Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers

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

12 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Cardinals (2-3)

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

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

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

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

Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

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

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)

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

NFL Cherry Picks Week 6

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

Record: 16 – 11

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

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NFL17 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

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 W12: Who Makes Your Playoff Final Four?

25 Nov

Minute Waltz Thanksgiving

Late-game INT aside, Bradford’s value to Vikes’ roster is unquestionable;

Lions Tahir Whitehead goes John Lennon (Here, There & Everywhere): 11 solo;

Cowboys’ Sean Lee goes Paul McCartney v. Redskins with 14 tackles, 9 solo;

Cowboys half-time show: Grotesque, in the contemporary Super Bowl tradition;

Steelers @ Colts: A proven back-up QB on roster is no luxury, it’s a necessity.

Minute Waltz Week 11

brady-8-28-09-k-allison-wc-cca-862mCards miss their Sun King, Tyrann Mathieu;

Likely less than ten 1000-yard rushers in 2016;

Tannehill = Rodney Dangerfield (“no respect”);

It’s “Future Shock” for the Green Bay Packers and the Cheesehead Nation who are now fast approaching Mediocre City;

Quarterback GWD totals are driving much of the excitement this 2016 season.

The Jell-O® Four: Proof is in the Pudding

For clothing, proof is in the wear…and the wash.

manningeli-wc-4m-aj-guel-10-10-10In the culinary creations (food), the proof is in the tasting…and then the digestion (Burp!).

For football teams, evidence of a championship caliber (SB) is found in week-to-week play.

At the two-thirds mark of this NFL 2016 season there’s been plenty of game action, mettle testing from which to glean who are those top (four) contenders for hoisting the 2017 Lombardi trophy. That all making it possible for some bold predictions.

Not the Super Bowl forecast, mind you. Picking those two teams at Week 12 would be like pre-season prophecies on the Big Game, which are about as valuable as four-day old turkey. Hash it, Honey!

Instead, it’s time to select your AFC – NFC Conference championship teams for the games that often prove more competitive than the Super (Snoozer) Bowl.

roethlisberger-9-9-12-wc-cca-j-beall-3-9mTime to cut through all the crap, i.e., playoff pretenders (NFCN, AFCS champ), and settle on the four juggernauts who are just one win away from the Big “Par-taaay (D.Heffernan),” teams that’re most likely to run the gauntlet and come out Top Dog. Woof, woof!

And because it’s possible that your (my) Conference picks will face-off earlier in the PS, consider THAT game to be the championship bout between the two best with its winner making the final four, or too possible that none of your chosen CC teams at W12 will even land a playoff spot (0-4), you could end up with some sizable egg on your face when the title tussles actually kick-off in mid-January. But no risk, no reward, like if you go all Rogers Hornsby with the picks (4-for-4).

What to look for in Conference championship combatants?

1) Balance (offense / defense team rankings);

2) 1st-Team All-Pro talent at key positions;

3) ‘In good’ with the Gods (at / below League average on injuries), and

4) Small point-margins in losses. How you lose is as relevant as how you win.

wilson-2-5m-11-11-12-l-maurer-wcJuggernaut Club cues: D-mettle and composure (GWD).

2017 NFC Championship: Seattle v. Giants
2017 AFC Championship: Patriots v. Steelers

Seahawks: It’s Carrolling Time.
Giants: Gathering of veterans (Eli)
Patriots: Bill, Tom & Pax Patriotana
Steelers: Big Ben Roethlisberger

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7Cherry Picks Week 12

Titans (5-5) @ Chicago (2-8): 11.27 CBS 1:00: Bears win
Bengals (3-5-1) @ Baltimore (5-5): CBS 1:00: Cincy wins
Cardinals (4-5-1) @ Atlanta (6-4): Fox 1:00: Arizona wins
Los Angeles Rams (4-6) @ New Orleans Saints (4-6): Fox 1:00: Saints win
San Diego Chargers (4-6) @ Houston Texans (6-4): CBS 1:00: Chargers win
Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) @ Tampa Bay Bucs (5-5): Fox 4:05: Seahawks win
Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) @ Denver Broncos (7-3): NBC 8:30: Denver wins
Green Bay (4-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-5): 11.28 Disney 8:30: Pack wins

Record: 49 -58 -2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: P.Carroll, wc, K.Allison, 10.6.14; T.Brady, wc, Allison, 8.28.9; E.Manning, wc, 10.10.10, AJ.Guel; B.Roethlisberger, wc.cca, 9.9.12, J.Beall; R.Wilson, wc, 11.11.12, L.Maurer; cherries, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-symbol, wc, wikiproject
Posted: 11.25.16 @ 1:13pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL15 Cherry Picks W16: Super Sizing

24 Dec

Measuring the Material

Maybe you’re not buying any new cloths this holiday season. Some don’t.

.....tailor.1888.wc.Meggendorfer&Bonn.tmYou’re one of those rare individuals whose wardrobe is A-okay. You’re covered: No frays, no tears, not sos anyone would notice, and still setting the right mood with what ya’ got. All is hunky-dory. That’s grand.

Me, I need mood alteration, new material and variety-spice. And so thinks my beautiful wife, a judgment I trust (“I’ve got alot of faults…but ingratitude isn’t one ‘em (Patton ‘70)).”

Most of this shopping happens online. And before you give that credit card and click the ‘Order’ button you will have to size-up. Typically, it’s no problem unless your spree runs into December when sizes & supplies run low. Side-track: Is it just me or are those button-fly blue-jeans (Levi’s 501®) the kookiest koncept to come down the pike? A string of buttons…down there? Those knobs “gotta’ go.”

.....SuperBowl.Ring.7.3.14.wc.USEmbassyCan.thmAnd the same kind of sizing-up goes on in the NFL: Who‘s a contender, who‘s a pretender and so-on. With just two games remaining in the regular slate, measuring the playoff material in the holiday rush has become a standard operating procedure for footballers.

But volatility is the word in 2015. Up one week, down the next is the norm for far too many teams this year. And it‘s not just about injuries, either, though, they‘re mounting (See; Denver, etc.). It’s not the rule, as Carolina, New England and Arizona’s consistency attest but it might just as well be one.

Baker’s Dozen

1. New England
2. Arizona
3. Seattle
....baker.M.Andaya.USS.JC.Stennis.11.7.06.PJ.Perkins.thm4. Green Bay
5. Carolina
6. Pittsburgh
7. Kansas City
8. New York Jets
9. Cincinnati
10. Denver
11. Minnesota
12. Washington
13. Houston

Cardinals

.....Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.SwamiDefense matters on a Arians team (#7 / 7) and loss of key cog Mathieu is big, someone Dick Sherman might emulate (tackling). Arizona took a chance on “Honey Badger” after drugs came to light at LSU but the former Tiger has come up aces. Torn ACL (v PHI) creates a void (80t – 16pd – 5i) that’s hard to fill this late in the game. Last year it was Palmer, this year Johnson & Tyrann. But Bruce Arians is a wizard and Cardinals feel destined for Super things this go-round.

Panthers

Another team feeling manifest destiny will take them to Santa Clara and the balanced ball backs up the feeling (O: #8 / 1; D: 3 / 10). But quarterback Camster-the-Hamster’s rabbit-habit (9a per) is red-flagging. Not just the injury invite (See; TJ Yates, RG3, etc.) but the failure to fully fashion pocket poise and reading ability necessary in the toughest games in the most critical moments by caving too often to athleticism.

Packers

Hard to imagine Rodgers-led team flying under-the-radar but that’s just where GB’s been cruising in the NFL analysis stratosphere since hitting the skids (1-4) midway. But they didn’t lose faith, found focus and hit the high-life again with a budding balance (O: #21 / 10; D: #17 / 5) that post-season stalwarts need. ‘Hawks & Cards may rate better in full capacity but Green Bay packs more pieces today.

Seahawks

Like Packers, ‘Hawks hung tough in a tough stretch (open 2-4) and now find themselves in the thick of the NFCC race. Cats ‘showed ‘em what-for during that tough time (23-27 W6) but Seattle favors a re-match. Problem: Run game ‘got gone’ with injury exits of Lynch and super-sub Rawls. Solution: Mind of Carroll. If it’s close, Steve Hauschka is a go-to kicker: 96%, 4-4 50+.

Patriots

...Brady.11.29.15.wc.J.Beall.thmDeflategate ain’t over (NFL filed appeal reply this week) but Pats excelled when it hung heavy (SB49) and figure to do the same. Brady’s playing for another MVP trophy and hands-man Edelman might return for the PS but like the ’Hawks, the RB slot is a question-mark with main-man Blount’s hip-injury. And like Denver, defense has been superb (#6 / 6) but injuries are mounting. Solution: Mind of Belichick. If it’s close, Steve Gostkowski is the man: 94%, 4-5 50+.

Steelers

If Big Ben stays mobile, Pitt, still not playoff set, may prove too big a test for any AFC playoff’er. All other individual talents (Brown, etc.) blend into team ranks at this time in the campaign and Steelers top-out in scoring but need to hunker down on the D-side (O: #2 / 4; D: 24 / 11), traditionally a Steel City strength. Run game reliant on vet Williams but Tomlin has these guys believing.

Chiefs

Andy has ’em thinking February football, something unthinkable in 1st 3rd when KC opened with road win (HOU) only to give up next five. A win over Ben-less Steelers in W7 started the current ride (8-0). QB Smith is All-Pro‘ing in 2015. As ygpg is low (O: #24 / 336y), Chiefs find ways to score (8 / 26): Opportunistic, and talent for modification (West (Charles)). Issue: 2nd half slate < challenging.

...Kubiak.wc.J.Beall.105.08.thmBroncos

Battle of Back-Ups (Brock v AJ) Monday as Andy & Pey-Dirt mend. On their returns, rust issue is no biggie as both automatic but they’d like their ‘house in order.’ Broncs riding a 2g L-streak as both were close. Upside of Ls: No QB controversy; Down: road playoffs & mood. O-side’s been struggle in 2015 (#23 / 18) but now D’s giving points (#1 / 29). “(Bolts) Without a Country (Hale)” come calling for finale. If it’s close, Prater splits-the-uprights: 94%, 4-4 50+.

Jets

Big surprise of 2015 contenderships as Arians protégée, where Bowles was voted first AP-ACOY for NFL14, helped shape Cards’ stout Ds before taking his first hired-as-head gig in Jetsland (MIA interim 2011 (2-1)) (Fitz & BM, co-surprises #2). Had midway rough patch but have strung 4 Ws and face good playoff primer vs Pats and Bills. Trouble is, losses will bump ‘em out of PS altogether.

Bengals

No house of cards, Bengals “Got (Growl)” whomever’s under center, though Andy makes it near purr-fect. Playoffs? That’s a whole ‘nother kitty, with monkey-on-its-back (Lewis & Dalton: 0-4). But Cincy shows indisputable growth (O: #11 / 4; D: 9 / 1) from prior years and seeks showcase at home for the PS. Trouble: Denver has it’s own agenda.

Bad Spot

NFL/PA greedmeisters: Games on Thursday and Saturday work but both should’ve been scheduled in day-light hours for the holidays. “Grabbing with both hands,” Rog & DeMaw.

...cherries.cloth.picdrome.6.2011.thm

Cherry Picks Week 16: Back in the Black

San Diego (4-10) @ Oakland (6-8): 12.24 NFLN 8:25: Raiders win
Redskins (7-7) @ Philadelphia (6-8): 12.26 NFLN 8:25: Eagles win
San Francisco (4-10) @ Detroit (5-9): 12.27 Fox 1:00: Lions win
Pittsburgh (9-5) @ Baltimore (4-10): CBS 1:00: Steelers win
Dallas Cowboys (4-10) @ Buffalo (6-8): Fox 1:00: Bills win
Chicago (5-9) @ Tampa Bay (6-8): Fox 1:00: Buccaneers win
Carolina Cats (14-0) @ Atlanta (7-7): Fox 1:00: Falcons win
Indianapolis (6-8) @ Dolphins (5-9): CBS 1:00: Miami wins
Patriots (12-2) @ NY Jets (9-5): CBS 1:00 (GOTW2): Pats win
Texans (7-7) @ Tennessee (3-11): CBS 1:00: Houston wins
Jaguars (5-9) @ New Orleans (5-9): CBS 4:05: Jaguars win
Green Bay (10-4) @ AZ (12-2): Fox 4:25 (GOTW1): Cards win
St. Louis Rams (6-8) @ Seattle (9-5): Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
New York Giants (6-8) @ Minnesota (9-5): NBC 8:30: Giants win
Cincy (11-3) @ DEN (10-4): 12.28 ESPN 8:30 (GOTW3): CIN wins

Record: 83 – 81

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: SuperBowlRing, wc.cca, 7.13.14, US-Embassy-Canada; Tailor, wc, Meggendorfer&Bonn, 1888; baker, wc, M.Andaya, USS.Stennis, 11.7.06, PJ.Perkins; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; Brady, wc, 11.29.15, J.Beall; cherries-cloth, picdrome, 6-2011, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.24.15 @ 2:27pm; edit 10:53 EST; Copyright © 2015

NFL15 Minute Waltz: “Gang-Way!”

14 Dec

Look Alive!

It’s what sets hearts aglow and spirits a rockin’ more than any other holiday treat.

.....QuietMan.wc.Republic.1952.thmThe lights, they’re terrific. Strung on the Christmas tree, draped on shrubbery or the candled menorah, the glimmer & glow is a joyous sight to behold.

Religious ceremony and family bonding, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu (Ganesha) during this time of year is a central component to the lives of 100s of millions around the globe.

The buying & gifting habit, like the succulent & savory holiday foods & drinks we ingest with glee, has spread worldwide as it were an army of missionaries or political ideologues spreading the word. “Hail, (consumerocracy)!”

But it’s the holiday music, pop and religious chart-busters, which imbue us with the spirit of the season like nothing else can. Everyone has their favorites and everyone, it seems, has gotten into the act, be it bands, solos or symphonies.

......Crosby.wc.RoadtoSingapore.1940.thmThere’s Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Percy Faith and his orchestra, Lena Horne, Burl Ives, Eartha Kitt, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Rod Stewart, The Chipmunks and even super actress Angela Lansbury joined the fun.

Some of my topper tunes:  Jingle Bell Rock (Beal & Boothe)), Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Martin & Blaine), Winter Wonderland (Bernard & Smith), and sound-tracks to both TV specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Marks & Laws ‘64) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (Guaraldi ‘65) : Toe-tappers and heart-string tuggers.

And every year there are a handful of holiday songs selected from the hundreds of choices by corporate programmers that, for whatever reason is a mystery to the listening public, come on like gang-busters.

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbIn Holiday 2015 it’s Toyland (Herbert & Brumer), I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (Berlin) and Marshmallow World (Sigman & DeRose) that’re getting the super spins and charging hard into our hearts.

NFL’s no different.

These teams are definitely on the holiday hop, pushing through the crowded field of contenders and shouting, ‘outta’ the way, we’re coming through!’ And are they ever, for now. Remember, this is 2015, where nothing is as it appears.

Fans had their backs turned on these teams and for good reason.

Some started slow as molasses but then warmed up to find their groove, others jumped out of the blocks, fell behind but have now found their second wind and are pushing through to the front.

New York Jets

.....Jets.11.17.68.Heidi.HoF.wc.thmAn early pace-setter (4-1), Jets lost steam (1-4) with their W7 trip to Foxborough (L 23-30) but got it back (3-0 (O: #9 / 10; D: 5 / 9) and will be tested with their final three (@ DAL, NE, @ BUF) as they battle PIT and KC for the wild card.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are the rollercoaster in 2015: Lose a few, win a few and so on. Consistent in being inconsistent. But more recently they’ve been riding upward (4-1 (O: #2 / 5; D: 23 / 10)), besting rival Cincy as Dalton went down with a good remaining slate (DEN, @ BAL, @ CVD).

Seattle Seahawks

......Wilson.wc.12.29.13.L.Maurer.thmbLooking now like the Super Bowl Seahawks we’ve come to know the past few years after starting similarly to the Steelers (up & down), this is a team nobody wants to face come January (O: #5 / 6; D: 2 / 3). It’s the Carroll-ing time of year.

Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs are clear front-runners for this season’s bipolar-award winner: The lows are lowly (1-5), the highs are simply splendid (7-0). When all-purpose RB Jamaal Charles went out (W5 – ACL), all looked gloomy. But one door closes, another opens up and it’s leading the Kansans to a land of opportunity with slightly favorable schedule.

.....Cousins.7.31.12.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumbWashington Redskins: 6-7: Have gone 3-3 the last six which is actually a good rate for the NFC East in 2015
Philadelphia Eagles: 6-7: Coach Kelly was getting cat-calls but Philly’s 2-0 since, making Chip chipper
Oakland Raiders: 6-7: Recent road win @ Titans and Denver are keeping them in the AFC playoff hunt
New York Giants: 5-7; This was posted pre-MNF and I’ve tabbed Miami, but I’m all wet in 2015

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credit: NY.Jets.plane, wc.cca, aeroprints, 6.27.14; TheQuietMan, 1952, Republic, wc; B.Crosby, RoadToSingapore, 1940, wc; NFL-symbol, wikiproject; NY.Jets, 11.16.68, HoF, Heidi.game.program, wc; R.Wilson, 12.29.13, L.Maurer, wc; K.Cousins, 7.31.12, wc, K.Allison; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, 2011, wc.cca;
Posted: 12.14.15 @ 1:45pm EST; Copyright © 2015

 

NFL15: Bills’ Rex Ryan Tops Coaches on the Cue

28 Jul

The hot seat: That’s the term of the trade, coaching, that is.

Specifically, a term of warning that means, he, maybe she someday the way things are moving (See; Welter (AZ) & Hammon (NBA)), who sits on said seat had better get his rear-in-gear, find a winning touch or that proverbial pink-slip is certain to arrive by or before season’s end, depending on the equity said coach has accrued.

But that ain‘t this write, not exactly.

Coaching cats listed here would at least appear to be pretty well situated and are, in fact, not in immediate danger of getting the boot.

Some are new to their job but so popular they’d trigger an impromptu parade with local fans (Ryan). Others have recently received extension (Tomlin / Coughlin / Lewis) and most are in possession of Lombardi (replica) home décor.

Even so, not all is as rosy as it appears for these elite NFL sideliners.

While they’ve all had success and anticipation runs high as summer training camps are getting under way, each of them has struggled for extended periods time and failed, sometimes miserably, to meet their own particular expectations.

For some that simply means consecutive losing records and no post-season play; for others it means doing everything necessary in the RS to punch-ticket for prime playoff placement but then fail repeatedly to close the deal (GB).

If these expectations are not met, whether that‘s simply a >.500 record or Super Bowl birth, all of these coaching veterans could be looking for work next March or begin to feel a noticeable warming in their seats, contracts notwithstanding.

....Ryan.10.23.11.wc.M.O'Leary.thmb

Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills (1st year HC)

“A parade all by himself (Jimmy Cannon‘s description of Ruth)” would be bit of a stretch but Rex Ryan may be the closest thing we’ve got today, sans the whiskey, womanizing, wee-hour waltzes, hot dog eating contests, etcetera. Rex’s press conferences, anyway.

Ryan starts fresh in Buffalo after six seasons at the helm in Jetsland in the town the Babe called home for many years (1920 – 48), having left the Big Apple with mixed results. After reaching a couple AFCCs in the early going the wheels came off, offensive-side mostly, and a semi-amicable parting-of-ways was reached.

He hopes to dispel belief he’s an early-bloomer, inspiring with a positive persona in phase I, only to lose his grip in phase II when the bloom comes off the rose.

“Over-identification with his men,” is what Gregory Peck (“Gen. Savage”) called it in the classic World War II drama, Twelve O’Clock High (‘49). Big trouble. You want your men’s respect, even a little fear on occasion, not their friendship, not necessarily. Whether that’s factual with Ryan or not, only he and players can say, but it does give appearance.

Rex’s specialty, defense, is in the genes, evidenced by brother Rob (NO-DC) and their famous father “Buddy” having coordinated way back to those AFL title days in Buffalo (‘61-65). Like father, like sons, except James had some terrific guys on the O-side, including names like Kemp & Gilchrist (BUF), Namath & Maynard (NYJ), Tarkenton & Foreman (MIN) and Payton & McMahon (CHI), something with which Rex has rarely been assoc’d since his days in Baltimore (’99-08).

Mastering offense has proven his bugaboo, in particular, finding a quality field general. He ain’t alone. When young Mark Sanchez (NYJ) hit a wall, Ryan kept his cool but eventually was forced to make change and came up short (G.Smith).

As it stands, Bills QB question remains unanswered.

Veteran Matt Cassel, displaced in MIN by Ted Bridgewater, has two 10-5s under his belt (NE / KC) appeared the presumptive starter but Ryan wants to please everyone so everyone (Manuel / Simms / Taylor) will get a good look-see. He knows securing a signal-caller’s key to making his mark in Western New York State versus a likely last NFL head coach gig.

Bills fans are a frustrated lot, playoff-dry since ‘00 and though looking to be turning a corner under Marrone in ‘14 (9-7), saw him skedaddle and capable Orton call it a career at season‘s end. While playoffs in ‘16 is, to a Bills optimist, expected, the QB quandary permits RR something less, but with a seat-warmer handy. Gets cold in Buffalo!

...McCarthy.wc.cca.8.11.7.TJ.Grant.thm

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers (10th yr)

The hand-writing was on the wall for this move.

On the one hand, you can’t blame Packers for taking Mike down a peg in having to fork over the play-call book, given GB’s recent playoff runs with unexpected Ls to visiting Giants (’12), Colin Kaepernick-led 49ers (x2), last one at home, no less (‘14), and then the Cheese Melt 2015 (1.18) versus defending champs, Seattle, in NFCC in what looked (late) like an earned trip to SB49.

One the other hand, while Packers fans & Mgmt are some of the best in the biz, great success will often breed over-inflated sense of self-worth and unreasonable expectations, i.e., big brats, and not the Usinger’s® or Klement’s® varieties.

Green Bay’s collapse, a worst in NFL post-season history, was a team effort. Call it Murphy’s Law, if anything could go wrong, it did. I call it Swing Time (’36), the best of Astaire & Rogers and apt name of what afflicts this NFL. A winning team loses all momentum which swings to the up & comers who turn the tables. Cause? Millennials don‘t handle pressure like Dad? It’s as good an explanation as any.

And orchestrating Brett Favre’s high-profile return to the Fox Valley just prior to opening of training camp, the prodigal QB, as it were (Luke: 15: 11-32), just when faithful are having serious doubts about keeping McCarthy‘s hands on the controls, was not Thompson‘s best play. Now fans have all summer to remind ’em of those halcyon days of Green Bay Renaissance when Wolf, Holmgren, Favre & White seemed invincible, until they met Elway & Co. (SB32), of course.

Though, it’s a bit rough for a guy who built his rep on offensive know-how (See; UP ‘89), relinquishing strategizing duties is, in big picture, nothing to stew about, when you’ve got a guy named Aaron Rodgers conducting the orchestra (MVP ‘14).

Packers problem every January is the same it’s been since Reggie and LeRoy Butler retired: defense, or lack thereof, in crunch time.

A panache for glory stats guys (Clay Matthews / Woodson) in sacrifice of tackling (See; SEA, CAR, SF), the heart & soul of football, has too often been their undoing. Moving out of the mid-pack (yapg (15) / papg (14)) by leaping Minnesota and Detroit and into the top-10 on these key defensive measures will punch Green Bay’s ticket to Santa Clara.

...Tomlin.wc.steelcityhobbies.9.16.7 thm

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (9th yr)

If I’d had ear of Steelers Chair Dan Rooney in 2013 I’d have advised Mike be dismissed from his coaching job at season’s close, giving Tomlin option of sooner if chosen, and pinned my own position of influence on the call.

Tomlin’s buffoonery in Baltimore on Thanksgiving, of all nights, where he clearly interferes with Ravens return man Jacoby Jones breakaway sideline run, gave the Pittsburgh organization a black-eye, traces of which still remain with the two-time Super Bowl (43 W / 45 L) coach’s continued presence on Steelers‘ sideline.

The fact he chose to step on the field while watching the ball-carrier approach (not Jumbotron as claimed), most certainly to divert Jones likely TD trot, was bad enough. That he wore a Cheshire grin immediately following his chicanery certified the misdeed. That he didn’t own-up afterwards was strike three.

Even as game officials failed to flag Tomlin, speaking once again to the fallacy of instant-replay’s purported necessity, the NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 for interference, one of largest penalties levied on a coach in the League’s history.

Tomlin just inked a 2-yr (K) extension with the Rooneys. Irony is that as long as veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger remains hearty & healthy, he, like Rodgers in GB, almost assures Steelers dbl-digit wins, which nearly assures Mike his continued employ in the Steel City that’ll pretty much assure Ben & Co. won’t be returning to a Super Bowl anytime soon. The steady slide in key defensive categories over the past few seasons (yapg 18 / papg 18) throws up another red flag.

...Payton.wc.2.7.10.VOA.s.schy.thm

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (9th yr)

Like Mike & Mike, Sean’s nearing a decade at the helm of the first and only NFL team he’s headed, and, could too be on the outs soon, add’l proof that winning a Super Bowl doesn’t, or in some cases, shouldn’t, guarantee undying loyalty from the faithful.

Though the Saints haven’t exactly been in free-fall post-Bountygate, making the PS 3 of 5 seasons, they’ve clearly fallen from juggernaut status since the scandal.

What almost assuredly differentiates the Steelers guru and his Saints peer is that while Tomlin arguably rode on coat-tails of Bill Cowher’s success, Payton, strictly in coaching terms, forged a title-club by his own method & means, as debatable as they were, while others before (Haslett, Mora, Phillips, etc.) came up short.

Call it a pattern, trend or an NFL norm (I miss Cheers (pre-Kristie Alley)), but here’s another team with a Super QB (Brees) that looks to’ve become over-reliant on his wherewithal and seen the defense go to the dogs (yapg 31 / papg 28).

Drew, like Eli & Ben, is a tough customer but won’t play forever. If the once stout New Orleans D doesn’t find it’s footing in ‘15 (the OL protects the franchise well (29sk ‘14)), Sean may be footing it out the door in ‘16.

...Reid.wc.USAF.SgtSTSturkol.thm.8.6.08

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (3rd yr)

Reid may be one of the few non-titlist NFL head coaches to get busted in Canton (See: Grant, Levy). In his 16 seasons at the helm for Philly (14 (’99)) and KC (2 (’13)), Andy’s had 9 dbl-digit, 12 winning and only 3 losing campaigns (2 @ .500).

Trouble with Andy (reads like a Hardy movie) may be, as with Rex, his teams come outta’ the gate strong but if they finish back, tend to fall back in later runs, not out of the money (show (playoffs)), but out of the big money (win or place (title)). Perceptions like that can be short on fact / substance but can carry weight, especially with a franchise that hasn‘t supped champagne since 1970 (Stram (SB4)).

Though not enriched with a fantasy-favored, statistically-elite QB in Alex Smith, who’s been stanchion under center the last four, compiling a 38-16 tally (SF / KC) with a tremendous TD-ratio (71-23), Reid’s Chiefs may have the best balance of all six teams listed herein.

Dropping in key offensive categories in ‘14 (ypg 25 / ppg 16), Chiefs still possess Alex’s matriculatory flair, the explosive, multi-man Jamal Charles and mythically mondo 3rd-yr TE in Travis “Zeus” Kelce, while the defense should take advice from nobody, coming in at #7 in yapg and just behind Seattle in papg (2).

Because full balance is attainable (more hands, top reserves on D), coupled with the Super drought (‘70), expectations are high for Reid in 2015. If KC boards the roller-coaster again (9-7) or busts early in the PS, no one in the Hunt household will hit the panic button but talk will begin on change v. staying the course.

...Lewis.9.16.13.wc.emeybee.thm

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals (13th yr)

Like McCarthy, Payton and Tomlin, Lewis too is making the most his first NFL head coaching gig, setting franchise record in wins (100-90-2) and compiling mostly winning marks (6-3-3) over his dozen seasons in the Queen City. In April, Marvin, like his friend Tom in NYC, signed a 1-yr extension to a deal that was to terminate at close of 2015-16 NFL season.

Cincy has been a regular post-season player under Marvin’s tutelage but have yet to advance in any session, going 0-6, whether it be capable field generals Carson Palmer (‘04-10) or Andy Dalton (’11-14) barking out the signals.

The team rankings are unimpressive though hardly distressing. In 2014, the Tigers were the epitome of adequate, or, as “George Costanza” would say, “a solid C, not falling behind, not showing off (Seinfeld).”

On offense, they came in at #15 in both yards allowed and points allowed per game, while the defensive ranks fell slightly lower at #15 (ypg) and 22 (ppg). And somehow, some way, the Bengals found a way to manage double digit wins again. Where there’s a will, there’s a way?

And maybe that’s Lewis in a nutshell. What he may lack in rah-rah he makes up for in a professionalism and coaching cool that inspires players and staff to perform. Taking nothing away from a fine Colts performance, it’s fair to write that in their last playoff go-round, a 26-10 wild card loss at Indy, injuries to key personnel left Cincinnati a markedly different team.

But while patience is a virtue, even Machiavelli had his fill (See; The Prince).

...Coughlin.Bush.Eli.4.30.8.USGOV.thb

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (12th yr (20))

Canton beckons for this 2-time Super Bowl winning coach (42 / 46), both roads to glory that ran through Green Bay (’08 / ’11) and culminated in competitive contests against one of the other ‘best’ coach (Belichick) / QB (Brady) combos in NFL annals.

Winning one Lombardi won’t guarantee a lifetime contract, that’s understood, but winning two in the fashion Tom (and Eli et al) did, well, if that doesn’t give an assurance of loyalty from owners and fans, I don’t know what does.

Even at 6-10 and a so-so run game, the Eli Manning (another Canton lock) -led offense finished impressively in ‘14 (ypg 10 / ppg 12T), with no small thanks to an O-line that knows blocking (28sk). But like the Saints, Bears & Falcons, this traditionally stout defense has fallen on hard times (yapg 29 / papg 24).

Though having in March signed a 1-yr extension that pays him through 2016 season, Misters Mara and Tisch will be honored to have Coughlin guide their Giants as long as they’re reasonably competitive (‘reasonably’ interpreted broadly: no playoffs since 2011 and combined 22-26) or Tom keeps competitive fires burning. But hard to imagine any result in ‘15-16? that’d stoke those fires sufficiently to bring TC back for another, add’l (K)-yr, notwithstanding.

.......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: Ryan, 8.3.8, wc, Allison; Ryan, wc, O’Leary, 10.23.11; McCarthy, 8.11.7, wc, Grant; Tomlin, wc, 9.16.7, steelcityhobbies; Payton, wc, 2.7.10, VOA, Schy; Reid, wc, USAF, Sturkol, 8.6.8; Lewis, wc, emeybee, 9.16.13; Coughlin.Bush.Eli, WH, wc, 4.30.8, USGOV; NFL-Wikiproject;
Posted: 7.28.15 @ 5:15pm; edit (photo) 7.29 @ 5:57pm EST
Copyright © 2015