Tag Archives: Tom Brady

NFL 2017 Inc.

No matter where you fall on the side of excitement over football this year two things are for certain:

  1. It has waned for everyone thanks to the issues of long term effects and all the information being fed to parents about it.
  2. Football still remains far and away the most popular sport in America.

The fact that its still a ratings bonanza for every network means it still gets to swing its dick in every room its in.  So when Roger Goodell gets to play cop and supersede the investigation done by law enforcement and hand a six game punishment to Ezekiel Elliiot, which got reversed by a federal judge on Friday, a mere 24 hours before the Cowboys and Giants were set to open the season against each other.

Of course in a weird twist, he was eligible to play in Sunday’s game but that’s neither here nor there.

The NFL has gifted its Commissioner with a brand new contract extension but i wonder if Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft, two of the most powerful owners are waking up this morning exactly thrilled with the Commissioner’s powers.  He suspended Tom Brady four games for his dubious role in DeflateGate, which while it thrilled me as a Giants fan, always seemed like payback for the Patriots constantly getting themselves into these investigations after the Commissioner slapped them on the wrist for Spygate and told them “don’t do that again”.

But the NFL isn’t suffering because Roger Gooddell sucks as a Commissioner.  Or because of a looming (in 2021 no less) labor strike that’s almost guaranteed to happen.  Oh and once the new TV contracts come in the owners may be working off numbers that the players may not necessarily like.

The NFL is suffering because its retired players are and its current personnel are taking notice.  Consider that the average NFL player’s career lasts four years.  Most will never take home the millions that playing in a major professional sports league promise, but all will take home scar tissue created by sometimes almost a decade spent sustaining car crash like hits to the head and body.

Consider players like 23-year-old Su’a Cravens from the Washington Redskins who will spend the next month contemplating retirement.  Or the slew of 20-somethings who have already decided to retire early before the damage becomes permanent and affects their post-football life.

The NFL’s contract structure guarantees its players very little and gives ownership outs once the player is no longer fit to compete.  It seems unfair to ask players to continue risking its body for an opportunity that isn’t guaranteed but that’s how the NFL has always been and it doesn’t seem like it will change despite what Odell Beckham will try.  It remains to be seen what change the NFLPA can affect in the next labor negotiations but many things will be on its mind, namely the safety of its constituent base.  If not for a bigger share of the profits to then be put into a retirement fund, but at the very least to reduce the Commissioner’s power as its only legislative body dispensing his justice.

The best theory I heard about Gooddell’s recent run of challenging his sport’s best players is to do the bidding of the owners (his bosses) to undermine the players.  If you reduce them to interchangeable parts and tell everyone that nobody is special then you can negotiate from that position.  That’s where the biggest challenge will be.  It will be interesting nonetheless.

But it may blind them from the bigger issue which is to reduce the number of games (i’m looking at you preseason) that puts its best stars in dangerous spots in meaningless situations.

Moving on, I’m going to preview the season by doing my first power rankings in four tiers: Tier IV- No shot, Tier III- long shot, Tier II- raised eyebrow, Tier I- contender.

I have my picks for week 1 in the next column- enjoy

TIER IV- NO SHOT

32. New York Jets-
Odds to win Super Bowl: 1000-to-1

Outlook: Call this season what you will but the Jets are like that Delta jet that decided to race Hurricane Irma.  Sounds dumb but you have a duty to your customers.  The Jets should consider forfeiting the season but have a duty to their customers to show up physically for 16 games but every move they made this offseason from trading Sheldon Richardson to releasing Brandon Marshall was done with the future in mind.  Much of the Jet fanbase will be watching college football more intently than they do any of their games but consider this.  The defense is decent, but with a paper thin offense it will be tough to watch.  The Jets will need another season or two, after this to fully rebuild itself from this doldrum.  Not like the owner will be around to enforce any of this anyway.

31. Buffalo Bills-
Odds to win Super Bowl: 200-to-1

Outlook: The Sean McDermott led Bills made a conscious decision to remove a bunch of its former young stars via trades or letting them walk out of the complex (mostly to New England) to greener pastures.  What it did is set them up for a bountiful future.  What the Bills will do this year is play decent up front on both sides and figure out if Tyrod Taylor has any trade value.  They long ago wrote him off as a starting NFL QB and will hope to recoup some value by the trade deadline (my guess) to get more picks in the event that a team that fancies itself a playoff contender will need a competent QB.  At the very least they have a ton of picks to fall back on while the season plays itself out in Western New York.

30. Cleveland Browns-
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: The only reason i have them ahead of the Bills is because their rebuild is in the second phase.  The Harvard bred, forward thinking front office of the Browns has built the team in a very old school way.  They handed out a ton of money to help build one of the better offensive lines and are using the draft to build its defense.  Myles Garrett looks like a generational talent at the defensive end position and the position-less Jabrill Peppers will likely line up in the backend and use his athleticism to affect the deep pass accuracy of his opponents.  But the Browns are betting they have hit on QB already by naming third round draft pick DeShone Kizer as their starting QB.  Is it truly hard to think that a team with a stout offensive line and a rookie QB can make some noise this season?  Where have i seen that before?

29. Chicago Bears
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: This seems like a good time to mention that the John Fox tenure at Chicago is about to come to an end.  That’s the deciding factor in why I put them behind the San Francisco 49ers.  The Bears have a bad front office but have the pieces that should make them attractive to any coach-GM candidate.  The key to this season will be when Mitchell Trubisky becomes the starting QB and the city of Chicago will be on edge.  The future of GM Ryan Pace will be on the line.  If he shows any kind of promise it may be enough to keep him on the job but if this season ends as disastrously he may be on a one way ticket out.

28. San Francisco 49ers
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: We can all agree that Jed York is a bad owner and his decision to pick Trent Baalke over Jim Harbaugh likely set his franchise back.  But now he’s armed a GM with no experience and a head coach with zero prior experience.  While every decision will be viewed from that perspective, I liked their draft, and their steadfast nature to select the best player available.  That’s how every rebuilding team should approach the draft.  Kyle Shanahan has decent pieces on offense to make them a threat to any team that thinks they can sleep walk to a win.  It makes them intriguing for the season and should help the Niners start moving forward.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook:  Even with dictator Coughlin manning the front office rather than the sideline expect the team to be fashioned in his image.  An imposing defense and hopes that the run game keeps the offense on the field long enough to give the defense rest and makes the defense play closer to the line so Blake Bortles can throw it deep to Allen Robinson.  While I think that seems unlikely, they will make betting against them tough.  MY prediction is that Leonard Fournette is the least likeliest to succeed in the NFL.

26. Miami Dolphins
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: Jay Cutler.  Every Bears fan, and every Denver Broncos fan know what this means.  Cutler is a nightmare to predict and the fact that many predict him to have his most productive year now that he’s reunited with former OC Adam Gase is beyond foolish.  What makes people think that Jay Cutler will be better than he was in his other stops in the NFL?  What makes people think Jay Ajayi is a top 10 back in the NFL?  His overall stats were solid but consider that outside of 3 games (1 against Pittsburgh, and 2 against Buffalo) where he had nearly half his year’s output, he had only one other 100 yard game.  I just don’t think this team will be the main deterrent to New England that some think.

25. Washington Redskins
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: the offseason was mired in a standoff with QB Kirk Cousins who may already have one foot in San Francisco.  If that happens, the Redskins will be left to head into next season without a QB of the future and outside of a drafting slot to get one of the top QB’s expected to enter next year’s draft.  But there will be enticing options and Jay Gruden has shown that he can turn a late round draft pick into a good QB.  Kirk Cousins is in the Alex Smith memorial hall of fame of guys who seem to lead their teams to respectability at the least while not scaring any defense or opposing fan base.  That Week 17 game where the Redskins had everything to play for and the Giants had nothing to play for shows you exactly who Kirk Cousins is: he can get you to the door, he doesn’t have the ability to walk through.

TIER III: Long Shot

24. Los Angeles Rams
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: I like them even without Uncle Wade having his best toy to play with heading into Week 1 at the least in Aaron Donald.  But regardless, the Rams should be improved with Wade’s aggressive scheme.  Hiring a QB-guru-centric coach is the right way to go but getting a home crowd advantage may prove difficult in a town that has rarely shown an interest in football before.  Consider the improvement in the defense and a safer approach to Jared Goff’s development and the addition of Sammy Watkins as steps in the right direction.

23. Detroit Lions
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook: The Lions paid Matthew Stafford on a season where he improved his efficiency and helped his team to an above average record in close games.  The Lions were 8-4 in one possession games.  Make them even .500 and the division race isn’t even close.  The Lions will hope that games don’t end up that close by upgrading the offensive line but their defense remains suspect and that’s going to be too much to overcome.

22. Indianapolis Colts
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook:  Scott Tolzien is starting week 1.  Which means all of the proclamations of Andrew Luck’s health improving were all fluff.  You have to worry about the organization’s franchise guy if the reports of him missing a significant portion of the season are true.  Not when Tennessee has a chance to be legit contenders this year.  Let’s see.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100-to-1

Outlook:  The Ringer’s Robert Mays put it best: the Bengals don’t do anything particularly well.  They are just solid on both fronts.  Losing their first round pick for a few games will hurt Andy Dalton but then Andy Dalton wasn’t likely to lead the Bengals to anywhere but 8-8.  Dalton and the Bengals need to break up for both their own good.

20. Denver Broncos
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40-to-1

Outlook:  The Broncos ultimately won the Brock Ostweiler deal even if they don’t have much to show for it.  Their defense will remain elite, but their offense won’t be unless Jamaal Charles returns to Chiefs form.  The Broncos play the style of one cut line play that fits what Charles can do but without his elite burst it may be a lot of 2nd and 8’s in the Broncos future.

19. Baltimore Ravens
Odds to win Super Bowl: 50-to-1

Outlook: This is one of two teams I’m leaving out of the contender talk but I can see a scenario in which they challenge for the division crown.  I love their defense and John Harbaugh coaches the team well.  Joe Flacco will have a decent set of weapons (none inspiring enough to make me consider them legit contenders) but ultimately won’t prove enough to overthrow the Steelers from taking the division.

18. Houston Texans
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40-to-1

Outlook:  Ton of positive momentum stemming from JJ Watt’s incredible work as humanitarian/fundraiser stemming from Hurricane Harvey’s relief efforts.  But while this defense will remain elite, consider the offense’s ceiling to depend on when they feel comfortable enough to run Deshaun Watson out there.  He will take some lumps this season but this is about the future and the quicker Bill O’Brien realizes it, taking a step back, to potentially take a few steps forward, the better off the Texans will be for the future.

17. New Orleans Saints
Odds to win Super Bowl: 25-to-1

Outlook: These are ridiculous odds based solely out of some gumbo-eating handicapper.  There is nothing the Saints did this offseason that make them 25-to-1 odds on favorites to win the Super Bowl.  Nothing.  Drew Brees will do his thing on offense but losing Brandin Cooks was bad but necessary.  Not getting Malcolm Butler was a curious decision in that trade but a first rounder on the OL was another curious decision.   This is a big year for the Mickey Loomis/Sean Payton team.  If this season turns bad, expect major changes in the Bayou.

TIER II: RAISED EYEBROWS

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40-to-1

Outlook:  I’m taking points off for being on Hard Knocks.  Jameis has all the weapons on offense to realize his true potential.  This is the year we find out if he can overcome his mental mistakes.  There’s just too many moments where we heard Dirk Koetter scold him for making a poor decision.  He takes way too many chances.  This team is good enough to be 12-4 this year but it will all depend on how many times Dirk Koetter has to scold Winston.

15. Los Angeles Chargers
Odds to win Super Bowl: 60-to-1

Outlook:  Here’s a dark horse candidate to legitemately surprise people.  There’s been too many times this team has been snakebitten for one year not to go their way.  Rivers has a very good complement of weapons to put up his usual stats and the defense has an absolute stud in Joey Bosa who will terrorize opposing QB’s alongside Melvin Ingram.  Expect this team to be the talk of LA and the one difficult ticket in their 30,000 seat stadium.

14. Arizona Cardinals
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40-to-1

Outlook:  If everything about Bruce Arians wanting to chuck it deep more is true, expect Carson Palmer to have a really good year.  David Johnson is enough to scare defenses that they CAN be aggressive deep because of the many ways that he threatens a defense.  Expect the Cards to be terrific and Hasaan Reddick to have the best year from any defensive player from this draft.

13. Carolina Panthers
Odds to win Super Bowl: 30-to-1

Outlook:  The great white hope Chrisian McCaffrey will be a test in where the RB position is headed.  Teams are now looking for the next David Johnson and the Panthers may feel like they have their guy in McCaffrey who will line up in multiple ways.  Keeping him on a pitch count will help keep Jonathan Stewart AND Cam Newton healthy.  I would not be shocked by a F U year from Cam and the Panthers to put them back in the discussion as among the league’s best.

12. Tennessee Titans
Odds to win Super Bowl: 20-to-1

Outlook:  The trendy AFC contender pick.  Mariota still seems like a gimmick QB to me and for me he’s the one guy that can drive this ship to be champions or not.  They will win the South but I have my reservations in putting my faith in a gimmick QB and a coach named Mularkey.

11. Minnesota Vikings
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40-to-1

Outlook: Ton of Super Bowl talk with a defense ready to contend but I still don’t see them being better than the Packers.  Do you?  Regardless, Sam Bradford is on injury alert for me.  His stats were misleading last year as he led the league in accuracy but his yards per attempt were the lowest out of all QB’s who started atlas 15 games.  The Vikings need Bradford to take a step forward.  It might be too much as he’s now in journeyman phase of his career.

10. Philadelphia Eagles
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40-to-1

Outlook:  Here’s the other team that could potentially upset the natural order of things in the division. There’s a clear path forward for this team.  They improved a receiving corps that hindered QB Carson Wentz’ development.  Even a slight improvement by Alshon Jeffrey and co will make the Eagles a looming threat to both the Giants and Cowboys.  I can see them being no less than 3rd in this division and can easily see them playing important games in late December for playoff positioning.

9. Kansas City Chiefs
Odds to win Super Bowl: 25-to-1

Outlook: Double check those odds after a decisive Week 1 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots where it looked like they cloned dynamic offensive talent Tyreek Hill in Kareem Hunt, their rookie RB who had the best debut fantasy performance by a rookie running back in history.  I still don’t trust Alex Smith to lead an NFL franchise to the promised land.  With Eric Berry landing on IR with a ruptured achilles the back end of KC’s defense takes a huge blow given how many athletic tight ends there are in the league.  Berry was an equalizer far too few teams in the NFL have.

TIER I: The Contenders

8. Dallas Cowboys
Odds to win Super Bowl: 12-to-1

Outlook: Someone will have to explain the Cowboys rosy outlook given the turnover they had on defense.  I get what they are doing on defense, but have they really improved?  Wasn’t last year the high watermark for Dak’s efficiency?  Isn’t losing two of their offensive line starters going to cost them? They can’t possibly better thant hey were last year when they went 13-3 right?  Am i clouded by my Giants fan bias?

7. New York Giants
Odds to win Super Bowl: 12-to-1

Outlook: The offensive line still makes me uneasy.  But the defense only gets better with continuity and adding a big hulking receiver in Brandon Marshall makes them better in the red zone.  A lot of guys played beyond expectation last year and expecting that kind of projection to continue would be unrealistic.  But I think this offense plays better and my spidey-senses are tingling about this season.

6. Oakland Raiders
Odds to win Super Bowl: 8-to-1

Outlook: I don’t get this line.  If there’s one team that can have all the goodwill undone from the previous year, its this team.  I don’t buy the Marshawn Lynch addition as a reason to push them over the top but a good QB like Derek Carr can offset a lot.  Ask the Giants from last year.  I think Carr is a top 8 QB in the NFL.  But I don’t buy this team as a legit Super Bowl threat.  I’m just not willing to bet that they take a huge fall from last year but the first four games will be telling.

5. Atlanta Falcons
Odds to win Super Bowl: 16-to-1

Outlook: There’s got to be a Super Bowl hangover.  You don’t lose that game, THAT WAY and come back like nothing ever happened.  Matt Ryan is in a contract year and seeing what QB’s are making must have him salivating.  Steve Sarkisian, new OC for the Falcons won’t shy away from taking chances and that’s exactly the mindset you need after losing the Super Bowl for, taking chances.  Kudos to coach Dan Quinn for wanting to maintain that identity despite what the naysayers will say.  Expect a YUUUUGE year from Julio Jones.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Odds to win Super Bowl: 10-to-1

Outlook: If there’s a team that can dethrone the Patriots its this team.  If the Chiefs showed that you can play man-defense and the Pats are really going to be that thin on defense, the Steelers may have the offense to beat the Pats even in Foxboro.  But for the Steelers to have any chance in January, they better be hosting the Patriots.  Even then it may not matter given their recent history.

3. Green Bay Packers
Odds to win Super Bowl: 8-to-1

Outlook: Sunday’s season opener between the Seahawks and Packers will legitimately have a chance to decide who hosts who in the NFC championship game so writing off Week one won’t be easy for the loser of this game.  The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and a bevy of weapons on offense against that spectacular defense.  I still think the Seahawks are a better team overall and John Schneider made sure of that with the slew of trades he made to fortify this team’s depth.  Sunday afternoon should be eye opening.

2. Seattle Seahawks
Odds to win Super Bowl: 8-to-1

Outlook: The Seahawks doubled down on their strengths and moved the needle slightly on offense which may have given Russell Wilson another half second to play with which may be enough.  The responsibility of keeping Wilson upright falls on a very shaky O-line which had two more starters go down with season ending injuries but expect Wilson to play almost MVP-like to lead the team to the Superbowl in a rematch against…

1, New England Patriots
Odds to Win Super Bowl: 11-to-4

Outlook: We’ve been down the road before where early in the season Tom Brady doesn’t look like himself and his demise is prematurely being discussed because…ratings.  But make no mistake, this team beefed up on offense and I trust Bill Belichieck to get his team ready on defense every week.  Against the Chiefs the Pats seemed to play against their natural instinct to be aggressive and made some uncharacteristic mistakes which swung the game in KC’s favor.  Don’t expect those mistakes to continue.  Brady is mad.  And when Brady is mad, that usually means good things for the Patriots and bad things for the rest of the league

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The Patriots way of doing things

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England PatriotsThe Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl.  Again.  For the seventh time in 16 seasons, the combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are going to be playing in the final game of the NFL season for the right to be the best QB-Coach tandem in history.

It got me to thinking about the teams I root for as a fan and how unlike they are.  I’ve often wondered about the Patriots dynasty and I came up with a few key areas that the Patriots excel in that other teams may not pay much attention to and I figured I may as well post this in hopes that someday an executive of one of the teams i root for will accidentally end up on this site and read this and listen.  And if you did end up here, don’t mind how snotty that last sentence sounded.

  1. The Patriots treat EVERY player the same–  I read a piece by MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas that details why the Patriots are who they are.  Its one story after the other from people who have been in the Patriots organization who have seen and witnessed Bill Belichick riding Tom Brady in practice, in the film room and everywhere else.  The moral of the story: if Tom Brady can be yelled at, you can too.  This is a great way to show the rest of the room that nobody is saved embarrassment.  If you missed a play, a tackle, a receiver, you’re going to hear about it and he doesn’t care what supermodel you date!
  2. Everyone is expendable if you don’t fit the plan– Jamie Collins was being hailed as one of the most athletic LB’s in the game a week before the Patriots decided to shock the football world and trade him.  But its just another example of the Patriots constantly evaluating themselves.  In the middle of a 14-2 campaign, its practically unheard of to ship out a starting linebacker for a draft pick but that’s exactly what Belichick did.  Why?  He was freestyling in coverage too much and not following the game plan.  Ask Lawyer Milloy who was cut one week before the season.  Milloy had started 106 games since his rookie year in 1996 and led the team in tackles the year they won the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 2001 but coming off a down year statistically, the Patriots tried to restructure his contract.  When he refused, the Patriots released him sending a message to the team and the league that the Patriots would not be held hostage by a player because of salary reasons.  How about trading Richard Seymour in the middle of his prime to the Raiders?  Or trading Mike Vrabel, a team leader because his best years were behind him but still getting value in return.  How about letting the most clutch postseason kicker of all time go because he wanted more money and the Patriots didn’t feel the kicker deserved more money?  Safe to say if Belichick doesn’t value you anymore he won’t hesitate to move you for future considerations.
  3. The Patriots believe the culture they preach-  It starts with the owner and continues with the coach and the QB.  The three most important heads of the Patriot institution believe in the absoluteness of the Patriot way and it has paid off.  Nevermind the years Brady was left without quality receivers because the Pats refused to pay top dollar for any free agent or the fact that he refused to pay his own free agents if he thought the price was too exorbitant.  Tom Brady has been underpaid his entire career and that’s not for any other reason than that’s what he’s asked to do and sacrifice for the sake of the team.  If you aren’t willing to sacrifice for the team, forget about being on it.
  4. The organization has a plan and finds players to fit that plan, even if it means reinventing itself- The Patriots have found themselves on the cutting edge of defense and offense.  They went after athletic tight ends in the 2010 draft, when they picked Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and employed them in various ways in order to gain a physical advantage.  When injuries befell the secondary, Belichick had Troy Brown play corner during the season.  Belichick knows how to game plan but is a terrific evaluator of talent.  For years he’s played 3-4 and 4-3.  He’s had run first offenses and now pass first offenses.  He’s done everything to stay ahead of the competition even if they weren’t fair.  But he does it because he wants to win and has an insatiable competitive drive.
  5. The Patriots have seen it all before- No team seems ready for the final minutes of games than the Patriots because they pay attention to every tiny detail.  Preparation is the key to success- an old proverb that only the wise pay attention to.  The Pats execution in the waning minutes of halves and games are a testament to how they are coached up to respond in these situations.  You can tell the teams that are prepared for the two minute drills and those who aren’t.  The Patriots seemingly always get them right even if the results aren’t there.  Why?  Because Belichick has been preparing for every single scenario since he began coaching and he teaches his team to do so as well.  Whatever the drill, the Patriots are ready.

 

These may seem like very simple things but its very difficult for other organizations to mirror them because they aren’t built with firm beliefs and ideas as the Patriots are.  They believe in something and go about operating under that truth-whether you agree with them or not.  These 5 examples aren’t meant to encompass every reason why the Patriots are successful, but it is meant to be a starting point, a manual to teams who are trying to get better.  Who better to follow than the team going to yet another super bowl after making yet another conference championship game and after winning yet another division.  It all seems easy, but that’s because the Patriots way makes it look easy.

 

 

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Headlines 1/14/13

After I posted an article about how bland the Divisional Round of the Playoffs usually are and writing a lengthy article about maybe one or two games you should be watching, the Divisional Round of the playoffs went and shut me up good.  We’ll get to Saturday’s games at some point today, but for now, its the Atlanta Falcons hosting the San Francisco 49ers after they squeaked by the Seattle Seahawks yesterday 30-28.  Nick Eaton of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that the future is bright for Seattle despite the loss thanks to the play and (the hopeful) continued progression of rookie QB Russell Wilson.  Meanwhile, Nick Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that the Falcons decided to take every single fan on a rollercoaster ride of emotions on Sunday without any pause to give fans rest, but they finally did it.

In Beantown, Tom Brady and the Patriots once again dominated the Houston Texans and won 41-28 thanks to some unlikely heroes for the Pats, namely Shane Vereen.  Opportunity knocked and Shane Vereen, aka next man up, answered the call for the Pats writes Michael Whitmer of Boston.com.  Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle writes that the Texans will have a ton of what ifs as they dissect this season.  In other news, JJ Watt said its customary, home or away, for him to spit on the field and wipe the spit with his feet.  It just so happened that his spit landed on the Pats logo which caused a pregame stir. Jackie Mac of ESPNBoston wrote that perhaps that Monday Night win wasn’t a fluke, and the Pats are just that much better than the Texans.  There was bad news for Pats fans, they will be without superstar TE Rob Gronkowski for the remainder of the playoffs thanks to him reinjuring his forearm and this time breaking it.  Now comes the fairy tale that is the Ray Lewis thank you tour coming into town.

I’m not going to really delve that deep into the Pats/Texans game because I, and from the looks of it, most NFL fans knew what the result was going to be.  When the Texans Daneal Manning ran the opening kickoff deep into Patriots territory, I thought for a brief moment that maybe this day would be different, but that was quickly erased from my mind when the Patriots held the Texans to 3 points.  You can’t settle for three points playing against Tom Brady when you get that deep.  You have to convert and you have to score and the Texans just couldn’t do it and that told you all you needed to know.  When the Pats went up 7-3 and then 10-3, it felt like 35-3 and you just never got the sense that Matt Schaub was going to lead the Texans back.  The Texans just don’t have that many offensive weapons.  Yes, their defense was missing a few key pieces but this league is about match ups and the Patriots are just a terrible match up for the Texans.  Their defense got enough initial pressure but it was based on blitzing and against Tom Brady you can’t send an extra defender on the blitz because he’s the best QB at reading coverage and finding the one on one or one on none match ups and exploiting them.  The stats tell you the story.  He gets better when the blitz and pressure are put on him.  You have to get pressure from the front four and the Pats offensive line has been doing a brilliant job of getting that pressure on.  

The Ravens will be more of a challenge thanks to the talents of Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis being there at LB.  But according to ESPN Stats and info, Tom Brady has the quickest release in all of the NFL at 3 seconds.  The key for the Ravens will be to get pressure from the front four and hope that coverage holds up long enough to keep them honest.  The Pats being without Rob Gronkowski will help the Ravens but as the Texans found out, the Pats have more secret weapons stashed away for them to use and they know how to use it.

I’m torn in the other game about what to say.  On the one hand, yes Seattle has nothing to be ashamed of.  They played their butts off, and they almost won the game.  But how can you ignore all the mistakes they made in the first half?  That first half put them in such a terrible spot going into the second half that if they had just played a bit better, they would’ve won.  Had they taken the three points in the first quarter, they would’ve won.  Had Wilson just thrown the ball away and left a few seconds on the clock and kicked another FG, they would’ve won the game.  Thats six points they gave up due to stupid playcalling (by rule you always take the points on the road no matter what) and by terrible clock management (had no timeouts to get the FG team out and Wilson took the sack).  That second half was enough to convince me that Seattle is the better team of the two, but the first half shows how much work they have to do.  Down 14-0 against the Redskins and 20-0 and then 27-7 against the Falcons put the Seahawks in a bind but they showed mental toughness and resiliency, two huge attributes to have during this time of year, that show that next year they won’t come as a surprise to anyone and there are lessons to grasp at here.

If I’m the Niners, I watched that second half and started licking my chops.  The intermediate areas were open all day for Wilson and he wisely took what the defense gave him.  There’s no doubt that they are wiping the sweat off their brow because going against the Seahawks may have been a tougher task but they will gladly take the away game against the Falcons over a home game against their division rivals.  The Seahawks know the Niners and would’ve easily been a tougher match up but the way Colin Kaepernick played Saturday, it may not have mattered who played against the Niners on Sunday.  

Yes Matt Ryan exercised demons on Sunday, but not before making Falcons fans sweat.  There was a sequence in that game where you saw all the confidence flushed from his face and him saying over and over again in his head “this is not happening.  Not again.”  I felt bad, but then he came with :31 seconds left and threw two beautiful passes to set up Matt Bryant’s game winning field goal.  I hope all the head coaches who think icing the kicker is a solid strategy watched Sunday as Matt Bryant shanked the first attempt.  I’ve never been a fan of the icing the kicker strategy as it is used in the NFL because making a kicker think about it is fine, but you call the timeout well before he gets to attempt a practice field goal.  You’re giving the guy a mulligan.  If you want him to think about the field goal then as soon as it seems like the team is lining up for a FG attempt you call the timeout.  Let him sit and stew about it and give him one shot at trying to make it.  That’s the best strategy and I hope that we end this silly strategy of icing the kicker as he’s taking his first shot at it.  But making the guy kick a pseudo practice FG is stupid and basically negates anything you were trying to accomplish in the first place.  Either you give the guy confidence that he will hit it, or you give the guy a better understanding of what not to do when attempting it for real.  

The Knicks ended their three game slide by defeating the New Orleans Hornets 100-87 Sunday thanks to 27 points from Carmelo Anthony.  Next up is a trip to London to take on a good young Pistons team.  That may be what the doctor ordered according to Jared Swerling of ESPNNY.com.  Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News writes that the Knicks feasted on a young Anthony Davis who didn’t do anything spectacular on Sunday.  Postgame was fun thanks to Amare’s revelation that he’s been on a vegan diet for the last three months and Carmelo Anthony was fasting for fifteen days. Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that the Knicks were calling this a must win game for the and for several stretches, they played like it.

So Carmelo has been fasting for fifteen days huh?  Is it coincidental that he and the Knicks would get off to such slow starts or are there other reasons?  Who knows, but atleast we have another theory now to go with because I was lost.  Yes, the Knicks were playing some of the better defensive teams in the NBA in Chicago and Indiana and Boston this week, bu still, their offense seemed to play every bit the age Knicks fans were afraid they would wind up playing.  I said a few days ago that the Knicks are somewhere between the 18-5 team that shot out of the gate to begin the season and the team that struggled these last three games.  They weren’t as bad as they showed in Indiana, but they may not be as good as they showed in their early season win streak.  Look, the Knicks have a ton of talent and with Iman Shumpert’s return (he’s set to make his season debut against the Pistons on Thursday), I’m sure the Knicks will look better.  But then again, the Knicks are also hoping to get Rasheed Wallace back and Marcus Camby back and Raymond Felton back, so the never ending line of excuses for why the Knicks are playing so poorly won’t end with a Melo fast.  They aren’t at full strength.  I’m not going to judge the Knicks until they are whole, but at what point will they be whole again?  With this team, and its age, they are a fragile bunch.  Camby seems to get injured a ton and there’s no real timetable for Wallace’s return unless a day to day gives fans an exact timing on the healing process.  They are an old team with tons of veteran guidance but if they don’t have them playing what’s the use?

I’m looking forward to this road trip especially playing against the Pistons who are figuring things out as of late.  Their record doesn’t reflect the young talent they have that’s starting to flourish.  Greg Monroe is a very good center.  Andre Drummond is a rebounding machine and has tons of untapped potential as a finisher in this league.  Brandon Knight can turn into a very good point guard though I think his ceiling is limited.  The Pistons won’t be a lay up win for the Knicks and so they will have to take this next game seriously and win.  Getting Shumpert back will be helpful but the Knicks constantly having to work guys back into the rotation is tough to gain any kind of consistent play.  The Knicks will play better once they have everyone healthy and whole and will be able to wear teams out without wearing their own team out.  Jason Kidd has played 30 minutes or more in 10 of their last 14 games.  That kind of heavy workload consistently does not bode well for the elder statesman.  Here’s hoping that Felton gets back sooner and Shump can hold down the fort as he’s recovering as well.  

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Daily Rounds 12/19/2011

After being away for two days, I come back to you to bring you Tebow down to earth, the Jets and Giants limping into their showdown on Christmas Eve.  The Baron Davis experiment.  And some fun links to get you through yet another Monday.  ENJOY!

On a day where neither team could ill afford a let down game, BOTH New York area football teams gave their respective fan bases the kind of game that can come back to haunt

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them in their quest to make the playoffs.  The Giants lost at home to the Redskins 23-10 while the Jets got blown out in Philly 45-19.  Gary Meyers said yesterday’s performance was indicative of so many Tom Coughlin teams.  They face the indignity of elimination at the hands of the Jets if they win and the Cowboys beat the Eaglehan city-wide pride.  If that’s not enough for you, in yesterday’s post game press conference Antrell Rolle called out his teammates who didn’t partake in practice during the week and Tuck answered by saying “its easy when you do it with another man’s body”.  

Here it is for Giant fans.  Win the next two games and there’s no discussion.  The Giants will win the division.  Lose next week and then beat the Cowboys and hope the Eagles lose one of two and they win the division.  EITHER WAY, that week 17 matchup comes up to be huge.  I dont know what to say about yesterday’s effort by either team but I will say this.  I’ve never been a fan of Antrell Rolle and the microphone together, but yesterday he said something that needed to be said.

I get that Justin Tuck is hurt and if he is.  If he’s really hurt, then he needs to sit out some games.  Tuck has shown me NOTHING through the last six games that he’s played that would lead me to believe he has much of anything in the tank and that’s probably due to his neck stinger.  He’s been called out all year by former teammates and now by current ones.  That has to be troubling to the defensive captain and frankly, I dont care.  Tuck has been sensitive and sissy like when it comes to addressing concerns regarding his health.  Look, I’m not a medical expert but if he’s really hurt then he needs to be handled that way.  He needs to sit out and not take up space.  He’s a valuable member of the defense but NOT at 60% which it looks like he’s playing.  Offensive linemen are handling him on one on one situations and yesterday’s game he was being tossed aside like a rag doll and the Giants were not getting any kind of pressure.  No Osi, and virtually no Tuck which leaves ONLY JPP as the real threat for the defense and he again was the only guy who seemed to play like he cared.

Rolle’s astute observation aside, this coverage unit is a liability at this point.  They were horrendous in tackling as well.  Prince Amukamara fell for virtually every single move that any receiver he was facing was throwing at him.  The kid will get better, but he was being burned at every available turn and deserved the half time benching knowing that this was basically a game they HAD to have.

IF the Giants and Jets won yesterday, Saturday’s game may not have meant as much.  The Giants have had plenty of games like that where they could’ve won.  They were on their way to victories over Seattle, the Niners and the Eagles.  Three wins that IF they had back, they could’ve clinched the division by last Sunday.  But the Giants have not played a full game where all three facets of the team have come together.

Speaking of three facets of the team not coming together, the Jets got beat up and down by the Eagles who by the way aren’t done in the NFC East race either.  SHOULD they win out and all three teams wind up with an 8-8 record, yes it will be the Eagles winning the division by virtue of a better divisional record and making all the experts look like geniuses.  Thankfully there is a very remote chance of that happening but yes, that CAN happen.  So don’t rule it out completely.  In fact, I think that’s probably the most likely scenario given how the Eagles absolutely HANDLED the Cowboys in their first meeting and how the Eagles have looked in the past two weeks: you know like the dominant team everyone expected them to be.  Either way the biggest take away from this game for the Jets: they had better fix the secondary immediately.  I mean the third level where the safeties are.  Brodney Poole is a liability in coverage and they have NOBODY there to match up with the tight end.  David Harris doesn’t have the speed and Bart Scott has quietly had one of the worst seasons of his career.  The Jets will have to figure that out quickly.  They are now in a tie for the Wild Card.  The Jets control their fate.  Win out and they are in.

All in for Saturday.  It will be interesting to see how this goes.

In the other major game yesterday, the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos were brought down to earth by competition that they were not better than yesterday.  The Patriots, coupled with the Jets loss, also clinched the AFC East crown for the 9th time in 11 years.  What happened?  Greg Bedard says that the defense, which sunk to depths they didn’t know existed, changed the course of the game.  Dan Shaughnessy said that it was just routine for these AFC assassins.  Tebow time didn’t get a chance to start up thanks to a few costly turnovers says Don Banks of SI.com.  Judy Batista of the New York Times said that yesterday restored order to conventional wisdom that says that Tim Tebow and the Broncos can’t be successful.  Woody Paigesaid that despite the luck that seemed to hover over the Broncos for the last two months wasn’t there at Mile High, the Broncos still received help thanks to a poor showing by the Raiders who lost a lead and the game against the Lions.  Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post hit the nail right in the head when he said

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“while Tebow has earned the right to operate this team in 2012, the offense must evolve to the point where Denver can play more than one way.”  Finally, Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports said it best: Tim Tebow learned a valuable lesson at the hands of the master.  

Look, nobody’s a bigger fan of this guy than me.  As a football fan I’ve never seen anything like Tim Tebow.  I think that goes for everybody else.  But I saw this coming a mile away.  But those who want to point to Tim Tebow as the reason they lost may want to think again.  Yes, this showed that Tim Tebow can NOT keep up with a high flying offense.  This showed that unless they work out his throwing motion and develop him more as a pure pocket passer, the Broncos won’t be able to sustain good performances against good teams.  But let’s forget all that for a minute.

In a span of 9 offensive plays, the Broncos fumbled three times.  Twice they were recovered by the Patriots and they scored 10 points off those turnovers.  One of the fumbles also resulted in a three and out which wound up being a field goal.  That’s thirteen points that the Broncos GAVE the Patriots.  Take those points away, and its 16-14 heading into the half.  Then you put that seven on the board from the third, the Patriots are up 21-16 heading into the fourth quarter.  Imagine that game going into the fourth quarter with Tebow just a touchdown away from winning it.  You have to entertain the possibility because when the team is close, they believe.  They have unending faith.  That’s what I’ve seen from the Broncos in those fourth quarters.  They have undying faith that they will win the game and so that quarter could’ve gone either way.  If the Patriots had gained the momentum and not put that 20 spot in the second quarter, the Broncos and Patriots go into that fourth and it turns into a different game.  Who knows, the Patriots may have won but yesterday was not a shoot out.  No.  Yesterday was not about Tom Brady and the Patriots scoring more points than the Broncos by just sheer machine like efficiency.  No, it was the Broncos giving them opportunities deep in their own territory and now giving the offense a chance by keeping it close.

Most teams in the NFL won’t do that and can’t recover from that.  And that in the end is the point folks.  Let’s start looking at this team from a reasonable point of view.  Let’s not differentiate them and put them in a different class.  That they are not.  The premise behind that is wrong and is what gives talk show heads so much to talk about.  Yes, everybody is different in their own special way.  But Tebow should not get more credit for running this unconventional (by pro-standards) offense anymore than Tom Brady gets overvalued in my estimation for the Patriots Super Bowl victories.  Yes, he won them but let’s be real, he never led touchdown drives to win games, he led drives that ended up in field goals and Adam Viniatieri kicked the Patriots into history.

The fact is, this is JUST another NFL quarterback.  He’s JUST another second year QB.  And that’s how he should be evaluated.  Free from the emotion of what he represents.  He’s a great story but every story has an end.  Was yesterday the end?  I dont know.  Tebow has proven that he can answer the critics and the critics have no answers for the way he seemingly pulls games out.  No one can dispute ths 7-1 record but most want to dispute the fact that he is a viable NFL Quarterback.  But they are looking at him from the narrow minded view point of traditional drop back passers like Tom Brady.  And that’s how they should be.  There is no comparative player in this generation.  Even the Fran Tarkentons weren’t built like Tebow.  No way could Fran ever have pulled off that 9 yard TD run that Tebow pulled off in the first quarter.  But if the Broncos ever needed a wake up call from this hallucinogen that the Tebow saga has had them on, this was it.

Brady was simple.  Brady was precise.  Brady was everything we expected.  He was probably the anti-Christ in this game but he was the anti-dote for the Broncos.  They need to wake up from this dream that everyone has been swept up in.  Yes he’s a great player but there’s work to be done and now most are beginning to see it.  There’s a game against Buffalo next week IN Buffalo that will surely have people ranting and raving about him again.  The Bills have packed up and gone home and then they finish off the season against the Chiefs.  Those perfect season ruining Chiefs.  They are in the drivers seat thanks to the Lions beating the Raiders in comeback fashion.  The Broncos need only win out and then its the playoffs and if Tebow has proven ANYTHING is possible.

But yesterday was their first taste of something real.  Every week seemed to have something set up so that they would be victorious.  The Bears minus Cutler and Forte.  The Vikings minus Adrian Peterson. The Jets minus an offense and oxygen to the head on that final play.  The Broncos had victories seemingly served up and give them credit, they accepted the hand outs and rode the wave.  But anyone who didn’t see yesterday’s game coming was drinking heavily from the communion wine.  Tom Brady was not going to let Tebow have the crown and all the fun.  Brady reminded us all that it takes more than just one man to win games.  He passed, he scored and the entire Patriot team came together for that win and now they stand at 11-3.  Masters of their own fate and able to win out and get that first round bye.  Of course they will need Pittsburgh to lose tonight.  But yesterday was a dose of reality for a Bronco team that needed it desperately.

If the Broncos want to win, it will be imperative that they improve Tim Tebow.  He has all the intangibles and he’s got all the stuff that people like you or I can’t see or explain.  Now its time to see tangible results.  Things that can help the argument:  Tim Tebow is a good NFL Quarterback.  Lord knows that most Tebow-supporters have prayed for that day to come.

Baron Davis will join the New York Knicks and make it official by today.  Marc Berman says that the initial diagnosis of 8-10 weeks was meant to scare off teams that may have bid for the Baron’s services.  Knicks medical staffers took a look into his medical reports and decided that he would be able to play in about a month.  Davis only wanted to play for three teams: his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks and the Heat.  All three of those teams would NOT have been able to bid during the amnesty auction due to their cap situation.   Also contained within this report is that the Knicks still have the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 mil to dangle and perhaps Al Thornton will be a good fit as they have spoken to his representatives.  In this report, Berman (who’s been the biggest news scooper this side of Alan Hahn for Knick fans) also says that Spike Lee began to plant the seed early on for Tyson Chandler’s free agent welcome to New York.  Mitch Lawrence is a little less than enthused by the Baron Davis signing, saying that it speaks more to what the Knicks don’t have than their trust in what Baron Davis DOES have.  

I’m in the latter category.  The Knicks have a solid core.  Yes, I don’t like Mike Bibby because he’s a liability on defense.  Then there’s Toney Douglass who’s a liability on offense.  Then there’s Imam Shumpert who outside of one impressive preseason game has nothing to show for himself.  And so the Baron Davis experiment begins albeit only by around MLK day as the Knicks are telling it.  The Knicks are a promising team.  They have a front court that makes others drool but their second team is a huge question mark and in a shortened season where they will need to rest their guys especially Amar’e for long stretches on those tough back to back night games which will be early and often, the hope here is that something pans out from that second group.  They will be counted on.  Which is why teams that are 8-10 deep are probably assured of the most success while teams that are top heavy will find the road the hardest.

The Knicks are top heavy.  Unless they get some scoring from Bill Walker and Bibby turns back the clock some, and the rookie shows more than just flashes in a preseason game, the Knicks will be woefully thin and they will be forced to play games where they will need huge performances from their superstars to maintain.  The Knicks don’t have that much size but if what we saw from Jorts Harrleson is true, then the Knicks may have some depth on the other end.  D’Antoni after the Nets game made a very interesting point: Carmelo Anthony may be their best passer.  Which tells you what you need to know.  The Knicks will lean more on Anthony to lead the team.  Amar’e is the heart and soul of this team and we give him that.  He’s the guy who came to NY when no one else would.  He led the renaissance last year.  But Carmelo is by far the best player on the team and he needs to take that next step in his evolution.  Running the offense through him will be better and give the Knicks more opportunities.  The best pick and roll I saw from the Knicks was the one he and Amar’e ran and that’s the kind of easy offense the Knicks can have when those two superstars are working in tandem.

I will get more into that in my season preview on Friday.

But this move was made, in my opinion, more as an indictment of what we don’t have than what we do have in the back court.  Baron Davis comes with huge question marks, bad back not included.  There are questions of chemistry.  Of work ethic.  Of motivation.  His defensive ability.  Of his overall ability declining.  But talent like his comes along rarely.  When motivated, Davis is a beast.  A threat to throw down 20 points dish out thirteen assists including four or five wow alley oops to willing partcipants: Amar’e and Melo (though you may want to add Shump to that list because he looks like an athletic freak too).  BUT the big question is which Baron will show up and how often will good Baron be the one that puts on the uniform and how long this love fest will last.

I’m not holding my breath.  My hope is that Toney Douglas improves as the season progresses and Shump has a monster season and proves the Knick draftniks right when they drafted him so that Davis’ presence will only be peripheral and not in the main view of the Knicks vision which currently is on a championship.

Howard Beck of the New York Times says that a New York rivalry can be revived at the drop of a Dwight, i mean Dime should the Nets make a huge acquisition themselves.  The Clippers deal for CP3 shows how quickly a city can come alive for that. 

Mark Heisler wrote one of the funniest mock letters to Donald Sterling pleading with him NOT to mess this up.  

Sending out a Praise God for the news of Celtic Jeff Green who had an aortic aneurysm treated thanks to a last minute check up.  The condition will sideline Green for the season, an unfortunate set back but wonderful news considering what could’ve been had they not discovered it.  

Ben Bolch looks at the fascinating life that IS Metta World Peace.  Thug.  Humanitarian.  Bench player for the Los Angeles Lakers.  

Just click this link Lebron Haters and enjoy.  Thanks Dallas Fort Worth Telegram.  

 

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