Tag Archives: tom brady

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

3 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empire Builders and Destroyers of Dreams

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

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

You like history? Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

— — —

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

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

Just a few years back things looked bleak for Blount.

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

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

Sometimes le life can turn terrific.

Super Bowl 52 Cherry Pick

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

Record: 83 – 62 (7 – 3)

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


NFL17 Cherry Picks W16: Gurley’s the Guy But Houseman MVP Meter Says It’s Brady’s To Lose

19 Dec

He’s been the most valuable player on the League’s best team in NFL 2017 and in the running for the AP – MVP award nearly every year since he first laced ‘em up in 2000. The man is quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

— — —

No NFL’er has made a bold, season-long claim to the Associated Press’ coveted MVP award in this 2017 regular campaign but it’s always just arm’s reach away for that Q/RB who can, down the stretch, grab for the gusto and hold on tight.

TB’s the reigning Super champion quarterback and 2-time winner of the prized piece of personal hardware which today is probably a chunk o’ glass or some kinda’ metallic disaster? And while he’s not having his best statistical season in this his 17th (14g / 11-3: 67C%, 4163y, 28t-7i, 8.1ypa, 2gwd) it’s good enough to put him atop the MVP perch as this regular season enters its stretch run on just two games remaining before the playoffs burst upon the sporting scene.

Tom is no lock for the AP swag.

Brady’s big hurdle each season to take the big hardware is not stats nor W-L but that a GQ gestalt and sustained success breed resentment among the more namby-pamby votership. The San Mateo native hasn’t been in ten straight championship games like Otto Graham but his name has been bantered about for MVP in 15 of his 17 runs (+ 7 Supers). Awesome? Sure. More like epical.

Other names that make my short list of 2017 dark-horse candidates:

Coming as no surprise, it’s a ball-carrier in Rams 2nd-year man, Todd Gurley (14g / 10-4: 1187y, 17td (13r – 4c), 4.6ypc, 54c – 630y, 5fm) who poses the biggest challenge at W16 and may run off with the award if Tom trips-up.

If T&T both stumble, next on the trophy totem pole would be that contender-team QB in a group of four (4) that includes the Chiefs veteran Alex Smith (14g: 67.8C%, 3738y, 25-5, 8.0ypa, 3gwd, 34sk), the Lions’ Matthew Stafford (14g / 66C%, 3920y, 25-9, 7.8, 4gwd, 43sk), Rams’ Jared Goff and the Saints Drew Brees, who decides to separate himself from the rest of the passer pack.

As to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers destined-for-Cantonization QB, had he converted 10 of his 14 interceptions into TDs (26), the Big guy’d be right up there on the perch of possibility with the Terrific guy (Tom).

And keep in mind that an MVP trophy is minted in offensive metal, meaning, run-backs and QBs are traditionally the target talents for receipt with the one, rare kicker selection in Washington’s Mark Moseley (82), such requiring an exceptional season performance in a field fairly thin of competitors. No man from the trenches yet (lineman). That’s gotta’ be some kind of sin, eh?

Be that as it may, if you don’t have a defender in the matterful mix, those men on the side of the field that proves oh-so important in crunch time when most stoppers and their headsetted mentors seem to come apart at the seams and ‘prevent’ NOBODY from scoring, then you can‘t consider yourself very well-informed and more importantly, a real football fan.

At this posting, 2017’s top-dogs of tackle are Zach Brown of the Washington Redskins, Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers and like sophomore Joe Schobert of the 0-14 Cleveland Browns, all who tally 127 total takedowns with the latter two tipping scales on pass-D and forced-fumble categories (Joe‘s 4th-year co-worker in Christian Kirksey has 124 total and 2 FFs, making one think Brownies should build on D-side first). Were any of the three to take trophy, they’d become only the 3rd defender to do so. Stoppers, like kickers & receivers, rarely get fair consideration from AP’ers, only the greatest in Alan Page (71) and Lawrence Taylor (86) having been tabbed for MVP immortality.

— — —

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

With two more games remaining in this NFL season, two more chances for players with MVP aspirations to prove their worth in the eyes of the AP, the obscure but finely calibrated John Houseman MVP Meter is pointing to Tom Brady as the most valuable and deserving player for the coveted prize, an awarding that would be the future Hall-of-Famer‘s third capture.

Be aware, this meter gauges the player who most deserves to MVP, not the man who ultimately receives the most AP votes. Sometimes casters are wrong.

Wondering what is the Houseman MVP Meter?

Houseman (b.1902 Bucharest – 1988) was a producer of theater (Federal / Mercury) and then films who later in life became an actor of note in supporting roles in such movies as ThePaperChase (73 Oscar®), ThreeDaysOfTheCondor and the classic sporting flick, Rollerball (75). But he may be best remembered for his SmithBarney TV ads uttering in his distinctive high-hat voice, “They earn money the old-fashioned way, they eaaaaaarn it.”

— — —

In spooning through the simmering statistical soup of NFL 2017 in search of the most serious of AP – MVP candidates, I came across these curiosities:

1) Surfing for the single-season record for most player tackles in an NFL season, a stat not kept until more recent times (90s) and still escaping me, I discovered this unrelated yet grand mark: Cleveland’s great QB, Otto Graham, competed in TEN straight pro title games (AAFC / NFL). Struggle as today’s Brownies do, there was a time in the 50s when the Forest City bunch, guided by coaching genius Paul Brown, and their nemesis the Lions, were both football elite.

2) Cowboys’ running back Alfred Morris is having a fine comeback year. Filling in for the suspended Ezekiel Elliott, the former Redskins All-Pro who until recently appeared to be washed-up and ready to wash-out of the game, has carried the pigskin 113 times for 546 yards for a spiffy 4.8 rushing average.

3) As impressive as Carson Wentz’ numbers were up to his season-ending ACL injury in Week 14 (@ LAR), the Eagles 2nd-year QB will not be an MVP candidate for 2017. Like Brady in 2016 who too missed one-quarter of the season, his absence on the front end, Carson’s 4g lost takes him out of consideration. Same holds true for the Steelers Antonio Brown, the top wide-receiver pick unitl he too went out on injury last Sunday.

Cherry Picks Week 16: Bad Blood

Minnestoa @ GB: 12.23 NBC 8:30: Pack
Detroit @ Bengals: 12.24 Fox 1:00: Cincy
Dolphins @ KansasCity: CBS 1:00: Chiefs
Cleveland @ Chicago: CBS 1:00: Bears
Falcons @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Denver @ Washington: CBS 1:00: Redskins
LARams @ Tennessee: Fox 1:00: Titans
LAChargers @ NewYorkJets: CBS 1:00: LAC
Jacksonville @ SanFran: CBS 4:05: Jaguars
Seahawks @ Cowboys: Fox 4:25: Seattle
NewYorkGiants @ Arizona: Fox 4:25: AZ
Raiders @ Philly: 12.25 Disney 8:30: Eagles

Record: 62 – 50

NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 200; T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; G.Spralding, A.Smith, USAF, SAFMH-Denver, wc, 11.26.16; N.Bradham, Z.Brown, wc, 9.10.17, Hanover-MD, K.Allison; J.Houseman, A.Light, 5-1979, NFS-LA; cherries, Hispalois, 7.2.12, wc, Careres-Spain; J.Otto, 1970, ToppsChewingGum
Posted: 12.19.17 @ 3:22pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W10: It’s Elementary, Watson, Poise’n-In-the-Pocket Is the Cure

9 Nov

It’d be easy for Houston Texans to get gloomy about the Deshaun Watson injury, an ACL tear that occurred in practice after their W9 nail-bitter loss in Seattle.

But it’s not all doom. There is reason for hope.

The fine young field general in-the-making might actually come out the whole, long ordeal a wiser, better quarterback. Really.

The anterior cruciate ligament spans the knee. It’s tear will result from a sudden, hard twist of that joint as the foot is well grounded or caught in the turf. The knee bears weight better than it turns, as this common athletic injury attests.

Things were looking rather promising for the Texans (3-3) and their rookie starter who took to the NFL like a duck to water (61.8%, 19t-8i, 8.3 ypc), fresh off a national championship at Clemson. One complaint: The Gainesville, Georgia native is flash, a run-QB who’s a strong tendency to rabbit under pressure, a habit that carried him to many a football victory from grade school to his Carolina college but won‘t fly for long with the big boys of the pro circuit.

The glass-half-full observer can look to the Arizona Cardinals’ veteran running back Adrian Peterson as example of how a player can recover and return to top form even after an ACL tear, operation and rehabilitation.

Adrian, who, in 2017 began his first NFL season in a color other than purple after signing with Saints, only to be cut after W4, then picked up by Arizona after all-purpose David Johnson went out with a dislocated wrist, suffered his ACL tear in 2014 opener. He was back on the field in 2015, miraculously winning the NFL rushing crown with the 3rd highest season run total in his long career (07).

In 2016 Peterson suffered his 2d ACL tear on the other knee. While it’s still early and Father-Time will someday catch up to All-day, he looks to be fashioning a second miracle comeback in the Sunset State. In three games Adrian has run 74 times for 314y on a 4.2 ypc. Pretty spiffy stuff for a 2-time ACL rehabber.

The glass-half-empty set will cite Peterson’s running style (less lateral plant than run-QB Watson) and the sad case of former aspiring signal-caller Rob Griffin as examples of how the ACL rupture can change things for the worse.

RG3, as he was tagged by the junior media, took the Heisman at Baylor even as he had suffered an ACL tear in his sophomore year and was selected #2 overall in the NFL12 draft. And before DW, Griffin too would take the NFL by storm.

Entering week 14 play against Baltimore, the later-to-be-named ROY and Pro-Bowler, had led the Redskins offense to a 6-6 record. Then it happened, another knee bang. Not a tear this time but a sprain of the LCL that would mark the beginning of the end for Griffin’s professional game. He would sit out W15 but return to action to lead Washington to the Wild Card game but again tear his ACL in the loss to Seattle. There were no more high points for Robert whose last season was with Cleveland in 2016, cut short by a broken shoulder-bone.

Both the Peterson and Griffin cases point to two conclusions: 1) Modern medicine, for those who can afford it, will work wonders in orthopedic injury, and 2) every medical case is somewhat unique in its prognosis, treatment and recovery. Cost is the same, all of it high, but outcomes are hard to predict.

On return to the playing field, Watson will need to make quick adjustments: Changes in his mental approach to the game.

First off, he must ditch the flash form of quarterback play (3-3, 36r – 269y) and learn for the first time in his career, pocket poise, finding the tenacity to take the hits behind-the-line as they come and where he’ll have more means to handle the blows. Why: 1) rabbit will expose his knees to greater risk of injury downfield where funny footing is more likely and defender hits can be more damaging, and 2) poise’n-in-the-pocket will force Deshaun into RIF, ‘reading is fundamental.’ The best field generals in the pro-ranks are read proficient.

Some QBs use their top physical skills in arm strength, accuracy and mobility behind the line to find time to read the defense and find gaps. Others use their fluid-intellect and 20/20 vision to make-up for lesser physical traits. Run-QB is typically weak on defensive vocabulary and in every NFL case so far has failed to make the adjustment. It’s like learning a whole new language as an adult: Very difficult. The best hope: Complete commitment and immersion.

In the long run the poise’n pro-style is the better way of NFL quarterbacking, affording a longer career for the player, happier fans in point totals & wins and then more hardware for everyone involved, MVPs and rings (See; Brady, Big-Ben, Rodgers). And as flash QB will keep dominating in the college ranks on its great success by Heismans, CFP titles and perpetuation of coaching-lite, the disconnect between the pro and amateur QB styles with remain.

But maybe most important of the mental adjustments will be that Deshaun regains his former confidence. This holds true for his coaching staff as well, that they too find confidence again in their former QB. And they must keep in mind that Peterson didn’t have to learn a new language as will their man Watson.

NFL17 Cherry Picks Week 10

Seattle @ Arizona: 11.9 NBC 8:25: Hawks
Packers @ Chicago: 11.12 Fox 1:00: Bears
Los Angeles Bolts @ Jags: CBS 1:00: LA
New Orleans @ Buffalo: Fox 1:00: Saints
NewYorkJets @ Buccaneers: CBS 1:00: TB
Vikings @ Washington: Fox 1:00: Redskins
Cincinnati @ Tennessee: Fox 1:00: Cincy
Cowboys @ Atlanta: Fox 4:25: Falcons
New York @ SanFrancisco: Fox 4:25: NYG
Miami @ Carolina: 11.13 Disney 8:30: Cats

Record: 38 – 27

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; D.Watson, wc.cca, 1.10.16, Atlanta-Falcons; A.Peterson, wc, 1.28.12, Arvee5.0; R.Griffin, wc, L.Boyd, M.Green, USMC – NYC, 4.26.12; cherries, B.Kua, 6.1.08; J.Otto, TCG, 1970
Posted: 11.9.17 @ 3:20pE; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W8: An 18-Year Feast But Still No Bliss Point For Brady Fans

28 Oct

It may now be that time for Tom Brady, after eighteen seasons of uninterrupted stellar quarterback play, to get tagged with that special moniker, the one that naturally bestows upon a fabulous personality or field general: King.

It’s a funny thing, though, typically, the royal moniker will associate with a guy who you wouldn’t normally expect could carry off the titanesque title.

There was King Donovan, the spouse of Imogene Coca and a 1950s character actor best known for his supporting role to lead Kevin McCarthy in the great science fiction, anti-Communist thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (56).

There was “King Football,” 1940s-50s Hollywood heart-throb, Victor Mature. It‘s the nickname Vic‘s character “Pete Wilson” was bestowed in the 1949 film Easy Living when he played star tailback (QB) for the fictional pro team “Chicago Chiefs” but is then afflicted with a heart ailment, threatening his career and marriage to gold-digger wife, the lovely & leggy, Lizabeth Scott.

There was the original sporting King (James) Brady, an Elmer, New Jersey native who pitched in brief stints with four MLB clubs in the early 20th century (3-2 / 3.08), a stretch that included one start with the Boston Red Sox in 1908, going the distance on an 8-hit shutout. That’s pretty spiffy stuff.

And there was, if not the most famous, surely the most curious of all monarchical entertainers, King (James) Corcoran, another Jerseyite and legendary signal-caller known as the “poor man’s Joe Namath.” Not too shabby.

A University of Maryland Terrapin, KC bounced around the semi-pro circuit for good part of a decade (Waterbury Orbits 1967 >), finishing his run in the short-lived NFL rival operation, the World Football League for the Philadelphia Bell (1974-75), leading the League in TDs (31) and in 1982 being inducted into the American Football Association Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So notorious was King Corcoran as a self-promoting ladies man that his character was the basis for an episode of The Rockford Files entitled, “The No-Cut Contract (76)” and portrayed as “Larry ‘King’ Sturtevant” by then All In The Family co-star, future director and son of classic comedian, Carl Reiner, his son, Rob. And the son pulled it off, with “caps.”

Like Rob, and Roy…Rogers, “King of the cowboys,” Tom could pull it off, too.

Brady’s personal and team achievements are too many to list without boring the bejeebers out of the reader. Suffice to say, leading his career-long team, the New England Patriots, to seven Lamar Hunt (AFCC) and five Vince Lombardi trophies (SB), including last season’s memorable come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons, leads that long list of accomplishments.

But deserved as he is, I’m not so sure Tom’d want the royal tag.

Never self-promoting or boisterous, apart from those occasional on-field outbursts of team spirit, Tom is a leader by example who leaves the swagger to those so inclined, winners and losers. It’s a style in league with the League’s greatest, from Sammy Baugh to Bart Starr to Brett Favre.

This season, New England surprised by stumbling out of the starting blocks, losing at home in W1 to the Chiefs (27-42). They’ve righted the ship, going 5-1 since then and hope to bump it to six wins (v Bolts) before their bye in W9.

Tom himself has been, take a guess, ter-RI-fico (66.4 C%, 15t-2i, 8.4 yppa).

In the Pats two loses, their offense averaged 28.5 per contest. Not too shabby as shabby usually goes in this League, one whose Thursday nite event was dominated in media by a god damn cat running onto the field.

TNF, it’s gotta’ go already, geez, Louise.

Brady’s top five attributes: 1) Pocket presence (smarts & wherewithal to hang in the pocket and take the hits necessary to read D); 2) Judgment capability (low INTs); 3) Top talent (thread the needle); 4) Thick-skin (the tenacity to throw-off loss and rebound), and 5) What neurologists call a fluid intellect. Presented with a new circumstance, Tom can figure it out and quickly. Belichick helps.

NFL Cherry Picks Week 8

MIN @ CLE (L): 10.29 NFLN 9:30: Vikings
Atlanta @ NewYorkJets: Fox 1:00: Falcons
Carolina @ Buccaneers: Fox 1:00: TampaBay
Chicago @ NewOrleans: Fox 1:00: Saints
Oakland @ Buffalo Bills: CBS 1:00: Raiders
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Houston @ Seahawks: CBS 4:05: Seattle
Cowboys @ DC Redskins: Fox 4:25: Dallas
Pittsburgh @ DetroitLions: NBC 8:30: Steelers

Record: 27 – 21

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo Credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, 2011; TomBrady, wc.cca, 9.14.14, A.Campbell; T.Brady, wc.cca, KeithAllison, WashingtonDC, 8.28.09; BartStarr, wc.cca, 1967?; cherries-cloth, picdrome, wc.cca, 2011; JimMarshall, TCG, 1970
Posted: 10.27.17 @ 10:32pE, edit 10.28; Copyright © 2017

NFL17 Cherry Picks W1: Nuff With Knees & QBs, It’s Time For Bridesmaids & Tacklese

8 Sep

Even the best NFL tacklers like Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner could enjoy the chick-flick Bridesmaids (2011). That’s no foolin.’

When the thin one (Kristen Wiig) starts to panic on the jetliner (pills + liquor), triggering the air-marshal plan, it’s on-the-spot volunteer “Megan (Melissa McCarthy),” a G5 federal employee, who lays her friend flat with the best flying tackle seen by this football fan since Pat Willis patrolled the tundra (ret. 2015).

‘That was acting, Steve.’ Sure, but then sport itself can be fairly fantastic.

Take soccer (fútbol) for example. ¡Ay, caramba! Those guys fall to the turf more than The Bad News Bears (76), pre-“Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley)” and “Amanda (Tatum O‘Neal).”

— — —

For all the fascination with scoring by guys like Tom Brady and David Johnson, the foundation of every team will lay in its defense. It’s football 101.

And if you don’t have it for the whole shebang, i.e., 4Qs for 16Gs and the entire post-season, you’re in for a shootout at worst possible time, something the Atlanta Falcons, and Green Bay Packers for that matter (NFCC), know about all…too…well.

The two key measures in team defense have traditionally been yards allowed per game (yapg) and point allowed per game (papg). Why? Because you can’t pile up points without both of ‘em. Get it?

In NFL16, Houston (301), Arizona, Minnesota, Denver and Seattle (319) held down the top five (5) spots in the former category (yapg). Combined, they were eight (8) games over .500, two division titles, three (3) had winning marks with the Vikes even-Steven and Cards ½ game under. Not proof-positive of the D’s value, but not too shabby an indicator, either.

A better gauge might be the later rank, papg.

Those top five (5): New England (15.6), Giants, Seahawks, Broncos & Cowboys, a combined thrity-five and one-half games (35.5) over .500. “Zowie!”

The short story, and that’s what you’ll get most often at NFLCherryPicks in opposite of the trend to long story (See; sabrmetrics), is that defense matters, alot.

We know about the Patriots positioning prior to the playoffs (#8 / 1) but where’d the Falcons finish up in the top D rankings?

An inglorious 25th (yapg) and 27th (papg) is where the A-Birds settled in. And like I wrote above, those deficienies will not remain hidden forever. Great teams will expose them in the brightest of lights.

So if Atlanta was so deficient on the defensive side, how would you think they could make it through the post-season and into the Big Game?

Besides stellar offensive efforts by their quarterback and League MVP Matt Ryan, 3rd-year RB Devonta Freeman, another monster stat-season by receiver Julio Jones and offensive line that did their job (37s), the non-team-related reason was that the NFC was a veritable graveyard of competition in 2016.

Youth-movement-led Cowboys rolled after a W1 loss to the Giants but proceeded to flop in the PS, Green Bay had to kick-start its campaign and lost home-field in the process, Seattle hasn’t been the same since Lynch went wingnut and Arizona, expected by some to make the SB51, proved the Big Enigma of 2016.

Falcons’ defense did have its performers that shone bright when it counted most, of note was the League’s top sack-master in Vic Beasley (15.5) and the 25th best tackler in Deion Jones (75s – 33a). Those aren’t eye-popping stats but Jones was busy elsewhere, having 14 PDs and 3 INTs. Another player, or two, like Deion and A-Birds might make a return trip to the Big Game in 2018.

Cherry Picks Week 1: On the right foot

Chiefs @ New England: 9.7 NBC 8:30: NE
Cardinals @ Detroit: 9.10 Fox 1:00: Arizona
Buccaneers @ Miami: Fox 1:00: Tampa Bay
Raiders @ Tennessee: CBS 1:00: Titans
Ravens @ Cincinnati: CBS 1:00: Bengals
Seahawks @ Green Bay: Fox 4:25: Packers
Giants @ Dallas: NBC 8:30: New York
NO @ Minnesota: 9.11 Disney 7:10: Vikings

2014: 97 – 55 -1 (NE)
2015: 105 – 101 – 1 (DEN)
2016: 88 – 93 – 3 (NE (8 – 3))

NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: NFL-icon, wikiproject; B.Wagner, wc.cca, 10.6.14, K.Allison; M.Ryan, 8.8.16, wc, E.Drost; cherries, Hispalois, Caceres-Spain, wc, 7.2.12; Wood, Topps, 1970
Posted: 9.7.17 @ 8:28pE; Copyright © 2017

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

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

28 Mar

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

But that’s for later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♫ Shades of Mediocrity ♫

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s only one Bill Belichick, folks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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