Championship Round Picks

Ladies and gentlemen, we had ourselves a nice little Divisional Round. Nobody tell the IRS.

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Now I’d love to sit back and dwell on the past, but we’ve still got some work to do. Hit it.

Green Bay Packers (+6) @ Atlanta Falcons OVER 60.5

Aaron Rodgers, so hot right now. Aaron Rodgers. His performance at the quarterback position over the past 10 weeks has been truly remarkable. Over the Packers 8-game winning streak, Rodgers has thrown for 21 TDs and only 1 INT. He’s carried this out with injuries to seemingly every skills position player on the team. WRs Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, and Jeff Janis are all listed on the injury report. The least accomplished of the four, Jeff Janis, was the only receiver that practiced this week. To make matters worse, RB Christine Michael was added to the injury report on Saturday morning.

Aaron Rodgers has been playing lights out even with all of these injuries over the past two months. All of the Packers receivers practice all positions (slot, wide, stack, etc), so they truly have a ‘next man up’ system in place. They found a budding star in Geronimo Allison while Randall Cobb and Jared Cook were banged up. Now that Jordy is banged up, Allison and company are looking to continue building their momentum without missing a step. The Packers have put up 30+ points in their past 6 games, and I expect them to follow suit this week.

For the Atlanta Falcons, they boast the best scoring offense in the league, as they’ve scored 30+ points in 13 out of their 17 games this year. I’m telling you to take the over of 60.5. The main concern for Atlanta is the health of star WR Julio Jones, but he a full participant in practice Friday and plans on taking a full workload on Sunday. Julio has been combatting a toe injury all year, which while sounding minor, it is actually crucial in making the swift cuts that he’s known for.

These high flying offenses met earlier this year in Week 8. Atlanta won 33-32 on a Mohamed Sanu TD with 31 seconds left in the game. Green Bay held Julio Jones to a 3-29-0 line using coverages similar to the ones they used on Odell Beckham Jr during the Wild Card Round. They forced Matt Ryan to beat them with their lesser receivers, and as we saw throughout the year, Matty Ice will gladly take that. The depth of the Atlanta Falcons at all their skills positions are unparalleled around the league. He’s thrown touchdown passes to 13 different receivers this year.

This game has all signs pointing towards a shootout, as Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance will have to go blow for blow with Matt Ryan picking apart the Packers’ depleted secondary. You can make a valid argument for either team to come away with the victory, but I think that a six point spread is way too large. This game may go down to who has the ball last, which could lead us to a very similar conclusion as their Week 8 matchup.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots (-6)

Neither of these teams looked particularly good last week in the Divisional Round. The Steelers didn’t score a touchdown, and anybody watching the Patriots game would admit that the game seemed a LOT closer than it appeared. The difference between their games, however, is that the Steelers won on a questionable holding call on the late 2-point conversion attempt, and the Patriots won by 18 despite looking out of sync across the board. For the Pats, they relied on the fully healthy Dion Lewis to carry them to victory. Here’s an amazing stat regarding him:

A healthy Dion Lewis may be the greatest weapon that New England could have. His presence completely opens up the playbook. LeGarrette Blount doesn’t catch many passes while James White doesn’t have a true rushing upside. Get you a running back that can do both. That is Dion Lewis. The Patriots might have the best three headed monster at RB since the days of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw (Earth, Wind, & Fire) for the New York Giants.

Also trending upward for the Pats, WRs Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan intend on playing this week. Mitchell has become a pillar of the Pats’ passing offense, while Hogan is always a deep threat. That’ll keep the Steeler safeties out of the box, which in turn opens some gaps for Blount and Lewis.

If the Steelers want to keep this game close, they need to own the time of possession with Le’Veon Bell and win the Antonio Brown/Malcolm Butler matchup.

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It’s only fitting that these two square off after both starring in a Papa John’s commercial together this year. In their first head to head matchup, Antonio Brown put up a 9-133-1 stat line. Brown put up a 7-106-0 line against Butler this year, but that was with Landry Jones playing QB. Butler also had an end zone INT against Jones. If Malcolm Butler can mitigate the damage of Antonio Brown, then I don’t see the Steelers making a lot of noise in this game.

The Patriots’ run D held Le’Veon Bell to 81 rushing yards this season, and hasn’t allowed a runner to gain 90 yards in TWENTY FOUR straight games. If they continue the streak to 25, then I think Pittsburgh is in big trouble.

Also worth noting, a number of Steelers players and coaches have been getting sick throughout the week. I don’t think this is as big of a deal as some people are making it out to be, but I’m sure that some players will be playing a little underweight and a little fatigued due to lack of sleep and just the inconvenience of going through a sickness.

 

This is the last weekend of multiple football games until August. Stay here. Stay here as long as you can. For the love of God, cherish it. CHERISH IT!

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(Alleged) PED Users Belong in the Hall of Fame

The next class of baseball immortality will be announced Wednesday at 6 PM. One ballot, everybody knows the rules. HOWEVA, there is an added twist this year, as former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was elected to the Hall this past December. He took over during some of baseball’s darkest days, which included a strike-shortened 1994 season, an All Star game that resulted in a tie, and a bogus rule change to try to make All Star games matter. In his attempt to make baseball great again, Selig turned a blind eye towards the ‘bulk’ of the league ingesting performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) of all shapes and sizes. These roided-up metahumans were hitting and pitching balls harder, better, faster, and stronger than ever. Bud Selig’s election makes this year’s election a hot button issue. If the main enabler is let into the pearly gates of the Hall, then I see no reason why PED users should be left behind.

First of all, performance enhancing drugs were not illegal for at least part of these players’ careers. There wasn’t even drug testing in the MLB until 2003. Half of the allegations attached the these players is hearsay that hasn’t been proven in over two decades. These men took a legal competitive advantage and (most of them) stopped once their actions became banned. The Hall of Fame currently has members that threw spitballs, stole signs, were openly racist, and even were members of the KKK. So if the Hall of Fame is trying to hold out PED users citing some character issues, they have to take a long look down their own hallway to see what kinds of people they have let in previously.

Lets take a look at this year’s ballot. If the rules are TL;DR, you get to vote for up to 10 players. If a player gets at least 75% of the total votes, they’re in. If a player gets less than 5% of the total votes, they are off of the ballot for good. This year’s ballot has 15 returning players, and another 19 new players.

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Here’s who I think belongs in the Hall this year. They’ll just be in alphabetical order to keep things simple.

Jeff Bagwell

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That batting stance always baffled me, but Bags held it down for 15 years in Houston. He could hit for both power and average, as he totaled 449 career HRs while maintaining a .297 career batting average. He was a model of consistency, and has a Rookie of the Year award and MVP on his mantle to prove it. He just missed out last year with 71.6% of the vote, so I think he’s a shoo this year.

Barry Bonds

The Home Run King. Barry Bonds has been the main face of the MLB’s witch hunt to tackle former PED users. However, he never failed a drug test (as far as the public knows), so he should be given the benefit of the doubt. He holds the career record for HRs, walks, and was awarded the MVP award 7 times over his career. He is also the only player in MLB history to have 500+ home runs and 500+ stolen bases. For about 12 years, every at bat that Bonds had was must watch television. As the voters get younger, and the ballots become more and more public, I think more voters will start to check off Bonds. I think he’ll end up in the 69% (nice) range.

Roger Clemens

Where to begin with Roger Clemens. He’s the most dominant Red Sox pitcher not named Pedro Martinez to take the mound for them. He won 354 games and struck out 4,672 while maintaining a 3.12 career ERA. His rivalry with Mike Piazza was truly one of a kind, and it would’ve been incredible for the duo to be elected into the Hall together last year. Roger won 7 Cy Young Awards while also winning the MVP in 1986. I hope that this is the year that the voters get it right, but Roger may still be a year or two away from the Hall.

Vladimir Guerrero

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If you look up “free swinger,” a picture of Vladimir Guerrero pops up. Vladdy would routinely swing at pitches well out of the zone and poke them into the outfield for a hit. What is even more impressive is that he never struck over 95 times in a season, and hit .318 for his career. He also boasted an absolute cannon of an arm in right field and could throw a strike from 300 feet away. He ended up tied with Jeff Bagwell with 449 career HRs. I want Vlad to get in this year, but I think he falls just short of the 75% mark.

Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman never got the credit that he deserved primarily because he pitched during the same time period as Mariano Rivera. While MO was the sexy closer around the league that warranted a whole retirement tour, Hoffman finished ‘only’ 51 saves behind him in his career, tallying 601. He and Mariano were two of the first real closers in the MLB and their impact on the game is very prevalent today. I think that Hoffman should get in this year.

Manny Ramirez

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Manny’s legacy is largely tarnished due to two failed drug tests in 2009 and 2011. However, those both took place during his final days in the league (his rookie year was 1993). Manny Ramirez’s swing was the second most pure and beautiful behind newly inducted Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. He totaled 555 career home runs and 1,831 RBIs while hitting .312 for his career. He was a colorful personality both on and off the field, and will forever be remembered as one of the integral parts of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that reversed the curse. I’m interested to see how the voters decide with Manny, as this is his first year on the ballot. I’d estimate a little under 50% select him.

Ivan Rodriguez

Pudge could very well be the best defensive catcher to ever play the game. Not only did he have a cannon for an arm, he sustained a 21 year career at one of the most physically demanding positions in all of sports. He won 13 gold gloves! Pudgey could swing the ball as well. He put up 311 homers, a .296 career average, while winning the MVP in 1999. Put him in this year.

Curt Schilling

Pretend Curt Schilling never created a Twitter account. That may be the one thing holding him back from entering the Hall of Fame. Curt’s become a very right winged voice on the Internet and has found himself out of ESPN’s broadcasting booth because of it. But, don’t let the tweets fool you; Curt Schilling was a phenomenal pitcher in an era that was damn near impossible to pitch in without an edge (PEDs). Schilling had a Maddux-like approach and ended up walking only 711 batters compared to his 3,116 strikeouts over a 20 year career. Without being able to blow by hitters, Schilling relied on incredible poise, control, and nasty stuff to win games. He was able to strikeout 300 batters in a season 3 times, and will most likely be remembered for his performance in the 2001 World Series vs. the Yankees, and of course, the ‘Bloody Sock Game’ during Boston’s 2004 World Series run. Given his social media presence, however, I think that Curt is still a couple years out (if he doesn’t make things worse).

Gary Sheffield

Sheff had the big gold chains, the big arm in the outfield, and an even bigger swing.

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Sheffield played from age 19 to age 40 on a slew of teams. After a phenomenal season in San Diego in 1992, Sheff was stuck behind on the Florida Marlins’ depth chart and was unable to truly showcase his talents again until 1996. The next year, the Marlins won the World Series. Had Sheffield been given a better opportunity to play during those 4 years, who knows what he could have done. He ended up with 509 HRs while batting .292. He also won up 5 Silver Sluggers over his career. It might take him a couple years to get the required 75% of votes, but he should eventually get in.

Sammy Sosa

Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire may have single handedly saved baseball in the summer of 1998. It wasn’t a matter of IF one of them was going to break Roger Maris’ single season home run records, it was a matter of WHO and BY HOW MANY. McGwire ultimately won the race, but the buzz circulating the duo was much needed in winning back the fans. Sosa was a spark plug for the Chicago Cubs and his bunny hop after roping a shot into the streets.

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He’s been trending downward in recent years, but with Selig’s election, hopefully Sosa gets headed back in the right direction towards the Hall.

 

Well, there you have it. Depending on who you ask, up to 8 players on this list have been linked to rumors of using performance enhancing drugs. While only a couple of these cases have actual evidence, the circumstances surrounding their situations should be enough to green light these men into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The ‘Steroid Era’ will forever be a part of baseball history, and it’s memory should be celebrated like any other era, without an asterisk or any of that other nonsense.

 

P.S. Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, and Tim Raines were close to making this list. Tim Raines might actually get elected this year in his final year of eligibility, but I wasn’t around for the majority of his career. Besides his 808 stolen bases, his stats don’t jump off the paper, and I also don’t have a grasp of what his impact on the game was.

P.P.S. Let Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame.

P.P.P.S. Let Mark McGwire in the Hall of Fame.

Divisional Round Picks

This is the best weekend in professional football. The divisional round brings us games on both Saturday and Sunday, and Martin Luther King day is on Monday, meaning that you can say sayonara to the Sunday Scaries. The divisional round also boasts the top 8 7 teams in the NFL (looking at you, Houston), so the quality of the games is usually better than most. Coming off of a snoozefest of a Wild Card Weekend, lets hope that this weekend brings us something to get excited about.

 

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons (-4.5) OVER 51.5

The last time the Seattle Seahawks flew into the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Bryant kicked a go ahead FG and Julio Jones (yes, you read that correctly) sealed the game with an interception in the end zone. That was right as the Legion of Boom was fully healthy and making a name for themselves. This year, Seattle lost Earl Thomas to a leg injury in Week 13 and haven’t been the same since.

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Since Thomas’ injury, the Seahawks have had the benefit of facing Cam Newton, Jared Goff, Colin Kaepernick, and an injured Matthew Stafford while only suffering losses to Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer. MVP frontrunner Matt Ryan will be the greatest test this secondary has faced since Earl Thomas went down.

This Atlanta Falcon team tied the 2002 St. Louis Rams for most points scored in a single season. They were able to do so with injuries to Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman. They scored 30 or more points in 11 of their games.

When these two teams squared off in Week 6, the Seattle Seahawks pulled off a 26-24 win in Seattle. In that game, Julio put up a 7-139-1 performance against a defense that was missing Kam Chancellor. You can expect an even bigger stat line this week, as Chancellor is a more of a hard hitter than a coverage guy like Thomas. For Seattle, they won on the back of current Green Bay RB Christine Michael. He ran for 64 yards and 2 TDs. Since his release, Seattle has had a frustrating run game with Thomas Rawls, CJ Prosise, and Alex Collins. I think Rawls’ 161 yard performance last week against a defeated Detroit defense is an outlier and he will get nowhere close to that this week. CJ Prosise may return from injury this week, and his pass catching role will limit Rawls’ snaps.

I like the Atlanta Falcons to win this game in a shootout. They can score in the blink of an eye with playmakers in Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, and Devonta Freeman. They are incredibly deep on offense, and even their bottom of the depth chart guys were able to get crucial game experience this year in Jones’ absence. Their defense is led by budding stars in DE Vic Beasley Jr and S Keanu Neal. Seattle’s offensive line is badddddd and the combination of Vic Beasley Jr and Dwight Freeney!!! may make this a long day for them.

Also:

The last team to do that before the NFC Divisional Game ended up representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Just some food for thought.

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots (-15.5)

The Patriots should elect to start Jacoby Brissett again against the Houston Texans. Brissett was able to dismantle Houston 27-0 in a Week 3 Thursday Night Football showdown in Foxboro. Now take away JJ Watt for Houston, add a QB controversy, and that is the current state of the Texans. For the Pats, Tom Brady is back at the helm, Dion Lewis is back, and Michael Floyd is now on the team.

Brock Osweiler looked decent last week, as he was able to finally connect with DeAndre Hopkins. However, Pats CB Logan Ryan has been DeAndre’s kryptonite. In their previous two meetings, Ryan has held Hopkins to 3-52-0 and 4-56-0 performances. Granted, the Pats usually have a safety over top as well, but Hopkins is the only real legitimate threat on this offense. The Patriots run defense has been quietly staunch this season, as they allow only 88 yards per game, as well as only 6 rushing TDs. The Houston Texans could very well not score in this game. I’d just keep an eye on Will Fuller V toasting Malcolm Butler down a sideline.

The New England Patriots have a multitude of weapons on offense with Tom Brady playing quarterback. Is there anything left to say? They might as well start studying Kansas City and Pittsburgh film.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+2) @ Kansas City Chiefs

We have to keep our eyes on this:

Schools are closed, roads are shut down, and grocery stores are empty. Ticket prices are plummeting and fans are all over the Internet claiming that they aren’t going to risk driving to the stadium. What that means for this game is that it will become a battle in the trenches. Pro Football Focus ranks the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line as 3rd best in the league, while Kansas City is ranked 14th. I also don’t need PFF to tell me that Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West can’t as much as sniff Le’Veon Bell’s jockstrap on the field.

Ben Roethlisberger has been in a walking boot since suffering a late game injury against Miami last week but isn’t listed on the injury report. Rumor has it that he actually plays better with an injury. The killer B’s were in full force last week as Ben, Bell, and Antonio Brown were responsible for 24 out of the 30 points scored for the Steelers. Brown took 2 early passes for 50 and 62 yard touchdowns while Bell razzled and dazzled for 167 yards and 2 scores on the ground. In their matchup in Week 4, Big Ben threw for 5 TDs, while Antonio caught 2 and Le’Veon ran for 144 yards. Since Kansas City doesn’t shadow receivers across the field, Roethlisberger will move AB around to find the match ups that he desires (away from Marcus Peters).

One stat worth noting is that Andy Reid coached teams are 16-2 off of a bye week, and 3-0 in the playoffs after a bye. He’s developed a bit of a reputation for his preparedness out of a bye, which almost makes up for his inability to manage a game clock and timeouts. The Chiefs are nearly at full health, and star LB Justin Houston has been looking better and better with each additional day of rest. He will have to be disruptive early to keep the Chiefs in this game. Ben Roethlisberger has been a bit turnover prone in his past 4 games with 6 INTs and threw some very questionable passes last week vs Miami. Houston, Marcus Peters, and Eric Berry have to wreak havoc early and often if they don’t want to be staring at #84 and #26 running free down the sidelines.

I like Pittsburgh in this game, especially if the weather pans out to be as bad as they’re saying it will be. The Steelers have the advantage in the trenches, and Big Ben is known to thrive in cold weather games. Alex Smith and the Chiefs have an average offensive line, an average run game but do have two excellent playmakers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce if the weather permits them to become factors. Tyreek Hill is an Olympic-caliber sprinter and somehow scores a touchdown a week despite only touching the ball about 7-8 times per game. Kelce has evolved from being nicknamed “Baby Gronk” and is now arguably the most dangerous TE in the NFL. Neither has been truly battle tested, while Big Ben has played in 18 career postseason games throughout his career. Experience may be the deciding factor in this game, so I like the Steelers in a bit of an upset.

Green Bay Packers (+5.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

Let’s try again. For the second week in a row, the Green Bay Packers close out a playoff weekend against an NFC East team in the Dallas Cowboys in what should be the game of the week.

I’ve got one of those “Ireland wins, but Viktor Krum gets the snitch.” feelings for this game. Dallas wins, but Green Bay covers. Dallas obviously has the top 2 offensive rookies in the league with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. While neither has any playoff experience, they’ve put on a 13-2 show and are behind the best offensive line in football. Dallas has three 50+ catch receivers in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasley going up against a truly atrocious Packers secondary. Dez will also be looking forward to ensuring that every catch he makes is without question.

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The Packers were lucky that Odell Beckham and the rest of the boat brigade had hands of stone early on as they coasted to victory. They were beat deep on numerous plays, but the Giants dropped the ball in more ways than one. Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams will be looking to exploit their mismatches all day.

The Packers will get Quentin Rollins back, while the Cowboys will get Morris Claiborne back from injury. Neither CB is a game breaker, but they are both suitable upgrades compared to their replacements. The Dallas Cowboys have a sneaky good secondary despite having any real standout players in their unit. However, Aaron Rodgers has been playing lights out football and didn’t miss a beat in the absence of Jordy Nelson. He isn’t expected to play at this time, although he hasn’t been ruled out, which will bring all attention to Davante Adams, Jared Cook, Randall Cobb, and Geronimo Allison. If the Packers are smart, they’ll give Christine Michael some more carries in this game, too. Michael was a former Cowboy, and he showed some promise last week by hitting the hole hard against a formidable Giants defensive line.

The Cowboys like the keep it close, as 8 of their games this year have been decided by 6 or less points. I think that they’ll try to control the clock as much as possible to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands while they maintain a 3 point lead to victory.

 

Don’t call me The Chainsmokers because you’ll be able to afford that Rover after this weekend. Mamba out.

Boats & Woes: NFC Wild Card Game Slips Through OBJ’s Fingers

The New York Giants did exactly what they had to do to silence the critics of their impromptu Miami yacht trip by lighting up the scoreboard giving the Green Bay Packers the business shitting the bed, to put it bluntly. While I think that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Giants WRs going to Miami on their off day to celebrate a victory, their performance in the NFC Wild Card game was poor enough to warrant a curfew for future playoff teams. ESPN and the media are going to tear the likes of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz to shreds this week, but I am here to tear only one person apart; Odell Beckham Jr.

But first, alternative headline power ranking time:

5.) Giants Drop Anchor

4.) You Cruise, You Lose

3.) No Hands on Beck

2.) Loose Grips Sink Ships

1.) Giants Lose By a Yacht

Bonus:

 

The Giants going on a yacht with Trey Songz and Justin Beiber had nothing to do with their loss. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. It’s what the media is going to crucify OBJ and company for for the entire offseason, but that’s just an easy stance to take and defend until draft season. Odell Beckham is a generational talent that has the potential to be an all timer if he gets his head on straight. His off and on the field antics make him a headline machine and he shows no signs of wanting to get out of the spotlight. That’s perfectly fine. Some professional athletes are made for the attention. However, part of the deal is that they need to deliver when they’re most needed, especially in New York City. Odell Beckham Jr is rapidly approaching Alex Rodriguez level. He’s an electric athlete that is among the best of the league when he’s on his game. He possesses a strong personality and is quickly making enemies across the country. Similarly to ARod, nearly everybody you run into on the street has a strong opinion about whether they love or hate Odell. And, quite frankly, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if we all woke up to OBJ recreating this classic:

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You can look at the 38-13 final score and think that the New York Giants never stood a chance in this game. However, what if I told you that the G-Men actually had the Packers by the balls, only to slip when they had their finger on the trigger. The Giants took their first possession to the Packers’ 35 when on 3rd and 5, Odell had a ball hit him in the hands.

Had he caught that, the Giants were in easy field goal possession and could have jumped to at least a 3-0 lead. Instead, they were forced to punt. On their very next possession, Odell dropped a WIDE OPEN touchdown.

This guy would’ve caught it…

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After Odell’s drop, Sterling Shepard gave Eli Manning a 2 for 1 special and the Giants finally got on board with a 26-yard field goal.

Instead of a 17-0 lead over a Green Bay team that was sputtering on both sides of the ball, the Giants only had a measly 6-0 lead. It was only a matter of time before Aaron Rodgers made a few plays to get the Packers back in the game. The Packers scored on yet another Hail Mary to end the 1st half and they suddenly had a 14-6 lead. Had Odell caught those two balls, it’s a much different ball game at the half.

As we saw, Rodgers caught fire in the 2nd half and it was evident that the only way the Giants were going to win was by a classic shootout. The difference between a great player and a good player is how they perform in clutch situations. Despite being put in as PR and KR, Odell didn’t do anything special with the added touches. Then, down by 11 at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Odell Beckham Jr had another opportunity to make a big play for his team.

Now that pass wasn’t immaculate, but Odell was able to get two hands on that ball. For an athlete that prides himself on his one handed catches, putting on shows before games and on Instagram, a wide open pass that lands on his hands should be a completion 105 times out of 100.

Those are three key drops for who is regarded as the premier talent on the New York Giants. Against a depleted Packers secondary that is considered one of the worst in the league, Odell’s performance is a huge detriment to his legacy. A 4-28-0 stat line on 11 targets is no bueno.

 

To reiterate, the Giants being on a boat 7 days ago meant absolutely nothing regarding the result of this game. Tavares King was a standout performer for the Giants on Sunday, yet he wasn’t included in the infamous yacht picture. Trey Songz quickly diffused any rumor that the landlocked receivers had a competitive advantage over those that spent time on the boat.

You simply cannot be Odell Beckham Jr and play like this in a game of this magnitude without being ready to face the music. Fresh off a week full of skepticism due to #BoatGate, OBJ took the field to warmup shirtless in below freezing weather.

That looked impressive until he shit the proverbial bed. Maybe focus on looking the ball into your hands before trying to slice and dice the third string defense that was going up against you. Maybe focus on finding a way to keep your hands warm:

No matter what way you look at it, Odell Beckham blew it. He may not have led the Giants to a victory, as Aaron Rodgers was playing like a man possessed in the second half, but you have to expect him to play a decent game, ESPECIALLY with the flak he was receiving all week from the media. You can also blame Bobby Rainey, Brad Wing, and Dwayne Harris a little, I guess. Or the fact that nobody jumped to smack the ball out of play on the Hail Mary.

At least Odell is level headed and will be calm, cool, and collected when he addresses the media:

 

UPDATE: 

Wild Card Weekend Picks

That’s right, we’re talking about playoffs.

Wild Card Weekend is finally upon us. And luckily, we get to watch 3 backup QBs show us what they’ve got on the national stage. There’s a lot to get into, so let’s do it.

Oakland Raiders (+3.5) @ Houston Texans

You may have to pay for the whole seat in Houston but you’ll only need the EDGE. Connor Cook vs Brock Osweiler is the matchup we need to kickoff Wild Card Weekend. In a tradition as old as time, the Houston Texans are hosting the 4:25 slot on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of that unforgettable Week 10 matchup in Mexico City. Now, these are two very different teams than they were only 8 weeks ago. While Brock started that game, he has since been benched for Tom Savage, only to be reincarnated after Tom took a Savage AF blow to his head. On the other side of the coin, Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16, opening the door for Matt McGloin. All signs were pointing towards McGloin taking on his old Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien this weekend, until McGloin injured his shoulder in Week 17. Which means…..

Connor Cook was the Raiders 4th round pick in this year’s draft. He was a 3 year starter at Michigan State University and he went 34-5 during that span. Unlike his predecessor Kirk Cousins, Cook didn’t have a man named Le’Veon Bell in his backfield to make his life easy. Cook worked with current Bears RB Jeremy Langford and current Dolphins CB Tony Lippett  (played WR in college) to only lose 5 games over 3 years, while amassing over 9,000 career yards, 71 TDs, and 2 Big Ten Championships. Connor Cook was a proven winner in college, and I liked his professional potential more than many QBs taken before him in the draft, including Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett, and Cody Kessler. Quite frankly, Connor Cook was a steal in the 4th round. Now, he has a chance to prove himself in the pros as the 1st QB to ever make his first career start in a playoff game. He has a pair of 1,000 yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at his disposal, as well as the three headed dog of Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington (1,746 yards between them) at RB. Connor Cook plays with a swagger that not a lot of QBs have, and in college he would lower the shoulder against defenders and even completely turn his back on the defense before throwing a pass.

Meanwhile, the Houston Texans are begrudgingly trotting back out their $18 million man in Brock Osweiler. They have a hobbled RB in Lamar Miller that is coming back this week, but still won’t be 100%. Brock has made WR DeAndre Hopkins a non-factor this season, which is a massive disappointment after what he was able to do with Brian Hoyer the year before. He has completely disappeared in some games and only put up 4 TDs this year.

I’m putting blind faith into my guy Connor Cook and I expect want the Oakland Raiders to win straight up.

Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks (-8)

Here’s the tale of the tape:

Matthew Stafford’s hand/finger injury has taken this team into a downward spiral. The Detroit Lions have an atrocious defense, and they have relied on Stafford to keep them in games with some late 4th quarter heroics. However, this injury has really bothered Stafford and he hasn’t been able to make the plays that he was making earlier this season. Plus, his main security blanket in RB Theo Riddick has been placed on IR. Riddick was a decent running back, but he was a great pass catcher with 10+ catch upside on any given day. That, plus the descent of Marvin Jones is just a recipe for disaster for the Lions.

For Seattle, they’ve been hit with the injury bug a bit themselves. Speedy WR Tyler Lockett suffered a leg injury and was placed on IR. The Seahawks signed veteran Devin Hester to take his spot. Hester started off Super Bowl XLI with a kick return touchdown for the Chicago Bears, and the Seahawks hope that he has another one of those left in the tank. With the loss of Lockett, the Hawks are going to need to find somebody other than Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham to get the ball to. The Seattle run game has yet to get themselves going since they released Christine Michael, and WR Jermaine Kearse has only caught 41 out of the 90 passes thrown his way. If Seattle wants to make a run, I think that 3rd year man Paul Richardson will have to step up.

I think that Seattle dominates the time of possession in this game and the Legion of Boom creates a couple of turnovers to seal the deal. Richard Sherman and the boys are hungry and want a shot at redemption for the Super Bowl, and they might eat the Lions alive at home to get a shot at Atlanta next week.

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-10)

The Killer B’s are back in town. Big Ben, Bell, and Brown all took a week hiatus and should be fully locked and loaded to take on a Miami Dolphins team that I don’t think is very good at all. The Dolphins defense is an atrocity; they’ve allowed 4,101 passing yards this season as well as another 2,247 on the ground. Le’Veon Bell must be licking his chops. The Dolphins also were lit up last week by the New England Patriots, who were playing for nothing. Julian Edelman set a career high in receiving yards and exploded for a 77-yard TD in which Michael Floyd may have killed CB Tony Lippett on a block. You know a guy on the Steelers that is essentially Julian Edelman on steroids? Antonio Brown. He might as well set up camp in the end zone because he’ll be living there this week.

Now, what about Week 6, when the Miami Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15 in Miami? I’ll tell you about Week 6. Big Ben suffered a torn meniscus in that game and decided to play through it, and ended up throwing for only 189 yards and 2 INTs. Numerous Steeler defenders were also violently throwing up on the field due to the hot and humid weather. Jay Ajayi took advantage of this and ran for 204 yards and 2 TDs. But now, the tables have turned:

How many times have we seen Big Ben light up the scoreboard in freezing temperatures? Need I bring up his home/road splits again?

10 points is a lot, so I can’t blame you if you take the Dolphins +10, but I could see the Steelers Le’Veon a Prayer and having him go for 3 TDs. Oh yeah, backup QB Matt Moore will be playing for the Dolphins, also.

New York Giants (+5) @ Green Bay Packers

First off, this is worth mentioning:

The similarities between the 2007, 2011, and 2016 New York Giants are uncanny. They are all built around strong defenses which included a formidable defensive line. 2007 had Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Robbins. 2011 had Osi, Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Chris Canty. This year, while JPP is hurt (he’ll return next week if New York advances), the Giants still boast Snacks Harrison, Olivier Vernon, and new favorite Romeo Okwara.

All 3 teams obviously had Eli Manning running the show. You live by the Eli, you die by the Eli, and all three teams hit their stride at the right time at the hands of some excellent talent. 2007 had Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, and Jeremy Shockey. 2011 had Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. This year still has Cruz in the rotation, with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard rounding the team out.

One position that was strong for the Giants in 2007 and 2o11 was running back with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants may have found their guy for the postseason in rookie Paul Perkins. However, their secondary is light-years better this year than in either of their previous Super Bowl seasons. While Giants fans may shudder at the thought of Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, or Prince Amukamara, this year’s team has one of the best units in the league in Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Eli Apple.

If I’m a Green Bay fan, I’m shaking in my boots. I think this game comes down to how the QBs pick apart their opponent’s secondary. The Packers have been exploitable all year through the air, and they just lost another defensive back, Quentin Rollins last week. Meanwhile, the Giants boast one of the best secondaries in all of football. DRC is coming off of a 2 INT week, Janoris Jenkins has been resting the past couple weeks, and Landon Collins is in the discussion for defensive player of the year. However, Aaron Rodgers has been playing like an absolute madman over the past 6 weeks. With the odds stacked against him, he led the charge to run the table and win the NFC North. Jordy Nelson is finally back to being himself on the field coming off of his ACL injury. Davante Adams has become one of the best #2 guys in the league, replacing Randall Cobb. And now all of a sudden big man Geronimo Allison is hitting stride with Rodgers. Add in a healthy Jared Cook and the Packers can now spread the field with 4+ weapons. The key for the New York Giants is to not allow Aaron Rodgers to hold the ball and pick apart their secondary. They’re going to need to apply pressure with Snacks and Vernon while dialing up a few blitzes along the way.

On the other hand, Eli Manning has the most electric WR in the league in Odell Beckham, a budding star in Sterling Shepard, and a guy who catches the ball and falls down in TE Will Tye. The secondary that he will be going up against is one of the most exploitable and inexperienced in the entire league. Eli Manning will either have a 300 yard game with 4 TDs, or a 150 yard game with 3 INTs. Playoff Eli Manning is either lights out amazing or “lets draft a QB in the 1st round next year” level bad.

I am totally bought into the Giants repeat hype train and I think that them being 5 point underdogs is criminal. If they lose this game, I don’t think it’s by any more than a field goal.

Also, can we stop talking about this?

The Giants receiving core flying to Miami to celebrate during an off day is a NON STORY. I’m sure they were drinking and doing some fun stuff, but at least their hands are empty in this picture. The alleged joint in this picture is being held by none other than rapper Trey Songz. There was even a video that picked up Sterling Shepard in the background telling a woman that he couldn’t take adderall because he plays football. The only thing criminal about this picture is the fact that half of these guys are wearing jeans and boots on a boat in Miami. These guys having a good time on a day off 6 days before a game should be applauded. I don’t see how this can be an issue while baseball and basketball teams can pop champagne and pound beers on national television when they have a game within the next couple of days. People getting up in arms about this makes no sense. A group of guys from the same team are spending time together having fun. Back in my day that was called team bonding. Even Eli had a joke about his teammates:

This is a non story and people’s reactions only tell me that they are nervous about the New York Football Giants. They’ve seen this movie twice in the past decade and are praying that the Green Bay Packers knock them out before they really get their eyes set on the Super Bowl.

 

End rant. Exit stage left. Call me the Giants receiving core because we’re about to fly down to Miami with all of our winnings.

P.S. Take Alabama -6.5 if you know what’s good for you and your wealth.

Will The Real MVP Please Stand Up?

My definition of Most Valuable Player is the player who sustained success throughout the entire year while being THE impact player on their respective team. Different people have different interpretations of the award, but that is mine. I think that super teams filled with 3+ All Stars should be taken into a different account than a team that has one star leading them.

Usually in the NFL, there is a clear-cut favorite to win the prestigious MVP award. However, this year has fan bases from all regions in America clamoring for their respective guy, and pretty much everybody has a point. I personally have narrowed it down to 5 players: Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. Each player has a great case to win the award, and I am here to delve into them.

To make things easy, I have aligned all 5 candidates’ stats into one chart for your viewing pleasure.

Totals Table
Passing Rushing Receiving
Rk Player Cmp Att Cmp% Yds
TD Rate Lng Int Yds Att Yds TD Y/A Lng Rec Yds TD Y/R Lng
1 Matt Ryan 373 534 69.9 4944 38 117.1 76 7 235 35 117 0 3.3 18 0 0 0 0
2 Aaron Rodgers 401 610 65.7 4428 40 104.2 60 7 246 67 369 4 5.5 23 0 0 0 0
3 Derek Carr 357 560 63.8 3937 28 96.7 75 6 79 39 70 0 1.8 13 0 0 0 0
4 Tom Brady 291 432 67.4 3554 28 112.2 79 2 87 28 64 0 2.3 15 0 0 0 0
5 Ezekiel Elliott 0 0 0 0 .0 0 0 0 322 1631 15 5.1 60 32 363 1 11.3 83
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/5/2017.

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#5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Zeke had a monster rookie year, nearly eclipsing 2,000 total yards from scrimmage. For awhile, he and rookie QB Dak Prescott were the front runners for this award as the Cowboys ran through every team in the NFL not named the New York Giants. However, as their spot into the playoffs became a sure thing, Dem Boyz turned down the dial a bit and they even sat the majority of their starters in their Week 17 game against Philadelphia. I’m not criticizing the team for resting before the playoffs, but in the MVP race, the odds are already stacked up against RBs, so Elliott not eclipsing the 2,000 total yard mark is a bit of an eye sore. Also, this Cowboys offensive line allowed the likes of Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris to put up top tier performances in the previous years, so there is some doubt in my mind that Elliott’s performance is indicative of his own talents as opposed to the big uglies up front. This Cowboys team is also stacked with weapons in Dak, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten, so Elliott gets the #5 spot mostly due to his role not being as important as the other 4 candidates.

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#4. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr had a breakout season and helped lead the Oakland Raiders to their first playoff berth since 2002. He single handedly revitalized the career of WR Michael Crabtree and he brought excitement to a Raider fan base that has been craving it for a decade and a half. He was en route to set career highs in passing yards and TDs, until he broke his leg in Week 16, ending his season. His impact on this team was enormous, as we saw with how his backups fared in Weeks 16 and 17. Matt McGloin was able to salvage a win in Week 16 against a poor Colts team, but he and Connor Cook were dominated in Week 17 against the Broncos, where a win would’ve clinched a bye in the playoffs. It isn’t fair to assume that Carr would’ve beaten the Broncos in Week 17, but he certainly would’ve put up more than a 6 spot on the scoreboard. Derek Carr had a spectacular year, but his stats don’t compare to the remaining three candidates.

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#3. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Here’s where it gets dicey. But hear me out. Tom Brady’s stats this year were incredible, especially when you look at his TD:INT ratio. Only throwing 2 INTs in 12 games is excellent quarterback play. However, one thing setting him back is his suspension, and the fact that the Patriots went 3-1 during those games with Jimmy Garappolo and Jacoby Brissett. Brady also had the advantage of having leading TD scorer LeGarrette Blount standing with him in the backfield. He had Rob Gronkowski for 6 games, as well as Martellus Bennett and Julian Edelman for the rest. While Brady is a great talent at the position, he had the benefit of 4 proven assets on offense at his disposal. Say what you want about Deflategate and how the NFL has it out for Tom Brady, but at the end of the day he wasn’t present for 25% of the games this year. Tom Brady had sustained success over the span of 12 games, not 16. For that reason, I have to tip my hat towards the two remaining candidates that played the entirety of the 2016 NFL season.

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#2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers once again told Green Bay fans to R-E-L-A-X as he led the Packers to an improbable 6 game win streak to win the NFC North this year. He overcame a tough first half of the season, not having a true RB on the roster, and ended up being the only QB in the league to throw for 40 TDs. He finished 4th in the NFL in passing yards, and played lights out down the stretch. Rodgers also slides above Tom Brady due to his rushing upside. Rodgers led all of my QB candidates by at least 250 rushing yards, and he outscored all QBs 4-0 in rushing TDs. While reconnecting with Jordy Nelson, Rodgers made Davante Adams a household name and also created a legitimate threat out of big man Geronimo Allison. With Eddie Lacy on IR and Randall Cobb battling injuries all year, Aaron Rodgers made the best out of a pretty bad situation. Also, regarding that ‘bad stretch’ during the middle of the season (Weeks 6-11), Rodgers averaged 314 yards a game and had 16 TDs to 4 INTs. Those are incredible stats for what was considered his rough stretch of the year. I think that if the MVP voters vote with some recency bias, Aaron Rodgers may take the cake. However, I think that our last remaining candidate is the most worthy.

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#1. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan should be the MVP of the 2016 NFL season. He secured a first round bye with an Atlanta Falcon team that played without star WR Julio Jones for a few weeks, without a competent defense, and with a greatly lowered workload for RB Tevin Coleman, who was suffering with sickle cell trait. Matt Ryan knew that on any given day, he would have to put up at least 30 points to be in a position to win the game. In fact, he led the team to 540 total points, which tied the 2000 St. Louis Rams for the most points scored in a season. His star wideout Julio Jones missed two games, played limited snaps in multiple others, and the duo still put up 1,409 yards, good for 2nd in the league. In Julio’s absence, Matt Ryan created weapons out of Aldrick Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Justin Hardy. With injuries across the board and a defense in the early stages of rebuilding, the Atlanta Falcons had no business getting into the playoffs, let alone clinching a first round bye. Ryan finished in 2nd in both passing yards and TDs, and led the NFL by an entire yard in yards per attempt. Matty Ice better start clearing some room on his mantle.

 

Questions? Comments? Concerns? @ me.

Dear Jets: Don’t Get Back Together With Your Rex

The New York Jets’ relationship with Rex Ryan had its ups and downs to say the very least. There were plenty of laughs, tears, angry tirades, and even a regrettable tattoo.

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The relationship started off like any other relationship, filled with smiles and laughs, with the occasional thought of, “could this actually be the one” crossing your mind. Rex Ryan inherited a strong New York defense and he brought over top caliber players of his own from the Baltimore Ravens in LB Bart “CAN’T WAIT” Scott and S Jim Leonard. Scott and Leonard joined a staunch Jets D that included David Harris, Darrelle Revis, Calvin Pace, and Shaun Ellis. Rex was hired as the Jets head coach before the 2009 NFL season after 21 seasons of being a defensive coach dating back to Eastern Kentucky in 1987. He had the intangibles and the track record to fit the bill for creating one of the best defensive teams in recent memory. However, he had one slight obstacle in his way; rookie QB Mark Sanchez.

Having only been a defensive coach his entire life, Rex didn’t have a whole lot of experience when it came to running an offense. He essentially handed the keys to Offensive Coordinator Brian Shottenheimer and told him to make Sanchez not suck (yeah right). So, right off the bat, Rex Ryan was making head coach money while only doing defensive coordinator work. That 2009 New York Jet defense was something else, though. They only allowed 8 passing touchdowns the entire season and allowed less than 100 yards on the ground per game. Darrelle Revis intercepted 6 passes and defended another 31, Calvin Pace and Shaun Ellis combined for 14.5 sacks, while the LB duo of David Harris and Bart Scott racked up 219 tackles together. They were able to carry Mark Sanchez (2,444 yards, 12 TDs, 20 INTs) to a 9-7 record and a birth in the AFC Championship Game. The relationship with Rex was flourishing, and New York was buzzing again about sexy Rexy and the future.

In 2010, the NFL and HBO pegged the New York Jets to be front and center on the show ‘Hard Knocks,’ and we all fell in love with Rex Ryan a little bit more. He has an electric personality and he absolutely ate up the spotlight after a fantastic first year in New York. Some of the speeches he gave were motivating me to run through a brick wall at my house.

Other highlights included Rex going on paragraph-long tangents that had to be censored from start to finish, Darrelle Revis holding out and eventually re-signing with the team, John Conner kicking ass and taking names, and Antonio Cromartie trying to remember the names of all of his kids.

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The Jets record improved to 11-5 in 2010, and they made their 2nd consecutive AFC Championship game. They had incredible depth on defense, amassing 40 totals sacks despite having no player tally up more than 6 individually. Mark Sanchez improved slightly (3,291 yards, 17 TDs, 13 INTs), but that can be accredited to these two guys being on top of their game:

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However, times were a-changin’. The honeymoon stage of the Rex Ryan era had ended and 2011 came rolling along. The Jets were unable to keep the big names on their roster and lost Pro Bowl G Alan Faneca, 1,000-yard rusher Thomas Jones, Shaun Ellis and Braylon Edwards over the course of one calendar year. Rex’s draft picks were also looking like duds across the board. Kyle Wilson was an atrocity at corner, Joe McKnight (RIP) never panned out to be an NFL caliber RB, and Vladimir Ducasse may have never played a meaningful snap in his career. The wheels wings were starting to fall off the bus jets piece by piece, and the New York Jets finished the season at a disappointing 8-8.

You know when a relationship is starting to fall apart so the couple does something to ‘spice it up?’ Well, Rex did that tenfold. But, instead of adopting a dog, Rex adopted Timothy Richard Tebow for the 2012 season. This about summarizes how that experiment went:

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Not good enough? What about this experiment from the 2013 NFL Draft:

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Still not enough? What about bringing this guy in one year after declaring Geno the franchise guy?

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Normally, bringing in a 34 year old dual threat QB to help teach a 24 year old (somewhat) dual threat QB would be a great move worth applauding. However, Mike Vick was brought in to replace Geno Smith in a meaningless game towards the end of the season. His mismanagement of the game was front and center and it was clear that Rex Ryan’s coaching capabilities are only on one side of the ball.

Do I think that Rex Ryan could lead a team to another AFC Championship Game or even a Super Bowl? Yes. The Denver Broncos made it evident last year that a team can have a bag of bones at QB and still win a Super Bowl riding the defense and run game. Rex Ryan had Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, and Danny Woodhead on his 2009 Jets team and replaced Jones with future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson at RB the next season. He had so much talent on those two rosters that he apparently didn’t know what to do with it.

Not only did Rex Ryan not use his phenomenal offense line and running backs to their full potential, he did a horrendous job in developing the two QBs he drafted during his tenure in Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Now there obviously are busts in every draft class, but hell, even Trent Dilfer won a  Super Bowl. Both Sanchez and Smith’s numbers have regressed since they have entered the league, and they are both out of a starting job for the foreseeable future.

Have you ever been in a relationship with somebody who has a family member that seems to always be around? Rex does:

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I think that Rob Ryan holds the records for most times being fired as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Even worse, he has basically become a package deal with his brother Rex.

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Now, I don’t think that the New York Jets will inquire about Rex Ryan that much, if at all. They never cease to amaze me though (see Favre, Brett). I think that Todd Bowles has at least another half season in him, as there are a lot of questions about that team that Bowles may potentially have the answers to. Also, only having two years to turn around a franchise is an incredibly short amount of time for both Todd Bowles and Rex Ryan. I don’t believe that Rex’s performance in Buffalo warranted an early ‘Rex-it.’ Rex went 46-50 in 6 years with the Jets and 15-16 in 2 years with the Bills. The Bills were in the playoff hunt until just this past week. They’ve got young studs across the board but have been unlucky with injuries during Rex’s tenure. I think that they’re just adamant about making Anthony Lynn their head coach and couldn’t get the Ryans out the door fast enough.

There will be rumors that Rex will come back to the Jets as a defensive coordinator. I honestly could see it happen, but I’m begging and pleading that it doesn’t. How often does somebody get back together with an ex and it all turns out great in the end? Rarely. It usually leads to more anger and sadness at the end, which is the last thing this New York Jet fan base needs.

Rex Ryan has a strong personality that the New York media ate up, but in reality, he inherited a strong defense upon arrival and parlayed a playoff victory against the New England Patriots into 3 more years in a position that he did not deserve. Once you look past the jokes, impersonations, and headlines, you will finally see a man that has proven himself unworthy of a head coaching position and instead belongs in a commentator’s booth.

So please, New York Jets, don’t get back together with your Rex. As longtime reader Albert Einstein once said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You’re not crazy, Jets, are you? Are you….

NFL Week 16 Picks

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is giving gambling picks for y’all to adhere. Week 15 hurt my psyche and my bankroll, but we’re onto Week 16. 26-18-3 on the year.

To recap:

Philadelphia Eagles @ Baltimore Ravens (-5.5) LOSS

Green Bay Packers (-5.5) @ Chicago Bears LOSS

Indianapolis Colts @ Minnesota Vikings (-4.5) LOSS

Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) LOSS

Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills (-10) WIN !!!!!!

 

I can always rely on the Cleveland Browns to pick me up when I’m down. Here’s what I learned last week:

  1. I got way too excited about Adrian Peterson’s return. His fumbled on his only carry that went over 5 yards.
  2. The Tennessee Titans are sneaky one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC. They can score so fast they’ll make your head spin.
  3. Joe Flaccometer update:cw84nenveaasgy5
  4. I think that the Green Bay Packers finally figured it out. It was a matter of time before they found their run game, and Ty Montgomery finally exploded. He also has one of my personal favorites in Christine Michael as his very capable backup.
  5. Cleveland Browns……good job, good effort.

 

Now onto this week’s picks:

New York Jets (+17) @ New England Patriots

I can’t not take this pick. If the Jets lose by more than 17 I may retire as a fan forever. All signs point towards the Patriots winning in a landslide, but I have some hope. There is no fire in the rivalry this year, so I have a feeling that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will ease up on the gas in this game. The Patriots have more important things to worry about than embarrassing the New York Jets on Christmas Eve. They’ve been battling injuries all year and have essentially locked up home field advantage in the playoffs. I think that Brady abuses Darrelle Revis early, as he did in their last matchup, but then the Patriots Blount ride to victory for the rest of the game. Then, if Bryce Petty connects with Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa a couple of times, I can see a nice backdoor cover from gang green.

Tennessee Titans (-3.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Look spirited, play spirited.

The Tennessee Titans are riding high after their last second victory in Kansas City last week, and their destiny is in their own hands. The Jacksonville Jaguars just fired Gus Bradley after their loss to Houston last week and there are rumors that QB Blake Bortles is headed out the door as well. He has made little to no progress over his career in northern Florida, and Jaguar fans are clamoring for the team to draft someone early in this year’s draft. The Jaguars are a completely one dimensional team, and Blake Bortles has been so terrible that he’s making jokes about his performance:

The Titans are a liability in the secondary, but so is Blake Bortles at Quarterback. Tennessee was able to keep Alex Smith and company in check on the road, and now face a 2-12 Jacksonville team that is falling apart at the hinges. I think Tennessee gets an early lead and then unleashes DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to coast to an easy W.

San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns (+4)

 

This is the week. The Cleveland Browns are about to win. The San Diego Chargers are trash without Melvin Gordon, and Kenneth Farrow is nowhere close to a capable backup. I think the California kids from San Diego come into the frozen tundra of Cleveland and lay an egg. Phillip Rivers is the west coast version of Eli Manning, which means that he’ll either throw 3 TDs or 3 INTs. I’ve got money on 3 INTs this week. Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor are great WRs, regardless of who is throwing them the ball. Whichever wideout isn’t covered by Casey Hayward may have a huge game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints OVER 51.5

Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks went off last week on the road vs. Arizona. Now, they take on Tampa Bay at home, playing the role of spoiler. The Saints explode at home, and their lack of a competent defense usually creates shootouts in the Superdome. The Saints will also be without Safety Kenny Vaccaro, which creates mismatches for the Buccaneers all over the field. Mike Evans may finally reemerge with a huge game, and TE Cameron Brate has become an integral part of this Tampa Bay offense. Both men can go up and get a ball even when double teamed, much to Jameis Winston’s pleasure. The Saints have a multitude of weapons in Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, and Mark Ingram. There always seems to be one person open no matter what coverage the defense throws at the Saints. Both of these teams can put up 35 points in one half of football, so this game could get out of control quickly.

 

 

There you have it. Call me Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer because I’m leading the squad to victory and we’re gonna jingle all the way.

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P.S. Speaking of Rudolph…

I Don’t Hate Grayson Allen

Grayson Allen is villain college basketball deserves, but not the villain college basketball needs right now. He’s the perfect embodiment of what college basketball fans love to hate. He’s the latest and greatest dominant white basketball player for Duke University that hits deep threes, dunks in people’s faces, and shamelessly trips anybody that gets in his way. He has a high motor and wears his emotions on his sleeves, which easily makes him new public enemy #1.

Christian Laettner. JJ Redick. Steve Wojchiechowski. Kyle Singler. The next Plumlee brother. Grayson Allen.

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Duke always has and always will have that one player that pisses everybody off with their hustle plays, mechanics, and punchable faces. But Grayson Allen is in a league of his own. He plays basketball with a prison yard ‘call your own foul’ mentality that would make Wesley Snipes proud.

Grayson Allen became a household name in the Final Four of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. I  still remember exactly where I was when he followed up his own miss with a ferocious dunk. I Google’d him faster than you can say, “Laettner” and suddenly, I had a new favorite college basketball player. This is where the legend began:

After breaking out in the NCAA Tournament, Grayson came out of the gates hot in the 2015-2016 season. He finished with 21.6 PPG, a 7:4 turnover ratio, and a 3-point percentage of 41.7% as a sophomore. However, February of 2016 brought out the dark side of Grayson.

There is no doubt in my mind that those trips were on purpose, and his attempts to conceal his intentions rival Jameis Winston for worst cover-up of all time:

That all being said, I LOVE Grayson Allen’s tripping antics. And quite frankly, you’re tripping if you don’t. The game of basketball, and sports in general, need new villains. Kobe Bryant is gone, Alex Rodriguez is gone, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Vick, all gone. Ron Artest has a new name and hasn’t punched a fan in over a decade. Professional sports need new bad guys, and Grayson Allen is leading the charge. His most recent episode on Wednesday night was his best to date:

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Even Draymond Green said that that was super blatant.

However, the discussion about this specific incident is about Allen’s antics on the bench afterwards.

That’s a strong reaction after a pretty blatant trip in the first half of an out of conference basketball game in December. BUT, it’s electric. I need more animosity. I need tears. I need anger. I need blood. Grayson Allen is an absolute madman and he has come at the perfect time.

I want my players to be crazy, I want them to teeter on the edge of sanity when they’re playing their respective sport. That’s why I love DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins put on a clinic of his own on Wednesday night:

Some of the most electric, fascinating, and skilled NBA players have been head cases. On any given night, a 76er fan had no idea if Allen Iverson would even show up to the game. Rasheed Wallace would yell obscenities on the court and threaten referees in the parking lot after games. Gilbert Arenas kept four guns in his locker and even pulled one on a teammate. Ron Artest throws hands and elbows at anybody that crosses his path. Hell, Dennis Rodman had a new hair color every game and now is buddy buddy with Kim Jong-un.

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Now, Grayson Allen’s antics are nowhere near what the aforementioned NBA stars managed to do in their careers. Grayson tweets Biblical verses more than anything else, and has had no off the court issues in his Duke career. He’s a hard worker that has elevated his game every year to new heights. I think that his on the court antics rival those of J.R. Smith, who essentially is harmless but had a stint of untying the shoes of his opponents at the free throw line. His skill set rivals that of J.R., as well. People forget that J.R. was a high-flying dunker in his day that could also catch fire from behind the arc. I get scolded when I compare Grayson Allen to Ray Allen, so I’ll keep it at J.R. Smith for now.

But for real, Grayson can ball.

 

As for his suspension.

After being caught three times in 10 months tripping another player, Coach K had to do something. I’m pretty sure that “an indefinite amount of time” means until conference play begins. However, Grayson Allen is a 21-year old college student that has never gotten into any off court trouble. With some of the heinous acts college athletes are committing across the country (see Joe Mixon, see University of Minnesota’s football team), this should be a non-story. But, Duke always needs a villain, so people are eating this up. It’s fun having a bad boy back in sports, and I think that Grayson Allen will be around for a long time.

Let the kid play, Coach K. I don’t hate Grayson Allen.

Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are Doing the Right Thing

As most of you have probably heard by now, two of college football’s stars have decided to forego their respective bowl games to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft.

This is an unprecedented move, and people have been bashing them all day:

First of all, Donovan McNabb, your two DUIs in a 13-month span sets a bad example for the kids. Hop off your high horse. Ezekiel Elliott, you left Ohio State after your JUNIOR year, so you wouldn’t actually “do anything to play one more time with your brothers in that scarlet and gray.” Finally, ‘anonymous assistant GM,’ you and I both know that you will do anything to have one of those two men slip into your lap on draft night.

Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are Heisman-caliber athletes who also play one of the most physically demanding positions in all of sports. Both young men are projected to be first round selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, which means that their future earnings heavily outweigh what they make as a college athlete ($0.00). 2016 1st rounder pick Ezekiel Elliott signed a 4 year, $24,956,341 contract, to put it into perspective. Leonard Fournette has been nicked up over the past 2 years, and is currently nursing an ankle injury. Last time I checked, even prospective NFL running backs are only given one pair of ankles in their lifespan. With a $25 million payday in the near future, it makes absolutely no sense for Fournette to risk further injury in the Citrus Bowl. On the other hand, Christian McCaffrey has been relatively healthy throughout his entire college career. His decision to skip the Sun Bowl was definitely more surprising than Fournette’s, but the risk does not outweigh the reward. Just look at former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith.

cowboys-linebackers-interested-in-jaylon-smiths-knee

Jaylon Smith was a projected Top-5 pick in the draft and was expected to make at least $23.5 million. He went on to play in the Fiesta Bowl and suffered a gruesome knee injury that required him to get carted off the field. He ended up being selected 34th in the draft, signing for a guaranteed $4.5 million instead. The long term financial impact of his injury is still to be discovered, as Smith is actively rehabbing and training to play for the Dallas Cowboys. He did have a $5 million insurance plan on his health, but if he is unable to play football again, he will have lost over $14 million in potential earnings in the NFL. ESPN’s Danny Kanell thinks that Jaylon Smith’s insurance claim is NOT a good example of why players should skip irrelevant bowl games:

Once the numbers are crunched, it’s absurd to look at the Jaylon Smith incident and think that it’s an unwise decision to learn from his experience. Smith may only receive $900,000 in claims if he ends up being a decent NFL player. He was awarded $700,000 for slipping out of the 1st round of the NFL Draft, and an additional $200,000 for the 2 spots in the 2nd round that he fell to. If Smith plays up to 4 games, and then realizes that he cannot play football, then he can collect more money from his claim. Now, a $4.5 million salary with an additional million in insurance is no chump change. You and I could live comfortably for the rest of our lives with that money. But when you look at the numbers and realize that potentially tens of millions of dollars were taken away from Jaylon Smith, how can you blame Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey for sitting out their meaningless bowl games? (Note: Fournette does have two separate $10 million insurance policies on him.)

I cannot emphasize the word meaningless enough when describing these bowl games. They’re not skipping the College Football Playoff, or the Rose Bowl, they’re missing the Citrus Bowl and the Sun Bowl. Besides the playoffs and a handful of the ‘historic’ bowls, college football bowl games are nothing but last-ditch money grabs for teams to halfheartedly take on a team they likely wouldn’t face anywhere else. Half of these games are in exotic locations and have a few thousand fans that just happened to be in the neighborhood in attendance. Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinal are slated to play unranked North Carolina in Texas. Leonard Fournette and the LSU Tigers are slated to play Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals in Orlando, Florida. That should actually be an entertaining game, but once again, it is merely an exhibition game that gives the winning team a trophy to collect dust in the AD’s office.

These two young men are beginning a trend that we will see for many years to come. It will be interesting to see how the NCAA handles this impendent crisis. This could potentially be a breakthrough in the ongoing argument regarding compensating college athletes. But that argument is for another day. I commend Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey for their smart business decisions, and their teammates do as well.

From seccountry.com:

Teammates expressed support for the decision.

“We hate to see him have to sit out for this last bowl game, but it’s the best decision for him personally,” said fullback J.D. Moore. “I wouldn’t want anyone to go out and play if they weren’t 100 percent.”

Senior Tre’Davious White, who chose forego the draft to return for his senior season last year, understands why Fournette is handling his own path differently.

“His decision is way tougher than mine,” White said. “Not playing in the bowl game, I know that hurts him. He wanted to contribute to this win that we’re going to get. It’s an unfortunate thing. But I support him in every way.”

As for their impact on the NFL, both Fournette and McCaffrey are projected first rounders and should be utilized immediately and often. Leonard Fournette is top-10 caliber, and is drawing attention from the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and the New Orleans Saints. He obviously would be a star for a bunch of other teams, but there’s no way he slips past those three teams. McCaffrey, on the other hand, is projected to be a mid-to-late first rounder, and his all around skills would make him an immediate fit for the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and the Denver Broncos. Whoever drafts these two men will have a smart, healthy, and reliable RB for years to come.