Tag Archives: NFLcherrypicks

NFL17 Conference Cherry Picks: Top Dogs Hunting & Halasing on Way to Houston

17 Jan

If the Pittsburgh Steelers chatty guru Mike Tomlin is a “cheerleader” coach as one sport personality recently opinionated, then all I’ve got to say (write) is this:

Give me a W!
Give me an I!
Give me an N!
Give me another N!
Give me… … you get the picture. Mike’s a winner.

tomlin-wc-m-rooney-9-16-07-405kWhether he’s a skilled tactician in offensive (Sid Gillman) or defensive (Bud Ryan) scheme or a leader who prefers delegating those duties to specialize in the emotional game (rah-rah), Mike wins alot, regular (.644), post (.615) and is 1-1 in Supers. Tomlin & team went through a rough playoff patch in recent period (2012 – 2016 (1-3)) where Steelers went one n’ done, twice, then lost in 2016 divisional.

But Pittsburgh is 2-0 in their march on Houston (SB51), prevailing over a slightly off-center Miami club who were without starter Tannehill, and then Sunday won a gutsy road game over a scoring-lite Chiefs who’re back to the drawing board.

Tomlin is a bit off-center himself, showing poor judgment in the nationally-televised 2013 Thanksgiving contest in Baltimore, stepping into the pathway of Ravens return-man in a clear effort to disruption, hence the whopping $100G fine. More recently Mike was recorded making crude reference to his next week’s Conference title opponent, the Patriots. Stay classy, MT. Ugh.

halas-1922-wc-therakishfellow-188kThere’s been speculation that former Steelers Super Bowl QB and present Fox analyst, Terry Bradshaw and his curiously-timed critique of Tomlin, just prior to playoffs, was more than simple opinionating but instead intended to stoke the fires of Steel City players, a crew that’s been fizzling out early in recent playoff ventures.

Whether staged or sincere, Bradshaw’s statement on Tomlin’s coaching style seems to have had no negative impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers championship run, one that looks to be unified and motivated to the gills, a necessary group mental state given that their next destination has been most typically an opponent’s graveyard-of-dreams in Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts.

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7

Conference Cherry Picks 2017: Crème de la crème

Packers (12-6) @ Atlanta (12-5): 1.22 Fox 3:05 EST (Halas Trophy)

Conference play presents the best in competition as none of four remaining teams is a pretender. Nobody gets this far on smoke & mirrors. Experience over exuberance is how GB got back to the NFCC (2012). A-Birds punched their return ticket (2013 (Smith)) by topping the same Seattle and being the most offensively juggernautious team in NFL16, ranked #2 in YGPG, #1 in points scored and led by MVP-caliber Matt Ryan. Packers ranked at #8 / 4 and were rising at W17. For most of his coach career (1994 W&M), Falcons Dan Quinn has been a defensive specialist but that skill has not been apparent in Atlanta with poor 2016 team ranks indicate (#25 / 27). Lucky for the hosts, Packers didn’t fare much better on the D-side (#22 / 21), a group that nearly served up a Cheese-Melt II (See; Seattle 2015) in the Dallas divisional game. I like Falcons’ resolve: Behind early to the Seahawks (0-7), roar back with a killer 2Q (19), maintain matriculation and the D bolts it down (2H-10p). Kicker Crosby was cool late for GB (2-50+) but A-Birds Bryant (K) & Bosher (P) are toppers too. Clubs are very comparable, as it should be, except Atlanta’s run game is more est’d, and then they’ll be Benzing…the dome, not the hydrocarbon. Pack should’ve gotten hot earlier. Falcons win.

afc-hunt-trophy-a-kirk-wc-2-4m

Steelers (13-5) @ New England (15-2): CBS 6:40 (Hunt Trophy)

Media pounced on New England who lost but one quarter ((2) 10-3) to offensively tepid and defensively cranky Texans (34-16). Only surprise is that Brady’s O-mates failed to pounce on the QB’s crank (Clowney). Not in their job description (ugh)? Tom’s 2 INTs of tipped variety. Pitt had tougher time in KC but like Falcons, showed resolve. Must go back to ‘05 for Pittsburgh’s last AFCC visit to Foxborough, a 41-27 loss. Cowher’s out and Big Ben wants to forget (3 INT). Comparable clubs, too, on both O-side (NE: #4 / 3 – PIT: #7 / 10) and the stoppage (NE: #8 / 1; PIT: #12 / 9). Steelers #1 horse is clear (Bell) but I wonder why Blount (8c (HOU)), Pats proven gainer, fell to #2 behind Lewis (13c)? Pressure on the QB sets the tone: Pats OL is a wall (24sk (HOU 2)), Pitt’s is a bigger one (21 (KC 1)). Putting on pressure, both were…capable, Steelers made 38 sacks (1 KC), New England 34 (3 HOU). Weather folk see Sunday in Boston metro as 42°, clouds and no flakes, not from above, anyway (See; Mike). If not the AP-MVP, Tom should have shot at the Super variety. Patriots win.

Record: 85 – 93 – 3

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject; MikeTomlin, wc.cca, M.Rooney, 9.16.07; GeorgeHalas, 1922, wc.cca, therakishfellow; cherries-ripe, wc.cca, 6.24.07, Chirak; AFCC-LamarHunt-trophy, wc.cca, A.Kirk;
Posted: 1.17.17 @ 11:37am, edit 7:59 EST; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 Wild Cherry Picks: 8 Teams, 4 Games and One Tough Call (NY@GB)

6 Jan

rodgers-wc-k-allison-1-10-16-dc-429kSaving the best for last? Maybe so, when schedulers slated the Green Bay Packers to host, once again, the New York Giants Sunday afternoon in the last of four NFL wild-card contests (4:40 EST), a cavalcade of contenders that kicks-off Saturday.

All the action marks the first leg in a three week playoff race whose finish-line is NRG Stadium in Houston come February 5th for Super Bowl 51.

The Lambeau clash figures the keenest with the Carr-less Raiders visiting that same NRG field to face the Texans (1.7), the 0-3 closing Lions traveling to Seattle to take on the Seahawks (1.7) and another clipboard-QB led team in Miami must fly north to battle the Lombardi-laden, Big Ben-led Steelers (1.8).

manning-gb-wc-1-15-12-m-morbeck-296kPressing the point on the closer (NY-GB), Pack’s one of the hottest teams in the NFL (NE #1), appearing to’ve figured a way out of the funk that stunk up their 1st-half of 2016. For their part, the Giants, with two wins vs. Dallas, have gotten quite cozy playing in Green Bay in the most intense of circumstance, knocking Packers from the playoffs twice in recency, first, a Conference contest in 2008 (Favre / Eli), then again in a 2012 Divisional (Rodgers / Eli). Pick’em.

The playoffs mark a new beginning in the championship campaign of conquest. It’s when the crème de la crème get mettle-tested by the fiercest foes and not infrequently worst weather mother nature can dole out.

For the pro player, his body’s telling him it’s time to pack-it-in (no pun) for winter, catch up on sleep, reacquaint with friends & family, read the mail, walk the dog, anything but more football. Then the contract say otherwise, bills to pay and the desire to be the best, all driving him onward in hopes of greater glory.

Which team can prove Julius Caesar and cross the Rubicon in conqueroring the vast playoff landscape and its combatants? Some teams clearly have a leg up on the competition in weaponry, positioning and the art of field tactics & technique.

Home-field and 1st-Rd byes, deserved as it they are, give a decided advantage. And while all 12 invitees are endowed with the spirit and physical skills to take the VLT (Vince Lombardi trophy), only a handful are cloaked in that garb of destiny.

cherries-wc-cca-3-3m-b-kua-6-1-8Wild Cherry Picks: Veni Vidi Vici

Raiders (12-4) @ Texans (9-7): 1.7 Disney 4:35: Texans win

Detroit Lions (9-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1): NBC 8:15: ‘Hawks win

Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ Pittsburgh (11-5): 1.8 CBS 1:05: Steelers win

New York Giants (11-5) @ Green Bay Packers (10-6): Fox 4:40: NY wins

Record: 80 – 90 – 3

nfl-symbol-wikiproject-6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Giants-fan, wc.cca, Darasman, 11.26.12; A.Rodgers, wc, 1.10.16, DC, K.Allison; E.Manning, @GB, wc, 1.15.12, M.Morbeck; cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 1.6..17 @ 11:22am EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W17: MVP Field Is Fat But Houseman Meter Says Brady Ain’t In It

27 Dec

Even as New England Patriots starry signal-caller Tom Brady, on a brilliant but semi-season (12g), may win the MVP on the anti-Goodell vote, a group not dissimilar to that which decided Election 2016, Brady nevertheless must be ineligible, opening the door to the widest field of candidates in years, winner who won’t be clear until the regular season is in the books. With Falcons’ Matt Ryan frontrunner entering final Week 17, its match-ups bearing on this rank, player and to a smaller degree team performance will decide the winner, making the baker’s dozen below as tight a pack as a Friday afternoon subway.

Top contenders for NFL 2016 MVP:

1. Matt Ryan
2. David Johnson
3. Landon Collins
4. Dak Prescott
5. Ezekiel Elliott
6. Alec Ogletree
9. Kwon Alexander
10. Le’Veon Bell
11. Aaron Rodgers
12. Bobby Wagner
13. Justin Tucker

— — —

The football MVP might just be an award more valuable than a championship ring, at least Cam Newton and Rich Gannon hope so.

The biggest personal prize in professional football this side of the 49th parallel is about momentum, early on (W5 >), on-going (consistency) and uninterrupted.

ryan-m-10-19-14-k-allison-702kWith one more game remaining for all 32 in NFL 2016, one more chance for players with MVP aspirations to prove their worth in the eyes of the Associated Press, the obscure but finely calibrated John Houseman MVP Meter is presently pointing to Matt Ryan as the most valuable and deserving player for the coveted prize.

Be aware, this meter gauges the player who most deserves to win the MVP, not the man who ultimately receives the most AP votes and then the hardware.

Wondering, as you should, what is the Houseman MVP Meter?

John Houseman (1902-88) was a noted producer of theater (Federal / Mercury) and then films who later in life became an actor of note in supporting roles in such movies as The Paper Chase (73 (Oscar®)), Three Days of the Condor and the classic sporting flick, the original Rollerball (75). But he may be best remembered for his Smith Barney TV ads uttering in his distinctive high-hat voice, “They earn money the old-fashioned way, they eaaaaaarn it.” Get it?

— — —

The time of announcing the MVP winner should change.

In recent years, the NFL – NFLPA decided it’d be cute to announce MVP winner at a ceremony the nite just prior to playing the Big Game (SB), someone I expect who has no real knowledge of athletics or interest therein. For if they did, they’d know that receiving word of having won what is admittedly a terrific recognition, is about the LAST thing a player, his coaches & teammates, want (or need) to hear < 24 hours before suiting-up for the biggest game of their lives.

Think Cam Newton needed to know he was voted League’s top player in 2015 the nite before kickoff? I doubt it (See; SB50).

— — —

Who Won’t Win

ogletree-wc-8-15-13-johnmaxmena2-119kDefenders

The AP – MVP awarding is, of course, a flawed process, not unlike the Heisman awarding for the supposed best player in a collegiate season. One defender has taken the college equivalent to MVP in its 83 years in Michigan’s Charles Woodson (DB / 97), two NFL defenders winning MVP in Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Alan Page, as member of the vaunted Vikings’ Purple People Eaters (71) and Giants’ game-change linebacker in Lawrence Taylor (86).

As in most years, a defender will not win the MVP. Not because Landon Collins, Alec Ogletree & Kwon Alexander don’t deserve it, quite the contrary. When the fat field of contenders is assessed with a football savvy mind, tacklers rank high. And with no clear-cut offensive frontrunner this season, a defender should rate high. But AP voters, like most sport observers, think they understand offense best and can’t get enough (sticky-gloves), on field or off (MVP).

Receivers

2016 Toppers like Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, they’ve gotta’ have well over 1500 yards gained in reception, along with 20+ TDs just to be considered. No qualifiers this year.

INT quarterbacks

Big Ben, Luck, Brees (71.C%), Jameis & Eli have too many INTs, i.e., mistakes. Hit the high-40s in TD passes and double-digit INTs won’t weigh so heavy, a huge toss total none of the above mentioned have approached in 2016. In fairness to field generals, until NFL starts judging INTs with an eye for accuracy, detracting deflected-pass INTs from QB tallies, we can’t know for certain exactly how many true interceptions signal-callers actually threw in a season.

Who May Win

Running backs

The last to haul in the AP was…AP, Adrian Peterson in 2012. If he’s the standard, your team need not win their division (NFCN – GB), you need not score a ton (13 TD) nor forge top receiving stats (40 – 217). But pass that 2000 rush barrier (2097) and get good mojo going with media (and blogisphere (moi)) around mid-season and you’ve got a serious shot at the MVP sans a blazing QB.

1. David Johnson (Cardinals): 1233y – 16.TD (run) // 77 – 841y – 4 (rec)
2. Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys): 1631 – 15 // 32 – 363 – 1 (ROY)
3. Le’Veon Bell (Steelers): 1268 – 7 // 75 – 616 – 1

brady-11-29-15-wc-j-beall-2-45mQuarterbacks

Firstly, Tom Brady does NOT qualify for the 2016 MVP. Derek Carr doesn‘t either, going out in W16 with injury, but he’s closer than Tom.

Tom’s terrific but missed one-quarter of the season due to his Deflategate suspension. That’s weighty. Knowingly choose to destroy a phone in an inquiry and you’ll suffer consequences that celebrity won’t deflect.

And if you think the late start somehow worked a burden which TB’s fine play overcame and then now deserves some reward, you can throw that cockamamie theory in the trash with all that Xmas wrapping.

I like Brady. He’s a champion, looks un-enhanced by weight room residency or PEDs and when he speaks, people listen because he thinks about what he says. You won’t hear words like “poopfest” coming from Tom, not publicly, anyway. And it’s that thinking that’s made him maybe the greatest pro QB ever.

But the 2-time winner does…not…qualify. Period.

When Brady receives votes for the award, and he will, those casting will likely have done so, not because they really believe Tom to be 2016’s most valuable man, but instead as pay-back of sorts to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who ultimatley approved the QB’s Deflategate suspension. But one who thinks it better to show-up Goodell for meting out discipline than to vote with sincerity should not have that vote to cast in the first place. Period.

No Tom in the pool, no problem. It’s a QB league and there are plenty of MVP-caliber quarterbacks in 2016 to fill the bill without working pay-back (See; top).

The QB standard

1) TD-ratio
2) W-L (QB League)
3) Completion %
4) yards-per-pass (ypp), and
5) GWD (CC: clutch & composure)

As nearly every starting quarterback today will, with relative ease, surpass the 3000 yard passing mark, that category’s of lesser importance in MVP think.

Unlike the 1960s – 80s where completion percentages (%), even with great QBs like Bart Starr and Roger Staubach, were often in the mid-50s, in the 2000s the MVP-caliber quarterback should be well over the 60.C% mark.

1. Matt Ryan; 34-7, C% 69.5, 10-5, 9.3, 2gwd
2. Dak Prescott: 23-4, 68, 13-2, 8.0, 5gwd
3. Aaron Rodgers: 36-7, 65.5, 9-6, 7.2, 2.gwd
4. Derek Carr: 28-6, 63.7, 12-3, 7.0, 7gwd
5. Matt Stafford: 22-9, 66.1, 9-6, 7.2, 8 (4Q) gwd

Who Will Win?

Not the reigning MVP. Cats’ Cam Newton, for whatever reason (Super pout or strains of fatherhood?), has probably performed more poorly in defense of the prize than any prior (QB) winner since Brian Sipe in 1980, and, like Camster, proceeded to end his season too with a disastrous post-season game versus Tom Flores Raiders when Sipe went 13-40 with 3 INTs in the loss (Plunkett: 14-30, 2 INT). 2016 Newton: 6-6, 54.C%, 17-9, 7.1 (ypp); Sipe: 5-11, 55.C%, 17-25, 6.8.

It’s a tight race so this final slate of game is crucial for all the candidates.

Rivalry match-ups are in store, most of which could decide the outcome and then be fairly termed as ‘the MVP game.’

New Orleans @ Atlanta (Ryan)
Green Bay (Rodgers) @ Detroit (Stafford)
Dallas (Prescott & Elliott) @ Philadelphia
Arizona (Johnson) @ Los Angeles
Giants (Collins) @ Redskins

Of course, New England @ Miami, a GTW no doubt, is not listed.

Tom Brady would be eligible for the Super MVP if Patriots make it that far. But while Brady is ineligible for the regular MVP, fairness & logic are not always in play for voters, as Tom knows full well. If he performs in Miami, expect the junior-media element in the AP (anti-Goodell) to swing the vote, the trophy and the annoying night-before-the-Super-Bowl phone call, Tom’s way.

Ezekiel Elliott is having a tremendous rookie review but his scoring and multi-facet skill-set falls just short of Johnson’s.

Matt Stafford & Derek Carr’s GWD tallies are super but both relied more heavily on the short pass (7-7.3 ypp), an MVP detractor. It’s a measure which should boost ranking of the other resplendent Dallas rookie in Dak Prescott who’s been very careful with the ball (4 INT) in Ted Bridgewater fashion but unfortunately looked very average in Cowboys’ losses and a few wins, as well.

And Aaron Rodgers, already a vested member of the MVP Club (‘11 / 14), he played pedestrian in clutch time in season’s first half and didn’t get on radar soon enough to build sufficient voter support, especially when Tom is in the mix with many. And Rodgers’ 7.2 ypp , that’s junior league for a quarterback in his class. But there is the Favre Factor (Packer power in the press since 1992) and if Pack pound the Lions, Aaron could steal the trophy.

Who Should Win?

See above list and final game performances. Falcons’ Matt Ryan should take the trophy with strong final show against arch-rival Saints but New Orleans has been playing like contenders this second-half and might derail the Ryan Express, opening the door to the next in line (Johnson), and so on and so forth.

cherries-cloth-picdrome-6-2011-thmCherry Picks Week 17

Texans (9-6) @ Titans (8-7): 1.1 CBS 1:00: Titans win
Carolina (6-9) @ Tampa (8-7): Fox 1:00: Panthers win
Cowboys (13-2) @ Eagles (6-9): Fox 1:00: Philly wins
New England (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5) GTW: CBS 1:00: Patriots win
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10): 4:25 CBS: Bolts win
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11): 4:25 Fox: Cards win
Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ DenverBroncos (8-7): 4:25 CBS: Broncos win
New York (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1) GTW: 4:25 Fox: Giants win
New Orleans (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5) GTW: 4:25 Fox: Falcons win
Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6) GTW: NBC 8:30: Lions win

Record: 73 -88 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-MVP-trophy, wc.cca, 6.23.13, Teo’s89; M.Ryan, wc, K.Allison, 10.19.14; A.Ogletree, wc, Johnmaxmena2, 8.15.13; T.Brady, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc, 6.2011; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.27.16 @ 2:42pm, edit 6:06 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

NFL16: In a Sorry Season, David Johnson is an Arizona Bright-Spot

1 Dec

Stiff-Arm

It was the time-tested stiff-arm tactic that first caught my eye when happening upon Arizona Cardinals then rookie running-back David Johnson (UNI) two summers ago in a pre-season exhibit game against the San Diego Bolts.

In carrying the pigskin prize, the Clinton, Iowa native had habit of putting his free-arm out like the Heisman guy, an effective tactic at keeping his AFC opponents at bay long enough to tack on a few more yards, no doubt to the delight of Cardinals staff.

az-cards-wc-m-epsilon-9-2-12-logo-10k-2005It’s true that pre-season play by tradition and common sense does not often go full-tilt and must be viewed in a different light than the regular season play. The reasons are well known: Rusty from the layoff, trying to avoid injury (to yourself / opponents) and a team chemistry that is still in flux due to new teammates by-way of the draft, trade or free-agency.

But if I recall right, this Cards – Bolts exhibition was one of the later games when the synergy is beginning to set in, defensive hits get more pointed and borderline players are fighting for their lives to make the final roster. And in this heightened state of competition, David looked to be a gem.

The Whole Package

From the get-go, you could, if possessing of even a rudimentary level of football know-how, see that this 3rd round 2015 draftee (#86) out of Northern Iowa had all the tools to survive head coach Bruce Arians’ roster-cut and then thrive at the pro level once given a starter’s spot.

It’s kinda’ basic but Johnson clearly knew his playbook. And how many rookies and then vets too have suffered a roster cut simply failing to know that much?

arians-8-5-16-wc-g-skidmore-2-2m-az*David let the O-line do its thing, found holes the playbook predicted and when they weren’t there, could cut on a dime and carve out his own. Then, when quarterback Carson Palmer put the ball in flight, it found sanctuary in a pair of hands that were made to catch.

That pre-season audition, impressive to this viewer and his coaches no doubt, seems to have started David Johnson on a professional pathway to a cherished place.

Born to NFL?

Making the Cardinals cut and sharing duties with former 2000-yard running man in Chris Johnson, David would go on to rush for near 600 yards, eight (8) touchdowns, haul in 36 catches for 457 yards and convert four (4) of those for pay-dirt. Pretty spiffy statistics for a greenhorn.

This 2016 season has David appearing as one of the few bright spots in a sorry Cardinals campaign (4-6-1), one where the team is beginning to show the blight of the dreaded “selfish” disease, as recently pointed out by Mr. Arians. But it’s seen the sophomore’s upward trajectory put David in class with the National game’s top rushers and most reliable go-to receivers.

az-cards-plane-e-maloney-4-6-08-425k*In handling triple-duty in the lion’s share of AZ’s rushing game, a healthy portion of the reception load and turning much of it into touchdowns (13), Johnson’s fashioning himself into a top NFL multi-purpose running back, nearing that stupendous class of 1970s greats like the Minnesota Vikings’ Chuck Foreman and St. Louis Cardinals’ Terry Metcalf, both offensive stalwarts who could do…it…all!

Entering W13 action, here are David’s NFL ranks in key personal stats:

#3 in rushing yards with 921;
Tied at #27 in receptions at 55 (#2 RB);
#40 in reception-yards with 613 (#1 RB);
#1 in touchdowns with 13 pay-dirts, and
#1 in yards-from-scrimmage (run / catch) with 1534.

Every year as the NFL season winds down there are a handful of viable MVP candidates to mull over. This 2016 campaign is no different (Brady, Prescott, Elliott, Carr, Wagner, etc.). But if David Johnson is not in one’s discussion on who should take home the coveted Associated Press award, it might be best that person forget about talking football and stick with The Walking Dead.

*Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: Arizona-Cardinals word mark, wc.cca, M.Epsilon, 9.2.12, 2005; UniversityPhoenix-Stdm, wc, K.Lund, 4.10.9; B.Arians, wc, 8.5.16, G.Skidmore, Glendale-AZ; AZ-Cards-plane, wc, 4.6.8, E.Maloney; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.1.16 @ 3:11pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Cherry Picks W13: Will Dak-Delirium Finally Get Jason Witten That Ring?

29 Nov

There’s been alot written lately about Dallas Cowboys back-up quarterback, Tony Romo. Even more written on his resplendent rookie teammates in Ezekiel Elliott and starting QB, Rayne Dakota Prescott. Too much written about the Dez Bryant – Josh Norman dust-up and not enough written about Cowboys top defender in tackle-machine, Sean Lee.

Who you won’t be reading much about is old #82. Old in football time, that is.

He’s been on that Dallas’ roster (2003) longer than Mr. “Right” and caught his first NFL pass from none other than Quincy Carter (2001 – 04), the Georgia Bulldog who led the Vaqueros that year to a spiffy 10-6 record.

witten-j-12-7-15-wc-k-allison-dc-2mThe man is the 6’5” 257 pound tight-end for America’s Team, Christopher Jason Witten.

Romo’s top target for 10 years, Jason’s piled up catches (1072), yardage (11, 768), touchdowns (62), games (218) and Pro Bowl appearances (10) enough to put his name on Jerry Jones’ Ring of Honor and have fashioned in his likeness one of those bronze Cantonese busts when he finally decides to hang up his cleats.

More important, however, than the personal accolades, is the former Tennessee Volunteer’s skillful and workaday play (Witten’s missed just two (2) starts from 2004), a well-rounded repertoire that’s kept the Cowboys either in contention or respectability for his entire tenure in the Lone Star State.

And like Jason’s celebrity teammates, his AFC opposite in Rob Gronkowski gets nearly all of the love. Of course, almost every NFL player could claim the same shortage in appreciation where the way-popular Gronk is concerned.

The gregarious Rob is also on track to Canton sometime down the road (his 2011 was sublime) and deserves much of the extra coverage, on the field and in the tabloids. But the Gronkster has missed significant parts of three (3) seasons, including this 2016, since taking to start in 2010, and surprisingly, or not (See; Bill & Tom), his absences, while impacting negatively on Pats‘ offensive options, does not always prove detrimental to the victory outcome.

gronkowski-r-wc-a-campbell-9-14-14-975kThe same could not be said about GTO (go-to-option) Jason’s influence on his team’s success prior to this 2016. Described in one word: Indispensable.

Granted, Witten’s numbers have been in decline ever since his banner year, like Gronkowski‘s, in 2011 (110 – 1039). But the offensive weapons at the Dallas quarterback’s disposal are more plentiful than ever (reducing Witten’s targets) while the Volunteer’s skill-set appears still top-tier and in need of sustained defensive attention.

Could this be the season when veteran Jason Witten and the Dallas community get their long awaited, much deserved Super Bowl berth, the year defined by a talented pool of draftees, the year when all the stars seem to be aligning for the Cowboys? Their NFL opponents hope not.

But Cowboys fans, who are nearly as numerous as those stars in the sky, and those NFL regulars who will, at times, view the games with a neutral eye, understand it is players like Jason Witten, on offense, that fuel the matriculation necessary to victory yet shun the spotlight even as their role is prominent to that end, who really make their teams and the NFL click.

cherries-hispalois-7-2-12-caceres-spain-wc-4-4mCherry Picks Week 13: Showing ya’ what for

Cowboys (10-1) @ Vikes (6-5): 12.1 NBC 8:25: Dallas wins
Chiefs (8-3) @ Atlanta (7-4): 12.4 CBS 1:00: Falcons win
Detroit (7-4) @ New Orleans (5-6): Fox 1:00: Saints win
Houston Texans (6-5) @ Green Bay Packers (5-6): 1:00 CBS: Packers win
Philadelphia eagles (5-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1): Fox 1:00: Cincy wins
Miami Dolphins (7-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5): CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Buffalo Bills (6-5) @ Oakland Raiders (9-2): CBS 4:05: Buffalo Bills win
New York Giants (8-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5): GTW Fox 4:25: NYG wins
Washington Redskins (6-4-1) @ Arizona Cards (4-6-1): Fox 4:25: Arizona wins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) @ San Diego Bolts (5-6): Fox 4:25: Chargers win
Carolina Panthers (4-7-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1): NBC 8:30: Seattle wins

Record: 52 – 63 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Witten, wc.cca, 1.21.15, PB, Sgt.M.Jackson-J.Sarvinski, DVIDS; Witten, wc, DC, K.Allison, 12.7.15; R.Gronkowski, wc, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; cherries, wc, Hispalois, 7.2.12, Caceres-Spain; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 11.29.15 @ 12:45pm EST; Copyright © 2016