Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 10 takeaways from NFL Black Monday

McDaniels, AKA The Hot New Guy
10) You'd think that with all of the times the Jets have ran off a coach, they would have the procedure down pat

9) Now that the Niners have ran off Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick will finally feel secure enough in his manhood to get rid of those tatoos

8) There's something a little unseemly about Jay Cutler still having work, while the coach he killed does not

7) Mike Smith got ran out of Atlanta and could find work as a defensive coordinator, just so long as the people who hire him for that don't look at, well, any tape of the defenses from his time in Atlanta

6) Rex Ryan is a good bet to have a good chance at recreating the same kind of sideshow somewhere else

5) It's important for pundits to tell fans who have waited all year to see a coach get run that they should not be happy today, either, since coaching changes never work until they do

4) Josh McDaniels is said to be highly pursued by several organizations, because nothing wipes away a disastrous prior experience like a few years doing a lesser job

3) The fact that we haven't seen both Ryans canned yet tells you that the Saints management are just killjoys

2) Tony Sparano really wants to keep the job in Oakland, because being fired when you were the real coach after a year is ages more satisfying than being fired as the interim coach after a few months... and nothing fires up a downtrodden fan base than We're Keeping The Retread

1) On some level, you have to feel sorry for DC Racial Slur fans, who won't get to do this until next year

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some Obvious Points about the Niners bailing on Jim Harbaugh

Maybe they won't miss this
Whenever a coach that has had success with a franchise that was terrible before he came to town gets rolled, there is much puling and crying from the faithful. So it goes with the Niners, now devoid of the coach that took them to the NFC Championship in 2011, the Super Bowl in 2012, and the NFC Championship again in 2013... and now run out of town, off to make serious bank in Ann Arbor as the next coach of the Wolverines.

As promised, a few quick and dirty points about this.

> The problem really isn't that Harbaugh won't be the coach any more. The team is aging, defenses don't last very long at this level, and QB Colin Kaepernick has really regressed this year. The idea that you can have a weak offense with those weapons and that defense staggers the imagination, and there are any number of QB guru types who would salivate at the idea of resuscitating his career. There's a very valid argument that Harbaugh has already done the best work he was going to do here, and that cutting him is just acting ahead of the curve.

> However, it's kind of analogous to the Eagles' move with WR DeSean Jackson. You had an asset; you got nothing from it. And until proven otherwise, you haven't demonstrated that your management is solid, because you've wasted the asset.

> Harbaugh is, of course, far from blameless in this situation. He's clearly a pain in particulars to work with, didn't show the ability to up his game with a maturing team, didn't do enough with Kaepernick, and so on, and so on. But the bigger issue is the standards in the Bay Area. The Niners are an ordinary organization that likes to think of themselves as elite, especially now that they have a new yard... but the reality of the division is that they have been falling behind for some time, really. Obviously, Seattle has passed them by, but Arizona isn't just having a better year; that's a better club, and it would be more obvious with any kind of health. St. Louis has, thanks to the Griffin heist, a ludicrous burst of young talent that's just a QB away from being all kinds of terrifying. If the Niners aren't lucky, they're going to be the last place team in this division for some time to come.

> What tends to happen to teams that have had a glorious past is that the present can never measure up, and the down years in between the eras are forgotten about. Look at how long the Cowboys tried to patch their way to success with veteran band-aids, or how the Slurs have spent decades in the wilderness; not being dominant any more is appalling once you've had the taste, and full rebuilds are avoided because We're Not That Way.

> But the reality of the NFL is that the brutality of the league and the shortness of careers means that if you are not rising, you are falling. San Fran was always going to have a weak 2014, just from the schedule and the new home field, Just making it in as a wild-card, and maybe getting Kaepenick better, and RB Carlos Hyde and some new starters on defense, would have made for a fine year... but that didn't really happen.

> I have no idea if Harbaugh will be successful in Michigan, and as I don't follow college football, don't really care. But at $8 million a year, and with the job security that comes at the non-NFL level, the only real issue he's got is trading Bay Area weather for Michigan. And money pays for a lot of heat and air conditioning, and that's not even taking into account the fact that money spends half as fast out of the Bay Area. He's set for life.

> Last point on this... there's a theory going around that you gauge the intelligence of moves like this by the reaction of the fans of your rivals, and, well, that's madness. In the final days of the Andy Reid Era, all you heard from the media geishas was how the rest of the NFC East was going to be overjoyed to be rid of Andy Reid, as if Reid wasn't 12-20 in his last two years with an expensive roster, and hadn't won the division in half a decade. The value of a coach is hard to quantify unless they are obviously terrible or brilliant... and Harbaugh was neither in 2014. Declaring this team dead and buried because they bounced a coach after a disappointing year is premature...

But if they don't make a hell of a hire, and soon?

It won't be wrong.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 NFL Week 17 Takeaways

Yes, America, They Are Truly Back
10) Dallas completed an 8-0 road season, pleasing all of the fans that they have across the country that have kept that aspect of their personality quiet for the past two decades

9) Tampa came through in the clutch to lose a winnable game against the Saints, and lock down a higher draft pick

8) Aaron Rodgers gave every pathetically old sportscaster an excuse to show off his Willis Reed chops

7) Atlanta responded to a win and in home game opportunity with an "effort" against the surging Panthers that showed just why the NFC South is such a tire fire this year

6) Kansas City completed the Most Perfect Andy Reid Year Ever with No TDs to WRs, no playoff appearance, and an over .500 record

5) The Jets sent Rex Ryan off on his ice floe with the best game of Geno Smith's career, just to make sure that the QB will be around to drive Jets Fan insane again next year

4) The Jets win came at the expense of Miami, whose fans have to be ready to renew their season tickets for the same coaching regime in 2015

3) Detroit still hasn't won in Wisconsin in generations, and QB Matthew Stafford remains winless for his career against +.500 teams, but at least NT Ndamakong Suh got in a ridiculous un-penalized cheap shot that will be addressed before their upcoming playoff game

2) San Francisco sent Jim Harbaugh off with a home win against the Cardinals, who are still going to go to the playoffs for no good reason

1) After sleeping in for a half, Seattle's offense showed up long enough to slap down the Rams and seal home field for the playoffs

Week 17 NFL Ad Questions

Keep saying Mike at them
10) Is Jerry Johnson homeless from his addiction to the Amazon stick device, and if so, why hasn't this become a reality show?

9) Why does Burger King feel compelled to constantly hide cameras in their stores?

8) How does swiping screens translate into business ownership?

7) Do I have to engage in wince-inducing musicals to shop at Macy's this week?

6) Did Joe Montana fail to manage his money during his playing career so badly that he's got to shill for money managers now?

5) Why does Infinity have a white Scrooge visiting a black family that's clearly doing great, with no want or physical ailments?

4) Do Hyundai drivers enjoy driving away from neighbors in trouble?

3) Are most KFC customers haunted by poverty-stricken grandparents?

2) Would anyone blame the camels dealing with idiot Geico ad quoters at the zoo from getting loose and running amok?

1) Does Aaron Rodgers really need line reading instructions from fourth-rate SNL characters that haven't gotten work in 20 years?

Eagles - Giants Takeaways

End With Dignity
> K Cody Parkey with a touchback, so maybe his groin is better

> First third down for Blue is an easy counter run on third and one to RB Andre Williams, and its hard to tell when this defense is mailing it in, or just not good

> QB Eli Manning to WR Reuben Randle into double coverage, CB Nolan Carroll and S Nate Allen don't have the body control to translate good position into effectiveness, 42 yards of Yeah That Happens

> Manning to Randle gets it to the 1, Carroll drags him down rather than get burned for the score

> Williams in for the score, easier than preseason, and so much for the idea that Fletcher was somehow keeping someone better on the bench

> Blue 7, Green 0 in less than three minutes, and I'm looking forward to the off-season too

> We're told that QB Mark Sanchez has enjoyed his year here, but the Green fans, not so much

> Sanchez to TE Zach Ertz, simple drag for 18, looks like it will be there all day

> False start, than RB LeSean McCoy with good patience on the drag for 23, nice patience

> Sanchez on the cross to WR Jordan Matthews, no one in Blue gets close or off their blocks, 44 yards for the answering score

> Four minutes, nine plays, two touchdowns, and no one on either defense seems interested

> At quarter after the hour, this game has outscored the league 14-10

> That's a new Green franchise record for points scored in a season, which probably should result in a playoff game, but whatevs

> STs continue their great year with a forced fumble from gunner S Chris Maragos, but the bounce goes Blue

> RB Rashad Jennings for a loss of 3 as NT Bennie Logan dominates

> Manning tries WR Odell Beckham Jr on a fly, and CB Cary Williams gets away with DPI on a jump ball

> 3rd and 13 is a screen to Jennings, no MLBs get close, first down on a check down

> Historically bad play on third and long is routine, really

> Jennings for two as LB Casey Matthews takes advantage of push

> Manning with non-grounding grounding on second as Matthews gets the job done without a roughing flag, a major achievement in the NFL in 2014

> 3rd and 9 from the gun has Manning missing high to Beckham, and that's an actual stop and everything

> RB/PR Darren Sproles with the Pro Bowl level fair catch, and good for him

> Blue is wearing t-shirts that say Peace today in honor of fallen police, which seems more socially acceptable than Justice for some reason

> Sanchez tries WR Riley Cooper deep, overthrown and wasn't open

> Ertz with the motion flag and trudge of shame to the sidelines

> McCoy for 8, space available, than Sanchez to Ertz for the first down, Blue with an unused flag

> Nice patience in the pocket for the QB against some heat

> Sanchez on the read option for 15, clearly enjoying himself

> Play action, Sanchez runs into pressure and throws the obvious pick into double coverage on Cooper, but DPI saves Green in a big way

> Blue HC Tom Coughlin is Yosemite Sam-esque in his rage, and has a point, but that's the NFL now

> From the 6, McCoy grinds to the 1 as Sanchez gets wiped out on the zone read fake

> McCoy again to the 1, same play, same QB abuse

> Third and goal from the 1, empty backfield into McCoy from motion, Sanchez with a lot of time to get it to TE Brent Celek for the post-block rub route

> Celek's first TD of the year, and if this is his last game in Green, at least they got him one

> Green 14, Blue 7 after 8 minutes, and this game looks like a really obvious over cover

> Beckham for four, kind of forcing it to him, given how Williams has moments of competence, and Carroll well, not so much

> 3rd and 5 from the gun has Manning with too much time, finds Beckham on the sidelines for 22, nice body control

> Williams for 8, lots of room

> Jennings for 3, patience, then Manning to Beckham for 17 as he just more or less taunts Carroll with his abilities

> Jennings for 5, and at this point in the season, it's a mistake if an offense doesn't score against this defense

> Manning misses Randle as LB Connor Barwin makes a nice play

> 3rd and 5 to stop the TD is Manning to TE Larry Donnell, and Carroll can stay with a TE, gets away with light DPI too

> K Josh Brown connects from 38, and it's Green 14, Blue 10

> Fox runs highlights from the Green and Blue rivalry, and while Blue has the rings, Green has lots of head to head goodness

> McCoy for 3 on the drag left, then Sanchez misses WR Jeremy Maclin

> 3rd and 7 to avoid instant fail is Sanchez to Mathews for 24, crazy open, nearly had body control for more

> Sanchez forces to Matthews, near INT, near DPI, the usual Sanchez on anything but his first read experience

> Sproles for 5, then Green's third procedure mistake in less than a quarter

> Third and 10 is Sanchez with time but without decision-making, and it ends with a 1 yard non-sack sack

> P Donnie Jones to the 10, end of the quarter

> Jennings for five, nice job mucking through the middle

> Manning high to TE EJ Robinson, open over the middle against S Malcolm Jenkins, but the connection isn't made

> 3rd and five and keep field position is Manning dep in the count, then goes to the wildly open Donnell, but the throw is behind the TE, and that's the Blue mistake required for no points on a drive

> Sanchez to Maclin for 4, runs into friendly fire, Celek back on the field

> McCoy for 3, then Sanchez misses Sproles and doesn't get a flag, also doesn't deserve one, and that mistake thing goes both ways

> Jones punts, Blue ball at the 11, and yeah, this game isn't really dripping with drama

> Manning to Beckham, CB Brandon Boykin gets hands up for the tip and incomplete

> Cox ends Williams after a yard, and on 3rd and 9 and keep field position, it's Manning from the gun to Randle, but Williams with the break up

> Actual coverage on that series, pretty exciting

> Blue P Steve Weatherford gets it off against pressure, benefits from the roll as Sproles chastises himself

> Sanchez tries for Ertz medium deep, terrible pick, and yeah, He's Still Mark Sanchez

> Honestly, I think we've seen enough of this to get what Sanchez is, and would benefit a lot more to just find out something about Barkley now

> Manning tries Beckham in the end zone, should have been picked, but Jenkins drops an easy one

> Manning to Beckham on the much simpler cross for 14, and yes, there are just throws these QBs should not make

> Williams for 3, nice tap work from a power back, and he could be something if he ever learns how to be good in the passing game

> Manning to Randle, Williams with too much of a cushion, Allen not close enough, this is not a recording

> Manning tries Donnell in the corner, Blue mistake in wrong routes

> Manning to Beckham, simple drag, stop, first down

> Williams for 4 and 2, LB Trent Cole gets him down with a broken hand in what's probably his final game in the laundry

> Third and goal from the 2 is Manning on quasi fade to Beckham, and Boykin makes the stop

> No idea why Boykin isn't declared CB2, but so it goes

> Brown connects from short distance, and it's Green 14, Blue 13

> KR Josh Huff gets it back to the 25 off a deep line drive kickoff

> Sanchez to Maclin, running free for 25 on the drag

> McCoy for 3, then keeps on play action and eventually derps his way into a sack

> Third and 9 from the gun is a check down to Sproles, stopped before the sticks

> Jones to the 11, and after two good drives, that's four bad ones

> Jennings for 3, then Manning misses him in the flat by a lot, maybe intentionally

> 3rd and 7 and keep field position is Manning to Randle, keeps possession on reasonable coverage by rookie CB Jerlyn Watkins for 36

> Manning to Beckham deep for a ridiculous collections of no-calls; no DPI on Carroll, no late hit after, no unsportsmanline on Beckham for taking off his helmet post-whistle

> Manning to Parker for 7, then 15 on Jenkins for the most obvious get-even call you will ever see

> Manning to Randle for 25 against Williams, who doesn't adjust to an underthrown ball, and my kingdom for any CB

> Manning to Williams, Kendricks and Barwin both on it for no gain

> Randle already with a career high, and it's still the first freaking half

> Manning to Beckham, the WR mouths off some more, but it's OPI on the rub

> 2nd and goal from the 13 should have been another Green INT, but Williams can't make an easy catch, and yeesh

> 3rd and goal from the 13 should have been a pick for Jenkins, but the Green secondary really can't catch anything today

> Manning with his 30th pass of the half, no sacks, no picks, 232 yards

> Blue with tricksy from Weatherford generates a flag, then Brown hits from 36 to give them a 16-14 lead

> Touchback gives Green the ball at their 20 with 3 timeouts and 2:02 of clock, which is just about all the time they ever need

> Sanchez to Ertz on play action for 19, and he's good at that play

> Sanchez to Matthews for a retreating 3, then takes a sack from DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who beats T Jason Peters, going to the Proo Bowl more for his career than this year

> 3rd and 16 is a great play from Sanchez, buying time against a lot of pressure to connect with Maclin to convert, and those are the plays that fool people into thinking he's more than a back up

> Sanchez for 6 on reasonable mobility, line not winning

> Sanchez to Sproles for 10 on the bubble screen, first timeout with 25 seconds left

> Deep figgie range means no mistakes, Sanchez can't connect with Maclin

> Sanchez to Cooper off a pump fake, crazy open for 22

> 2nd Green timeout with 12 seconds left from the Blue 9

> Sanchez from the gun is a near pick, no idea what he's thinking, into double coverage on Ertz as Matthews was wide open

> Green has to take a delay flag due to OL hobbling, rather than a delay flag, and ye gads, that should never happen in a tempo offense

> Sanchez to Sproles, a little behind him but the RB could have still had it, and that's Red Zone Fail

> Parkey connects from 32, and it's 17-16 Green at the half

> 544 yards of offense in 30 minutes, and I miss what NFC East football used to be

> Brown with the touchback, then McCoy for 2

> Sanchez to Matthews for 5 with a bad spot, then McCoy is stopped before the sticks to make for a three and out with speed

> Jones to Beckham, fair catch on hard gunner attention from Huff

> Williams for a loss of a yard, then nothing, and Blue is just doing Green favors by not throwing on every down, given the lack of pressure and secondary issues

> 3rd and 11 from the gun is a drop from Randle against meh coverage from Watkins, and wow, three and out

> Weatherford gets blocked by ST/TE James Casey, with ST/TE Trey Burton eventually collecting it and getting in for the score

> Best ST year ever for the laundry, first block ever against Weatherford in 672 attempts, third TD this year on blocked punts

> Green 24, Blue 16, and Weatherford looks besmirched

> STs get the KR down before the 20, just showing off now

> Manning to Beckham for 15 off the rollout, easy, then Jennings for 18 as the defense shows its usual lack of post-score starch

> Jennings loses three as Thornton collects him, post-whistle offensive roughing on Blue C JD Walton adds 15 more to the loss

> 2nd and 28 is Manning to Beckham for 4 as Boykin gets him down, and hey, maybe our best cover CB should be on WR1

> 3rd and 24 becomes 3rd and 29 on a false start, and no, I still find no real confidence in the laundry to get off the field in this situation

> 3rd and 29 from the gun is a hurdle moment for Donnell over Watkins, getting him 16 yards and highlight time, but no first down

> Weatherford to Sproles, who doesn't take the fair catch against two gunners, lucky to keep the ball on immediate contact

> McCoy loses a yard on no push, then Sanchez to Cooper on clear sailing for a 15-yard out

> Sanchez to Matthews out of bounds on hand motion waggling, toes not quite right

> McCoy for 4 on the drag, then third and 6 is Sanchez from the gun over Sproles, and there isn't much working for that connection today

> Jones to the Blue 19 for a Beckham fair catch, gunners staring at the PR with more dominant ST play

> Williams for 6, room in the middle, then 2 more as Matthews continues tolerable play

> Third and 2 from the gun is Manning to Randle for 24 as Watkins can't cover or contain

> Manning to Beckham for 15 on the slant, Williams can't stay with him at all

> Manning with all day, Randle wide open for the apparent score, but it comes back on offensive holding

> The penalty doesn't change the fact that Carroll can't do anything to stay with an utterly ordinary WR

> Manning through Randle's hands to make it 2nd and 20

> Manning deep to Parker, Carroll can't get the INT, should have, but there's a reason he doesn't play regular CB snaps

> Third and 20 is a great catch and elevation by Beckham for 9 yards, Boykin touches him down, but the WR bounces up for post-whistle festivities

> Brown connects from 53, which makes the Beckham catch worth 3 points

> Green 24, Blue 19, five made FGs by Brown now

> The national media can not be more excited about Beckham, really

> McCoy for 11 after the de riguer touchback, then 3 more on a smaller hole

> Sanchez for 3 on the play action keeper, then misses an open Huff on a deep cross, and the QB took an uncalled shot to the head at the end of the play

> Jones to the Blue 20, and yeah, offense now has 17 points in 43 minutes, which is to say, not enough

> Manning from the gun to Williams for a balky 5 against a S blitz

> Manning to Beckham deep, Jenkins breaks it up

> Manning to Donnell converts on third and five, just too easy, all of it in the air without good accuracy from the QB

> Williams for no gain, then Manning to Beckham with a near circus catch against Watkins, incomplete

> Blue delay with Coughlin yelling for timeout, then wiped out because the refs are just that weak

> 3rd and 10 from the gun is a check down to Jennings, Jenkins takes him out, and that's a Green stop, kind of

> Weatherford to Sproles, who gets 13 on his first attempt today with any amount of room

> Sanchez to Matthews for 7 to end the third quarter, nice strength in the straight arm to end the third quarter

> McCoy with a lot of room to the right, gets 22, promising

> Sanchez telegraphs and nearly misses McCoy, who burns a guy on his way to 15

> Sanchez to Matthews for 8, then RB Chris Polk for 5 as tempo is working well

> Sanchez misses Polk on the wheel route, and why you throw it down here with a turnover-prone QB is one of the great mysteries of this season

> Sanchez to Matthews off the play fake gets it to the 1, QB is also buried

> Polk walks in for the score, big hole from the interior OL, and that's his fourth score of the year, or enough to start working on his dance moves

> All or nothing offense hits for all for the third time today, and it's 31-19 Green with 13 minutes left in the year

> Blue to the 20 with effort off the kickoff, then Manning with too much time before missing Randle

> Manning misses Donnell, open on a middle route, and if the QB had been accurate today, he'd have 500+ yards on his lonesome

> 3rd and 10 and hey, QB pressure would be nice is Manning from the gun, time against a 5-man rush, connects with Parker, as an obvious holding call is ignored

> Manning to Beckham for 4, and he gets all kinds of huffy when people hit him

> Manning to Beckham, Watkins falls, and that's a 63-yard score that could not have been easier

> Eagles DC Bill Davis decided, for some reason, that CB4 against WR1 is what you want while guarding a lead in the fourth quarter

> Green 31, Blue 26 with less than 12 minutes to go in a season that has led to as many questions about the coaching as the talent

> Casey to the 26 off a short kick

> Sanchez to Sproles for 8, 15 more added for an obvious face mask

> Sanchez to Ertz for 9, more plays today with him and Matthews on the field at the same time

> Sanchez tries Maclin on a deep ball, was open but the ball wasn't there

> 3rd and 1 and keep the damned ball is McCoy for 4 off a pass formation, smart

> Sanchez to Huff for 6 on the hook, then McCoy gets through a hole for just enough to move the sticks after tempo killing measurement

> Sanchez pumps, derps, takes a sack, none of that good

> Polk for 4 on the edge of long figgie range

> 3rd and 13 from the Blue 31 is important for this game, and made easier with encroachment by the CB

> 3rd and 8 from the 26 is Sanchez to Matthews on poor design, no chance to get to the sticks

> Parkey from 39 connects, and it's Green 34, Blue 26 with 8 minutes left

> Williams for 4, and Blue runs it for 3 yards a play, and throws it for 8, so sure, do that

> Manning to Williams on a checkdown for 14, and there's no reason to risk deep throws, either

> Jennings loses a yard to DT Fletcher Cox, and yeah, Blue, try him some more

> Manning to Parker, Boykin deflects, and sure, Blue, try WR3 against CB1

> Third and 10 and maybe end the game is Manning from the gun to Jennings, Kendricks with the stop, and some actual pressure helped there

> Weatherford to Sproles, fair catches with room given the game situation

> Green up 8 with 5:19 left, with Detention Mode possible

> Sanchez with a monstrous derp sack, near fumble, and ye gads

> 2nd and 22 from the Green 3 is a give up run to McCoy, who gets 4 yards and hurt, but able to walk off

> 3rd and 18 from the gun is a give up run to Polk, who nearly gets a killshot first down, but is stopped a yard from the sticks

> Fourth and 1 from the 23 is a Jones punt to the Blue 31, right on the sidelines, excellent work by the P

> 3:45 left and 2 timeouts for Blue, so all kinds of unfortunate possibilities open

> Manning from the gun on 2nd and 6 throws off his back leg, terribly, and Allen finally gets the INT that has been there a half dozen times today

> The Green S gets a 40-yard return that took a lot of time off the clock, honestly

> Polk for nothing as it appears that injury will rob McCoy of a 100-yard rushing day

> Polk for 7 yards with clock killing to the 2-minute warning

> Polk converts on third down, killing Manning's potential for another turnover late

> Sanchez kneels three times, and Green wins despite giving up 505 yards (!) on defense, 429 of it in the air

> Green goes home with a 10-win season and no playoff game, third straight year that's happened, and they would have gotten rolled in the post-season with this dogdirt secondary, so no tears, really, none at all

Top 10 reasons why the Browns suspended Josh Gordon

Has the word Lose on both hands
10) Prevents the WR from acquiring time against free agent status, on the off chance that he stays out of jail or rehab

9) Reminds everyone that he's an attitude problem, which is very important for a guy with past issues

8) Against all odds, Gordon somehow failed to put up big numbers with the Browns QBs

7) Team has many bitter fantasy league guys who started him in playoff weeks

6) WR hasn't showed the kind of team-first attitude that team management, with a history of criminal activity, appreciates

5) Club really enjoys attention from the NFLPA, and this pretty much ensures a visit

4) You don't run up the kind of record that the Browns have since getting back into the NFL without having an awful lot of moments like this

3) Gives the young Browns WRs a chance to show their, um, abilities

2) When you start QB3 in Week 17 against a team that's known for their defensive pressure and weak secondary, you want to make sure that the tank job is comprehensive

1) Gordon missed a walk-through for a 7-8 team playing a meaningless game, and if you can't get up for meaningless games, you can't be a Brown

Friday, December 26, 2014

Week 17 NFL Picks: Looking For a Festivus Miracle

Fund Me, Baby
Well folks, we've come to the end, and I'm all out of quips and nearly out of games. Another middling week like last week gets me back to nothing for the year, and a perfecto gets me back to nothing for the career. Let's wipe the slate clean and run the table, OK?

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Cleveland at BALTIMORE (-9)

The Ravens need help and don't deserve it after last week's turd in a punchbowl that was the Texans game. Cleveland is ending this year with as much misery as possible, which is hard to imagine when you consider that they had their division by the short and curlies just a few weeks ago. Trends, amirite?

Ravens 24, Browns 13

DALLAS (-5.5) at Washington


Neither team needs or even really wants this game, and while Robert Griffin III might surprise, the DC secondary is still a mess. Dallas sets their fans up for maximum disappointment with another week where they look like world beaters. The fall here is going to be wonderful. Oh, and if they go to the Super Bowl and play the Patriots, you will know that God is dead and/or Cthlulu.

Cowboys 34, Slurs 20

INDIANAPOLIS (-7) at Tennessee


The Colts are still on de facto bye, but after last week's face punch in Dallas, they'll be looking for some get-even on anything in front of them. They are still world-class frauds, but you get to that level by torching teams like the Titans.

Colts 31, Titans 17

JACKSONVILLE (+9.5) at Houston


The Jags come in with extra rest, their usual level of late-season spunkiness, and a Houston team that doesn't really believe they have a real shot at the playoffs. Look for them to hang around and cover late.

Texans 24, Jaguars 17

SAN DIEGO (+3) at Kansas City


Hey, Chiefs Fan, are you tired of the Andy Reid Era yet? It's all gone wrong in the past 1.5 years, and when you see your QB throwing to RAC-less wonder retread WR Jason Avant in the middle of the field when down late, you know that the man isn't learning clock management in his old age. Chargers QB Philip Rivers deserves some serious MVP votes, not that he'll get them.

Chargers 24, Chiefs 20

NJ Jets at MIAMI (-6)


The Rex Ryan Sayonara was last week in NY, where his team fought the Patriots to a 17-16 defeat that had honor and etc. One last time in the South Florida mugginess, between Christmas and New Year's? Not so much. Miami should have gotten more out of this year, and will work out some frustrations in this game.

Dolphins 30, Jets 13

Chicago at MINNESOTA (-6)


The Bears looked like a football team last week against Detroit, only to fall apart late and lose QB2 Jimmy Claussen to injury. They'll go back to QB1 Jay Cutler here, and feel free to notice how much less they try. (Also, the home/road thing has something to that.) Anyone else wonder if Minny might have contended for a wild-card if RB Adrian Peterson hadn't run afoul of basic human decency?

Vikings 24, Bears 17

BUFFALO (+5) at New England


One team cares, the other team, well, not so much. Buffalo's defense can hurt you, and the Pats are going to treat this one like a de facto bye. The Pats might still win, just on defense, but the offense has issues even when the starters are in. And they really should not be in.

Patriots 24, Bills 20

Philadelphia at NY GIANTS (-3)


If the Eagles couldn't win at home against Dez Bryant, or on the road against DeSean Jackson, what chance do they have on the road against Odell Beckham Jr., who is honestly playing better than both of those guys right now? Besides, I suspect Green HC Chip Kelly will roll out more rooks and benchies than expected in this one. And, well, he should.

Giants 34, Eagles 24

NEW ORLEANS (-4) at Tampa Bay


If you watch this and aren't related to anyone in the game, you don't have a gambling problem. You have a life problem. I'll take the Saints just because the Bucs secondary is just that bad, and Saints QB Drew Brees feels bad about murdering everyone in fantasy for the past two months.

Saints 38, Bucs 27

Carolina at ATLANTA (-3.5)


If you don't get to Falcons QB Matt Ryan, you don't generally stop the Bird offense... and at home, I think they get it done. Carolina hasn't looked as good in front of QB Cam Newton as they have with QB Derek Anderson, which is one of those things that the national media can't say, because, well, Newton is actually an NFL QB, while Anderson is the rich man's Rex Grossman. Yes, indeed, gross.

Falcons 31, Panthers 20

Detroit at GREEN BAY (-7.5)


It feels like a big number against a team that might dominate the line of scrimmage... but the Packer defense might do as much harm to the Lions, and whoever gets a short field could turn this into a wilding. The Lions have trouble in the red zone, and also in the kicking game, which won't help them either. A defensive score late ices the cover.

Packers 38, Lions 24

OAKLAND (+14) at Denver


Blowout city? Maybe... but the Broncos seem committed to running the ball now, aren't nearly as good in the red zone since TE Julius Thomas had the ankle issue, and could get beat up a bit by a Raider offense that's showing signs of a pulse in the last month. Look for Orange to lead early, coast late, and cover not at all.

Broncos 27, Raiders 17

Arizona at SAN FRANCISCO (-6)


Can the Cards wind up getting the NFC South winner, just to make sure that we've got a double-digit spread line in the final eight? We just might see that, especially with the proud Niner defense wanting to do everything to Big Red that the Seahawks did last week. This won't be pretty.

Niners 23, Cardinals 13

St Louis at SEATTLE (-13)


At this point, it's getting harder and harder for me to see how the Seahawks don't go to the Super Bowl again, and win it handily. The Rams could puncture that feeling with a strong defensive performance, but after watching them fall to pieces at home against the Giants last week, it's hard to see things bouncing back in the league's toughest home field. Against a great team with something on the table.

Seahawks 34, Rams 16

Cincinnati at PITTSBURGH (-3.5)


Big deal matchup for the SNF game, and I'd like the Bengals so much more if WR AJ Green was right. He's not, the Steeler secondary will not look quite so horrible, and Cincy doesn't show up well under the lights. You've probably heard about that by now.

Steelers 24, Bengals 20

Last week: 9-7

Season: 116-118-4

Career: 604-618-43

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sixers Beat Miami, And It Was Freaking Awesome

This Is My KJ McDaniels Oh Face
Final score tonight: Sixers 91, Heat 87.

Need more? Oh yes, you need more.

Philly dressed eight guys tonight due to trades, injuries, and the last-minute knee injury of PG2 Tony Wroten. They were down by 23 in the third quarter. They have the worst record in the NBA, had not won consecutive games all season, and were, of course, on the road. Play this scenario out 100 times, they might win once. Maybe twice.

So, how did they do it?

Well, to be fair, they never should have been down by that many in the first place. Miami got lucky on a lot of scramble plays in the first half, where the Sixers blocked ten shots and still saw the home team shoot 52% from the field. The sequence would go like this. Miami would drive the paint, Nerlens Noel or KJ McDaniels would send them away with absurd length and athleticism and youthful vigor, and Miami would track down the loose ball and throw in some ridiculous three before the clock ended. Also, Dwyane Wade was hitting a ton of mid-range shots, and the basket had a lid on it for the road team. In the long run, this all evens out, but in the long run, (a) we're all dead, and (b) the Sixers were a road team with three wins and eight guys.

So there was nothing inevitable about this win, or even that it should have been close. Let alone close the game on a 45-18 run, with unrelenting defensive pressure. Miami shot 28% from the field in the second half, and wound up turning it over more than the Sixers, which is damned difficult, really. And it's not as if Miami turtled up with a lead and got caught at the end, as the Sixers got it close by the end of the third, then took the lead halfway through the fourth. Hell, they hit a couple of shots, this one would have been over before the final kill shots.

And sure, maybe Miami just lost concentration with the big lead, or started thinking about the upcoming Christmas Day visit from the prodigal LeBron. Also, the Sixers did get more than a little bit lucky in this one, as none of their players wound up in foul trouble (nice strategy against an 8-man team, Miami!), and any game where PG Michael Carter-Williams is able to hit from behind the arc counts as some kind of miracle, really.

But all of that misses the point. Philly won this game because they were the better team, and deserved to win. PF Robert Covington walked up to the line and hit the clinching free throws as if it weren't anything he shouldn't do all the time, really; no nerves, no wasted time, just cotton both times. They closed out on shooters and made Miami miss, then either got the rebounds or didn't panic when they had to defend second and third shots. Miami may be just a .500 team now, or even worse than that without PF/C Chris Bosh, but we're still talking a home team with a full complement of players, and a healthy Wade.

The win pulls Philly up to 4-23, but 4-2 in their last six road games. They continue the road trip after the holiday with dates in Utah, Golden State, Phoenix and the Clippers, which means they will be very fortunate to get win number 5 before that trip is through. Then it's Cleveland, Milwaukee, and at Brooklyn, and maybe you get one one of those games. The point is that avoiding 9-73, and undeserved history, seems more than likely. (And would have been much more so if they hadn't coughed up that big lead against Memphis at home last weekend, but that way lies whatevs.)

Why is Sixer Fan buying in to this Because you've never seen a more likable bad team. They can't shoot to save their lives, sure, but they root for each other, try like mad on defense, and care. For a team with absolutely no shot at playing "meaningful basketball" for at least a year, they get well and truly pissed at bad officating, and MCW has no idea that he is not, in fact, one of the best PGs in the Association. (He is, of course, not. The West is insane at PG.) Noel has no go-to move or business having confidence on the offensive end. He doesn't shy away from the ball. Covington is flotsam, but less so every day. SF KJ McDaniels is a highlight reel every game (here's the play of the game from tonight, and the aftermath is pictured above), between the insane putback dunks off of garbage on offense, and the raptor-like way he rejects shots from weak-side help. HC Brett Brown pulls guys who make bonehead plays, and PF Jerami Grant actually made a three tonight -- first time in 11 tries. He was 11 and 7 with 3 blocks tonight in 26 minutes, all of those numbers are career highs, and the club was +25 with him on the floor.

Yeah, there's stuff developing here.

Oh, and finally this.

Who would you rather root for right now: the youngest team in NBA history, with strong assets on the horizon and rookies looking better every week...

Or the Knicks, Lakers, Pistons, Celtics, Pacers or Nets?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Six Requests For Chip Kelly Against The Giants

(after me comes the flood)
Week 17 against the Giants, in New York, means nothing. There will be no change in meaningful draft pick position, no advantage or disadvantage in winning or losing the game. Oh, and it's the last time we can think abut a local sports franchise that isn't an utter train wreck in the here and now for about nine months. Such a wonderful time to be in the Philadelphia area!

Anyway, let's get some value out of it. Any value.

1) Start Matt Barkley at QB, instead of Mark Sanchez.

When last seen, the USC QB3 was a turnover machine -- and yes, USC QB2 is also a turnover machine. The difference between Barkley and Sanchez is that Barkley might actually stop being that at some point in his life. Let's see if that can be this week, on the road against a quality opponent.

2) Start Chris Polk at RB, instead of LeSean McCoy

I'm going to go for a moment of heresy here... Polk might, just might, be a better RB than McCoy now. He's bigger, stronger, younger, and RB is the NFL position that ages men at a 10X rate. McCoy's poor year is much more likely to be the lack of speed WR2 to stretch the defense, and lack of QB1 to make the defense not stack the box... but if Polk looks a lot better than McCoy, maybe that tells you something valuable for next year. And if someone's dumb enough to trade for a RB in the NFL and give you anything of real value, maybe something highly valuable.

Oh, and if you start McCoy and he gets hurt, the fan base will revolt. Worse than the DeSean Jackson affair. Honest.

3) Start Josh Huff at WR, instead of Riley Cooper.

Just to prove that you can, in fact, do the right thing, rather than just stubbornly hold on to the same bad decision that you made back in training camp. Besides, Huff's shown some signs recently, and Cooper will cost real cash if you keep him next year. Along with making most of our heads explode by, um, keeping Riley Cooper.

4) Try WR Jordan Matthews and DB Brandon Boykin outside of the slot.

Now, I know, too much to ask to bench CB Bradley Fletcher, a man who is doing all he can to be the single biggest scapegoat in this century of Eagle Football. (Hey, have you heard how Fletcher's injured? Give any Eagle Fan two minutes and a blow dart gun.) But at least if we see Odell Beckham Jr. roasting Boykin, or some other draft pick who hasn't gotten off the practice squad all year, we'll have the satisfaction of knowing that the year couldn't have unfolded any other way.

(Left unsaid, because you seemingly have already done it: TE Zach Ertz over Brent Celek. Thanks for that. A few months late, but we get it, Celek's been a good soldier and blocks well.)

5) Call some plays we've never seen.

Remember that swinging gate 2-pont conversion play that bombed utterly in your first game? Let's see it again. The backwards screen play that makes us all wince, mostly because you never have the WR throw a forward pass after it? Roll it out, even though everyone on the other team knows that when Brad Smith is on the field for an offensive snap, it's Shenanigans Time. The 3-man offensive line that splits out the tackle to murder a DB on the bubble screen? Go nuts. Oh, and one more. You have dominant special teams; let them try a fake punt, or onside kick.

Oh, and win the damn game. Somehow. That would be nice, too.

Dear Media, In Re Marshawn Lynch Et Al

I'm Super, Thanks For Asking
We, the general public, do not give an ounce of figgy pudding (festive!) about how Mean Old Marshawn Lynch does not answer your locker room questions.

We, the general public, do not care what Mean Old Marshawn Lynch (or Arian Foster, or anyone else who regards the media as the worst part of his job that he can't see the point of dealing with) says.

We, the general public, do not really care what ANY athlete says, so long as it's not actively changing the betting line, or his chances of providing fantasy sports goodness.

So...

Lynch doesn't want you to be there.

We don't want you to be there.

You can't want to be there, seeing how he's clowning you, and giving you nothing of actual use.

So...

Um...

Why are you asking him a question, especially when there's a room filled with other people who might actually answer you?

A Brief And Obvious Point About The Tony Romo For MVP Campaign

Let's Not Mention Against Who
Um, seriously?

No, seriously?

OK... let's take this slowly, and use small words, since we may be arguing with ex NFL players, which is to say, people who may become violent and have the strong chance of brain damage.

All year, you folks have been telling us how amazeballs the Cowboy offensive line is. How scary smart Jerruh Jones has become in his dotage (enough face lifts and the brain gets all smooth and brilliant!) to make a dominant unit with multiple first round picks. How good DeMarco Murray is, and how he's going to set this record and that record, and never mind that we're force-feeding an injury-prone guy when we have perfectly acceptable back-ups to split the load. Oh, and how physical and wunnerful wunnerful wunnerdul Dez Bryant is.

So, um, Romo?

He's not the MVP of his *team*. That's Murray.

He's not the best QB in his conference. That would be Aaron Rodgers. (Who, by the way, does *not* have a dominant offensive line.)

He's not the QB of the defending Super Bowl champions, who are also in line to become the #1 seed. That would be Russell Wilson. (Who also just led an effort that put up nearly 600 yards of total offense against a great defensive team, at home.)

You want to vote him into the Pro Bowl? Fine. He's right there with Rodgers and Wilson in the NFC, ahead of Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. If we're looking at all of football because that's the way the Pro Bowl works now, you are adding Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and Romo's had the good sense of closing with a rush, but two of three of those guys have done more with less.

But OK, Romo is 32 to 8 in TDs to INTs, and it's been his best year. Hell, if he had stayed healthy, maybe you even get to 35 to 40, and that helps. He's piled up numbers against some weak sisters -- give any of the top guys six games against the East, and it's double ball bonus time on the pinball machine -- but whatevs. 32 to 8 is good in any division.

But you can't have it all ways, all of you instant Romo lovers. If his line is all that, and his RB is all that, then he's not all that.

Oh, and by the way?

Dallas isn't the top seed in the conference.

And when they lose in the playoffs, because they aren't going to be able to run the gauntlet of Green Bay, Seattle and New England, and might end that game with Romo turning the ball over as he tries to do too much, the way he has, um, his whole damn career when put under pressure?

You will melt into the woodwork, and deny that you ever pitched the idea that he was an MVP candidate.

Along with all of the other cicada-like Cowboy fans...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 10 NFL Week 16 Takeaways

The Cowboys Clinch
10) The Rams and the Giants brawled a whole lot to show the world that they cared way too much in a Week 16 game with no playoff implications

9) Miami Fan got to cheer a thrilling Dolphin win, mourn the end of their playoff chances, and sigh over the news from their ownership that there would be no coaching changes for 2015

8) Detroit took a while to realize that Bears QB2 Jimmy Claussen wasn't just going to throw the ball to him, and that they'd have to actually do something to win the game

7) Atlanta officially ended the Saints' playoff hopes, and the idea that they still have any semblance of home field advantage

6) Rex Ryan and the Jets played the Patriots very tight and lost, ensuring that Rex will be able to find a new job as someone's defensive coordinator next year

5) Pittsburgh beat the Chiefs and, more importantly, somehow kept the Impossible Dream of a No TDs For WRs year for KC possible

4) Cam Newton shook off the effects of a car accident to heroically lead his team to, um, 17 points in a victory of the Manziel/Hoyer Browns

3) Indy took their bye early while still playing many of their starters, which seems like it would be hard to do

2) Dallas clinched the NFC East, ensuring the cicada-like rise of the most noxious creature in sports, Bandwagon Cowboy Fan

1) We got one step closer to Roger Goodell's perfect NFL vision of a penalty flag on each and every play, especially anything involving a QB or WR

NFL Week 16 Ad Questions

"Fresh"
10) Is this the first year where the Romolicious woman did well in her fantasy league?

9) Does owning an iPhone make users lose all sense of shame and discuss their pathetic game nerding loudly, or sing their mundane questions?

8) If I don't take Tamiflu, will I develop gigantism?

7) Are AT&T users sexually excited by using power tolls against paper

6) Is anyone else a little disturbed that toenail fungus has to be treated by punching toes for a 48-week period?

5) Is there a single actual football fan who is excited about Katy Perry playing the Super Bowl halftime show?

4) If your gift memories are made by $5 worth of McNuggets, isn't that just the saddest story ever?

3) Are the people who give Subway gift cards unaware of the existence of cash, canned goods or methadone?

2) Do FedEx delivery men have the ability to trap office workers in bizarre positions?

1) If I enter a Burger King, will I be transported to the 1970s, and if so, doesn't that call the freshness of the "food" into question?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Eagles - Slurs Takeaways

To Be Fair
> This week, for fun, KR Josh Huff fielded the opening kickoff and ran it back a bit

> QB Mark Sanchez to TE Zach Ertz for six yards, RB LeSean McCoy jitters for two, and I'd love for this club to not be in third and gah every first drive

> Sanchez to Ertz for five to convert, good placement on a covered receiver

> McCoy for 4, reasonable push from the line, then a false start from everyone on the line but C Jason Kelce, so it must be his fault; it also says something that

> Sanchez to RB Darren Sproles, drops a check down, so instead of 3rd and 7, it's 3rd and 12

> Sanchez to WR Jeremy Maclin for 22, big damned deal, really

> Sanchez misses Sproles, DC seems keyed on him

> McCoy on the left stretch, loss of three, just hate the way that's looked all year

> 3rd and 14 from the 47 is a strip, sack and fumble, and yeah, that's why he's Mark Sanchez

> Plenty of blame for RT Lane Johnson, beaten clean by LB Ryan Kerrigan, gets the majority of it

> 34th turnover in 14 games, way too goddamned many, and that was Just The Beginning

> RB Alfred Morris for 7, a lot of room for a first down run

> QB Robert Griffin to WR DeSean Jackson, simple out route, easy conversion for the first

> Morris for a yard, LB Connor Barwin ends what the line started

> LB Mychal Kendricks with a nice stop of the bubble screen

> 3rd and 7 is Griffin to WR Andre Roberts, bobbles and keeps it, and yeah, it's time to target CB Bradley Fletcher

> LB Brandon Graham eats Morris after a yard, Griffin rolls out and can't shake containment before a near pick throwback screen

> 3rd and 9 and stop the bleeding sees Green rush five, Griffin throws it away, and... it's a gift dumb ass flag on CB Cary Williams, who takes the bait from Roberts for a post-whistle shove

> Honestly, I have no idea how Williams can be that goddamned idiotic

> Morris for nothing, Griffin from the gun has all day before he gets a yard on an awkward looking scramble

> Third and goal from the 7 and dear God stop playing to DC's level is S Malcolm Jenkins breaking up a telegraphed pass to WR Pierre Garcon, and that could have easily been a TAInt

> K Kai Forbath connects from 25, and it's Red 3, Green 0

> Huff to the 20 and it ends with pain; looked like he had more opportunity

> Sanchez for a gain of three on coverage, McCoy for 4, and it's time for that overly important first third down of the drive

> Pressure on Sanchez before an incomplete, DC runs it in because they don't know how football works; hands to the face for a bailout first down

> McCoy for 3, then 18 as HC Chip Kelly remembers that he's good at catching balls out of the backfield

> Obviously Fake Defensive Injury to kill tempo, then Sanchez to Sproles for 7 yards on a check down drag

> Sanchez to Ertz, the TE saves a poor throw for 7 yards and the first

> McCoy for 10 on the drag, Sproles for 8 to the right on good patience on a screen

> McCoy for 5 as the line is generating holes, another first down

> Slower tempo than usual, then McCoy for 11 and the score

> Really nice job keeping his feet forward and sealing the deal on that run

> Green 7, Red 3, first really nice run-based drive in a long time

> Griffin to Jackson for 51 yards, underthrown ball, great adjustment by the WR, and, um, I have no idea why Fletcher is on the DC deep threat with a chip on his shoulder the size of a sequoia

> Morris through a big hole, three men miss, and that's a 28 yard score and just... um, yeah, we're all looking forward to no longer watching this team

> Red 10, Green 7, and yeah, it's hard to tell which team has 9 wins, and which one has three

> Sanchez to Maclin, low and incomplete, decisive but not accurate

> Tries it again, gets six yards and immediate stoppage

> Rather than call a draw on a formation where no one is around to cover it, four man rush gets to the indecisive QB, 2nd Red sack, end of drive

> P Donnie Jones for 33 and a fair catch, also not helpng much

> Morris for 3, then Griffin to TE Logan Paulsen on the settling screen for 6 yards

> Third and stop the bleeding is a gift first down as Cox encroaches, albeit with explosion

> Griffin to WR Pierre Garcon, 12 on the soft cushion against Williams

> Morris for 2 as Kendricks chases it down, then gets his fourth sack of the year for a loss of 11

> Really nice work by the LB there, and Griffin doesn't do his line any favors by just drifting back into the lane

> Roberts drops a very catchable stretch ball on 3rd and 19 that would have moved the sticks, and that's just an unforced error to get off the field without points

> P Tress Way gets it to the 6, and that's nice work by the kicker

> McCoy for 4, then Sanchez to WR Jodan Matthews (welcome back!) for the sticks

> Obviusly Fake Defensive Injury on random DB, and when, oh when, will the NFL stop Chip Kelly's horrifying injury causing tempo

> DB Ryan Clark has a hangnail, and returned after a play, of course

> McCoy for 22, all kinds of jittery goodness

> Sproles for 12 on his own to the right, drag route with fun tap dancing

> The running game is dominant, so let's call a passing play and have Johnson take a holding penalty -- gahhh

> Sanchez for another sack, and T Jason Peters with the misery

> 3rd and 25 from their own 40 is For Heaven's Sake Avoid A Turnover For Once In Your Goddamned Life, Sanchez, and actually converts it to Matthews on a 3-man rush

> This just in: Red Isn't Good Either

> Sanchez keeps for six rather than take the drag play, then McCoy for the conversion... but it's a hold on Peters, and the tackles are having issues

> McCoy for not much, setting up 3rd and 15

> Sproles on the bubble screen for 19, and it's time to cite him for invisibility powers because he's 10% smaller than an ordinary RB, and television analysts think that defenders only can see above six feet off the ground

> Sanchez for 6, then Sproles for 12 as the QB does well to avoid getting in harm's way on the backfield block

> First and goal from the 8 is McCoy showing patience for five yards, and Ow, Red Has N Owie

> Sanchez misses Ertz, open in the end zone, but the throw is high and wide

> Third and goal to take the lead is Sanchez to WR Riley Cooper, who somehow avoids disaster for the slant score

> Green 14, Red 10, second straight long drive for score with red zone win

> Griffin for 4, throw to RB Darrell Young for 3

> Third and 3 is a pressure throw to WR Jordan Reed, behind and that's all kinds of punty

> Sproles dances for six, and Green gets it back on their own 17

> McCoy for 6, tempo tempo tempo please, Sanchez to Cooper, but offsetting flags

> 2nd and 4 with 1:28 left is Sanchez to Ertz for 7, then again for 8

> Green timeout with 1:02 on the clock, smart use to keep the middle of the field in play

> Ertz for 4, then Maclin for 17, and Green Timeout #2

> Long developing, then a miss to Matthews, a bit on the WR

> Bad dance work on the bubble to Sproles; loss of a yard and final timeout

> 3rd and 11 to save the figgie chance is Sanchez missing Sproles, who never turns for it, and yeesh

> That's the first of many missed opportunities in this one, and one that could have given them separation against a team that was just ready to quit

> Jones punts, and that's the half

> K Cody Parkey a yard deep, and the STs come up with a gret stiff arm for the ball on Roberts

> CB/ST Nolan Carroll with the recovery, really nice poke to generate it by Jenkins

> McCoy for a yard, then loses one on a too slow screen

> 3rd and 10 from the Red 16 is long clock, then Sanchez missing Cooper in the end zone, but at least it wasn't a pick

> Parkey from 34 misses by a foot right, and gahhh, not good

> That's the second of many missed yada yada yada

> 2x the number of yards + even in turnovers should not be a 4 point lead, dammit

> Griffin with time, Jackson with space, 14 yards

> Morris gets five as Cox holds on, then plows for five more

> Blitz fails, and Griffin slips past it for seven yards; bad look on Kendricks

> RB Silas Redd Jr. in to get four yards and another first

> Morris for 3, Griffin to Garcon for 17, runs free off the line on Williams

> Morris for 5, poor man's beast mode

> Griffin to Reed, CB Brendan Boykin on the stop to save the first down

> 3rd and keep it a figgie chance is Griffin missing Roberts, but roughing the passer is another gift first down

> Call-wise, it's pretty much right there with that nauseating flag against the Niners last week

> No replay, of course, since those just undermine the officiating now

> Delay flag with a new C and the old coach

> Morris for a yard, Garcon for 9, another roughing the passer flag, this one on DE Vinny Curry

> Second ridiculous call of the drive

> Oh, by the way, pre-catch blocking by Red

> Young for the dive rush TD, Cox runs right past the FB, and yeah, nothing that happened in the last five minutes wasn't nauseating

> Red 17, Green 14

> CBS needs to show us that Daniel Snyder comes to games and knows how to pump his fist, so, um, yay

> Critical drive starts with McCoy dropping a throw in the flat, unforced error but wouldn't have gotten much

> McCoy for 3, setting up third and yeah, way too damned important

> Sanchez to Ertz, time and ball for 11 and the first

> McCoy for five, might have had more, but slowed just enough

> McCoy for two, patience unrewarded

> Third and 3 and keep the ball is slow tempo, Sanchez to Matthews for 22 on a simple and well done cross

> Sanchez for 6, mobility with concern about deep ball picks

> Sanchez stumble keeps for 3, more runnerish than usual tonight

> McCoy doesn't get anything on third and one, bad miss there

> Parkey from 46 misses right again, and that's opportunity number three; he's picking a bad time to be Alex Henery

> Griffin fumbles the snap from his old center, but gets it back for a loss of four

> Griffin to Jackson, wide open on Surprise Surprise, Fletcher, 55 yards

> The CB is lucky the ball isn't better, or that's seven right away, instead of later

> Morris for two, then Jackson to the end zone, tied up with S Nate Allen, automatic DPI flag

> Maybe it wasn't a good idea to just let this guy walk for nothing

> Young again, simple, score

> Red 24, Green 14 with 15:26 left

> Huff for 26, Flag #10 against Green (2 against Red)

> Sanchez to Cooper for 15 ends the third quarter

> McCoy for 8, but Flag #11 is a hold, and yeah, Green beat themselves with a stick today, then upgraded to bats

> Sanchez to Cooper for 9, late flag for no flag, so much for tempo

> Sanchez to Cooper for 9, same play, no RAC opportunity

> 3rd and is McCoy for six, nice movement in the hole

> Sanchez to Ertz for 8, lots of dink and dunk options here

> Sanchez tries WR Brad Smith, against the grain, near pick but down, and offsetting flags anyway

> The Sanchize is pretty much the definition QB for You Can't Throw Back Across Your Body

> Sanchez to Ertz for 9, simple stuff against poor LBs

> Sproles for 4, takes a hit but he's a tank

> Sanchez to Ertz, 16 yards with a great grab of a high ball

> McCoy for 4 yards of patience, then slow tempo for a loss from under center, and that wasn't good all over

> 3rd and 9 is Sanchez to Cooper, 16 yard score down the middle, and yeah, Red Isn't Good Either

> Parkey for a PAT gets through, Red 24, Green 21, 10:27 left

> STs do the job, Red starts at their own 17

> Cox with a 4 yard sack as Red gets cute with play action; nearly a strip

> Screen to RB Chester Thompson for 5, Green pressure trying to stop the offense just by themselves, which means roughing the passer flags all over the place, since touching the QB any more isn't allowed

> Deep ball to Jackson, underthrown, Allen able to come up and get a pick for the arm punt

> If that was actually thrown, it's another Red score, but Griffin's mechanical issues also means he's not that great at deep balls any more, either

> Sanchez to Cooper, drops the sit-down route

> Sanchez to McCoy for 11, nicely timed dump off

> Sanchez to TE Brent Celek, well-done screen release, 15 yards with RAC

> Sanchez to Sproles, telegraphed, RB nailed for a 2-yard gain

> Sanchez to Maclin, 18 yards with a great toe tap

> McCoy for nothing, Kerrigan stops the cutback

> Slow tempo on second and goal from the nine, Sanchez to Ertz for 4

> Third and goal is make or break with 6:30 left, tempo too slow, Sanchez to Ertz is too late, DPI not called, broadcast team doesn't notice because Ertz is a TE, rather than a prancy WR

> Parkey from 22 yards finally connects, game is tied

> Parkey to the end zone, but STs fail, and Red gets 41 yards from Roberts to start at their own 35

> Morris for 7, hole too big

> 2nd and 3 is Morris for little. DT Bennie Logan with the stop

> Griffin checks down for 4 yards to Reed, in front of Boykin, fairly easy

> Morris for nothing as Kendricks gets there, screen to Thompson loses two

> 3rd and 12 with three minutes left is stupid important, and Fletcher actually breaks up the play

> Poor throw by the QB, trying for WR Santana Moss

> Way to Sproles, who gets to the 15, and Green has 2:52, 3 timeouts, and 85 yards of field for an escape

> Sanchez to Sproles for 9, nice play call and execution

> Sanchez to Ertz for 5 and a first

> Sanchez to Ertz for 6, and that's the two minute warning

> Sanchez to Ertz, curl route for 11, and Red has to take a timeout for the automatic fake injury

> Sanchez tries Ertz, clear DPI, uncalled

> Sanchez to Ertz for 6, 15th catch for a franchise record, but, well, limited

> 3rd and 5 from the Red 48 is Sanchez to Maclin, throw is low and bad and picked, and yeah, He's Mark Sanchez

> Note that every single play in this have to have it and end the game drive was a throw by the league's most INT-prone QB

> Griffin to Garcon, spins on Williams, and yeah, the season is officially lost due to bad CB play

> Curry with a head tap adds 15 more yards

> Rather than let Red score and still have a chance to win the game, Green jumps offsides and tries to tackle

> Rather than let Red score and have a chance to win, Green tackles Morris after 7 yards and calls a timeout

> Rather than let Red score and have a chance to win, Green tackles Morris and calls their third timeout

> Red false starts, then throws Morris again, and yup, field goal with 10 seconds to end the season

> Forbath connects from 25, and yeah, Green was too stupid to win a game against a 3-win team

> Red squibs it, TE Trey Burton makes a great stop and sit, and Green has it at midfield with three seconds left

> Red knocks down the heave, and that's the season, or at least, should be

> On the plus side, Eagle Fan won't have to see this team for any more games after next week... which will also be a loss

> If you want to keep looking for positives, maybe this game convinces DC to keep Griffin and Gruden together

> Honestly, it's hard to lose a game when you have 190 more yards and the same number of turnovers, but penalties, missed field goals and dramatically dumb decisions will find a way

Six Points On The Rush To Judge The Eagles, And Chip Kelly

Yes, Yes It Is
There is nothing quite like being near Eagle Fans when things aren't going so well. Pro football has been a staple of the local cuisine since the dim start of the NFL (Go, Frankford Yellow Jackets, Go!), but How It's All Gone Wrong And Who Gets Blamed is a sport here.

One which, it seems I am not immune.

So without any further ado, let's do...

Point The First: Why is everyone assuming that this team is going to win 11 games?

There are two games left, both on the road, both in the division. Later today, the Eagles play the Slurs of DC in DC, and yeah, they should win that game... but honestly, it's far from a lock. They are a .500 team with QB2 Mark Sanchez in the lineup, and that should be expected, because Sanchez is a turnover machine. The STs have not been nearly as dominant in the past few weeks, and while the defense tries hard, they still start two below-average CBs. It's far from a given.

Point The Second: Why is everyone assuming that 11 wins won't get in?

Dallas has to win both of their remaining games, and that's far from a given. Indy in Indy is a rough matchup for them, and DC in DC has been a historical problem. With RB DeMarco Murray nursing a surgical hand issue and the club having issues in home games, this is also far from a given. The wild-card ways in -- Detroit falling to pieces and blowing games against Chicago and Green Bay, or Seattle losing out -- really aren't worth talking about. (They also create the possibility of going to play against the NFC South winner. Be still, my heart.)

Oh, and if you win 11 games and don't go to the playoffs, Oh Freaking Well. If you aren't the best team in your division, getting into the playoffs isn't something you had a Divine Right to achieve.

Point The Third: There really isn't an answer to the question of whether the year was better than 2013.

The Eagles in 2013 rode a historically efficient QB performance, especially in turnovers, to overcome weak special teams and a poor defense to a division championship and home field loss. That club was fun, but it took advantage of a cupcake schedule and was never a real contender, because when push came to shove, opponents could just shove (i.e., run the ball). This club has amazing STs, a run defense that's actually very good, and an offense that can't stop turning the ball over, especially against good teams. It feels worse because it didn't play it's best football at the end of the year, like the 2013 team did, but it's probably not a worse team.

Point The Fourth: If You Must Worry, Look At The Drafts.

WR Jordan Matthews is going to be here for a while, and WR Josh Huff has had some moments mixed with disaster. First-round pick Marcus Smith has gotten some snaps at MLB and OLB, more due to injury than competence. He hasn't shown any indication that he's going to be good, but it's still early. CB Jaylen Watkins and S Ed Reynolds haven't been able to penetrate a porous secondary. NT Beau Allen has had more moments than DE Taylor Hart. And I guess you can also slide in K Cody Parkey to this class, seeing how he's also a rookie and was traded for in preseason. In terms of actual utility, the K is trumping the field.

Oh, and there's also this: Kelly's Oregon fixation hasn't really worked out yet. Brandon Bair, Hart, Huff and WR Jeff Maehl  are all ex-Ducks, and none have really set the world on fire. (We'll give him a pass for MLB Casey Matthews, who was here before Kelly.) And unless you want to overrate T Lane Johnson, Jordan Matthews, or erratic TE Zach Ertz... well, the nice part is that no one seems like an utter bust, but nope, no stars, either.

Point the Fifth: The Free Agents Have Been A Lot Like The Drafts, Actually.

The club has been able to add some nice pieces -- S Malcolm Jenkins and RB Darren Sproles alone could probably have gotten the Saints back into the playoffs by now -- but again, no break out stars. They've been able to make the STs great, which is a nice leading indicator, but the best players on this team -- T Fletcher Cox, LB Connor Barwin, LB Mychal Kendricks, WR Jeremy Maclin, T Jason Peters, TE Brent Celek and RB LeSean McCoy... well, they mostly predate Kelly.

Oh, and let's just not discuss the curious decision to sign and retain TE3 James Casey, or the whole Extend Riley Cooper, Dismiss DeSean Jackson problem. It makes me curl up into a fetal position, still. (Not that I'm so wrapped up in the idea that Jackson would have solved all ills, or that Cooper is the cause of them. Just that dismissing an asset with no return is Not Good. And that Cooper sucks. Sigh.)

Point the Sixth: No One Wants To Hear This... But There's Not Nearly Enough Data Yet.

No one is claiming that Kelly's offensive ideas are ludicrous any more. Tempo still works, as does the read option as a supplement. He's won a very solid number of games without a wildly mobile QB, without his defenses falling apart due to a lack of time of possession, or with massive injury issues from humans just not being able to stand up to this pace. Indeed, the club's single biggest point of what might be a true edge on the rest of the league has been the relative health of the roster in these two years. He's still got a puncher's chance with QB2, and a fairly bad amount of turnover luck / regression to the two-year mean.

But on the other hand, he hasn't really won outside of his weight class yet. This team still looks best when it runs up against clubs with shaky coaching or bend don't break defenses. Performance in the red zone has been lacking, where offensive innovation should theoretically matter more. Going from 9-3 with two home games and a chance to stay home for the playoffs can't become 9-5 and needing help, not if you're going to hang your hat on the idea that Kelly's a transformative coaching genius. And we won't even get into the defensive coordination issue of having no Plan B when your CBs are getting roasted -- no replacement players, no double teams, no matchup zones, etc., etc.

Next year, Kelly's going to have to try to win with QB Nick Foles again, in all likelihood. He's not going to have a clear killer draft pick, and even if he did, rookie CBs usually struggle. If you are dreaming of free agents to solve the issues, you should root for Washington.

In Conclusion... 2014 might be a disappointment, especially if it ends without a playoff game, or a playoff loss, just like last year. But Kelly hasn't lost the faith of management, or given off much of an air that the job is too big for him.

Things are going to be harder in 2015. And that's what the NFL is like, for, well, everyone...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

NFL Week 16 Picks: Ready For Over

Clowntime Is Over
So as I was thinking about the column this week, I started to realize... I'm tired of this NFL season.

And it's not just the fact that my laundry has gone from 9-3 with a shot at a home bye to 9-5 and needing help to even get in. Or that my fantasy league team, a shocking Week One juggernaut, has whittled away, through injury and regression, to the middle of the pack. Or that the picks have bounded back and forth to stay away from a strong win.

Rather, it's this. I've just watched too much of this.

Think about it. Without even needing to go for the added expense of NFL Sunday Ticket, you can pretty much lock yourself into five games a week -- the Thursday, Sunday and Monday messes, and the Sunday afternoon 1pm and 4pm slots. Then there's the added games on Thanksgiving, the opening weekend problem, next week's Saturday games, the pre-season, and the upcoming 11 playoff tilts...

And, well, the nature of the NFL is that there is no such thing, in the overwhelming majority, as a meaningless game. There are just single elimination playoff games, and games that are a slightly less known amount of elimination. I haven't missed an Eagles game in this or any other year, since the mid 1970s. And unlike past years, there's been about 5-6X more games, than just my laundry, on my screen and yours.

So, um, no. The end of the season hasn't snuck up on anyone. It's not even unwelcome. Fatigue and overexposure and saturation has set it, at least for me.

Probably not for you, though.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Tennessee at JACKSONVILLE (-3.5)

The Titans are on QB # Who Cares, while the Jags are likely to still have QB Blake Bortles under center. Jacksonville can get to the QB on defense, move it a little with tempo, and care a little for no very good reason. Oh, and this gets shown to a national audience, on a stand alone night, just as a test to see how low of a rating an NFL game can get. Look for RB Toby Gerhart to break though for a huge game, just to make his incredibly bitter ex-fantasy owners break a television.

Jaguars 24, Titans 17

PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) at Washington


After the last two weeks, I'm not certain the Eagles can beat anyone, because, well, the offense is going to turn the ball over, the defense can't cover any WR worth his salt, and it doesn't seem as if the coaching staff can make adjustments any more. But, well, Washington at home is a team with a negative home field advantage, and at some point, this team has to remember that it's good at beating bad teams. Right?

Eagles 34, Slurs 20

SAN DIEGO (+1) at San Francisco


Dead Coach Walking! The Niners are eliminated from playoff contention, and host the surprising Chargers and dark horse MVP QB Philip Rivers. San Diego has been hot and cold all year, and really aren't more than a one-and-done wild-card team, but that's enough to beat a dysfunctional offense and a non-existent home field advantage. Hope it was worth the money to move a ridiculously long way away from your city, Niners.

Chargers 23, Niners 17

MINNESOTA (+6.5) at Miami


Just a feel pick here. The Vikes have been working teams close to the vest, with some encouraging work on offense, while the Fish haven't been able to get any kind of downfield passing game working, which is slowly poisoning the running game. They might win this game, but covering seems a bit much.

Dolphins 24, Vikings 20

BALTIMORE (-5.5) at Houston


Oh, you poor Texans. Reduced to QB Who Cares due to injury, they get a Ravens team that has a horrible secondary, but won't be able to take advantage. Look for the road team to spend the entire game making sure the DL MVP candidate JJ Watt can't add to his highlight reel, which is just about the only way the Texans win this game.

Ravens 20, Texans 13

DETROIT (-7) at Chicago


Has there been a more disappointing team than the Bears? Seemingly on the rise in the pre-season with an improved defense to go with a playmaker-heavy offense, they've slid so far that they are now turning to QB2, the previously disgraced Jimmy Clausen, to try to stop the bleeding. Not exactly the best team to try that on, given the Lions' propensity for making bad QBs look worse.

Lions 26, Bears 17

Cleveland at CAROLINA (pick 'em)


Is it heresy to note that the Panthers have looked a lot better with QB Derek Anderson under center than QB Cam Newton? Well, um, it's true... and while it's unlikely to be a long-standing trend, the fact that the Panthers are still in an improbable playoff race does make you go Hmm. As for the Browns, look for QB Johnny Manziel to bounce back all the way to ordinary bad, rather than historically atrocious.

Panthers 23, Browns 13

ATLANTA (+6) at New Orleans


Two bad teams fighting for one playoff chance. The spread's too high for comfort, especially with the damage that Falcons QB Matt Ryan did last time these teams met, in Week One in Atlanta. It seems more likely than not that the final is close, and with the Saints' desperate need to upgrade their defensive talent and get their coaching staff in sync, an upset isn't out of the question.

Falcons 27, Saints 26

GREEN BAY (-10.5) at Tampa


For the second straight week, the Packers visit a venue where they've had serious and improbable trouble over the years. Unlike last week in Buffalo, they won't encounter a defensive team that's gelling, a fan base that's rabid, or a team with any idea of playoff hopes. Look for the Pack to open up a big lead early, and run up the score by more than a little.

Packers 44, Bucs 16

Kansas City at PITTSBURGH (-3)


I apologize in advance, Steeler Fan, for taking your team at home against a club that they should beat. That's been the kiss of death against the Bucs and Saints, and might be again with a Chiefs team that certainly has playmakers... but the way that the Steelers have lost games this year has been against big and physical WRs. The Chiefs, you may have heard, have not thrown a touchdown to a WR in 2014. And 2014 is nearly over.

Steelers 27, Chiefs 20

NEW ENGLAND (-10) at NY Jets


Over the years, this series has been the strongest point to the Rex Ryan Era of Gang Green. They've managed to bedevil the Patriots, and occasionally even beat them, because the Jets are basically engineered to beat teams like the Patriots... by playing ugly ball and punching them in the mouth a lot. But all of that fails when (a) the Patriots have a good enough defense to stop the run, (b) the Jets can't help but turn the ball over and create runway moments, and (c) Green has a secondary. I think I'd take the Pats at 2X the points listed.

Patriots 38, Jets 16

NY GIANTS (+5) at St. Louis


Time to see if Blue's resurgence is just a case of kicking tomato cans, or if they can step up against a dominant defensive team at home. What's going to help them is that the Rams offense is the weakest unit on the field, that QB Eli Manning has been finding his legs again with WR Odell Beckham Jr. and TE Larry Donnell proving multiple targets, and that their defense can create turnovers with the pass rush. Oh, and that Blue's going to win out the last month of their season and save their coach, while ruining the Eagles' season. Have I mentioned that I'm ready for this season to be over?

Giants 23, Rams 20

Buffalo at OAKLAND (+6)


In last week's game in Kansas City, the Raiders ran for 78 yards on 17 carries, for 4.6 yards per pop. They threw it for 202, on 56 attempts, for 3.4 yards per pop. In a road game, which was 10-6 Chiefs with 22 minutes left in the game. Oh, and rookie RB Latavius Murray, who had torched the Chiefs in their last game, an upset Raiders win at home less than a month ago, was doing just fine, and didn't have a concussion. If you can make sense of this play calling mix... well, you can't.

This week in Oakland, I think that the Raiders will be less dense, especially since the Bills are a lot better wt rushing the passer than they are at stopping the run. I expect Buffalo to have a letdown after that fairly fluky Packers win, what will all of the travel. I expect the Raiders to have a loud crowd, seeing how they've won two in a row at home. And I also expect them to lose. But cover.

Bills 24, Raiders 20

INDIANAPOLIS (+3) at Dallas


Betting with my heart here? Well, sure. The Cowboys need to lose for my laundry to have any realistic chance at the playoffs, and this home game against the explosive Colts is a lot more likely than a road game against the lifeless Slurs. Indy also needs the game to have a shot at home field and a bye, so there's incentive for them as well.

As for the matchup itself, Dallas has real worries with RB DeMarco Murray having surgery on his left hand. He's practiced with it, but has also had ball security issues in the past, and might as well paint a bullseye on his gloves with the condition being made public. Indy has had issues stopping the running game in the past, and can be turnover prone... but QB Andrew Luck can extend plays and utterly dismantle this secondary, and Dallas has been surprisingly vulnerable at home. It's a bad matchup for them, and at a bad time.

Colts 37, Cowboys 31

SEATTLE (-7.5) at Arizona


Wow, what a time to try to nurse a win with QB3 and 4... and against the best defense in football. Seattle isn't going to score a lot of points in this one without the benefit of short fields, and Arizona is going to pound away with a patient and mildly imaginative running game -- think a lot of end arounds, misdirection and traps -- but you can't win games in the NFL that way. And eventually, when they turn the ball over, you can't cover the spread, either.

Seahawks 20, Cardinals 10

DENVER (-3) at Cincinnati


Time for the Bengals to turtle up in bright light against a Broncos team that's battle-tested for games like this, with HC Marvin Lewis and QB Andy Dalton making their local fans despair... but it really does go deeper than that. Denver's got the defense to take away WR AJ Green, and are stout enough to make just pounding the rock with RB Jeremy Hill not a potent enough second option. But the far bigger issue is that Denver's running the ball well now, and the Bengal defense will spend an unsatisfying evening toggling between formations that won't get it done.

Broncos 24, Bengals 20

Last week: 8-7-1

Season: 107-111-4

Career: 595-611-43

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