2014 NFL Preview & Prognostications

laces-football-grassAllow me to be bluntly honest. Not that I am usually dishonest, but I am rarely blunt. At any rate, I’m not as excited as usual to do goodevil-copythis preview. The NFL is becoming harder & harder to watch thanks to that moron Fidel Goodell. I look at professional football suits, including the league office and team front offices, kind of like I do the government. I believe they should interfere with the game as little as possible. Unfortunately nowadays, with Goodell’s “personal conduct policy” and the pathological need to make a violent collision sport “safe”, all the talking heads ever yap about (whenever they aren’t slobbering all over rookie defensive end Michael Sam, indulging Browns “backup” QB Johnny Manziel, or being offended by the Washington Redskins name) are penalties and suspensions. Defense used to win championships, but the NFL has neutered defenses to the point that they might as well not even take the field. I sincerely believe we are only a few years away from flag football. Goodell is a succubus that has almost singlehandedly ruined what was once the greatest sport and the best pro league in the world. Thanks a lot jackass. So anyway, I suppose I will move forward with this preview and I’ll watch the games. I might even enjoy myself on occasion. But it’s not the same. It never will be unless Goodell is run out office and is replaced by someone with the cahonas to reverse nearly every bad decision that has been made in the past 8 years.

 

 

 

 

 

NFC

East
Philadelphia Eagles
(10-6) 14-2
Dallas Cowboys
(8-8) 7-9
NY Giants
(7-9) 6-10
Washington Redskins
(3-13) 6-10
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn’t have quite the growing pains in his rookie season that I expected, and I believe Philly will be even better this year. The rest of eaglesthis division is mediocre at best. The Cowboys defense isn’t any better than it was in 2013. The Tom Coughlin era in New York will likely end in the next couple of seasons with a whimper instead of a bang. And the Redskins backup quarterback may be better than their vastly overrated starter.

 

 

 

North
Green Bay Packers
(8-7-1) 13-3
Detroit Lions
(7-9) 8-8
Chicago Bears
(8-8) 7-9
Minnesota Vikings
(5-10-1) 7-9
Another mediocre division. The Packers, despite losing defensive tackle BJ Raji (to injury not free agency), should run away with the crown behind QB Aaron Green_Bay_Packers_HelmetRogers and RB Eddie Lacy. The Lions may show some improvement but aren’t ready to break thru just yet. Bears QB Jay Cutler is even more overrated that RGIII in Washington. And Minnesota won’t contend until they decide to let Teddy Bridgewater take the reigns as the franchise signal caller he was drafted to be and stop pussyfooting around with Matt Cassel.

 

 

 

South
New Orleans Saints
(11-5) 10-6
Carolina Panthers
(12-4) 10-6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(4-12) 9-7
Atlanta Falcons
(4-12) 7-9
Now we’re starting to have some fun. Until Drew Brees shows that he just can’t do it anymore he has to be considered one of the few elite quarterbacks in the 10_new_orleans_saintsleague. I’d feel a little bit better if the Saints had a franchise RB (no…Mark Ingram, Khiri Robinson, & Pierre Thomas don’t count), but as long as TE Jimmie Graham is around to catch touchdowns from Brees and the defense is atleast solid the Saints must be considered the favorites. Carolina probably takes a bit of a step back this year since their all new receiving corps consists of Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, & rookie Kelvin Benjamin and they lost cornerstone left tackle Jordan Gross. I look for Benjamin to grow into a big time receiver, but let’s not rush things. The brief Greg Schiano era is over in Tampa and Lovie Smith…inexplicably canned by the Chicago Bears a couple of years ago…takes over a team with a solid defense, a potentially very good receiving corps, and a decent running game. I understand why the Bucs are receiving a lot of buzz. But neither Josh McCown nor Mike Glennon inspire much confidence in the quarterback position, so until they remedy that issue Tampa can’t be considered serious contenders. I look for the Falcons to bounce back a little bit from an abysmal 2013, but this is such a tough division that I still think they draw the short straw.

 

 

 

West
Seattle Seahawks
(13-3) 10-6
San Francisco 49ers
(12-4) 10-6
Arizona Cardinals
(10-6) 9-7
St. Louis Rams
(7-9) 3-13
Super Bowl Champions oftentimes slip a little the following season. They have a huge target on their back, spend a little too much of the offseason in celebration seattle-seahawks1mode, and tend to lose a few players to free agency who are understandably cashing in on the team’s success. Seattle is no different. However, luckily for the Seahawks their main rivals…the 49ers…are having a rough offseason with the 9 game suspension of troubled defensive tackle Aldon Smith as well as not having the services of linebacker Navorro Bowman, who tore up his knee in the NFC championship game. I like the Cardinals a lot but I’m not ready to say they are better than Seattle & ‘Frisco just yet. I might regret not venturing out on that particular limb. The Rams’ season was probably going to be forgettable anyway, but with the loss QB Sam Bradford…again…to another knee injury they are likely looking at a top 5 pick in the 2015 draft (which they’ll probably use on a quarterback to replace the disappointing Bradford).

 

 

Playoff Teams: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco
NFC Championship: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers

AFC

East
New England Patriots
(12-4) 13-3
Buffalo Bills
(6-10) 8-8
NY Jets
(8-8) 8-8
Miami Dolphins
(8-8) 7-9
Good Lord when will the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era end?? Ateast the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in awhile. But they shouldn’t have any problem winning New_England_Patriots_Helmetthis division. I think the Bills are headed in the right direction and we’ll find out this season if QB EJ Manuel is the real deal. The addition of rookie WR Sammy Watkins will help. Jets coach Rex Ryan did enough last year to keep his job, but I don’t believe we’ll see any improvement this year. I am sure the Geno Smith/Michael Vick battle at QB will be the dominant story all season in The Big Apple. The Dolphins are likely to remain insignificant. Don’t be surprised if head coach Joe Philbin finds himself on the hot seat by the end of the year.

 

 

 

North
Cincinnati Bengals
(11-5) 10-6
Baltimore Ravens
(8-8) 9-7
Pittsburgh Steelers
(8-8) 7-9
Cleveland Browns
(4-12) 6-10
As much as it breaks my heart I have to admit that I don’t have much confidence in my Pittsburgh Steelers. A quarter of their draft picks didn’t even make the team. Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetClearly something is amiss in the Steelers front office. I don’t think the Bengals will get very far in the playoffs but they should win the division. The Ravens are no longer a serious Super Bowl contender but they’ll be competitive. The quarterback situation in Cleveland is murky at best and I’m not at all impressed with new head coach Mike Pettine who seems ill prepared for the job.

 

 

 

South
Indianapolis Colts
(11-5) 12-4
Jacksonville Jaguars
(4-12) 8-8
Tennessee Titans
(7-9) 8-8
Houston Texans
(2-14) 6-10
Is Andrew Luck just an above average quarterback or is he an elite transcendent talent on par with Manning (you know which one), Brady, & Brees?? I think we’ll beIndianapolis_Colts_Helmet better equipped to ponder that question after this season. I like the direction the Jags are headed, but they need to stop this Chad Henne silliness and make rookie Blake Bortles the starting QB. Sure he’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll also grow & learn and do some good things that Henne just doesn’t have the talent to achieve. Tennessee and Houston are treading water, although if the Texans make newly acquired QB Ryan Mallet the starter sooner rather than later they might have some potential.

 

 

 

West
Denver Broncos
(13-3) 11-5
San Diego Chargers
(9-7) 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs
(11-5) 9-7
Oakland Raiders
(4-12) 8-8
This is probably it for Peyton Manning. The window is closing fast. The Broncos upgraded their defense a lot this offseason and the offense should be as good or broncos-4759better than 2014, so anything less than a Lombardi Trophy would be a huge disappointment. The Chargers are sneaky good and could be a scary team to face in the playoffs. I think the Chiefs fall back a bit from their surprisingly successful season of last year. The Raiders will run like the wind with Maurice Jones-Drew but it won’t be enough. Look for rookie QB Derek Carr to emerge as the starter, but head coach Dennis Allen might be the first to lose his job this year.

 

 

Playoff Teams: New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver, Baltimore, San Diego
AFC Championship: Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts

Denver Broncos 31 sbGB Packers 28


My First Ever NFL Mock Draft (2014)

I have pondered the idea of doing a mock NFL draft for a few years now, but there have been some things stopping me. I am by no means an “expert” who pores over tape or scouting reports like a Mel Kiper Jr. or Mike Mayock. I’m not an “insider” with a plethora of contacts within the NFL like Chris Mortensen or John Clayton. I’m just a normal, average, run-of-the-mill fan who just happens to have an nfloutlet thru which I can pontificate about things that interest me. I don’t know who half of these players even are…I have gathered a lot of information from various sources and just have to trust their assessment. I do watch a lot of college football, but I learned long ago that there isn’t always as much crossover as one would assume there’d be between talented collegiate players and good pro prospects. There are always college football stars that are deemed to be too small, too slow, or unathletic enough for the NFL. Conversely, there are a lot of guys who make an impact in the NFL that few fans ever heard about in college. There are a numerous mock drafts available, so why add to the pile??

 

Despite these reservations I finally decided to forge ahead. The first thing I elected to do was make this a 3 round mock draft. Any yahoo can do a one round draft…I want a challenge!! The second thing I knew I wanted to do was throw in some trades. As my fantasy football pals know I love wheelin’ & dealin’. Sadly there isn’t enough of that that actually happens in the real draft. I do know football-introducing-the-science_1that they have a conversion chart that tells the suits what equals out to a fair exchange, but since I don’t have access to that and only have three rounds to work with I just do the best I can. If you see “via X Team” it indicates that is a real pre-existing trade. When you see “trade w/X Team” that means it is a trade that I am creating for this draft. It must be noted that we are almost three months away from the actual draft and a lot of things will occur in that time, especially when free agency begins next month. There will probably be a lot of opinions changed…one way or another…about certain prospects during the NFL Combine later this month. Some well-known names will become salary cap casualties. I may do a revised mock draft a week or two before the real thing, but I’m not making any promises. In the meantime, for those of you nerdy enough to enjoy this stuff as much as I do please peruse my selections and don’t hesitate to leave feedback.

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Round 1

1              Cleveland Browns (trade w/Houston Texans)Cleveland_Browns_Helmet

            QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)                            

The Browns move up to get the quarterback that they covet. The move makes sense.

2              Houston Texans (via Washington Redskins & trade w/St. Louis Rams)houston-texans-mobile-wallpaper

            QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)

In this scenario the Texans move down and then move back up, securing not only an extra pick but the player they really wanted all along anyway.

3              Atlanta Falcons (trade w/Jacksonville Jaguars)falcons

            DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)

The Jags move down knowing they can get who they want a few picks later plus add another draft choice. The Falcons leapfrog a couple of other teams to make sure they get Clowney. It’s a win-win for both teams.

4              St. Louis Rams (trade w/Houston Texans)St_Louis_Rams

            WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

The Rams are tempted to take an offensive lineman, but this draft is deep at that position and there’s really no one that is transcendent at the top. However, Watkins does stand far & above any other receiver.

5              Minnesota Vikings (trade w/Oakland Raiders)vikingshelmet1

            QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)

The Vikings are desperate for a quarterback. The Raiders figure they can find one in the second round plus add a couple of picks. Only time will tell who was smarter.

6              Jacksonville Jaguars (trade w/Atlanta Falcons)Jacksonville_Jaguars

            DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)

‘Tis a tough position for the Jags. They miss out on both Clowney and Bortles. There is a huge temptation to reach for a quarterback, but that’s not the smart move. A good pass rusher is always a decent fallback option.

7              Tampa Bay BuccaneersTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet

            OT Greg Robinson (Auburn)

The Bucs won’t walk…they’ll run to the podium to make this choice.

8              Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)raiders

            OT Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)

Yes the Raiders need a quarterback. But there’s no one in this spot that’d be a good value. Matthews being available at #8 would be a shocker and few teams will ever pass up a cornerstone left tackle.

9              Buffalo BillsBuffalo_Bills_Helmet

            LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)

If Mack, who played collegiately for the Buffalo Bulls, was hoping to escape the frigid northeast for a warmer climate he’ll be disappointed…but he’ll be rich.

10           Detroit LionsDetroit_Lions_Helmet

           CB Darqueze Dennard (Michigan St.)

The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great secondary can be.

11           Tennessee TitansTennessee_Titans_Helmet

         S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)

The Titans are very very tempted to snag a quarterback, but maybe the Jake Locker era isn’t over just yet. Instead they address another need area by upgrading their secondary.

12           New York GiantsGiants Logo

           LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)

Some early mock drafts had Barr as a Top 5 pick. The G-Men would be ecstatic to find such value at this spot.

13           St. Louis RamsSt_Louis_Rams

        OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)

With their first pick the Rams added a top flight receiver. With their second 1st round choice they add some protection for quarterback Sam Bradford. Not a bad day’s work.

14           Chicago Bearschicago-bears-logo13

          S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)

Ridiculous name aside, this is a pick that addresses an area of need for the Bears without reaching for an offensive lineman that wouldn’t be as good of a value here.

15           Pittsburgh Steelersdiamond-steelers

            CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)

The Steelers’ secondary hasn’t been all that great for a few years in my opinion, and they’re getting old. This pick addresses a huge problem and injects some much needed youth into the defense.

16           Baltimore Ravens Baltimore_Ravens2

           WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)

What was the difference between the Super Bowl Champion Ravens of 2012 and the non-playoff Ravens of 2013?? Some say one key change was the loss of receiver Anquan Boldin who was traded to the 49ers. Evans would solve the problem.

17           Dallas Cowboysdallas-cowboys-logo2

           DE Dee Ford (Auburn)

As much flack as quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett receive the fact is that the biggest reason the Cowboys continue to be a disappointment (besides their meddling owner Jerry Jones) is their porous defense. Ideally they’d trade out of this spot as the value at the secondary positions is later in this round or in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, but they have trouble finding a taker and therefore reach just a little for the best defensive end available.

18           New York JetsJets-Pin-Pro

           WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)

The Jets need offensive playmakers…plain & simple. Geno Smith can be an effective NFL quarterback, but he needs better options than what he had in 2013.

19           Miami Dolphins                Miami_Dolphins_Helmet

         OT Taylor Lewan (Michigan)

The Dolphins really need a workhorse running back, but since they seem to be devalued these days I doubt if they’d choose one with a mid-first round pick. Instead they solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal.

20           Arizona Cardinalsnflarizonacardinals

          OT Zack Martin (Notre Dame)

I think the Cards can squeeze another year or two out of Carson Palmer, so there’s no need to reach for a quarterback just yet.

21           Green Bay PackersGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet

         TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)

The Packers were a playoff team and I think they’ll be even better in 2014, so they don’t have any major needs. They could use an upgrade at cornerback but anyone taken here would be a reach, so instead they replace tight end Jermichael Finlay. Finlay’s 2013 season ended at the halfway point with an injury that required spinal fusion surgery. He’s only 26 years old, but he’s also a free agent so the prudent thing to do…especially since quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a plethora of weapons at his disposal anyway…is find a healthier & less expensive alternative.

22           Philadelphia Eagleseagles

           LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)

Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player with tremendous leadership skills.

23           Kansas City Chiefskc-chiefs-logo

         LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)

The Chiefs were the NFL’s most improved team in 2013, but something was lacking. After starting the season 9-0 they finished 2-5 and lost a close one to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. The popular sentiment is that they’d like to add a big time receiver for quarterback Alex Smith to target, but I think that the Seattle Seahawks provided the blueprint for defeating the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl…defense, defense, & more defense.

24           Cincinnati BengalsCincinnati_Bengals_Helmet

         CB Jason Verrett (TCU)

The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a little to solidify their secondary.

25           San Diego ChargersSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3

         G David Yankey (Stanford)

The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potential so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

26           Houston Texans (via Indianapolis Colts & trade w/Cleveland Browns)houston-texans-mobile-wallpaper

           OT Morgan Moses (Virginia)

The Texans get this pick for moving down in the first round and allowing the Browns to draft Johnny Football. Of course they then moved back up and got their quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. So now what?? Well, when you’ve got a big time signal caller the first thing you want to do is protect him.

27           New Orleans Saints10_new_orleans_saints

       OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)

The pickins’ are getting slim at the tackle position, but the Saints can afford to roll the dice in an effort to protect Drew Brees.

28           Carolina Pantherscarolina_panthers_logo-14336

         WR Marqise Lee (USC)

I believe that the Panthers are one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl next season. They’ll have to get past the Seattle Seahawks at some point to get there, and a top flight receiver would help a lot. Steve Smith is 34 years old.

29           New England PatriotsNew_England_Patriots_Helmet

          TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)

The Patriots will be heartbroken to see all of the top receivers…Watkins, Evans, Benjamin, & Lee…off the board. But we know they have several options in the playbook for a solid tight end that can catch the ball.

30           San Francisco 49ersSan-Francisco-49ers

         DT Aaron Donald (Pitt)

Most folks seem convinced that ‘Frisco will be right back in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy in 2014. I’m not so sure. This is a team that is getting older at some key spots and they need to address the issue before it becomes a problem. Receiver Anquan Boldin is 33 years old, but I think that position can be dealt with later. For now the prudent idea might be to take the best defensive player on the board.

31           Denver Broncosbroncos-4759

         CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)

The Broncos looked old & slow in the Super Bowl. It was kind of sad. They need to get younger & faster really quickly if they want a chance to get Peyton Manning another ring.

32           Seattle Seahawks            seattle-seahawks1

         WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)

What can you possibly get the team that seemingly has everything?? Well, I’m going to say another weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson.

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Round 2

 

33           St. Louis Rams (trade w/Houston Texans)

         G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)

The Rams get this pick after trading down with the Texans earlier. This is the third pick for them and they’ve already added a legit #1 receiver and a solid offensive tackle. Depth on the offensive line is always great to have though.

34           Washington Redskins

          DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)

The Redskins didn’t have a first round pick due to the trade that snagged them quarterback RGIII a couple of years ago. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

35           Cleveland Browns

          RB Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)

Either Trent Richardson wasn’t the answer at running back or the Browns gave up on him too quickly. Either way they need a replacement, because if they go into 2014 with 32 year old Willis McGahee & Fozzy Whittaker as  their starters they are screwed.

36           Oakland Raiders

         QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)

Patience pays off for Oakland. Truthfully Carr shouldn’t drop this far, but there is some trepidation since he is the younger brother of former #1 overall pick David Carr, who was a huge bust coming out of Fresno St. in 2002. Fair?? Probably not, but the comparisons are inevitable.

37           Jacksonville Jaguars (trade w/Atlanta Falcons)

           G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)

At this point one has to feel some semblance of sympathy for the Jags. They traded down in the first round but it seemed like they could snag Carr early in the second. Oops. Fortunately there are a few more decent quarterback prospects available…but not here. Instead they add depth to the offensive line.

38           Tampa Bay Buccaneers

           LB Vic Beasley (Clemson)

The Bucs addressed offensive line issues in the first round. This time they reach just a bit for a pass rusher.

39           Jacksonville Jaguars

           DT Louis Nix III (Notre Dame)

The Jags are up again?? They go defense again and get great value with a huge defensive tackle.

40           Minnesota Vikings

           WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)

Minnesota got their quarterback in the first round, so now it is time to get him some weapons. Adrian Peterson can’t do it all.

41           Buffalo Bills

          TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)

Any quarterback…especially a young guy like EJ Manuel…benefits from a solid tight end that can catch the ball. Adding Jenkins with the already decent Scott Chandler could give the Bills a unique tandem that’d be the envy of the league.

42           Tennessee Titans

          WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

Matthews provides an upgrade over aging Nate Washington and oft injured troublemaker Kenny Britt, who some team will likely overpay in free agency.

43           New York Giants

          S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)

The Giants continue to upgrade their defense by adding some speed to the secondary. Brooks could play cornerback in a pinch as well, and that kind of flexibility is a good thing in the NFL.

44           St. Louis Rams

          DT RaShede Hageman (Minnesota)

The Rams have their fourth pick of the draft and add some depth on defense this time.

45           Detroit Lions

          CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)

Did I mention that Detroit’s secondary was really bad last year?? Taking two corners with their first two picks might seem a bit out-of-the-box, but if it works then why not??

46           Pittsburgh Steelers

           G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)

My Steelers addressed the secondary with their first pick, so now it is time to begin rebuilding the offensive line. The top echelon of tackles were all taken in the first round, but I like the idea of pairing Jackson with David DeCastro on the interior of the line with center Maurkice Pouncey in the middle.

47           Baltimore Ravens

          OT Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)

The Ravens got the big wide receiver they needed in the first round, and now they will look to solidify the offensive line. They are likely to lose atleast one significant lineman in free agency, so a replacement is necessary.

48           Dallas Cowboys

          S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)

Dallas must redo their secondary. It’s just that simple.

49           New York Jets

          RB Tre Mason (Auburn)

Neither Bilal Powell nor Chris Ivory are feature back material. The powers-that-be in The Big Apple have a few good choices here, but I’m guessing they’ll fall in love with Mason’s speed & versatility.

50           Miami Dolphins

         RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)

The Dolphins get their workhorse back. Adios Lamar Miller & Daniel Thomas!!

51           Chicago Bears

          S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)

The Seattle Seahawks showed us the blueprint for success…a big, physical secondary. The Bears have been paying attention.

52           Arizona Cardinals

           LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)

The defensive braintrust in Arizona loves linebackers who can get after the quarterback. With John Abraham turning 35 it is time to turn the page.

53           Green Bay Packers

           CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)

After finding a replacement for Jermichael Finlay in the first round the Packers will look to add secondary depth here.

54           Philadelphia Eagles

            CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)

The Eagles continue to fortify the defense by adding a piece to the secondary.

55           Cincinnati Bengals

           S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)

Cincy adds more depth to the secondary. That’s where the value is in this draft.

56           San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)

          WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)

This pick belongs to the 49ers due to the trade that sent QB Alex Smith from ‘Frisco to KC last year. Adams can learn for a year under Anquan Boldin before taking his job.

57           San Diego Chargers

           LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)

San Diego’s defense is young but that doesn’t mean the pass rush can’t be improved.

58           New Orleans Saints

          LB Trevor Reilly (Utah)

At this point the linebacker group starts to look a bit thin, so the Saints grab one while they can.

59           Indianapolis Colts

           OT Joel Bitonio (Nevada)

The Colts didn’t have a first round choice due to trading it to Cleveland for RB Trent Richardson. If that trade stands any chance of working out in the long run Indianapolis has to spend this pick on an offensive line upgrade.

60           Carolina Panthers

           DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)

The Panthers add depth on the defensive line.

61           San Francisco 49ers

           DT Trent Murphy (Stanford)

The 49ers have already addressed their defensive line and picked up some depth at receiver. They are in a unique position to take the best player available, which just so happens to add more depth on the defensive line as well.

62           New England Patriots

          DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)

The Pats add youth & athleticism to the defensive line.

63           Denver Broncos

          G Dakota Dozier (Furman)

Denver added a much needed younger piece to the defensive backfield in the first round…now they address the offense. Peyton Manning was never that fleet of foot, but at his advanced age protection becomes even more of a priority. Offensive line depth is crucial to another Super Bowl run. Dozier can play both guard & tackle, which makes him a versatile and valuable asset.

64           Seattle Seahawks

           DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)

Do the Seahawks really need an upgrade on defense?? No, not really. But Jeffcoat is the best player available and Chris Clemons is 32 years old.

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Round 3

65           Houston Texans

            CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)

The Texans give some attention to the defense by adding some size to the secondary.

66           Washington Redskins

           LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)

Brian Orakpo is a free agent and the ageless London Fletcher finally retiring…I think. Linebacker is a significant need.

67           Oakland Raiders

           WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)

The diminutive Cooks might not be the #1 wideout the Raiders really covet, but he could be a tremendous slot receiver in the vein of a Wes Welker. That can be a valuable asset in today’s NFL.

68           Atlanta Falcons

          RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)

Steven Jackson will turn 31 this summer. His days as a #1 back are over. The Falcons must move forward.

69           Tampa Bay Buccaneers

          TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)

Mel Kiper & Adam Shefter will probably use the word “upside” a hundred times when talking about Niklas. He only started one year at Notre Dame, but at 6ft.7 270lbs. the former linebacker has size & athleticism and could find himself starting fairly early in his career.

70           Jacksonville Jaguars

           QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)

Don’t be surprised if the Jags also try to trade for a young veteran signal caller like Kirk Cousins or Ryan Mallet or sign a stop gap like Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, or Matt Cassel.

71           Cleveland Browns

          G Brandon Thomas (Clemson)

After taking care of major issues at QB & RB the Browns now move to solidify an offensive line that is already decent but could be better.

72           Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)

          S Dion Bailey (USC)

The Raiders have this pick after moving down in the first round, a trade which allowed the Vikings to snag quarterback Blake Bortles. Oakland has to get younger in their secondary. Former Heisman winner Charles Woodson is 37 years old.

73           Buffalo Bills

           OT Ju’Wuan James (Tennessee)

A team can never have enough offensive line depth.

74           New York Giants

         RB Bishop Sankey (Washington)

Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

75           St. Louis Rams

          S Ty Zimmerman (Kansas St.)

The Rams have had a great draft thus far, adding a big time receiver and significant help on both lines. Now they add some depth to the secondary.

76           Detroit Lions

           C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)

Detroit just re-signed center Dominic Raiola for another year, but he is 35 years old and it’s time to look toward the future. Raiola can mentor Swanson for one season before passing the torch.

77           San Francisco 49ers (via Tennessee Titans)

           CB Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida)

The 49ers are likely to suffer some losses in the secondary via free agency, so they take the opportunity to replenish.

78           Baltimore Ravens

          C Marcus Martin (USC)

The Ravens offensive line was an issue last season. Upgrades are needed because when a team has a good running back like Ray Rice it is crucial to be able to take advantage of his talent by opening up holes for him to run thru.

79           Dallas Cowboys

          CB Terrance Mitchell (Oregon)

The Cowboys continue to look for answers to solve their defensive backfield issues.

80           New York Jets

          LB Shayne Skov (Stanford)

Starting linebacker Calvin Pace is 33 years old. The Jets need to find some youth at the position.

81           Miami Dolphins

         WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs more weapons. Mike Wallace & Brian Hartline ain’t gonna cut it.

82           Chicago Bears

          DT Will Sutton (Arizona St.)

The Bears add some much needed depth on the defensive line.

83           Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)

           CB Keith McGill (Utah)

Cleveland takes the opportunity to upgrade the corner opposite All-Pro Joe Haden.

84           Arizona Cardinals

          QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)

The young signal caller from Eastern Illinois (alma mater of fellow quarterback Tony Romo) was impressive in a couple of post-season all-star games. This is a good situation for him as he can sit for a year or two and learn the ropes from Carson Palmer.

85           Green Bay Packers

          NT DaQuan Jones (Penn St.)

Free agent BJ Raji is likely headed out of Green Bay, so they need a replacement.

86           Philadelphia Eagles

           RB De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Thomas is an interesting prospect. He’s not an every down running back and he’s not quite a wide receiver. He’s a situational player with blazing speed. Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly coached Thomas at Oregon and has to be salivating at the thought of being able to utilize his unique skillset in the NFL. If anyone should know how to best use Thomas it’s Coach Kelly.

87           Kansas City Chiefs

          WR Donte Moncrief (Mississippi)

Kansas City grabs an underrated prospect who can be a nice complement to Dwayne Bowe.

88           Cincinnati Bengals

         LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)

James Harrison is 35 years old. He won’t last forever.

89           San Diego Chargers

          DT Dominique Easley (Florida)

Easley is coming off an ACL injury (his 2nd since 2010) and probably should have stayed for his senior year at Florida. The Chargers are very young along the defensive line and can afford to be patient.

90           Indianapolis Colts

           G Anthony Steen (Alabama)

The Colts continue to upgrade their offensive line. Quarterback Andrew Luck must be protected and a running game has to be established.

91           New Orleans Saints

           CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)

N’awlins adds some depth to the secondary.

92           Carolina Panthers

         G Brandon Linder (Miami, FL)

This is probably a bit of a reach, but Carolina can afford to be a bit cheeky. Protecting Cam Newton is essential so it’s worth a gamble.

93           New England Patriots

           DE Will Clarke (West Virginia)

Clarke is another guy who really helped himself in post-season all-star games. This isn’t necessarily an area of need for New England, but Belichick will figure out how to fit Clarke into the rotation.

94           San Francisco 49ers

      C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)

Starting center Jonathan Goodwin is 35 years old. Time to get some new blood to go with the rest of the young & talented offensive line.

95           Denver Broncos

          QB Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

I don’t think that Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert are worthy candidates to eventually replace Peyton Manning. As much as the Broncos want to get Manning that second ring the fact is that the powers-that-be have to have one eye on the future and Mettenberger, who is currently recovering from a torn ACL, can “redshirt” for a year before possibly being in a position to gently push Manning into retirement.

96           Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings via Seattle Seahawks)

           S Ahmad Dixon (Baylor)

Minnesota had this pick due to the trade that sent Percy Harvin to Seattle in 2013. They then gave it to the Raiders in order to jump up in the first round. The Raiders have added a QB, slot receiver, & cornerstone tackle already. They also added some young, fresh legs to the secondary and do so again here.

2013 NFL Preview & Prognostications

goodell-e1348946003302I strongly dislike Roger Goodell. He is by far the worst commissioner the NFL has had and maybe one of the worst suits in the history of organized sports at any level. I have been watching a lot of pre-season games A) because that’s just how I roll and B) because the NFL Network may be the greatest invention since the light bulb. It saddens me to see what Commissioner Fidel Goodell has done to the game of football. There’s a penalty on every other play. Defenders can’t hit a guy high, and now there’s a movement to ban hitting low due to knee injuries. What the heck is a defensive player supposed to do?? Most of the penalties I have seen called lately were, as recently as 2 or 3 years ago, just good solid football. And then there is the whole paralysis by analysis of what is and what isn’t a catch. When I was a kid a catch was a catch…but not anymore. Within 5-10 years pro football will be unwatchable and the destruction will be the fault of the evil Roger Goodell. The best thing for the NFL would be for Goodell to go away…one way or another…and for a new commissioner to simply say “Oh yeah…all that namby pamby “safety” crap…forget it. Let’s play fnflootball!!”. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime I suppose we’ll forge ahead with business as usual while the game still somewhat resembles the football we knew & loved. Each team’s 2012 record is in parentheses immediately followed by my prediction for this season’s outcome. As always I’ll remind you that your humble Potentate of Profundity does not condone gambling so if you wager your lunch money and lose don’t blame me. Enjoy!!

 

 

AFC

East

New England Patriots         

(12-4)  10-6

Miami Dolphins                    

(7-9)    8-8

Buffalo Bills                           

(6-10)  8-8

New York Jets                        

(6-10)  2-14

The Jets will be terrible and we all know it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith starting at quarterback. Head coach Rex Ryan might be gone bypatriots the time the bye week rolls around midway thru the season. Buffalo is starting someone named Jeff Tuel at QB in Week 1 which pretty much tells one all they need to know about the Bills. A lot of folks seem to be cautiously jumping on the Dolphins bandwagon but quite frankly I just don’t get it. They’ll be mediocre at best. So there is no doubt that the Patriots will walk away with their 11th division title in the past 13 years…the question is just how quickly they can clinch. I do think New England has plateaued and might take a tiny step back, but in this horrible division it will hardly be noticeable.

 

West

Denver Broncos                    

(13-3)  11-5

Kansas City Chiefs                 

(2-14)  9-7

Oakland Raiders                   

(4-12)  6-10

San Diego Chargers              

(7-9)    5-11

You want proof positive that life is unfair?? Terrelle Pryor is now a starting quarterback in the NFL while his former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is broncos-4759basically unemployable as a head coach until 2017. Not that Pryor’s presence behind center will help the Oakland Raiders all that much. This is Denver’s division to lose, and though I am a bit concerned about their defense after losing pass rusher Elvis Dumervil to an idiotic clerical error there are no such worries about Peyton Manning and the offense, especially after the addition of receiver Wes Welker. This will be Manning’s best opportunity to add another Super Bowl ring to his collection and I think he’ll make hay while the sun is shining. The Chiefs might be one of the most improved teams in the NFL after hiring new head coach Andy Reid and trading for QB Alex Smith.

 

South

Indianapolis Colts                 

(11-5)  11-5

Houston Texans                    

(12-4)  9-7

Tennessee Titans                  

(6-10)  8-8

Jacksonville Jaguars              

(2-14)  5-11

Colts’ QB Andrew Luck acquitted himself pretty well in his rookie season and I don’t think we’ll see any kind of sophomore slump in 2013. Indianapolis is a Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetyoung team that should continue to grow & achieve, and I really like the addition of running back Ahmad Bradshaw so long as he can stay healthy. What most pundits would likely disagree with is my assertion that the Texans will take a step backward. I am not at all convinced that running back Arian Foster can remain upright thru the entire season and top wideout Andre Johnson is now 32 years old. If first round draft pick DeAndre Hopkins, a wide receiver out of Clemson, can blossom early that might help. The other side of the ball features NFL Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt so there are no worries there. This might be a make or break year for Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker and I am not convinced he’ll deliver. It’d be helpful if running back Chris Johnson could somehow return to his 2009 incarnation when he ran for 2000 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. The Jags are probably going to be bad again, though maybe not quite as bad as last year. When your quarterback competition involves Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne that’s not a good sign.

 

North

Cincinnati Bengals               

(10-6)  11-5

Baltimore Ravens                 

(10-6)  10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers               

(8-8)    9-7

Cleveland Browns                 

(5-11)  7-9

This could be the most competitive division in the NFL in 2013. Opinions vary wildly about the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Some sayCincinnati_Bengals_Helmet this year’s Ravens are even better than last year. I can see that logic. The loss of safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis won’t affect the team all that much on the field as both of those guys were old & slow. Baltimore added sack master Elvis Dumervil so theoretically the defense got younger & more athletic. But I just don’t think a team can go thru so many changes and not be affected. The loss of receiver Anquan Boldin…who was traded to San Francisco…is huge. Defending champs do generally make the playoffs but only 7 have ever repeated. The Bengals have quietly evolved from the Bungles to a nominal favorite to win the division. It is amazing what can be accomplished outside of a prison cell. The Browns are showing signs of life but aren’t quite ready to make a stir just yet. I actually read one fellow prognosticator who thinks the Steelers will win the division. Nothing would make me happier. However, I am very concerned about the offensive line (again), and as excited as I was when Pittsburgh drafted running back Le’veon Bell in the 2nd round that enthusiasm has been tempered by a pre-season foot injury that might keep the rookie off the field for the first couple of games.

 

Playoffs:                               

New England, Indianapolis, Denver, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Kansas City

AFC Championship:           Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos

 

 

NFC

East

Washington Redskins          

(10-6)  10-6

Dallas Cowboys                     

(8-8)    9-7

New York Giants                   

(9-7)    8-8

Philadelphia Eagles              

(4-12)  7-9

I said that the AFC North might be the NFL’s most competitive division. Well here is a worthy rival. The Redskins season likely rests entirely on quarterback Washington_Redskins_logoRGIII’s recovery from a knee injury suffered in a playoff game last season. Will he start in Week 1?? Will the powers-that-be proceed with caution and hold him out for the first few weeks of the season?? When he does see action will he be the same multi-talented threat he used to be?? The Cowboys…as usual…have lofty expectations that they won’t achieve. If I were head coach Jason Garrett I wouldn’t lose my real estate agent’s number just yet. I like the Eagles’ selection of Chip Kelly as their new head coach and I think he’ll do well in due time…but there’ll be some growing pains. I can never seem to get a good read on the NY Giants. When I think they’ll be good they fall apart and when I predict they’ll suck they win the Super Bowl. So it is entirely possible they’ll be a game or two better than my prediction. Or a lot worse. I don’t know.

 

West

Seattle Seahawks                 

(11-5)  12-4

San Francisco 49ers             

(11-4-1) 10-6              

St. Louis Rams                       

(7-8-1)9-7

Arizona Cardinals                 

(5-11)  3-13

I’ll make one bold prediction. There will NOT be another tie this season!! The 49ers have history going against them as 28 out of 42 Super Bowl losers since seattle-seahawks11970 haven’t won a playoff game the next season. Twelve of those teams missed the postseason and 16 lost their first playoff game. I do think ‘Frisco takes a tiny step backward this season simply because everyone will be gunning for them. It’ll be an interesting battle between San Francisco & Seattle. The two teams play each other on 9/15 (in Seattle) and 12/8 (in San Francisco) and my vibe is that Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson will lead his team to a division title. The Rams lost RB Steven Jackson in the offseason but are stacked at the position with younger fresher legs. Quarterback Sam Bradford is at a crossroads in his career but the addition of speedy receiver Tavon Austin will help a lot. The Cardinals are a mess even though Carson Palmer has stabilized the quarterback position just a bit. Arizona will have to rely on their defense to get the job done and I think they need another year or two to gel.

 

South

New Orleans Saints              

(7-9)    10-6

Atlanta Falcons                     

(13-3)  10-6

Carolina Panthers                 

(7-9)    8-8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers        

(7-9)    7-9

There’s not much to say about Carolina & Tampa. I don’t see either team making a positive jump in 2013. I think they’ll just be treading water. The real 10_new_orleans_saintsaction will be at the top of the division where I think the Saints rebound from the collateral damage of BountyGate and get back on the winning track with head coach Sean Payton returning to the sideline. I expect quarterback Drew Brees to once again throw for 4000+ yards & 30+ touchdowns and the defense is now being led by new coordinator Rob Ryan which is a very good thing. Many of those TDs thrown by Brees will be caught by tight end Jimmy Graham who might just be the best in the business. One of my more…risky…forecasts is a slight decline for the Atlanta Falcons who came oh so close to going to The Super Bowl last season. The Falcons added running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Usi Umenyiora in the offseason which would seem to indicate that they believe this year is their big chance to finally get over the hump. Maybe they will. But I just don’t think it’s going to be quite that simple. I’ve been wrong before though.

 

North

Green Bay Packers                

(11-5)  10-6

Chicago Bears                         

(10-6)  9-7

Minnesota Vikings                 

(10-6)  8-8

Detroit Lions                          

(4-12)  7-9

Last year I sang the praises of the Green Bay Packers and predicted that they’d beat New England in the highest scoring Super Bowl of all time. They Green_Bay_Packers_Helmetpromptly went out and lost 3 of their first 5 games and were beaten by the 49ers in the second round of the playoffs. So my expectations are somewhat cowed this time around though I still predict a division crown…they’ll just have to work for it. The Bears are another team like the NY Giants…difficult to read. I’m not a fan of quarterback Jay Cutler although if anyone can bring out his best it is probably new head coach Marc Trestman. The Vikings of course have running back Adrian Peterson, but as good as he is I don’t think he’ll get anywhere near 2000 yards again. For Minnesota to make another run at the playoffs quarterback Christian Ponder will have to show some significant growth and the defense…led by pass rusher Jared Allen…will have to be stellar. Minnesota ranked 2nd in rushing offense last season but 31st in passing offense. They’ll need to find some balance in 2013. The Lions…much like the Cleveland Browns…have shown some occasional signs of life but just aren’t there quite yet.

 

Playoffs:       

Washington, New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta

NFC Championship:           New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers

 

SB

San Francisco 49ers                       30

Denver Broncos                              34

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.13

Today we bid a fond farewell to the football season and touch on a couple of other subjects.

 

 

Congratulations…I suppose…to the Baltimore Ravens, who just won one of the more memorable Super Bowls in recent memory. It wasn’t the result I would have preferred for a variety of reasons, but atleast it was an entertaining & competitive game. The 49ers have to be kicking themselves for not really showing up until after the blackout. I’m not sure what happened but I’d be willing to bet it won’t happen again if they are fortunate enough to get back to the Super Bowl. But of course ravens_preview_flattherein lies the rub. History tells us that the chances of either of these teams being as successful as they were this season next year are slim. The Ravens have a built in excuse. Not only are they losing their emotional leader Ray Lewis to retirement, but as with every other Super Bowl Champion they will become victims of their own success by losing several players who’ll seize the moment and cash in with big money contracts from other teams. Conversely the 49ers are young & shouldn’t see much turnover, plus they should be super motivated to prove that first half was just a fluke. But I’d still hesitate to bet on them making it back next season.

 

The extracurriculars surrounding the Super Bowl were predictablybr underwhelming. There wasn’t a single commercial that really burnt itself into my memory. Beyonce’s halftime show was okay I guess. I am in the minority by having the opinion that using the kiddie choir from Sandy Hook Elementary to help Jennifer Hudson sing America the Beautiful was shameless pandering.

 

warren-sapp-1668ddd46de92f78I’m still in a little bit of shock that Warren Sapp was voted intobus the Pro Football Hall of Fame ahead of Jerome Bettis & Michael Strahan. Maybe I am missing something, but to me Sapp was just another loudmouthed thug from “The U”, i.e. the Miami Hurricanes, but unlike other Miami thugs like Ray Lewis & Michael Irvin didn’t seem to have all that much of a noteworthy career. I guess the Hall of Fame voters disagree with that assessment.

 

I don’t usually pay much attention to the NBA until the playoffs begin, but the much talked about issues surrounding the LA Lakers have been difficult to ignore and highlight why I have come to dislike that team immensely. Back in the 80’s heyday of Showtime I really liked Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and their lakersteammates, but the 21st century version of the Lakers just aren’t likeable at all. It all started with Shaquille O’Neal several years ago. Shaq was and still is an illiterate assclown. I have no idea how mushmouths like he & football talking head Shannon Sharpe get TV gigs. Surely these shows can find more articulate talent. Anyway, then of course we have Kobe Bryant, who was one of the first guys to jump directly from high school to the NBA back when that was allowed. Kobe is very talented, but he’s also selfish & arrogant. Then this year the Lakers brought in Dwight Howard, who is 27 going on 12. I am simply sick & tired of hearing about all the conflict & struggle going on with the Lakers. Grow up & shut up.

 

Oh…speaking of the NBA…..

Please please please stop with the debate about who is the greatest basketball player jordanever – Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. This is the kind of silly crap that ESPN pontificates about when there is nothing else going on in the world of sports, but to me there’s absolutely no question. Jordan is undoubtedly the greatest player to ever grace a basketball court. Kobe & LeBron are great players and have had some success, but any argument that tries to equate them with Jordan is simply manufactured, embellished poppycock.

 

I only pay slightly more attention to college basketball than I do the NBA at this bbpoint in the year. March Madness is awesome but in the 3 or 4 months prior I primarily focus on my Marshall Thundering Herd & WV Mountaineers. However, I must say that this season has been rather interesting. Every time a team reaches #1 they get upset. There doesn’t seem to be one dominant team or even a few dominant teams. That should make for a wide open NCAA Tournament with lots of twists & turns. Sounds good to me.

 

It is rare that I find myself in the position of saying anything positive about anyone associated with the evil empire known as the New England Patriots, but in the case of Rob Gronkowski I have to make an exception. I have been amused by all the old, curmudgeonly, fuddy duddy talking heads getting their knickers in a snit because Rob Gronkowski, Jerrell Freemanof Gronkowski’s partying caught on tape. This is a young 20-something who is rich, famous, (I assume) good looking, & popular. The world is his oyster. Why are a bunch of stuffed shirts so agitated by the guy dancing (badly) with his shirt off and acting like a goofball?? Yes the Patriots pay him a lot of money. Yes his wrist is currently in a cast. Yes he was most likely intoxicated both times he has been filmed partying like it’s 1999. But the last time I checked this was a free country and employees still have the right to engage in whatever legal activities they choose when they are “off duty”, which for professional athletes is the offseason. These out of touch sports “journalists” make it sound like Gronk was caught snorting lines of coke off the naked, dead carcass of Whitney Houston. Chill the hell out people!!

 

Winning & Musing…..The Super Bowl Edition

Word on the street is that there is some sort of big football game taking place in New Orleans in a few days. Let’s talk about that.

 

 

 

A quick trip back to last fall in the ol’ DeLorean reveals that my NFL prognostications were…as usual…hit & miss.

  • The Good    –              I predicted 6 out of 8 division winners correctly. I was particularly in tune with the AFC, which since I am a lifelong Steelers fan makes sense…I just naturally pay more attention to the AFC. I also got 6 out of the 12 playoff teams right. I said the AFC title game would be New England vs. Baltimore and it was. While a lot of talking heads were shrugging off BountyGate and saying that Drew Brees would still make his team a contender I said that “I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected.” I was more right than they were.

 

  • The Bad        –              While I knew the Saints would have some issues I still had them going 9-7 and winning their division. Instead they went 7-9 and never quite got things figured out. I may have had Baltimore & New England battling for the AFC crown, but I thought the Patriots would win. Obviously I was wrong. I had a brief lapse in judgment by making the Dallas Cowboys a 10-6 wildcard team, forgetting that they are the model for dysfunction. They could have finished 9-7 and actually won their division but lost the last game of the season. I gave too much credit to my Pittsburgh Steelers, predicting that they’d be a 10-6 wildcard. Instead they finished 8-8. It’s gonna be a tough couple of years for the black & gold until they escape some salary cap issues and get a lot younger on defense. Taking the 10-6 wildcard spot in their place were the Bengals, who I said would go 9-7.

 

  • The Ugly      –              I thought last season was just a hiccup for the Philadelphia Eagles and predicted they’d right the ship by going 12-4 and winning their division. In reality the direct opposite occurred…they went 4-12 and fired their coach. I said of the Minnesota Vikings that “if RB Adrian Peterson doesn’t recover as well as hoped for from knee surgery it could be a v-e-r-y long year for the guys in purple” then predicted they’d finish 2-14. Well okay…I did say IF. Peterson did recover. He recovered so well that he came within a few yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season record for rushing yards, is a serious contender for both league MVP & Comeback Player of the Year, and led the Vikes to a 10-6 record & a trip to the playoffs. I not only had the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs…I had them in the NFC title game. In the world of rational sanity QB Cam Newton suffered a bit of a sophomore slump and we saw that he doesn’t have that great of a team around him. The Panthers went 7-9 and are obviously a few years away from contention. And my biggest snafu was obviously the Atlanta Falcons. I said I wasn’t sold on them, that they’d finish in last place at 7-9, and that QB Matt Ryan would soon be looking to ply his trade elsewhere. Needless to say I was a bit off since the Falcons had the best record in the NFL and came very close to getting to the Super Bowl.

 

 

This weekend the NFL will elect a new class to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame next summer. The finalists are: offensive lineman Larry Allen, RB Jerome Bettis (The Bus), WR Tim Brown, WR Cris Carter, defensive lineman Curley Culp, former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., ,linebacker Kevin Greene, defensive end Charles Haley, former Cleveland Browns & Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden, legendary coach Bill Parcells, WR Andre Reed, linebacker Dave Robinson, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, offensive lineman Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan, & cornerback Aeneas Williams. The committee will pare this group down to 84b67738157da9e32b9bdabb9bf044784-7 enshrinees. I don’t think this group has any slam dunks, but if it were up to me the new class would have seven members: Allen, Bettis, Brown, Carter, Ogden, Parcells, & Strahan. I don’t know enough about Culp & Robinson to intelligently comment. I don’t think DeBartolo gets in for awhile simply because he was forced to give up control of the team in 2000 due to legal issues involving alleged extortion & political corruption. I have a feeling Modell will get in, especially since he died a few months ago. Personally I wouldn’t put him in for awhile because of how he screwed over the city of Cleveland and loyal Browns fans when he moved the team to Baltimore. Greene, Haley, Sapp, & Williams were all very good players but not Hall of Fame caliber. I’d lean toward saying the same about Andre Reed but I could be persuaded.

 

 

I have to say the two weeks of Super Bowl hype hasn’t been all that noticeable or annoying this year. I am actually looking forward to the game.

 

 

Dear Randy Moss:  No, you are NOT the best receiver in NFL history. While I appreciate Moss’s confidence…or maybe it is more like bravado…the statement is simply asinine. Not only does that title indisputably belong to Jerry Rice, but there are a whole host of others that I’d put in the conversation ahead of Moss…the aforementioned Carter & Brown, as well as guys like Art  Monk, Steve Largent, Lynn Swann, Don Hutson, & Marvin Harrison all accomplished more than Randy mossMoss. It is true that Moss is probably the most athletically gifted receiver to ever set foot on a field, but he has largely wasted that gift because of his immaturity, lack of focus, & indolence. Has he had a nice career?? Yes. But if his amazing talent would have been paired with a solid work ethic & good attitude then maybe he could have spent his entire career with one or two teams instead of five and possibly racked up multiple Super Bowl rings & numerous other accolades. As it is fans are left to ponder what might have been while poor Randy is desperately trying to convince us that his potential & his output somehow match up. Sorry dude…no one’s buying what you’re selling.

 

 

While I have absolutely no interest in Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show (which she will keysundoubtedly lip sych) I must say that the choice of Alicia Keys to sing the national anthem is superb. I am really looking forward to that.

 

 

 

Is the fact that Ravens LB Ray Lewis may have used a banned substance…reportedly some sort of deer antler spray…to accelerate his recovery from a torn triceps muscle a big deal?? No, not really. But it is ray-lewis-deer-antler-sprayindicative of the character issue I’ve always had with Lewis. He is a hypocritical blowhard who uses Jesus as a co-star in his traveling sideshow. I don’t know what lies deep in the heart of Ray Lewis…only God is privy to that truth. But I am wary of “Christians” who talk too much. Jesus Christ wasn’t braggadocios and He does not want His disciples to conduct themselves in that manner. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

So I guess the time has finally come to ponder the actual game. I really can’t get a good read on this one. I hope it’s a fun & competitive game because 45-3 blowouts aren’t the least bit interesting. I Baltimore_Ravens2think it’ll be a defensive struggle with some big plays that’ll drive the score deceptively higher than what it’d otherwise be. I couldn’t possibly care less about the Harbaugh brothers angle (I think a Broncos-Giants Peyton vs. Eli battle would be far more fascinating). While I feel bad for 49ers QB Alex Smith I believe that Colin Kaepernick is the better player and Smith will get a better payday from some other team in a few months that he has ever deserved. Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the real San-Francisco-49ersdeal and anyone who’s still on the fence about him is either obstinate or stupid. So how will it shake out?? The Ravens defense…mostly because of Lewis…gets more hype, but I really like the San Francisco defense. I think they make the difference. The true battle will be on the ground with the 49ers rushing attack of Frank Gore & LaMichael James going against Baltimore’s Ray Rice & Bernard Pierce. I’m guessing that the 49ers will gain 100-150 yards on the ground while I think the Ravens will struggle to rush for 100 and that is the difference. Keep an eye on time of possession. I’m predicting that the San Francisco 49ers wins that and will win the Super Bowl 27-21. Kaepernick will rush for a TD and throw two, winning the MVP easily. I may be wrong, I may be right, & I may be crazy.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, & The Christmas Creep

Happy Holidays citizens of The Manoverse!! Alas, today I come not to praise our most wonderful time of the year, but to express a bit of frustration.

 

Yesterday we celebrated that most American of holidays…Thanksgiving. We’ll look at the holiday itself a little closer this time next year because I am currently reading a delightful book about its history, but I just ran out of time to finish it before the big day itself came & went. However, for now let me just say that I feel bad for Thanksgiving. It really has begun to get lost in the shuffle the past decade or so. We don’t appreciate Thanksgiving on its own merits anymore. Instead we look at it merely as the kickoff to the Christmas season. If Christmas is the Super Bowl then Thanksgiving is the pre-game show to which people don’t bother giving their full attention. There was a time, believe it or not, in colonial America that Thanksgiving was the main event and Christmas wasn’t even commemorated. Thanksgiving was a celebration that lasted for several days in reverence to God and the blessings that He had seen fit to bestow. Somehow we’ve gone from that deeply spiritual sense of appreciation to treating Thanksgiving like a Nascar pit stop where we take just a few minutes out of our busy schedule to stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing, & pie and maybe watch a football game before rushing to the mall for some retail therapy. All we care about is that we have a paid day off from the job we hate and get a free pass on our diet for the day. Those things aren’t necessarily bad (because really…who doesn’t enjoy a day off & a big hunk o’ pie??), but they should be secondary benefits, not the main focus of our gratitude.

 

Things have gotten progressively crazier over the past decade with the growth of a phenomenon called Black Friday. The term itself was coined back in the 60’s or 70’s, and interestingly was originally an environmentalist wacko reference. It alluded to the increased traffic that clogs up the streets (and pollutes the air) on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eventually it evolved to mean the day when retailers go “in the black”, i.e. when their year becomes profitable. Black Friday has long been lauded as the busiest shopping day of the year, but I have my doubts as to whether or not that is always the case. Logic dictates that “the busiest shopping day of the year” would be a moving target, changing annually based on a plethora of circumstances. At any rate, when I was a kid, if memory serves me correctly, there were always the occasional “midnight madness” sales, but the whole thing wasn’t this huge nationwide event. In the past several years the idea has blown up and taken on a life of its own. At first stores would open up at 5 or 6 in the morning. Then it became 3am. Eventually it became the norm for most places to begin the insanity at midnight. And now, in 2012, establishments like Target & K-Mart actually opened up on the evening of Thanksgiving. So Black Friday actually began on Thursday. I grew up in an era when blue laws were still in effect. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that malls and other outlets began opening up on Sunday, so it is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of anything other than essential services like hospitals & police departments being open for business on a major holiday.

 

Society has been lamenting the commercialization of Christmas for decades. It is even referenced by a character in the classic 1947 holiday film Miracle on 34th Street. And it just keeps getting more appalling every year. Thanksgiving and Christmas used to be their own distinguishable holidays. Then they became connected when the former began being marketed as the official kickoff of the latter. All the sudden instead of two distinct days on the calendar we had an entire, month long holiday season. Personally I’ve never had a huge issue with that because, as I have written here abundantly I love everything about the holidays. I love the lights. I love the movies. I love the food. I love the music. I believe it is alright to enjoy the peripheral accoutrements associated with Christmas as long as we always maintain our focus on the true reason for the season, which is of course the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. However, I am a bit disturbed at the direction things have taken in recent years.

 

First of all I am not at all convinced that there is much of a focus on The Lord anymore. Did you know that in the early days of our nation folks used to spend nearly the entire Thanksgiving Day in church?? Of course this isn’t just a holiday problem…it’s a year round issue. It has become quite popular to hate God in America these days. We’ve pushed Him out of nearly every facet of public life and really don’t heed His words much in our personal lives. That is a much bigger topic than I want to go into at the moment, but suffice to say that the whole purpose of Thanksgiving & Christmas is quickly becoming entirely lost in our modern society.

 

Secondly, as much as I love all the ancillary trappings of the holiday season I do think there should be limits. Things have progressed (or regressed, depending on one’s perspective) to the point that stores begin selling Christmas related items, radio stations start playing carols, television airs holiday films, and people decorate their homes as early as October. We definitely gloss over Thanksgiving, and oftentimes begin “celebrating” Christmas even before Halloween!! I do NOT like walking into WalMart or any other retailer and seeing a Christmas tree in October. #22 of my 35 Undeniable Truths of Life is that “It’s always about the money. Always.”, and there is no denying that the Christmas Creep is driven by greed. Look, I get it. I understand that there is very little profit to be made from Thanksgiving outside of turkey & the other various foodstuffs involved and that Christmas has become a huge cottage industry that can make or break the bottom line for a lot of businesses. But I also feel like there are other forces at work.

 

I believe that we are a very unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied society. Political correctness & hatred of God have become inescapably pervasive. One has to be careful about words spoken and actions taken because everyone is so easily offended. The economy is bad and jobs are scarce or inadequate. We try many things to fill the void…alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, mindless entertainment. So when Christmas rolls around we have developed a habit of jumping the gun. We decorate the house a few weeks sooner, look forward to shopping for our loved ones, and don’t seem to mind the music & movies being played in October. Christmas makes us happy, and we are desperately seeking happiness. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, but I still think we should tread lightly. It’s human to want what we cannot have. What the Christmas industry has done (and I can’t honestly blame them) is give us what we want. They understand that Rudolph, twinkle lights, wrapping paper, and Bing Crosby put a smile on our face. Christmas is a drug and Best Buy, WalMart, Sears, and all the rest are dealers. The problem with getting high is the inevitable low, which in the case of Christmas Creep is the backlash and desensitization to the magical wonder that is Christmas.

 

It is ironic that this is the time of year when one frequently hears the old maxim that “good things come in small packages”, yet we have taken what was once a couple of very lovely days on the calendar and made them into a stretch of time that lasts more than a quarter of our year. I do not leave the comfort of The Bachelor Palace on Black Friday for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that a day that involves a sea of humanity isn’t comfortable for a guy who has grown increasingly exasperated by human beings. To paraphrase Popeye’s pal Wimpy, I’ll gladly pay extra next week for an item that you got today for an awesome discount. I sincerely enjoyed my Thanksgiving, and do my best to appreciate the blessings that God has given me. I had a great meal and enjoyed a lovely day with family. I will embrace the Christmas season with my usual verve & childlike delight. But above all else I will continue to give thanks to God, who gave his only begotten Son so that I could have the opportunity to enjoy eternal life. There is nothing wrong with giving (and receiving) gifts, company parties, hoping Ralphie doesn’t shoot his eye out, or roasting chestnuts on an open fire. I just don’t want to wake up one day and end up doing those things in the summer.

 

 

 

A Pirates Fan Looks At 40

 

When one has a forum like this one feels obligated to comment on certain events and topics du jour. I mean really…why else would one have a blog, right?? And so I am duty-bound to pontificate on the milestone that is my 40th birthday.

 

I am not sure when or why turning 40 became this mythical landmark of epic proportions since it wasn’t all that long ago that 40 was old because people died quite young of a plethora of maladies, while these days more & more people live into their 90’s so 40 isn’t always “middle age”.  However, when one considers a couple of things I guess it kind of makes sense. First of all, even though it isn’t unusual for people to live into their 90’s the average American lifespan is still only 78 years, making 40 actually a bit past middle age (which is depressing). Secondly, and on a more esoteric level, by the time most folks are 40 the pathway of their life is pretty much set in stone. They are married or divorced or maybe even in their 2nd or 3rd marriage. They have children and possibly grandchildren. They are living where they are going to live because if they were going to relocate they likely would have done it long ago. Their careers…if they have what one can even consider a career…is on solid ground, whether that means an onward & upward trajectory or stuck perpetually in neutral. Their financial status is what it is going to be, whether that means they are secure or are likely to be continually poor. All this doesn’t mean that one’s life cannot significantly improve or change after 40, it just means that for the vast majority of people it is what it is, and the question becomes whether or not a person can accept and be happy with that or will choose to be unendingly dissatisfied and unhealthily miserable.

 

Personally I have waffled between those two choices for years but have finally begun to lean toward the former. I spent way too much time in my 20’s & 30’s beating myself up for poor choices both professional & personal. Would I like to have a wife & kids?? A high paying, satisfying, well-respected job?? A big fancy house and an awesome car?? Enough money to buy anything or go anywhere I want?? Sure…who wouldn’t?? However, when I look at things from a more positive perspective I can embrace how blessed I have truly been. I have a great family that I know I can count on. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and enough money to go out to dinner, see a movie, or keep Amazon.com in business. There are lots of folks who aren’t that fortunate. When I was 33 years old I spent 6 months in a “skilled” nursing facility and had the opportunity to see what true misery is like. My Dad would always comment that if there is a sadder place on Earth than a nursing home he couldn’t imagine what it might be. He also used to say to me that the difference between me and most everyone else in that horrible place was that eventually I would get to go home. That experience changed me forever, mostly in a positive way. I am much more appreciative of what I have now. I don’t believe anyone who says that they have no regrets. We all make mistakes and we’d all change a few things if we could go back in time. But Back to the Future was only a movie, and so we must move forward, hopefully making better choices and learning from past mistakes. Each day…each moment…is a gift from God, and we should enjoy & embrace it.

 

I can think of no better way to mark this historic occasion than to revisit my bucket list. “You have a bucket list??” Yes…yes I do. About 5 years ago my friend Slack (who needs to get his head out of his tookas and start writing again by the way) did a list he called 45 Things to Do Before I’m 45. At the time he was approaching 40, and I have no idea how he ended up doing on his list (I’m an awful friend). I decided to do my own list (written from the confines of a hospital bed) which was first published on the old MySpace blog and then re-released here a few years ago. Well, as Bon Jovi might say, I’m halfway there, so I suppose now is a good time to re-evaluate and see where I stand. Unfortunately the results aren’t as good as I’d prefer.

 

 

 

Stuff I’ve Done

8. Get a dog

23. Eliminate credit card debt

36. Volunteer at a literacy organization

I have had my beautiful pug Rocco for 4 years now and he is the light of my life. Seriously…for anyone without kids I would highly recommend getting a dog. I also began volunteering for the local Literacy Volunteers organization about 4 years ago and now serve on their board of directors. I don’t really do much tutoring for a variety of reasons, but I am more than comfortable with my level of involvement. Five years ago I had significant (atleast for me) credit card debt for no real good reason, but have now got everything paid off.

 

 

Stuff I Am Unlikely To Do

1. Get married

2. Buy a house

3. Spread my seed

9. Rebuild my nest egg

12. Attend the Super Bowl

24. Atleast pass thru all 50 states (9 down, 41 to go)

I have finally come to accept the fact that I am unlikely to ever get married or have children. I am not rich & successful nor buff & sexy enough to satisfy the expectations of your average 21st century American woman. And since I doubt if there will ever be a wife or kids I see no need to invest in a house. Houses are for families, not single men. Due to my own poor choices and the fact that West Virginia’s economy went in the tank decades before the rest of America caught up it is unlikely that I will ever have a good enough job to have much of a nest egg, but I do trust that God will always make provision for my daily bread. I know people with lots of money who are still completely miserable, so to be honest it’s really not all that important to me to have a boatload of cash. This lack of resources combined with some other factors has convinced me that it is doubtful that I’ll ever see all 50 states. Ever since an auto accident about 15 years ago I don’t even enjoy driving down the street, let alone traveling the country in a car. Plus, I honestly believe that an adventure like driving across the country is something a person needs to do while they are young and have no responsibilities. A guy I used to work with did it right after he graduated from college, and I have always thought that was profoundly smart of him. Once a person gets a job or a family traipsing about like some kind of vagabond just isn’t an option. And even though I LOVE football and always watch the Super Bowl on TV I realize now that the chances of me ever attending in person are slim. The logistics just aren’t favorable. The vast majority of tickets are bought by corporate entities, and the small amount that are released to the public cost thousands of dollars, and that’s not even taking into consideration the cost of flights, hotels, food, etc. No thank you. I’ll just hang out here in The Bachelor Palace and watch it on my hi-def flat screen.

 

 

Stuff I’ve Lost Interest In

7. Continue my education (masters degree? law school? film school?)

38. Learn about home brewing beer

I long ago began to question the value of my bachelor’s degree, which hasn’t really helped me all that much in the job market, so why would I waste time & money to go back into academia?? Looking back I think the 4 years I spent in college may have been more wisely used traveling, maturing, and figuring out what I wanted do with my life. Instead it was spent drinking way too much and attending classes that never really prepared me for anything. And speaking of drinking, I haven’t had a beer in years. It’s just not my thing anymore. I’m more of a bottled water or skim milk kind of guy. The whole home brewing idea sounded way cool several years ago, but now I can think of a ton of things I’d rather spend my time doing.

 

 

Stuff I Think I Can Get Done

4. Become more well versed in The Bible

5. Complete & submit for sale my movie screenplay

6. Lose about 50-75 lbs.

10. Go to Vegas…11. Fly in an airplane…15. See the ocean…18. Take a cruise…21. Visit NY City…26. Go to the real 221B Baker St. in London…29. Be in Boston down by the Charles River watching the Boston Pops on July 4th…31. Spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square…32. Attend the Indianapolis 500…34. Visit Italy…37. Attend The Kentucky Derby…39. Go to Mardi Gras…40. Attend an NCAA basketball Final Four…42. Go to The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA…43. Attend a major college bowl game (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton)… 45. See the Grand Canyon

13. Read the entire Shakespeare canon

14. Take a ride in a hot air balloon

16. Learn about astronomy

17. Write a novel

19. Get a job that I enjoy and can stay at for the biggest part of the next 30 years

20. Study photography

22. Learn about and begin the practice of fasting

25. Buy a suit specially tailored for me

27. Ride a train

28. Eat caviar

30. Try out for Jeopardy!

33. Become a decent chess player

35. Become a sufficient, competent, maybe even semi-talented culinary craftsman

41. Learn sign language

44. Work for a political campaign

A few of these things are in progress, and a few are kind of open ended. What does becoming well-versed in The Bible even mean?? I know I need to read & study more, but does there ever come a time when one can say “I’m done. I got it. I know it all.”?? I do feel like I am a better Christian than  I was 5 years ago, but again, I doubt if I’ll ever get to the point where I have it all figured out. I am in the midst of a weight loss effort, having lost over 22 lbs. since July 2012. But since I started on that journey about 60 lbs. bigger than when I originally wrote this list doesn’t that mean I have to lose over 100 lbs. to fulfill the original goal?? Math makes my head hurt. Anyway, I am working on it and doing okay. I have the entire Shakespeare canon here in my library at The Bachelor Palace, and I have formulated a plan to complete this goal and share my thoughts at The Manofesto. Expect that in 2013. The travel stuff is kind of complicated but I still hope to do it all eventually. I had plans of finally seeing the ocean this past summer, but circumstances changed. I sincerely hope to do it next summer though. Vegas & Italy are still dream destinations, with Vegas being something I could conceivably do right now if I could ever talk anyone into going with me. Of course if/when I make it to either place I’d be doing so in an airplane, and I happen to know a couple of places in Vegas that serve caviar so that’d knock out a few more goals. It is very likely that the Vegas trip would include a visit to The Grand Canyon as well. The Jimmy Stewart Museum is only a few hours from me, just north of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately my driving phobia has prevented me from making the trip, but I’ll make it someday. NY City, Mardi Gras, London (where one would find 221B Baker St.), and Boston (for the July 4th celebration) are destinations dependent upon convincing others to go with me as well, simply because I don’t think going alone would be as much fun not to mention rather unsafe, and since I don’t have a lot of friends with ample time, money, or similar interests it is kind of a tough sell, but I haven’t given up. Attending an NCAA Final Four, the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby, or a major bowl game may seem analogous to The Super Bowl, but I think they are slightly more…accessible, which is why I haven’t given up on those ideas quite yet. I honestly haven’t worked on my movie screenplay or novel in a long long time, but that is just a lack of discipline on my part. I still have ideas floating around in my head…I just need to put the time & effort into developing them. I have been pondering the fasting idea for awhile now, and it would obviously dovetail quite nicely with my weight loss (although that is NOT the reason one should fast). I actually attended a balloon festival with my friend The Owl in Columbus, OH this past summer (which is where I ended up vacationing instead of the beach), but the rides were cost prohibitive and I need to do a little more preparation & research about accessibility, although I have done enough to know it is definitely possible. There was a brief window of opportunity to take a sign language class a couple of years ago but I failed to jump on it. I keep my eyes open for other chances though. It’s definitely doable. I almost had myself convinced to get involved in this year’s political campaigns, both on a local & national level, but to be perfectly frank I got lazy. Shame on me. I guess I haven’t found a candidate that I truly believe in enough to spend my limited time & energy. But hey, the opportunity is there every couple of years, right?? I can’t honestly say I am much of a cook. I watch a lot of the Food Network, but just don’t have the inclination, the space, or the resources to actually get into doing it myself. Or maybe I am just being lazy again. I think I have figured out that the only job I could get that would truly make me satisfied down deep in my core is being a writer. So the question I have to ask myself is this…does writing The Manofesto fulfill the requirement?? On a practical level the answer is no simply because I am not getting paid to do this and I still have to go out into the workforce and endure the daily grind in order to pay the bills. But in another sense I am happy to have this outlet and feel that it has become a very important part of my life.

 

I kind of feel like I had my mid-life crisis in my mid-20’s and am very thankful for that. My life hasn’t turned out the way I might have hoped for when I was 19 years old, but how many people can honestly say all their dreams have come true?? I accept full responsibility for everything I have screwed up, and give all the glory to God for how well things have turned out despite me constantly getting in the way. I can’t call myself content or satisfied, and I consider that a good thing because it keeps me alert and forces me to be aware of opportunities to improve. But I can honestly call myself happy and thankful for my many blessings.

 

 

 

 

2012 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 6

 

The old saying is that “close only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades”, and I am not a big believer in moral victories anyway. However, I must say that I came oh so close to going 4-3 last week but instead ended up 2-5. Usually I get myself in trouble when I pick with my heart instead of my head, but as it turns out picking the hated Hokies of Virginia Tech over the Cincinnati Bearcats was a bad idea. I was also very disappointed in the effort of Michigan St. RB La’veon Bell, a potential Heisman candidate who I thought would do some damage to Ohio St. but was instead held to a paltry 45 yards in a loss. And maybe it’s time to jump on board the Minnesota Vikings bandwagon. Of course as soon as I do that they’ll start to look like…well…the Minnesota Vikings. At any rate, for the season I am at 13-24, a deficit that cannot be made up in one week. In other words, I am like a football team that is down atleast two scores. But since I am more of a ground & pound guy instead of a run & shoot aficionado I’ll just hunker down, grind it out, and dig out of the hole one week at a time.

 

 

 

Arizona                at            Stanford (-9.5)

Stanford wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of the season. I just figured that they’d fade a bit after losing QB Andrew Luck and a few other pieces to the NFL. Instead they have gone 3-1, complete with a victory over media darling USC. They stumbled last week at Washington, but I will assume that was just a hangover loss after the high of defeating the Trojans in the previous game. I also looked over Arizona from the outset because it usually takes Fraudriguez a couple of years to install his offensive scheme. However, the Wildcats have looked more than decent thus far in compiling a 3-2 record. This game marks the halfway point of a murderer’s row of 6 straight ranked opponents for Arizona, and I think maybe now we’ll see what we usually see in inaugural Fraudriguez seasons. Stanford may possibly be looking ahead to a matchup at Notre Dame next week, but otherwise they hold all the cards here so I am picking them to win and cover.

 

 

Navy                      at            Air Force (-8.5)

I really like watching the service academies play football. Maybe it’s the fact that they aren’t the big, athletic NFL prospects that we see on so many other teams. They are legitimate student athletes who retain the essence of what amateur sports should be. Or maybe it is the knowledge that these young men truly have a higher purpose and will all go on to do something meaningful and, to varying degrees, heroic with their lives. And I suppose it has a lot to do with the old-fashioned style of football played. Navy is 1-3 and among the top 25 rushing teams in the nation. Of course they rank near the bottom in passing yards & points scored, so I guess they need to mix it up a little more. Air Force leads the nation in rushing and is near the bottom of the barrel in passing yards, but they are averaging 37 points per game. Their defense has really let them down though, so they are only 2-2. I expect to see lots of running here, and probably a high score. I’ll take the Falcons to get the victory and cover the spread.

 

 

LSU (-2.5)            at            Florida

I have picked two favorites thus far. Will the trend continue??

In my pre-season Top 25 I put the Bayou Bengals at #17 with the logic that they have a target on their backs and opponents will be especially psyched to take them down. That has been true so far…kind of. LSU is 5-0 and ranked 4th in the polls, but they have slipped a spot each of the past two weeks after lackluster victories over Auburn and Towson. A subpar effort won’t cut it this week though against the 10th ranked 4-0 Gators, who have been impressive in wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, & Kentucky. So this looks like a contest of two undefeated & highly ranked teams that are going in opposite directions…one on the rise, and the other on the verge of being knocked down a peg or two. The boys in Vegas apparently didn’t get that memo since they have made LSU slight favorites even though they are venturing into decidedly unfriendly territory at The Swap. I think that is the difference here. I just can’t have much faith in a team that struggles to beat Towson and is now faced with the daunting task of playing a Top 10 team in one of the most…spirited…venues in college football. Florida gets the upset.

 

 

Georgia                at            South Carolina (-1.5)

I suppose it isn’t all that shocking that we get the pleasure of seeing two SEC teams face one other who happen to be 2 of the top 6 teams in the country. The ESPN Gameday crew will be in Columbia slobbering all over themselves and fellatiating the SEC, but as much as I hate to say it the praise has been earned. Both teams come into this game undefeated and in the hunt for a national championship, but at the end of the day one of them will pretty much out of the running. The Gamecocks are slim favorites only because of the home field advantage. I picked South Carolina #3 in my preseason rankings, while I left the Bulldogs off the board entirely. The latter may have been a mistake, and this game will decide if the former was an egregious error as well. I don’t think it was. I stand behind my choice and will go with South Carolina here.

 

 

Denver                                 at            New England (-6.5)

Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. That’s enough to sell this matchup. Brady leads the rivalry 8-4, and unfortunately I think he’ll extend the lead this week. I picked both of these teams to make the playoffs and the Patriots to make The Super Bowl. At this point I am not ready to back off of either prediction, but will say that both teams have looked much more…ordinary…than I thought they would. That being said, I think right now New England is a more complete team and Manning is still knocking off some rust. It makes me physically ill to pick the Patriots, but I think they’ll win and cover.

 

 

Buffalo                                 at            San Francisco (-9.5)

Who would have thought at this stage that the 49ers would NOT be in 1st place in their division?? Though they are 3-1 they are behind the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (although as I write this it looks like the Cardinals are going to lose their game). A stunning defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings left the football world abuzz, but I think it is much ado about nothing. If anything it just means that the Vikings are a lot better than we thought, but it almost certainly doesn’t indicate that San Francisco won’t be as awesome the remainder of the season as most of us believed they would. Buffalo currently sits in a 2-2 logjam in the AFC East and needs to do anything possibly to keep pace with the aforementioned Patriots, who are undoubtedly better than their record. I think this will be a defensive struggle, and the spread makes me a little nervous. San Francisco should win, but by how much?? Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is inconsistent at best, but has occasional flashes of being an actual NFL quarterback. Will he have a good week?? Word on the street is that both of Buffalo’s banged up running backs…Fred Jackson & CJ Spiller…will be ready to go for this game, but I’m not sure how much that’ll help against San Francisco’s stout run defense. I guess it can’t hurt, right?? But I really think it comes down to the play of Fitzpatrick. My vibes are telling me that Buffalo will study the SF/Minnesota game film and figure out a way to atleast keep this close, so I am picking the Bills.

 

 

San Diego            at            New Orleans (-4)

Anyone who read my NFL Preview might recall that I said “I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected.” That might be the wisest prognostication I’ve made all season. But not even I thought they’d start the year 0-4. Will they drop to 0-5?? I also predicted that the Chargers would go 6-10 and said that “the party is over in San Diego and head coach Norv Turner will soon be enjoying an early retirement”. That hasn’t been so accurate thus far, as the Chargers are 3-1 and in 1st place. Are these trends solid or just a mirage?? I’ll go with the latter. I don’t think New Orleans is THIS bad, nor do I believe San Diego is that good. I think the Saints win & cover here, and I still think they can make it to the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

 

2012 NFL Preview & Prognostications

There’s nothing like cutting it close, right?? Just a few hours before the 2012 NFL season officially kicks off (on a Wednesday…weird) I am here with my always stellar & 100% accurate predictions. Well…okay…my vibes aren’t always all that precise, but I keep trying!! I am not really predicting anything all that wacky this year because I think we pretty much know who the haves & have nots are in professional football. There are always a few mild surprises, and of course a couple of injuries here & there can change everything in the blink of an eye, but not withstanding the unforeseeable I believe that this season will mostly adhere to conventional wisdom, but in a fun kind of way. As always I do not condone wagering, especially with my track record. Seriously, the only thing financially riskier than using my football forecast for monetary gain is trusting President Obama and his economic braintrust. Each team’s 2011 record is shown in parentheses, with my prediction for 2012 immediately following.

 

 

NFC East

*Philadelphia Eagles      

(8-8)                      12-4

*Dallas Cowboys             

(8-8)                      10-6

New York Giants             

(9-7)                      8-8

Washington Redskins    

(5-11)                    7-9

Last year the Eagles signed a bunch of big time free agents and bloviated a bit too much about being a team of destiny…then proceeded to fall flat on their face. If…if…QB Michael Vick can stay healthy in 2012 they may finally fulfill their potential. Everybody knows that another disappointing season will cost Coach Andy Reid his job and I don’t think anyone really wants to see that happen. The Cowboys will be in hot pursuit and should make the playoffs. I really like new Redskins field general Robert Griffin III but he is a rookie quarterback and I think we need to lower expectations for a couple of years. A year ago I predicted that the NY Giants wouldn’t “be nearly as good as most others seem to think they will”. They promptly went out and won their 2nd Super Bowl in 5 years. However, I will not be deterred!! Actually if you look closely at last year the Giants went 9-7, backed into the playoffs, then got hot at the right time. That is unlikely to happen again, and I think it far more probable that they will have a similar record in 2012 and fail to reach the postseason rather than actually having a dramatically better regular season this time around.

 

NFC North

*Green Bay Packers      

(15-1)                    11-5

Chicago Bears                   

(8-8)                      9-7         

Detroit Lions                     

(10-6)                    9-7

Minnesota Vikings          

(3-13)                    2-14

I just don’t see this division as being in any doubt. The Packers may have stumbled last year in the playoffs, but they are still among the elite franchises in the NFL and have the best QB in the game. Their aerial attack is so good that their defense just has to be solid, not spectacular. The Bears & the Lions will both be decent and in the midst of the playoff hunt, but I’m just not all that impressed…yet. Give the Lions another year or two. I like young Vikings QB Christian Ponder, and of course when healthy Adrian Petersen is among the best running backs in the business, but there’s really nothing else to be excited about. And if AP doesn’t recover as well as hoped for from knee surgery it could be a v-e-r-y long year for the guys in purple.

 

NFC South

*New Orleans Saints     

(13-3)                    9-7

*Carolina Panthers         

(6-10)                    9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(4-12)                    7-9

Atlanta Falcons                                

(10-6)                    7-9

I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected. Their head coach is suspended for an entire year, and the guy they picked to fill in is suspended for the first 6 games. So for nearly half of the season they are being led by a 3rd string head coach. For most teams that would be a fatal blow, but this team has an ace in the hole…QB Drew Brees. There is a school of thought that Brees will lead this team in blitz of anger and dominate their opponents en route to glory just to prove a point and piss off Commandant Fidel Goodell. That sounds like a fun theory, but I don’t believe it’ll be quite that easy. Fortunately for fans in The Big Easy their team plays in a rather mediocre division. I do think QB Cam Newton, in his 2nd year, will surprise a lot of folks and lead his team to the playoffs. The Buccaneers will improve but when a team goes 4-12 there’s really nowhere to go but up. I like new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, but there will be an adjustment…this ain’t The Big East anymore. The surprise might be in Atlanta, where I’m just not sold on the Falcons. QB Matt Ryan will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and by then I think he’ll be ready to flee The Peach State.

 

NFC West

*San Francisco 49ers     

(13-3)                    12-4

St. Louis Rams                  

(2-14)                    8-8

Seattle Seahawks           

(7-9)                      8-8

Arizona Cardinals            

(8-8)                      5-11

Much like the NFC North this division isn’t really all that competitive. The 49ers fell just short of The Super Bowl in coach Jim Harbaugh’s inaugural season…I don’t think winning the division is at the top of their list of goals. I believe the Rams will be much improved and will rebound from last year’s horrible season. The Seahawks are relying on undersized rookie QB Russell Wilson to lead them, which may pay dividends 4 or 5 years from now, but will only result in mediocrity for now. The Cardinals are a mess. A year ago I stated that “I’m sold on new Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb” and predicted a division title. I am not sure what kind of drugs I was on that day. Needless to say I was way…way…way wrong. Is john Skelton the answer?? Hell no. The fans in the desert have to be praying that their Cards can somehow get ahold of USC quarterback Matt Barkley in next year’s draft, and I think they’ll finish in a spot that’ll allow them to do just that. Fortunately they have WR Larry Fitzgerald locked in thru 2018, so atleast they have that going for them.

AFC East

*New England Patriots

(13-3)                    11-5

Buffalo Bills                        

(6-10)                    8-8

New York Jets                  

(8-8)                      7-9

Miami Dolphins                

(6-10)                    3-13

As much as I would love to see the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era come to a devastating end, sadly I don’t think it’s quite that time just yet. The Patriots should run away with the division and be amongst the heavy favorites to contend for The Lombardi Trophy. I really like what the Bills have done with their defense, especially the addition of Mario Williams. However, I do not believe that head coach Chan Gailey nor QB Ryan Fitzpatrick are the long term answers in Buffalo. There is an old adage that says if you have two quarterbacks then you have none, and I think that is exactly the conundrum the NY Jets find themselves in. Tim Tebow, as much as one might appreciate & respect his faith, morality, and personality, is nothing more than a huge distraction in regards to the on-the-field product. Also, RB Shonn Greene, even though he runs behind possibly the best offensive line in football, has not proven that he can be an elite tailback in the NFL. Oh, and whoever winds up being the quarterback doesn’t really have much of anyone to throw to besides head case Santonio Holmes, a #2 receiver trying desperately to convince everyone he is better than he is. And then we have the Miami Dolphins. Anyone who watched HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer can verify that this team is going to be bad…very bad. I think ownership made a horrible mistake hiring Joe Philbin as the new head coach. Philbin seems like a perfectly nice man, but traditionally very nice men don’t make successful NFL coaches. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has potential, but he has absolutely no one to throw to outside RB Reggie Bush.

 

AFC North

*Baltimore Ravens         

(12-4)                    11-5

*Pittsburgh Steelers      

(12-4)                    10-6

Cincinnati Bengals           

(9-7)                      9-7

Cleveland Browns           

(4-12)                    2-14

The Bengals did a lot better last year than I predicted, and quarterback Andy Dalton acquitted himself quite nicely. That being said, I don’t think we’ll see anything better in Cincy this season. Note to Bengals fans: “upgrading” from RB Cedric Benson to RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis is kind of like buying a Whopper instead of a Big Mac…better, but still not the steak that you really should spring for. The Browns will be even more horrible than usual. I don’t really understand giving up on QB Colt McCoy in favor of 28 year old rookie Brandon Weeden. It seems like a curious decision, but hey, it’s the Browns…they aren’t known for their smart decisions. So the division undoubtedly will come down to the Ravens and Steelers…again. The Ravens are on borrowed time because after Ray Lewis & Ed Reed are done I think the team will decline. Complicating matters in 2012 is the fact that linebacker Terrell Suggs tore an Achilles tendon last spring and will miss most or possibly all of this season. That would seem to tip things in the Steelers’ favor, but desperation can be a tremendous motivator. As a diehard Steelers fan I have some significant concerns about my team, including the uncertainty at RB (starter Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL at the end of 2011 season and may or may not be ready to return), an aging & injury riddled defense, a new offensive scheme under coordinator Todd Haley, and an unfortunate pre-season knee injury to promising 1st round pick OL David DeCastro. I do not think that the Steelers will be bad at all, but neither will they be elite.

 

AFC South

*Houston Texans            

(10-6)                    9-7

Tennessee Titans            

(9-7)                      9-7

Indianapolis Colts            

(2-14)                    6-10

Jacksonville Jaguars       

(5-11)                    4-12      

Lots of talking heads are jumping on the Texans bandwagon, and admittedly they do have a solid QB in Matt Schaub and one of the best RBs in the league in Arian Foster…not to mention big time receiver Andre Johnson. But I don’t think it’ll be a walk in the park for Houston. I really like Titans QB Jake Locker, and I think RB Chris Johnson will rebound from a subpar 2011. If Locker has a target or two step up to solidify the passing game I think the boys in Music City will be in the thick of the battle to the very end. Another quarterback I really like is Colts rookie Andrew Luck. In time I believe he will follow a similar path of success to that of his predecessor in Indy Peyton Manning. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and improving by just a few games would be a significant reason for optimism. The Jaguars offseason has been dominated by the holdout of RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who magically decided to end the standoff immediately following the end of the pre-season. That does not bode well. I do like rookie WR Justin Blackmon, but I’m just not sure second year signal caller Blaine Gabbert is the right man to deliver the ball. NFL owners & fans have an increasingly short attention span, and Gabbert will need to show remarkable improvement to prevent a loud clamor for his ouster. I think it is very likely that the Jags will be players in the Matt Barkley Sweepstakes.    

 

AFC West

*Denver Broncos            

(8-8)                      10-6

*Kansas City Chiefs        

(7-9)                      9-7

Oakland Raiders              

(8-8)                      8-8

San Diego Chargers        

(8-8)                      6-10

There’s a new sheriff in town in Denver, and his name is Peyton Manning. The Broncos made the playoffs last season with Tebow at the helm, so surely they will be just as good and probably better under the skilled leadership of an actual NFL quarterback. KC is getting alot of buzz these days, and I do think the two headed RB monster of Jamaal Charles & Peyton Hillis can be an effective tandem, but my question is whether or not QB Matt Cassel is the right man for the job. The Raiders just seem to be treading water…neither all that great or too awfully bad. The surprise may be the Chargers, who I picked to win The Super Bowl last year. I was way off base obviously, and am now pretty much convinced that the party is over in San Diego and head coach Norv Turner will soon be enjoying an early retirement.

 

 

 

AFC Championship                          Baltimore            vs.          New England

My six playoff teams are noted (*), and I am not even going to try to get cute with the championship selections. Football fans would love to see another Ravens-Patriots matchup, even though just like last year I would be humbly asking God if there is any way both teams could lose. I don’t think the results will be much different, and we’ll see the damn Patriots in The Super Bowl yet again.

 

NFC Championship                         Green Bay           vs.          Carolina

The predicted playoff teams are noted (*), and I think it’ll come down to the Packers (no surprise) versus the Panthers (kind of a surprise), with Green Bay taking Cam Newton to the woodshed. Don’t worry Carolina fans…his time will come, just not yet. Making it this far only to be demolished by Aaron Rodgers will be a great lesson for the young man and will benefit him tremendously in 3 or 4 years.

 

 

Super Bowl

New England  Patriots                   vs.          Green Bay Packers

As much as I hate to admit it, this one would be a classic. I daresay that it would even be a shootout. The TV folks would LOVE that. In the end though I think the Packers have too much firepower and will win the highest scoring Super Bowl of all time 42-38.

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 4.12

On tap…a surprising amount of football talk for early spring, with a little Madness sprinkled into the mix.

 

 

I must admit that my money was on either Tennessee or the 49ers landing Peyton Manning. I didn’t think the Broncos had the hutzpah to pull the plug on Tebow, although when Broncos boss John Elway says about his now former starting quarterback that he’s the kind of guy he’d want to marry his daughter the team’s real feelings became obvious. Implicit in that seemingly very nice backhanded compliment is the idea that Tebow’s a great guy but a terrible QB (which has been my point for months!). San Francisco was so close to making it to The Super Bowl last season, and the idea of Manning throwing to the suddenly unretired Randy Moss and the newly signed Mario Manningham sounded solid. I am not sure what made Peyton shy away from such an intriguing prospect. Surely it had to be more than not wanting to be in the NFC competing against his little brother, right?? And then there are the Titans. It would have had a nice feeling of symmetry to see the former Volunteer great end his career back in the The Volunteer State. Who says you can’t go home?? In Denver Peyton Manning…who has always been the big man on campus wherever he has been…can never hope to escape the shadow of Elway. Maybe Peyton Manning’s ego really is that much in check and his self-esteem that solid. Or maybe we’ll have us some drama down the road. We shall see.

 

Congratulations to Hines Ward, not only for a stellar 14 year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but especially for doing the classy thing and retiring instead of tarnishing his image by squeezing out one final year riding the pine in another uniform. I understand that it is hard for a lot of these guys to walk away from a game they’ve been playing since grade school. No one wants to admit when they are getting older, slowing down, and can no longer do what used to come so easy just a few years ago. Ward’s legacy is secure, and though this ending is bittersweet, his courageous decision to do the right thing means it is more the latter than the former.

 

I am a little ambivalent about this whole New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. I suppose no one can argue that it is wrong, not to mention a little silly. You mean to tell me that a guy making a million dollars or more can be motivated to be just a little meaner & hit harder with a $10k challenge to take an opposing player out of the game?? That just doesn’t compute. It’s sad that this stupidity casts a shadow over what was a memorable & heartwarming run to a Super Bowl title for the Saints during the 2009-10 season, a championship that meant so much to the hurting city of New Orleans. I think this sort of thing has probably always gone on in professional football, and was likely more meaningful back in the days when players made the kind of paltry sum that still dictated that they find an offseason job. Under those circumstances the opportunity to make some extra scratch would atleast make some sense. The tyrannical reign of Commandant Fidel Goodell continues, under the politically correct auspices of making an inherently violent game “safer”, whatever that means. The punishment handed down to the Saints, especially the season long suspension of head coach Sean Payton, seems more about the commissioner making a statement of his own power & authority rather than punishing any legitimate wrongdoing.

 

ESPN’s Skip Bayless has done the impossible. He has made fellow blowhard Stephen A. Smith seem almost tolerable…maybe even likeable…in comparison. This makes me loathe Bayless even more.

 

Tiger Woods is back…maybe. It is probably a bit premature to rejoin the bandwagon, but atleast he has returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in nearly three years. I realize that may not be considered a good thing by a great many people, but I am the forgiving sort that tends to give people a second chance. Tiger has paid for his sins on many levels, probably more than any of us will ever truly know. His return to the top of the leaderboard is good for golf, which is good enough for me.

 

So…now we now have our Final Four, and as expected the pretenders that had their moment in the sun during the first couple of rounds have all fallen by the wayside and the cream has risen to the top. In this case that cream consists of Kentucky, Ohio St., Louisville, & Kansas. The 4th seeded Cardinals are the “Cinderella”, although I’d hardly call the 17th most successful program in NCAA basketball history with 2 national championships and 8 Final Fours an interloper.

 

Texas Rangers fans can apparently…if they so choose…shell out $26 for something called a Boomstick, which is a 2lb. hot dog with fixins’ that include shredded cheese, chili, sautéed onions and who knows what else. Good Lord.

 

I am not sure what to make of Tim Tebow’s trade to the NY Jets. The move raises more questions than it provides answers. From a football perspective, are the Jets a good fit?? I know there has been some restlessness with QB Mark Sanchez, but I just don’t think they are really ready to give up on him yet. No matter what his shortcomings may be, Sanchez is undeniably a better signal caller at this point. How comfortable will Tebow be with fiery, egomaniacal blowhard Rex Ryan as his coach?? There have been lots of reports this offseason about discord in the Jets locker room, and one wonders whether this trade was a PR move to improve that image, if Jets’ brass legitimately think Tebow will effectively bring about a culture change, or the problems will just multiply. In the media & cultural epicenter that is The Big Apple will Tebow-mania fade quietly into the background, or will it detonate larger than ever?? On the spiritual front, should one feel sorry for such an inherently decent fellow being dropped into the big city cesspool of debauchery, or is this just a bigger stage from which Tebow can spread The Good News to the masses?? If it is the latter, one cannot deny the Hand of Divine Providence in the midst of these snowballing events. I don’t know any answers, but I cannot deny that I am interested in seeing how things shake out.