Tag Archives: Philadelphia Eagles

NFL19 Super Cherry Pick: A Bowl of Contrasts Topped With Pocket-Passer Poise

3 Feb

It’s what they used to call the ‘Big Game,‘ usually referring to the college kind.

Hollywood loved it, fitting fandom in racoon coats and waved pennants as co-eds in the outdoor stands rooted for their pigskin-carrying hero who typically ran it into the end-zone for a touchdown and swell hugs all around.

As marketing matured, that high-spirited, collegial hoopla eventually gave way to pro game profits and creation of the super serious, late (6:30p k/o), long, commercial laden NFL Championship, aka, the Super Bowl, known as such since the 1970 game (SB4), this one presently numbered 53.

And when the Big Game rolls around, even as late as February when baseball begins to bud in the consciousness, its midnite conclusion (EST) marking the end of the holiday season, we look for themes to stoke interest and set it apart.

In 2019 there are three themes I spot: 1) The stark contrasts between the two participants in the New England Patriots (AFC) and the Los Angeles Rams (NFC); 2) no few commonalities, and 3) possible conflict in protests.

Contrasts

1) East coast (Pats) versus west coast (Rams)

2) AFL original (Pats 1959) versus NFL oldie Rams (1937), though, interestingly, the Cleveland locale originated with the second AFL (1936), the first lasting just one season (1926), the third born in 1959 and merging into the NFL in 1970 (66) as the AFC (NFC) in the present-day set-up.

3) A very experienced coach-quarterback tandem (Belichick-Brady) versus one in just their second season together (McVay 17 – Goff 16), as were B&B in SB36 (02), though, the Rams head coach does have the very experienced Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator, a man with two Super Bowls under his belt, the first in 1981 with Denver in loss (SB24 90 SF), the second, having returned to Denver, but that one with a victory result (SB50 2016 W CAR).

4) Franchise history: More recently, New England has been template for success, winning ten Hunt trophies and five Lombardi in the Robert Kraft era, while the Rams have made two location moves the past twenty-five years (LA > STL > LA) and played in two Supers, both as St.Louis residents, one a win (00 TEN), and two years later a loss (02), that being the Patriots first championship hoist.

Commonalities

1) Defense: No forte for either club, both are quite capable. In the regular, even-Steven on ypg (359), edge Pats in ppg (20 v 24), but Rams tighten it better in the PS (22 DAL – 23 NO) (NE: 28 LAC – 31 KC).

2) Offense: If you know football, you know these two teas can put up the points, scoring almost at-will in regular (LAR #2 ypg – ppg / NE #5 in both), with Patriots holding slight edge in the playoffs, NE 41 LAC – 37 KC; LAR 30 DAL – 26 NO, though the Rams lesser totals accrued against slightly better defenses in Saints and Cowboys.

3) Pocket-passers: Both Brady and Goff are mobile when need-be but stand tall under pressure, running up-field only rarely. And the coaches like it that way, i.e., less injuries, more completions and fewer fumbles. Duh-hey.

4) Sort-of-a-rematch: Patriots and Rams first Super Tussle was in SB36 at the Louisiana Superdome (Feb-02), as New England topped St. Louis version of Rams, 20-17 to start the great Belichick-Brady run of championship play and effectively end the Rams, who’d taken the Lombardi (v. TEN) two years earlier in this same same host city of Atlanta, in the now demolished Georgia Dome, replaced by Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the summer of 2017.

Not much to gleen from those two facts, except that Brady-Belichick have been here many times and Rams can win in Georgia. But then, a similarly under-experienced coach-QB tandem in Pederson-Foles topped the B&B in last year’s Super, giving us all something to keep in mind: Experience matters but it’s not everything .. when your opponent has poise.

Conflict?

Will one, two or three players, take a knee for Colin Kaepernick in the biggest spotlight on Earth? If they do, he and his vague mission don’t seem worth it. CK is to some people believed to’ve been black-balled out of the NFL for his on-field protests, though, his same supporters will never include Tim Tebow in their line of gripe. That difference speaks to the sincerity question: Answer, not very.

The Win

The Patriots will again face another recently-tenured head coach (Pederson SB52) employing a not-inexperienced but not-well-tested quarterback (Foles). But Doug was an NFL signal-caller for ten-plus seasons, and though of the clipboard variety, certainly learned his share under Holmgren – Favre in Green Bay and as an assistant with offensive specialist, Reid in KC. That background proved invaluable to the Eagles QB Foles in SB52.

McVay handles his own OC duties, played receiver at Miami of Ohio and coached the same for half of his time in NFL (TB / DC) before taking the reins in Los Angeles. Against a highly-decorated club like the Patriots, knowledge by experience is everything, poise included. I don’t believe the Rams will have that deep well of knowledge at QB (Zac Taylor) to top New England through four quarters, the last as critical. Phillips has the years of experience but that’s D-side, edge Rams, and even then, his Super Bowl win was over the Panthers, not known as an offensive juggernaut. Brady & Company are not Newton & Friends.

Turnovers are always the wild-card, but not the officiating. The zebras are human, I want to keep it that way and champions don’t give game officials the power to decide the outcome. They win, regardless of penalties.

Super Cherry Pick 53: Patriots

Record: 64 – 52 (4-2)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, 4.25.15, White-House, USDoS; J.Goff, Rams, wc, 7.31.16, Praveer-Sharma; T.Brady, Patriots, wc, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries, Hispalois, Cacares-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; J.Marshall, Topps-Chewing-Gum, 1970
Posted: 2.3.19 @ 5:33pE; Copyright © 2019

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NFL18 Super Cherry Jam: Eagles Win Proves Pocket-Passer Still Surest Route To Promised Land

10 Feb

The Take from SB52? Eagles don’t even get close to the Lombardi trophy with a run-QB subbing for Wentz on short-notice. Not a snowball’s chance in Hades or even the 70° cozy confines of US Bank Stadium.

Pocket-passer quarterback is a rare bird, endangered species in the pros due to emergence of collegian flash-QB, a place where he thrives like a Georgia robin in spring (they move in herds here) under laissez-faire tutelage of Coach-Lite.

But the traditional, stand-tall-in-the-pocket signal-caller who matriculates well past the RIF-stage to read D with proficiency, rabbits as a last option rather than reflex, is still the surest, quickest way to reach that wonderous state we call Titletown, aka, whatever metro currently holds the Silver Swag (Philly).

— — —

Hail the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Pederson, owners Lurie, SB-MVP Foles, regular-season super-QB Wentz, a defense that played well for 18 of 19 games and the rest of the E-Birds rosterees and staff, the 2017-18 NFL Champs!

In besting the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl 52, Philly nabbed their first NFL title since 1960, a club led by Chuck Bednarik (D) and Norm Van Brocklin (QB), that topped Lombardi’s first title-game Packers, 17-13.

And what a shocker it was.

Not because these Eagles weren’t impressive all season long, excepting a pathetic regular season finale (6-0 loss at home v. Dallas), but because they finished their run with a back-up quarteback that had started a mere one contest (KansasCity) since 2016 (22-14 career) yet defeated the juggernautious Patriots to do it while Nick’s defensive teammates allowed said New Englanders a whopping 600+ yards in total offense on way to hoisting the prized Lombardi hardware.

Nobody picked Philly to win SB52, nobody who wasn’t a fan, gambler or media hoping for some office bragging rights.

I don’t think anyone, not even Eagles brass and players, saw this kind of time-line for a championship. Maybe in 2-3 more years but SB52? Not on your life.

— — —

It’s the top topic for sportswriters in the days following every Super Sunday: What’s the champ’s template for success? In Philadelphia’s case, there is none. Forget about it. Eagles have no template for Titledom. Doesn’t exist. Nope.

What these present E-Birds DO have is, if not a wholly unique GM / coaching skill-set, a not altogether common ability to accomplish the two following tasks:

1) Execution of draft-picks with a certain wisdom (Wentz); and

2) Rostering a quality back-up QB (Foles), something the Patriots too have shown a panachee for finding (Cassel 10-5 (08) / Garoppolo 7-0 (NE / SF)).

But as important as are those two abilities, the 2017-18 Eagles were recipients of a gift from Lady Luck. That being that they competed in the least competitive NFC in this writer’s recent memory. A tale of the tape:

Giants (3-13): OB was out but we now know TC wasn’t the big problem.
Packers (7-9): Mike dodged one on Rodgers ill-advised return at Carolina.
Seahawks (9-7): Maybe the most disappointing winning-mark this decade.
Cowboys (9-7): Elliott’s on-off susp’n was disruptive but Dak’s still learning
Cardinals (8-8): Loss of star Johnson early-on is big blow cuing Arians exit.
Buccaneers (5-11): Tampa was expected to contend but barely made a ripple.
Falcons (10-6): Defending NFC champs were clearly a lesser grade in 2017.
Lions (9-7): Detroit is becoming the pretender of all 20-teens pretenders.
Redskins (7-9): Like TB, maybe higher expectations are not a good thing.

And yes, the Vikes and Rams infused some much needed competition into the NFC but it hardly made up for the general malaise that permeated, not all that much worse than a rather weak AFC itself in 2017.

It’s not the Colin Kaeprnick effect that explains the malaise. Better chance it’s the plethora of run-QBs, the never-ending flood of poorly-trained, modern single-wing tailbacks masquerading as quarterbacks coming into the League unprepared for the pro-style play. Oh yeah, throw in the mass of DCs who rely on glory stats (INTs / PD / sacks) to stop the score, and not too effectively at that. Translating into most defenders today who couldn’t skillfully tackle an opponent if their life depended on it. There’s that, too.

StevenKeys
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, 2011, wikiproject, 6k; Eagles, SB52-Victory-Parade, souvenirs, 2.8.18, wc.cca, 7Beachbum; SB52, Kitten-Bowl, wc, 2.3.18, B.Allen-VoA; Eagles, SB52, Parade, N.Foles, 2.8.18, PA-GovWolf, wc; Eagles, SB52, Parade, VL-trophy, 2.8.18, wc, PA-GovWolf
Posted: 2.10.18 @ 4:49pE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Super Cherry Pick: Triumvirate of Trimountaine, Return of the Prodigal QB and Le Last Quack

3 Feb

Even as the respective player position and team ranks (D / O) figure this SB52 title tussle to be alot closer than gamblers and sabrhead kids predict, it always comes down to the quarterbacks. In Super Bowl 52 that’s TomBrady v. NickFoles. It feels like a no-brainer, but keep your thinking cap on.

Tom’s mantle is laden with NFL accolades. Nick Foles, not so many. But the glitter of gold is sometimes hidden in the recesses, waiting to be mined.

This is Foles 2nd go-round with Philly. His first (2012-14) was a rollercoaster. Baptism by fire in his debut (1-5), in year two he was nearly MVP-caliber (8-2 / 27t-2i). But in his third Eagles season, while quarterback capable (6-2 / 13t-10i), he failed to meet owner and the junior-media expectations, skewed as they were.

Shipped off to the Rams for 2015 (4-7), then KC for another way-stop as Smith’s back-up (1-0), we, and maybe Nick himself, are not really sure WHAT to expect on a rather short 2018 PS run which started on a bye (WC), then a 5-pt. win over the A-Birds (Dvn’l) and the romp over a clueless Vikings club.

And with sore ribs, Foles will be one, unlucky, hard, targeted hit away from handing the reins over to rookie back-up, Redskins 2016 draftee and former Hoosier signal-caller, 6’6” Nate Sudfeld out of Modesto, California.

The Bible tale on the prodigal son and his high-profile return is well known (Luke Ch.15: 11–32). Jesus is said to’ve recounted it to his followers. Ultimately, pride is subjugated, forgiveness given and atonement made. All of which has nothing to do with Foles, except the returning home part. Titles necessarily afford the writer an artistic license with a broad interpretation of its wording.

But remember what that lad from Tremadog (UK) said (Lawrence of Arabia): “Nothing is written.” If Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hoists the Lombardi come Sunday nite in Minneapolis, resurrecting Philadelphia’s NFL championship legacy (60), it won’t be a GREAT surprise.

As long as there are turnovers in football, ANYTHING can happen.

Player notes: Rob Gronkowski has been cleared by the Medicals for contact but the human body has a mind and schedule of its own. Don’t expect big things from party animal in SB52. And Eagles’ RB Jay Ajayi (5.8ypc) is reported ankle hobbled and available but, like Gronk, can’t be expected to be impactful.

Empire Builders and Destroyers of Dreams

All roads lead to Rome. You might’ve heard that one before.

Now, put that ancient Italian-directional-turned-proverb into NFL18 terms: ‘All roads (to Titledom) lead to (Gestalt of Greater Boston and their Patriots).’

You like history? Good.

The ‘all roads’ line came into being as the Great City evolved over centuries time into the hub of planet Earth’s first mega-Empire (241BC – 395AD).

A centralized, metropolis where commerce and civilization constantly converge, Boston came to be known as Hub City for New England and thereabouts.

Beantown was hub of early colonial America north of Maryland until Philadelphia displaced it in population in the mid-1700s. Curiously, its first moniker shares another common call with that former Empire across the Atlantic: The capital of Massachusetts was originally known as Trimountaine, in reference to its three ancient peaks, while the Roman gestalt really began to take off with its First (60BC) and then Second (43BC) Triumvirates.

Making the switch from a Republic into an Imperial (dictator) state, its course was greatly shaped by a set of Triumvirates and the two men who toppled their respective power-shares: The first saw JuliusCaesar muscle Pompey & Crassus out (60BC), the second had Octavian (Augustus) flex MarkAntony and Lepidus into oblivion on way to the Empire‘s zenith of greatestness.

All those histrionics lead up to this pithy remark: Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft! Okay.

Never in the history of Stateside sportdom 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 personalities.

— — —

You might say the Philadelphia Eagles wily running-back LeGarrette Blount is having the last laugh. And “that ain’t no joke (“TT” / Reno 911).”

The Eagles 2017 backfield addition had been Mr. Reliable for the Pats for 3+ seasons, rushing for over 1000 yards and 18 League-leading TDs in 2016 and helped NewEngland to two Super titles. For the E-Birds this regular season, he ran for 766y on a spiffy 4.4 average. All of it has helped him fashion one of the most inspirational football comeback stories in recent memory.

Just a few years back things looked bleak for Blount.

A sophomore at Oregon in 2009, his Ducks dropped their opener at Boise State, dashing national title hopes. As the two clubs began to part, LeG was taunted by Broncos’ Byron Haut with great zeal, triggering a grazing blow by Blount in return. In opposite of the time-honored playground standard that holds, ‘He who starts the fight bears at minimum equal blame,’ Blount was instead made scapegoat, given lengthy suspension and saw his Heisman aspirations vanish.

The Buccaneers drafted the Madison, Florida native in 2010 (2R-37) and LeGarrette responded by making the cherished 1000 yard club. But by year three he saw his role and production greatly decrease. In 2013, Tampa sent him to the Patriots who, even on a spiffy 5.0 ypc, sent him to Pittsburgh (2014) only to return to Foxborough that same year to contribute 3-TDs to New England’s playoff run and SB49 win over Seattle. Two years later, Blount rushed for 100+ in last season’s successful playoff run (SB51).

Sometimes le life can turn terrific.

Super Bowl 52 Cherry Pick

Eagles v. Patriots (MN): 2.4 NBC 6:30pE (+): NewEngland

Record: 83 – 62 (7 – 3)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; N.Foles, 12.23.12, wc.cca, T-Sgt.C.Walker, Dover-USAF; B.Belichick, R.Kraft, J.Kerry, 4.25.15, White-House, wc, USDoS; Cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, wc, Caceres, Spain; J.Otto, TCG, 1970
Posted: 2.3.18 @ 4:35pE; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Conference Cherry Picks: “Who’s Your Daddy?” Fathers Halas & Hunt Are Who

20 Jan

Every NFL fan knows all too well, the most anticipated games of the season are the Conference championships, American and National title tussles. The caliber of competition is at its peak for sure.

But just as important is that it’s the last time in the campaign, one that began back in September, when fans will be treated (like TV today is free (ugh)) to a normally conducted contest with a halftime that doesn’t annoy the begeebers out of the adult-minded viewers in audience.

Divisional Reflectional

Marcus Williams: Playing devil’s advocate and assuming the Vikes closing seconds TD hook-up between QB Keenum and receiver Diggs that won their Divisional over the Saints was not clutch but fortuitous (clutch), its blame lay not with the rookie D-back but with his coaches who postioned him too far back to make the INT / PD and yet instinctually could never lay-in-wait to tackle Diggs.

In a broader sense, the League’s obession with glory stats in INTs / PDs has most corner-backs out of position to make sound & sensible tackles that in this case would’ve prevented the big TD play and at least made Minnesota have to kick a 50+ field goal, assuming a timeout could’ve even been had.

— — —

Thomas Morstead: You probably never heard the name before last Sunday’s tussle and likely never will again outside New Orleans, but the spunky Saints’ punter made a tackle on a Minnesota retun that rang through the bird-infested rafters of U.S. Bank Stadium like with a Chuck Bednarik-like force that’s not been seen on the new millennial gridiron before (Just guessing on the birds). In the process, Tom sustained rib injury, but he’ll recover. His tackle, however, in opposite of so many pathetic attempts by punters and linebackers alike in this era, will remain in this writer’s mind for a long time.

— — —

Marvin Lewis leads a charmed football life.

The likeable, soft-spoken at pressers coach, hired by Cincy in 2003 (125 – 112 – 3), could’ve been fired in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2016, 2017 (7-9) (0-7 PS). Many media had Lewis being fired by the Bengals’ ownership in the person of Mike Brown after another disappointing finish to 2017 at 7-9. But alas, the Tigers 15-year head coach will be back for a sixteenth season. He’s gonna’ have to coach a winning campaign, then finally win a playoff game, right, Mike? Mike?

That development, while former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey, achieving 9-7 marks in his last two seasons in Nashville, got the axe, by mutual agreement, so it was reported. Imagine that, agreeing to your firing. The world of contract.

— — —

Hunting and Halasing for Silver Swag

The Conference championships aren’t just a showcase of the best in prof’l football this side of the 49th Parallel (See; CFL), it’s also the one time in the year when the two formally separate operations celebrate, in a sense, their respective founding fathers in George Halas (NFL) and Lamar Hunt (AFL), Leagues having merged in 1966.

The celebration takes place in having each father’s name etched onto his Conference champions trophy. To historians of the game, this gesture might seem a bit beneath what George Halas deserves, a nameplate on the Super Bowl swag itself. Halas ranks first in a tie with Vince Lombardi and Bill Belichick in having taken five (5) NFL titles, was an early player with Decatur / Chicago and critical in the League’s formation and survival into today’s $8 billion business and national platform for every pitch under the Sun, from cars and cola to crass sock displays (C.Kaepernick).

2018 Conference Cherry Picks

Jaguars @ Patriots: 1.21 CBS 3:05: Pats
Vikings @ Philadelphia: Fox 6:40: Eagles

Record: 81 – 62 (5-3)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; P.Rozelle-G.Halas, 1980s, wc.cca, Summaria; L.Hunt-AFC-trophy, wc, A.Kirk; J.Marshall, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 1.20.17 @ 2:58aE, edit 4:55p; Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Division Cherry Picks: No Favre or Peterson Present But Revenge May Factor In Saints @ Vikings

11 Jan

And then there were eight.

The NFL 2018 Divsional playoff round looks pretty competitive, if your glims are gandering at the National Football Conference side of things. Atlanta @ Philly, the Saints @ Minnesota both figure to be barnburners. As for the American Conference, baring the bizarre, those results you can pretty much bank on.

Upsets can happen in sport but the Jaguars @ Pittsburgh and Tennessee @ New England both figure to finish in favor of the home teams by…mid-3rd quarter.

The #1 curiosity clash: Revenge Bowl in Minneapolis.

U.S. Bank Stadium will play host to one of the hottest teams going into these 2018 playoffs in the Minnesota Vikings who went 11-1 in their last 12 regulars, their lone loss a close one in Carolina in W14 (24-31), while the New Orleans Saints were 9-3 after their bye week and are coming off a big post-season win against those intra-divisional rival, the Panthers (31-26).

New Orleans fell to the hosts in Week 1 action, 29-19.

Of greater emotional weight in the balance of power entering the Divisional slugfest may be bad feelings that remain from the 2010 NFC Conference Championship game that was played at the Superdome and saw a crew that would later be tagged with Bountygate penalties, best the Northern visitors, 31 – 28 in overtime on-way to a SuperBowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The only Vikings’ personnel remaining from that game might be owner Zygi Wilf and his family. On the Saints side, star quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton are some of the remainders, the guru whose sideline hissy-fit pushed NFCC zebras to flag Minnesota for an illegal substitution and then penalty, taking the Vikes out of field-goal range late and leading to Brett Favre’s careless INT to send the championship game into OT. And as every fan knows, overtime mojo tilts to the home-team, especially when the opposing field-general has been over-undered into oblivion, oy vey.

Of no great bearing on the game’s outcome but of some curiosity is that this divisional showdown will not be the last game played at U.S. Bank in this 2017-18 NFL campaign. It may even be the site of two more contests: An additional game if the hosts prevail over New Orleans and then face the Falcons in the NFC title tussle, but a certain venue once more as Minneapolis is in present preparations to be the hosting metropolis for SB52.

More curious than a busy venue in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the possibility for a Pennsylvania Polka at Super Bowl 52, i.e., the Eagles versus the Steelers. And wouldn’t that be a halftime hoot, hey? Not so much that revenge would be at play for such a match-up, but more like a family reunion of sorts seeing as how both teams briefly consolidated as one squad during World War II (1943), compiled a winning mark (5-4-1) and came to be known by some as the Steagles.

Division Cherry Picks

Falcons @ Eagles: 1.13 NBC 4:35: Philly
Titans @ New England: CBS 8:15: Patriots
Jaguars @ Pittsburgh: 1.14 CBS 1:05: Steelers
Saints @ Minnesota: Fox 4:40: NewOrleans

Record: 79 – 60 (3 – 1)

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, Wikiproject, 2011; DrewBrees, wc.cca, 1.8.11, Seattle, KellyBailey; CaseKeenum, 11.12.17, wc, KeithAllison, Maryland; Cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08, wc.cca; BrettFavre, 10.24.10, wc.cca, MikeMorbeck
Posted: 1.11.17 @ 12:54pE Copyright © 2018

NFL18 Wild Cherry Picks: ‘Surprise Surprise Surprise,’ Injuries Have These Playoffs Gomer-ized

5 Jan

The NFL 2018 playoff pool is not without its familiar faces in teams like the New England Patriots (#1 AFC seed) and their SB51 NFC opponent, the Atlanta Falcons (Wild Card), but not in recent memory have there been so many surprises, in and out of the post-season festivities.

On the AFC in-side, that means the Bills, Jaguars and Chiefs.

Most would’ve figured pre-season that if a 2nd Eastern squeaked into the PS it’d be either the Dolphins or Jets, not Buffalo who’re still iffy on the QB state that’ll carry over into the next season no matter how they fair in this playoff run.

In Jacksonville, many were writing off fourth-year starter Blake Bortles who’s thrown 64 INTs in that span while his team averaged all of four (4) wins in each season prior to 2017’s surge upward (10-6).

The Chiefs were figured by most to contend this season and things looked promising with another 5-0 start for Reid‘s guys, but with a 1-6 mid-season swoon things turned gloomy for the Arrowhead bunch until their late-season adjustment when they went 4-0 to close, luckily in a woeful AFC West.

In the NFC, Eagles and Vikings, both finishing 13-3, like the Bills, were seen as possible contenders who might slip into the party but without much fanfare.

The Saints, winners of the South and possessing of maybe the greatest passing QB of our time in Drew Brees, are a surprising participant in this post-season only in that they’ve been mired in mediocrity for three straight 7-9 finishes.

The Rams of Los Angeles, THEY, like the Jags, are a full-blown, genuine, grade-A surprise, reaching eleven (11) victories and taking the West crown.

But what may be more surprising about this playoff field are the no-shows, teams many expected to make the playoffs and whose absence would’ve had GomerPyle USMC (JimNabors d.11.30.17) exclaiming his trademark expression to the four-corners of his Carolina county: “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Ten player names and their absence for most of the 2017 regular season explain in large part why most of their respective teams didn‘t get their tickets punched: Four in the AFC in Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill, Colts’ Andrew Luck, Houston’s J.J.Watt and MVP-caliber wide-receiver Antonio Brown (PIT); Six suit-up in the NFC as defender Kam Chancellor (SEA) and offensive stalwarts Aaron Rodgers (GB), David Johnson (AZ), Odell Beckham (NYG), 6-game suspended Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott and the leading candidate for Associated Press swag (MVP) before his W14 injury, QB Carson Wentz (PHI).

The Steelers (Brown) and Eagles (Wentz) made it in with a bye but you’ve gotta’ wonder how such serious losses can’t work serious damage to their chances.

And those surprise out-siders fall into two categories of teams:

1) Those out who were expected MIGHT contend and never did
2) Those out who were expected WOULD contend, get in and have an SB run

Group #1: Miami, Cincy, Houston, Indy, Giants and Tampa
Group #2: Detroit, Seattle, Arizona, Redskins, Baltimore and Oakland

2018 Wild Cherry Picks

Titans @ Kansas: 1.6 ESPN 4:35: Chiefs
Falcons @ Rams: NBC 8:15: Atlanta
Bills @ Jacksonville: 1.7 CBS 1:05: Jags
Carolina @ NewOrleans: Fox 4:40: Saints

Record: 76 – 59

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; Gomer-Pyle-USMC, wc.cca, CBS, Nabors-Sutton, 1968; A.Smith, wc, 11.26.16, SAF-MH-Denver, USAF, GabrielleSpralding; M.Ryan, 8.18.16, E.Drost, wc; cherries-ripe, Chirak, wc, 6.24.07; W.Wood, ToppsChewingGum, 1971.
Posted: 1.4.17 @ 11:15pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W14: MIN @ CAR, PHI @ LAR Marquee Week’s Heavy Mettle Jams

9 Dec

It’s the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings (10-2) versus Southern stalwart the Carolina Panthers (8-4) in the League’s marquee match-up for their Week 14 slate of games, one smothered high with like heavy mettle jams.

More than any other time in the NFL’s long season (September – February), the first week in December traditionally serves up games that will test the mettle of those teams who hold playoff aspirations and Super Bowl dreams. It’s a time that separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the truly wise and tenacious from the occasionally clever, so to speak.

In fact, the largesse creates a playoff field bursting at the seams (12), laden on pretenders diluting the pool, getting invites to the party but only passing glances from Sporting Gods who soon enough send ‘em packing for family trips.

What makes these merry match-ups so important is not just that a win will raise chances of getting a PS-ticket punched, but also for shaping future seeds and just simply toughen-up teams for the championship road that lay ahead.

Vikings @ Panthers

Vikes are a surprise. Starting QB Sam Bradford goes down early on a knee bang as former #1 Bridgewater was still in injury-rehab. Then blossoming rookie run-back Dalvin Cook exits on an ACL tear. With all that gloom opens the door of opportunity. The 6th-year man in Case Keenum, 9-15 with Houston, 8-2 presently (67.5% / 16-5) and sporting a bit of Favresque (you read it hear first), steps in to fill the breach, Murray & McKinnon carry the pigskin capably, local boy Adam Thielen (Minnesota State) is bucking for an All-Pro selection (bigger bucks preferred), defensive specialist Mike Zimmer has the stoppers ranked high (#2 / 2) and Aaron Rodger won’t be back until 2018.

Heavy Mettle Match-Ups

Saints @ Atlanta: Already in the books (ATL). A-Birds got a little D
Raiders @ Chiefs: AFC’s biggest rivalry and in a West up for grabs
Eagles @ LosAngeles: Rams rebound in AZ, Philly loses strong in WA
Hawks @ Jacksonville: Jags slipping as the Seahawks are solidifying
Ravens @ Pittsburgh: AFC’s #2, both clubs climbing to Super seeds

Composite Mettle Match-Ups

Lions @ Bucs: Detroit still has a shot, TB can surprise sometimes
Redskins @ LosAngeles: Chargers are hot but remember W10 (v Jax)
Titans @ Arizona: AZ’s up’d it of late so it’s a good Rd-test for Tenn
Pats @ Miami: Intra-rivals rock and the Fish wanta make statement

Cherry Picks Week 14

Dallas @ Giants: 12.10 CBS 1:00: NewYork
Detroit @ TampaBay: Fox 1:00: Buccaneers
Raiders @ Chiefs: CBS 1:00: KansasCity
Vikings @ Panthers: CBS 1:00: Carolina
Redskins @ LosAngeles: CBS 4:05: DC
Tennessee @ Cardinals: CBS 4:05: Arizona
Eagles @ LosAngeles: Fox 4:25: Philadelphia
Seattle @ Jacksonville: Fox 4:25: Seahawks
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh: NBC 8:30: Steelers
Patriots @ Dolphins: 12.11 Disney 8:30: Pats

Record: 52 – 40

StevenKeys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; C.Keenum, Vikings, wc.cca, 11.12.17, MD, K.Allison; HeavyMetalViking, Unleased, wc, 2.12.07, Vassil; cherries-ripe, B.Kua, 6.1.08, wc; J.Otto, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 12.8 @ 11:11pE; Copyright © 2017