saints back to contendership while exorcizing any demon that All-Day may’ve realized in last year’s physical and family troubles. “The power of Christ (and a Super Bowl ring) compels you!”

On Monday, Peterson inked a 2-yr, $7 million deal with the Saints (3.5M gtd (2.5b)) that has a potential to pay the future HOF’er $8M+ if incentives are met.

Adrian’s exit from Minnesota and subsequent sign with his former team’s 2010 NFCC opponent, ironic in that it was they (NO) who forced him into fumblitis (3) to stymie his one chance at Super trip, marks the end of an era for the franchise which is still seeking its first SB win in four tries and return trip to the Big Game since 1977 when Bud Grant strolled the frigid Metropolitan (MoA) sideline.

In Peterson’s ten seasons in the Land of 10.000 Lakes, missing almost two complete campaigns due to knee injuries, Purple made the playoffs four (4) times, getting as far as the NFCC once with Brett Favre under center, Adrian winning All-Pro honors four times and MVP (AP) in 2012.

The Vikings have some things to smile about on the departure of their franchise face: A glittering new stadium (US Bank), veteran, fairly savvy QB in Sam Bradford and a head coach in Mike Zimmer who has returned the Norseman to a semblance of defensive respectability (#3 yapg / #6 papg) that has only been seen sporadically since the Vikings glory days in the 70s.

But while their braintrust in GM Rick Spielman, owners Wilf (Zygi – Mark) and the coach may feel equal parts of gratitude and relief when the optioned-out Peterson turns topic, they’ve still got a major problem in matriculation (offense) that’s persisted since Favre’s exit, one which the Draft won’t resolve quickly.

The Saints, on the other hand, they matriculate just fine.

In final 2016 regular season ranks, New Orleans led all teams in yards gained per game (426), just ahead of NFC champion, Atlanta (416 (#2)), and flip it with their regional rival in the all important points scored per game category (#1 / 33.8), putting up on average 29+ per (#2) last year.

When you’ve got record-setter Drew Brees expertly manning the controls (2001), an ageless wonder who, like Tom Brady, looks to have some kind of a Dorian Gray thing going, sans the gruesome painting (See; O.Wilde), offense is rarely a problem. Those 1000 receivers can come in (Michael Thomas) and go out (Brandin Cooks (NE)) and Brees just keeps breezing along.

And even a quarterbacking-machine like Brees needs a break from the pressure now and then. And that’s the run game’s job, assuming the OL is doing theirs.

Besides relieving the signal-caller of certain stress, a good ground attack also helps keep the defense on its toes and guessing. New Orleans got that in 2016 from backfield tandem in Mark Ingram (5.1) and the since departed Tim Hightower (4.1 (SF)). And that’s where All-Day will come into play.

But it’s the defensive side, once a strong suit for the gold & black but now New Orleans’ mountain to conquer, that‘ll need most attention. Key defensive ranks in 2016: #27 in yards allowed per contest; #31 points per. The collapsing Falcons (See; SB51) better join that climbing team, too, or can forget winning, let alone getting back to the Big Game (#25 / 27).

— — —

With the Raiders recent acquisition of game-dormant but very visible running back Marshawn Lynch from the Seahawks for a 2018 draft swap (5R for 6R), there emerges a curious comparison to the Saints own Peterson pick-up.

Lynch sat out all of last season and played < half of 2015. It’s good to workout (ML passed his Oakland test), but that won’t replace game hits and habits. Like Adrian, Marsh is no spring chicken, having turned 31 last week (2007). In AARP years (1 NFL year = 5 AARP), both men would be eligible for benefits & discounts (Caution: Always find & read boilerplate before contracting). Unlike Adrian, Marshawn has a title ring, playing a small but key role in ‘Hawks SB48 win.

Where Peterson gets winning points is in his attitude.

Lynch promotes himself as a free-spirit, some might say a wingnut. That’s cute when times are good but when rough waters hit, it’s the kooks that tend to pout and withdraw inward, a bad character trait in the ups & downs of team sport. In addition, because of his extended absence from the NFL, one has to seriously question Marshawn’s level of commitment to the competition.

With Adrian commitment is never in question. Imbued with great determination, his drive for perfection is pronounced, maybe too much so at times, in himself and with those around him. Big question on Peterson is not whether there is still sufficient ‘gas in the tank’ but will the tires hold out (knees)? Like Lynch, AP has missed nearly two of the last three seasons and turned 32 in March.

Ingram (2011), who joined the 1000 rusher club in 2016, is expected to remain the #1 carrier in Sean Payton – Pete Carmichael’s scoring scheme. If Peterson can contribute 600 on the ground, 200 in the air and impart some of his 10 years of NFL experience to the up n‘ comers, GM Mickey Loomis will be pleased.

The Saints (7-9) were competitive down the stretch in 2016, going 3-3 with only the Detroit loss a poor show. Again, a serious reconfiguration of D-scheme is New Orleans’ key to success in 2017 (See; Atlanta), but a healthy and occasionally electric Adrian could give their offense that added pop to keep defenders, and then the whole Saints sideline, confident in a return to contendership.

Commentators in the Bayou and in the Saints’ circle of strategy are tempering expectations over the arrival of the rehabbed and rather aged Mr. Peterson. But his gangbusters style of run and Hall-of-Fame credentials will no doubt give Saints fans hope that Adrian has another miracle in his pocket, or in his legs, as it were. The man and his mission to make good will likely be in their prayers.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject; A.Peterson, Arvee5.0, 1.28.12, wc.cca; D.Brees-Conways, USMC, E.Kirk-Cuomo, 11.2.9; M.Lynch, wc, 2.5.14, D.Sizer; Mosaic-Saint, Geolina, AachenCathedral, wc, Germany, 2011; J.Otto, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 4.27.17 @ 4:16pm; Copyright © 2017