Tag Archives: Andy Dalton

Monday Morning Breeze: The Revolution Will Be Caught One-Handed

[(MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The Breeze will recap CFB’s Alabama-Clemson National Championship game on Tuesday, so this will be Professional Football-heavy, or College-Deflated, depending how you choose to see the glass re: -imisms) It’s near impossible to miss the unfolding humor in a reality that pits America’s Most Traditionally Revered NFL team against the steaming pile of toxic that has been Daniel Snyder’s Washington Trumps, in D.C., for a wild-card playoff game.

When you add the fact that a prominent Packer player is named “Ha Ha Clinton-Dix” while Hillary stumps for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, I mean, clearly Fate’s got a warped thing for the wickedly absurd. So what could prepare us for an NFL Wild-card weekend that lived up to its name? Where Ace Ventura jokes became re-relevant (“laces out”) making my heart gently weep for Minnesota’s Blair Walsh Project, where it seems everyone wants to be like ODB Jr whether it’s receivers vying for his “Best Ever Catch ‘Til Tomorrow” crown, or Vontaze’s Burfict crime-ing for his “Grossest Cheap Shot” frown, where all he does is Russell Wilson Seattle to wins (or perhaps Faith’s wind), while the Bengals missed Double-Deuce Dalton more than the time it takes to restore sore thumbs, Pack Nation slumbers well ’cause Aaron Rodgers remembered how to kinda throw again, some.

To playoff football let’s succumb. Enter to the beating drum of your heart’s hum and maybe find fun…

NFL PLAYOFFS PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Playoffs Games of the Week (Wild-card Round) Kansas City Chiefs 30 @ Houston Texans 0 So it was, ho hum, on the very first kickoff of the very first ho hum playoff game KNILE DAVIS EXPLODES THROUGH A MASSIVE HOLE AND ho hum RETURNS IT ONE-HUNDRED AND SIX FREAKING YARDS FOR THE TD. Houston was never really close on the majority of this play or for the rest of the game as Kansas City would never relinquish that lead, with the helpful, steady hand of Alex Smith leading the way and the woefully unsteady hand of Bryan Hoyer (4 picks, yikes!) leaving the Texans exposed like a butterfly filet of poor play.

Jon Gruden quote of the day: “JJ Watt’s battling a bad groin injury.” Look, Watt’s an incredible player, but even he can’t fight a Kansas City O-line AND tangle with one of those “bad groin injury” things at the same time.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 @ Cincinnati Bengals 16 An enchanting, angry contest. Part 1 of “Insane Catches by Incredible Wideouts,” and Vontaze’s Rage. This story told with the help of Vine’s visuality. We’ll start with the uglier portions of the game and finish with the beauty of Martavis’ gorgeous holy-roller TD catch. In all, it seems Andy Dalton will still get blamed for another 1st round exit, even though he wasn’t playing. We begin with one Vontaze Burfict losing his famously hot-tempered mind, producing a near clone of the ODB Jr. cheap-ass headshot, this time on Antonio Brown…

..but “Oh by the way” Burfict was way more egregious, disgusting, with this cheap headshot on Maxx Williams in a previous game versus the Ravens. Careful, it’s disturbing…

https://vine.co/v/iMWPBbFYELr

…and continuing the ugly parade, Pittsburgh ASSISTANT COACH Mike Munchak, yes, a coach, ripping some of Reggie Nelson’s dreads, rightfully pissing him right off…

…but thank all that’s True and Right in the world for Martavis Bryant’s incredible athleticism, focus, and brilliance all on display on this catch in the 3rd quarter, possibly trumping Beckham’s one-handed stab heard ’round the world…

Seattle Seahawks 10 @ Minnesota Vikings 9 This game will forever be remembered (by me) as “The Blair Walsh Project,” but it also included Part 2 of “Incredible Catches by Amazing Wideouts” and one of the more unlikely turning-point plays in recent history. First off, it looked cold as freezer burn in Minn-eh-sot-ah, -3 degrees for much of the game, with breath bursting from the entire stadium’s mouths like 80,000 proud vapers.

While their defense was its usual stout self, Seattle came out slightly resembling a steaming crater of ineptitude on offense. Then the play below happened, which appears to foreshadow more terror for Wilson and the ‘Hawks offense. Except he’s Macklemore uncommonly composed Russ Wilson, even in the face of certain peril, proving once again on this play why he’s so valuable to Mr. Pete Carroll and the ‘Hawks. For a little forced imagination, think of how 99.9% of the time the QB/center shotgun exchange is botched like this it results in, at best, a sack.

Instead, picture this reality where Wilson recovers smoothly, calmly baseball slides, retrieving the ball and springing back up in one swift motion, rolls away from oncoming defenders, looks downfield and fires a strike to a wide-open Tyler Lockett for the game-changing play. Seattle would go on to a TD and huge momentum swing, injecting life into their moribund offense and turning the tides of what was shaping up to be a certain Viking victory.

Yeah, I believe in momentum, F Nate Silver on this topic, and this was a huge swing in a game largely dictated by field position.

…then Adrian Peterson fumbles on the ensuing Viking possession, and SEA recovers with 10:30 left in the 4th.

…oh by the way Doug Baldwin becomes a bent Beckham-like wizard and makes this incredible one-hander…

…although Chase Coffman proves there should be some kinda permit receivers have to earn to attempt one-handed catch, like a driver’s license, ’cause he tries to be like Doug B. but instead makes an interception so easy…

Trailing Seattle 10-9 very late in the 4th quarter, Kyle Rudolph beat Kam Chancellor in man coverage for a huge first down catch (vindication for Chancellor getting away with a clear hold on Rudolph earlier), putting the Vikings in money-FG position for the certain game-winner. It was a kick that 99.6% of the time would’ve been a Blair Walsh layup 3-pointer. In a kinder, gentler reality Walsh nails the kick, the Vikings win, slay the 2-time Super Bowl Seahawks and move on to the next round.

In this harsher, cruel, coooold reality Walsh shanks the kick so badly left of the uprights, like a boomerang that didn’t go where it was supposed to and never came back, allowing America to brush the 8-inch thick dust off every Scott Norwood and Ace Ventura joke no longer forgotten to mankind. I understand Walsh is a professional, paid a ton of money to make that kick. He has to make that kick. But damn, I just feel bad for him.

Green Bay Packers 35 @ Washington Cousins/Trumps 18
This game started with a bizarre “DeSean Jackson scores but doesn’t” on a catch and run where he crossed the goal line near the pylon but crossed too far and stepped first out of bounds while holding the ball back pre-goal line. Green Bay went on to hold Washington to a field goal and early momentum. However, Green Bay’s offense was dormant for much of the first half until Aaron Rodgers started hooking up hardcore with Davante Adams and James Jones (don’t worry, Olivia Munn) and headed into halftime up 17-11 after giving up a safety.

In the second half, the Packers could not cover Washington’s Jordan Reed, who played incredibly (9 catches, 120 yards) with Kirk Cousins putting the Washingtons up 18-17 with a QB run. As the second half wore on though, Green Bay wrested control away, shutting down Washington’s attack, pounding Washington’s D with a steady diet of Lacy and Starks, and squeezing just enough juice out of A-Rod’s recovering air raid to coast comfortably into the next round. Kirk Cousins and the Washingtons were kinda like Leo here, at the Golden Globes: they won their division, had home-field against the Pack, everyone was lauding them for pulling through the RGIII fiasco.

They’re laughing, they’re having a good time, sitting nearer the top than they’ve been in a while. Meanwhile Rodgers and the Pack were like Lady Gaga: they just hadn’t looked like their typically dangerous self after blazing to a 6-0 start to the season before dropping 4 of their next 5 and finishing 2nd in the NFC North.

But oh, never forget about the beautiful power of Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, as they approach laughing Leo/Washington all the way from the forgotten back, shimmering the entire way as they (purposefully?) knock the Snyder’s over-extended elbow out of the way, smirking a triumphant return to the next round with a future full of promise, leaving Leo and the Snyders meekly grimacing in their wake.

https://vine.co/v/iMApWTgWgvL

THIS WEEK’S SIGN SOMETHING’S ASKEW IN THE WORLD

https://vine.co/v/iMm2OdgxwAK

Selfishly Sprayed Tweets Peak at Past Week

TCU: Next Man In

The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs’ flawless season has come to a screeching halt and met its’ biggest challenges: replacing a Heisman caliber quarterback and the teams’ star receiver.

Quarterback Treyvone Boykin missed much of the season last year when he was plagued with injury after finally earning space in the Heisman conversation, and it’s safe to say we’re all feeling a little Deja Vu. Two weeks ago, in week ten of the college football season, TCU lost their first game of 2015 to the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who has blindsided football fans for being the biggest spectacle in the Big 12, and possibly their only prayer for a chance in the playoffs.

Boykin had a memorable exit, and not in the way that Horned Frog fans are used to. The polished quarterback threw four interceptions, and got closed out by the Cowboys 42-29. Before being benched with the injury, Boykin was on track to finish the season with the 3rd-biggest total offense in FBS history.

Also sitting on the sidelines when TCU’s offense takes the field is Treyvone Boykin’s favorite target, Josh Doctson. Last year, the wide receiver had 65 receptions for a school record 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns. Doctson is confirmed to be out for the rest of the season as a result of injuring his wrist against the Kansas Jayhawks last week, after only making one catch for twelve yards.

Treyvon Boykin and Josh Doctson are redshirt seniors, who have proven their draft stock time and again. The wide receiver class at TCU has also proven pretty effective with admirable performances by athletes like Kolby Listenbee, who is averaging 20.6 yards per catch this season and ranks 4th for the Big 12 in that category.

With Boykin likely on his way to the draft for 2016, it is paradoxical that TCU fans can now catch a glimpse into the heir to starting quarterback job for next season.

Red shirt freshman Foster Sawyer is a 6’5, 220lb, pro-style quarterback from Fort Worth, Texas. His run skills do not match the dual-threat stylings of Boykin, but his exhibited decisiveness in the pocket make the Horned Frogs passing game as relevant as ever, whether he must carry out the starting jobs’ responsibilities for the rest of the season, or continue to take reps behind Boykin until the Spring.

Sawyer received offers from schools like

Coach Meachem was recruiting me pretty hard at Oklahoma State before he left.

Sawyer received offers from the Ole Miss Rebels, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Alabama Crimson Tide, and UCLA Bruins. Committing to TCU was an easy decision, however, when he learned that Doug Meachem, who had been recruiting Sawyer diligently during his time as a Tight End/Wide Receiver coach at Oklahoma State, would be signing on as the co-offensive coordinator at TCU.

Sawyer has always expressed excitement in the fun-for-the-quarterback, hurry-up, spread system that was newly being integrated into the Horned Frogs offense when he started his eligibility clock. He’s hung up on delivering the wins for his team, and is still wide-eyed enough to not get comfortable. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t scrap for second chances and pass completion, and amaze fans from week to week with his Andy Dalton style perseverance.

Although Sawyer only completed one of seven passes, the single completion was the game winning, 42-yard touchdown. Bram Kohlhausen, who had originally been ahead of Sawyer on the depth chart, did not get any points on the board and was benched after throwing an interception in the fourth quarter.

You can watch Foster Sawyer take on the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday at 8pm EST on ESPN.

A Revealing Night for the Broncos

In the season finale of Monday Night Football, the Bengals defeated the Broncos 37-28 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. This was a vital victory for Cincinnati since it punched their ticket to the playoffs. The Broncos, who have already giftwrapped themselves a playoff spot, were merely playing for a first round bye, which they can still secure with a win next week. Evidence would suggest that the game was simply more meaningful to the Bengals, but that’s not what I was left thinking when the game ended. While the Bengals celebrate their playoff berth, the Broncos may have just had their playoff dreams dashed.

 
Obviously the Broncos will play in the postseason, but they are not content with simply making the playoffs. Their playoff dream is to win the Super Bowl. After watching Monday’s game, I have a difficult time envisioning that dream coming true. Make no mistake about it—the Broncos are a terrific football team, however the playoffs will consist entirely of quality teams (aside from whoever emerges from the crapshoot that is the NFC South).

 
The Broncos, who boasted the most potent passing offense in NFL history a season ago, have lost their identity. During week twelve’s matchup against the Dolphins, the Broncos abruptly shifted their focus to establishing themselves as a run-first attack. Most analysts supported this decision. The consensus was that an effective running game would bolster Denver’s chances of winning playoff games and returning to the Super Bowl.

 
The plan seemed to be working well as Denver went streaking for four games following the shocking loss to the Rams. Picking up where they left off, the Broncos went to work on the ground Monday night. They fed C.J. Anderson a steady diet of early down runs to little avail. Even as the offense struggled to move the ball, they stubbornly stuck to the plan. With most of Peyton’s passes coming only on third down, he had little opportunity to establish a rhythm. The offense was held scoreless in the first half.

 
In the third quarter, the Broncos looked like a different team. Their patented quick tempo returned and so did the relentless passing game. Denver ripped off 21 third quarter points. Peyton looked sharp, and the entire offense was in sync once again. This was shaping up to be a prototypical Peyton comeback. As Gruden and Tirico mentioned, Peyton has 17 victories after trailing in games by at least 13 points, five more such comebacks than any other quarterback in league history. Peyton appeared poised to take home number 18.

 
Then something changed. Maybe it was the inclement weather, or Denver’s porous offensive line, or Peyton’s declining arm strength, or some combination of the three. Whatever the reason may have been, the Broncos offense fell apart. The Bengals pass rush put Peyton under constant duress, which completely disrupted the timing of the passing game. The Cincinnati secondary clogged the middle of the field, which forced Peyton to attempt lengthy sideline passes through the wind and rain. The results were unkind to Peyton. He floated three late interceptions and eventually lost the game by nine.

 
This fourth quarter reminded me of last year’s Super Bowl. The Broncos offensive line was overwhelmed by a fearsome pass rush, and Peyton struggled to complete passes against a ball-hawking secondary. Other teams undoubtedly took notice of what slowed Denver’s offense. If Denver’s playoff opponent can emulate Cincinnati’s strategy, their season will be ending early.

 
Now, I have never been one to doubt Peyton Manning. On many occasions I have anointed him the best quarterback that I have ever seen. But his remaining days in the NFL are numbered. No one denies his physical decline–his arm isn’t getting any stronger, and his spirals are becoming more wobbly by the game.  Since his tenure with the Broncos began, he had been able to overcome his physical limitations with anticipation and consistent football brilliance.  Last night, the Bengals caused Manning to make several mental mistakes.  Perhaps this was an aberration, but it revealed that Peyton’s margin for error is miniscule.  His dearth of mobility and waning arm strength require him to be flawless mentally.  Soon that burden may be too great for even the incomparable mind of Manning to bear.  His window of opportunity is quickly closing. I know it, and Peyton does too. Wednesday night while Andy Dalton is snug in his bed with visions of sugar-plums and a his first playoff win dancing in his head, Peyton will be wide awake wondering if he will ever win another Super Bowl.

The Browns' Midweek Report, Week 15: Manziel, Midgets, and Making the Playoffs

Well folks, Johnny Manziel is going to make his first NFL start on Sunday at 1:00 pm ET when the Cincinnati Bengals come rolling into town. And I’m not really sure what to expect.

On the one hand, I could see Manziel exploding and leading the Browns to a decisive victory, leading to complaints from our rather ungrateful fan base about how Manziel wasn’t played against the Colts (which, by the way, was the correct decision by Mike Pettine) and how with him we would be much closer to getting into the playoffs. Or Manziel could drop a big deuce, leading to questions about whether the Browns need to consider getting another QB this offseason. Or Manziel could just be mediocre as the Browns defense either wins the game or doesn’t quite do enough to make up for the meh offense it’s been paired with. Honestly I could see any of these three things happening, but I have no idea which to expect. If I was asked to put money on what his performance would be, I would abstain. I’m just much too unsure about what Manziel will actually be capable of doing.

Apparently though, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis isn’t anywhere close to as uncertain as I am:

In an interview earlier this week, Lewis declared that he didn’t need to bother worrying about who the Browns QB was this weekend, seeing as even if it was Manziel, “you’ve got to go defend the offense, you don’t defend the player…particularly a midget.”

My first reaction to this: “Ha, that’s freaking hilarious!!”

My second reaction to this: “Ohoho, I really hope Manziel makes Lewis eat those words”

My third reaction to this: “Damn, Marvin Lewis is kind of an a**hole. A somewhat funny, somewhat ballsy one, but still an a**hole.”

But then I read a reaction by ESPN The Magazine writer David Fleming on how Lewis’s comment was extremely calculated, and I kind of grew a new bit of respect for the Bengals HC. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to see him and his team get absolutely crushed by Manziel and the Browns this weekend, but I am finding that I have to admit that he is a very smart guy. As Fleming puts it:

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is an old defensive coordinator and he knew exactly what he was doing when he trolled [Manziel] on the radio by making fun of his size. He’s a rookie who hasn’t done anything yet except sell a lot of candy bars. NFL defenders are absolutely dying to be the first one to cleanly de-cleat him. So Lewis wants him to have Little Man Complex and feel like he has to prove how tough he is by staying in bounds or taking on a linebacker. Why? Because he knows the odds behind those collisions favor the defense and he’s banking on [Manziel] not being a big enough man to show a little discretion and back down in order to fight another day.

If that was the goal behind his statement, then props to Lewis. That was very well played sir. Hopefully it doesn’t payoff.

And now on to the playoffs:

That loss to the Colts obviously hurt the Browns. Badly. A one point loss is painful to watch, definitely when your team is winning up until the last 30 seconds or so. And definitely when they had numerous opportunities to put the game out of reach. The loss itself knocked the Browns chances of making the playoffs down to about 4.5%, according to stellar statistician Nate Silver and his website FiveThirtyEight. So what exactly needs to happen for the Browns to be in, and who do we all need to root for over the next three weeks?

Well first off, the Browns need to win out. That means victories against the Bengals, Panthers, and Ravens, all of whom are playing for their playoff lives as well. And that would actually put is in a fairly good position to grab the last wildcard spot. Too illustrate this, let me show you the situations of other teams still in the hunt:

Bills (7-6): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: Green Bay, at Oakland, at New England. I would say it is quite realistic to expect them to drop at least two of those. I don’t see them beating Green Bay this weekend, and New England will likely be still playing for home field advantage come Week 17, so I would expect them to probably drop that one as well. On top of that, Oakland has been playing surprisingly well lately, so that game could potentially be close as well. At best, I see them maybe pulling out two wins, but a 9-7 record isn’t going to be good enough to make the playoffs this year, so I think we can pretty much rule them out.

Chargers (8-5): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: Denver, at San Francisco, at Kansas City. The Chargers arguably have the toughest schedule of all the teams remaining in the hunt. However, if they can manage to secure just two wins, they are almost guaranteed the 5th seed in the playoffs, barring the Ravens winning out and the Bengals winning at least two more games, in which case we would likely see every AFC North teams except the Browns in the playoffs. Anyway, I think the Chargers should be able to handle what has looked like a completely defeated 49ers squad. However, the two divisional games will both be tough. The Broncos are the Broncos, and Arrowhead stadium is Arrowhead stadium, not to mention the Chiefs are still playing for the playoffs as well. I’m guessing the Chargers lose this weekend to the Broncos, but top a Chiefs team that has yet to throw a touchdown to a wide receiver. Philip Rivers should be able to outplay Alex Smith handily, and if the Chargers score more than 21 points, this game is probably out of reach for the Chiefs. Expect to see the Chargers playing in January.

Chiefs (7-6): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: Oakland, at Pittsburgh, San Diego. For the Chiefs, the road is rocky. They were unable to beat Oakland earlier this season, although they should easily handle them at home. And then it would really come down to which Pittsburgh team shows up. I’d put my money on the Pittsburgh team of late though, and if that is the case, the Chiefs will most definitely not be able to go into Heinz Field and emerge with a victory. However, if they did, it would come down to their season finale against the Chargers, the winner of which end a rivals season while propelling themselves into the playoffs. If the Chiefs do win their next two, that Week 17 matchup is going to be real real fun to watch.

Texans (7-6): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: at Indianapolis, Baltimore, Jacksonville. They should win their season finale, but the other two will be real fights. A win against the Colts in a stadium where they have never won before seems a tad bit out of reach, despite how well the Texans have been playing of late. As for the Ravens game, both teams will be playing for their playoff lives, and I see the Ravens coming out on top, if only by a touch. Two losses will knock the Texans way out of the picture, so I’m not too worried about them or any potential tiebreaker they would have over the Browns either.

Dolphins (7-6): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: at New England, Minnesota, New York Jets. Their only real obstacle, at least on paper, is the Patriots. If they somehow manage a win in Foxborough, then they suddenly have the easiest path to January football. The Vikings and Jets are both handleable, especially at home. However, with the way the Dolphins have looked the past two weeks, they aren’t going to come close to topping the Pats, which will probably end up putting them on the outside looking in come the end of the season.

Steelers (8-5): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: at Atlanta, Kansas City, Cincinnati. Unless they go full Pittsburgh against a sub-mediocre NFC South team, they are in the lead to win the AFC North. They should beat the Chiefs at home, and in a high pressure situation, I don’t expect to Andy Dalton to outplay Ben Roethlisberger. Welcome to the #4 seed in the playoffs, Pittsburgh.

Bengals (8-4-1): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: at Cleveland, Denver, at Pittsburgh. I mean, they are obviously going to lose to the Browns this weekend. And the Denver game is in primetime on Monday night, so there is another loss. And, as I mentioned above, I think the Steelers will win that matchup. The Bengals are going from first place going into Week 15 to last place at the end of the season. Sorry Marv.

Ravens (8-5): Their remaining schedule reads as follows: Jacksonville, at Houston, Cleveland. Again, obviously going to drop that Cleveland game. Other than that, they beat Jacksonville, and probably Houston. Just a note here, if Houston does win this weekend against the Colts, we as Browns fans are rooting for the Ravens against Houston, as painful as that may be. A 10-6 Browns beats the Ravens on tiebreakers, but loses to Texans on tiebreakers.

Overall though, as long as the Browns win out and the Dolphins, Bills, and Texans each drop one, which is very realistic, the Browns are playing in January. And that is pretty damn awesome. So let’s get excited folks. The season isn’t over quite yet.

Prediction: Browns ? – Bengals 20 (as noted above, have no idea what to expect)

11-on-11: Put Me Out of My NFL Missouri

Show me state, eh?

Rumor has it that a suburban St. Louis town is going to hear from a Grand Jury about a relatively controversial incident, but we’re not going there. Across the state, the Royals were in the playoffs for the first time, and we came very near getting an all-Missouri World Series, but Giants from the left coast swooped in and stomped on all championship dreams from Branson to Effingham. At least baseball fans have some decent barbeque to eat this winter.

Speaking of the state missing out on things, Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium was initially slated to be the site of this season’s Super Bowl, which was ultimately awarded to the dome named after the University of Phoenix in Glendale, Arizona. While both the Rams and Chiefs have been to the big game twice apiece as residents of Missouri, they’ve each only come away with one victory and I’m sure fans will agree they’d prefer to see their team win the damn game than to see their stadium host it.

Last year, the part of New Jersey that hosts the New York professional football organizations also hosted the champions of the AFC and NFC. On Sunday, the state of Missouri had the honor of hosting the reigning AFC Champion and the defending champions of the World. Unlike Rocktober or whatever MLB Marketing renamed the tenth month of the year, teams from time zones west of the Central Standard, did not get their pound of flesh from Abraham Simpson’s favorite state.

Game I Anticipated Most

The best thing about Brady versus Luck is that it’s not Manning versus Luck. The Colts have turned the page and they’re writing a new chapter with a new character; dare I say a potentially better character? Meanwhile in New England, it’s business as usual. The Patriots have one or two big names on both sides of the ball, but quite a few anonymous figures that make big plays at the right times.

Gray

This week and arguably this season, the unknown figure has gone by the name Jonas Gray. In my former life as a College Football guy, I vaguely recall Gray getting a few touches at the school in South Bend, Indiana, but there was nothing remarkable about him then. His last season with the Fighting Irish was under Brian Kelly, but he was recruited to Notre Dame by Bill Belichick’s old buddy Charlie Weis. He’s now played in 4 NFL games, all this season, but he ran for 199 yards in New England’s 42-20 win over a decent Indianapolis team.

Not All Thursdays Are Created Equal

Thursday night football has been a target of ridicule in 2014, but it was worse early in the year when the average margin of victory was in the high 20s and low 30s. In every sense of the phrase, they were “throw-away” games. Things got better when you put division rivals on the field in games that meant something towards who we’ll see on Saturdays and Sundays in January, but close scores don’t always make for decent watching.

If you like kickers, last Thursday offered a game for you. The highlight of the evening for you kicker-lovers came on Dan Carpenter’s 46-yard shot, which put the visiting Bills up 9-3 in Miami. The Dolphins managed a 3rd quarter touchdown and were awarded an additional 2 points for Kyle Orton’s intentional grounding ways, helping them cling to a 12-9 lead entering the game’s final 15 minutes. A Miami touchdown and field goal represented all of the fourth quarter scoring and the Bills headed back to Buffalo with a notch in the L column after a 22-9 defeat.

Musical Clocks

Losing is one thing, losing track of time is a different story altogether. Viking head coach Mike Zimmer went as far as to say, “Clocks here are bullshit”, after not having the time remaining made available to them in the second half of their 21-13 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday. Can you really blame the clock operators at Soldier Field for giving the Bears a little aid? Chicago had given up at least 50 points in each of their last two outings, both losses.

Watt The Hell

In the NFL, there are certainly times you don’t like hearing your number called. If you’re an offensive lineman, it means you’ve been penalized. If you’re a defensively lineman, it could be much of the same, unless your name happens to be JJ Watt. I’ll give him this much credit; he’s done more than Redskins linebacker/GEICO commercial guy to earn the publicity.

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns

In the Texans 23-7 win over the Browns in Cleveland, the giant man from Wisconsin gave Browns’ right tackle Mitchell Schwartz fits all day, hence aggravating quarterback Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland fans in the process. In his day job, on the defensive side of the ball, he made three tackles for loss, registered a single sack, recovered a fumble, and hurried Hoyer all day. Moonlighting as a tight end, he split out from his standard spot as a tight end and caught the first touchdown pass of Ryan Mallett’s NFL career. You could see it coming before the ball was snapped when he drew one-on-one coverage from Browns linebacker Chris Kirksey.

11 Men Will Be Just Fine

Seattle fans will tell you about how important their 12th man is in an effort to pat themselves on the back for the success their team has had at the place they demolished the Kingdome for. It has a name, but it’s one that is constantly changing, so we simply refer to it as House of SeaChicken. They’re still pretty good up in Washington state, where they haven’t lost more than one game in a season at home since 2011.

KCFans

Sunday, they had to go to Arrowhead. And while I’m sure the fans didn’t make it easy on Russell Wilson when the SeaChickens had the ball, the 11 men on the field are to be praised for stuffing Marshawn Lynch on 4th-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. The two men who carried the ball for the Chiefs, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, put in work on Sunday, picking up 169 yards on the ground and combining for all three touchdowns in a 24-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champs.

What’s Wrong With Denver?

In some weeks, the Broncos can do no wrong, but get them out of the Rockies and away from the pot dispensaries, and all bets are off. Everyone beats the Jets and the Raiders, regardless of venue, but after that, the fighting Elways are 0-3 away from Sports Authority Field. In their previous road defeats, Manning and company put up 20 in Seattle and 21 in New England, but the Rams held them to a single touchdown in their 22-7 loss in the dome on Sunday.

You don’t want to freak out too much about a 7-3 team dropping a game in a season where the playoffs and a Super Bowl run are inevitable, but Emmanuel Sanders future is in doubt with a concussion and the Broncos are very much the walking wounded right now.

Credit the Rams Kenny Britt for making the most of his 4 catches. The former Tennessee Titan hadn’t done much in nine games before Sunday’s action, but he picked up 128 yards against Denver, 63 on his first quarter touchdown to put the Rams up 10-0. The second half belonged to Greg Zuerlein, who solely owned the second half scoring with kicks of 22, 55, and 53. He scored 16 of the game’s 29 total points. Hope you bet the under in this one.

Who is randy for Randy?

Do yourself a favor and watch Nebraska play the next couple of weeks, specifically #4 on the defensive side of the ball.  Randy Gregory could be the guy for Oakland at #1, unless they really think Marcus Mariota is that much of an upgrade from Derek Carr.  PS: I do not.

There’s a possibility that Gregory returns to Lincoln for his senior year, and no matter what his college coach says, it’s not going to happen.

Randy-Gregory

Acutal Worst Game

A year ago today in Houston, the Raiders won a game. They failed to do that in San Diego on Sunday, or any other time in the last 365 days, and they fell to 0-10 on the year. It doesn’t get much worse than a 13-6 game that includes Oakland, but I’m sure the Chargers will take it.

Dirty Laundry Award

Nothing special or devastating about this week’s most penalized team, Tampa Bay, who was penalized 11 times for 111 yards in their 27-7 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field. What’s remarkable is Kansas City’s 3 penalites for 6 total yards, that’s 5 yards for Ron Parker’s illegal use of the hands, a half-the-distance yard on Mike McGlynn for a false start on his own 2, and negligible yardage was marked off when the Chiefs false started on the next snap.

For The Degenerates

Pittsburgh is headed to the Music City to rebound from their wet fart against the Jets last week. Somehow, the Titans beat the Chiefs in Week 1, and then squeaked one out against Jacksonville in Week 6. They’re not a very good football team. I say Pittsburgh covers the 6 and a half, but this one stays under the 46 because Tennessee won’t score enough to put it over.

Random, Perhaps Unimportant

Nice play by Joe Haden to take a touchdown away from Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. That’s what fans expect to see from their $60M shutdown corner.

Haden

Now, the Packers look weird in their Acme throwbacks always, but seeing Julius Peppers wearing any Packers jersey is strange to me.

The Lions caught the Cardinals sleeping at the wheel when Jeremy Ross picked up a ball batted out of the endzone by their punt coverage team and ran it back to mid-field, but the officials bailed the home team out, saying Arizona “possessed” the ball inside the five. I call bullshit.

cardslions

How are Carolina and Atlanta both this bad? Both entered Sunday’s game in Charlotte seeking their fourth win in Week 11 of the season. Neither team ran the ball very well on Sunday, and these quarterbacks just aren’t good enough to win with their arms, if they don’t get the requisite ground support.

I no longer believe the Eagles are among the NFC’s elite. On the strength of their 53-20 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday in Wisconsin, I appoint the Packers to join the Cardinals on that plane.

Cross me off the list of believers in this year’s 49ers. The Giants aren’t very good this year, and San Francisco doesn’t appear to be much better. Consider the window of opportunity to be closing in Northern California.

Shame on the Saints fan who stole the ball from the female Bengals fan at the Superdome. Just because Good Andy Dalton comes to the Bayou and smokes your team by 17 points doesn’t mean you can abandon all decency.

Bridging the Gap: The Midweek Report, Week 10

When the Cincinnati Bengals roll into town in Week 15, there is one thing that I’ll be listening for from our home crowd. It is a chant that should sound something like this:

“Two-point-oh … Two-point oh … Two-point-oh”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the incredible and rarely-paralleled passer rating that Andy Dalton put up a week ago today. That, ladies and gentlemen, is also the lowest passer rating that a QB attempting at least 30 passes has posted since former New York Giants QB Scott Brunner finished with a 2.0 in a contest against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983. Yep, that’s right folks. No quarterback has been given the opportunity to play that poorly for so long in a game since St. Louis was the home of two Cardinals teams (which, by the way, is real confusing in my opinion; why would you do that to yourself as a city? It’s just silly). At first I really was questioning why Marvin Lewis would keep an obviously useless Dalton in the game so long. But then I realized that Jason Campbell is Cincy’s backup, so…well, yeah, I don’t even need to explain that one.

Anyway, I think I am done ragging on the Bengals. Everyone witnessed the schellacking that took place, so I don’t need to go into it that much. Instead, I’m going to take this time to rag on myself:

Wow, Wow, Wow was I wrong!!! So so so so so so wrong!!!

Let me just show you a few direct quotes from my article last week:

I’m going to come out and say that the Browns have no running game anymore….We have no functional offense anymore….Thus, realistically, the Browns have very little chance of coming out on top tonight.”

“I think it is safe to expect a repeat of Jacksonville.” 

Yeah, my bad y’all. I was a bit off. I mean I’m really glad that I was wrong in this case, just a bit embarrassed to be. First off, the run game put up a very respectable 170 yards, so it is a bit hard to stand by the claim that we have no run game anymore. And then we obviously came out on top as well, so that was wrong too. In a way though it was a repeat of Jacksonville though. Just with the Browns acting as Jacksonville this time around. So I guess, at least when you take that quote out of context, I was actually on to something. Good work Nico. Self-five.

However, despite the running game getting going against the Bengals, I still am quite worried for this upcoming week for a few reasons:

– First, the Texans are coming off a bye, which means that they have had two weeks to prepare to take on the Browns, something that is always a little scary. However, this effect is somewhat lessened by the fact that the Browns had a long week this week after playing on Thursday.

– Second, JJ Watt is a scary scary human being. And Jadeveon Clowney is basically fully healthy again. And I still have doubts about our offensive line and running game. So, basically, my doubts from last week still, at least to an extent, hold for this week. The run game should be able to move the ball, but not on the level that they did last week. Plus, Brian Hoyer will not have much (if any) time in the pocket this week, so there is going to be high pressure on the receivers to get open quickly. Andrew Hawkins should be back this week though, which will be great as it will allow Kyle Shanahan the opportunity to utilize a game plan that features a fair number of quick dump-offs to both Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel. It is still unclear if Jordan Cameron will be returning this week, but in his absence both Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge should be able to handle things.

– Third, safety Tashaun Gipson may well be forced to miss the game due to concussion-like symptoms, leaving our defense without the league leader in interceptions. Houston QB Ryan Mallet has a monster arm, so having the slower and older Jim Leonhard, who can’t cover nearly as much ground as Gipson, in could possibly leave a few holes in the deep areas of the field. Considering the fact that the Texans’ run game is among the top 5 in the league and the Browns may have to stuff the box a little to slow it down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least a couple of big plays deep downfield off the play-action. These types of plays tend to swing momentum in a game, meaning they could be quite bad for the Browns.

After last week though, I can’t help but be hopeful. The Browns are in first place in the AFC North and have been playing like they deserve it. Houston is most definitely a beatable team, and I believe that the Browns will be able to win this game, albeit not in quite as convincing of a manner as last week:

Prediction: Browns 27 – Texans 20

11-on-11: The NFL Spoils Spaceballs

So, Lonestar was a prince the whole time. Forget the million spacebucks. That guy in the Winnebago is royalty.

Did I mention there would be spoilers? You’ve had almost 30 years to watch Spaceballs, so I’m not going to feel bad about this. It wasn’t my intention to do a Spaceballs thing, but my hand was forced when a laptop battery died and took two thousand righteous words about this weekend’s NFL action with it. So, today we’re going to bring you the short, short version.

After two tries to knot up Prince Valium and Princess Vespa, the officiant did the nuptials in 30 seconds, “Do you? Do you? Good! You’re married, kiss her!”.

That said, here we go. It’s a turbo edition of the 11-on-11.

Game I Anticipated Most

In a battle of 4-4 teams at the Superdome, the 49ers were clearly more desperate to move to 5-4 than the Saints, who play in the god-awful NFC South. Trying to convince yourself there’d be quality football was like hoping there’d be a hip DJ at the first wedding, the one where the bride-to-be took her Droid of Honor and plotted here intergalactic escape from the altar.

As successful as they’ve been at home, there’s been something fishy about the Saints this season. At first, I thought it was just a matter of pass/fail surrounding their usage of Jimmy Graham, but there’s no question they need to run the ball to keep defenses off balance. The Saints ran the ball efficiently, but made too many mistakes and let Colin Kaepernick survive the ones he made in a 27-24 overtime loss to San Francisco on Sunday.

Thursday is a Good Night to Breathe

“As president of Planet Spaceball, I can assure both you and your viewers that there’s absolutely no air shortage whatsoever. Yes, of course. I’ve heard the same rumor myself. Yes, thanks for calling and not reversing the charges. Bye.”

I do sometimes wonder how many people in the entertainment industry were calling President Skroob collect, but the air shortage was a real thing and no one would be convinced otherwise. After Sunday’s NFL action, this rumor about the Browns owning sole possession of first place in the AFC North began to get legs.

An unfortunate beaming accident caused Andy Dalton’s ass to be put on backwards, and before Snotty could reverse the beam, he’d thrown 3 of his 33 pass attempts into the arms of Browns defenders. Two went to Buster Skrine, as the Browns showed they won’t simply lay down and die without the services of their All-Pro Center. In a game that answered the question, what if Mel Brooks would have cast the red-headed, yellow-eyed bully from A Christmas Story as Colonel Sandurz, the Browns left Cincinnati with a 24-3 victory. Three days later, they found themselves in a place that no Cleveland Brown has been in 19 years, alone in first place.

Comb the Desert

Try as they might, the experts “ain’t found shit” while combing the desert searching for reasons to doubt the Arizona Cardinals. Take away their starting quarterback, no problem. Suspend Darryl Washington, watch Karlos Dansby chase those Cleveland dollars, and lose Darnell Dockett for the year; they’ve got this.

While a loss to the Rams wouldn’t have exactly ended their season, the Cardinals were as cool as the soft drink Pizza The Hutt would consume while eating himself, trailing 14-10 in the 4th quarter on Sunday. Carson Palmer was probably learning that his ACL was torn to shreds, Drew Stanton came off the bench and hit the Pittsburg State rookie John Brown for 48 yards, which was good for another game-winner, Brown’s fourth such victory-clinching catch this season. A few defensive touchdowns made it look better, but the 31-14 final score means a lot less in these parts than the Birds overall record of 9-1.

Keep combing that desert though.

They’ve Gone to Plaid

The Packers 55-17 win over the Chicago Bears just skipped light speed and went straight to Ludicrous Speed. Aaron Rodgers’ 6 touchdown passes in the first half gave the Packers a 42-0 halftime lead, and as ugly as it was, it could have been worse.

Lovie Smith is 1-8 in Tampa Bay. Marc Trestman is 3-6 with the Bears. Bears fans want their old coach back now.

“No, no, no. Go past this. Pass this part. In fact, never play this again.”

– Marc Trestman in the filmroom on Monday…probably a few times

When Will Then Be Now? Soon.

If John Fox could only get his hands on the Super Bowl 49 DVD and look ahead to what awaits him in February, it would be a more efficient use of his time than having to game-plan for the Raiders. I’ll tell you, this would be really exciting to watch, but we’re all fatigued with regular season Denver.

We want to see playoff Denver, not “41-17 over the winless Raiders” Denver. Peyton Manning had 340 yards passing with 5 touchdowns, and a couple of young men with the surname of Thomas filled up the stat sheet once again…yawn.

I Knew It, I’m Surrounded By Assholes

assholesI’m just going to pat myself on the back for resisting the urge to make jokes about Dot’s virgin-alarm on anyone on the Steelers roster. However, they have now lost to the Jets and Tampa Bay this season after falling to Michael Vick and the New Jersey Green Team on Sunday. Of the five teams that play both the struggling Jets and inept Bucs, Pittsburgh will be the only team to lose to both this season.

So the combination is… one, two, three, four, five?

This is the section where we usually discuss who might end up with the top pick next May, and the reality is the top five picks might not help the 0-9 Raiders going forward. Maybe they need the change of scenery that Los Angeles can provide, but maybe Mark Davis should change the combination on his luggage before the migration to Southern California.

There Goes The Planet

This is our worst game of the week award, and it goes to the NFC South. What an epic battle between Tampa Bay and Atlanta! The final was 27-17; do you even care who won?

If advanced apes rode into Raymond James Stadium on horseback on Sunday for their first taste of the NFL, I think they’d turn around and contemplate a return to living like primates.

 

Dirty Laundry Award

“Thank you for pressing the self-destruct button”

Bears…11 penalties…163 yards. Green Bay ran the ball 32 times for 132 yards on Sunday night; even at a clip of 4.1 yards per carry, they were better off letting the Bears self-destruct at Lambeau.

For the Degenerates

“Careful you idiot! I said across her nose, not up it!”

The Eagles are giving Carolina a touchdown with the standard extra point at home on Monday Night Football. Let Cam and company have those points, Philly will make a statement tonight. The 48.5 Over/Under is tricky, but the Panthers will find the end zone a few times in defeat to help everyone playing the over.

Random, Perhaps Unimportant

So, there was this interception by Miami’s Brent Grimes in Detroit…

IMG_0045

Brokeback Romo isn’t just a tasteless slur for people who don’t like the Cowboys any more. With his vertebrae somewhat intact, the Dallas starter wowed a British audience with 3 touchdown passes in the team’s win over Jacksonville in London.

Hey! Those are the guys that stole our uniforms!
To be fair, the Titans stopped wearing the old Oilers uniforms after a few seasons in Nashville and the Ravens never wore orange and brown in any official capacity, but Nashville and Baltimore take NFL teams that didn’t belong to them in the 90s. The used-to-be-Browns beat the used-to-be-Oilers in Baltimore on Sunday, while the used-to-be-Baltimore-Colts and replacement Oilers took the week off.

Before I go, I want to really pay a compliment to Mel Brooks for making this more than a spoof, giving mock-Chewbacca and mock-3PO some real personality of their own with John Candy as Barf and Joan Rivers as Dot Matrix. They were ancillary sidekick figures, but both late actors held their own in this flick. There’s a loose comparison to be made between those two and the Chiefs and Bills. Neither team is going to steal the show, but they sure could play spoiler, or even make a brief run of their own. Both were 5-3 entering play in Buffalo on Sunday, but the gap between 6-3 and 5-4 right now might be the difference between being in or being out in January. The Chiefs put themselves in a good position with a 17-13 road victory.

dotbarf
“The ring is bupkis! I found it in a Cracker Jack box!”
I never saw the Sea Chickens as a heel. They struggled a bit early, but you’d have a tough time convincing me of any Super Bowl hangover. It’s tough to win in a league where no one really knows anything, and even if it took Seattle catching a break in their schedule with Carolina, Oakland, and the Giants, they still have their eye on the prize. They trail the 8-1 Cardinals by two games in the NFC West standings, but have two shots at the Cardinals in their last six games, so they still control their own destiny in the division. It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks, so stay tuned out west.

Finally, today (November 10th) is the United States Marine Corps’ 239th birthday. The whole deal started at Tun Tavern on this date in 1775, in the city that hosts Monday Night Football tonight. Let’s see if ESPN pays homage on their telecast. Either way, happy birthday Marines and Semper Fi.

10502004_581703351976189_8482614394766350334_n

 

11-on-11: Near-Perfect NFL Quarterback Play

In the era of shovel passes, bubble screens, and dink & dunk, it seems as though completion percentage should be an afterthought. So many quarterbacks start their days so perfect, or near-perfection anyway. It’s really no wonder that “video game numbers” have become the standard.

This is what you get from the out-of-town overlay, just statistics, no story. Sure, you’ll see Andy Dalton and Alex Smith missed on just one or two pass attempts early en route to victory, but make sure you don’t read too much into Austin Davis’s 5-of-7 start against the Chiefs.

These amazing performances don’t seem to dazzle these days, even on paper. Ben Roethlisberger threw just nine passes that didn’t land in the hands of a bumble-bee-outfitted receiver on Sunday. Considering the fact he threw six touchdown passes and accrued over 500 yards in the process, you wonder how high the bar will be set in the next couple of years. Andrew Luck threw for 400 yards for the Steelers opponent, in what we’ll likely consider a forgettable performance.

Is any of it even real any more?

Game I Anticipated Most

When you get a non-traditional power like the Arizona Cardinals in a marquee game this late in the season, it sometimes seems forced. That’s not the case with these Cardinals. They really look like they belong. They’re built with a certain edge to them on defense and hold their own when they have the ball. Injuries matter, but Bruce Arians has shown an ability to adapt and overcome. Take all of their positives, tack a bad afternoon in Denver on there, and that’s how Arizona was 5-1 entering play on Sunday.

The Eagle bring Chip Kelly’s fast-paced Saturday style to the Sunday game. Their offense moves fast and they run a lot of plays. A threat to score every time they have the ball, it’s all about possessions for them. Defense isn’t the first thing you think of with this team, nor should it be. The architecture of Bill Davis’s defensive unit is to stop teams built like the Eagles, a built that is consistent with the new direction of the league. Strong secondary play has netted them a shut out against the Giants. A trip to San Francisco last month netted them their only loss.

So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald's best days being behind him.  It didn't show in Arizona's 24-20 win over the Eagles.
So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald’s best days being behind him. It didn’t show in Arizona’s 24-20 win over the Eagles.

The Cardinals out-lasted their brotherly loving opponents by stepping up with the big play. Antonio Cromartie picked off Nick Foles twice at the most inopportune moments for the Eagles. On the ground, Andre Ellington did just enough to set up the big play for Carson Palmer and his receiving corps. His two touchdowns passes each went for 75 yards or better. If Larry Fitzgerald is getting long in the tooth, it didn’t show on his classic Fitz 80-yard catch-and-run to put the Cardinals up 14-7 to break a halftime tie.

After the Eagles added a field goal to take 20-17 lead just inside the two-minute warning, the hero of training camp John Brown ran under a ball that I can only assume was thrown as far as Carson Palmer can throw the pigskin. When it came down in the arms of the rookie from Pittsburg State, it only took a few strides for him to reach the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. Of his 4 scoring catches this season, 3 have been of the game-winning variety. Cardinals win 24-20.

Thursday Is My Garbage Day

You notice you don’t hear too much griping about player safety and the road team being at such a disadvantage in the Thursdy Night tilts, now that a couple of them have been competitive. My trash still gets picked up on Thursday though, so this section will keep its name. Not many teams have belonged on the same field as Peyton Manning’s Broncos this season, but the Chargers promised to be a worthy adversary.

The X-Factor here was our defending champion Sea Chickens. They went into San Diego in Week 2, and left with a 30-21 defeat at the hands of the very legitimate Chargers. The Broncos, on the other hand, have lost just twice in the 2014 calendar year. A week after taking that loss, Seattle hosted Denver in a game much closer than the laughable Super Bowl we all witnessed in February, but still a 26-20 loss for Denver.

Emmanuel Sanders game has helped Denver fans cope with the loss of Eric Decker

On the strength of three Emmanuel Sanders touchdown receptions, the Broncos won 35-21, but the Chargers didn’t play an awful game. They just ran into a buzzsaw in Peyton Manning, who had the convenience of playing at home. Even in a 21-point hole at various points in the game, you never counted out San Diego. The unstoppable passing game that Manning leads sets up the running game.

Forget that Knowshon Moreno is gone and that Montee Ball was not available, the Chargers weren’t honest to the run. Ronnie Hillman gashed them for over 5 yards per carry and Juwan Thompson had two short scoring runs to take the wind out of San Diego’s sails to move to 6-1 on the season.

House of Sea Chicken-East

Speaking of the champs, we generally tend to think their strength resides in their stadium. Opposing fans call it the belly of the beast, but the NFL makes the Sea Chickens play half their games away from Phone Company Field. In Week 8, they may have been lucky to pull one out in Charlotte, but isn’t that always the case when they visit the Panthers?

On Sunday, they treaded water in an early candidate for the week’s Actual Worst Game, but Russell Wilson led his team on a 10-play 80 -yard drive to score the first touchdown of the game with 53 seconds left. The Panthers counted on their kicker Graham Gano for all of their points, outscoring the visitors 9-6, until Wilson hit Luke Willson for the game-winner in the game’s final minute.

Wilson to Willson for the win away from home for the Sea Chickens

For the third time in three years, Seattle won ugly at Carolina. When Steven Hauschka added the extra point after Willson’s touchdown, it was the first one-pointer the Sea Chickens scored in Charlotte since he nailed the conversion after Golden Tate’s third quarter score in 2012. They won that one 16-12 at Bank of America Stadium, edged them 12-7 in 2014, and added the 4-point win on Sunday. If they play in 2015, that one will be played in the Pacific Northwest.

AFC North Pride

While the broadcast maps suggests most of you did get Pittsburgh’s rout of the Colts in your local market, many were denied the second edition of Ravens-Bengals in favor of that field goal fest in Charlotte. You were probably spared the Raiders and Browns if you weren’t local to either of the teams, unless you sought that game out.

The AFC North has been strong this season. Part of it is the Browns somewhat pulling their weight, but the schedule is a big aid as well. The division games all promise to be scrappy affairs for Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, but they’ve all been afforded the luxury of games against all of the teams in the league’s two worst divsions.

Every team in the NFC South has a losing record, while Indianapolis is the only team in the AFC South with a winning record. Having one-win teams like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay pulling up the rear doesn’t help either. On the flip-side, every team in the AFC North currently sports a winning record.

Does Cincinnati have Baltimore’s number? In Week 1, they dominated most of the way, let the Ravens back in the game, and then won it in the end. It was the same story on Sunday in Cincinnati, only a little more scary. It appeared that Baltimore had done it again with an improbable 80-yard game-winning touchdown to Steve Smith Sr., but it was more improbable that the play was executed within the boundaries of the rules. The play was called back and Cincinnati hung on.

Win or not, that's some ugly-ass garb.
Win or not, that’s some ugly-ass garb.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers reminded us that we simply cannot write them off. On a positive note for Ben and company, it’s more than just playing pitch & catch with Antonio Brown. Brown got his, but Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are emerging as targets for Roethlisberger, as is Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield. For a team written off by their own fans, the Steelers are right in the thick of things at 4-3.

Wembley Wake-Up

Under no circumstances would I go out of my way to watch the 2014 Lions and Falcons play. Wait, what? Alright NFL, if you’re going to put a game on at 6:30 AM in the west, I’ll wake up for it. The game appeared to be all Atlanta, but still somehow came down to a last-second field goal attempt. This is part of why the AFC South is awful.

Me, I’m no fan of shenanigans when a field goal that will determine the game is imminent. I pay homage to Mike Shannahan for his strategy of calling a timeout a split-second before the ball is snapped, forcing a kicker to try the boot a second time. I call it “Shannahanigans”, but it wasn’t that type of nonsense for the Lions in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Detroit got two tries and needed the second one for their 22-21 comeback win over the Falcons in London. It appeared as though the Falcons would hang on when Matt Prater’s kick sailed wide right from 43, but the Lions were actually rewarded a reprieve by their own penalty. Since delay-of-game is a pre-snap penalty, Atlanta was left with no choice but to hope Prater would miss again from 48. He didn’t.

This lends itself to an argument against the whole idea of the aforementioned shenanigans. Many coaches have gone on record to say they don’t like the strategy. Why give the kicker a practice kick? Doesn’t the first kick just give the kicker a better feel for the task at hand? Sure, we’ve seen kickers whiff on the one that counts, but it seems fate is a better strategy then playing God in this situation. If the rules can’t prevent it, maybe common sense will.

Home Sweet Dome

It’s not just playing inside, Bill Simmons. Losses in Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit should paint that picture as clearly as the Saints’ 3-0 record in the Superdome. Even a team as hot as the Packers are no match for what New Orleans can do in front of their home crowd.

Drew Brees is special and his performance in Sunday Night’s 44-23 win was no exception, but how about a nod for his supporting cast? Mark Ingram put up a very Trent Richarson-esque 16 yards on 10 carries in the Saints loss to Detroit last week, and his 83 rushing yards against Cleveland stood as his season-best before Sunday. The former Heisman winner ran the ball 24 times for 172 yards, ate up clock, and kept Aaron Rodgers on the sideline long enough to tilt the needle towards the home team on time of possession.

Who’s Whack for Dak

It’s not likely that anyone is going to unseat Marcus Mariota for the meaningless title of consensus #1 in the mocks, but we’re going to change it up each week here. Prescott still has Mississippi State undefeated and ranked #1 in the polls, and he will likely help an NFL team, even if not taken with the top overall selection.

Can he and will he play on Sundays?  Right now, Dak Prescott owns the Saturday game.
Can he and will he play on Sundays? Right now, Dak Prescott owns the Saturday game.

At this point, given their failure to achieve victory, the Raiders are in the driver’s seat to pick at the top. I don’t believe they’re poorly coached by Tony Sparano or poorly quarterbacked by rookie Derek Carr. At this point, they just lack talent in so many areas. They need to uncluster decades of bad football work by Al Davis and rebuild this team.

Actual Worst Game

Hard to go in any direction other than Oakland-Cleveland here. It was an ugly game all around that the Browns made more aesthetically pleasing on the scoreboard with a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns, but this was basically a field goal struggle for three quarters. Nobody wants to pay to see Janikowski v. Cundiff.

The same could be said for the Hauscka v. Gano game in Carolina, but struggling to find the endzone against Seattle is a different animal than what took place in Cleveland.

Dirty Laundry Award

Usually, this honor is bestowed on a team, but Walt Anderson’s crew really earned it this week, with Philadelphia and Arizona each being penalized more than any team in the league on Sunday. 11 flags on the Eagles awarded the Cardinals 103 penalty yards. Arizona gave their visitors 95 yards on 10 infractions.

For the Degenerates

The Cowboys look like world-beaters. The Redskins look inept in every phase of the game, but everyone is focused on the quarterback position. With Colt McCoy starting for Washington, it’s no wonder they’re a 9 and a half point dog on the road. Ordinarily, I might suggest throwing out everything you know and anticipating a close game. Not tonight.

coltmccoy

Don’t expect the visiting team to do much in the way of scoring points, but anticipate them turning the ball over. This is what McCoy does. Even if the Cowboys are firing on all cylinders, total points should stay under 50. There is an added element for Browns fans here with Tony Romo’s understudy being Brandon Weeden. If I were to predict a battle of Cleveland cast-offs here, I’d take the Redskins and the points, and also bet the farm on the under.

Random, Perhaps Unimportant

Peyton Manning wasn’t all smiles after Denver’s big division win over San Diego. He took exception to the actions of his scoreboard operator, who apparently amped up the crowd at the wrong moment(s). The expectation of the home crowd when Manning is on the field is complete and utter silence. He voiced his frustration through the media, which some people didn’t care to hear. I’m left to wonder if he’s tried to quietly voice this internally previously and became the grease-seeking squeaky wheel after it continued.

Nice one-armed grab and run by Theo Riddick in the final minute of Detroit’s win over Atlanta in London. He corralled the overthrown ball from Matt Stafford with his extended left arm and hustled to the Falcons 41, just outside of field goal range.

Sammy Watkins made the most of his three catches (for 157 yards) in Buffalo’s 43-23 win over the Jets on Sunday, but 84 yards is a long way to run to be denied a touchdown. Finish the play, and then you can celebrate.

On the flip-side of the near-perfect quarterback efficiency we’ve seen early in games so far, Geno Smith more than deserved to be benched with a line that read 2-for-8 with 5 yards passing. Good luck, Michael Vick.

These Jack-in-the-Box commercials don’t even pretend to market their product to the non-stoner.

I’m a little inspired by Denard Robinson’s first 11 carries for 90 yards against the Dolphins. I’m back to earth about his final 7 carries for 18 yards in the Jaguars 27-13 loss.

Ninkovich’s scoop and score was the Patriots third touchdown in 57 seconds, part of a 31 point 3rd quarter in Foxboro.
We can stop talking about how much better the Bears are away from Soldier Field, where they own an 0-3 home record. They stuck on the road Sunday, losing 51-23 to New England.

The Patriots scored three times in 57 seconds in the second quarter of their blowout win over the Bears. With a 17-7 lead, Tom Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski from two yards out, just inside the two-minute warning. Jay Cutler and the Bears offense killed just 41 seconds on a three-and-out, before Julian Edelman’s punt return put the Patriots back in businss at the Chicago 9. Brady got his fourth touchdown pass on the next play from scrimmage, and New England scored again on the Bears’ next offenseive play when Ray Ninkovich did the scoop and score on a Cutler fumble.

Rest in peace, Martha Miles and Oscar Taveras. The mother of LSU head coach Les Miles passed away on Friday. On Saturday night, an emotional Miles led his team past #3 Ole Miss at home. Taveras, a 22 year-old prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic this weekend. Taveras never had much more than a cup of coffee at the big league level, but had a bright future with the club. So young, so tragic.

Next week’s slate includes Cardinals at Cowboys, Broncos at Patriots, and Ravens at Steelers. Until we get there, enjoy the week ahead.

Look At The Numbers : Top 25 QB's of the BCS Era

QB
The BCS era is over, whether we like it or not. It’s now time for the College Football Playoff to take over the college football world of ours. But, before we move on from the era, lets take a look back at the most important position over that time, the quarterback. In the 16 year span of the BCS, we saw 11 different quarterbacks take home the Heisman Trophy. We also saw countless others fall just short of winning one, just because the position was that deep. With all of the talent, it’s only right to start an argument and try to decide the top 25 QB’s of the BCS Era.
But, before you go off shouting about your favorite teams’ star quarterback from 2002, you should probably take a look at the numbers. After all, numbers never lie (aside from Air Raid offenses).
*Every quarterback who played at least two seasons in the BCS era are eligible, which means Jameis Winston and Michael Bishop weren’t eligible.
Now here comes the complicated system that I came up with based entirely on statistics. Ready? Okay. I took 35 noticeable quarterbacks from the BCS Era, ones that stand out above the rest. People like Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, Andy Dalton, etc. Then I took a lo-o-o-ong list of statistics from passing touchdowns to winning percentage to rushing yards. You could say it took me a while as well. After I acquired all of this information, I gave the quarterbacks points for where they ranked on each statistic.
EX: If a QB was the 10th ranked in total yards and first in total touchdowns, then he would get 25 points and the 9th spot would get 26 and so on. Except I went threw and did that for six key stats I look at when deciding.

  • Passing touchdowns per start
  • Passing yards per start
  • Winning percentage as a starter
  • Average # of wins per season
  • Rushing touchdowns per start
  • Interception per start (The lowest ratio was awarded the most points)

The purpose of this was to make it as balanced as possible, so a system pocket-passer type quarterback would benefit from passing yards and passing touchdowns, a winning quarterback would be rewarded twice for their efforts, and a running quarterback would benefit from the interception ratio and rushing touchdowns. So in other words, Graham Harrell is balanced with A.J. McCarron, while McCarron is balanced with Eric Crouch, and Crouch has the same benefits that Harrell has. This way, we could determine which quarterback is the best at what they do. After assigning points to all 34 players, I then rewarded additional points for the following :

  • Heisman Winner
  • Heisman Finalist
  • 1st Team All-American
  • 2nd Team All-American
  • 1st Conference All-American
  • Maxwell and the Davey O’Brien awards
  • BCS National Championship wins/losses
  • BCS Game wins and losses
  • Being from an AQ Conference awarded you five extra points, as an award for SOS

After processing all of that (only six hours or so), I found the top 25 quarterbacks of the BCS. Let me tell you I now appreciate those BCS computer-geeks a little more now. Because even after all the time I spent, the system is still flawed. But it’s more than enough to get us through the offseason isn’t it? We start off with honorable mentions (30-26), featuring a Georgia QB just shy of making a BCS Championship and a Heisman Trophy winner.
30. Aaron Murray, Georgia (2010-13)-  116 points I figured Murray would be a lot higher, but his interceptions and winning statistics hurt him here.
aaron-murray
29. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (2009-13)- 117 points
28. Geno Smith, West Virginia (2009-12)- 122 points
27. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (1999-02)- 126 points First Heisman winner on the list for the quarterback who ranked near last in every passing statistic.
26. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (2011-15)- 130 points Another year in the BCS and Miller certainly could of soared higher. Now for the top 25 quarterbacks of the BCS Era :
25. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (2006-08)- 131 points The air-raid quarterback most famous for his miraculous 2008 season edged Miller by one point.
Harrell
23. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma (1999-01)- 133 points The 2000 National Championship helped Heupel reach the top 25.
23. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (2009-13)- 133 points RG3 tied Heupel, as his first three years at Baylor didn’t do to well in the winning category.
22. Case Keenum Houston (2006-11)- 134 points The only quarterback in NCAA history to pass over 5,000 yards in three seasons, Keenum was up top in the passing touchdowns and yards categories. His interception ratio is what hurt him the most.
21. Greg McElroy, Alabama (2007-10)- 136 points
20. Colt Brennan, Hawaii (2005-08)- 137 points
colt-brennan-hawaii
19. Collin Klein, Kansas State (2009-12)- 139 points Apparently he can Eric Crouch it better than Eric Crouch can.
18. Andy Dalton, TCU (2007-10)- 141 points
17. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (2009-12)- 144 points
16. Troy Smith, Ohio State (2005-08)- 163 points Really big jump here, you start to see bigger names and award winners from here on out.
15. Andrew Luck, Stanford (2009-12)- 167 points
Luck
14. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (2011-15)- 173 points A winner who can pass and run. Mariota might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the era.
13. Chris Weinke, Florida State (1998-00)- 174 points
12. A.J. McCarron, Alabama (2011-14)- 183 points A game manager is 12th on a statistics based points system? Something isn’t right.
11. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (1999-01)- 190 points
10. Vince Young, Texas (2003-06)- 191 points I should of spotted Young 20 points for his epic-ness in the 2006 BCS performance at the Rose Bowl.
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9. Colt McCoy, Texas (2007-11)- 192 points The Longhorns come in at #9 and #10 in this list.
8. Ken Dorsey, Miami FL (00-03)- 196 points W-I-N-N-E-R
7. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2011-12)- 199 points Hey I’m a huge Manziel fan but even I was surprised he was this high up on the list.
6. Kellen Moore, Boise State (2007-11)- 206 points I didn’t think Moore would be this high either. Oh well, he won a lot of games and threw a lot of touchdowns so he earned it.
5. Cam Newton, Auburn (2010-11)- 215 points One year was all Cam needed to sky rocket on the list for 215 points.
110210-CFB-Auburn-Cam-Newton-PI_20101102200755_660_320
4. Tim Tebow, Florida (2006-10)- 216 points A winner who’s freshmen statistics as a back up hurt him from taking the top spot. Hey don’t blame me it’s not my system! Okay you got me.
nfl_u_tebow_576
3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2007-09)- 219 points Could have taken the top spot if he had won any of the BCS games he played in.
Sam Bradford
2. Jason White, Oklahoma (2000-05)- 221 points See #3
2003-jason-white
1. Matt Leinart, USC (2003-06)- 244 points In a rather shockingly landslide victory, Leinart takes the top spot by 23 points over Jason White, which almost brings me back to the 2005 Orange Bowl. A winner and a passer who also earned style points with his awards and championships, Leinart earned the top spot and it will be his to keep forever as the best quarterback in the BCS Era. Hope you enjoyed the list and the article all together.
leinartuscms
For the complete statistics and points system, click the links below.
Extra Points Statistics Rankings Players Information

Wisconsin Rose Bowls of the BCS Era

rose-bowl-stadium-531570lCertain schools seem to have sports programs where everything falls their way; others have programs in which they always seem to be on the wrong side of close plays or 50/50 balls. To me, Wisconsin sports belongs in the latter category. As a Wisconsin Badger fan, I always dreamed of experiencing a Rose Bowl at an age when I actually knew what was going on and had some grasp of the nuances of the college football game. Little did I know, I would experience three Rose Bowls and three defeats, with each trip to the Rose Bowl adding to the soul crushing experience of the previous year.

The 2011 Rose Bowl against TCU is one of the best games I have ever watched. I was lucky enough to share the experience with my father live in the Wisconsin student section. At the time, the two-headed running back attack of PJ Hill and Johnny Clay was in full effect. Wisconsin even had an award winning quarterback in Scott Tolzien who won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Although it is a secondary award, he did have some good company as he beat out Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Christian Ponder, three future pretty high NFL draft picks. Both teams were successful in the first half, essentially cancelling the scores of one another. Of course, when Philip Welch missed a field goal in the second quarter the small voice present in all fans began insisting that this would come back to haunt the Badgers. Wisconsin just isn’t one of those teams that can shrug off missed scoring opportunities. The second half was mainly a defensive struggle until TCU broke through with a touchdown in the third quarter. When the third quarter ended, with the Badgers down 20-13, there was still a considerable amount of hope for Wisconsin fans following an impromptu “Jump Around” session as if Wisconsin was playing at Camp Randall.

The fourth quarter featured two punts and a classic eat the clock, run the ball, Wisconsin touchdown drive. The TCU defense endured 5 plus minutes of Johnny Clay and Montee Ball running at them before surrendering a touchdown. As a fan, I thought this was the breaking point. TCU was on the ropes after Wisconsin capped what many thought was a momentum stealing, backbreaking drive. Of course, the two point conversion quickly brought Wisconsin fans back to reality as Tank Carder leapt from seemingly nowhere to bat down a pass intended for a wide open Jacob Pedersen. The onside kick, of course, was recovered by TCU, and that was that. After yelling “high school band” throughout TCU’s portion of the halftime festivities and hours of mocking their fans, Badger fans left the stadium with unusual silence.

Looking back at it, the 2011 season was much like the Badgers’ recent run in the NCAA tournament. Everything seemed to fall into place. Wisconsin lucked their way into do-everything quarterback Russell Wilson and finally had a legitimate aerial attack to complement their always potent running game. Wilson turned Wisconsin into an offensive monster with the only losses coming when the defense collapsed late in games. Going into the 2012 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin fans seemed pretty confident about their chances against Oregon. I was not one of them. Russell was amazing, but he wouldn’t be playing defense against a team famous for pushing defenses to their limit. For me, the feeling of inevitable doom arrived early, the first quarter actually, when De’Anthony Thomas broke free for a 91 yard touchdown. Thomas has been burning defenses throughout the year and Wisconsin didn’t have players fast enough to keep up with him in the open field. I tried to stay hopeful as Wisconsin kept

it close, even taking a 38-35 lead in the third quarter. Yet every time LaMichael James or the other Oregon backs got the ball, they seemed to be picking up chunks yardage. The Jared Abberderis fumble in the fourth quarter that couldn’t quite roll a few more inches out of bounds was just more evidence of how Wisconsin never seems to be on the right side of close plays. The rest of the game was slow torture as Oregon hurried to the line after each play and stood around for what seemed like an eternity before running another play, picking up a good chunk of yardage, and repeating the sequence once more. After losing the previous Rose Bowl on a batted two point conversion, losing this one because of a fumble that couldn’t roll quite enough and a controversial spike to end the game was even more painful.

When Wisconsin got to the 2013 Rose Bowl, I viewed it in the same way you view getting an ugly sweater on Christmas from a grandparent. You can’t necessarily show your anger because there was a good intention, but at the same time, it isn’t necessarily the best. The 2012 season was full of growing pains as the Danny O’Brien experiment was a disaster and left the Badgers scrambling for offensive answers. Seeing Montee Ball lined up outside running routes as Wisconsin tried to attack through the air with running personnel was painful and uncomfortable. Joel Stave provided some stability at quarterback for a while, then got injured and the ageless Curt Phillips got his chance. Seeing Wisconsin get the bid to play in the Rose Bowl because Ohio State was ineligible was bittersweet and had an empty ring to it.

Watching the lead up to the Rose Bowl with Stanford was very strange. Seeing Wisconsin as the underdog was not new; they almost always are. Being favored in a game and having media personalities pick Wisconsin to win is actually far stranger. I was happy to see Wisconsin on ESPN and guys like Montee Ball getting national attention, but at the same time, it was the bowl that the anchors worked so hard to justify as a good matchup, but would inevitably be the one that couldn’t live up to the hype. For me, this game was the least memorable. I had a feeling of dread throughout, as though massive disappointment would strike at any moment. Of course, the Badgers were in the game throughout and had a chance to score on what would be their final drive. After seeing two straight soul crushing Rose Bowl losses, I was properly prepared for this one. There had been no turnovers the entire game from either side, but I had a feeling that a painful Badger turnover would end it. When Stanford put Wisconsin in a position where they had to pass at the end of the game, I thought that every pass would end up in the wrong hands. Of course, Phillips delivered by throwing an interception with a little over two minutes to go. A third Rose Bowl, a third loss.

The TV was turned off with very mixed emotions. Obviously, watching the Badgers lose does not fill me with elation, but the loss also came with a feeling of closure, and a return to what feels right. For three years, the Badgers had played over their heads. Wisconsin fans are, in general, hopeful realists. Everything has to break right for Wisconsin to have a successful season, but even as it is happening, Wisconsin fans feel that a letdown is on its way. When I first arrived as a freshman in Madison, I hoped that I would one day be able to see the Badgers in a Rose Bowl. Never did I imagine three Rose Bowls and the thought of three in a row was ludicrous. I got my wish and then some, but learned first hand that as a Wisconsin fan, nothing ever breaks perfectly. The Rose Bowls were fun, but seeing the Badgers back in second-tier bowl games like the Capital One Bowl feels a lot more familiar and “right.”