Tag Archives: NFL

Steve Yzerman’s Latest Dilemma

Over the past weekend, there were two news items in the hockey world that caught our attention. The confirmation of John Scott as one of the four all-star game captains was one and enough has been said about that.1www.morethanafan.net “The NHL’s Latest Black Eye” December 23/15 A black eye for the NHL and a “thumbs down” to the league for not having a Plan B in place in case something hideous like this occurred. The second newsworthy item came out of Tampa Bay.

For the third time in two years Steve Yzerman has found himself in a tight spot as it relates to one of his high potential players. For an executive who has exhumed class as an executive, just as he did as a player I think we have all been puzzled by the fact that once again one of the Lightning’s top players has given some indication that he wants out of the Sunshine State. We have already examined the stories of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

In early 2014, St. Louis, then captain of the Lightning was miffed at Yzerman, then doubling as GM of Canada’s 2014 Olympic Hockey team when Yzerman initially passed him over for a spot on the Olympic team. St. Louis subsequently insisted on a trade, using his “no-trade” clause to orchestrate a move to the one team he was willing to play for; the New York Rangers. Yzerman got good value from the Rangers in that trade, with Ryan Callahan, the key player heading to Tampa Bay still with the Lightning while St. Louis called it a career this past summer. More recently, he has been faced with the Stamkos situation, where it seems less and less likely that the current Lightning captain will re-sign with the team once his current contract expires this coming July.2www.moretnafan.net “The Stamkos Dilemma” December 17/15

While that has yet to be resolved one way or the other, indirectly it has a bearing on the latest problem facing Yzerman. On Sunday it became public knowledge that Jonathan Drouin, the Lightning’s first pick (third overall) in 2013 had requested a trade. Apparently Drouin and his agent Allan Walsh had requested a trade sometime in November, but the matter didn’t become public until it was confirmed by Walsh as a result of the Lightning sending Drouin to the team’s top farm club, the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. The crux of the matter is that Drouin feels he should be playing at the NHL level, as are almost all of his contemporaries from that 2013 draft, whereas Yzerman and his staff feel differently.

Perhaps Yzerman’s lengthy stay with the Detroit Red Wings as both a player and in their front office taught him patience in terms of bringing young players along. For most of Yzerman’s later years as a player and through all of his time in the front office the Red Wings were a good team, allowing most of their young prospects to mature in the AHL, gradually moving up to the big team filling holes created through trades and retirements. In addition, as a result of their on-ice success, the Red Wings had almost no high draft picks during that period so they were dealing with young prospects much less “high profile” than Drouin.

Drouin’s entry level contract will expire this coming July, which will allow him to become a restricted free-agent. Unless he plays some NHL games between now and the end of the season, it will be hard for any other team to justify signing him to a contract and providing the Lightning with mutually agreeable compensation. On that front, the Lightning hold the hammer. However, Yzerman also needs to consider his options.

He can play hard ball and take advantage of the team’s control over Drouin and either keep him in the AHL, bring him up to the Lightning or perhaps seek a trade now. The difficulty in seeking a trade now is obtaining sufficient compensation. With St. Louis, the unhappy player had a track record from which potential teams (in that case just the Rangers) could offer a package of players/draft picks to the Lightning for a proven player. Any trade involving Drouin would have to be made strictly on potential. That can be dangerous for both sides.

If the traded player goes on to be a star with his new team, the chances are that the team giving up on him won’t get adequate players in return for their young asset. A team looking to give Drouin a chance would not likely want to give up anything of substance for an unproven player. Two deals where a young player was traded and the trading team got nothing close to sufficient return come to mind.

In 1986 the Vancouver Canucks wanted Barry Pederson, a young player with the Boston Bruins who had enjoyed five good seasons in Beantown and had played junior hockey in Nanaimo, British Columbia. As well as being a good player, Pederson would add a “local” flavour to the Canucks roster. Pederson would play parts of four seasons with the Canucks, scoring 60 of his 238 career NHL goals for Vancouver, but the Bruins were the big winners in the trade. After scoring 51 goals for the Canucks over three seasons, Cam Neely went to Boston in that trade and evolved into one of the game’s premier power forwards and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

More recently we can consider the case of Kyle Turris. Turris was the third player chosen (ironically just like Drouin) in the 2007 NHL entry draft by the then Phoenix Coyotes. By December 2011, Turris felt that the Coyotes weren’t giving him much of a chance, just as Drouin feels today about the Lightning. Turris requested a trade and the Coyotes decided to trade him for the best offer they could get. That came from the Ottawa Senators, who offered defenseman David Rundblad and a 2012 second round draft pick3This pick was subsequently traded by the Coyotes to Columbus and then to Philadelphia who used it to select Anthony Stolarz.

Rundblad did very little for the Coyotes, moving to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014 and while he was part of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship last year, he was strictly a role player as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Only a serious injury to Michal Rozsival allowed Rundblad into the Blackhawks lineup. Rundblad’s star has fallen so low that this past week he was “loaned” to the Zurich Lions of the Swiss League, his NHL career apparently over at the age of 25.

Meanwhile, Turris has established himself as the Senators number one centre. Based on those two scenarios, it is easy to see why Yzerman would be extremely hesitant to trade Drouin. On top of that, with the Stamkos situation still very much in the air, if Stamkos was to leave at the end of his contract, it is very likely that the Lightning would want to give Drouin a long look as their next building block before giving up on him. Drouin was a huge talent as a junior, playing with the Halifax Mooseheads alongside current Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon but whether he isn’t cut out to be an NHL star or simply hasn’t had the opportunity in Tampa Bay no one really knows at this point.

On the surface, Yzerman’s hands appear to be tied. Again. If Stamkos decides to leave, the Lightning’s needs are far different than if Stamkos stays. So until Yzerman knows how the Stamkos situation ends, he really can’t make any decisions, which leaves Drouin essentially helpless at this point. His best bet is to go to the AHL, keep quiet, play at the levels expected from him as a top draft choice and either force the Lightning to call him up or at least play well enough in the AHL that another team will give him an offer this summer.

Yzerman has responded to the public request for a trade by saying that “I’ll do what’s best for the hockey team. Any potential trade is going to make our hockey team better, not to appease a player”. We would expect nothing less from any NHL GM, but it does raise the question as to why marquee players/prospects keep wanting out of Tampa Bay.

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1. www.morethanafan.net “The NHL’s Latest Black Eye” December 23/15
2. www.moretnafan.net “The Stamkos Dilemma” December 17/15
3. This pick was subsequently traded by the Coyotes to Columbus and then to Philadelphia who used it to select Anthony Stolarz

Colts Win, but the Real Fun is Just Beginning

A few hours after this piece was originally published, the Colts announced that both Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson had been awarded contract extensions that will run through the 2019 season. This couldn’t happen to a nicer guy in Pagano’s case (I am truly happy for him), but putting all feelings aside, read on for my take on how this should have gone down…

On Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, the Colts won a football game. Had this contest had (realistic) playoff implications, this might have been a significant story. However, despite beating the Tennessee Titans with two quarterbacks who weren’t on the roster a week ago, the game was no more than a subplot.

Now that the 2015 season is officially over for the Colts, the real intrigue begins. The Colts went from Super Bowl contender to non-playoff team during the course of the 2015 campaign…it was a wild ride. Everyone seemed to have a hand in the underperformance that swept through the Colts franchise this season: players, coaches and management alike. The team had to deal with numerous significant injuries during the year, but make no mistake about it, the wheels were falling off long before the injury bug hit. Colts owner Jim Irsay has stated that he wants “multiple Super Bowls” while Andrew Luck is the team’s quarterback.

They seemed very much on track over the last three years, but this season was a major flop. The big question now is: what should be done about it? As of this writing, there was no official news from Colts Headquarters regarding the status of head coach Chuck Pagano. Since last week, sources have reported that Pagano will be relieved of his head coaching duties by the Colts at season’s end. If that happens as is widely believed, it will be in the best interest of the team going forward. Chuck Pagano is a quality human being and there is a lot to like about the man, but if the Colts are truly “all in” to make a run at the Super Bowl with this team, Chuck Pagano is not the coach who will lead them there.

You really hate to see bad things happen to good people, but the reality is that Pagano is an average NFL head coach, at best. With that order of business out of the way, let’s move on to the status of general manager Ryan Grigson. Multiple sources are reporting that Grigson’s job is safe for now, at least until the Colts hire a new head coach. If Irsay lands a “big name” guy to lead the troops next season, the thought is that the new head coach in that scenario will likely want input into personnel matters.

If so, Grigson will probably be fired, or offered a lesser role within the organization. What should happen?

Let’s not dance around the subject: Ryan Grigson is bad for the Colts, and should be fired. Grigson got far too much credit for the team’s turnaround when he came on board in 2012. Much of that turnaround was due to drafting QB Andrew Luck, who was regarded by most as the best quarterback prospect to come out of college since John Elway nearly 30 years earlier. Grigson has had numerous blunders during his tenure (trading for RB Trent Richardson and drafting LB/DE Bjoern Werner in the first round, for example). Even some of the moves that have worked out were not necessarily because of Grigson’s insight.

A prime example of this would be his drafting of Pro Bowl WR T.Y. Hilton in the third round in 2012. This fact seems to have been forgotten, but as Hilton was emerging as an offensive force, even Grigson admitted that when he drafted him, he did so with the notion that Hilton would be a good kick returner, and anything they got out of him otherwise would be a bonus. So, even some of Grigson’s good decisions were either no-brainers, or just plain lucky.

In terms of his approach, Ryan Grigson leaves a lot to be desired as well. He has a huge ego, and appears to be more of a ‘me’ guy than a ‘we’ guy. He has consistently overstepped his bounds as a GM, reportedly making decisions that are usually those of the head coach, such as who plays, how much they play and player discipline. Even though the potential dismissal of Chuck Pagano seems justified, his job was clearly made more difficult by his general manager’s antics.

Now that we have head coaching and front office vacancies in theory, should the Colts also look to make roster changes? Absolutely. In truth, there are probably more weaknesses on this team than there are strengths…perhaps a shocking statement made about a team thought of as “loaded” prior to the season, but accurate based on what we saw for 16 games in 2015.

The Indianapolis defense didn’t perform well this year. Pro Bowl CB Vontae Davis had an off year, but one would hope he can bounce back in 2016. The other starter at CB, Greg Toler, is talented but continues to play inconsistently…he’s also too injury-prone. The defensive line and pass rush need help, but the return (from injury) of promising rookie DE Henry Anderson will help those causes to a degree next season. The Colts finished the year a lowly 26th in total defense, so the production simply wasn’t there.

The Colts offense was an even bigger disappointment this past season. Yes, Andrew Luck missed nine games…but looking past that, there were many other issues at play. The offensive line struggled for most of the year, particularly in pass protection. WR Andre Johnson was supposed to be a key addition, but he was barely visible and looked like a shell of his former self (41 catches for 503 yards). RB Frank Gore was underutilized; he didn’t get a lot of carries and when he did, there were not many holes to run through.

Undoubtedly, there are problems in this organization at all levels. Stability is an important ingredient to success, but when you have the wrong people in place, change is necessary. There is a lot of work for the Colts to do this offseason, and that process begins today.

New Year Breeze: Hope Frees, CFB Semis & NFL Regular Finale

We’re in the singularly scintillating time of season for college foot-bowl semifinals (blowouts), NFL playoff-slot finalization, the carnage of NFL coach elimination, and the eternally springing hope of a New Year’s clear determination to do different, better: thinner, happier, more productive. Filled with the freshly-fallen inspiration of life enchantment , still untainted by time’s gritty-truth-cycle, I’d like to offer this re-working (ruining) of New Year’s classic tune as a gift from hope’s fleeting seat, or a garish gargle of peril to come, depending on if you feel the beat, sung: *(To the tune of “Auld Lang Syne“)* Should bubbly bottles be full-bought, as fizz post-pop floats on; Ice trays refilling drinks all night, some drunks last long past dawn; Thy Chicken Breasts be microwav’d, skat jazz speak best left behind; And friendly faces to deflect, from jocks Time thought divine. *(If you don’t like this rhyme-mime let Mr. Tom Waits tell you what’s fine and divine between New Year grime)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Link Dinks and Dunks https://twitter.com/nickbreezus/status/683435887506644992 No surprise, OSU’s sometimes QB Cardale going proA look at ‘Bama’s stud in the fading fullback field…Who will watch the playoff on New Year’s fricking Eve?…Auburn tops Memphis in Birmingham Bowl…Nice video on the world of East St. Louis (MO.) High School football

CFB Game of the Week: $$$2 Alabama 38 vs. #3 Michigan State 0 (Cotton Bowl – CFB Semi) If you didn’t know the final score and only saw the first couple drives for each team, you might’ve thought this game played out as a low-scoring, grind-it-out, defensive affair. Of course, you’d be wronger than ketchup on cereal as Alabama quickly adjusted to Sparty’s D mostly suffocating stud RB Derrick Henry by countering with QB Coker to flossy-Freshman WR Calvin Ridley, opening the floodgates from a weapons-grade warehouse of whoop-ass. I weep for East Lansing a bit, as the “little-brother” tag they’d seemed to have shed by (barely) beating Michigan, Ohio State, winning the Big Ten title and making the Playoff has now come creeping back since being so thoroughly outclassed against ‘Bama.

The same tired (but partially true) storylines of “Vastly superior SEC line play stomps Spartan hopes” and “Alabama’s stockpile of seasoned 5-star recruits smashes MSU’s overachievers” have already begun to spin out of control, and I just hope we can all remember how great Alabama is and how no one can take away the massive step Michigan State’s program has taken recently, now sitting comfortably among college football’s elite. Perhaps some teams are just perpetual media underdogs, no matter how consistently excellent they are.

Perhaps the Carolina Panthers would’ve gotten smashed by this Crimson Tide machine, which now appears enroute to its 4th national championship title in the past 7 years, once those pesky Clemson Tigers get out of the way.

One Play From the Game, My Way: Derrick Henry trucks Shilique Calhoun to end Sparty’s evening, season THIS IS WHAT I’M DOING TO DEPRESSION, DISTRACTION, AND INACTION IN 2016 https://vine.co/v/iqln6AYMeqL MSU’s outstanding DE, Shilique Calhoun is the player Derrick Henry so effortlessly flings to the field in the Vine above. Shilique Calhoun will likely be a 1st or 2nd-Round pick in this April’s NFL Draft, was a 2nd-team All-American this past year, and is “oh-by-the-way” 24 years old. In other words, he’s a bona-fide beast with age and size on his side.

However, Derrick Henry is this year’s Heisman winner, touting a mutant stregth-size-speed combination and a left-handed stiff-arm made of malice and built to bust egos. This is just one play from many, and things happen so fast in games that it’s terribly unfair to slow them down, slap ’em on a repeating Vine, and have the outstanding player quickly beaten in a singular instance seem as though his soul was stolen and smashed by a superior. I hope this is understood.

Having said that, it’s impossible to ignore the synchronicity captured in this moment of ill-will Bama’s RB visits upon Calhoun and the overall terror the Crimson Tide forced down Sparty’s throats all day long. Bama didn’t just beat MSU, they flippantly tossed them aside, just as Henry does here. Calhoun’s attempt to tackle here isn’t even a minor annoyance to Henry, who’s seemingly considering what he’ll do with his NFL millions as he trucks through the air toward pay-dirt.

One of the most amazing feats exhibited in this burst of beasting, is how Henry not only shoves Calhoun to the ground via his face while running at full speed, but how he manages to u-turn the entire trajectory of an explosive, 6’5″, 250-pound athlete trying with everything he has to impede the runner’s progress. At the end of the tackling attempt, Henry displays once again the amazingly-casual brutishness (with which he seems to always play) in this scoring run, while Calhoun’s moving the opposite way of whence he came, exemplary of these teams’ opposing trajectories after the trouncing.

3 Joke-thoughts Inspired by the Above Vine: 1. If your New Year’s resolution is to be healthy, this is how strictly you must treat sweets and fast food 2. Public Service Announcement for Children: This is how to treat strangers with candy 3. This is what my mind does to the occasional desire for self-improvement

One other nice play from the game: Calvin Ridley TD catch vs. tight coverage exemplifying the fight ever-present, natural within football, competition

Let the Bowls Continue! (Selected Bowl Roundup)

#1 Clemson vs. #4 Oklahoma (Orange Bowl – CFB Semifinal)
Watson makes Sooners scheme seem an elementary education, as Tigers roll on to Tide and ‘O-homa takes a forced vacation

Navy vs. Pittsburgh (Military)
Cadets’ QB K. Reynolds makes Narduzzi’s new nuts rusty with NCAA TD record in hand and victory glad

Baylor vs. UNC (Russell Athletic)
Baylor beats the Tar outta Academic Heels

LSU vs. Texas Tech (Texas)
Lenny F. jets Tech back to rec specs, Tigers spoil oil money fun

Houston vs. FSU (Peach)
Cougars luger cold pie to Seminoles, Herman on path to Holy Role

Michigan vs. Florida (Citrus)
First-year coaches bowl shows Harbaugh shoulders above, Wolverines give Gators the glove

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (Fiesta)
Battle of dissed playoff misses confirms Buckeyes better than most that matter, splatter Irish

Stanford vs. Iowa (Rose)
Ed did good in spurting Christian (McCaffrey), as old Bronco seed produces current Cardinal deeds destroying Hawkeye’s needs

Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma St. (Sugar)
Rebels Freeze Gundy’s Monday Morning Men, send Cowboys back to poking cows

NFL WEEK 17 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week https://twitter.com/nickbreezus/status/683129804204412928 Chip Kelly somewhat surprisingly canned in Philly…The rest of the “Black Monday” coaching firesManziel out at Cleveland, lusts for Jerry-dome…Steve Smith Sr. coming back to the Ravens in ‘16…How will ‘Bama’s Heisman-winning workhorse RB Derrick Henry…A look at the future of virtual reality in football

NFL Game of the Week

Seahawks 36 vs. Cardinals 6 With Arizona already earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs, it wouldn’t have shocked anyone for them to come out a little flat against Seattle on Sunday night. It was surprising, however, to see the team in red appear limper than a soggy tater-tot, slogging (apparently) through thick soup (dry heat?) while Seattle soared in, over, and around the Cardinals to a dominating win. Russel Wilson was his recently-unstoppable self, completing 19 of 28 passes for three scores, 4 kittens saved from trees, 2 robberies thwarted, and 650 hope-filled inspirations instilled throughout the United States. Tyler Lockett jitter-bugged past would-be special team heroes in the return game, the Seahawks stifled Carson Palmer’s aerial attack, and that fearsome Seattle defense shut down impressive ‘Zona RB David Johnson from the get-go, leading to a wire-to-wire destruction of a team that just last week looked like the best team in the NFL. What this says for the playoff hopes of both teams is anyone’s guess. Was Seattle just working its way through a typically tough regular season, honing, tinkering, just trying to stay healthy, and now in prime form for a thrice-repeat run to the Super Bowl? Was Arizona really just sleepwalking through this game with their immediate playoff fate already sealed, resting their excellence until it matters most? More importantly, do they have the transcendent and fleeting ability of very few to “turn it on” when they want and need to? Only time will tell those of us lucky to live to see it all unfold.

One Game-Defining Play, My Way: Sherman Waxes Poetic Given this game was such a thorough Cardinal ass-kicking by the Seahawks, and reflective of those pesky CFB semifinal blowouts , I’m just gonna leave this right here as a symbol of what played out in many parts of the country this past week. Despite some lopsided scores, it was still thrilling brilliance.

https://vine.co/v/ibP30plQiwq

 

NFL Results Roundup

Jets @ Bills
Rexy Bison Boar ruins the hopes of Jersey Shore, eats more than lap band prefers in celebre

Patriots @ Dolphins
Tannehill thrills South Beach with Fins win and Belichick encouraged to suck a Peach

Saints @ Falcons
Brees keeps saying “Suck deez” too late, but berates ATL on boards of score

Ravens @ Bengals
Ray-J McKieran leads the B’s past the B’s, AJ to AJ mentions refuse to end

Steelers @ Browns
Big Knee Braced-Ben beats Browns, then Cleveland fires everyone

Jags @ Texans
Texas Open-carries and tea-bags Jags, we all wear paper face-bags

Titans @ Colts
Pagano’s (supposedly) fiery-seat beats Tennessee dreams of avoiding defeat

Washington @ Cowboys
Cousins crew keeps rolling, apparently Saban’s Crimson Tide have won more in the Jerry-dome this year than the ‘Boys, true story

Eagles @ Giants
Coughlin set to resign? Eagles lose Chip on shoulder but push win boulder uphill, sneak thrill over NYG

Lions @ Bears
Deeeeeetroiiiiiit fooooootballll beats Chi-town’s blustery bullshit

Bucs @ Panthers
Cam-town recovers from last week’s surprising upset and smokes Tampa, ample

Raiders @ Chiefs
Close contest but Reid knows best with KC beating Oakland’s tease

Chargers @ Broncos
The Return of Peyton brings Broncos to beat electric-&-soon-to-be-LA Chargers

Seahawks @ Cardinals
Carroll’s curmudgeons put Palmer in the defeat dungeon, beat the hell outta AZ

Rams @ 49ers
San Fran takes Tomsula from also ran to run Saint Louis to South Cali egregiously

Vikings @ Packers
Peterson wins rushing crown, powers Teddy and the Gang past the Artist Formerly Known as Aaron Rodgers

Selfishly Sprayed Tweets from the Peak

Packers Host Vikings For NFC North Title

Well that was less than enjoyable. The Green Bay Packers went in to a road game with the Arizona Cardinals last week with many questions as far as some fans were concerned. Unfortunately for those fans, their questions were resoundingly answered. Having emerged from their desert voyage thoroughly embarrassed in week 16, a home game with the Minnesota Vikings now looms with the NFC North Division on the line.

What’s that? You slept through last week’s Packer game against the Cardinals and have been so busy that you’re just now getting a chance to tune in and see what’s on tap this week for the Pack? In that case, let’s get you up to date:

  • The Packers are 10-5
  • They play the Vikings this week at Lambeau Field in the regular season finale
  • On the line in this game is the NFC North Division title and a first round playoff game at home
  • The loser is in the playoffs still, and heading to Washington to face the Redskins for the first round game

I know, not so bad right?

The Arizona game can be looked at in no other way than a “burn the tape” type of game for any Packers fans that wish to maintain their fleeting grip on sanity. The Packers have many flaws for a team in the position they now find themselves in. On offense, from top to bottom, nothing has gone smoothly all year for a unit that was expected to carry the team as they have in the past. There has been no consistency in the run game. The wide receivers have struggled to get open all season, lacking the ability to gain separation downfield, and dropping far too many balls when Rodgers finds ways to get it to them.

Injuries among the offensive line have caused communication breakdowns in the run game as well as in pass protection. Rumblings of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy not seeing eye to eye have not yet been silenced. Opposing defenses have figured out the formula to slowing the Packer offense down and Mike McCarthy and his offensive staff and personnel have not yet been able to come up with the answers to solve the complicated riddle that is this season.

I’m done asking questions. I’ve gotten my answers. The fate of this season is not yet sealed, however, expectations can now be properly set. This is a Packer team that should contend for the division, go to the playoffs, and lose in one of the first 2 playoff rounds.

Essentially, they’re right where they should be from their performance this season. No more thoughts of a first round bye. Arizona proved they’d earned that. No more expecting to compete against the Broncos, Panthers and Cardinals. This year’s Green Bay Packers aren’t on that level. They are not a team that should be talked about in the top echelon of the National Football League. So, is it over?

No! Of course not!

The Packers have the players to get it done. They have the coaches to get it done. Their defense can continue keeping them in games. The offense could figure it out at any point now. I’m no longer hoping for it or expecting it. A guy can only take so much pain. I’m just saying it could happen. This week 17 matchup with Minnesota is the last chance to put some great momentum and confidence together heading into the playoffs. It’s a great chance to turn the page. Minnesota has played well this season and serves as a nice challenge for the Packers. It’s apropos that this game is for the division.

I won’t breakdown the game and look at any matchups. Adrian Peterson is pretty good. The Packers will have to contain him. Blah, blah, blah. I can’t “burn the tape” on this season and throw out everything before this and now pretend to look at this game and prognosticate about what can/will/should/could/might happen…maybe. Throw the records out. Flip the page. Burn the tape. This is the type of game where none of that matters. The Packers earlier win against the Vikings this season doesn’t matter. How the Vikings and Packers have played this year up to this point doesn’t matter. Any players that are out or injuries, excuses, etc. don’t matter. The opinions of fans and media don’t matter. The flaws and questions and answers and unanswered questions don’t matter. The Packers and Vikings play today in a one game season for the division.

Find a way to win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. The 2010-11 Green Bay Packers are not walking through that door. But the final chapters of the 2015-16 Green Bay Packers season have not yet been written. Green Bay still has a chance to make a run in the playoffs and write their own story. The chance to come back after an embarrassing loss and play for the division title in front of their home fans is now the challenge that sits before them. I’m excited to see how they respond. I won’t be hoping for anything. I’ll just be watching, without expectations. Let’s see what they’ve got

Monday Morning Breeze: NFL Week 16, Bowl Scenes, & Leaping Dreams

Merry Holidays! This week we go stream-of-c swimming for most efficient information absorption, in a land where it’s 70 degrees on Christmas East and snowing tornadoes in Texas’ Sun Bowl. A land where Duke Football finally gets karmic bliss from their ref-stained, 8-lateral-last-second loss to the Hurricanes by controversially beating Indiana in Pinstripes because the kick was too high. Most importantly, we’ll soon get to see the beauty of couples across the country being torn apart because the College Football Playoff begins New Year’s Eve. The answer to, “Are you in or are you out?” could mean the difference between loving hugs and sleeping in the dumpster for a while.

The Professionals of Football’s National League witnessed some questionably reported and shocking/not-so shocking allegations tossed Peyton’s way, Carolina’s loss-column get filled with 1, William Belichick stealing a page from Marty Morninwheg’s Detroit Overtime Playbook forcing A.C. Slater’s coin-flop, Cousins kneeling for no one, Oakland and San Diego in the battle of who could care Less Angeles, Arizona Juggernauting, Minnesota rolling, Mallett winning(!) as a Raven(!), Weeden winning(!) as a Texan(!), and much more.

Come on in, the fire’s frozen and there’s a pitcher of “egg nog” that’ll put you on the floor, sky-bound Gurley Jones and Twitter flame galore as we reflect on “Dab” and “Dabo” now and forever being a part of the national consciousness.

What mysterious beauty will 2016 bring to thee?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

College Football Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

SI’s Campus Rush has cultivated some great CFB content over the year, so this one’s all theirs: What does the NFL think of Clemson’s Watson?…VA Tech’s Beamer coaches his final game…Powerful piece from a college student that also happens to be one of the best LB’s in the country, Oklahoma’s E. Striker on why he’s more than a helmeted headWhen Saban was respected but not loved as a Spartan head coach

Let the Bowls Continue! (CFB Roundup)

duke indiana

Duke vs. Indiana (Pinstripe Bowl)

School that produces rich NY’ers beats Hoosiers thanks to Karma Bowl in Yankee Palladium

UCLA vs. Nebraska (Foster Farms Bowl)

‘Huskers truck Uck-LA’s luck, Nebraska wins game, UCLA wins better place to exist

Miami (Fl.) vs. Washington State (Sun Bowl)

Mike Leach’s Reach tops Mark Richt’s Future Fellas in Snowy Texas Tornado

NFL WEEK 16 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

Touching moment as Charles Woodson says farewell to Oakland post-game…Shaky report links Peyton Manning to HGH, BS or not?…ODB’s college teammate at LSU and best friend kinnnnda replicates That CatchPeter King’s MMQB, a direct breach of creative license in stealing the format and idea from us 🙂

NFL Game of the Week

camice

Atlanta 20 vs Carolina 13

The basics: As everyone on God’s green Earth knows, the Panthers have been on one of those “14-week beat the hell out of most everyone you play” tears through the NFL, riding an undefeated record and making sure nobody tugged on their likely league MVP Super-Cam’s cape. The Falcons, have endured the rollercoaster roadshow of a Brand New Head Coach in Year 1 of the Dan Quinn regime, recently suffering through one of those “6-game losing streaks my God must we keep playing maybe the Hawks are on TV” streaks of suckitude, before getting a win last week over the Jags to chin-up to .500 on the year. Most would tune in to this game only to see how quickly Mr. Newton would get his 5 TD’s and how the Josh Norman vs. Julio Jones battle would turn out.

What’s that? You’ve been hearing alot about Carolina’s Eternally Innocent CB lately? Me too. In case you actually have loved ones and/or fulfilling things to do with your time besides swallow the never-ending sports swirly that is Media and missed last week’s ODB Jr vs. Josh Normal catfight, basically it goes “Norman and Beckham Jr. fight all game, Beckham Jr. loses his damn mind and spears a defenseless Norman in the jaw, Beckham Jr. gets 3(!) personal foul penalties, Beckham Jr. scores lovely game-tying TD on Norman late, Carolina wins on last-second FG, National media crucifies Beckham Jr. as Worst Human Conceived and he gets 1-game suspension from the league.” Phew.

This week offered Norman no rest in facing yet another top-tier receiver, maybe even the toppest of tiers in Atlanta’s juggernaut Julio Jones. How would Norman respond to being in that white-hot spotlight all week? Could Julio keep his league-leading receiving romp rolling against the best corner in the league?

Turns out Norman played like normal, which means excellent. Unfortunately for him and the Panthers undefeated streak, J. Jones decided to leap and tickle the bottom of God’s feet before providing one of the plays of the year sparking the Falcons to a (semi-) shocking upset win. In a solid nod to Dan Quinn’s first draft class Atlanta’s top pick in 2015, DE Vic Beasley, displayed his pass-rushing prowess in stripping Cam on Carolina’s last-gasp drive for the tie, as Atlanta recovered and knelt out the game.

So dowwwwwn goeeees Carolina from the unbeatens, the Old Dolphins can celebrate, Atlanta’s on the uptick and a game above even, and everyone involved is likely better off for this game going exactly as it did.

Most importantly Jah Jones gave us this play, which deserves more words…

One Game-Defining Play, My Way

https://vine.co/v/iqB0b6nraxK

I meeeeaaaan, if you can watch that play any less than 13 (thirteen) times you might not be a human capable of feeling. To begin, QB Matt Ryan rolled left to avoid pressure from the Panther’s seeking to eat his neck, re-established his feet for proper pigskin projection, and then unleashed a heaving prayer into double-coverage, well-behind his intended receiver, which would normally be a pretty terrible throw EXCEPT this time his intended receiver is from another planet, better than anyone else, and regularly answers prayers.

Watch how effortlessly Julio adjusts his route to come back for the ball, running at well over 175 MPH, listlessly shrugs off a falling Carolina player that’s trying in vain to keep up, and in an instant verticals himself to just beneath the light fixtures atop Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As he continues rising, I imagine at least the tiniest of smiles must’ve crossed his mouth as he saw Luke Keuchly (a great player in his own right but well out of his spatial comfort zone out here in the land of balletic leopards) white man jump for the descending pass. I imagine Keuchly’s mind raced, screaming: “Oh man, what the hell am I doing out here? Whoa! There’s the ball! It’s coming to me! I got it! I got it! Wait? Do they allow planes with arms in here? What the hell!? Dammit, I’m falling. There he goes.” Jones, at the peak of his ascent, calmly, gently, softly allows the ball into his perfectly placed hands like saving a baby tossed from a burning building, or how (I’m certain) he plucks groceries off the top shelves in stores for needy old people. In this case Keuchly thought he was about to get the last box of Wheaties, only he’s not Julio Jones, as are none of us, so we’re thankful for eyes and Vines.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this play is how easily it seems Jones is able to keep his balance throughout, the difficulty of this relative to the speed and explosive moments on display here evidenced by the fact the other two world-class athletes in the frame tumble to the ground in succession. Only Jones, after ball-jacking Luke’s hopeful heart, sticks the landing (damn W. German judge even gave him a 10) and within 5 pitter-patter, backwards-sideways-forwards re-routing steps has turned himself completely around and continues his plan toward the touchdown. There are no wasted steps, no wasted motion, each fiber of Jones’ form seems to have been built for this one play. As he 0-to-60’s his way into the end zone, he even has the wherewithal to cross the plane of the goal line doing one of the few celebrations I find to be creative and fun, the track-and-field inspired “breaking the tape” lean-in to secure the fastest time and edge out any parallel opponents. Only on this play, because it’s Julio, there’s nobody else to be found, nobody else anywhere near him to challenge as his opponents lie in carnage behind and beneath him. Out here, it’s Just Julio Jones, and we all get to bear witness.

Bonus Bit of Beastly Beauty

Oh ya, by the way, ummm…Todd Gurley’s amazing too. I don’t care if he fumbles on this play (Rams recovered and he wound up scoring shortly after), I do care that Gurley’s coming off ACL surgery and is able to jackrabbit at full speed over a soaring Seahawk that just happens to be All-Forever Level Earl Thomas, one of the better tacklers in the NFL. Thank you, Todd.

NFL Results Roundup

Chargers vs. Raiders (Thursday Night)

Oaktown prevails in battle of future LA, Woodson tells crowd “Hey”, both teams’ futures sway

Washington vs. Eagles

So Kirk Cousins might become Uncle Kirkle after this lovely display, winning games against Chips Kids

Panthers vs. Falcons

Dowwwwn goes the Dab as Matty Ice gets Hotlanta again to end Panther unbeaten hopes

Texans vs. Titans

Titans are bad with Mariota and reprehensible without, as evidenced in today’s Texans fillet of Tenn. tons

Steelers vs. Ravens

Ryan Mallett somehow beats Ben’s Pitts after being on Baltimore for half an hour

Patriots vs. Jets

Controversial coin flip call by Belichick lets Jets De-Fleet and give shingles to New Era

Bears vs. Buccaneers

Jay Cutler somehow remains married to F-list celebrity woman, more amazingly beats Winston’s Bucs

Colts vs. Dolphins

Indy survives injury to their Geriatric backup QB to drown Dolphins already filled with frowns

49ers vs. Lions

Deeeeeeeettttroiiiiiiiit Foooootballllll tops Tomsula’s Tattered Tonsils

Cowboys vs. Bills

Rexy Flexy beats star-less yet still TV sexy Dallas, Jerry Jones stomps his foot and nobody cares about any of this

Browns vs. Chiefs

Hey whattttya know? Andy Reid’s got his team in surprising position for a playoff birth, beating Browns’ Johnny spot

Jaguars vs. Saints

Brees rebounds from Lions licking and stick it to other cat crowd, jack those Jags

Rams vs. Seahawks

Fisher wears his hat backwards but points Saint Louis forward in shocking toppling of Seacarrols

Packers vs. Cardinals

Arizona appears geared for an NFC showdown with Carolina, Cards’ d-line batters Rodgers in desert swarm route

Giants vs. Vikings

Men of Soda monster mash Big City Boys, give ’em all purple nurples

Bengals vs. Broncos (Monday Night Football Prediction)

Peyton Manning accidentally sends an HGH shipment to Nick Saban’s Crimson House, and the McCarron’s receive word, win the press game but these Broncos tame the striped cats no question

Selfish Tweet Promotion (So sue me) (But please don’t)

The Colts Maintain Their Pulse in Week 16

The battered and bruised Indianapolis Colts showed enough moxie this past Sunday afternoon to pull off an 18-12 win over the Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium. This victory was anything but pretty, but the way this season has gone for Indianapolis (7-8), they’ll take a win of any kind…beggars can’t be choosers, after all.

This was a game that the Colts were very lucky to win. Miami, now 5-10 on the year, outgained the Colts by nearly a hundred yards offensively, but there were some key moments that completely erased that advantage.

Indianapolis QB Matt Hasselbeck threw a first quarter interception that was negated by a holding call on Dolphins CB Brent Grimes. Later in the quarter, Miami QB Ryan Tannehill tried to hit WR DeVante Parker on a fade route in the corner of the end zone, but Tannehill was picked off by Indianapolis CB Vontae Davis. In the third quarter, Tannehill threw an apparent touchdown pass, only to have it taken off the board when WR Jarvis Landry was called for offensive pass interference on the play.

These three plays alone created an 18-point swing in favor of the Colts, but there was one last prayer they needed answered to pull this one out.

The Dolphins had driven to the Colts’ 5-yard line with under a minute to play, poised to find the end zone and score a likely game-winning touchdown. Instead, Tannehill threw the ball on three straight downs, misfiring each time. The fourth down play never got off the ground, as a mistimed snap caused Ryan Tannehill to be engulfed by the Colts defensive line before having any opportunity to get the ball out of his hands…and that was all she wrote for Miami.

Colts RB Frank Gore essentially carried the offense, rushing for 85 yards on 15 carries, including a nifty 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of yet another game, and third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst came in and did his job: he played unspectacular but mistake-free football.

Indianapolis’ much-maligned defense held down Miami’s rushing attack, and made enough plays against Tannehill and his receivers to keep the Colts in the game, although they did give up 329 passing yards on the day.

Miami did everything they could to give this one away, but the Colts did capitalize on the Dolphins’ errors, so Indianapolis does deserve some credit for being opportunistic.

Despite the victory, the Colts playoff chances are slim…the Houston Texans are responsible for that (they blew out Tennessee 34-6 on Sunday). Houston continues to hold a one-game lead over the Colts, and it would take a myriad of things to happen for Indianapolis to wiggle into the playoffs now.

This was a win the Colts badly needed. Even if the playoffs are out of reach, they needed this to gain some momentum and confidence. However, there’s a problem with the way the Colts deal with winning games like this.

There has been a pattern this season of head coach Chuck Pagano overreacting to his team’s victories. He gave an inspirational and emotional speech earlier this season after a come-from-behind win over the Titans. Yes, the Tennessee Titans. Pagano repeated this act after Indianapolis picked up the ‘W’ over a Miami team who was eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago.

Why is this a problem? It shows everyone how low the bar is set, and honestly, wreaks of desperation. There’s a saying in sports, “act like you’ve been there before.” Pagano acting like the Colts just won the Super Bowl each time they beat an also-ran is weak. He’s trying to convince his team that they accomplished something significant, and perhaps, hoping his boss (Jim Irsay) is fooled by this as well.

It’s not working, Chuck.

Jim Irsay’s goal is for the Colts to win multiple Super Bowls in the “Andrew Luck Era.” Surely he knows that will never happen with a head coach like Chuck Pagano. Pagano is a man of character and strength, and a very good NFL assistant coach…there’s a lot to like about Chuck Pagano. The simple fact is: he’s over his head trying to lead an NFL franchise to the Super Bowl, which is where the Colts want to go and believe they can go.

Yes, Indianapolis came out on top in this game. But, when you put it all in perspective, this victory rings very hollow.

Monday Morning Breeze: Transcendent Travel, Fights, & Cycles Sing

Movement, everywhere, all around and within us. Internal body motions and external Earth rotations. Cycles and surges are everywhere, whether or not we’re aware. Conor McGregor got the “movement” movement, well, moving last week with his blink-and-you-miss-it UFC knockout, and perhaps that subconsciously inspired my own travel as I up and left lovely Austin, TX for a 24-hour trek to Frederick, MD where I now lay my head. Apart from an hour-long nap in a beautiful Sears parking lot in even more beautiful Texarkana, it was just me, my 1999 Ford Escort, the same four songs playing in between radio fuzz, and the promise of knowing if I keep pushing the pedal eventually I’d reach my destination.

Though football seasons always feel to fans like they fly, they’re also a long slog just like driving alone through the night, with the promise of playoffs providing hope at the slowly approaching end of the tunnel. We’re nearing that cycle of the season for both college and the pros. College bowl season kicks off this week and the Big Playoffs draw near on New Year’s Eve while the NFL’s pretenders are sifting out, leaving the real contenders standing at the doorstep of the Shield’s field-tourney in just a couple weeks.

This week I learned Memphis has a big pyramid, driving solo for distance makes road reality seem a video game, and change’s cyclical ways do wonders for a weary head. Where does this season lead? What does it all mean? Who the hell knows? But it sure is fun to watch everything play out, on the field and in the day’s yield.

Happy Celebration Times to all!

COLLEGE FOOTBOWL PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

footbowl

Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

QB’s Gone Wild! Stud Texas A&M QB’s Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both to transfer from Sumlin’s kingdom…Suspended stud Florida QB Will Grier to transfer as well…Michigan State remains the Rodney Dangerfield (“No respect!”) of CFB as Sports Freaking Illustrated misidentifies HC Mark Dantonio on THE COVER…Speaking of MSU, here’s a great look at their next-level AD Mark HollisBig recruiting win for Georgia’s fresh HC Kirby Smart, keeping the pledge of highly-rated QB Jacob Eason…SI’s top 10 CFB moments of 2015 in video form…Clemson’s Dabo continues to seem like the most fun coach to play for, renting an entire amusement park for his team…Surprising early end to dominant Ole Miss DE’s college career…Nasty Arizona LB Scooby going proBaylor’s bowl be a little more boring without freakish WR Coleman, RB Shock

Let the Bowls Begin! (CFB Roundup)

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

North Carolina A&T 41, Alcorn State34

Non-Tarheels topple the place known as “McNair went there”

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Arizona 45, New Mexico 37

Anu ‘Zona was gonna make the Lobos loss hobos in their home bowl

byu

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Utah 35, BYU 28

Holy War produces close score, but Utes do a bit more to evade those Cougars’ lusty eyes

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Appalachian State 31, Ohio 29

The team that beat Michigan once beats Peter King’s alma mater, the (Bobcat) Goldthwaits

Cure Bowl

San Jose State 27, Georgia State 16

Pretty amazing an 80’s emo-ish band has a bowl game named after it, houses SJSU’s big FU to peaches

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Louisiana Tech 47, Arkansas State 28

The place where Troy Edwards broke all those records once upon a time smokes a team that states it can saw the Ark

NFL WEEK 11 PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

Link Dinks and Dunks of the Week

Great look at the unique friendship between the NFL and NBA’s best, Cam and Steph…More shade thrown the Patriots Way….Future NFL’ers to watch during Bowl Season…Would Gronk still be Gronk without Belichick’s touch?…Remember the Raiders’ Robbins fleeing the scene pre-Super Bowl?…Richard Sherman’s idea to fix officiating…

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NFL Game of the Week

Panthers vs. Giants

Carolina’s been steamrolling through their schedule this year, maintaining their perch atop the league as the final unbeaten still standing being led by Superman Himself (or Global Media Brand or something like that) Cam Newton, the clear-cut MVP of the Panthers and probably the entire NFL. New York’s Football Giants have been their typical uncertain selves, playing up and down to the competition and everywhere in between while somehow remaining in the playoff race due to the NFC East being a steaming pile of dog mess this season. Are they underachieving? Dangerous? The team nobody wants to see in the playoffs? Is Eli done? Coughlin too old? Does Pierre-Paul now have the answer to the eternal questions posed in this Cake song? It’s tough to tell with this team, but no matter what it felt like the G-men would stand and deliver in this game, and they didn’t disappoint.

This matchup would also allow for the popcorn movie magic of seeing the game’s best CB (Carolina’s Josh Norman) and (arguably) the best WR (Giants’ Odell Beckam Jr.) go head to head for most of the day. They’re both incredibly intense, fiercely competitive, and the Alpha-est of Alpha dogs so the day’s most certain thing was both would show ready to perform, and with an animosity that was almost palpable through my 10-year old television, perform they did. However, their performance was both athletic, brilliant, and of the WWE-style as there were many instances of shared-facemask-grabbing and “punches” thrown and tussling after the play. Of course, there was that one play which will certainly be the focus of mainstream media today, along with a million “Is ODB out of control?” and “How could Coughlin not reign him in?” think-pieces for which we have no concern or interest, but that one vital play in which ODB really behaved like the dirty bastard he shares an acro-name with we must dive deeper, so we shall just below.

In the end New York showed up as we all hoped and turned this game into a heavyweight slugfest, with Carolina doing most of the slugging for much of the game until those Giants chose to sleep no longer and began a furious comeback down 28 points in the 2nd half, capped by a lovely Beckham Jr. TD catch (against Norman) to tie the game late, only to see hope vanish and Carolina continue to vanquish with a clutch 43-yard FG by Graham Gano as time expired to seal the Panther victory.

Carolina Panthers 38 – New York Giants 35

One Game-Defining Play, My Way: Norman vs. Beckham Jr.

To set proper context, please head here to see the Norman/ODB fisticuffs and the spear heard ‘round the world all in one cozy place.

Let me begin by saying this: Beckham’s attempted decapitation of a relatively defenseless Norman was dirty as hell and kinda gross. Having said that, it didn’t feel as completely out of nowhere as everyone seems to think in the post-game reflection dance. Norman and ODB Jr. are both incredibly dominant athletes, both arguably the best in the world at what they do, and their positions just happened to match them head-to-head in this great game, forcing them to compete directly with each for Sunday’s superiority. Wide receivers are notorious prima-donna’s, all balletic brilliance bounding between the boundaries, and cornerbacks their defensive counterpart, famously “living on the island” alone in the secondary with attention coming in droves due to their duty, only the attention forever skewing between the hot fame of shutting down an offensive attack or the shame of being victimized by passing fancy.

Imagine for 5 seconds the mindset one must have to succeed in those positions, in an already ruthless sport and league and fame-fishbowl that is the NFL’s glorious Sunday parade. The brightest of bright spotlights burn eternally on great WR’s and CB’s, and pitting the (likely) defensive player of the year against one of the league’s most transcendently talented athletes, a player who seems to seek and relish the mania of media more than most with American fawning over the explosion of ODB after just his rookie year (“He’s invited to fashion shows! He’s taking over Polamalu’s Head n’ Shoulders ‘poo Crown! His TD hurdler celebration was creative and better form than Olympian Lolo! He’s having the best offseason EVER!”) was certain to be a comedy of intimidation and exciting athletic genius, a figurative fist fight that became literal.

Seeing these two tussle and eventually ODB cross the line in attempting to concuss the entirety of Norman’s being reminded me of Mike Tyson quote talking to an apoplectic public about how he could be so crazy outside of the ring. I’ll have to completely paraphrase but his response was basically: “What do you expect? You celebrated me for being an animal in the ring, for instilling fear in the world while leaving carnage in my wake. This behavior made me rich and famous so long as it was confined to boxing but it’s impossible to foster that hungry maniac for heavyweight dominance and expect a human to be able to keep it confined to the agreed upon battleground inside the arena.” Of course the ugliness and raw energy so apparent in the raging, excellent Tyson would spill out in other displays, and of course the slithery media narrative that helped build Tyson into “Iron Mike” would turn its back, wring its hands and say “What a monster! He must be caged/stopped/laughed at!”

The Norman/Beckham Jr. matchup was a streetfight to be sure, and we shouldn’t be surprised it turned out that way and I’m not even surprised at Beckham’s spear-job. It was a punky play, definitely, but it was born out of a competition and desire to dominate so great I can’t even imagine the fire burning within both men. Norman did a better job of keeping his cool, but ODB’s explosive ways are what he’s celebrated for. Watch how he plays, how he runs with the ball, it’s always intense as hell  and explosive. Of course he’s also amazingly graceful, perhaps the most agile player in the league and the beauty of his ability to receive the ball (those hands!) in every form and fashion possible may deceivingly put a shiny sheen over the fiery rage so evident in his approach to the game. Let’s keep in mind Norman is no angel either; check out this story on how he proudly promotes his pre-game prep, talks about going to his “dark place”. Also, from that piece:

When you talk me up, get me going, I get to another place,” Norman said. “I feel disrespected, like that must mean I suck, which I don’t.”

Knowing a bit about the mindset of these two helps remove the mystery of their display yesterday. In the end Beckham Jr. lost his cool and Norman was able to maintain, and while Beckham Jr. was clutch in beating Norman for the game-tying TD late, Norman’s Panthers got the win which will certainly singe ODB even more. I’m definitely not mad at either, not even Beckham Jr. for what happened yesterday, because the furious pool those punches and punkiness came from is the same one which drives him to excellence. I’m just happy to be able to watch two elite athletes at their best inside the brightest boiler room. But, ODB, next time stick to face-to-face fighting amid football fun, ok?

steelers

NFL Results Roundup

Buccaneers vs. Rams (Thursday)

Future Angeleno Rams slam Tampa, make Bucs stank as Winston walks the plank

Jets vs. Cowboys (Saturday)

Dallas continues to play like dirty doody with backup QB’s, fall once more to Jersey Shore

Panthers vs. Giants

G-men scare de cats, but Cam’s kicker man Graham wins it for Charlotte in the end

Chiefs vs. Ravens

Reid’s steeds smoke Poe’s punks

Titans vs. Patriots

Gronk keeps gronking and New England proves mightier than sinking Titanics

Bills vs. Washington

Snyder’s skin may be oily and gross, but his team toasts the Bills with the boastful coach

Texans vs. Colts

Boy O’Brien keeps fledgling oil boys trending right as Houston tops the Colts who seem to’ve no fight

Falcons vs. Jags

Luke-warm-lanta wins the battle of crapitude, being slightly less crappy than the Jax-holes

Bears vs. Vikings

Vikes strike early and often to stomp the Butkus bros

Browns vs. Seahawks

Seattle rains points on the Brown stains, stay hot, clinch playoff spot

Packers vs. Raiders

Are Rodgers and the Pack back? Don’t know about that, but they best Oaktown clowns

Bengals vs. 49ers

Dalton-less cats make clear the 9ers need a counsela for Tomsula

Dolphins vs. Chargers

Rivers makes the fins cry him, as Burgundy’s boys belittle the Ace Venturas

Broncos vs. Steelers

Ben’s better than Brock in the battle of the B-boys and Pit gives Denver fits

Cardinals vs. Eagles

Palmer’s pigeons were itchin’ for an ass-kickin’, and they hand-deliver one to Kelly’s bumbling Balboas

Lions vs. Saints (Monday Night Football Prediction)

Stafford smooches stellar stats and smokes Brees like trees, Cats stump slumping Saints leave coal lump in their throats

How Win Friends and Influence Christmas

Sants

 

PS: This week’s release of Star Wars seems to have permeated each bit of reality, as these road signs were all over Nashville (forgive the crappy picture, I was driving at the time). If you can’t read it, the sign says “Drinking & Driving is the Path to the Dark Side.”

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The Sad Decline of the Indianapolis Colts Continues

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard the words “Super Bowl” and “Colts” in the same sentence. Looks like it’s going to be a lot longer before we hear it again.

The Houston Texans came into Lucas Oil Stadium and wrested the division lead away from the Colts by virtue of a 16-10 triumph on Sunday afternoon. The Texans (7-7) now hold a one-game lead over Indianapolis, who fell to 6-8 with two games remaining in the regular season.

For the third straight week, the Colts held an early lead before imploding. After trailing 10-0 in the first half, Houston scored 16 consecutive points to win their first ever game in Indianapolis (the Texans were 0-13 coming into this contest). The Colts had an unprecedented 16-game winning streak within the division snapped last week against Jacksonville; now they’ve lost two in a row against the AFC South.

The quarterback matchup in this game was not exactly one for the ages: backup QB Matt Hasselbeck going for Indianapolis, while Houston had to play their third-string signal caller, T.J. Yates. Neither quarterback played particularly well, and when Yates went down with a non-contact knee injury after scrambling late in the second quarter, things looked even worse for the Texans.

Enter Brandon Weeden, the former starting QB in Cleveland, but currently number four on the depth chart in Houston. Weeden was the hero in this one, coming off the bench to go 11-for-18 for 105 yards and a touchdown after Yates’ injury. Most importantly, Houston scored all 16 of their points with Weeden at the helm, as he gave the Texans the shot in the arm they needed after falling behind early 10-0.

The Colts offense was anemic, gaining a paltry 190 yards for the game. QB Matt Hasselbeck had a tough day in more ways than one, going 17-for-30 for only 147 yards, and feeling pressure and taking hits from the Texans’ defense all afternoon. Indianapolis RB Frank Gore ran hard, but had nowhere to go, averaging 2.8 yards on 16 carries.

Aside from Brandon Weeden’s heroics, Houston didn’t exactly light it up either. The Texans’ running game was mostly held in check, other than Alfred Blue’s 41-yard run in the second quarter, which didn’t actually lead to any points for Houston.

The turnover battle was even, but the Colts only lost fumble was a very costly one. Indianapolis was driving late in the fourth quarter, trailing 13-10, when WR Griff Whalen took a short pass from Hasselbeck and coughed it up after a good hit by Houston CB Johnathan Joseph…this effectively ended the Colts’ hopes.

Indianapolis did get the ball back one more time, only to have Matt Hasselbeck throw a deep interception on the first play of the drive when he “misinterpreted the angle” WR Donte Moncrief took on his route.

The last three minutes of this game continued what has been a pattern of late with the Colts – key moment, key mistake(s).

Now that the AFC South lead has vanished and a playoff berth is becoming unlikely, what do we make of the 2015 version of the Indianapolis Colts? It would be easy to blame this disappointing season on injuries, particularly when your star quarterback has missed significant time on the field…but that’s not why this team has underachieved.

It all starts with a flawed roster, a fact that was previously covered up by QB Andrew Luck’s emergence as an NFL star. Even he could not continue to perform at a high level with a struggling offensive line in front of him. Colts GM Ryan Grigson chose not to address the offensive line to any large degree in the offseason, and it’s coming back to haunt the team now. In general, Grigson has just had far too many “misses” in the draft and in free agency, and they’ve led Indianapolis to where they are now.

Another key issue is coaching. Chuck Pagano, the Colts’ head coach, has not proven to be a top-flight coach in either game preparation or motivation. Consistent errors such as penalties and turnovers, especially at crucial times, are the mark of a poorly-coached team. As the season has worn on, the team is also playing with less and less desire and enthusiasm.

What a difference in outlook from Week 1 to now. The Indianapolis Colts were a trendy pick to win the AFC Championship this season, now, they’ll have to finish strong and hope for some help just to barely make the playoffs – in a weak division. Unless something spectacular (and unexpected) happens, some heads are going to roll when this train wreck of a season is over.

More Than A Friday: Is Spaceballs Actually Better Than Star Wars?

Um, no. Though, I do think Spaceballs comes with a cast of more likable characters, the hysteria behind the Star Wars franchise holds water.

What is it that they say? Mockery is the most sincere form of flattery, or something like that. To spoof something, there has to be something worthy spoofing, and Star Wars has it. When you’re not comparing or contrasting it against its source material, something you should not be doing anyways, Spaceballs holds up very well on its own as a comedy.

To prepare for my viewing of The Force Awakens, I, like many others, decided to get a refresher on the George Lucas franchise, going with an unconventional, yet logical order of viewing. It’s called Machete Order, and you start with 4 & 5, the first in order of theatrical release. That tells the story of Luke Skywalker, then you revert back to 2 & 3 to see his father’s story, without the concern of spoiling the reveal in Episode 5, since you’ve already watched it. You skip the Phantom Menace altogether, as it’s really unnecessary to the saga, and watch Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s stories come together in Return of the Jedi. It worked for me, and got me to thinking how complex the sci-fi trilogies are versus the simplicity of the spoof. Imagine how difficult it would be to create the prequel backstories for Vespa, Lonestar1Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role., and Yogurt. Would there have been a time that Yogurt aided the Mogs at war, and had a previous relationship with Barf, a la Yoda and Chewbacca? How was Helmet beckoned to the dark side of the Shwartz? Were Alderaan and Druidia similar places for princesses to grow up? Who knows? Who cares?

While we’re on the subject of immitation, what’s up with the NFL going with the Oregon model, when it comes to outfitting these professional organizations? Did you see what the Rams and Bucs were rocking for the final installment of the Color Rush games this season? I don’t mind a little color-on-color, in the wake of black & white televisions going the way of the dodo, but drowning us in monochrome is not a good application of games without white jerseys. On the field and in the stands, I began to feel the pain of those old scabs being peeled off, remembering that the Rams victory on Thursday night might very well be the last NFL game ever played in St. Louis. If it was, can the diehard Rams fans in Missouri somehow be pleased with what two decades of a team from Southern California brought them?

They got Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title; not bad for twenty years of existence in the Gateway City. Lions, Bills, Jaguars, and Carolina fans would gladly take that. The Browns, on the other hand, would take the perpetual 7-9 run that you get from Jeff Fisher, and they would be glad to have it. That begs the question2Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition., are the expansion Browns the Spaceballs to their original counterparts (the Browns that existed from 1946-1995)?

For those of you familiar with the new Browns, you’d probably liken the new chapter of Browns to some really low budget porn tie-in or a Lifetime original that cuts too many corners in production. You know how it goes, not funny or good, but for some reason, people tune in. This weekend, Cleveland visits the NFL’s answer to the Death Star, as it exists in the form of Century Link field. The Seahawks organization yields its own darkside characters; the once-wholesome Russ Wilson draws some parallels with Anakin/Vader, while Pete Carroll represents Big Poppa Palpatine, and you can find the Colonel Sanders and Major Asshole types on the Sea Chickens defense. How many assholes are on that team anyways?

The problem with the comparison is that the Browns lack heroes, even accidental ones like Han Solo or Lonestar. That’s not to put down the valiant efforts we’ve seen, but as Episode III reminds us, even the greats like Yoda fail from time to time, and sometimes there’s just no hope3No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.. Meanwhile, Browns fans are willing to die on that hill, screaming about how Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and/or Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the chosen one. In reality, the years of 5-11 seasons and no light at the end of the tunnel gives off that vibe of the love of our lives walking away and being left to burn in molten lava by the only friend we’ve ever had.

Maybe I’ve got that all wrong, and it’s Art Modell that left us all for dead, deeming us unworthy as fans of his team. We needed a Sith like Al Lerner or Jimmy Haslam to give us a new beginning, but despite having the Deathstar destroyed twice and the Emperor being betrayed by his established #2, the Republic had a better run than any Browns fan born after 1983. That story of murder, mayhem, betrayal, and redemption are a little heavy for a Friday morning. That’s where it’s nice to instead live in a world of using strawberry to “jam” a signal, Jedi-type weapons coming from Cracker Jack boxes, and Mr. Coffee being conveniently located next to Mr. Radar. At least we can laugh about our owner looking like a giant penis. You have to laugh.That’s the only option to get through a life that has you stuck in purgatory.

The only changes we know are when they go from “Suck” to “Blow”.

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1. Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role.
2. Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition.
3. No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.

Indianapolis Colts Crash and Burn in the Sunshine State

Opportunity was knocking for the Indianapolis Colts as they headed south to play Jacksonville this past Sunday afternoon. The Colts, despite their struggles, were in first place in the AFC South. They came into the game carrying a 16-game winning streak within the division. A victory against the 4-8 Jaguars would go a long way toward securing a playoff berth for The Horseshoe.

With all this at stake, and a “winnable” game in front of them, you would expect a quality team to take advantage of a scenario such as this. Instead, the Colts took a promising start and turned it into an avalanche as they fell 51-16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The way this game unfolded was eerily similar to that of last week’s debacle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Indianapolis led 10-6 late in the first half, but were outscored 39-0 the rest of the way. Against the Jaguars, Indianapolis held a 13-3 lead late in the first half when Jags DE Andre Branch stripped QB Matt Hasselbeck of the ball, recovered the ensuing fumble and coasted 49 yards for a touchdown. After falling behind by 10 points, Jacksonville outscored the Colts 48-3 from that point forward.

How bad were the Colts in this contest? Let me count the ways. The Colts allowed the aforementioned fumble return touchdown. They allowed a 73-yard punt return touchdown to the Jaguars’ Rashad Greene. They gave up 154 rushing yards, allowing a gaudy 5.3 yards-per-carry average. QB Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions in a very effective performance.

Some of Indianapolis’ offensive numbers actually looked pretty good (they were only outgained 380-322 yards on the day), but this was a case where the yardage gained did not turn into points on the scoreboard. Every time the Colts drove down the field, they were eventually stopped. Every time Jacksonville drove down the field, they found paydirt.

The bottom line to all this is very simple: good teams make plays in the crucial moments, and find ways to win. The last two weeks, Indianapolis had late first half leads, and when “crunch time” was upon them, they wilted. Badly.

Around midseason, the two most disappointing teams in the NFL were arguably Seattle and Indianapolis, both preseason Super Bowl favorites, both sitting at 4-5. The Seahawks have proven they are a legitimate contender in recent seasons, so what have they done since that 4-5 start? They have gone 4-0, winning the last two in blowout fashion. In short, they’re on a roll.

The Colts, on the other hand, have lost their last two games by identical 35-point margins. This is not what contenders do, honestly, this isn’t even what decent teams do.

The Colts are still in the thick of the race for the AFC South Title after New England defeated Houston on Sunday night. But, does this really mean anything in the big picture?

The Colts are a mess right now, and trending very much in the wrong direction…they’ve basically hit rock bottom these last two weeks when the division race was just starting to heat up. We can talk about the offensive line problems, the fact that QB Matt Hasselbeck is starting to come back down to earth, a defense that can’t get much pressure on the quarterback and is giving up big plays at an alarming rate, and so on.

But, the real concern here has to do with intangibles. The players are not showing much fight or will to win, and the coaching staff seem to be losing their players at a critical point in the season…the players simply aren’t responding to head coach Chuck Pagano on any level right now.

Another “important” game looms next Sunday, when the Houston Texans visit Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s no sugarcoating it, everyone in the Colts organization from management to coaches to players need a serious gut check. Things like heart, resolve and commitment are necessary for a team to make the playoffs and be a contender once they get there. The Indianapolis Colts are showing a disturbing lack of these key ingredients, and they will go nowhere without them.