WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 2.22 

Greetings sports fans. We’re still talking about football, but there are a couple of other topics thrown into the mix as well. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and cooler temperatures are giving way to the delightful warmth of spring. 

Heavenly Father, bless Deshaun Watson, for he hath sinned. Now, I bet you think you know what I am referring to, but you’d probably be wrong. Don’t misunderstand…I am not looking past the allegations of sexual misconduct against Watson. However, a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, so I am left with the impression that he is simply a single, wealthy horndog who enjoys a good massage a bit too much and expects favors many young ladies are not willing to grant. I believe he acted inappropriately, but to my knowledge no one was raped. Deshaun Watson may be creepy, but he’s not a criminal, and since I wasn’t exactly a saint when I was a 20-something I simply hope the young man learned his lesson, has been humbled, and will be better going forward. That being said, I cannot overlook the fact that Watson, who understandably wanted away from the dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans, ended up approving a trade to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns!! This dude could’ve gotten a new start in Carolina, Atlanta, or New Orleans…and he chose Cleveland!! Has he never heard of Tim Couch?? Colt McCoy?? Brady Quinn?? Brandon Weeden?? Hell, I could list two dozen more quarterbacks whose career died in The Factory of Sadness. I’ve been a big fan of Deshaun Watson since his days at Clemson, and I was counting on him to lead my dynasty fantasy team for the next decade, but I can’t cheer for the QB of the Browns, so I traded him for multiple draft picks. Thanks for nothing you moron. 

Baseball’s Opening Day has finally arrived. As a lifelong Pirates’ fan it is difficult for me to be as excited as some of y’all might be, but it is a cultural touchstone and an unofficial (late) welcome to spring, so I am happy to embrace the event in the spirit in which it is intended. Pirates games are soothing background noise while I read a book or mindlessly scroll on my phone, so atleast I have that going for me for the next six months, which is nice. 

I might have more thoughts on the NFL Draft before April 28, but for now let me offer one strong opinion. If my Pittsburgh Steelers mortgage the future to move up & select a quarterback who is far from certain to be a generational talent then the powers-that-be are absolute fools. I don’t think any quarterback in this draft is worthy of a first round pick, and I’m not sure any of them will be that successful in the NFL. I would prefer to see the Steelers address numerous other issues and ride with free agent signee Mitch Trubisky for a season (or two). If that means a couple of losing seasons before rebounding into perennial playoff contention for another long stretch then I’m okay with it. They’ve done a surprisingly good job of improving the offensive line this offseason, and I feel like they’re a wide receiver & perhaps some defensive depth away from being way better than anyone expects, but that isn’t a good enough reason to reach for a rookie quarterback in the draft. 

Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks for winning the NCAA Basketball National Championship. To be honest this year’s March Madness wasn’t all that memorable or compelling, although there were some decent games & exciting moments. The tournament felt kind of like cotton candy though…tastes sweet for a few fleeting seconds then melts away into nothingness. After all the hype about Gonzaga and upsets by underdogs like St. Peter’s & Miami (FL) the title game came down to Kansas & North Carolina…two blue-bloods despite the Tar Heels’ misleading #8 seed. As a fan there simply wasn’t anything to keep my attention outside of Coach K’s retirement. The title game being on TBS was weird, and not even One Shining Moment felt like Must See TV. 

It looks like Tiger Woods, a little over a year after suffering career threatening injuries in a car accident, will play in The Masters. As a fan I am excited to see him in the field, although expectations are obviously minimized. No one expects him to contend or even make the cut. As a human being I am fascinated by his redemption & comeback story. The sins of Tiger Woods are well-documented, but I am certainly not inclined to throw stones. The fact is that Woods in The Masters is good for golf and good for sports. If only my man Phil Mickelson were playing in the tournament 🤦🏻‍♂️…but that’s a whole other story. 

Speaking of basketball, it is my understanding that the NBA Playoffs will begin soon. I have no idea who the odds on favorites are or which teams may or may not be in the field. I believe I heard or read that the Los Angeles Lakers will miss the playoffs altogether, which makes me chuckle. Lebron James can pucker up & kiss my crippled fat ass *lol*. 

I suppose I have to address the Tom Brady situation. God knows I’d rather not think about the dude, much less write about him. At any rate, first Adam Schefter broke the news that TB12 was retiring, then Brady’s Dad was like “not so fast”, then a few days later Brady did post a retirement announcement on Instagram, because I guess that’s how it’s done nowadays. But wait…there’s more!! Like Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert, Tom Brady spent 40 days in retirement before resurrecting his career. Much like Halloween‘s Michael Myers, the Clintons, and numerous rock bands who are my grandfather’s age, Brady just won’t go away. The only good to come out of this is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be forced into the background during the Hall of Fame festivities five years from now. 

2021 Sammy Awards: Part Deux

Welcome back to The Sammys!! If you missed out on Part 1 please check it out then join us right back here. Give a rousing ovation to our host, renowned comedian Dave Chappelle!!

After some thought-provoking comedy from our host it’s time for our next award, and making his debut on our stage is a driver in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. He has won only one race in 119 starts in the course of six years, but he’s only 28 years old and we feel like his future is bright. It was that single win in October 2021 that made him marginally famous, albeit not for the reason he likely preferred. Y’all know what to do as we proudly introduce Brandon Brown!! Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:

The Thrill of Victory Award

Brady Wins Another Super Bowl

On February 7, 2021 Tom Brady’s decision to leave New England after two decades paid off, as he led his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to a convincing 31-9 victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Brady earned his seventh Lombardi Trophy and was the game’s MVP for the fifth time.

The Tide Rolls…Again

On January 11, 2021 the Alabama Crimson Tide won their sixth National Championship in twelve years by administering a 52-24 beatdown to the Ohio St. Buckeyes, who shouldn’t have been in the playoff in the first place.

Baylor’s Madness

After COVID forced the cancellation of March Madness in 2020 the tournament returned a year later, with Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor, & UCLA ending up in the Final Four. The Baylor Bears beat the previously undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs on April 5, 2021 to earn their first ever National Championship.

Helio’s 4th Indy 500

COVID also affected the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, causing it to be delayed until August. I missed it because I completely forgot about it being rescheduled. Thankfully the Indy 500 returned to its familiar Memorial Day Weekend spot in 2021, with dynamic 46 year old Brazilian Helio Castroneves following in the footsteps of legends AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., & Rick Mears by capturing his fourth Borg-Warner Trophy.

Milwaukee Wins NBA Title

In July 2021 (because the season was delayed slightly & reduced by ten games) the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games (4-2) to win their first NBA title since Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) had led them to a championship in 1971. “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo was named Finals MVP, fulfilling the potential so many had seen in him throughout his nine year career.

Braves Win Another World Series

Selective memory is funny. I really thought the Braves had won several World Series back in the 1990’s when I truly despised them. However, it turns out that in five appearances they only won once in that time span (they’d won the Series two previous times decades before I was born). That made their 2021 victory more palatable, and it also helped that they defeated the Houston Astros, who I still consider cheaters that should’ve been stripped of the championship they “won” in 2017. To be honest I didn’t watch much of this Series, which the Braves won in six games, 4-2.

and the Sammy goes to…..

Milwaukee Bucks. It was just nice to have a Finals that didn’t include the LA Lakers, Golden St. Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat. Lebron James was nowhere to be found. It was a fresh matchup involving teams that aren’t usually around at the end. The Bucks hadn’t won a title in fifty years, so kudos to them.

To present our next award we are happy to welcome a young lady who has been enjoying her freedom the past few months. She may never recapture the success or popularity that she enjoyed two decades ago, but seems to be in a good place in her life. She’s a pretty decent follow on Instagram and we sincerely hope her loneliness is no longer killing her. Get on your feet for Grammy Award winning pop princess Britney Spears!! And the nominees are:

Favorite Podcast or Viral Videos

Broken Skull Sessions w/ “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has segued nicely from opening up a can o’ whoopass in the wrestling ring to a variety of entertainment projects that keep him in the pop culture consciousness. While I don’t particularly care for his Broken Skull Challenge on CMT or Straight Up Steve Austin on USA Network, I do like his Broken Skull Sessions, which is just a conversation between Austin and another wrestling legend or current star. I you’re a wrestling fan it’s not a bad way to spend 60-90 minutes of your evening.

Tipsy Bartender

Bartender Skyy John is still slinging drinks online. Sometimes his creations are kind of wacky, and lately he’s altered his format a bit, but I still must give him a shoutout. If he eliminates the stupid music that’s all the sudden become a thing and gets back to entertaining us with his infectious personality while preparing those crazy concoctions that’d be nice.  

Oral Sessions w/ Renee Paquette

Formerly known as Renee Young in WWE, Paquette has moved on but hasn’t totally escaped pro wrestling. That’s probably not going to happen since she’s married to AEW star Jon Moxley (aka Dean Ambrose) and the couple welcomed a baby girl just a few months ago. Oral Sessions differs from Austin’s show in that occasionally Paquette will interview someone outside of the wrestling realm, usually an MMA fighter, although she had her mother on once as well.

Men with the Pot

Calm down, it’s not what it sounds like…it is a cooking show, but can’t be compared to anything you’ll see on Food Network. These are simple, brief, minimalist videos made by two Polish dudes in Ireland. They’re usually about 5-10 minutes in length and show some tasty vittles being cooked out in the wild, almost like a virtual camping trip. Unlike most food-centric programs that focus on the personality of the host (I’m looking at you Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, & Bobby Flay) Men with the Pot doesn’t even show us who’s cooking. Perhaps we’ll see a hand or a leg, but otherwise there is no talking, no music, and no other sounds besides veggies being chopped, meat sizzling in an iron skillet, the gentle flow of a babbling brook, and the lovely chirping of birds. Oh, and the food always looks amazing!!

Food Dolls

Another cooking show that’s also rather austere & oddly soothing. The two hosts are lovely Egyptian-American sisters who would most certainly thrive as phone sex operators if this gig ever falls thru. The videos are usually a minute or less, meaning you’ll need to hunt down the recipe if you actually want to make the dish yourself. That being said, I don’t know about y’all, but as much as I enjoy watching other people cook on television or online I rarely attempt to actually cook the food they make. I don’t know why I enjoy such programs, but I do.

and the Sammy goes

Men with the Pot. I’m going to contradict myself. With Tipsy Bartender it’s all about the host and his extroversion. However, sometimes the direct opposite is a nice change of pace. Have you ever listened to ambient music to fall asleep?? Thunderstorms. A crackling fireplace. Gentle rain. Men with the Pot is exactly like that, only with food. Its charm is the lack of a host…no one talking or laughing or yelling or drawing attention to themselves. The food is the focus, and it’s mesmerizing.

To present our next award we thought “what the hell” and decided to utilize NASCAR driver Brandon Brown for a second time. Let’s go Brandon!!!! And the nominees are:

The Agony of Defeat Award

Simone Biles

I don’t generally pay attention to gymnastics, and I assume I’m not alone. It’s something we notice every four years when The Olympics come around. If you were to ask me who the best gymnast of all time is I’d throw out names like Mary Lou Retton (total WV bias) & Nadia Comaneci (because I’m old), but this past summer talking heads really tried to sell the idea that the title should belong to 24 year old Simone Biles. I guess recency bias is a real thing. But something odd happened on the way to immortality…saying she “felt the weight of the world” on her shoulders (which is sort of the whole point of Olympic competition), Biles withdrew from the team finals, individual all-around finals, and almost all the individual event finals that she’d qualified for, although she did end up winning a bronze medal in the balance beam competition. Team USA won the team silver, which likely would have been a gold medal had Biles led the group like she was supposed to do. Every talking head & soccer Mom jumped to the defense of Simone Biles and discussion of mental health issues came to the forefront (the only good thing to come out of the situation), but the only thing I could think was how I had never seen a world class athlete fold like a cheap suit on such a grand stage. Quite frankly it was embarrassing. We’ve all heard the phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”, and Simone Biles couldn’t so she did. She quit on her team & her country. I wish the young lady well in her future. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but sadly her legacy is forever tarnished.

The Cleveland Guardians of the Galaxy

The PC Police continue to destroy American culture piece by piece, and in 2021 it was MLB’s Cleveland Indians turn to be cancelled. The franchise announced that they’d be abandoning the Indians nickname and become the Cleveland Guardians, which is about as stupid of a choice as they could have possibly made.

Urban Meyer

He may be a good football coach, but to call Urban Meyer enigmatic would be kind. He’s well-travelled, which is a nice way of saying he’s an unreliable job hopper who bolts at the first sign of trouble. However, his departure from the Jacksonville Jaguars before the end of his first season at the helm was not Meyer’s choice. In October video of the coach being a bit too cozy with a woman other than his wife in a Columbus, OH restaurant went viral. To make matters worse, the Jags had just lost a game in Cincinnati, but Meyer didn’t go back to Jacksonville with the team, which is why he was in Columbus. Then in December accusations of mistreatment of players emerged, most notably former kicker Josh Lambo saying that Meyer literally kicked him in the leg. That was the final straw and the team decided to cut its losses. Will Urban Meyer land on his feet?? Probably. Some college team will give him another chance eventually, or he’ll land a TV gig.

147th Kentucky Derby

In 2020 the Kentucky Derby was another sporting event impacted by COVID, as it was delayed from its usual spot on the calendar in early May until September, and even then there were no fans in the stands, which was weird. 2021 saw a return to relative normalcy (Churchill Downs allowed 60% capacity). Unfortunately the outcome was marred by controversy, as winner Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance after the race. An investigation is still ongoing (why such a process takes more than eight months is baffling) and sadly the horse died in December.

The Olympics

The “2020” Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed until 2021 (I’ll give you three guesses as to why and the first two don’t count), and the event was made even less interesting than usual by the fact that no spectators were allowed at the venues. I don’t think I watched one second of The Olympics, and I don’t feel bad about that.

NIL & The Transfer Portal

In case you’ve been curious, NIL stands for “name, image, & likeness”. Last summer the NCAA instituted new rules that allow collegiate athletes to be paid thru marketing deals in which they can now take advantage of whatever level of fame they have achieved. The transfer portal was actually created in 2018, but didn’t cause much of a buzz until 2021 when additional rules went into effect allowing any athlete to transfer without having to sit out a year. For now they’re allowed to transfer once, but I expect that to be tweaked in the future. Essentially this is collegiate free agency, with the additional carrot of getting paid being dangled just to make things interesting. And while I believe that these rules were created with the best of intentions what we are now seeing are unintended, chaotic consequences, like Oklahoma’s freshman QB Caleb Williams entering the portal despite having supplanted a presumed Heisman candidate under center and leading his team to an 11-2 record. There are so many tentacles to this thing that recruiting has been rendered moot. It doesn’t matter what team lands a kid out of high school because that player can ditch his team for a better deal, whether that means more playing time, a higher profile program, or a better marketing deal. College sports are farm clubs for the NFL, NBA, & (to a lesser extent) MLB now. That’s probably been true for awhile, but they aren’t even pretending to hide it anymore.

MLB All Star Game

Thanks to ESPN and other sports media the worlds of sports & politics collide more & more these days. The 2021 All-Star Game was scheduled to be played in Atlanta, but then Georgia had to go & pass an election integrity law requiring voter ID and other measures to ensure fair elections. Integrity & fairness are abhorrent ideas to liberals, so heads exploded. Somehow this turned into MLB moving the All Star Game to Denver. I didn’t watch, I don’t know who won, and I don’t care.

Tiger Woods

We all know it’s been a rough decade for Tiger Woods. His personal life got messy and various ailments derailed his legendary golf career. At one time it seemed like a lock that he’d shatter Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major titles (U.S. Open, The Masters, British Open, PGA Championship). When everything imploded for Tiger in 2009 he had won 14 majors in twelve years. He had begun to make a bit of a comeback, culminating in winning his fifth Masters in 2019 at age 43. That victory provided a glimpse of the old Tiger and made us believe that maybe…just maybe…he still had an opportunity to catch The Golden Bear. Unfortunately, on February 23, 2021 Tiger rolled his vehicle near Los Angeles and suffered significant injuries to both of his legs. Even Woods himself admits now that his days as a full-timer on the PGA Tour are over and, though he’ll likely still play in as many majors as possible, his pursuit of Nicklaus will probably fall short.

and the Sammy goes to…..

NIL & The Transfer Portal. The guise of “student-athletes” has been laughable for a long time, but it was still fun to pretend that these young people were amateurs. That’s finished now, atleast when it comes to football & basketball. High school quarterback Quinn Ewers matriculated to Ohio St. and was so highly touted that he signed a $1.4 million NIL deal. He got into one game with the Buckeyes…two snaps in garbage time…and was beaten out for the starting gig by redshirt freshman CJ Stroud, who was a Heisman finalist. So Ewers took his ball & went home to play for Texas, where he’ll probably be the starter next season. But don’t worry, cause he’s sitting on a million Gs after accomplishing literally NOTHING. Does anyone see an issue with that?? NFL legend Deion Sanders is now the head coach at 1-AA/FCS Jackson St., and Coach Prime made waves by recruiting five-star cornerback Travis Hunter. To the surprise of almost everybody Hunter chose Jackson St. over Florida St., Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and others. Rumors have swirled that he also has a $1.5 million NIL deal on the table, although that is unconfirmed. Does anyone actually think the young man will stay more than a year at Jackson St.?? I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t enter the portal a year from now and end up at one of the elite schools that recruited him in the first place. It’s crazy. It’s a free-for-all. And I don’t think any of it is good for collegiate athletics.

To present our next award The Sammys are turning to a trio of actors known primarily for their television work, specifically in daytime dramas. Two gentlemen left their longtime roles on ABC’s General Hospital after Disney (perhaps the world’s most evil corporation, ironically) imposed silly vaccine mandates and they refused to bow to the pressure. They are joined by a beautiful young lady whose departure from General Hospital in 2020 was not her choice. She has since become one of my favorite follows on Instagram, especially after her family adopted a beautiful pug puppy that reminds me so much of my dearly departed Rocco. You may know them as Jasper Jacks, Jason Morgan, & Lulu Falconeri, but we’re pretty excited to give it up for Ingo Rademacher, Steve Burton, & Emme Rylan!! And the nominees are:

Favorite Movie

Coming 2 America

The long overdue sequel to the 1998 classic starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, & James Earl Jones finds Prince Akeem of Zamunda returning to New York City to find the son he never knew he produced. Hilarity ensues…kind of. I didn’t hate it, but it doesn’t measure up to its predecessor. Is nostalgia a good enough reason to create…anything?? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question to ponder. At any rate, Murphy isn’t as funny as he might have been three decades ago, but I’ll take Eddie Murphy at half speed over most of the people kids believe are funny nowadays.

The Addams Family 2

The Addams Family has spawned TV shows, cartoons, movies, and just about everything else you can imagine. In 2019 they returned to the big screen in computer animated form, and this is the sequel to that film. It’s mildly entertaining but mostly forgettable. My perspective is biased by the fact that, right around the time this movie hit theaters, our local community theater produced a high quality stage production of The Addams Family Musical that had been nominated for a Tony Award in 2010. The musical I saw (twice) was far superior to this movie.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

The third installment of Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise dives into something called The Multiverse. I’m not a comic book nerd so I can’t give you a detailed explanation, but I’ll just say it’s pretty trippy. I have never seen any of the MCU movies other than the Spider-Man flicks, all three of which I have enjoyed immensely. At this point I am sure most everyone has either seen the movie or read spoilers, but I won’t go there. Suffice to say that it is well-written with fine performances, has a lot of action, and isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours. It is exactly what good popcorn cinema should be.

American Underdog

I’m a sucker for a good biopic, and I understand why some would think Kurt Warner’s story is interesting enough to be made into a movie. That being said, despite the fact that Warner is an NFL Hall-of-Famer, two-time League MVP, and one time Super Bowl MVP, my initial reaction to hearing about the film was “They made a movie…about Kurt Warner??”. That’s a good thing though because I set the bar low and didn’t have any kind of grand expectations, making it that much easier for the finished product to exceed them, which it did. American Underdog isn’t going to be remembered in the same conversation with the greatest sports movies or even the best biopics, but it’s entertaining enough.

King Richard

As much of a sports nut as I am tennis has never frosted my cupcake. I know just enough about the game & its personalities to carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation, but that’s about it. However, you’d have to have been living under a rock the past couple of decades not to have heard of Venus & Serena Williams, who have become two of the best players of all time. The movie isn’t about them though…not really. Their father, Richard, is the ultimate helicopter parent, but he is portrayed in such a way that we don’t hate him. He dreams up a life plan for his girls when they are just babies, and he’s hellbent & determined to follow thru. He wants them to be professional tennis players and is willing to make sacrifices to make that happen. We’ve seen similar stories, but usually the parents are depicted as self-centered & borderline abusive. Richard Williams isn’t either of those things really…he’s just doggedly single-minded and sort of crazy, but in a sympathetic, non-threatening way. Is the film an accurate portrayal of Richard?? Who knows?? It is a really good movie though, and if Will Smith doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor it will be a crime.     

Tom & Jerry

If you are of a certain age and grew up watching Tom & Jerry cartoons you’ll enjoy it well enough, but that’s as far as I can go. The technology is cool, putting the titular twosome in real world places & backgrounds that are not animated. The issue I have is that Tom D. Cat and Jerome A. Mouse are supporting characters in their own movie. The plot revolves around a down-on-her-luck 20-something who deceives her way into a job at a swanky hotel just as it is preparing to host a lavish celebrity wedding. The whole thing could’ve been a lighthearted rom-com without any critters and not changed all that much. But their cat & mouse game (I could NOT help myself) does drive the story to the point that the wedding is destroyed (literally), so I suppose that’s the idea. At the end of the day though there is way too much humanity for an alleged animated film.

In the Heights

Lin-Manuel Miranda could retire as the dude who gave us Hamilton and that would be enough, but he’s back with what can best be described as a love letter to the Latino community, specifically Washington Heights in New York City’s Upper Manhattan. The music is lively & fun, and the performances are fantastic. I am sure those from a similar background that identify closely with the story love the movie more than me, and I mean that respectfully. I enjoyed it and liked the music, but understand completely that I am not the target audience. Miranda set the bar impossibly high with Hamilton, and while In the Heights tries mightily, it falls short of the mark.

and the Sammy goes to…..

King Richard. I’m not really a huge Will Smith fan. His filmography is hit & miss for me, but when he hits he knocks it out of the ballpark. I think it helps that I’m not really into tennis, know very little about the lives of The Williams Sisters, & had no preconceived notions about Richard Williams. That being said, I found Smith’s performance enthralling and the tale itself fascinating. Rotten Tomatoes has it rated 91% fresh, and I have to agree.

It’s time or another break, but we’ll be  back soon with the exciting climax of the 2021 Sammys!!

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 16  

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

My Season: 45-56

Zach’s Season: 42-59

New England at Indianapolis (-2.5)

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

My Pick: Indianapolis 

Z’s Pick: New England

Atlanta at San Francisco (-8.5)

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

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Atlanta 

NY Jets at Miami (-8.5)

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

My Pick: NY Jets 

Z’s Pick: Miami 

Houston at Jacksonville (-3)

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

My Pick: Jacksonville 

Z’s Pick: Houston 

New Orleans at Tampa Bay (-10.5)

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

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

2021 PIGSKIN PICKS OF PROFUNDITY…WEEK 5

We didn’t pick the Clemson game last week, but please indulge me while I give myself a rare pat on the back. In my pre-season poll I pondered the question “Could it be that the ACC is getting better just as the (Clemson) Tigers aren’t quite as elite as they have been??”. It didn’t go down exactly like I thought it would, but yeah…I called it!! No playoff for Clemson this season. Now, if only my weekly picks in these games were as accurate. Sadly both Zach (2-3) and myself (1-4) struggled again last week, so I’m going against my better judgement by chasing wins with bonus picks. Y’all are welcome, even though it may just blow up in our faces.

My Season: 11-15

Zach’s Season: 10-16

Florida International at Florida Atlantic (-10.5)

I can’t be the only one who gets these two teams mixed up, so let’s take a little climb up the learning tree. The 2-2 Florida Atlantic Owls call Boca Raton (45 miles north of Miami) home, represent Conference USA, and are coached by Willie Taggart (former head coach at Oregon & Florida St.). The 1-3 Florida International Panthers are out of Miami, also play in C-USA, and their head coach is Butch Davis (who has also coached for Miami, North Carolina, & the Cleveland Browns). I don’t think there’s much of a home field advantage to be had, and in rivalry games like this most other conventional rules can be tossed aside. So it comes down to vibes and what assumptions one can make based on what we’ve seen thus far. FAU lost to Florida & Air Force, allowing both teams to score 30+ points. FIU has only played one game against top tier competition, and that was a four TD+ loss to Texas Tech. This feels like a relatively low scoring, tight game to be decided by turnovers, penalties, & special teams. Something along the lines of 28-24, which means that I don’t like the spread at all and will take the underdogs to cover. Zach concurs. 

My Pick: Florida International 

Z’s Pick: Florida International

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Notre Dame 

I had to look at those odds multiple times utilizing a few different sources. Sure, Cincy is a solid team that had two consecutive 11 win seasons before last year’s abbreviated campaign in which they logged 9 victories before narrowly losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. They handled a well regarded Indiana team last week. I am by no means saying that the Bearcats aren’t good. However, they’re an AAC team typically not on the same level as a program like Notre Dame. Not only that, but this game is in South Bend and the 4-0 Irish have given no one any reason to doubt them outside of being pushed into overtime by Florida St. in the season opener. Hell, they took Wisconsin’s best punch a week ago and still won by 4 TDs, so what am I missing?? Why is Cincinnati favored in this game?!?!?!?? It sounds pretty insane to me, so I’m going with the home team to score the “upset”. Conversely, Zach believes the Bearcats are for real and this is their opportunity to prove they belong in the playoff conversation. 

My Pick: Notre Dame 

Z’s Pick: Cincinnati 

Ole Miss at Alabama (-14.5)

Well, atleast we don’t have to worry about Clemson in the playoff, so it’ll be fresh to some degree. Now if only we could see the Tide lose a couple of games and fall out of contention, how cool would that be?? Unfortunately that’s probably not going to happen. ‘Bama has won four games by an average of 29 points, although it should be noted that they’ve not faced anyone with a pulse other than Florida, a game they only won by two points. The Rebels are 3-0 and have also beaten up on clearly inferior competition. In attendance will be highly touted recruit Arch Manning, Peyton & Eli’s nephew. It is my understanding that both Ole Miss & Alabama are high on his list, so it’ll be interesting to hear down the line how this game affected his decision. At any rate, if it were being played in Oxford I might be tempted to pick the upset. Enigmatic Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin spent a few years as ‘Bama’s offensive coordinator awhile back so obviously he’d love to snatch a shocking victory. However, with the game being contested in Tuscaloosa I just don’t see it happening. The only question is if the home team can cover the points, and I believe they will. Zach’s man crush on Nick Saban makes his choice easy. 

My Pick: Alabama

Z’s Pick: Alabama 

Arkansas at Georgia (-18.5)

I didn’t think the Razorbacks were legit, but I was wrong. They handled Texas A&M and moved into the Top 10. Unfortunately they now must travel to Athens and challenge the undefeated #2 Bulldogs. I’d be really surprised if Georgia loses, but can they cover?? The points feel a bit disrespectful. Having said that, it feels like a “go big or go home” moment, and I did pick Georgia to be a playoff team and thus far they’ve done nothing to dissuade me, so I’m counting on them to notch a three touchdown victory. Zach respects Georgia’s defense & team speed, but he doesn’t like the spread and thinks Arkansas will keep it close.

My Pick: Georgia

Z’s Pick: Arkansas 

Detroit at Chicago (-3)

Good Lord the Bears were awful a week ago. At the time of publication it is unknown whether the Bears’ starting QB will be rookie Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or Nick Foles…but does it matter?? Conversely, the Lions are coming off a last second loss to the Baltimore Ravens in which it took the longest field goal in NFL history to beat them. Can they use that heartbreaking defeat as motivation?? If they were playing a playoff caliber team I might have doubts, but the Bears aren’t that, so I think Detroit scores the mild upset. Zach agrees on all counts. 

My Pick: Detroit 

Z’s Pick: Detroit 

Seattle at San Francisco (-3)

In my NFL Preview I predicted that the NFC West would be fun to watch, and so far they have not disappointed. This game might end up being a factor in a few months when deciding a playoff spot, and don’t think for a second these teams don’t realize that. Seattle lost to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, while ‘Frisco was on the losing end of an unsurprising Aaron Rodgers miracle, so both clubs will be looking to rebound. I think the home field actually does make a difference, so I’m picking the Niners. Zach, on the other hand, believes potential league MVP Russell Wilson will lead his team to victory. 

My Pick: San Francisco 

Z’s Pick: Seattle 

Arizona at LA Rams (-6)

Staying in the NFC West, these are the teams I believe will be battling for the division crown at the end, so it’s a pretty big early season matchup. Both are undefeated, but obviously that’ll change for one of them. It looks like the trade for QB Matthew Stafford was a wise move for the Rams, while the Cards have developed into a seemingly complete team. This is a tossup for me, but whoever wins I think it’ll be by less than a touchdown. Zach foresees a close game but believes the home team will cover. 

My Pick: Arizona 

Z’s Pick: LA Rams 

Tampa Bay (-6.5) at New England

It’s the Brady Bowl. I’m sure the folks in Boston & Tampa are pumped, but personally I’d rather see both teams lose. That being said, I think it’s been well established by now that the “Patriot Dynasty” was more about Brady than it ever was about Belichick. The oddsmakers seem to agree since the home team is a near touchdown underdog. The Sunday Night Football folks at NBC are probably going to be disappointed because I think this one will be over rather quickly and the defending Super Bowl champs might win by 4 or 5 TDs. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Tampa Bay 

Z’s Pick: Tampa Bay 

2021 NFL Preview & Prognostications

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

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

North

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

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 10-7

Cleveland Browns (11-5) 9-8

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 8-9

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

East

Buffalo Bills (13-3) 11-6

New York Jets (2-14) 8-9

New England Patriots (7-9) 8-9

Miami Dolphins (10-6) 7-10

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

West

Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) 11-6

Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) 10-7

Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) 7-10

Denver Broncos (5-11) 7-10

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

South

Tennessee Titans (11-5) 12-5

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 11-6

Houston Texans (4-12) 5-12

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) 5-12

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

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

AFC Champion: Tennessee Titans

 

East

Washington Redskins (7-9) 10-7

Dallas Cowboys (6-10) 9-8

New York Giants (6-10) 7-10

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

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

West

Arizona Cardinals (8-8) 11-6

Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 10-7

Seattle Seahawks (12-4) 9-8

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

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

North

Minnesota Vikings (7-9) 9-8

Green Bay Packers (13-3) 9-8

Chicago Bears (8-8) 6-11

Detroit Lions (5-11) 1-16

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


South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 13-4

New Orleans Saints (12-4) 8-9

Atlanta Falcons (4-12) 6-11

Carolina Panthers (5-11) 5-12

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

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

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

 

Tennessee Titans 24

Green Bay Packers 19

Top Five Picks in 2022 NFL Draft

1 Detroit Lions

2 Houston Texans

3 Jacksonville Jaguars

4 Carolina Panthers

5 Philadelphia Eagles

 

Winning & Musing…Volume 2.21

Sadly football season is now over. Atleast we have Modified March Madness, the Daytona 500, & golf on the horizon, right?? The sports calendar may have its lulls, but they never last for long. 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the new Hall of Fame inductees: WR Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions), who could’ve played atleast five more seasons and might’ve been considered the greatest receiver ever if he’d been on a perennial championship contender. O-Lineman Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh Steelers). DB John Lynch (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). QB Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts & Denver Broncos), who I will always consider a superior quarterback to Tom Brady. DB Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders & Green Bay Packers), whose combined success in college & the NFL is probably under appreciated. WR Drew Pearson (Dallas Cowboys), who should have been in the HoF thirty years ago. Pittsburgh Steelers scout Bill Nunn, who played a huge part in building the 1970s dynasty. Former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Flores. Not making the cut: O-Lineman Tony Boselli, linebackers Zach Thomas, Clay Matthews, & Sam Mills, and receivers Torry Holt & Reggie Wayne. 

 

 

A few friends posted on social media the day before the Super Bowl expressing total indifference about the Big Game. Actually I have several friends like that – absolutely no interest in sports whatsoever. To each their own, but honestly I’m very thankful to be a sports fan. Watching ball games, golf, & car races on TV has helped me thru some dark times at various points in my life. This past year I have observed several of my Facebook friends doing outdoor activities like fishing & hiking, and I’m a bit jealous. Such things are basically pandemic proof, which I’m sure has been a blessing for them. Unfortunately I’ve never been physically able to be outdoorsy, so I’ve relied heavily on simply being a sports fan. 

 

 

Real Time Super Bowl Thoughts:  

  • H.E.R.?? 👀 Stupid moniker, but she can sing, play guitar, & has a nice rack. 
  • I’m not a country music fan, but I might have to check out this Eric Church guy. Nice job on the anthem, although two voices aren’t necessarily a good thing. The lady singing kind of overpowered him. 
  • You mean that poet’s 15 minutes aren’t up yet?? ⌚️ Guess I can’t blame her for striking while the iron is hot. 
  • The Door Dash commercial with The Muppets is cute. 
  • “Jumping offside really does help you get to the QB sooner.” That’s some Booger McFarland level insight from Tony Romo 🤣.
  • Matthew McConaughey, Doritos, & Queen…an oddly compelling combination. Will Ferrell’s GM commercial is amusing. How can you have a group of Bud Light Legends without Spuds McKenzie or The Frogs?? Maybe that’s Budweiser?? I don’t know. On the rare occasion I drink beer I prefer good beer 🍺.
  • TB 7, KC 3 at the end of the 1st  Q. More defense & smash mouth football than most expected, and I’m okay with that. 
  • Mountain Dew Melon?? No thanks 🤢.
  • BIG 2nd Q goal line stand for the KC defense!!
  • The Jason Alexander Tide commercial is low key brilliant if you get the background music joke. TMobile, Gwen Stefani, & Blake Shelton…okay, I get it. Not bad 🤷🏻‍♂️.
  • 21-6…Tampa leads at the half. The Chiefs are making too many mental errors. 
  • A reasonably entertaining halftime show. I’m sure people far younger, allegedly way cooler, and more familiar with The Weekend than me will hype it as the best ever, but I’m nostalgic for the days of Prince, Michael Jackson, & Justin Timberlake. 
  • The Uber Eats Wayne’s World spot just made me sad. Wayne & Garth are looking old 👀.
  • Gronk is a freakin’ beast. I can’t hate on him like I do Brady. 
  • Dear Ashton Kutcher: Don’t. Ever. Sing. Again.
  • Tampa is up 31-9 at the end of Q3. If anyone but KC was the opponent I’d be changing the channel, but with Mahomes I feel like anything can happen.
  • “Only” 25k fans in a stadium that can seat over 65k. Will this event come to be known as a “super spreader”, or is that kind of thing over now that we have a new President?? 🏟
  • Blaine Gabbert now has more Super Bowl rings than Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, & Fran Tarkenton…combined. Life isn’t fair. 
  • I hope Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t celebrate with fireworks 🎇.
  • As a proud alumnus of Marshall University I can put aside my disdain for TB12 long enough to be happy for Bucs’ offensive coordinator & former Herd QB Byron Leftwich.
  • 31-9 Final. Tampa wins. The fallacy of The Patriots Dynasty has been exposed.  Belichick really is that coach who went 36-44 with the Cleveland Browns. It was Brady all along. He now has more titles than any franchise in NFL history, let alone individual players. Bastard. 
  • One thing the NFL does better than the other pro & even college leagues: the whole deal is over by 10:30pm. It’s Sunday night & people have to go to work in the morning, so the average fan doesn’t want to stay up until midnight. 

Winning & Musing…Volume 1.21

Hey sports fans…we’re back. I’ve already been more prolific in January than I was all of last year, and it feels good. I didn’t like much of anything that happened in 2020, so it’s nice getting the new year started off in a better frame of mind. Anyway, let’s talk about balls. Well, you know what I mean 😉.

 

 

 

 

I’ll be honest…I dozed off & missed most of the CFP National Championship Game, and I’m okay with that. Ohio State should’ve never been there after playing only half of a season, and I’m beyond tired of Alabama. You’re mileage may vary & that’s okay.

 

 

A couple of weeks ago on Highly Questionable ESPN talking head Israel Gutierrez actually suggested that it would be “crazy powerful” for Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers to skip his team’s first playoff game in response to the unfortunate events that had taken place in Washington DC a couple of days before. Now I’ve heard some real head scratchers on that channel the past few years (a big reason sports fans like myself & many others have stopped watching as much as we once did), but that statement from Gutierrez might be one of the dumbest things uttered by anyone anywhere in my 40+ years on the planet. He should’ve been fired immediately and dragged out of the building in a straitjacket…it was that incomprehensibly stupid. To suggest that an MVP level quarterback whose team has a very real opportunity to win the Super Bowl should sit out to make a political statement is just…insane?? Ridiculous?? Pathetic?? All of the above?? You tell me.

 

Hot Stove Time…

My Pittsburgh Pirates were in the news recently after signing 16 year old outfield prospect Shalin Polanco from the Dominican Republic. One might assume something like that would elicit cheers from the Pirates’ faithful, but you’d be wrong. Understand, we’ve seen this movie before. One of two things will happen…a) the kid will be a total bust, or b) just as he’s entering his best years as a player Pittsburgh will trade him for a bunch of prospects and he’ll go to the World Series with his new team. Those of us that have been rooting for the Bucs for any length of time suffer from what I call Battered Fan Syndrome. We don’t believe anything great is on the horizon for them and if it is we’re pretty sure they’ll screw it up. You may call it cynical, but really it is just self-preservation. 

 

Y’all may want to record this for posterity because I’m about to say something nice about Tom Brady…

I never want to hear the phrase “Patriots Dynasty” ever again. If this football season has proven anything it’s that the New England Patriots needed Tom Brady a whole hell of a lot more than Brady needed the Patriots. New England went 7-9, while Brady has Tampa (who went 7-9 last season) in the NFC title game. I hope this doesn’t happen, but IF Brady wins the Super Bowl with another team everyone should start using the term “Brady Dynasty”.

 

I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies, but I like the idea of an elite player winning a championship then retiring…going out on top. I fancy the notion of a guy hitting a home run in his last at bat or making a buzzer beating three-pointer in his final game. But that’s not usually the way it goes, is it?? Professional athletes often have a hard time recognizing when their skills are diminishing. They want one more opportunity to get a ring, so they stick around for a season or two or three too long. Oftentimes they play those years with different teams than the one that made them a household name. They sacrifice their legacy chasing one last shot at glory. The good thing is eventually we are able to put aside that sad limp to the finish line and focus on the highlights, but how cool would it be if our sports heroes never had that heartbreaking end that we need to erase from our memory?? Unfortunately that’s not how it works.

The 2020 Sammy Awards – Part I

Awards Season has arrived!!

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the 2020 Sammy Awards!! It is with no small amount of trepidation that we take a look back at a year that most would likely just as soon forget, but after taking a hiatus from these awards in 2019 the decision has been made to press on. We’ll do the best we can to do our little tongue-in-cheek review of all the ups & downs of the past twelve months with as much positivity & mirth as possible, while also treating certain subjects with the respect & gravitas they deserve.

 

This actually seems like the perfect time to bring back The Sammys. After all, it’s a fake awards show, so there is no social distancing or masks required, although if you feel it necessary to get tested for Covid-19 when we are done that is your decision. This year’s show would obviously be broadcast on Zoom and perhaps Facebook Live, although those damn “fact” checkers might be a problem (thanks to that affluent douchebag Zuckerberg). At any rate, as always, we consider The Sammy Awards to be much cooler that The Oscars or The Grammys, and much more relevant than anything presented on MTV.  We originally invited the lovely Hilaria Baldwin (wife of actor Alec Baldwin) to be our host, but unfortunately she is quarantining after contact tracing determined she may have been exposed to The Coronavirus (or, as she is calling it, The “Spanish” Flu). Fortunately we found a last minute replacement (actually a major upgrade), and it is a huge honor to welcome an Academy Award nominated actor and star of legendary films like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, & Scrooged. Please give a warm welcome to Bill Murray!!

 

After an amusing opening monologue from our esteemed host it is time to present our first award. To do that we are thrilled to welcome back not only a former NFL lineman & Hall-of-Fame broadcaster, but the winner of multiple Sammy Awards who recently departed ESPN (he’s a white male so he no longer aligns with their wokeness) after two decades of awesomeness. Eat a donut in honor of Mike Golic Sr!! And the nominees are:

 

 

The Thrill of Victory Award

 

Las Vegas Raiders

I’m not sure on field expectations were all that high for the Raiders coming off a 7-9 record in 2019, their third losing season in a row. However, everyone associated with the team and the entire fanbase had to be psyched about a change of scenery to Sin City. Then Covid-19 happened, so instead of playing in front of 65,000 screaming fans at the brand spanking new Allegiant Stadium the Raiders got to play in an empty or nearly empty venue (the rules seemingly differed for each team and changed weekly). But while that is sad there is hope for the future. The Raiders finished 8-8, nearly making the playoffs. America’s Playground will bounce back, and there are strong reasons to believe their new hometown football team will be part of the recovery.

 

LSU’s National Championship

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the Bayou Bengals beat Clemson on January 13, 2020 to claim their fourth National Championship in football. Unfortunately they were unable to follow-up on that success this season and finished with a 5-5 record.

 

Kansas City Wins Super Bowl

QB Patrick Mahomes was the 10th choice in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, meaning nine teams passed on him. In just his third season Mahomes made those nine teams look totally foolish when he led the Chiefs to a win over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl to claim their first Lombardi Trophy in a half century.

 

Dodgers Win World Series

The Sickness negatively affected sports in a multitude of ways in 2020, and one result was a truncated 60 game MLB regular season. To be honest I was facing my own challenges last summer and paid very little attention to baseball, but the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in a World Series that no hardcore fan outside of Los Angeles will ever remember with much reverence or respect. Congrats I guess.

 

Brady’s Move

Regardless of what the talking heads say I will never recognize Tom Brady as the GOAT, but I was thankful to see him leave the hated New England Patriots after two decades and six Super Bowl victories. His move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave us the opportunity to find out who was more responsible for the Pats’ success…Brady or head coach Bill Belichick. The result?? New England missed the playoffs for only the second time since 2000 (the first was 2008 when Brady went down with a torn ACL in the opener and missed the rest of the season), while Tampa finished 11-5 and will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007. I have to admit I am somewhat surprised how it all shook out.

 

Lebron Gets Another Ring

The NBA had their season interrupted by The Sickness and had to play the entirety of their playoffs in a “bubble” in Orlando, FL. At the end of the day the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to win their 17th title. Lebron James is now 36 years old and has played in the NBA nearly half his life, winning four rings in the process. He may not be the greatest player on the planet anymore, but he’s still better that 95% of the league.

 

Tyson’s Comeback

Mike Tyson last fought professionally in 2005, losing to a guy no one had ever heard of. It was an ignoble ending to the legendary career of The Baddest Man on the Planet. Flash ahead to November 2020 when Tyson fought an 8 round exhibition against former Olympian Roy Jones Jr. The bout was scored a draw, but the sad part is that it took place at L.A.’s Staples Center in front of no fans. Under normal circumstances one can reasonably assume a raucous packed house would have made the event truly special, but it wasn’t to be. At 54 years of age it is unlikely that Tyson will receive many more opportunities, but it would be great to see him go out with a big crowd in attendance.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

The Kansas City Chiefs. 2020 was a pretty tough year for sports. Events were cancelled. Players & coaches tested positive for the virus and had to miss games. Seasons were abbreviated. Stadiums were empty. Fortunately KC won their championship before all of that was an issue. And it probably isn’t the last time they’ll be competing in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs look like they could be a team to be reckoned with for many years to come.

 

We feel like 2020 was such a traumatic experience that some cathartic laughter might be a good idea. To help us do that it is a pleasure to welcome back God’s Comic Brad Stine!!

 

 

After Brad Stine has tickled our funny bone with his unique brand of clean comedy it is time to present our next award. To do that it is a pleasure to welcome one of America’s funniest character actors. He has had roles in a variety of television shows, including Hearts Afire (a 90’s sitcom starring John Ritter & Markie Post), Reba, and Boston Legal, but his fame rose to new heights during the pandemic by way of hilarious & heartwarming viral videos, providing us all a chuckle when we really needed it. Please show some love for Leslie Jordan!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Favorite Viral Videos

 

Tipsy Bartender

Skyy John is an actor/bartender from The Bahamas. Apparently he has been doing Tipsy Bartender videos for several years but I am a little late to the party. The videos themselves are pretty short, but they are the perfect blend of informative & entertaining. I knew I was going to like Skyy when he made his affection for blue curacao (an orange liqueur) evident because Blue Hawaiians were one of my favorite drinks back in college.

 

Family Feud

Nothing is more of an indicator of the shifting winds of entertainment than Family Feud. How so?? Well, while I am rarely inclined to sit down & watch an entire half hour episode I’m more than happy to watch brief videos highlighting a particularly amusing question or a totally stupid answer that elicits a hilarious response from host Steve Harvey. I’m old enough to remember original host Richard Dawson kissing every female contestant on the lips…something that would be considered weird & inappropriate by modern standards. Instead, Harvey’s charm & comedic chops make the program entertaining, especially in small bites.

  

BatDad

Back in 2013 Blake Wilson purchased a Batman mask from a Target in Florida and began posting Vines of himself interacting with his wife & children while wearing the mask and talking in the low pitched throatiness popularized by Christian Bale’s version of The Caped Crusader in the Dark Knight movies. Seven years later Vine no longer exists and BatDad is divorced from his seemingly unamused wife Jen, but the videos are still going strong.

 

The Holderness Family

Penn & Kim Holderness used to be talking heads on TV news programs, but soon after posting some videos on YouTube in 2013 they became a lot more famous. Their videos consist of parody songs and other comedy bits poking fun at slice-of-life Americana like Hallmark Christmas movies & of course dealing with quarantine. They are quite talented & funny, and their two children seem to enjoy being part of the show.

 

The Williams Sisters on Instagram

Kimberly Williams-Paisley & her sister Ashley Williams are both actresses. These days they mostly star in television movies, but Kimberly’s very first acting gig was in 1991’s Father of the Bride (one of my favorite movies of all time), while I still remember Ashley from the sitcom Good Morning Miami that only lasted one season almost twenty years ago. During the pandemic they have been going live on Instagram once a week, and it’s just a conversation between two sisters. They cover a wide array of subjects, laughing hysterically the entire time. Ashley especially has an infectious laugh. I have come to appreciate simplicity, and the charm of two sisters just having fun talking to each other and letting us eavesdrop is undeniable.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

Tipsy Bartender. I don’t even drink anymore. I sowed my wild oats in college, but now, more than two decades later, you are much more likely to see me drinking skim milk or iced tea than liquor, and my favorite kind of beer is root beer. Mixology has always intrigued me though, so I enjoy watching various concoctions being created even if I know darn well I’ll never drink it myself. It’s kind of like my affection for The Food Network despite the fact that my own culinary efforts rarely go beyond throwing something in the microwave or cooking spaghetti then tossing a jar of sauce over it. If you enjoy an occasional adult beverage these videos are fascinating and a lot of fun.

 

 

Our next award is a very special honor being given to a person who has been an influence in my life for thirty years. To make the presentation we are pleased to welcome two young ladies who have likely looked to our honoree as an inspiration in their own careers as political pundits and will carry on his legacy for many years to come. Please give a warm welcome to Candace Owens & Tomi Lahren!!

 

 

The Duffer-Herrell Lifetime Achievement Award

 

Rush Limbaugh

 

When I was in college my best friend Greg gave me a book entitled The Way Things Ought to Be. I had heard a little bit about Rush Limbaugh, but I thought he was a shock jock that I’d not find entertaining at all. I was wrong. I read Rush’s book and it was a revelation. He made so much sense, opening my eyes to ideas I’d never known I always believed. Over the next two decades I was an avid listener of his daily talk show, and really enjoyed the TV show he hosted all too briefly in the early 90’s. I am well aware that many people don’t like Rush at all, but I think a lot of those folks are misinformed. Though he has mellowed in recent years I readily admit that back in the day he could be quite abrasive, oftentimes intentionally offensive, and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I believe his reputation for being outrageous has always been overblown. More than once I have encountered people who claim they hated Rush but hadn’t actually listened to his program…something I’ve always found to be intellectually dishonest. You might not agree with his political beliefs, but Rush is hardly Satan’s evil minion. To be honest I think he was ahead of his time. People weren’t quite ready for his brutal honesty, refusal to kowtow to opposing ideas, and faux bravado three decades ago, but now everybody is copying his shtick and turning the volume to 11. Rush was a major player in the conservative movement of the mid-1990’s, and the Clinton years when Slick Willie was the perfect adversary for Rush to play off of were definitely the golden age of his reign over talk radio. I haven’t listened to his show all that much the past several years because I am not as into politics as I used to be. I no longer have the stomach for intense debate with people who will never try to see my point of view no matter how conciliatory I am toward them. The ballyhooed mean-spiritedness assigned to Rush pales in comparison to how divisive and malicious people can be these days. He’s kind of like the classic horror movies from the 1930’s…sure they are horror films, but they aren’t nearly as gory & violent as modern horror films. In that same way Rush’s alleged malevolence almost seems quaint when compared to what is presented every day & night on the cable news channels. At any rate, I spent countless hours thru the years learning from Rush, being entertained by him, and awakening to the indoctrination pervasive in so many powerful entities that shape & dictate our lives. Sadly Rush Limbaugh’s time in the public arena is coming to a close. He is battling lung cancer and has already lived longer than expected. I am sure there are people who will celebrate his demise, but I am not one of them. If you are I will say a prayer for you. To Rush all I can say is godspeed and thank you for everything you have meant in my life.

 

 

This feels like a good place to pause, but please stay tuned for Part 2 of The Sammy Awards…coming soon!!

 

2019 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…Week 5

As I am writing this I’m watching the Packers play the Eagles on Thursday Night Football, and there is also a college game of little consequence over on ESPN, so a weekend full of gridiron action has already begun. Before we move forward though let’s travel back to last weekend, when we both went 3-2. That brings me back above .500 for the season, with Zach still a couple of games behind. The overall schedule isn’t very compelling this go round, especially when trying to avoid focusing on the same teams every weekend. I kind of miss parity in football and hope it returns soon.

My Season:        12-11

Zach’s Season:  10-13

 

 

 

 

Arizona State              at                California (-4)

The Golden Bears have the home field and come into the game undefeated, with road wins over Ole Miss & Washington. The 3-1 Sun Devils are coming off a tough loss to Colorado, and things don’t get any easier. This is exactly the kind of late night game I’d get excited about in years past, but unfortunately I won’t see any of it due to my new work schedule. At any rate, I still believe in my man Herm Edwards and I think he’ll lead his team to an upset. Zach concurs.

My Pick:     Arizona St.

Z’s Pick:     Arizona St.

 

 

 

Ohio State (-17)                    at                Nebraska

So are the Cornhuskers back?? Ehhh…probably not. Sure they’re 3-1, but it’s way too early to say that head coach Scott Frost has his team back amongst the elite after losing records in 3 out of the past 4 years. The simple fact is they never should’ve left the Big 12 (which has ten teams) for the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) a decade ago. Conversely, the Buckeyes have their eye on a conference title and a playoff berth. They’re averaging over 50 points per game. Can Nebraska pull off the upset?? Well, anything is possible, but it seems unlikely. Can they cover the points?? That’s a much more interesting question. Usually I’m rather uncomfortable with such large point spreads, but The Vibes are telling me Ohio St. is up to the task. Zach strongly disagrees, and believes that Nebraska will “take out the trash”.

My Pick:     Ohio St.

Z’s Pick:     Nebraska

  

 

Kansas State                       at                Oklahoma State (-4)

Speaking of the Big 12, it’s the battle for third place (because we all know it’s going to come down to Oklahoma & Texas). The Wildcats are undefeated, with a notable victory over Mississippi St. a couple of weeks ago. They’re coming off a bye, which could be important. The Cowboys are 3-1, but there’s no shame in losing a close game to Texas in Austin. I’m not sure what to think about either of these teams, so it’s another Vibes situation for me, and I will lean toward the home field advantage. Zach thinks Oklahoma St. will pull away in the 4th quarter and get the win.

My Pick:     Oklahoma St.

Z’s Pick:     Oklahoma St.

 

 

New England (-7)                 at                         Buffalo

The talking heads have been doing their best to make this game seem interesting. The Bills are 3-0 and tied atop the AFC East. The Patriots oftentimes lose a game they’re supposed to win. Yada yada yada. I’d love to buy into all of that. Nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing Buffalo defend their home field with a huge victory. Sadly I don’t think things will turn out any different than usual. I hope I’m wrong. Zach doesn’t believe in the Buffalo hype at all and likes New England’s defense.

My Pick:     New England

Z’s Pick:     New England

 

 

Washington                 at                NY Giants (-3)

Hey, have you heard that the Giants have a new quarterback?? While I think it’s too early to fall at the feet of rookie Daniel Jones and weep in the presence of his glory, I’ve always felt like Eli Manning was overrated and don’t think he belongs anywhere near the Hall of Fame unless it’s to attend the induction of his brother Peyton. The next several games won’t be easy for the Giants while running back Saquon Barkley is out with a high ankle sprain, so it’s going to be up to their defense to carry the team and let Jones ease into his starting role. The Redskins are 0-3 and a total dumpster fire. I’ve been expecting head coach Jay Gruden to get the axe for a few years now, and his stubborn refusal to replace QB Case Keenum with rookie Dwayne Haskins may finally spell his doom. Having said that, my expectation is that Jones will be made to look like the rookie that he is by the Redskins defense, and I’ll even go out on a limb and predict that Haskins will get in the game at some point and lead his team to victory. Conversely, Zach is all in on Jones and foresees a double digit Giants win.

My Pick:     Washington

Z’s Pick:     NY Giants

2019 NFL Preview & Prognostications

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

 

  

 

 

North

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

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) 9-7

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

Cincinnati Bengals (6-10) 3-13

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

 

 

South

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) 10-6

Houston Texans (11-5) 9-7

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) 9-7

Tennessee Titans (9-7) 5-11

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

 

 

East

New England Patriots (11-5) 10-6

New York Jets (4-12) 8-8

Miami Dolphins (7-9) 8-8

Buffalo Bills (6-10) 3-13

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

 

 

West

Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) 11-5

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) 10-6

Oakland Raiders (4-12) 6-10

Denver Broncos (6-10) 3-13

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

 

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

AFC Championship:    New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers

 

 

 

 

North

Chicago Bears (12-4) 11-5

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

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

Detroit Lions (6-10) 5-12

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

 

 

South

New Orleans Saints (13-3) 14-2

Atlanta Falcons (7-9) 9-7

Carolina Panthers (7-9) 9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) 2-14

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

 

 

East

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) 10-6

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) 9-7

Washington Redskins (7-9) 7-9

New York Giants (5-11) 6-10

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

 

 

West

Los Angeles Rams (13-3) 10-6

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

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) 8-8

Arizona Cardinals (3-13) 4-12

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

 

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

NFC Championship:   New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears

 

 

 

             35

 

 

 

 

           34

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Picks in 2020 NFL Draft

1       Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2       Denver Broncos

3       Cincinnati Bengals

4       Buffalo Bills

5       Arizona Cardinals