2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 19

We have officially entered unchartered waters my friends. With the NFL expanding their schedule naturally ours has grown as well, meaning we will have picked more games than ever before. If only we were better at this whole thing 😬. We’re doing bonus picks again because…well, why not?? It’s our last hurrah, so we may as well end with a bang, right?? Also, after going 5-2 a week ago I am six games below .500 and want to give myself a mathematical chance to break even. Will that happen?? I’m not holding my breath, but never say never. In addition to that, with a perfect 8-0 record this week, and if I were to go 0-8, Zach (3-4 a week ago) could theoretically earn a tie for the season lead. That is even more unlikely, but hey, we’re having fun. The NFL playoff picture is mostly clear, but a couple of berths remain up for grabs, as well as various seeding scenarios, so almost all of these games matter on some level.

My Season: 56-62

Zach’s Season: 48-70

Dallas (-7) at Philadelphia

Okay, so this is one game that doesn’t technically matter. The Cowboys already clinched the NFC South and can’t catch Green Bay for the top seed, while the Eagles are locked into a wildcard spot. But it’s a cool rivalry. Back at the end of September Dallas won the first matchup pretty easily, and one could logically expect a similar outcome. However, Philly now has the home field, and with nothing to lose or gain it’ll be interesting to see which superstar players on both sides sit this one out. The Cowboys have already lost WR Michael Gallup to injury (again), and I have a hunch they might play it safe with RB Zeke Elliott & QB Dak Prescott. That’d be enough to swing momentum to the home team. Zach isn’t impressed with Dallas’ offense and thinks Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts is good enough to lead his club to an upset victory.

My Pick: Philadelphia

Z’s Pick: Philadelphia

Buffalo (-17) at NY Jets

The first time they met in mid-November the Bills barely broke a sweat while winning easily. I don’t expect anything different this time, especially with the AFC East crown at stake. That being said, the points are a concern, especially with the Jets being at home. Could we see a scenario in which Buffalo is up by a couple of TDs in the 4th quarter and plays it safe by pulling their starters?? I think that is a very real possibility. Zach believes the favorites win the game but he doesn’t like the points.

My Pick: NY Jets

Z’s Pick: NY Jets

New England (-6.5) at Miami

Belichick isn’t sitting anyone or calling off the dogs late in the game. He’s just not built like that. Also, remember that the Dolphins went into Foxboro way back in the season opener and won by one point. That won’t happen again. Zach concurs.

My Pick: New England

Z’s Pick: New England

San Francisco at LA Rams (-5.5)

The Niners need to win and/or see New Orleans lose to secure a wildcard berth. The Rams need to win and/or Arizona to lose to win the NFC West. ‘Frisco won at home by three TDs back in mid-November, but they could be playing this one without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand right before Christmas. Rookie Trey Lance was 16/23 with 249 passing yards, 31 rushing yards, two TDs, and one interception in a 23-7 victory last weekend, but that was against the Houston Texans. The Rams have a far superior defense and the home field, so whether it is Lance or Jimmy G at less than 100% under center for the 49ers I don’t think it’ll make much difference. Zach agrees.

My Pick: LA Rams

Z’s Pick: LA Rams

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-3)

Round 2 of the Battle of Ohio is mostly inconsequential. The Browns will be watching the playoffs on TV as I predicted, while the Bengals already won the AFC North as I predicted. Cincy could move up a spot or down a spot in seeding depending on the outcome, but that’s the extent of the impact. It’s entirely possible that they’ll sit players like QB Joe Burrow and/or WR Jamarr Chase, although that is unlikely. Would it matter though?? When these teams met in Cincinnati back in early November the Browns won by three TDs, but they have proceeded to lose three straight games and QB Baker Mayfield is injured. I believe it’ll be four losses in a row and the Bengals will move on to the playoffs with positive momentum. Zach agrees.

My Pick: Cincinnati

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati

New Orleans (-4.5) at Atlanta

It’s a must-win for the Saints. They make the playoffs if they win this game and the Rams defeat the 49ers, which isn’t far-fetched at all. The Falcons occasionally show signs of life, but will end up with a losing record for the fourth year in a row. That being said, it must be noted that these two teams played in N’awleans the first week of November and the Falcons emerged victorious. Anything is possible, but I think the favorites gain a season split and sneak into the postseason. Zach likes the Saints defense to lead them to victory.

My Pick: New Orleans

Z’s Pick: New Orleans

Seattle at Arizona (-6.5)

A year ago this would’ve been a marquee matchup, but the Seahawks come into the final week 6-10 and in last place in their division. It’ll be their first losing season in a decade. Conversely, the Cards are on the verge of their first division title since 2015 IF the Rams lose their game, which I don’t think will happen. They’ll be in the playoffs though. Barring any unforeseen circumstances (you may have heard of a lil thing called COVID) I expect the home team to cruise to an easy win. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Arizona

Z’s Pick: Arizona

LA Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas

This is the Sunday night game, and probably the best matchup of the week. The Chargers aren’t going to win the division like I thought they would, but the future looks bright. Win & they are in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Raiders have faced a fair amount of upheaval this season yet still have an opportunity to earn a playoff spot. Win & they are in, or they could sneak thru the back door if the Steelers & Colts both lose. These teams met in Los Angeles on the first Monday night in October, with the Bolts winning by two TDs. I think it’ll be much tighter this time around, but my money is on the visitors being victorious in a squeaker. Zach believes the Chargers offense is way too good for the Raiders to overcome.

My Pick: LA Chargers

Z’s Pick: LA Chargers

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 16  

Didn’t I tell y’all there’s still a lot of football to be played?? In the space of one week Zach (5-0) almost erased my (0-5) season lead. The NFL is rarely boring & rather unpredictable, and it’s that last part that makes our task challenging (for me anyway). At any rate, this weekend Saturday games begin, which will help fill the void left by college football (although bowl season starts on Friday). Between all of the gridiron action and Christmas related activities I suppose this time of year isn’t so bad…atleast as long as 60 degree snow free days continue here in West Virginia. 

My Season: 45-56

Zach’s Season: 42-59

New England at Indianapolis (-2.5)

The Patriots are like a serial killer in a slasher film that just won’t die. I’ve seen too many sequels and just want it to be over already. Unfortunately that’s not happening, as Satan’s favorite football team is 9-4 and vying to be the top seed in the AFC. The Colts aren’t too shabby themselves, although at 7-6 they’re two games out of first in their division and in the middle of the crowded scrum battling for a wildcard berth. Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but with the home field and a healthy dose of Jonathan Taylor ramming the rock down the throats of the opposing defense I believe Indy can get the job done. Zach is happy for his little brother (my younger nephew) because he is a Colts fan and is making the trip to Indy to take in the game. Zach would love to see the home team get the running game going and pull off the upset, but he doesn’t think that scenario is likely.

My Pick: Indianapolis 

Z’s Pick: New England

Atlanta at San Francisco (-8.5)

The 6-7 Falcons are the textbook definition of mediocre. I think it’d be difficult for the average football fan outside the state of Georgia to name three of their players, and it doesn’t matter anyway since they play in the same division as Tom Brady & the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Niners are also 6-7, and I think it’s fair to say that they’ve underachieved. Both teams are still alive in the playoff hunt, but the question is can either of them go on a winning streak to end their season?? In that regard I believe ‘Frisco is the better bet, and I think they’ll win this game. Can they cover the points?? I can’t say I’m all that confident about it, but I am willing to roll the dice. Zach can’t too excited for this one, but he believes the visitors might be able to stay close. 

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Atlanta 

NY Jets at Miami (-8.5)

I remember when this was a cool matchup. Dan Marino & Ken O’Brien tossing bombs. Dick Enberg & Merlin Olsen calling the action. Playoff spots on the line. It’s a shame that neither team has been able to get their stuff together for so many years. I thought the Dolphins might take a step forward this season in QB Tua Tagovailoa’s second year, but at 6-7 they seem to be treading water. The Jets feel even more hopeless despite getting  QB Zach Wilson with the second overall pick. At 3-10 they are on pace to draft that high again next spring. I’d love to see a callback to the old days with a high scoring shootout decided in overtime, even if the game itself is largely meaningless. Will that happen?? I’m not holding my breath. It’ll probably be a mundane & uneventful affair, with the home team getting the victory but not covering the points. Conversely, Zach has faith that Miami is better than the Jets, atleast enough to cover.

My Pick: NY Jets 

Z’s Pick: Miami 

Houston at Jacksonville (-3)

Hey, we may as well get all of the mediocrity out of the way now so we can focus on the important games down the stretch, right?? Everyone knows by now that the Texans season has been torpedoed by drama surrounding QB Deshaun Watson, who’ll be playing elsewhere next year (probably after serving some sort of NFL suspension, which seems redundant given present circumstances), and losing defensive end JJ Watt & receiver DeAndre Hopkins. At 2-11 the team is a freakin’ mess. Meanwhile, the Jags share the same abysmal record and just canned head coach Urban Meyer. The loser of this game takes the lead in the race for the #1 overall choice in the NFL Draft. I suppose it’s possible it could end up being entertaining despite all the ineptitude, but then again maybe not. Anyway, atleast the home team has their quarterback, so I give them a slight edge. Conversely, Zach thinks Houston has enough talent to score a victory. 

My Pick: Jacksonville 

Z’s Pick: Houston 

New Orleans at Tampa Bay (-10.5)

This is the Sunday night game because, well, Tom Brady. I’ll be watching Christmas movies or reading a book, but I’m sure Al Michaels & Chris Collinsworth will have their knee pads on, slobbering all over TB12’s junk. The 10-3 Bucs have wrapped up the division but are aiming to be the NFC’s top seed. Conversely, the 6-7 Saints are finding life post-Brees to be a bit prickly. The combined quarterback forces of Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, & Trevor Siemian haven’t been the answer, and since the top QBs will likely be gone by the time they choose around the 12/13/14 spot in the first round I’m guessing they’ll sign a free agent or make a big trade. Aaron Rodgers?? Russell Wilson?? Jimmy G.?? The aforementioned Watson?? Who knows. As for this game, I hate it, but it’s unlikely that Tampa loses. Will they cover?? Sadly, they probably will. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 9 

Happy Halloween Manoverse!! Sadly I was diagnosed as a diabetic a few months ago, and while my trick or treating days ended during the Reagan Administration I usually do hunt down some tasty treats this time of year and hit the day after candy sales…activities I won’t be engaging in now. At any rate, we both went 3-2 last week, which means we kept our head above water and took a small step on the long road back to mediocrity. Stay safe out there folks. Drink lots of water to counteract all that sugar you’ll be consuming. Don’t tick off any axe wielding psychopaths in hockey masks. Enjoy some old monster movies. And be generous to the little kiddies in your neighborhood. Not all Halloween treats are created equally.

My Season: 23-28

Zach’s Season: 22-29

UCLA at Utah (-5.5)

This season feels like a missed opportunity for both teams. The 5-3 Bruins could easily be 7-1, while the Utes are 4-3 but were in all three losses and have to ponder what might have been. But that’s football, right?? The good news is that both teams still have a legit shot to play in the conference title game if my man Tony Dungy & his Arizona St. Sun Devils stumble. This is a 10pm EST kickoff on ESPN, and unless I’m distracted by my thousandth viewing of Halloween (1978) or Hocus Pocus my eyes will be glued to the game. Utah has the home field and I am inclined to agree with the oddsmakers. Conversely, Zach foresees a high scoring game but doesn’t like the points, so he’s going with the underdogs.

My Pick: Utah

Z’s Pick: UCLA

Iowa at Wisconsin (-3)

Y’all remember Billy Bob from the 1999 film Varsity Blues?? That’s the kind of big ol’ boy that plays offensive & defensive line for these second tier Big Ten schools, and it’s why they’re so interesting to watch. A conference title game appearance is still on the table, and I feel like momentum is with the Badgers. If they study film & figure out the formula Purdue used to upset the Hawkeyes a couple of weeks ago it won’t matter that the visitors are coming out of a bye week. Zach thinks Wisconsin is too inconsistent and still believes in Iowa despite the loss to Purdue.

My Pick: Wisconsin

Z’s Pick: Iowa

Michigan (-4.5) at Michigan State

The home field feels like it might be huge here. I never would have predicted a few weeks ago that this would be a battle of Top Ten teams. Add in the fact that a berth in the conference championship and maybe even a playoff nod might be at stake and the whole intrastate rivalry thing is just a cherry on top. I’ve gone on record stating that I’d put both clubs in the CFP ahead of Oklahoma, Cincinnati, & even Alabama, but obviously the loser is eliminated. I can’t even remember the last time this rivalry had so much juice. I am hoping for a close thriller with some big plays but also stellar defense, and I think the home team does just enough to score the upset. Zach is a huge Wolverines fanatic, but he’s a pragmatist who isn’t afraid to be critical when necessary. He’s not sure they deserve to be a Top Ten team because the schedule has been rather prosaic, and he admits Jim Harbaugh’s record in big games isn’t great. Having said that, he thinks this year’s team has an opportunity to be the real deal. Unfortunately he has been let down too many times. I can relate (I’m a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan after all). I call it Battered Fan Syndrome. So, in a bit of shocking reverse psychology Zach, in an effort to will his team to victory (in my opinion), is picking against them. I have to admit I did not see that coming.

My Pick: Michigan State

Z’s Pick: Michigan State

Georgia (-14.5) vs. Florida

So the Florida-Georgia Line is 14 & a half points. Yes, I just made a really bad country music joke. Anyway, the Bulldogs sit at #1 and will waltz into the playoff…unless they inexplicably stumble along the way. I sincerely believe they’d receive a playoff berth even if they lost the SEC title game, assuming there are no other losses beforehand. The Gators have to be kicking themselves for letting LSU come back and win a high scoring, close game a couple weeks ago, but will that frustration be enough motivation to get the upset here?? I don’t think so. I foresee a big statement victory for Georgia. It should be noted that the game is being played in Jacksonville, so it isn’t a true home field for Florida but one would assume there’ll be more orange & blue in the stands than red. Zach really likes Georgia’s defense and thinks they’ll win big.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Georgia

Ole Miss at Auburn (-2)

The Rebels still have a slight chance to play in the conference title game, although they’ve already lost to Alabama so it’d be an uphill climb. Still…most teams would consider 6-1 with only a loss to (theoretically) one of the best teams in the nation a smashing success. Conversely, 5-2 Auburn isn’t in the SEC title hunt, but I’m sure they’re feeling pretty good about their season thus far. It’s a coin flip situation for me, and The Vibes are whispering Ole Miss in my ear. Zach believes Auburn’s defense will keep it close but likes the Rebels win a tight one.

My Pick: Ole Miss

Z’s Pick: Ole Miss

Penn State at Ohio State (-18)

I’m a little surprised by the points. I suppose the fact that the Buckeyes just rolled Indiana by six TDs while the Nittany Lions lost to Illinois in nine OTs has something to do with it, but still…18 points?? Sure, the game is at The ‘Shoe in Columbus, but 18 freakin’ points?? It just doesn’t feel right. I have no doubt that the home team will win, but I’ll be shocked if it’s by more than a touchdown. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Penn State

Z’s Pick: Penn State

Green Bay at Arizona (-3.5)

Despite all the off-season drama Green Bay & Aaron Rodgers are humming along at 6-1. However, speaking of humming…the Cards are undefeated. This is the Thursday night game, and the TV people have to be thrilled. I know there are folks (mostly players) that have a problem with Thursday Night Football, but from a fan perspective it’s phenomenal, especially when we are treated to a great matchup like this. Arizona has an opportunity to make a powerful statement, while it’s kind of a “hey guys…don’t forget about us” moment for The Pack. Unfortunate for them all-world wide receiver Davante Adams has tested positive for The Sickness, while the Cardinals just activated pass rushing monster Chandler Jones. There is a chance Adams could still play, and his status makes a huge difference. Armed with the information available right now I have to lean toward the home team. Zach acknowledges that being without Adams is a problem, but thinks AA-Rod will find a way to lead his team to victory, perhaps in overtime.

My Pick: Arizona

Z’s Pick: Green Bay

New England at LA Chargers (-6.5)

I have to give the Pats credit…they’re scrappy. Rookie QB Mac Jones has shown flashes and seems like he’ll evolve into something pretty decent. I don’t believe they’ll make the playoffs because the Buffalo Bills are just too good and there are a plethora of better teams fighting for a wildcard berth, but still…kudos. Conversely, the Chargers, as I predicted, look like legit contenders. I believe they’ll win the AFC West. New England might make this one interesting for awhile, but the home team will pull away for a comfortable victory. Zach is all in on the Patriots and believes they’ll win by a field goal.

My Pick: LA Chargers

Z’s Pick: New England

2021 NFL Preview & Prognostications

Just a few days ago I was pretty excited about the return of football with capacity crowds and business as usual, but now The Sickness has grabbed headlines again and it seems as though that sense of normalcy could be in jeopardy. At the moment no sweeping proclamations have been made, but stay tuned. In the meantime we shall proceed.

The biggest news outside of Covid related chaos is the NFL’s expansion to a 17 game regular season. To achieve that teams played one less pre-season game, so the only people really affected are the fringe players trying to make a team’s roster. There are always old faces in new places, teams with new coaches, and overhyped rookies looking to become the next Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Randy Moss, or Lawrence Taylor, and we’ll have a much better idea in a few months how all of that might shake out. For now it’s all guesswork, but atleast it’s fun, and I am glad that I feel encouraged enough to bring back this preview after a one year hiatus. As always the team’s record from the previous season is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. And remember…no wagering. I am not a professional and most of the time I’m not very good at this.

North

Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) 10-7

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 10-7

Cleveland Browns (11-5) 9-8

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 8-9

I think Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow is the real deal, and he’s going to surprise a lot of people. The Browns might be a bit of a surprise too, but I don’t believe it will be in a good way. Everyone assuming they are the presumed division champs will likely be wrong. Am I undervaluing the Ravens?? Perhaps. But every team can’t have a winning record and make the playoffs, and in a highly competitive division my vibe is that Baltimore will run into some problems and fall short of expectations (actually those problems have already began with the loss of starting tailback JK Dobbins to a torn ACL).

East

Buffalo Bills (13-3) 11-6

New York Jets (2-14) 8-9

New England Patriots (7-9) 8-9

Miami Dolphins (10-6) 7-10

The Bills have to be considered amongst the favorites in the conference. To be honest I thought QB Josh Allen was a bad choice as the 7th overall pick in the draft a few years ago, but he’s doing a pretty good job of proving me wrong thus far. There’s no reason to believe Buffalo won’t dominate a division that is a mess otherwise. I think the Jets may have finally found a decent quarterback, and they also added some other pieces on both sides of the ball that make me think they won’t be the dumpster fire we’ve come to expect. The Patriots aren’t the same team without Tom Brady, and I’m not as confident in their rookie signal caller Mac Jones as I am in New York’s rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Dolphins might take a step back this season, but I hope they aren’t dumb enough to give up on second year QB Tua Tagavailoa. I believe they are building a solid team around him and good things are ahead, but it might take another year to gel.

West

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 11-6

Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) 10-7

Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 7-10

Denver Broncos (5-11) 7-10

No one has been talking about the Chargers this offseason, and that might be a good thing. I always prefer to sneak up on people rather than have the pressure of lofty expectations. QB Justin Herbert acquitted himself quite well in his rookie campaign and there’s no reason to expect anything less this year. The Raiders & Broncos aren’t going to be any better than they were a year ago. I expect both teams to utilize multiple quarterbacks and need their defense to lead them to some victories. The stunner here is the KC Chiefs. Most talking heads will consider them legit Super Bowl contenders, but I think they’ll lose a dogfight for the division, sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard, and be watching the Super Bowl at home like the rest of us.

South

Tennessee Titans (11-5) 12-5

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 11-6

Houston Texans (4-12) 5-12

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) 5-12

The Colts acquired QB Carson Wentz from Philly in the offseason, but will that do them any good?? Wentz can’t seem to stay healthy, and at the moment it’s a tossup as to whether he’ll be ready to go Week 1. That leaves the door open for Tennessee. RB Derrick Henry is a stud & receiver Julio Jones came over from Atlanta a few months ago. He’s 32 years old, but with AJ Brown in the lineup Jones won’t have the pressure of being the top wideout. Replacing tight end Jonnu Smith won’t be easy, and that may be the chink in the armor of the Titans’ offense. I’m not sure what to make of the Titans’ defense, although they did add former Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupree. Watch time of possession in their games. I think they’ll dominate that and win a bunch of low scoring grinders. Everyone has heard more than enough about the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston and there are still a ton of questions. Will they trade him?? Will he be suspended for a big chunk of the season?? If Tyrod Taylor takes most of the snaps I think the Texans are in for a long season. I don’t have much faith in the Jags either, although I think new head coach Urban Meyer will build around rookie QB Trevor Lawrence and have his team in the playoff conversation a year or two from now, but losing first round draft pick Travis Etienne in the preseason doesn’t bode well for this season.

Playoff Teams: Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Steelers

AFC Champion: Tennessee Titans

 

East

Washington Redskins (7-9) 10-7

Dallas Cowboys (6-10) 9-8

New York Giants (6-10) 7-10

Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) 5-12

I’m still not buying the Cowboys as legit Super Bowl contenders, although I believe QB Dak Prescott will be just fine returning from the ankle injury that torpedoed his season last year. I suppose the Giants could surprise me and be much better than they were a season ago, but my vibe is that they are just kind of treading water. It blows my mind to see how far the Eagles have fallen since winning the Super Bowl less than five years ago. Can Jalen Hurts make the leap from excellent college quarterback to solid NFL starter?? I think Philadelphia has a bunch of very good players on both sides of the ball, but they have lacked cohesion the past few seasons and I’m not sure that’s going to change. That leaves Washington as the favorite. Is their enough FitzMagic left in the 38 year old signal caller now playing for his ninth NFL team?? Having an elite defense led by Chase Young, Montez Sweat, & Landon Collins will certainly help.

West

Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 11-6

Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 10-7

Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 9-8

San Francisco 49ers (6-10) 7-10

This race is going to be fun to watch. Arizona & the Rams both made moves this summer, and whether or not they work out well one has to give them credit for not standing pat. Los Angeles thinks they have a better chance of advancing in the playoffs with 33 year old veteran QB Matthew Stafford than with 2016 top overall pick Jared Goff, who they shipped to Detroit. I think it might be a positive chain of events (eventually) for both guys. The Rams lost starting RB Cam Akers to injury but traded for former Patriot Sony Michel so I don’t believe the team will be negatively affected all that much. The defense, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, should be stout. Having said that, I am giving a slight edge to the Cardinals, who added receivers DeAndre Hopkins & AJ Green and have a defensive unit featuring newly acquired defensive end JJ Watt, first round LB Zaven Collins, and a very talented secondary. Seattle has won 10+ games seven out of the past eight years and Russell Wilson is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but I feel like they’ll drop off just enough to miss the playoffs. ‘Frisco needs to decide on a quarterback, and once they do that I think they can get back on track, but that might be a couple of years from now.

North

Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 9-8

Green Bay Packers (13-3) 9-8

Chicago Bears (8-8) 6-11

Detroit Lions (5-11) 1-16

Or as ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call it, The Norris Division. I am sure I don’t have to rehash the Packers/Aaron Rodgers drama that has dominated offseason news, but I think it might be just enough of a distraction to cost them the division. The Lions have stunk most of my nearly five decades on the planet and I don’t think that will suddenly change in 2021. Much like the 49ers the Bears have a quarterback conundrum. Conventional wisdom says the smart thing to do is start either journeyman Andy Dalton or former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles under center, but we all know the pressure from fans & the media will lead to rookie Justin Fields being handed the keys to the kingdom. That decision will likely pay off down the road, but it creates chaos right now. So why am I so high on the Vikings?? I don’t know to be honest. Kirk Cousins isn’t spectacular, but he can be a very good quarterback at times and he has solid weapons at receiver & running back. The secondary could be one of the best in the NFL, and guys like Danielle Hunter & Anthony Barr should disrupt opposing offenses often. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Norris goes to the Vikes by a nose.


South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 13-4

New Orleans Saints (12-4) 8-9

Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 6-11

Carolina Panthers (5-11) 5-12

I’ve stopped waiting for Tom Brady to fall of a cliff. That whole regimen of 25 glasses of water per day, fruit smoothies, fish, and lots of veggies apparently works because he proved a year ago that he deserves much more credit for the Patriots “dynasty” than Bill Belichick. I don’t expect much to change this season, and it helps that the rest of the division will probably struggle. New Orleans has named Jameis Winston as their new starting QB after the retirement of Drew Brees, and Winston is going to have to prove himself before I start to believe in him. I don’t anticipate much improvement by the Falcons or Panthers. Carolina must stop opposing defenses from stacking the box to stifle premier RB Christian McCaffery, and for that to happen former Jets first rounder Sam Darnold will need to finally live up to his potential. Atlanta got rid of receiver Julio Jones and I’m just not impressed by what remains.

Playoff Teams: Redskins, Cardinals, Vikings, Bucs, Cowboys, Rams, Packers

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

 

Tennessee Titans 24

Green Bay Packers 19

Top Five Picks in 2022 NFL Draft

1 Detroit Lions

2 Houston Texans

3 Jacksonville Jaguars

4 Carolina Panthers

5 Philadelphia Eagles

 

Winning & Musing…Volume 3.19

Wow…it’s been awhile citizens!! Several months since the last edition of W&M anyway. For some reason your Humble Potentate of Profundity just hasn’t been very productive for awhile. I was in the hospital for quite a few weeks in early summer, but if anything that provided me even more time to write than unusual…which didn’t happen. The malaise started before that all occurred anyway, and has continued since I got back home in July. However, football season has provided me a bit of an endorphin boost so perhaps we’ve turned a corner.

 

 

 

 

I’ll give credit where credit is due…the New England Patriots did the right thing by releasing receiver Antonio Brown less than two weeks after signing him. Admittedly I am among those who felt like Brown ending up with the Patriots was a fiendish plot cooked up by he & his slimeball agent Drew Rosenhaus. After  weaseling his way out of Pittsburgh Brown simply didn’t like that he ended up in Oakland where the Raiders aren’t going to be playoff contenders anytime soon, so he forced his way into “freedom” and the Patriots picked him up in a heartbeat. I assumed Brown would put the batshit crazy act to bed & conform quickly to “The Patriot Way”, but with sexual misconduct allegations swirling around the team quickly cut bait. The truth is they don’t need him and will likely do just fine in his absence. But y’all want to hear something funny?? If New England wins yet another Super Bowl (ugh) Antonio Brown would get a ring even though he only played in one game, and Dan Marino might be found curled up inthe fetal position somewhere weeping gently.  The NFL should seriously consider revising those rules.

 

 

If Pirates’ ownership doesn’t fire the manager, general manager, coaching staff, & anyone else they can get rid of as well as trade every player possible from their miserable team this offseason then the entire Pittsburgh fanbase should unite in filing a class action lawsuit for malfeasance.

 

 

 

 

One of the most unpredictable factors when prognosticating games or entire seasons is injuries, and there have been some doozies lately. It already looked like my Steelers were in for a rough year, but now it could get exponentially worse after a season ending elbow injury to QB Ben Roethlisberger. I like young Mason Rudolph well enough, but it would have been nice to see him get another year or two of experience before taking over the starting job. Guys like Rudolph are oftentimes referred to as “the quarterback of the future”; well, for Pittsburgh the future is now. Can they still be a playoff team?? I don’t know. I’m the sort of person who expects the worst case scenario and enjoys being pleasantly surprised, so we’ll see. The news isn’t quite as devastating in New Orleans, as QB Drew Brees will only miss about half the season with a thumb injury. That means that  Brees will be back for any kind of playoff push, but it’ll be interesting to see what position the team is in upon his return. Back in the pre-season I predicted great things for the Saints, but that idea is looking shaky at best right now. I didn’t have high expectations for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but losing QB Nick Foles to a broken collarbone for half the season limits the team’s potential even further, despite the early success of rookie signal caller Gardner Minshew. The Foles injury combined with Andrew Luck’s retirement seemingly makes the AFC South the Houston Texans’ for the taking if they perform up to their capabilities. Then there is Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton, who is currently out with a foot injury. He may only miss one game, but I kind of get the feeling that he might be in & out of the lineup all season long, which would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the team’s playoff hopes.

 

 

Speaking of MLB…..

I honestly haven’t paid much attention all season, for various reasons, but the playoffs will begin soon so I suppose I’ll watch some of those games.  I have zero interest in a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, although I’m sure the TV folks and a large portion of baseball fans would love it. I could root for any AL contender except the Yankees, while the NL field is much less appetizing.  A Twins-Nationals or Indians-Brewers World Series would probably be considered disastrous for television ratings, but I think I’d actually prefer such an unexpected matchup.

2019 NFL Preview & Prognostications

I was at an outdoor concert a couple of weeks ago, and as darkness fell around 9pm I felt a slight chill in the air. Autumn was in the breeze. That’s a feeling I usually don’t experience until Labor Day Weekend while attending our local Italian Heritage Festival. In the moment I was not pleased because I tend to prefer the warmth & sunshine of summer. I have nothing particular against fall except for the fact that it ushers in winter, which I despise. At any rate, in an effort to find a silver lining and think positive I must say that there are a few good things about autumn…my birthday, Halloween, & football. Glorious football is back!! It’s time once again to look into the pigskin crystal ball and make some predictions about how this season might play out. I don’t put a whole lot of stock in pre-season, but there are injuries, holdouts, & emergent rookies we can’t ignore. As always the team’s record from the previous year is in parentheses, with the predicted record for this season following it. And remember…no wagering. I am not a professional and most of the time I’m not very good at this. Let’s just relax & have some fun.

 

  

 

 

North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1) 10-6

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) 9-7

Cleveland Browns (7-8-1) 8-8

Cincinnati Bengals (6-10) 3-13

Despite an eventful off-season that saw talented but troubled WR Antonio Brown shipped to The Left Coast I don’t think my Steelers will implode. However, I do expect divisional games to be even more competitive than usual. Don’t sleep on the Ravens…they’ll battle for every yard on both sides of the ball, and new QB Lamar Jackson is feast or famine: he’ll have moments of pure brilliance, but he needs to become a better passer and has to stay healthy. Everyone needs to slow their roll on the “new & improved” Browns. Going back to his college days I’ve always opined that QB Baker Mayfield gave me a Bret Favre-ish vibe, and I see it now more than ever. Adding receivers Odell Beckham Jr. & Jarvis Landry into the mix along with a backfield of Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt bodes well for the offense. I like their defense too…DEs Myles Garrett & Olivier Vernon and tackle Sheldon Richardson should be stout against the run as well as put some pressure on opposing QBs, and the secondary might be sneaky good. Having said that, I’m not buying Cleveland as a playoff team just yet. The Bengals finally pushed longtime head coach Marvin Lewis out the door, but I’m not sure 35 year old Zac Taylor is the answer. He’s never been a head coach at any level and the learning curve will be quite foreboding. Regardless of whether or not Taylor lasts more than a season or two Cincy probably needs to blow things up and construct a whole new roster from the ground up.

 

 

South

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) 10-6

Houston Texans (11-5) 9-7

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) 9-7

Tennessee Titans (9-7) 5-11

There are just so many questions…this might be the most difficult division in the league to calculate. Can Colts’ QB Andrew Luck stay healthy?? Will QB Nick Foles be the answer Jacksonville has been seeking?? Marlon Mack, Derrick Henry, Lamar Miller, or Leonard Fournette…which running back will lead the pack?? Will any of these four defenses emerge as elite (the Jags were #5 a year ago, the Titans #8, Indy & Houston were #11 & #12)?? I’m downgrading Indianapolis a bit due to concerns about Luck’s ankle, but still think they will win the division if he doesn’t miss more than a couple of games. I like Foles and the Jags’ defense is stout, but have serious doubts about the durability of Fournette and the rest of their skill players inspire little confidence. I love Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson, but somebody other than WR DeAndre Hopkins has to step up and be reliably productive. Houston has the same issue on the defense…JJ Watt is fantastic, but others have to contribute. My vibe is that they take a step back this season, make some adjustments, and become serious contenders in 2020. This feels like a make or break year for Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota. When he came out of Oregon in 2015 the big debate about who would go #1 overall in the draft was between him and Florida St.’s Jameis Winston. Winston went to Tampa while Mariota was chosen next, but neither quarterback has set the world on fire. There just seems to be something amiss in Tennessee. I think they decline slightly and head coach Mike Vrabel finds himself on the hot seat.

 

 

East

New England Patriots (11-5) 10-6

New York Jets (4-12) 8-8

Miami Dolphins (7-9) 8-8

Buffalo Bills (6-10) 3-13

Here we go again. Tom Brady appears to be ageless and Bill Belichick’s stature as a head coach grows with each passing year, despite his shady tactics. The Patriots have become Tiger Woods from two decades ago when he was winning a lot but we all knew he really only cared about the majors. In much the same way it seems like everyone understands that New England will win a rather weak division, and their only true goal is another Super Bowl. With that in mind I think they’ll win the division but not run away with it. Jets’ QB Sam Darnold continues his maturation process, and now he has RB Le’Veon Bell as a safety net. I like what the Jets are doing and believe they’ll noticeably improve. I feel bad for Dolphins & Bills fans. They’ve known for a decade & a half that their teams aren’t winning the division, but they don’t even get to enjoy watching obvious progress. Both squads just seem to be treading water and perpetuating their mediocrity with poor coaching hires, bad free agent moves, and subpar drafts.

 

 

West

Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) 11-5

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) 10-6

Oakland Raiders (4-12) 6-10

Denver Broncos (6-10) 3-13

At the time of publication Chargers’ RB Melvin Gordon is threatening to continue his holdout into the start of the season, which could certainly have a negative impact. Even if he’s back in uniform Week 1 there have to be questions about fitness & durability after sitting out the entire pre-season. It’s a messy situation that opens the door just enough for the Chiefs to slip by & take the division. There’s a lot to like about KC, led by NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Speaking of messy situations, the Antonio Brown Circus has moved from Pittsburgh to Oakland, which theoretically should make the Raiders better on the field…but I’m not convinced. I’ve lost track of whether this is the team’s final season in Oakland or if they’ll have to wait until 2021 to relocate to Las Vegas, but until that move occurs I think the Raiders are stuck in neutral. The Broncos have ostensibly improved their quarterback quandary with the addition of Joe Flacco & by drafting Drew Lock out of Missouri in the second round of the draft. They also have new head coach Vic Fangio, which should help the defense. Give this group time to gel & they have potential, but I have low expectations for the current season.

 

Playoff Teams:   Chiefs, Steelers, Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Texans

AFC Championship:    New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers

 

 

 

 

North

Chicago Bears (12-4) 11-5

Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1) 8-8

Green Bay Packers (6-9-1) 8-8

Detroit Lions (6-10) 5-12

The more things change the more they stay the same, and I don’t expect much difference in what ESPN’s Chris Berman used to call the Norris Division. The Packers have a new head coach and QB Aaron Rodgers has become increasingly enigmatic. The Vikings have some talent but not enough to move the needle. The Lions are…well, they’re the Lions. That leaves the Bears to claim another division crown and vie for home field thru the playoffs. QB Mitch Trubisky should take another step in his development and I have high expectations. Combined with a tough defense that makes for a potentially elite team. Anything short of an appearance in the conference title game will be a disappointment for Chicago.

 

 

South

New Orleans Saints (13-3) 14-2

Atlanta Falcons (7-9) 9-7

Carolina Panthers (7-9) 9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) 2-14

My heart still hurts for the Saints and their fans. They absolutely should have been in the Super Bowl last season but got royally screwed by an inept officiating crew. My vibe is that situation will provide motivation to an already very solid team. QB Drew Brees is almost as nature-defying as Brady, but I suspect this may be his last great opportunity to get another Lombardi Trophy. The Falcons & Panthers will both be good but not great, and I have serious concerns about the health & durability of Carolina QB Cam Newton. Tampa is just a warmer version of Buffalo with a more heralded QB. They can change coaches and do all the tinkering they want, but none of their decisions seem to work out the way they hope. Jameis Winston is undeniably talented, but I just don’t think he is a top shelf NFL quarterback.

 

 

East

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) 10-6

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) 9-7

Washington Redskins (7-9) 7-9

New York Giants (5-11) 6-10

The Eagles’ safety blanket is gone, so QB Carson Wentz better stay healthy. Not only that, but he needs to live up to the hype. The division will be a dog fight, and Wentz needs to fulfill his potential for Philly to come out on top. I’m not buying the Cowboys’ hype. I don’t think they’ll be horrible, but the holdout of RB Zeke Elliott could have a negative impact. Media types will yap endlessly about a “quarterback controversy” in New York, but does it really matter?? I’ve never thought Eli Manning was that good, and if he loses the starting gig to rookie Daniel Jones it says a lot more about Manning than it does Jones. Either way the Giants’ QB…whomever it may be…won’t have Odell Becham Jr. to throw to, and that’s a problem. RB Saquon Barkley can only do so much, right?? The Redskins will have some solid games and at times look like a potential playoff team, but at the end of the day their fans will be disappointed and be left to wonder what happened. Head coach Jay Gruden is an offensive coordinator masquerading as a head coach, successfully trading on his more famous brother’s name, and he’s not going to achieve much success with Case Keenum as his starting quarterback. Rookie signal caller Dwayne Haskins will likely snag the job by mid-season, so there is some hope for the future.

 

 

West

Los Angeles Rams (13-3) 10-6

San Francisco 49ers (4-12) 9-7

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) 8-8

Arizona Cardinals (3-13) 4-12

I hated what happened in the NFC Championship game last season not only because of how the Saints got shafted, but also because I knew the Rams were sitting ducks in the Super Bowl. As talented as they are I just knew that the Patriots were foaming at the mouth to take on a young & inexperienced coach/QB combo, and it turned out exactly as I knew it would. And now the Rams aren’t a secret to the rest of the league so their opponents will be more prepared than a year ago. I still think they’ll win the division, but it won’t be quite as effortless. Jimmy G. is back under center for the Niners, and that means a huge turnaround. They’ll be in a battle with several other teams for a wildcard berth, but that’s a nice change from last season. Seattle still has Russell Wilson and they made some solid draft picks, but I believe they’ll take a step back this year. The Cards are trying to copy the Rams’ formula, but I’m not convinced it’ll work. Kliff Kingsbury probably needed a few more years as a college coach before taking the helm of an NFL team, and Kyler Murray is a perfect example of a great college quarterback whose skills just don’t translate to the NFL. Kudos to the powers-that-be in Arizona for rolling the dice and trying something new, but two years from now Kingsbury will probably be coaching on Saturdays and Murray will be playing baseball…if NFL defenses don’t maim the little guy.

 

Playoff Teams:   Saints, Bears, Rams, Eagles, Falcons, 49ers

NFC Championship:   New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears

 

 

 

             35

 

 

 

 

           34

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Picks in 2020 NFL Draft

1       Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2       Denver Broncos

3       Cincinnati Bengals

4       Buffalo Bills

5       Arizona Cardinals

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.19

Hold on Lil Troopers…spring isn’t too far away!! Oh I suppose we may get hammered with snow a few more times because March is always a wildcard, but when McDonald’s is already serving shamrock shakes, NASCAR is back on the track, and baseball is part of the sports discussion we know the light at the end of the tunnel will be shining soon. Thankfully there is always more than enough sports news to discuss, although I’m not sure how much of it is all that pleasant at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring training is in full swing, but let’s not overlook what MLB has done off the field. It was recently announced that they will no longer use the term “disabled list” in regard to injured players. The change was made at the suggestion of advocacy groups for the disabled “out of concern that the term disabled for injured players falsely conflates disabilities with injuries and an inability to participate in sports”. As a disabled (handicapped, crippled, differently abled, handicapable…choose whatever buzzword you believe won’t offend anyone) individual who has spent my entire 46 years on this planet using a wheelchair allow me to opine that this is absolutely one of the dumbest instances of idiotic virtue signaling I have ever seen. No one with an ounce of common sense or capable of critical thought has ever confused baseball’s disabled list with those of us living our lives with a disability, and anyone offended by the term “disabled list” is a complete moron that should never be allowed to breed or even interact with the public. Also, as a person with a disability, it ticks me off that this is the sort of thing that “advocacy groups” are spending their resources on. Any such organization should be defunded immediately.

 

 

I come not to praise New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, but neither do I seek to bury him. If you’ve been paying any attention at all the past few days you know that Kraft is in some hot water for getting his jollies at a “massage parlor” in Florida, an establishment that got caught up in a big prostitution ring. I am not condoning the activity or Kraft’s involvement in it, and y’all know that I’ve despised the Patriots for the past two decades. Having said that, it must be noted that 77 year old Kraft lost his wife of almost fifty years awhile back. Myrna Kraft died of ovarian cancer at the age of 68 in 2011. Certainly that is no excuse to engage in illegal activity, but it does suggest a man that is lost & lonely despite his immense wealth & success, and I am willing to have some measure of sympathy in that regard. Loneliness & grief are awful things and can steer people in directions they wouldn’t otherwise go. What I cannot understand is why a billionaire with some level of prominence would decide to…seek pleasure…at what the media is describing as a rather trashy & foul (not to mention public) establishment. One would assume that Kraft has the means to obtain anything he’d want in complete privacy, so it is a bit perplexing to think that he would unnecessarily put himself in harm’s way (on multiple levels). Obviously the NFL will get their pound of flesh (pun unavoidable). The league’s personal conduct policy applies to owners & coaches as much as it does players, and about five years ago Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was fined $500k and suspended from running the team for six games after being arrested for DUI & drug possession. I’m not sure what exactly a typical owner of a professional sports franchise does on a daily basis that effects operations, and a half million dollars is pocket change to them, so that “punishment” seems rather hollow, but I assume Kraft will receive a similar penalty. I’m sure the legal consequences won’t amount to much either, but the damage to his reputation is immeasurable and probably irreparable.

 

 

I am at a loss to explain just what has happened to the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team. After making it to the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness three out of the past four years the ‘Eers won’t be making the NCAA, NIT, CBI, or any other post season tournaments in 2019. Injuries, dismissals, and just about every other calamity one might conjure has imploded their season to the point that a winning record is mathematically impossible unless they go on an incredible run in the Big 12 conference tournament. WVU has been the runner-up in that tournament the past three years and needs another similar finish to keep on playing. I normally try to remain optimistic, but will confidently predict right now that that isn’t going to happen. Head coach Bob Huggins has built up a lot of goodwill over the years as a hometown guy, alumnus, successful coach, and leader of winning teams in Morgantown, but trust me…he needs to figure out what went wrong and fix it, because all the benevolence shown him will turn sour real quick if next season is another disaster.

 

 

Have y’all checked out the Alliance of American Football?? I have to be honest…I watched part of one of the first games a few weeks ago, and haven’t given the league a second thought since. Part of the issue is completely mine…I work on weekends so I’m gone all day and in bed pretty early at night. However, I think there’s a bigger obstacle than just me for The Alliance. The AAF has eight teams… Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, & Orlando Apollos in the East, and Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, & San Diego Fleet in the West. Known entities like Steve Spurrier, Mike Singletary, & Mike Martz are head coaches. The initial games I watched were on CBS, but after that the NFL Network & CBS Sports Network took over, and that’s a bit of a problem since those are channels that I don’t typically “surf”…I have to specifically be seeking something out, and I’m just not there yet with The Alliance. On the field the games themselves aren’t anything too wacky. Unlike some other fringe football leagues that have come & gone in the past the AAF isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or compete with the NFL, but there are a few differences. There are no kickoffs, which I don’t like but realize that it’s a concept that’ll be embraced by college football & the NFL sooner or later. Neither are there extra points. Somewhere Skip Bayless is squealing with glee about the new league’s marginalization of kickers. Defenses are somewhat limited as far as what they can do, so if you like swarming defense with a lot if blitzes the AAF might not be your cup of tea. Overtime has each team start on their opponent’s 10 yard line, which is even goofier that the college OT rules. There is only one overtime, so the game can end in a tie (no field goals!!). The revelation that has hit me about the AAF is that…atleast for me…as The Bible says, “to everything there is a season”, and as big of a football fan as I am I’m ready to move on after the Super Bowl. It’s February, which means that emotionally & psychologically football is in hibernation for me and I’m ready to move on to golf, NASCAR, basketball, & baseball. This realization surprised me a little bit, because I had thought it’d be great to have more football, but I just can’t become invested. I’m guessing that my perspective isn’t unique, which probably spells doom for The Alliance after another season or two, but hey…they tried.

 

 

If you think MLB is silly…well, one minor league team has surpassed that stupidity. The Hartford Yard Goats, a Double A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies in the Eastern League, recently made the decision to ban peanuts & Cracker Jacks altogether in deference to those with a nut allergy. But wait…there’s more!! Not only is their stadium now peanut free, but management has decided to change the lyrics to Take Me Out to the Ballgame, which of course contains the line “buy me some peanuts & Cracker Jacks”. Oh my…where to begin. These kinds of people absolutely exhaust every ounce of patience I possess and are a contributing factor to me adopting a reclusive lifestyle. First of all, about 2% of the population has a peanut allergy. The Yard Goats play their home games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, which has a capacity of about 6200. So at a home game there MIGHT be about 125 people in attendance with a nut allergy. But instead of simply designating a section of the ballpark for those fans the geniuses that run the team instead chose to deprive over 6000 others of the opportunity to buy a snack that has been closely associated with baseball for decades. This is what is wrong with society. It used to be that the majority ruled, but nowadays we go out of our way to kowtow to the vocal minority & every fringe group that decides to whine about something. Look, I am not unsympathetic to folks with a nut allergy. No one is suggesting that they shouldn’t attend games, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with reasonable accommodations to make their experience as pleasant as it should be.  However, I just do not understand why a nut free section wasn’t enough of a compromise. This whole thing reeks of virtue signaling & grandstanding at its worst. And I haven’t even gotten to the song!! Take Me Out to the Ballgame was written in 1908 and has been a standard at ballparks for decades, oftentimes sung by the crowd during the “seventh inning stretch” (most famously at Wrigley Field during Chicago Cubs games). So because the food mentioned in the song has been banned at this particular ballpark they feel it is necessary to alter the lyrics too?? ASININE!!!! Every executive employed by the team should be fired immediately and NEVER be allowed to work in sports management EVER again. I’d be embarrassed to be a fan of the team, play for the team, or even live in freakin’ Hartford, CT. Hell, if I lived in Hartford I might sell my house and move, citing the stupid Hartford Yard Goats as the reason for my departure. I hope they lose every single game until the business implodes & the team folds. Perhaps a competing club will be created and they can call them the New Haven Nut Lovers or the Fairfield Cracker Jacks.

Winning & Musing…Farewell Football

You might think it is a bit weird that we are wrapping up the football season before The Super Bowl even kicks off, and perhaps it is, but that’s one of the things we’ll talk about, as well as tying up a few other loose ends in the inaugural 2019 edition of W&M. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

As a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan I feel obligated to chime in on this Antonio Brown brouhaha. A couple of years ago Brown went on Facebook live from the locker room during a playoff postgame speech by head coach Mike Tomlin, and that was the first indicator to me that there might be an issue with his ego & attitude. Then, several months ago, a friend of mine suggested I check out a show on Animal Planet called Tanked, on which AB was a guest who was having a custom fish tank made for him. During that program I got a little more exposure to his arrogance. No one seems to be talking about the details of Brown’s falling out with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and I was always taught that there are three sides to every story…one side, the other side, & somewhere in the middle is the truth. Big Ben probably isn’t blameless. He has his faults, as do we all. However, given the preponderance of the evidence and the fact that Brown essentially quit on his team in the midst of a must-win scenario before the final game of the season I will not be heartbroken if the Steelers pull the trigger on a trade. Having said that, I hope that they are smart enough not to give the guy away for anything less than a first round pick, and it would be smart to send him to an NFC team. The vindictive side of me would like to see him go to a terrible team like Arizona, Tampa Bay, or Detroit, but that might be asking for too much. I’d be remiss to ignore Tomlin’s part in all of this drama. It is my personal belief that the Steelers have severely underachieved with him at the helm. That may seem a bit harsh since he has led the team to two Super Bowls and one championship, but most Steelers fans agree that the team should have won two or three additional Lombardi Trophies in the past several years. The Antonio Brown controversy has reinforced the general impression that the team lacks discipline and that Tomlin doesn’t run a tight ship. However, those calling for him to be fired are wasting their energy because that’s just not how the Steelers do things. They haven’t fired a head coach in a half century.

 

 

Zach edged me out in our college football Bowl-a-Palooza picks. He went 25-13, while I was 22-13.  I limped to the finish in our Pigskin Picks of Profundity, going 1-4 in the final week to finish the season 51-56. Conversely, Zach ended on a strong note, going 4-1 in the final week to end the season 47-61.

 

 

Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for winning their second national championship in three years. I must confess that I watched very little of the title game because the Alabama Crimson Tide began to bore me to tears quite awhile ago, so I’m not sad at all that Clemson beat the snot out of ‘Bama by four touchdowns.

 

 

I am cautiously optimistic about new West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown. After a few successful seasons at Troy (a 1-AA school that plays in the Sun Belt Conference) Brown comes to Morgantown after the sudden departure of former coach Dana Holgorsen. I can’t blame Holgorsen for bolting. Sure, Houston isn’t in a “Power 5” conference…but they will be, and probably sooner rather than later. Since the school is situated in the fourth largest city in America and the state of Texas is one of the top recruiting areas for elite athletes one must assume that the Cougars are a sleeping giant. There is also the fact that Holgorsen never seemed to feel totally comfortable in the Mountain State. He just never really fit in here, unlike beloved former coach Don Nehlen, who came to West Virginia in 1980 from Ohio and never left, even after he retired in 2000. Holgorsen will undoubtedly be happier in Houston and likely lead his team to great success. Meanwhile, Brown has made a good first impression and seems to quickly be fitting in just fine. Will that translate to winning on the field?? Who knows?? The truth is that no matter who the coach is the Mountaineers can probably expect to average 7 or 8 wins per season and play in a run-of-the-mill bowl game each December, but perhaps every once in awhile the stars will align, the dominos will all fall just right, and they could sneak into a Big 12 title game & maybe even the playoff. They’ve been that good maybe about a half dozen times in my 40+ years on the planet, so there’s always hope.

 

 

I’m not going to analyze my NFL Preview in detail. By now we all know I said a lot of crazy things that turned out to be completely wrong. In the NFC I only predicted 2 of the 6 playoff teams correctly, while I did a little better in the AFC, getting 4 out of 6 right. I placed way too much faith in my Steelers. Not only did they not get to The Super Bowl…they didn’t even make it to the playoffs. I nailed two of the Top 5 picks in this spring’s NFL Draft (Tampa & Arizona), and the 6-10 Denver Broncos & Cincinnati Bengals fell to 10th & 11th in the draft order only because so many other teams were even more inept, so I’m at peace with those choices. I had the Seattle Seahawks in that bottom five, but they actually went 10-6 and made the playoffs. I assume most pundits thought the San Francisco 49ers would be much better than 4-12 with the 2nd overall draft pick, but injuries destroyed their season. I really thought the Oakland Raiders & NY Jets would be rather decent this season, but they landed high draft choices as well.

 

 

As far as The Super Bowl goes, I just can’t get excited about it at all. I make no secret of my longstanding hatred of the New England Patriots, so cheering on the Los Angeles Rams would seem like a no-brainer. However, I’m not all that enthusiastic about the Rams because let’s be honest…they really shouldn’t be in the game. I don’t want to go off on a loquacious rant about officiating, but the blown call that cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to The Super Bowl was quite possibly one of the most egregious mistakes I’ve ever seen in any sport. It is inexcusable incompetence and the entire crew should be fired. The NFL needs to have some sort of mechanism in place to prevent or atleast correct such critical errors, even if it means almost total eradication of human judgment. Having said that, I suppose I will watch atleast some of “The Big Game” and pull for the Rams.

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 5

Unlike last week the schedule is loaded on both the college & pro levels this go round, to the point that we’re doing bonus picks despite serious reservations on my part. We’re already off to a shaky start and chasing wins is probably a bad idea. Ah well…c’est la vie. Zach (3-2) bested me (2-3) a week ago, and as a reward got an all- expenses paid trip to South Bend, IN, home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Okay okay…his trip is work related and has nothing to do with these picks, but how cool would that be if we won awesome prizes for doing this?? At any rate, my philosophy of mixing things up & not picking games involving the same teams over & over is pretty much out the window this week, but good football is good football and I can’t control which teams are or aren’t interesting, so we’ll just go with the flow.

My Season:   10-13

Z’s Season:   10-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYU                 at      Washington (-17.5)

BYU really frustrates me. Every time I leave them out of my pre-season poll they turn out to have a decent team, while anytime I have them ranked they screw the pooch. At the moment the Cougars are 3-1 & a solid Top 20 team, including an upset of my #1 team Wisconsin. The 3-1 Huskies might not make it to the playoff like I anticipated, but they’re still hovering around the Top 10 and have a realistic shot at a conference title. I don’t think BYU will win this game, but the points are a bit much. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     BYU

Z’s Pick:     BYU

 

 

 

 

Oregon (-3)        at      California

The Ducks really let me down last week. They’re 3-1 and still ranked, but they would be an undefeated Top 10 team if they hadn’t given away the game to Stanford a week ago. Cal is a team that is perpetually overlooked in the Pac 12, but they’re 3-0 and ranked as well. I don’t know enough about either team to discuss specifics, but I think this will be a really entertaining game. The home team are underdogs, but I think they might pull off the mild upset. Sorry Ducks…you lost my faith. Zach likes Oregon’s offense to get the job done by a comfortable margin.

My Pick:     Cal

Z’s Pick:     Oregon

 

 

 

Ohio St. (-3.5)    at      Penn St.

This is the big one…the marquee matchup of the weekend. Whatever your opinion might be of head coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes, & everything that has occurred in Columbus the past few months the fact is that they weathered the storm and have been unstoppable thus far. They know a thing or two about controversy & weathering storms in Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions have regained much of the allure of dominance that once defined the program. I thought Ohio St. would falter a bit in the midst of the Meyer kerfuffle, and I believed that Penn St. would sorely miss RB Saquon Barkley. I was wrong on both counts. It is a testament to how impressive the Buckeyes have been thus far that they will go into Beaver Stadium in front of over 100k fans facing a Top 10 team and are favored. I don’t really have a dog in the fight and simply look forward to a great game, and though I believe an upset is certainly possible I have to go with the favorites. Zach knows that I know that he refuses to pick Ohio St., but as long as they’re playing these big games there is always a chance they’ll be on our agenda.

My Pick:     Ohio State

Z’s Pick:     Penn State

 

 

 

Stanford             at      Notre Dame (-4.5)

It might get overlooked a bit in the shadow of the Ohio St./Penn St. game, but this is also a battle of two Top 10 teams. I’ve heard that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but Stanford seems to be both. They were very fortunate to escape Eugene, OR with an overtime victory, a game in which Heisman candidate RB Bryce Love was held to just 59 yards rushing. After a season opener in which he ran for only 29 yards I think Love’s Heisman chances may be dead in the water, but he’s still a dangerous weapon on a good team. The 4-0 Irish haven’t really played anyone since the season opener against Michigan, but I can’t underestimate their home field advantage. If Notre Dame wants to be in the playoff conversation they have to treat this as a playoff game itself. Can Stanford’s luck prevail a second week in a row?? I don’t know…but I think no matter who wins it’ll be decided by a field goal. Zach did get to visit Touchdown Jesus this week but he flies home on Saturday morning and won’t have an opportunity to overpay for scalped tickets. It’s probably just as well because I don’t think he’d be able to resist the temptation to wear Michigan garb into Notre Dame Stadium and may have gotten beat up by a drunken Indiana millworker. He thinks both teams are overrated but likes Stanford to win a tight defensive struggle.

My Pick:     Stanford

Z’s Pick:     Stanford

 

 

 

Minnesota                   at      LA Rams (-6.5)

I really tried to avoid the Thursday night game, but this one is just too damn enticing. The Vikings were my pre-season choice to represent the NFC in The Super Bowl, but I had them losing that game to the Steelers, so what the hell do I know?? Anyway, Minnesota comes into this game with a less than impressive 1-1-1 record after getting hammered by the Bills last week. The Bills!! Conversely, I have heard more than one talking head call the 3-0 Rams the best team in the NFL. It might be a bit premature to go that far, but it is undeniable that they’ve put together an impressive squad on both sides of the ball. Their defense has some issues with injuries, and kicker Greg Zeurlein is shelved with a groin pull, so this is going to be a test of the team’s depth. I’m not ready to jump on the Rams’ bandwagon just yet, and neither am I willing to abandon my Super Bowl pick, so I’ve got to go with the underdogs and hope defense wins the day. Zach likes Los Angeles to do just enough to win by a touchdown.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     LA Rams

 

 

  

Houston             at      Indianapolis (-1)

I really thought the Texans would bounce back and be good this season, but at 2-1 they haven’t looked as impressive as I’d hoped. The Colts are 1-2 and QB Andrew Luck may not be at full strength quite yet. It’s way too early to make a solid judgment about either team, so I have to believe in my original thought process that Houston is clearly better. Zach hasn’t lost faith in Indy’s signal caller yet. He doesn’t believe that Deshaun Watson & the Texans will suddenly find their rhythm this week and thinks Luck will have a big game.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     Indianapolis

 

 

 

Tampa Bay                  at      Chicago (-3)

The Bucs gave my Steelers everything they could handle last Monday night, but the FitzMagic ran out of steam. With Jameis Winston returning from his suspension the quarterback situation for 2-1 Tampa is…fluid. Things could get interesting. Meanwhile, the Bears look like they totally swindled the Oakland Raiders when they traded for LB/DE Khalil Mack, although to be fair we’ll have to wait & see what Oakland does with those two first round picks they received. At 2-1 Chicago sits atop the NFC Central, although I think they’ll ultimately finish behind the Vikings. Tampa won’t be able to slice thru a porous defense like they did in the second half of last week’s game, and that will be their downfall in a low scoring slugfest. Zach likes the Bucs to pull out a close victory no matter who their quarterback is.

My Pick:     Chicago

Z’s Pick:     Tampa Bay

 

 

 

Miami                  at      New England (-7)

If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Dolphins would come into this game in first place and two games up on the Patriots I would have said you were insane, but here we are. It seems that most people are scoffing at the reversal of fortunate, unable to process the idea that Miami might actually be good and refusing to believe that New England could finally be reaching the end of their domination. I too am hesitant to buy into those things, despite my longstanding hatred for the Pats. I’d really love to pick Miami, but it just doesn’t feel like the smart choice at the moment. I’d be thrilled to be wrong. Zach concurs. He thinks Brady will throw for 450 yards and lead his team to an easy win.

My Pick:     New England

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

 

Kansas City (-4.5)      at      Denver

In my NFL Preview I said that “I really sense a decline coming from Kansas City” and predicted that second year QB Pat Mahomes “might take some time…to figure things out”. That may end up being one of the most boneheaded things I’ve ever written. The Chiefs are 3-0 and Mahomes is averaging almost 300 yards/game with 13 TDs, zero interceptions, & a 66% completion rate. Conversely, I predicted that the Broncos would go 2-14. They’ve already won two games. So the question is can Denver’s defense rise up and make Mahomes look like a rookie?? The deciding factor for me is that the game is being played in the Mile High City. That may be something that Mahomes has to adjust to, and it might just be enough for an upset. Zach loves KC’s team speed and believes they are a legit Super Bowl contender.

My Pick:     Denver

Z’s Pick:     Kansas City

2018 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

Wow, the beginning of the NFL season kind of snuck up on me. When choosing which games to pick I could not pass up the opener featuring the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, but it’s a Thursday nighter, and early games for this procrastinator are an issue. Fortunately I think we’re going to make it just in time. I got off to a pretty good start last week. Zach?? Not so much. We’ll see how adding pro football into the mix spices things up. This is going to be quick & dirty due to time constraints, so enjoy.

My Season:        4-1

Z’s Season:      1-4 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clemson (-12)   at      Texas A&M

The Tigers had no problem beating down Furman last weekend, and A&M easily defeated Northwestern State. I have no doubt that Jimbo Fisher will dramatically improve the Aggies in time, but it might take a season or two. Conversely, Clemson seems damn near unbeatable. This game is in College Station, which is traditionally a raucous crowd. That should give me pause, but it really doesn’t. Clemson might lose at some point this year, but it’s not going to be this week. Zach points out that A&M played on Thursday last week, meaning they’ve had an extra couple of days to prepare for this game. He likes the home field and thinks this will be a close game. The Aggies may not win, but Zach believes they’ll cover the points.

My Pick:     Clemson

Z’s Pick:     Texas A&M

 

 

 

USC                     at      Stanford (-4)

As good as Stanford has been the last several years it feels like it has been rare for them to be favored over the Trojans. Of course they do have the nominal home field advantage, which makes sense I suppose. Both teams had fairly effortless wins last week, so not much can be learned from those games. I feel like Southern Cal has been overlooked a bit in the offseason and no one is expecting much because they are trying to replace QB Sam Darnold, now plying his trade with the New York Jets. Conversely, Stanford running back Bryce Love is a Heisman frontrunner and getting all kinds of attention. The Vibes are telling me the script might get flipped this weekend. Contrary to what I’ve observed, Zach feels like USC is overhyped…but he thinks they’ll get a close victory.

My Pick:     USC

Z’s Pick:     USC

 

 

 

San Francisco at      Minnesota (-3)

Expectations are high for the 49ers, but perhaps we need to pump the brakes a bit. Sure, Jimmy G. looks like he’s going to be a good quarterback, but I’m not sure about the weapons he has surrounding him, a concern exacerbated by the loss of starting RB Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL just a few days ago. The defense could be quite good though, with the addition of Richard Sherman in the secondary being a solid move. But if we’re talking defense you can’t look past the best, and a season ago that was the Vikings. I don’t expect that to change this year, and new starting QB Kirk Cousins could push his team all the way to February. Zach doesn’t buy all the Cousins hype and thinks Garoppolo will emerge as the better quarterback, but he likes Minnesota to get the close win.

My Pick:     Minnesota

Z’s Pick:     Minnesota

 

 

 

Houston             at      New England (-6.5)

On paper this might look like a mismatch, but I am convinced that Houston’s 4-12 record in 2017 was an anomaly. QB Deshaun Watson and defensive lineman JJ Watt are both back & healthy, so I expect this season to be much different. The Patriots are what they are, and any perceived chinks in their armor haven’t shown up on the field. I think both teams will make the playoffs, but from a psychological perspective a win in this one would be huge for the Texans. Zach likes Houston well enough, but he just can’t pull the trigger against the Pats.

My Pick:     Houston

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

 

Atlanta                at      Philadelphia (-2.5)

The NFL season kicks off on Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl Champs having the home field against the Falcons, who most of the experts are predicting will battle New Orleans for the NFC South. The offseason hasn’t been perfect for the Eagles, and traditionally it is difficult for defending champions to recapture that magic a season later. I believe that Atlanta might be a bit overrated, and I’m not necessarily sure what to make of Philly, but for now I think the afterglow of that Super Bowl win lingers on and make this another night to celebrate in the City of Brotherly Love. Zach concurs and thinks the Eagles will win by two TDs.

My Pick:     Philadelphia

Z’s Pick:     Philadelphia