Tag Archives: swing time

NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

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NFL17 – SB51 Super Cherry Jam: Make Way Fred & Ginger, Swing Time Has a New Team in Foxborough

9 Feb

Top hoofers Astaire & Rogers were hip to it, now Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and rest of the reigning NFL champion New England Patriots are discovering swing time, an odd, devolutionary trend in football that comes by way of the rise in the colossal and inalterable shifts in game momentum.

The typical swinger plays out like this: First he orders a martini…wrong swinger (ba-dum tish!): In the first half, team #1, the eventual loser, charges out to a commanding and seemingly insurmountable lead, only to lose all of their traction and watch helplessly (?) as its once dormant opponent awakens from its doldrums and begins to play like gangbusters (See; SB51).

I first noticed the oddity back in the early part of NFL 2012-13.

Peyton Manning was in year one with Denver who was off to an inauspicious start at 2-3. In San Diego (MNF), however, Mustangs caught swing time, roaring back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to score 35 unanswered for a head-spinning win.

astairerogers-fdtr-1933-rko-l-brock-47kAnd that ’unanswered’ word is key. When used in a football context, it’s synonymous with the word, defense, both the good (NE) and the ugly (ATL). Every stop the Pats D made of the Falcons offense after their 28th point was like a B-12 booster shot to their own offense while at the same time demoralizing the A-Birds.

Back in the day when a team built an early lead, especially if aided by points off a turnover, you could pretty much put the result in-the-books by the middle of the 3rd quarter. The betting window is closed!

In Super Bowl One it was Cantonese safety Willie Wood who intercepted fellow Hall member Len Dawson’s 3Q pass to stave off any thoughts the KC Chiefs had of besting NFL juggernaut Green Bay in 1967.

Reliable outcomes were the standard in earlier Super Bowl play as sad sack clubs like Minnesota (4L), pre-Shanahan Denver (4L), then Buffalo (4L) would usually fall behind fast and never catch up. Bills almost broke the trend in 1991 when scapegoat Scott Norwood’s late field-goal try went slightly wide (20-19).

Hotly contested affairs like the terrific Steelers – Cowboys (76, 79) and 49ers – Bengals Bowls (82, 89) were the exceptions to the rule, i.e., game over early.

Come the 2000s, opening with Rams v. Titans (23-16) and then every Patriots Super Bowl since where the point differentials have averaged 3.7 per (7), the championship game began to see some serious competition throughout.

sb47-coin-1-28-13-a-kirk-4-2mThen came Super Bowl 47 (2.3.13), pitting the Ravens against the 49ers. A watershed event in football history for it’s the first time a swinger took center stage, and I don‘t mean the halftime pseudo porn-fest (ugh). It’s true, a massive power outage at half swung momentum San Fran’s way but then the same emotional ups & downs that define swing time were triggered, too.

Football teams have been losing leads since Melbournian turned Madisonian Pat O’Dea was kicking for glory (1898-99) and Walter Camp fueling the forward pass. But today’s player is clearly subject to mood swings like no generation before.

Why so? Why does one team go near catatonic in the 2nd half, collapsing like a house of cards while the other rises from the early ashes like a phoenix? It’s a real puzzler. “Monsters from the id (fear, etc.)?” Maybe not enough monsters (anger, greed, etc.). I’ll take a stab at another answer to explain this phenomenon.

Most males today under the age of 45 were weaned on rap, most lyrics of which dismiss rules (cheat), teach converts that might makes right, to act with impunity and then portray women are chattel. It’s a boyish arrogance that can’t cope with loss and learns nothing from mistake. And though it thrives in an era that’s seen advances (desegregation – AA), it’s also one where every participant gets a trophy and athletes get coddled from the minute they suit up in junior-high.

A little false bravado (machismo) won’t typically upset the apple cart and might even help with the digestion. But to saturate one’s mind with rap from age eight (8) onward can create a dysbiotic state that’s hard to change.

mathewson-wc-1904-c-conlen-160kIt would follow then that when a team starts to fall behind, especially after having been in firm control, that those players whose constitutions have been forged with a composite (cheap) mettle, would then be unable to muster the confidence, the resilience to bounce back when their opponent begins to make in-roads.

You never stop thinking you can win. Tom and Bill didn’t.

But what about the Patriots, you ask, it’s likely most of them grew up hip-hoppin’ too. Maybe more of them just outgrew their childhood mindsets. I don’t know. What I do know is that having Tom Brady at your offensive controls is like having an IV of confidence flowing through the veins of every man on his team, including and defense who may’ve been SB51’s real MVP, collectively speaking.

What I also know is that psychology, not just pep talks and sideline pad-smash, must now be a serious, integral part of team training and game strategy.

The New York Giants pitching great Christy Mathewson (1880-25) said it well: “You can learn little from victory, you can learn everything from defeat, i.e., “winning is (definitely not) the only thing.”

There’s a whole semester of learning just waiting for the Atlanta Falcons this off-season, and 30 other teams. And while they’re at it (Dan Quinn will get ‘em at it), they can ditch the ditties, or better yet, jump a new music train:

♫ Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream (Rodgers & Hammerstein) ♫

Final record: 88 – 93 – 3 (8 – 3)

straight_shooter-thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; Astaire-Rogers, RKO, FDTR, 1933, wc, L.Brock; SuperBowl.47-coin, wc, A.Kirk, 1.28.13; ChristyMathewson, wc.cca, C.Conlen, 1904; Straight-shooter produce label
Posted: 2.9.17 @ 11:55am, edit 3:29 EST; Copyright © 2017

NFL16 Cherry Picks W4: Presidents, Field Generals & Super Chiefs

28 Sep

One down, two to go. Phew!

With the first presidential debate of Election 2016 now in the books* and media spin-cycle on full-tilt, this NFL fan got to thinking about the prestigious prize Dollar Don and Capital Hill are both eyeing, the Commander-in-Chief job (adjustable hat included), and then what it takes once you’ve been voted the reins of leadership to make it a memorable tenure.

This phase in the Oval Office Chase is a little like the playoffs in sport: The TV camera test for the candidates is a whole ‘nother season, with both contenders starting over at 0-0.

On a gaffe (Ford, “No Soviet domination of E.Europe,” Carter using Amy as a “nuclear arms” standard (76), Dukakis playing opossum in failing to dress-down question-poser Bernard Shaw (CNN) for needlessly making Mike’s wife Kitty part of a crass death penalty hypo (“raped and murdered“) (‘88) and Papa Bush checking his watch (‘92)), a lead in the polls can evaporate faster than a fat NFL lead at the half (Swing Time), just as the candidate who tosses a tight, talking spiral for TD can make-up a poll deficit quicker than Tom Brady finds pay-dirt.

ford-851k-wc-grfl-1933-umFootball forensics aside, an NFL quarterback won’t bear near, nor near beer, the burdens of our Chief Executive, to be sure. He is, however, often referred to as a field general, empowered to muster his offensive troops in a Ulysses S. Grant-like forward-thrusting campaign to gain territory and vanquish an opponent. That’s the plan, anyway.

On the other hand, it’s also fair to say that while Presidents can sadly suffer the greatest of physical harm (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, JFK (JV squad Harvard), Reagan wounded), rarely, if ever, must they bear the weight of a 200+ lbs, muscled-out, charging defender landing on his person as does Joe Quarterback.

In truth, QBs and CICs are pretty much worlds apart in the duties department. They do, however, have one thing in common: As Big Kahunas, both get the credit in victory, nearly all the blame in a loss.

So with that as backdrop, it’s a champion time to honor all those who bear lonely burden of leadership, in whatever endeavor, but here in particular, today’s top NFL field generals teamed with our nation’s finest Presidents over these past 240, both who’ve supped the champagne yet most certainly “suffer(ed) the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (Hamlet (de Vere)).”

Note: No QBRs have been referenced (I can read a stat-line) and no greenhorns considered (R -> 2y). As in politics, top candidates must be vetted and the highs & lows assessed with a dispassionate eye in order to gain a substantive read.

America’s Best Signal-Callers

brady-8-28-9-k-allison-wc-cca-2m-dc1) Tom Brady: New England Patriots, pocket-passer;

FDR: The only Commander-in-Chief besides the Cherry-chopper who could’ve been king (4x), his economic vision (New Deal) prescribed emergency medicine in seriously Depressed times, taking federal policy beyond simply feeding the greed, then he and his wife Eleanor undertook to save the world (WW2);

2) Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers, mobile-PP;

Lincoln: Made the union whole, more human and gave his life in the process;

3) Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers, mobile-PP

Washington: Iconic leader who led world’s first revolt against Imperium slavery since Spartacus (d.71 BC), gave the new office stature and nation a good start;

4) Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints, pocket-passer

Jackson: Old Hickory was the first non-elitist President who fought Indians, British invaders, banker thugs and brought the people and democracy to DC;

wilson-edithbolling-galt-wc-11m-6-1920-harrisewing-loc5) Eli Manning: New York Giants, pocket-passer

Wilson: Professor President (1856 – 24) with steely resolve to make America a world leader in war (WW1) and peace (LoN), whose 2nd wife Edith (Ellen) co-ruled after his stroke (1919) making her unofficially the first female U.S. President (1872 – 61);

6) Joe Flacco: Baltimore Ravens, pocket-passer

JFK: He saved planet Earth (CMC (’62)) and then lost his life in the risky battle against entrenched power;

7) Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks, mobile-manager

Cleveland: Should’ve been first 3-term Prez, designing the template for modern-era “government of the people, by the people, for the people;”

8) Phil Rivers: San Diego Chargers, pocket-passer

Jefferson: Crafty Purchase (Lou.) doubled nation’s size decades after he drafted America’s Declaration of Independence (‘76) and our first public college (UV);

lbj-fdr-allred-5-12-37-wc-259k-nara9) Alex Smith: Kansas City Chiefs, manager-PP

LBJ: Mis-policy in foreign war (Vietnam) did not derail efforts of this legislative juggernaut in making civil rights reality and honoring America’s seniors;

10) Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons, pocket-passer

Polk: Pragmatic, fiscally sound and productive, James was Mr. Manifest Destiny, adding thirteen (13) States in whole or part to America’s family of stars. Worn to the bone, he died 3 months post-term;

11) Andy Dalton: Cincinnati Bengals, pocket-passer

Truman: Plain-talking, former farmer, WWI major, haberdasher and pianist (Bacall) proved critics & premature press-men (Chicago Tribune, etc.) wrong with a strong, spirited & common sense administration;

12) Tony Romo: Dallas Cowboys, pocket-passer

Teddy: “Big Stick” policy boosts US clout, trust-bust sent checks monopoly-greed and initiates our national parks system. Celebrity turned progressive;

teddy-wc-loc-thmRounding Out Top 15

13) Cam Newton: Carolina, run-QB / James Madison;
14) Carson Palmer: Arizona, PP / Andrew Johnson;
15) Andrew Luck: Colts, mobile-PP / William McKinley

 

cherries-ripe-chirak-wc-605k-6-24-7Cherry Picks Week 4: “Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Miami (1-2) @ Cincy (1-2): 9.29 NFLN 8:25: Bengals win
Seattle (2-1) @ NY Jets (1-2): 10.2 Fox 1:00: ‘Hawks win
Bills (1-2) @ New England (3-0): CBS 1:00: Patriots win
Carolina Panthers (1-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (2-1) (GTW): Panthers win
Oakland Raiders (2-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-0) (GTW): Ravens win
Denver Broncos (3-0) @ Tampa Bay Bucs (1-2): CBS 4:05: Buccaneers win
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) @ Arizona Cards (1-2) (GTW): Fox 4:25: AZ wins
New Orleans Saints (0-3) @ San Diego Chargers (1-2): Fox 4:25: Saints win
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) @ Pittsburgh (2-1) (GTW): NBC 8:30: Steelers win
NYG (2-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-0) (GTW): 10.3 ESPN 8:30: Giants win

Record: 14 – 17

* No clear winner from Monday night’s dialectic (WU in STL), though, there was little debate in the contest directly South in the Big Easy (ATL 45-32). But as Ms. Clinton, pre-debate poll leader, former White House decorator (1992-00) and of a much lengthier political résumé than her veritable newcomer opponent in Mr. Trump, her failure to deliver a haymaker of sorts might give the Don the win on points. But there are more rounds to go and whomever claims victory in this first foray had better not rest on their laurels and come out swinging-with-style in the next. Like NFL16, it’s still anyone’s fight to win or lose, i.e., wide open.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: G.Cleveland, wc.cca, 1903, Library-of-Congress, F.Gutekunst; G.Ford, wc, GRFL, 1933, UM; T.Brady, wc, 8.28.9, K.Allison, DC; W.Wilson, Edith-Bolling-Galt-Wilson, wc, Harris&Ewing, 6.1920; Edith-Bolling-Galt-Wilson, First-Lady, 1915-21, wc, LoC; FDR-Allred-LBJ, wc, 5.12.37, NARA; T. Roosevelt, wc, LoC; cherries-ripe, wc, Chirak, 6.24.7; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 9.27.16 @ 9:22pm, edit @ 11:38 EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL16 Conference Cherry Picks: Halas n’ Hunt

22 Jan

“Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,                        5
Go wade like the crane;
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You ’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you ’ll walk like a man!”                                 10

Do You Fear the Wind?, by Hamlin Garland (1860 – 40 (W. Salem, WI)), contemporary audio illustration by J. Facenda, NFL Films

Dichotomy Bowl

Cherry Pick NFCC: Arizona Cardinals

Before big games it’s customary to look for common threads that run between the two opponents, maybe as a proof that there’s a winning template or something of the sort. But as “Donnie Brasco” might’ve said, “forget about it.”

Besides the obvious rare appearance in Conference championship play, memorable 2015 runs and a rare Heisman head-to-head in signal-caller spot, analogies between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers are few & far.

......Rozelle.Halas.80s.J.Summaria.wc.cca.thmCarson and Camster couldn’t be more different in poise (pocket v. run), personality (low-key v. high-flyin’) and roads taken (USC v. Auburn).

To the history buffs this 2016 NFC championship offers up a contrasting pair, pitting one of NFL’s charter-members in the Cardinals, Phoenix being their 3rd stop (CHI ‘20 / STL / AZ), against one of it’s newest clubs, the Carolina Panthers (‘95).

All that variety should help make for a top-notch tussle in Charlotte for Sunday’s Super selection game slotted in the late showing on Fox (1.24 / 6:40 EST).

And the winner can hoist high the coveted George Halas trophy, named in honor of one of the League’s original players (Decatur Staleys), founding fathers (“Papa Bear“) and long-time coach of the Monsters of Midway.

If you think Manning – Brady is big doings, even as Peyton’s embers may burn their final blaze, when you talk about sport rivalries, none was bigger than the Halas – Bears v. Lambeau – Packers – Lombardi battle that rocked back n’ forth for parts of five decades (1920s – 60s). Trophy hogs, these guys were.

.....Arians.9.8.14.wc.thmb.FF.SwamiAnother chasm in claim of commonality between Carolina and the Cards are the differing personalities and résumés of the two head honchos, Bruce Arians (AZ ‘13) and Ron Rivera (CAR ‘11).

You could say the former Hokie’s pathway to his present job took the “Long and Winding Road (‘75 VT / 14 jobs)” while Ron’s, comparatively speaking, is more like ‘the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (‘97 CHI / 5).’

After playing QB at Virginia Tech Arians went straight into coaching while Ron played 9 seasons with Chicago (‘84-95 (LB)) and five years later took a job with the Bears as a defensive coach. Shoot-from-the-hip (Arians) vs calculated (Rivera), Bruce tends towards offense (See Also: Harold Goodwin (OC)) while Ron is, not surprisingly, a defensive specialist (Sean McDermott (DC)).

What’s gotten both teams to the pinnacle of these playoffs is their coaches similar ability to expand their repertoires and fashion success on their lesser sides, with the respective help of top-notch staffers in Carolina’s Mike Shula and Cardinals’ James Bettcher (DC).

.....Rivera.6.10.11.R.Paraglide.wc.thmOf course, both clubs are red-flagging a smidgen.

Playing at home, AZ barely got by GB in the divisional (26-20 OT), Pack not exactly being juggernautious in 2016, while Carolina forgot the realtor’s mantra, ‘always be closing.’ Cats jumped out big against the defending NFC champ ‘Hawks only to invite Swing Time (’36) and see their sizable lead fritter away, lose all scoring punch (0 2H) and escape with the win.

That coach who can best work his left-handed talent, that coaching area to which he was not befitted by a natural inclination, may prove the winner in Sunday’s slugfest between these top dogs who tangled in last season’s WC round where Cats came out on top (27-16) of a Cards team that featured 3rd-stringer Ryan Lindley subbing for Palmer who’d exited late-season with injury.

Continuity Bowl

Cherry Pick AFCC: Denver Broncos

Since 1997 the Patriots and / or Broncos have been represented in the AFC title game fourteen (14) times, Bill Belichick at the helm for ten, with one head-to-head in 2014 (DEN 26-16). A 3-game stretch (2009 – 11) being the longest time w/out either club appearing. Stout stuff, to say the least.

....AFC.Hunt.trophy.2.2.13, A.Kirk,thumbThese franchises are on solid footing, to be sure, thanks to ownerships that have vested fully in success, Patriots Robert Kraft and Broncos’ Bowlen family (‘84) where Pat ran the club until diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014.

It was Bill Parcells who re-awakened New England pro football which hadn’t had a title-test since their crushing loss in SB20 (Bears), in guiding Patriots to SB31 (GB 35-21 (L)), and then Mike Shanahan, building some on Dan Reeves’ work, did the same in Denver where in SB32 John Elway would run & gun the Broncos to their first NFL crown in besting the Green Bay Titletowners, 31-24.

Add in Tom Brady and the near perennial playoffer Peyton Manning and Sunday’s early game (3:05 CBS) at Sports Authority field drips with cachet, if not for the haters, of which both teams and QBs have gaggles.

‘America loves a winner’ someone once quipped but may, in these present times, love even more trying to tear one down.

....Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumbWho prevails Sunday at Mile High stadium even has the sporting gods hedging.

Trendy talk says Peyton’s running on fumes with Denver’s home-field and D not enough to deny a Patriots destiny that has confidence of a champion (SB49).

Pragmatists liked what they saw from Denver against Pitt in the divisional (23-16 W). Come-from-behind victories reflect more than “Whew, that was close (Close Encounters ‘75)!”

Against Pittsburgh, Mr. Mustang orchestrated a 65 yard, 14-play drive for the go-ahead TD, took 6+ minutes off the 4Q clock and converts the 2. Holding your pot (defense) and cashing in your opportunities in crunch-time shows a team laden with leadership in any football fan’s book.

....Kubiak.wc.J.Beall.10.5.08.thmExpect New England’s glamour grabbers (Gronk, Edelman) to suit up but they’re still feeling the pain. Patriots’ run game is nearly nil (0) with Blount out and late pickup Jackson’s game looking gone which only puts more pressure on pocket-passer Brady. Whereas, an admittedly lesser Peyton compared to the one who won AFCC in2014, has a more reliable motor-pool in Anderson & Hillman.

And not exactly ‘advantage Denver’ with the likes of Steve Gostkowski kicking well for NE, but watch if it comes down to the leg-men (Ginger Rogers had the best). Broncos’ Brandon McManus went 5-5 v. Pitt and hit a 50+ yarder.

Cheese & Whine: Arizona 26 v Green Bay 20 (OT (NFCD 1.16))

It wasn’t always this way (I lived in Packerland in 70s & 80s), but ever since the good times began “rolling” again at Lambeau (‘92) no franchise, jocks and fans alike, has more consistently served up the ‘whine’ in casks after a defeat, quite like Packer-backers. Unbefitting of this a glory-laden franchise, the gripe-fest has become as standard as the pre-game tailgate (See: Cheese-Melt 2015).

....Rodgers.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.12.7.8.thmThe Cardinals – Packers game went long (OT) and Aaron Rodgers got the call, heads or tails. Then something unusual happened: Coin no flippy.

Since the NFL rules do not specify necessity for at least one complete rotation of the fly-coin (It will now), referee Clete Blakeman did Pack a solid, his common sense, no doubt, by affording a 2d toss that was not mandated. In effect, Packers got two tries at winning the toss. Not exactly gripe-able.

The reigning MVP has been quoted as saying the ref called “off” the first toss to “avoid the embarrassment.” Hardly, Mr. Double-Flip. My guess is he, as Aaron (“we obviously thought it was unfair”), simply believed a non-flip toss was “not right” nor w/in the spirit of the act, i.e., toss a coin so it rotates to enhance probability of chance for either team to win the side-show (head-tails).

...Favre&Lopez.11.7.08.E.Durie.USN.thmbThere is regulation fairness and there is overtime fairness, a different balance that seeks to afford opportunity (If that’s your defense stopping the opponent’s offense, so be it) while encouraging a conclusion to a game that’s gone long.

Aaron Rodgers may someday equal or surpass his predecessor, the well-decorated ironman, former Wisconsin demi-god but now back in the fold quarterback Brett Favre in key statistics, MVPs and Super Bowl starts, but the Chico, California native will never match the peerless one in style. There is where Brett will always have him beat.

Record: 103 – 100

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Rozelle-Halas, 1980s, wc.cca, J.Summaria; G.Halas, wc, therakishfellow, 1922; B.Arians, wc, 9.8.14, FF.Swami; R.Rivera, wc, 6.10.11, R.Paraglide; AFCC.Hunt.trophy, 2.2.13, A.Kirk, wc; B.Belichick, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.9; G.Kubiak, wc, J.Beall, 10.5.08; A.Rodgers, wc, M.Morbeck, 12.7.8; B.Favre-Lopez, 11.7.8, E.Durie, USN; NFL-symbol, wikiproject.
Posted: 1.22.16 @ 1:31pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NFL15 Cherry Picks W7: Super Synergy

21 Oct

Some things just go together:

Bacon & eggs;
Beer & pretzels;
Astaire & Rogers;
Siskel & Ebert;
McCartney & Lennon;
Berra & baseball;
Fall & football;
Lombardi & Starr;
Belichick & Brady;
Earth & Moon;
Jimmy & Rosalynn. You get the idea.

Same holds true on the gridiron.

....Astaire&Rogers.TheBarkleys.wc.thmAn NFL quarterback won’t be long for the League without a stout offensive line. The trench-men figure big for the grinders and kickers, too (See; B. O‘Neill (UM)).

But it’s the synergism flowing like a current between the field general and his receiver corps that makes five-star matriculation and TDs a thing of beauty to behold.

This season’s synergy sirens:

Falcons: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (49r-638y, 4td);
Chargers: Phil Rivers and Keenan Allen (53-601, 3);
Pats: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman (40-449, 4) & Rob Gronkowski (23-425, 5);
Ravens: Joe Flacco & Steve Smith (36-510, 3). Synergy’s just part of it (1-5);
Cardinals: Carson Palmer and John Brown (33-497-2) & Larry Fitzgerald
Broncos: Peyton Manning and D. Thomas (48-527) & E. Sanders (38-527-3)
Lions: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson (38-488, 2)
Texans: Brian Hoyer & Ryan Mallett and DeAndre Hopkins (52-726-5)
Jaguars: Blake Bortles and Allen’s Hurns (29-460-4) & Robinson (28-488-5)
Chiefs: Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin (39-531-1) & Travis Kelce (29-416-2)
Bengals: Andy Dalton and A.J. Green (35-531-3) & Tyler Eifert (28-342-6)

Wheels Off

Seattle (2-4)

Dick Sherman’s been pretty quiet this NFL15. But now’s the time to work your mouth, stoke the spirit of winning. Anyone can talk-it-up when times is good. And if he hasn’t, Kam Chancellor should find himself a new agent. Holding out to start the season with 3y left on a deal was silly but particularly ill-advised on heels of a stinging SB loss.

Kansas City (1-5)

Loss of Jamaal Charles is titanic (ACL) but Chiefs’ malaise goes back farther, to 2013 when the Reid era jumped out to a 9-0 start, had the bye, then slumped to 2-5 and closed with a wild-card loss at Indy. It’s been a rocky boat ever since.

Chicago (2-4)

Made a fight of it in road loss to Detroit (34-37 (W6)), but even with a healthy Jay Cutler and Matt Forte the Monsters of Midway are toothless in team ranks on offense (#25 yapg / pts) and perplexing on the D side (#10 / 32). Halas Hall expected much better after exiting the Trestman train early (2y).

Detroit (1-5)

Sabrheads would have a collective conniption-fit were one to suggest that Jim Caldwell’s aggressive play-call versus Redskins in pre-season, an unnecessarily tough tack by Detroit defenders that got RG3…gone, has come back in form of karmic-backlash. Take that, tough guy. The Sporting Gods have long memories.

Baltimore (1-5)

Ravens were pick of many a prognosticator (moi) to win AFC in 2016 after getting line-shifted out of last season’s playoffs (v NE) and having every reason to make it gel this time around. But no gel. Offense is a-okay (10 / 11), but the defense that defines the B-birds is clearly missing it’s leader in Suggs (25 / 27). Delegation of duty & depth do matter so one of equal leadership can step into the breach.

Wheels On

Check out NaVorro Bowman, linebacker extraordinaire of the still-in-the-hunt 49ers: 13 tackles, 2 assists. This upward trend is a bright light in a 49ers season fraught with change and concerns. Joe Namath (knees) dreams of what might’ve been had the miracles medicine (See; AP) arrived a couple decades earlier (‘67).

Killer Quarter

Last year’s strange phenomenon was “swing-time.“ One club would build a big lead, fritter it away and the other rise from it’s stupor to take that lead and the win. This year, it’s beware of the killer quarter. It aught not be lethal but for today’s moodier players & coaches it too often proves the death blow.

Falcons (@ NO): 1Q 0-14
Chargers (@ GB): 1Q 3-14
Cardinals (@ PIT): 3Q 0-12
Jaguars (v HOU): 4Q 6-21
Bills (v. CIN): 3Q 0-14

Curious Quote

When speaking of Bengals’ Andy Dalton (22-33, 243, 3 (BUF)), Disney’s Tom Waddle said this: “He’s all grown up now…and I don’t mean to be disrespectful.”

....Waddle.wc.6.8.12.Kevie0508.CHI-NPNo, of course not, Tom, just like “Billy Batts (Frank Vincent)” didn’t mean to be “disrespectful” to “Tommy (Joe Pesci (Goodfellas ’90))” that nite they had the beef in the bar. That is, until “Batts” told “DeVito” to “go get (his) shine-box!”

If you’re gonna’ be cute, Disney’s the place for it, but don’t slip it into reverse so fast, Tom. Own it. Besides, Andrew’s handled signal-caller duties in four straight playoffs in this his 5th year (45-23-1 (0-4)), and you, well, you caught passes for three seasons.

Good Spot Week 6

Landry Jones (PIT) QB (sub): 8-12, 168, 2td
Drew Brees (NO) QB: 30-39, 312, 1
Devonta Freeman (ATL) RB: 13-100, 1
Benjamin Watson (NO) WR: 10-127, 1
Phil Rivers (SD) QB: 43-65, 503, 2
Jim Starks (GB) RB: 10-112, 1
Keenan Allen (SD) WR: 14-157
Andrew Luck (IND) QB: 30-50, 312, 3
Tom Brady (NE) QB: 23-37, 312, 3-1
Colin Kaepernick (SF) QB: 16-27, 340, 2
Cam Newton (CAR) QB: Two 4Q TDs (12-14 (1t), 2c (1t))
Lamar Miller (MIA) RB: 19-113-1
Martavis Bryant (PIT) WR: 6-137-2
John Brown (AZ) WR: 10-196
Chris Ivory (NYJ) RB: 20-146-1
Demaryius Thomas (DEN) WR: 10-111
Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) WR: 4-109-1
Mathew Stafford (DET) QB: 27-42, 405, 4-1
Calvin Johnson (DET) WR: 6-166-1
Lance Moore (DET) WR: 5-106-1
Alshon Jeffery (CHI) WR: 8-147-1
Brian Hoyer (HOU) QB: 24-36, 293, 3
DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) WR: 10-148, 2
Andy Dalton (CIN) QB: 22-33, 243, 3

...NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kb

Bad Spot

Falcons (v NO): 3-FL, 5 sacks allowed
Titans OL (v MIA): 6 sacks (Wake 4)
Cardinals: 9-pen, 2-INT (Palmer), 1-FL (Brown)
Alfred Morris (DC) RB: 11-21
Peyton Manning (DEN) QB: 26-48, 290, 1-3i
Chicago @ Detroit: 19 penalties

Kicker’s Korner

Pat McAfee (IND) P: 6-46.5, 3 [-20]
Phil Dawson (SF) K: 4-4 (53), 1xp (13)
Steven Hauschka (SEA) K: 3-3 (50), 2 (11)
Chris Boswell (PIT) K: 4-4 (51), 1 (13)
Dustin Hopkins (DC) K: 2-2 (54), 2 (8)
Brandon McManus (DEN) K: 4-5 (39) GWF, 2-2 (14)
Robbie Gould (CHI) K: 4-4 (38), 2 (14)
Matt Prater (DET) K: 3-3 (39) GWF, 4-4 (13)
Blair Walsh (MIN) K: 3-3 (45), 1 (10)
Dustin Colquitt (KC) P: 6-39.3, 3
Kevin Huber (CIN) P: 3-40.3, 3

“Here There & Everywhere”

Dannell Ellerbe (NO) LB: 13t-1a-1fr
Cameron Jordan (NO) DE: 5-1-3sk-1fr
Nate Palmer (GB) LB: 9-2
Chandler Jones (NE) DE: 2-2-2.5s
Michael Wilhoite (SF) LB: 11-2-1i
Luke Kuechly (CAR) LB: 5-9
Kam Chancellor (SEA) LB: 6-4-1i
Cameron Wake (MIA) DE: 4sk-2ff
Reshad Jones (MIA) S: 5-3-1i-td
Antwon Blake (PIT) LB: 10-2
Dashon Goldson (DC) S: 7-6
Pierre Desir (CVD) CB: 10-2
Shaquil Barrett (DEN) LB: 6-3-1.5s-1ff-1fr
Karlos Danby (CVD) LB: 5-2-2i-1td
Steve Tulloch (DET) LB: 9-4
Brian Cushing (HOU) LB: 9-3
Eric Kendricks (MIN) LB: 9-1-1s

...cherries.B.Kua.wc.cca.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 7

Seattle (2-4) @ SF (2-4): 10.22 CBS 8:25: SEA wins
Saints (2-4) @ Indy (3-3): 10.25 Fox 1:00: Colts win
Minnesota (3-2) @ Detroit (1-5): 1:00 Fox: Lions win
Steelers (4-2) @ KC (1-5): 1:00 CBS: Chiefs win
Texans (2-4) @ Miami (2-4): 1:00 CBS: Dolphins win
Jets (4-1) @ NE (5-0): CBS 1:00 (GOTW): Pats win
Raiders (2-3) @ San Diego (2-4): CBS 4:05: Bolts win
Cowboys (2-3) @ Giants (3-3): Fox 4:25: Dallas wins
Eagles (3-3) @ Carolina (5-0): NBC 8:30: Philly wins
Ravens (1-5) @ AZ (4-2): 10.26 ESPN 8:30: Cards win

Record: 27 – 27

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Cherries, B.Kua, wc.cca, 6.1.08; Astaire&Rogers, wc, TheBarkleys; T.Waddle, wc, Kevie0508, 6,8,12, CHI-NP; NFL Wikiproject; Cherries, B.Kua, wc, 6.1.08.
Posted: 10.20.15 @ 11:34pm 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

NFL14 Cherry Picks W9: Contender Poor

1 Nov

The Great Pretender(s)

You might’ve heard Carl Sandburg’s famous line, “Sometime they’ll give a war and no one will come (The People, Yes (‘36)).”

Not as serious but in that same vane: What if they held a playoffs and “no one” showed?

Unfortunately, everyone invited will make the NFL‘s post-season party, even though at midway point in this 2014 season it’s looking like serious contenders are in short supply: Denver, New England, Arizona, Philly and a few borderline.

Where have all the contenders gone?

Packers and Cowboys, clubs on the rise and media darlings of week 8, both looked ready to rule the roost and then proceeded to lay an egg with loses against New Orleans (3-4) and Washington (2-5), respectively, two teams who had looked pretty tepid in 2014.

Ravens and 49ers were also making their cases for contendership but recent slip-ups reminded football fans that rumors of their ascension to serious status were slightly exaggerated.

............Rivers, J.Beall, wc.cca, 1.12.14, thumb

Two of last season’s more memorable playoff performers in Super Seattle and AFC dark horse San Diego started where they left off but have since showed some chinks in the armour and appear not quite the same teams.

It’s not just the losing. Excepting the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriot, teams are gonna’ have their ups & downs in the course of a 16-game season. It’s when and how teams choose to falter that makes contender such an ephemeral tag in the pro set.

After starting 0-2 w/loses to heavy-hitters in DEN & PHI, Colts went on a five-game win streak and had the ranking-set all a flutter. Then they ran into AFC rival Pittsburgh (W8: 34-51) and have prognosticators scratching their heads. But when one considers how Indy got spanked by NE in 2014-PS (22-43), this recent shellacking is no shocker.

Former early hopefuls the Bears, Falcons, Texans, Panthers and Giants have all been knocked to the canvas and show little sign of rising for the bell, let alone raising the belt.

............Eli.1.15.12.wc.cca.M.Morbeck.GB.thumb

There’s still time for turnarounds & tune-ups. Someone’s gotta’ fill these playoff slots and it’s looking like 8-8 could fill one in both conferences.

And there are positive signs.

Pre-season hopefuls KC, Cincy, Pittsburgh and New Orleans are building back w/recent impressive wins, surprise squads in Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit are hanging tough while nobody’s pre-season pick to challenge for a playoff spot outside of Floridians and this writer, Miami, is proving Bullygate did not destroy this franchise while the early, frequent calls for Mr. Tannehill’s head (62.3 C%) have faded to silence.

Where have all the (hopefuls) gone, long time passing…
Oh, when will (we) ever learn,
Oh, when will (we) eeeeevvveeer learn (Seeger ‘55)?

Swing Time

It might be the new betting craze: in lop-sided NFL games, plunking down money on the high likelihood of a massive swing in 2nd-half momentum where the team trailing turns the tables and snatches victory from the lollygagging leader who shockingly goes flat.

It’s a lock.

One might suspect skullduggery to explain these inexplicable flips in on – off (player performance) switch, from one half to the next. But that’s quickly dismissed by the near impossibility in pulling-off such a dastardly deed with the vast loyalty-factor it’d require.

..........Astaire.RKO.1936.Follow.thumb

Swings in momentum are nothing new.

Sometimes they’re attributable to weather, injury, turnovers or even adjustments.

But what goes on today is more frequent (See; SB47), predictable, sustained & staggering to chalk up to something as simple as a few turnovers. There’s a pattern here

Watch for the next lopsided score. One team’s up 14, 21, 24, and like clockwork, they’ll squander every last point, while the riser, who couldn’t seem to tie their shoes the previous half, are an unstoppable juggernaut in the second round.

And is there a fan in 2014 who doesn’t anticipate just this same super swing in momentum when they peruse the halftime scores and spot a blow-out? Not bloody likely.

Crazy as it sounds, you’re almost better off not going up big in half-one, for if you do and you‘re not fully prepared, the swing-back in momentum will knock you out cold.

If not orchestrated, what then the explanation?

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder?

A concentration that can hone in like a heat-seeking, missile, then dissipate as quickly as it came about. On the other side, one that lays dormant, unable to formulate but later, somehow, coalesces in the locker-room at half.

Latest case-in-point: NFL’s showcase game at London’s Wembley Stadium last Sunday morning (EST), between Detroit Lions and designated home team Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta jumps out 14-0 (1Q), then parlays a 21-0 commanding lead to go intermission.

The savvy gambler would have, if permitted, laid down a wad on Detroit to roar back, expecting the birds radar to go on the fritz as they fly straight into a plate-glass window.

Swing time.

............Astaire. Rogers.Flying.RKO.33.wc.cca.thumb

And that’s just what happened as the teams returned to the field, the roles completely reversed and Detroit squeaked out a 22-21 victory.

So here’s a team (DET) that hadn’t a clue how to play football in first half, then, during the break, figures out how to ‘split the (pigskin) atom,’ on both sides of the ball, mind you, as the hot shots from Hotlanta seemed to’ve mis-laid their playbook.

The same thing happens on the college scene where defending champ Florida State fell down 0-21 to host University of Louisville Thursday night (7-21 H), quickly tied it in the 3rd, held the now flat-lining Cardinals to 10 points and won away, 42-31.

Some call these shocking turnarounds, rallies. I’m not sure what to call em, but they ain‘t rallies. Equal parts resurrection from the dead and sinking of the Titanic.

Maybe this is one for the psychology folk.

Today’s player may simply be given to powerful mood swings (PEDs), the highs too high, the lows so deep they’re like quicksand from which you just can’t extricate yourself. Coaches & captains try to keep things even keel, balance the emotional scale but just can’t control the widespread tendency.

Whatever’s going on, it making for some pretty sorrowful football.

Curious Quotes

NFLN’s Brian Billick commenting on Tom Brady’s bodacious numbers compiled against the woeful Bears in Patriots huge win on Sunday (51-23):

............Billick.8.8.07.wc.cca.k.Allison.thumb

“If that (30-35 / 354y / 5td) is not (deserving of) a perfect quarterback rating, what is? The (QB) number is the most useless rating in the history of this game (Billick).”

When it comes to saber-think, Brian (QBR, WAR, etc.), ours is not to reason why, but to simply, obey. So they demand.

Wardrobe Dysfunction

Sunday NFL Countdown sought to fill morning air-time last game-day with a cutesy kids segment to honor the festive spirit of Halloween. It was called “Da Pumpkin Patch” as Mike Ditka handed out pumpkins & candy to youngsters dressed in their favorite team’s garb. All nice, all in good fun.

What wasn’t nice was the fashion statement in person of the female hostess (?) haunting the segment.

............ESPN.Jkinsocal.wc.cca.2.1.13.thumb

With advent of the new, hip-hop, flashy, noisy, hi-techy, stand & deliver ESPN, the “worldwide (monopoly) in sport” has seen fit to fit their female anchors with the latest & greatest in club-wear. The men remain in standard suit & tie.

This kid’s segment featured the hostess in high-heels and skin-tight leather pants. Inappropriate for any sport segment unassociated with TMZ and the like, but certainly poor style for a Sunday morning kid show.

I suspect the wardrobes of anchors and analysts are corporately directed. That means ESPN President John Skipper’s hand may be the one guiding the style or the hands of those that do “da” selecting.

There was another “Skipper” awhile back whose look was a tad mundan, for sure (See; Gilligan‘s Island), but at least Alan Hale’s wardrobe fit the deserted isle theme. As for “Ginger,” well, formal evening wear’s alwyas ship shape.

.........Cherries.on.cloth.thumb

Cherry Picks Week 9: Who Want’s It?

Cards (6-1) @ Dallas (6-2): 11-2 Fox 1:00 EST (GOTW2): AZ wins
Eagles (5-2) @ Houston (4-4): Fox 1:00: Philadelphia wins
Chargers (5-3) @ Miami (4-3): CBS 1:00: San Diego wins
Broncos (6-1) @ New England (6-2): CBS 4:30 (GOTW): Pats win
Ravens (5-3) @ Pittsburgh (5-3): NBC 8:35: Steelers win
Colts (5-3) @ New York (3-4): ESPN 11-3 8:35: Giants win

Record: 43 – 23 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: T.Romo, 9.26.10, wc.cca, A.Guel, 2m; P.Rivers, wc.cca, 1.12.14, J.Beall; J.Cutler, 11.1.09, wc.cca, M.Schadle; Astaire, RKO, Follow, 1936, wc.cca; Astaire & Rogers, Flying, wc.cca, RKO, 1933, wc.cca; B.Billick, wc.cca, 8.8.07, K.Allison; ESPN-HQ, Bristol, 2.1.13, Jkinsocal; cherries, wc.cca, 6-11, picdrome
Posted: 10-31-14 @ 11:58pm; edit 11-1 @ 10:43am EST