Tag Archives: Philadelphia Eagles

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

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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

NFL17 Cherry Picks W12: Frothy NFC Fast Filling Its Half of Super Bowl 6-Pack

25 Nov

NFL 2017: What a difference (less than) a year can make.

At the ¾ mark of this NFL season (Week 12), it is the NFC flexing its football fortitude, showcasing, as I count ‘em, nine (9) clubs that display a skill-set and team spirit theoretically capable of putting any one of ’em into Super Bowl 52.

The Junior Conference AFC (70), the group that looked loaded with good teams in 2016, are lucky if they can claim five (5) worthy of title-game consideration.

Post-Thanksgiving results, in the National (1920) it’s the Lions, Vikings, Eagles, Falcons, Rams, Saints, Cats, ‘Hawks & Falcons who rate contender status.

In the American it’s the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Jaguars and Tennessee.

But as any sports prognosticator worth his weight in Stove-Top® stuffing knows, contender status will often not amount to a hill o’ giblets (Mmmmm).

Here then is the Super Six-Pack preview, three top squads from each Conference plus one extra-brew that might change the whole buzz. Not all the best records but clubs that look to possess the wisdom and wherewithal to be more than mere contenders and nearly locks to play into the playoffs and then some.

Halas trophy hopefuls

New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings
Beer binge: Seattle Seahawks

Cats: Sit where they usually do on offense in key categories (#15 ygpg / 17), the oft-concussed defensive leader Kuechly is a concern, now and post-career.

A-Birds: Picked by many to repeat as Halas hoisters, they’re hanging tough but their forte in offense is fickle (#10 / 12). Defense? Seems like not since Claude Humphrey and Tommy Nobis roamed the turf (#10 / 13). Oy vey.

*Hawks: Kamster’s injury exit is a big blow (Sherman’s not so) but Pete Carroll, Russ Wilson and Bobby Wagner together make Seattle a possibility, always.

Lions: I’m not even gonna’ look at their offensive ranks because their defense screams ‘No Super Bowl (#23 / 14).’ Okay, I’m a curious sort (O: #16 / 5 pgpg). There’s a chance, a whiskers chance they get in and make a run.

Pack: Welcome to mediocrity. Rodgers will return, a little older, a little more brittle and maybe just one more hard tackle away from another long exit. Come NFL Draft 2018, Ted should start thinking defense for the first time in his GM tenure, i.e., find men who can tackle, not flex (See; the Hair).

Hunt trophy heavies

New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
Jacksonville Jaguars
Hidden bottle: Kansas City Chiefs

Patriots: The name says it all, as long as Brady and Belichick are all in. D had been grading a D- but now its doing its homework and making the honor-roll in all-important papg (point allowed per game): 20.3 (10).

*Pittsburgh: Defense is the strong suit (offense #11 / 13) while BigBen just keeps rolling and Tomlin keeps, like a cat, landing on his feet.

Jacksonville: Newcomers to contendership, post-Tom Coughlin era, it’s tempting to mistrust this team (B.Bortles: 58.4C%, 12t-7i). But they like to tackle (#1 / #1), understand scoring (#8 / 9 papg) and have a promising remainder with four-winables (softer opponents) and just two 50-50s (tougher foes).

KC: I like Andy and Alex but when the Chiefs should’ve been settling scores and making statements they reverted to inconsistency. What’s new, since Hank Stram? But in a weak AFC and a 4 & 2 remaining slate, I’d not be surprised.

Titans: O: #20 / 16, D: #14 / 24. Next.

Bolts: Nice turnaround but too little, too late and too bad for Phil who’s getting on in years (36). And that OT loss to Jax (W10) was a sin, or a sign (?), Mr. Lynn.

Ravens & Bengals: Both conundrum but Harbaugh’s job is safe (He’s always angry, that helps) but Marvin, the nice guy he is, won’t get one more in Cincy. He should finish the season, he’s earned that much (122-109).

NFL17 Cherry Picks Week 12: Slim Pick’ins

Buffalo @ Chiefs: 11.26 CBS 1:00: KansasCity
Carolina @ Jets: Fox 1:00: NewYorkJets
NewOrleans @ Rams: CBS 4:25: LosAngeles
Denver @ Raiders: CBS 4:25: Oakland
Texans @ Ravens: 11.27 Disney 8:30: Baltimore

Record: 43 – 32

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wc.cca, Wikiproject, 2011; Corona-Six-Pack, wc, NLangeDe, 10.28.06; K.Rudolph, ProBowl, wc, 1.27.13, M.Holzworth, USAF; B.Roethlisberger, 9.29.08, wc, Andy; Cherries, Hispalois, Careces-Spain, 7.2.12, wc; WillieWood, ToppsChewingGum, 1970
Posted: 11.25.17 @ 3:05pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17: A Patriots Peer, It’s Back To Top-Tier or These Packers Turn Flat-Beer

28 Mar

Pretendership: It’s an NFL station most Green Bay Packers devotees have never knelt before in prayer for guidance and delivery. Anyone rooting for the Acme club yet having no recollection of the play that made John Brockington and Lynn Dickey house-hold names in the badger state is probably in that blessed group.

But that’s for later.

For now, just imagine rooting for an NFL team, one that not only wins most of its regular season games but will have on display any given year a future Cantonese or two roaming the turf, that for most of your conscious life has been an NFL contender. Imagine that. Easy enough for New England Patriots faithful but for the rest of fandom it’s a little hard to picture even in the mind’s eye.

Twenty-five years of pretty much football bliss in Northeastern Wisconsin’s Fox Valley, thanks in large part to two men (GMs), four if you count the coaches (Holmgren / McCarthy), six if you include the QBs (Favre / Rodgers).

Sure, there were some struggles, a few 8-8s seasons, even a couple losing campaigns, but there was always an easy scapegoat to find (Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman, Bill Schroeder) and soon enough the Good Ship Green & Yellow would find its contender course again and all was ship-shape.

The Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson Packers have never dominated the sport as did former Green Bay juggernauts under Vince Lombardi (60s) or founding father Curly Lambeau (20-40s) but playoff births have been nearly automatic since 1992 and the two Super Bowl victories (1997 & 2011) have given the period of prosperity a legitimacy that can only come with championships.

While the Patriots recent reign of championships is incomparable in this still newish century of play, it’s not hyperbole to write that it is actually the Packers, hang with me here, by way of a crafty continuity in success that’ve been the more impressive of NFL’s two most juggernautious franchises these past 25 years.

Sure, New England coaching genius Bill Belichick and his sure-to-be 1st ballot HOF quarterback extraordinaire in Tom Brady are likely the most terrific title tandem in the Super Bowl era (See also; Noll & Bradshaw, Landry & Staubach, Walsh & Montana), but the manners in which both Wolf and then Thompson engineered their respective coach – QB tandems-in-terrificness are the templates in ‘How To,’ 1) Acquire a diamond-in-the-rough bench-warmer (Brett (ATL)), and 2) draft a replacement (Aaron) for a living legend.

Just imagine, two consecutive GMs who respectively displayed an expertise in post-draft patience (Ron) and then prediction on player longevity (Ted), that player in Favre being, to Wisconsin sports fans, next to God, making it very risky business to draft any heir apparent in 2005 (Aaron).

Wolf’s persistence and then shrewd calculation in extracting Favre from Atlanta’s roster in trading a #1 pick (respectful enough to get their interest but not so generous to get ’em wondering) should be an example to every GM and fantasy fan, i.e., that post-draft follow-up can be of greater value than draft day doings.

And Thompson, in showing Brett the door by drafting the Berkeley Bear Rodgers in 2005, took one humongous gamble. To appreciate just how bold a move it was you have know just how popular was the man from Southern Miss.

Directly north up in Wisconsin, Favre was bigger than Lombardi had ever been, in part because every female sport fan in America’s Dairyland had become enamored with the dude. And that’s putting it mildly.

You think Tom Brady’s huge in 2017? He is, but Brett Favre was huger. Hell, Brett was bigger than the NFL. The Green Bay Renaissance that he and his team fashioned, back-to-back Super Bowls and plenty o’ playoff action, briefly put them in the America’s Team seat, after the Aikman Cowboys disbanded, a starry status that played no small role in facilitating formation of the still budding international game in the early 2000s (Mexico City (05), London (07)).

Consider that when “Onslow (Geoff Hughes)” dons Packers gear on the hit British TV comedy, Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95),” it’s not because of NFL rules changes or networks addition of female sideliners. It was Favre, plain & simple.

So if Rodgers doesn’t pan out when handed the offensive reins in 2008, Ted probably gets run out of paper-mill country on a rail, figuratively speaking, after hustling out the family dog first (See; Devine ‘74). But instead, the pan turned up gold and Ted will get a street named after himself, if he hasn’t already.

“Mississippi,” as Falcons Jerry Glanville referred to the rookie QB in smirk, had a couple good seasons left in the tank when he exited Lambeau: An injury-affected Jets campaign (10-6) and two seasons with arch-rival Minnesota, the first in 2009 which would be his best single statistical show and see the Vikes fall to the Bounty-gate Saints in the NFCC10-OT and finale when he dragged himself back for one more go before hanging up his Canton-bound cleats.

♫ Shades of Mediocrity ♫

Mercurial might aptly describe the 2016-17 Green Bay Packers.

Hovering around .500 to the midway, then going three (losses) in the hole, the Pack found some consistency the rest of the way (6 + 2PS) until getting stomped in the NFCC at Mercedes-Benz (Georgia) Dome (44-21 (24-0 H)).

The party isn’t over, not by a long shot, not while perennial MVP entry Aaron Rodgers has his legs underneath and maintains his pin-point passing precision. But some of the good-times have started to head for the exits and a few of those that remain are looking a bit green around the gills (gulp).

One of those always in attendance is the Green Bay defense. It’s a curiosity for even as they helped raise a Lombardi for head coach Mike McCarthy in 2011, it’s also a unit that’s looked wather wobbly since the Reggie White – George Koonce – Sean Jones – LeRoy Butler bunch broke-up.

Team ranks tell the tale. In 2016, the Green figured about where they usually do in the McCarthy era, 22nd in yards allowed per game (364), 21st in points (24+). In the NFCC17 those middling marks came home to roost as Atlanta feasted.

At the center of the defensive scheme has been The Hair, sack-minded linebacker Clay Matthews. Never a top tackler, perplexing for a middle-man, Clay’s numbers have been trending down since that Super season to the point where real value should be a real question for GB staff. He does make a fun soup commercial.

The run game, as party-goers go, hasn’t had much to say lately.

The weighty part of the ball-carry was spending most of its time at the buffet. But Lacy’s gone now and won’t find better eats in the greater Seattle metro, that is unless you really like salmon. And maybe that‘s the point. Bon appétit, Eddie.

Ty Montgomery (2y-SU) filled the void nicely in 2016, for a time, then faded late, 2010 draftee James Starks was not re-signed of , another 2d-yr. in big guy (6’1 255) Aaron Ripkowski (Sooner) will full-back just fine (4.4 – 2td), F/A pick-up Don Jackson (Nevada) had 10 carries last year while former Seahawk Christine Michaels was inked to a deal but has much to prove (9-GS from 2013 (4.3)).

Finding replacements, not mockery, is why the draft matters.

And then there’s Mike ‘What Have You Done For Us Lately’ McCarthy.

Coaching the Green Bay Packers, an early NFL entrant (1921) with accolades enough to fill a cruise liner (sink it along with its Captain in rough waters), is like riding a tiger: When times is good, everybody purrs, but when the champagne rarely flows, the big kitty pitches a fit and sometimes eats its own (gulp).

Mike’s got a monkey on his back clutching an NFCC runner-up trophy in symbol of GB’s disaster known as Cheese-Melt 2015. Packers 1st half lead frittered away and overtime nailed their coffin shut as the Seahawks returned to the Super.

Mike McCarthy has been suffering the “slings and arrows” of regional critics with no return trip to the Big Game. But the rather disappointing playoff runs, enabled by a rather terrific career regular mark (.651), is just part of a pattern he’s displayed since being hired to replace Mike Sherman in 2006. Some good years, a few pedestrian and patience, more patience.

There’s only one Bill Belichick, folks.

Mike’s big mistake was caving to pressure after the Melt to concede offensive play-call, a concession he…revoked (?) at last season’s midpoint. Trust then becomes an issue. But remember, MM turned Packers back into champions when all looked discombobulated, six (6) years after the guy who was prone to sideline temper tantrums left for the State of Washington.

It wasn’t easy filling Favre’s sizable shoes…wait…come to think of it, it actually was pretty easy for Thompson. But Brett was bigger than life and there’s only been one mobile pocket-passer the likes of Mr. Rodgers, a player who, as he will enter his thirteenth (13) NFL summer camp shortly, I’d give four (4) 1Rs in trade today if by some fluke he became free and I a GM in need.

Such a smooth succession in kingly QBs in Packerland in pass of the bejeweled scepter of signal-caller royalty, the Patriots (Belichick – Brady) have not yet displayed. Course, they haven’t had the need. When Tom retires, likely same time Bill hangs up his headset, we’ll see how they do it in Foxborough.

But the Pack are on the championship clock. They need to return to elite status in 2017 (12-4) or their royal carriage may turn pumpkin before anyone expects it.

Last season’s road to the Halas Trophy (NFCC) was not exactly strewn with pot-holes in serious contenders. It was more like the E-ZPass® highway.

The Atlanta Falcons were the real deal in 2016-17 yet may still feel the reel this upcoming campaign from their colossal collapse in SB51.

To write that the rest of the NFC was deficient would be an understatement.

Though much ballyhooed after a W1 loss to the Giants, the Cowboys much anticipated playoff turned Texas-sized soufflé in loss at home to Green Bay; G-Men and Lions proved pretenders, not because they lost in the PS which, by itself is no fraud, but in both getting shellacked; Seattle, never quite the same since losing SB49, gave one of those shellackings (DET) but then got one themselves (ATL); and while Tampa surged to respectability, Redskins never got rhythm, Vikes were extra-mercurial (6-0), Panthers licked their wounds all season (SB50 – L) and pre-season hopeful Arizona never got going.

Residence in the once vaunted North divsion, f/k/a Black & Blue, always boosts the Packers pre-season rank which sits just under Atlanta as NFC favorites, ahead of Seattle (Lacy ≠ Lynch), then Arian’s Cardinals sure to rebound, the Giants, Lions, Dallas who won’t surprise in 2017, D-Vikes, maturing Bucs and sometimes capable conundrums in Redskins, Eagles, Saints and Carolina.

Procuring a reliable run-game is not the challenge that is finding a top-flight, resilient pocket passer, but good ball-carriers don’t grow on trees, either.

Letting lunch-a-lot Lacy exit looks prudent now, but if McCarthy, Thompson and OC in former GB ball-carrier Edgar Bennett cannot in trade or late-April draft find that impactful runner(s) to spell Rodgers and give opposing DCs a ground-attack to diagram, and then the bodies to shore-up a defense that too often turns leaky in rough waters, Packers will continue to get bounced too early from playoffs, Mike will get pink-slipped with no contribution to anyone’s awareness and this era of exuberance will creep to a close, great QB, notwithstanding.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: A.Rodgers-M.McCarthy, wc.cca, M.Morbeck, 9.9.12; Packers-print, wc, 1959; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.08; Minnesota-Vikings-GreenBay-Packers, P.Loadholt-C.Matthews, wc, 11.14.11, M.Morbeck; M.McCarthy, TJ.Grant, wc, 8.11.07; NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao
Posted: 3.28.17 @ 11:39am EST, edit 11:01; 3.31; Copyright © 2017

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: No Herschel Heist (’89), But ‘Holy Crap,’ Vikes!

5 Sep

The Herschel Walker deal. If you followed NFL football 25 years ago you know what those words mean.

The Minnesota Vikings, specifically, their brain-trust of Mike Lynn (GM), head coach Jerry Burns and owner Max Winter, bet a good share of the fjord (farm) on the Dallas Cowboys All-Pro ball-carrier in hopes it would put ‘em over the top, i.e., get the Norsemen back on the Super stage.

The date: October 12, 1989.

The details: Vikings received former Heisman-winner Herschel Walker (UGA), who’d run wild in the defunct USFL (5562 (3)) and vacillated from exquisite to pedestrian in parts of four seasons with Dallas (3), plus four mid-round draftees (J. Reed). Cowboys got five Purple players and an armload of draft picks, most conditional but realized as three (3) 1Rs, three (3) 2Rs, a 3R and 6R., a pool from which toppers Alvin Harper, Darren Woodson and Emmitt Smith were had.

The general impression of the day? Lots o’ shock and a bit of awe.

..........Spielman.wc.8.4.14.M.Deery.wideMy personal take: Gilding the lily or, in those famous words of Elizabethan penmeister Edward de Vere (Shake-a-Spear), the Norsemen were “add(ing) another hue unto the rainbow (King John (1590s)).”

Talented Vikes had been knocking on the door the season prior, making NFCC and taking eventual winner DC down to the wire, unable to punch it in as final seconds ticked off. Darrin Nelson was their top ground-man (6-800 / 4.5+ per) and had a fine QB in Wade Wilson, a stout line (Zimmerman, Lowdermilk & Irwin), All-Pro TE Steve Jordan and all-everything in Anthony Carter. D wasn’t too shabby either with padded-up Pro Joey Browner in the secondary, Studwell & Solomon in the middle and pass-rush ruffians Chris Doleman and Keith Millard.

Pretty nice “rainbow.”

The result: Herschel was competent in his 2.75 years in purple (4.1 (3.2 PS (89))), but then so was Nelson. Some say he wasn’t employed properly. And that’d be balderdash. Imagine Gale Sayers, Chuck Foreman or Jerome Bettis failing to be used properly. Not possible. Hersch was rated the same (1514 (‘88)). When the handwriting was on the wall, Walker ran like he’d hit that wall and showed no interest in scaling it, not in Minneapolis.

Dallas parlayed 3-4 of Minnesota’s umpteen players & picks into key contributors to three Super Bowl wins in the 90s. Good but not a great result, and even then could’ve just as easily produced nothing of serious value.

..........Walker.5.14.10.wc.USArmy.J.VannucciDrafts are always a dice roll, regardless of research and pre-draft hype. Just as often as not, no matter the # of selections, any draft can be a bust, resulting in few or no long-term player benefits for the club.

More than the benefits Dallas received from Minnesota’s largesse, due in credit to the Cowboys and luck, it was the high expectations for Walker, poured by Jones and guzzled up by Minnesota dealers, that went unfulfilled and borne by the Vikings, which constitutes the crux of this historical trade.

And that’s the backdrop for what transpired last week on the NFL wheeler-dealer front, to offer some perspective on Saturday’s surprising Sam Bradford deal engineered between the Vikings current brain-trust in Rick Spielman (GM), Mike Zimmer (HC) and owner Zygi Wilf, and the Eagles inner-circle of Howie Roseman (GM), head coach Doug Pederson and their owner Jeff Lurie.

You can’t say Philly got a Herschel haul like Dallas did, getting two draft picks and cash (1R (‘17) + 4R (18) + $7M ($18M)), or that Minnesota mortgaged their future on the 6th-year signal-caller from OKC, (b.1987) as they did in 1989. But to those fans with a long memory, the vibrations that emanate from this present song will strike familiar flat notes with the former ditty of disaster.

.........Bradford.wc.USEmbassyLondon.thm.10.23.12Sam’s got real upside, there’s no doubt about that.

He’s a quality pocket-passer in his prime, more NFL vetted than was Walker. When healthy, he averages 3500+ pass, C% 60+ and a 20-13 TD-ratio. Not elite #s but solid, enough to help get one to the Conference title.

Bradford’s downside is that he’s injury-prone, beginning at close of his college days in Norman (UO) and a state which has subtracted time from two of his five pro campaigns (2010 / ‘13). One more concern not so easily quantified as injury debits and TD credits is Sam’s leadership level, more specifically, clutch capability. A question (?) mark.

Most perplexing and vexing about Minnesota’s adding Bradford, as too in the Walker case, is its arguable non-necessity. No gilding the lily here but the need is questionable because the quarterback spot appeared already well in-hand with veteran field general Shaun Hill’s patient presence on Vikings’ roster.

Some media report that Hill has been penciled-in as Vikings’ Week 1 starter.

The 10-year QB who’s been clip-boarding and offering insights to the project that has proven to be TD-challenged Ted Bridgewater, had been prepared for just such a circumstance yet couldn‘t have expected he’d be used merely as a bridge-QB, to bide time for a newly signed rosteree in Bradford to get acclimated.

.........Hill.wc.10.4.15.J.Beall.738kLoyalty is no favored virtue today, neither is composure (v. panic), but Hill under center gave Minnesota an experienced, proven presence in what could be Adrian Peterson‘s swan song in Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When given the opportunity, Shaun Hill has proven a quite capable matriculator.

The Maryland Terrapin began in brief with the Vikes in 2005, then moved to San Fran. As a starter for parts of 3 seasons he compiled what could be called an impressive rookie record in W-L (10-6), C% 62+, TD-ratio (23-11) and pass (3400+). That was a 49ers club that, like this current Minnesota group, was building to contendership (Singletary to Harbaugh) while his next stop was in Detroit which hasn’t had an NFL title since Bobby Layne.

As to Mr. Bridgewater, sidelined for the 2016 season with an ACL tear, he’s gotta’ be scratching his head as well.

It’s one thing to have your back-up fill the breach when you go down but to bring in a hired-gun still in prime, that can change the 2017 dynamic drastically, depending on the Vikes 2016 and if Ted returns in-tact, not unlikely given the wonders worked by today’s surgeons (See; All-Day (ACL)).

......Bridgewater.8.4.14.wc.M.Deery.6.5mCommentators must remember to tailor their views in knowledge they are not often privy to all facts and devilish details which imbue these sort of deals (moi). But as that wise Assyrian named Ahikar wrote many centuries ago, ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying (Wikipedia)’ or an Eagle who went 7-7 (25-37) with 14 INTs. Put another way, ‘If it works, don’t fix it,’ Mr. Spielman.

If this deal proves a win-win for both teams, that’s just terrific. God knows Philly and Minnesota could use some good fortune.

While Eagles roll the dice in going all-in on rookie Carson Wentz who’s cut his QB-teeth on FCS competition (NDSU), then enticed Vikings to bite by assuming lion’s share of Bradford’s 2016 pay ($11M ($18M)), it’s the Purple who engage a slightly more risky game of chance in the Bradford deal in betting multiple top draft picks in apparent pass on a ready n’ able substitute in Mr. Hill.

Curses don’t exist except in minds of the malleable. The many misfortunes borne by NFL’s Minnesota franchise come not from boogie-men and demonic spells, nor a lack of generally wise management (2009 pick-up of Brett Favre, while costly in salary, proved sage (NFCC10), for a season, anyway), but instead from the lack of two All-Pro virtues: Patience and trust.

Of course, knowing when to make “adjustments (SB4)” and employing the art of tackling (NFCC 1999, ‘01) rank pretty high on that list, too.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Vikings, wc.cca, wordmark, 2004; R.Spielman, wc, M.Deery, 8.4.14; H.Walker, wc, USArmy, 5.14.10, J.Vannucci; H.Walker, RepPeterson, wc, 5.5.4, wc, PE4Life; Viktor, wc, M.Mekuk, 11.7.10, MN-NG; S.Bradford, wc, 10.23.12, USEmbassyLondon; S.Hill, wc, 10.4.15, J.Beall;
Posted: 9.5.16 @ 2:32am EST; Copyright © 2016