Needle Dicks

Let’s set the table with some facts before we get to my opinion on this:

1) This is not a criminal investigation, and thusly every “more probable than not” dumb shit hot take that wants to make itself look informed by simply saying the burden of proof isn’t good enough isn’t looking at the burden of proof to begin with. All Ted Wells had to do in his investigation is find out what the most likely thing to have happened was. In this case “more probable than not” is a distinct legal term befitting of the requirements of the NFL’s bylaws regarding independent investigations (which work more like civil suits than anything else). If the NFL were suing the Patriots, they’d win. They’ve concluded the preponderance of evidence, perhaps in particular the man who deflated the balls referring to himself as “the deflator” (circumstantial, surely), points in the direction of a deliberate tampering of the game balls.

2) This is not just about deflated balls. Had the Patriots simply come out and admitted the infraction, a simple equipment tampering fine would have sufficed. Alas, like many scandals, the magnitude of the punishment will be more reflective of the cover-up than of the crime. Not only did the Patriots foolishly stonewall the investigation from the top down, providing a significant amount of the “preponderance” needed to reach its conclusion, but Robert Kraft has been nothing short of an unbecoming ass of an owner during the proceedings.

3) The Ideal Gas Law doesn’t bail the Pats out Fivethirtyeight reviewed the scientific side of the study and proved that the difference in pressure between the Colts’ balls and Pats’ balls could not have been due to chance. Furthermore, they deduced that the odds of NE fumbling as rarely as they do being due to chance is over 10,000 to 1. No coach is that good.

*Francesa voice* A faw….. yeauh….. span, folks

If you rightfully ditch the burden of proof of a murder trial, and look at what’s there, the Pats are guilty. So how do you set the bar for one of the biggest punishments in NFL history amid a domestic violence maelstrom and a concussion lawsuit?

4 games for Brady, 2 draft picks (because 1 didn’t deter them last time), and $1M (which carries the weight of a jizzy sock to these billionaires, but still looks ominous, so it’s a nice balance)

Somehow, this “exceeded all of Robert Kraft’s reasonable expectations”. May I?

Other reasonable expectations of Robert Kraft:

1) Putting his wife’s initials on team jerseys in 2011 and trying to sell them after she passed away

2) Picking up a 32 year old girlfriend after his wife passes, and after he commemorates her on team gear, then flaunting her in the owner’s box in the late wife’s seat 8-10 times a year on national television

3) Refusing to cooperate with a league investigation, then bashing the limitations of its findings

4) Drafting Aaron Hernandez when he had KNOWN gang ties at the time, then giving him an extension, then saying “Our whole organization has been duped.” after his murder arrest ignoring that Urban Meyer and Bill Belichick have been close friends for decades

5) Serving on an NFL committee whose sole purpose is to create the threat of a team moving to Los Angeles and fleece nine-figure sums of tax dollars to build new stadiums so he and his unfortunate billionaire friends don’t have to

6) Puffing out his chest and insisting his franchise did nothing wrong when there was no way to reasonably expect his being directly involved with ANY actions of the underlings who handled the balls

We can start right there. How is someone who vociferously defended illegal actions of his franchise that he had no chance of being privy to allowed to serve on ANY NFL committee? Robert Kraft should be banned for life from the competition committee, banned for life from any NFL expansion committee, and no member of the Patriots should serve on the competition committee through 2020. Leave money out of this and block the organization from moderating the rules and remove them from committees that aim to better the league. If you act like you’re above the rules and above the league’s discretion, you should have no say in either for years to come.

I have no issue with the draft picks, as it is both a reasonable punishment broadly for something as pervasive as lack of institutional control and a logical extension of the previous stripping of draft picks that obviously didn’t deter the Pats from breaking the rules. A 1st round pick is obviously worth its weight in gold, and 4th round picks are very often used in the high round trades that get the Pats a stockpile of picks.

The 4 games for Brady is too little, and that has more to do with the current climate of the NFL rather than the size of the infraction. Think of it this way: Tom Brady is more important to his team than any player on the NFL is to his team with a handful of, at best, arguable exceptions. If a repeat cheater can bend the rules to his liking, get caught, win the Super Bowl, and only get a 4 game suspension in a league where nobody repeats anymore anyway, wouldn’t you cheat? If I’m the Eagles, I’m trying to strap a jet pack to Mark Sanchez to see if it will fit unnoticed under his jersey. The worst thing this punishment could be is something other teams look at and go “Hmm…worth it.”, and I think a 4 game suspension that is open to appeal is just that. I would have given him a year, not because what he did was so bad, but because I would want the rest of the league to be permanently deterred from doing anything like this. You can never get ahead of the innovation of cheating, but you can change the tune of a team that thinks they can get away with it.

Aside from being a blind homer, I don’t see how you defend this. The idea that the league would be “out to get the Patriots” when CBS has a restaurant on the campus of Gillette Stadium and every network seeks to feature this team on national television every chance they get is absurd.  Furthermore, just about any critique of the investigation is directly a result of the Patriots not cooperating with it. How can you appeal this as not being appropriate when you’re the only reason there isn’t full disclosure? It’s not everything I wanted, and I didn’t like that they put a huge fine in to make it look worse than it is, but I’ll take it. I don’t think they’ve gone unpunished here, but you do have to ask yourself this: If the last two Super Bowls featured three teams that bent the rules for offensive pass interference, bent the rules for defensive pass interference, and outright tampered with equipment then covered it up, are we in a cheater’s league now?

 

The Mock Draft

It seems almost poetic with the change in venue for the NFL draft from New York City to Chicago comes a change in philosophy that will keep many hot-seated GMs sweating bullets. With more eyeballs on the value of certain positions relative to the salary cap, advanced stats ejaculated all over the walls, and more rumor-mongering than ever, it’s become harder than ever to stick to your guys and even slightly defy convention to get the guy you want. This wouldn’t be the case if we had a draft class deep at unsexy positions lik defensive tackle, offensive line, and defensive back.

My mock draft is a hybrid of what I would do if I were the GM and where I would like to see these players get the best coaching they can get for their skills.

Just about EVERY top talent in this year’s class is a gamble just on position and scheme fit alone. There’s no slam dunk franchise quarterback, there’s no offensive lineman projected to go in the top eight picks, and there’s no defensive backs projected to go top 10. If this is your make or break year as a GM, goooood luck. Let’s help these guys out, eh?

#1 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston QB Florida State

Winston’s done about everything you can do to talk people out of taking him #1, and for some reason it’s not going to matter. He failed miserably in the CFP when the demeanor he sells you should have been calmer and cooler than ever. He has two sexual assault allegations against him, and managed to get suspended from the baseball team between them. He throws a great ball, but he does not appear to have the makeup of a guy who will put it on himself when things don’t go well. Lovie won’t be in love here, but the allure of a hometown boy selling out the place during a rebuild with an added reasonable chance he’s a long-term answer at QB will be too alluring for the powers that be to pass him up. There’s no other sure thing worthy of a #1 pick in his place.

#2 – Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota QB Oregon

Despite being more of a boy scout, I’m even less sold on Mariota. Alas, someone’s going to go gaga for him and trade up for him. The most hotly rumored team for this at the moment is San Diego, who after Vegas odds for their drafting him sunk from 15:1 to 5:2 suddenly got quiet about trading Philip Rivers. The Chargers have made no secrets about being interested in Mariota, having worked him out at their facilities despite no chance of his falling to the mid-round. The Chargers’ dance with this trade has almost single handedly sunk the idea of Chip Kelly trading up for his guy. There’s no way Tennessee is passing up Rivers for a draft haul that the GM and Ken Whisenhunt may not be employed long enough to see to fruition. Pairing Rivers with Hakeem Nicks, Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker, presuming Bishop Sankey does something in year 2, will make you competitive pretty quickly in a lukewarm AFC. Pairing Mariota with these guys puts you in a 3 year rebuild you don’t really need in a weak division like this. He can likely run a traditional offense to average production, but the limits of his arm talent were already tested at Oregon, and will likely be tested on a play-by-play basis in the NFL. I’ll let another GM take him first.

#3 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler DE Florida

Oddly enough, if there’s someone who’s done himself a disservice by not advertising himself enough, it’s Fowler, who in my eyes is the best player in this draft class. Fowler isn’t just built to be a double-digit sack guy right away in the NFL if he’s given starts. He’s a well-spoken, natural leader, who may actually change the culture in the Jaguars locker room. You can say Leonard Williams is a sure thing here, but Gus Bradley’s lineage suggests he values edge rushers over plugging up the middle, and Fowler is comprehensively talented enough to warrant passing up an unsexy tackle.

#4 – Oakland Raiders – Leonard Williams DT USC

Your next trade happens here. The idea that Reggie McKenzie has to surround Derek Carr with weapons to find out how good he is is foolish. He has to surround him with protection. With multiple tackles available 8-10 picks from here. Oakland will be thrilled to trade down, look smart, and pick up a tackle AND a receiver from this supposedly deep class rather than put all their eggs in the Amari Cooper basket. Someone will want the security of Leonard Williams and not care that he’ll never develop past being an above-average space eater at defensive tackle.

#5 – Washington Foreskins – Vic Beasley OLB Clemson

The Foreskins get dumb here and stick with the pass rusher idea when they could get a receiver. There are strong rumors that if Williams falls to 5 the Skins are trading out to Cleveland and running away. This makes me think they haven’t given as much thought to actually using the pick, which will likely be used to try to replace Brian Orakpo with a pass rusher. Beasley is woefully undersized for the NFL and will likely not beat people regularly if he can’t buzz around them with his speed. 4-3 defenses need not apply.

#6 – New York Jets – Danny Shelton NT Washington

Amidst all the talk of trading up for a QB and going after a pass rusher, did anyone stop and think about this guy playing between Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson? Does anyone else see this? Make this happen, MacCagnan! It’s begging for a nickname already!

#7 – Chicago Bears – Kevin White WR West Virginia

If you trade away a big time wide receiver in free agency, replacing him in the following draft is always the natural next step. If given the choice between the sheer athleticism of Kevin White and the polish of Amari Cooper, I think Chicago goes for White. All the natural ability in the world doesn’t mean anything if your quarterback is wild enough on his throws. If Chicago isn’t fully bought-in to Cutler, they’re going to take a receiver with a bigger catch radius over a polished route runner

#8 – Atlanta Falcons – Brandon Scherff OL Iowa

Randy Gregory might be undersized, Shane Ray might be suspended, and Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t have the time to find out either. The quickest route for Dimitroff and Pioli to keep their jobs in Atlanta is Matt Ryan lighting up the league again, and an unsexy selection of the best offensive lineman in the draft keeps them both out of trouble and helps protect the franchise. Think of it this way: when was the last time you saw the consensus best offensive lineman in the draft slip out of the top 8? I’ll tell youl. Over the last ten years including this one, only once has the draft gone past the eighth pick without an offensive lineman: 19-year old Tyron Smith being picked 9th in 2011. One of these GMs on the hot seat is going to get scared of sinking all their eggs into a pass rusher or quarterback that they may not be employed long enough to see develop. Scherff starts right away, improves your run game, and at his ceiling is your left tackle for ten years. Scherff is being drafted sooner than projected.

#9 – New York Giants – Amari Cooper WR Alabama

It’s not going to be a popular pick, but the Giants would be foolish to pass up a pro-ready player of Cooper’s caliber. He’s not flashy enough of a playmaker to warrant trading up for, and in today’s NFL, that means you slip. You could make the case that they spend this on an offensive tackle like La’el Collins or Andrus Peat, but Jerry Reese has long valued individual talent like Cooper’s over individual blocking talent. The Giants haven’t spent high picks on offensive linemen for most of Jerry Reese’s tenure because they believe in chemistry along the line over individual talents, and have won championships when they achieved it. If Cruz can start Week 1. You’re throwing Beckham, Cruz, Randle, and Cooper at teams on quick completions and runs after the catch. One shouldn’t need to block too long for that if you make it work.

#10 – St. Louis Rams – Andrus Peat OT LSU

If you’re going with Nick Foles, you’d better block up the edges. Nick Foles has a nice arm and can run your offense. Just don’t expect him to move. Greg Robinson has been an underachiever in year one and drafting a second tackle high offers Jeff Fisher versatility he otherwise doesn’t have. Peat possesses rare physical gifts, including thunder thighs and arms that can match most edge rushers, that will make a team take him over La’el Collins.

#11 – Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes CB Michigan St.

Everyone has this team picking an offensive player to help Teddy Bridgewater, but it’s not like he lacks weapons. He has an All-Pro back, a Pro-Bowl tight end, Mike Wallace, Jarius Wright, and Cordarelle Patterson with Norv Turner pushing the buttons. Why not appease your defensive-minded coach and get the best CB in the class. Waynes has Legion of Boom size, and can project immediately as a press corner in the slot complementary to what they already have in Rhodes and Munnerlyn? If you’re playing the Packers, Lions, and Bears twice a year, you need depth at corner.

#12 Cleveland Browns – Alvin Dupree OLB Kentucky

If the Browns haven’t moved up by this point, they’ll find that the other trades that were made have allowed some top-10 caliber guys to fall into their laps. I’m not immediately sold on Cleveland taking a wide-out after signing Dwayne Bowe. Alvin Dupree physically projects to a 4-3 defensive end, but with fewer teams playing 4-3, he is going to be attractive to teams that have several cogs of their front seven in place that will allow his natural ability to flow freely in pursuit without much else in the way of defensive responsibility. That likely means he won’t slip past a disciple of Rex Ryan.

#13 New Orleans Saints – Devante Parker WR Louisville

Heeeeey, lookie here! I don’t see Parker going top 10 because he’s not very physically imposing and missed 7 games last year with injuries. Most of what skyrocketed him up draft boards was a limited sample size, so I don’t think anyone is going all in with a top 10 pick on him. What isn’t up for debate is his 80-inch wingspan, which New Orleans will need if Brees’ arm strength recedes slightly. Even without power, Brees should be able to lay balls out for Parker and have him show off for the highlight reel like he did in collage. There’s no better place for him to end up. Colston, Cooks, and Parker should be fearsome in the waning days of Brees’ career.

#14 Miami Dolphins – La’el Collins OT LSU

The Cooper to Scherff’s White. Another GM/coaching pair on the hot seat is Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin who MUST make the playoffs with the moves they’ve made or kiss their careers goodbye. Thusly, they take an unsexy safe prototypical left tackle who can plug in the line right away and contribute. Collins played both LG and LT in college, stayed a year past his NFL eligibility for polish, and has virtually no weaknesses. He’s the safest 1st round OL pick you can have.

#15 San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead DT Oregon

Hey, if everyone says so. Armstead is projected to go here because he can immediately solidify a 3-4 front while developing as a pass rusher, something he didn’t do (and apparently wasn’t asked to do, though I’m sure Oregon would have taken it) in college. Armstead in the top 10 is a reach, as you’re basically only drafting his body. However, right here, where JPP was drafted five years ago, makes more sense. He’s a scheme fit, even if he’s not a complete player.

#16 Houston Texans – Shane Ray OLB Missouri

I have Ray going here because Houston is the first team in the draft that has the front seven solidified with veterans to the point where they can absorb a 4-game suspension and still have him contribute. Bill O’Brien is a disciple of Bill Belichick, which means he thinks he is Bill Belichick, which means he’s going to take a top-10 talent that falls to him for menial reasons like marijuana use. Ray should provide depth at a linebacker corps that has documented proclivity to injury, and at worst takes a nice sabbatical year out of the spotlight to start over.

#17 San Diego Chargers – Melvin Gordon RB Wisconsin

The first shocker. Mark my words. Melvin Gordon is the best offensive player in this draft. In fact, this draft is LOADED with backfield talent, and will be defined by the teams who defied rhetoric and convention to spend a top draft pick to get one. The Chargers, if they don’t trade this pick to move up, will the first team to take one based on sheer need. Gordon is a COMPLETE back, mirroring the catch and run ability of Jamaal Charles with a smoothness of Arian Foster. Barring injury, he should be an animal once he finds his groove.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs – Nelson Agholor WR USC

I don’t think teams are as high on Agholor as the prognosticators say. If you don’t have an offensive minded head coach, his special teams pelts aren’t going to woo you into a first round selection. If your coach is Andy Reid, however, and you realize the multifaceted game he has, and you can’t suddenly can’t stop designing screens for him, you draft him in the same spot you drafted Jeremy Maclin. Hey, they just signed Jeremy Maclin, right? KC gets a perfect understudy.

#19 Cleveland Browns (from Bills) – Malcom Brown DT Texas

I really think Malcolm Brown should go top-12. He’s as pro-ready as any defensive lineman in the draft. If he falls here, it’s Christmas in Cleveland. Brown can play in a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT role. All Mike Pettine would need to do to seal the deal on this guy being a 10 year starter in the NFL is instill a bigger mean streak in him. The size, technique, and versatility are all there.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles – Randy Gregory OLB Nebraska

Chip Kelly is friends with Bill Belichick, which means he thinks he is Bill Belichick, which means he’s…. ah, you get the picture. The only thing more self-congratulatory than mortgaging a franchise’s future to draft a QB you coached in college is taking the guy who falls on a single failed marijuana test so you can show the whole league you’re smarter than them. It’s a total Chip move, and when Gregory and Kelly are both out of the league 3 years from now (Kelly first.) because Gregory can’t play the run and slows down with the 10-15lbs everyone thinks he should put on, you’ll learn not to fall in love with edge rushers based on sheer measurable traits alone.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals – Byron Jones CB UConn

Of course they don’t have all 32 helmets. Christ. While convention may lead you to think they’re going to add an offensive lineman to protect the statuesque Andy Dalton, and while stereotyping may lead you to believe they’ll take a swing on Green-Beckham, I believe Marvin Lewis is going to look at a defense that was 20th against both the pass and the run, and choose a corner to help against the Steeler receivers in battling for the division. Jones possesses rare speed and verticality that will help him on jump balls, and at 200lbs he’s just thick enough not to get beat up in press coverage. An excellent pro prospect that can be plugged into nickel packages on day 1.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers – Landon Collins S Alabama

I would advise most teams against drafting someone like Collins in the first round, because on film he’s a strong safety that is projected to have free-safety range based on his measurables. I think Pittsburgh is a nice place for him because they’ll be able to use him backed off in their Cover 2 scheme even if he never converts to free safety. Collins is pro-ready to step in at strong safety day 1, and Pittsburgh’s defensive culture will develop him into a solid SS/FS hybrid at worst. The team that drafts him high and asks him to play centerfield will be disappointed.

#23 Detroit Lions – Todd Gurley RB Georgia

Everyone has this guy going to the Chargers, Cowboys or Ravens. Did we forget Detroit was 28th in rushing last year, and they don’t even have a bad offensive line? Controlling the clock on the ground was basically the one thing the Lions didn’t do well last year. Detroit drafting Gurley with a capable pass-catching back in Joique Bell beside him allows Gurley to learn the offense at his own pace while guarding his injured knee. If they’re down two touchdowns, he’s off the field. If they’re up two touchdowns in December outdoors, he’s the guy that breaks the dome team stereotype and gets them over the hump. If you’re Detroit, you’re likely going to have to win indoors during the season, and outdoors in January. You need portable weapons, and thusly Gurley is worth more to a team like Detroit than to others.

#24 Arizona Cardinals – Marcus Peters CB Washington

Todd Bowles got a head coaching job from being defensive coordinator here off a season in which his defense was 29th against the pass and gave up 368 yards a game. I don’t know how the Arizona brass doesn’t look at Peters and see alot of Patrick Peterson in him. In addition to being one of the best athletes in the draft, Peters has a mean streak in him that will more than fit into the dog fight of the NFC West. I’m surprised this guy is projected down in the 30s given everything I’ve read and watched about him. With the top two backs gone, and all the pass rushers dried up, I don’t think Bruce Arians will pass on someone like this.

#25 Carolina Panthers – Ereck Flowers OT Florida

The Panthers did themselves no favors by winning the division with a losing record. They won’t go a second year without O-line replenishment, and Flowers will have fallen just as far in the draft order as Carolina has by the time they’re on the clock. At 6-6 330, Flowers figures to help immediately at guard, and should help in the run game. Can’t you see Cam Newton diving over this fellow on the goal line?

#26 Baltimore Ravens – Eddie Goldman DT Florida State

When all else fails, Baltimore loads the box. Goldman is versatile, seasoned with big games under his belt, and disruptive regularly on his college tape. He’ll be most attractive to teams that will want to put him across the front of a 3-4 formation. The Ravens basically invented that. If I’m Baltimore, and everyone is clamoring for a receiver, I tell them hold off until the 2nd round and take either a WR that falls or a tight end. If you’re going to continue to run the zone scheme with Forsett and this line post-Kubiak, you need easy options off the play action, not precise route-runners.

#27 Dallas Cowboys – Kevin Johnson CB Wake Forest

If I’m a Cowboys fan, I’m hoping to God Jerry isn’t overly fretting about losing DeMarco Murray, and is more concerned with not playing himself about a defense that remarkably overachieved last season. While not the explosive athlete that Marcus Peters is, Johnson is more polished, and can start on the outside right away. If he has an immediate impact, it will allow Rod Marinelli more permutations in the box to keep offenses guessing, and thusly continue to overcome a lack of raw talent. Dallas needs an infusion of defensive talent this year, and cannot be distracted by playmakers.

#28 Denver Broncos – Cameron Erving C Florida State

Erving, while versatile in college and playing across the line, is not mean or powerful enough to play tackle professionally. He’s athletic enough to get into the second level and do some nice pulling in schemes that will ask it of him, but he’s not bowling anyone over frequently, and the scouting reports on him suggest he never will. When you’re as stacked as Denver is, you can take him as a prospect and figure out what to do with him in a year. He possesses all the skills you need to block in a high-volume passing offense, but running teams should stay away.

#29 Indianapolis Colts – D. J. Humphries OT Florida

With the scheme fits out of the way, the most athletic tackle in the draft falls to Indy. Humphries has the right attitude and athleticism for the position, but has some bad habits with hand placement and balance that might scare a team higher up with asses to cover in need of contribution from day 1. He’s a year away from being on track to his ceiling, and Chuck Pagano should be up to the challenge.

#30 Green Bay Packers – Eric Kendricks LB UCLA

For all the praise given to Kendricks, the Packers are one of a handful of teams that are perennially successful enough to draft an inside linebacker in the first round and not catch much criticism. Fortunately, this fills a need for Green Bay as well as kicks Clay Matthews back to a full time pass rushing role. Kendricks is seasoned from being on a team coached by a former NFL coach and seeing the field in 14 games his freshman year, something most recruits at big programs don’t necessarily get to do. The Packers get essentially a known quantity that fills a need at the right price.

#31 New Orleans Saints (from Seahawks) – Ronald Darby CB Florida State

Under the presumption that Vaccaro and Byrd are still your 1-2 punch at safety, you can NOT go into next season without answers for coverage on the outside. While Keenan Lewis is an above-average man corner, there’s no reason to stretch your safeties both coming off lost years. Get a corner that can at a minimum plug into nickel packages on day 1 and use his speed on the Superdome turf to his advantage. Darby fits the bill.

#32 New England Patriots – Phillip Dorsett WR Miami

This may not seem like a fit right away, but as Tom Brady’s arm strength wanes, there needs to be someone who can take the top off of defenses in the Pats offense or teams other than the Giants are going to start wising up. I believe Dorsett to be a fit here because he won’t be overwhelmed by his inexperience having come out as a senior, and he can always project in the slot if Tom can’t hit him deep. The Pats already get alot out of flexing Edelman and Amendola in and out to keep teams off balance. A third guy in this rotation without the world expected of him on day 1 won’t hurt. Also, I don’t know of any Rutgers players to put here.

 

 

Week 11

TITTLE

1-0 this week, 10-3 last week (yay!), 81-50-1 overall.

These are my Week 11 picks:

Carolina, Chicago, Houston, KC, NO, Giants, Denver, Washington, San Diego, Arizona, Philly, NE, Pittsburgh.

I’m shutting the blog down for a while. I have some things I have to work on, socially speaking. Honestly, were I ever any good at fitting in to begin with, I probably wouldn’t think typing my thoughts on the NFL into empty space to be a good idea. I should be grateful that I’m finally getting somewhere, not negotiating how I’m going to screw it up. I’ll be back in a while. I just simply cannot type as if I had insight on the NFL without insight on myself. Love each other. See you soon.

Week 10

70-47-1 on the year, 8-5 last week.

If you’re reading this on a weekly basis (first off, thank you; secondly, my condolences) you’ve noticed a severe drop-off in my writing. The practice has picked up, and I really haven’t had much time to think about much else. There’s a space that this blog used to fill, and now I’m overflowing.

Giants at Seahawks – The Giants have two things going for them: 1) Everyone has rightfully forgotten about them, and 2) Their stretch run has 5 ridiculously easy games that have actually become easier down the stretch. All they need to do is be 6-5 after 11 games an-oh wait they’re 3-5 now? This is a must-win? Seahawks 30, Giants 17. This game will be a mess in the first half.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

Niners at Saints – If you think the 4-4 Niners are just going to lay down and call it a year, remember that this game last year had a very controversial finish with the Ahmad Brooks roughing the passer penalty that gave New Orleans life and the win at home they desperately needed. I just don’t think this Niners team is very good, and even if it was, I don’t think it’s together enough to use that motivation and overcome the Home Dome advantage. Saints 27, Niners 20. While I’ve been impressed with the Niners’ reinventing themselves as a passing team, it’s not going to immediately contend without some fine tuning this off-season.

Chiefs at Bills – For my money, the most interesting game of the day. Today is all about the Bills’ talent. You know Andy Reid is going to coach circles around Doug Marrone, the only question bore here is “Will it be enough?”. I think Buffalo would give KC a run were its backfield healthy, but without it I think the Chiefs are way too balanced to screw this up so bad that they’d blow it. Chiefs 26, Bills 20.

Dolphins at Lions – Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeveryone’s on that Miami bandwagon, huh? (Alright, so am I. I traded Percy Harvin for Ryan Tannehill after Rivers blessed me with a negative-point QB performance for my now 2-7 fantasy team.). A big part of the reason Miami’s offense is clicking now is that they’ve utilized Tannehill in the run game for big plays. People have forgotten he played WR in college, and when he catches defenses off-guard and takes off he looks like the fastest guy on the field. Take that away with some dominant defensive tackles to disrupt the misdirection and some speedy linebackers to set the edge, and I think you have the antidote. Lions 23, Dolphins 21.

Bears at Packers – For everyone who thinks Jay Cutler is the problem in Chicago…

cutler

…yeah, it’s the defense. The quarterback whispering of Marc Trestman has produced positive results, but just as Rex Ryan could never get the offensive mind to complement him in New York, I think Trestman’s obvious defensive defects could get him canned in Chi-town if not resolved by the end of next season. Aaron Rodgers tends to have his way with the Bears, but frankly he’s having his way with most defenses lately. Packers 38, Bears 34. I don’t expect Cutler to back down this time. Take the over.

Cowboys at Jaguars (UK) – This is going to look like a game for exactly 19 minutes. The first quarter will either have no score or the Jags up 3-0 or 7-3 when Romo hits that first big play to Bryant and sucks the air out of Jacksonville from overseas. The Jaguars have nothing to contain Bryant and can’t cover the other guys one-on-one if Bryant is doubled, which means they’re going to be doing alot of guessing. The only way the Jaguars are coming back with a W is if they send 9 and invite the personal fouls in trying to exacerbate Romo’s back and get him out of the game. Cowboys 27, Jaguars 10.

Rams at Cardinals – Has there ever been a 3-5 team that was more the toast of the town than this Rams team? Sure, they’re feisty, and their quarterback is a great story (and ABSOLUTELY belongs in the NFL after this year if he leaves) . Even when St. Louis was worse than this, they’d always given their superior divisional opponents a game. I expect the same here. Cardinals 19, Rams 16. 

Other winners – Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh, Atlanta

Tie Watch

Perhaps the most striking thing about Atlanta’s initial blowout of Tampa Bay on Thursday night some weeks ago is that if the Bucs exact revenge today, they’d have the same record. Sign Steve and I up.

Week 9

7-8 last week

64-42-1 this year

A Scheduling Epiphany

I’m just gonna ramble this thought out there and save it for later.

What if the NFL and NCAA came to an agreement that Thursday night NFL games were not good for the long-term health of players and that he college football playoff needed a national showcase of important games apart from the Saturday slate? I know the ratings wouldn’t be the same, but what if the NFL moved its Thursday night game to Saturday night, and the NCAA got a deal through ESPN to showcase national games on Thursday night?

It would fit a nice news cycle: College preview Thursday afternoon, then the game (Which would have the extra day of rest starting from Saturday instead of Sunday), then reactions to it all Friday w/ some NFL preview. NFL game Saturday, Recap of Saturday’s action on Sunday morning (it would actually give those networks reason to have hours of preview coverage and could easily suck up 30 minutes of analysis), then Sunday’s games. The ratings would suffer simply because you’re moving from Thursday to Saturday, but just about every other aspect of it would get better, right? Because it would fit an audience that would rather stay in and watch football than go out on date night, you could tailor the broadcast to advanced statistics and analysis. Call it Neckbeard Night Football, or something.

Even better, you can take an otherwise lost-in-the-shuffle game like Chargers-Dolphins and showcase it nationally. San Diego’s banged up right now, but everyone’s quietly forgotten that their #1 receiver is healthy, Antonio Gates is still around, and Ryan Mathews’ return from an MCL injury is just around the corner. The O-line could use some reinforcements, but I think they’ll hold up fine, especially against a Miami team that plays like shit at home. Chargers 28, Dolphins 24.

Blowing Copper

To me, there’s two kinds of underrated bands: 1) Underrated where the band never achieves the fame it should have achieved given how fresh they sounded, and 2) Legacy underrated, where the band peaked like it should have and blew up, but for some reason is forgotten long-term.

I’ll go toe to toe with anyone on this: after the first wave of alternative came and went, after the Gin Blossoms burst into flames, and while the Counting Crows were simmering as the foundation for what would be pop-punk and emo 10-15 years later, Live was the best band on the planet from 1995-1997. Live was as big as any band from that era while they were big, and furthermore actually went on to produce two more platinum albums in the 90s after they peaked, but for some reason their memory never carried on into the next decade. It’s not thoroughly inexplicable. They were four regular guys from York, Pennsylvania who had the same lineup from the age of 13 until a seemingly sudden and brutal breakup garnished with lawsuits tore them apart in 2009.

You kinda thought after 21 years of uneventful and steady success that Live seemed ready to hit cruise control and just ride the outdoor festival circuit until they put all their kids through college and called it a career, especially when they still had their chops enough to kick the shit out of a live record as they did here in 2008. Alas, I guess all bands pull this shit eventually. Ed Kowalczyk was no David Lee Roth, but you could tell over time that he slowly morphed from deep spiritual beliefs in Eastern religions to deep spiritual beliefs in himself. He was no angel towards the end. It just seems so atypical given their history. Live was signed when they were 17 years old, released their first record at age 20, and dropped an iconic 90s record at age 23, following it up with those two other platinum records by age 28. They survived an eight-figure album sales decade in the most vulnerable decat of their lives, but somehow broke up pushing 40 while comfortably living in the California suburbs? Were there no seats left at the Neighborhood Association meeting that you had to go and start your own problems?

Sticking to my point, compared to other rock stars of their ilk, Live were still a bunch of relatively young guys with no reason to completely hang it up when things fell apart. Kowalczyk went on his own and wrote an album with his brother that basically sounded like Live’s vanilla material (kinda hard to avoid when you’re the face of it, but still…), and Live’s other members decided to write a new record with a new singer…. oh, but they still call this band Live. Kowalczyk has been replaced with Chris Shinn, a journeyman singer who while passable is clearly, in garb and voice, so confused as to which 21st century stereotype he wants to rip off that he pieced together a look from each of them. Shinn has spent the last 15 years coasting through failed band after failed band, but seems all too content to become a professional karaoke singer and mooch someone else’s songs into a living. Worse, the band that spent 20+ years crafting a legacy is all too willing to let him. This song is awful, this album is awful, and they should be ashamed of themselves for attaching Live to this sound instead of simply forming a new band, and calling it Audioskeet or something. At least Guns N Roses and Soundgarden had the decency to declare they were doing something new.

Speaking of bands of men with an improper frontman, the Jets seem to have bottomed out on that subject at the worst possible time. Arrowhead isn’t easy under the BEST of circumstances, much less one where you’re asking Michael Vick to Chris Shinn his way through a set. Chiefs 31, Jets 10.

Halloween Again

While I was getting it in and seeing 22 patients on Friday, I didn’t realize it was Halloween until I saw one of my coworkers in costume. I followed it up on my lunch break by having to navigate spiderwebs to get to the counter at A&W to get a burger from a trailer trash bag dressed as a witch. If there’s one apology I had to make to the rest of human history on behalf of my generation, it’s the number of cultural things we’ve hijacked from children and dragged kicking and screaming into our thirties, most notably Halloween. Halloween is the second most revenue-generating holiday after Christmas now, and worse, Halloween costumes for pets are a THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY MILLION DOLLAR PER YEAR INDUSTRY. You fucking losers! As Romie said, I hate to be that guy, but I will always be that guy: Halloween is basically playing dress-up, and playing dress-up is for children ONLY. Halloween, cosplay, or otherwise, if you play dress-up in your thirties, you-are-a-lo-serrrrrr. Worse, if you get 53 guys together and dress-up as football players in Seattle, you’re a bigger loser. Seahawks 24, Raiders 0.

Steel Certain

balpit

Looking for a fantasy defense this weekend? Look no further than the low-scoring rivalry of the Steelers and Ravens. Chances are the Steelers D is available after giving up the farm against the Colts in garbage time. Buy low this week. They’ve given up 30+ to the Ravens only once since 2008, and meddle between 10-20 more often than not. Steelers 19, Ravens 17.

Line Play 

Eagles (-2) at Houston – Oof. Don’t think so. Lock of the year. How do you leave JJ Watt unblocked in the read-option offense? Is Philly going to run to one side of the field all game? Texans 24, Eagles 20.

Foreskins (E) at Vikings – Robert Griffin is back. You know what that means. Vikes 31, Skins 17.

Buccaneers (+7) at Browns – Why on Earth would you trust the Browns to win this game, much less cover it? I’m still amazed this heap of shit is going to be 5-3. Browns 20, Buccaneers 14. Also, Browns fans, if you’re wondering if the team should pay Brian Hoyer: see Fitzpatrick, Ryan.

Jaguars (+11) at Bengals – Giovani Bernard is out, AJ Green is out, and Cincy just puffed this spread up a few points with a season defining win over the Ravens, sweeping the season series. Time for a let down. Bengals 24, Jaguars 23.

Rams (+10) at Niners – Rams always play the Niners tough, and they have a mobile quarterback of their own that can make plays. What they don’t have is a secondary that can contain the four horsemen the Niners have at wideout. The deep dark secret of the NFL is how the Niners have reinvented themselves with four #1 receivers into a passing team. It might not go mainstream till January. Niners 37, Rams 17.

Broncos (-3.5) at Patriots – Barring a historic comeback and ballsy move in overtime that paid off, the Broncos dominated the Patriots with a worse team seven out of eight quarters last year. This year’s Broncos are even better, and this year’s Patriots are still a work in progress on defense. Broncos 40, Patriots 33.

Cardinals (no line) at Cowboys – No line because even with two fractured vertebrae that have been described by the Cowboys as “a problem separate from the back surgery he had in the offseason” so as to defuse the idea of a recurrent injury, Tony Romo might play Sunday. Well, Jerry, when you defuse the idea of a recurrent problem, you inherently created the idea of a second one. Now Romo has two back problems, AFTER you basically gave him an edict to get back in the game despite his being clearly shaken up. Now you have a locker room hazard in Joseph Randle, who is getting arrested, getting in fights with your oh-so-diplomatic #1 receiver, and is being deemed a locker room cancer…. but that’s okay. You’re bringing in veteran leadership like Josh Brent, so Randle will feel right at home. Cardinals 27, Cowboys 23. It’s already crumbling.

Tie Watch

6 teams on the bye, and 2 men on the tie.

Steve isn’t passing up Browns-Bucs the once in four years he gets it.
I’m going Foreskins-Vikings. A tie in Robert Griffin’s return would be poetic justice.

Week 8

9-6 last week. 1-0 this week. 57-34-1.

Extended Line Play

I positively LOVE alot of the lines this week, so let’s just dive in.

Seahawks (-7) at Panthers – So the Super Bowl winning team that couldn’t win this exact game by more than 5 last year is expected to win this year by more than seven. The Seahawks have fallen off more than the Panthers. The gap has narrowed. Just….why? Take the home dog points and thank me later. Also, if you have around 60 fantasy points you could donate to me that would be awesome. Seahawks 20, Panthers 16. Time to see if a locker room that is financially guaranteed not to stick together past this season has the maturity to hold down the fort and continue to win.

Lions (-3.5) at Falcons (London) – 9:30am? I’m sorry. Did you have something better to do? It is the Falcons, after all. You can simply not watch, but then you might miss the dominant defensive line eat through the porous Atlanta O-line and eat Matt Ryan alive. Bangers and mash, anyone? Lions 27, Falcons 13. If Detroit is any good, this shouldn’t be close.

Rams (+7) at Chiefs – Lauded deservedly for a big win in San Diego (which has absolutely no real home field advantage, but let’s move on), people tend to forget one thing about Andy Reid: When the NFL landscape blows smoke up Andy’s ass, he has a tendency to blow it back the following week. St. Louis’ defensive line can set the tone early by stuffing Charles and forcing Alex Smith to go toe to toe with their frisky offense. He might win, but he won’t dominate. Chiefs 23, Rams 20.

Ravens (-3) at Bengals – The Ravens are a top 5 team until further notice. Everything they did has worked out so far. Steve Smith is playing like a Pro-Bowler. Justin Forsett has single-handedly saved their running game and allowed them to hold leads, and what used to be a big name defense has been quietly rebuilt. They could be doing better at tight end, and if Smitty runs out of gas, they’re in trouble, but you can’t tell me you see the Bengals, who can’t do ANYTHING on offense if AJ Green isn’t stretching the field, are going to suddenly figure it out and get a win. Ravens 30, Bengals 17. Watch Giovani Bernard vs. an eight man box, and tell me why I didn’t trade him earlier.

Dolphins (-6) at Jaguars – I think it’s time for the Jaguars, who have everything to gain by trying as many things as possible with their new QB toy, to become the frisky underdog I had predicted them to be preseason. If you’re so down on the Jags and think even the Dolphins should be favored by 6 points on the road, tell me which Miami offensive player I should be fearing. Mike Wallace? Pffft ok, double him. Now, who?……… Hello?…… Jaguars 23, Dolphins 21.

Eagles (+3) at Cardinals – I think it’s been understated just how far ahead of the NFL Chip Kelly still is in year 2. His quarterback is not even playing well and they’re 5-1 with a divisional shutout. I would take them every time they’re getting points. Points aren’t hard to come by in Philly. Eagles 34, Cardinals 28. Maclin could have a huge day on Peterson, too. Watch how they move him around. Also, the over/under is only 48 in this game. How are either of these teams not scoring?

Bills (+3) at Jets – The Bills are 4-3 on one of the easiest schedules in the league, and the Jets are 1-6 after facing a murderer’s row of quarterbacks with their beleaguered secondary. With their defensive backfield no longer in jeopardy, expect the front seven to take this game over. Kyle Orton may be hospitalized in this one. Jets 20, Bills 13.

Colts (-3.5) at Steelers – Do yourself a favor and ride Indy until these likes get to the 7-8 points they should be. Indy is the 2nd best team in the league behind Denver, and the gap is closing by the week. People have forgotten how good of a defensive coach Chuck Pagano is, and now that he finally has the defense he wants, ignore the blue unis and see if you can see some old Ravens film in how hard they hit. Ahmad Bradshaw has looked great, their tight ends are a threat on every down, and Luck is…. well y’know… Colts 34, Steelers 20. The Colts should spank the Steelers if they’re as good as they’ve looked.

Packers (+1) at Saints – I know the Saints have a wonderful home dome advantage, but… I mean…. you’ve seen them, right? Graham half-assing on routes, different backfield injuries every week, lots of turnovers, horrible defense, Colston’s a step slower, and they’re favored? I think the Saints have lost their groove. They’re going to have to rebuild this offense. Cooks is part of the solution, as is Graham when healthy, but the rest of the guys can’t win matchups on their own. Aaron Rodgers is going to love playing indoors almost as much as Drew does. Packers 33, Saints 24.

Bears (+7) at Patriots – Sucker’s bet. Everyone wants you to believe that Jay Cutler will have the masterful performance he had in San Francisco. Even if he does, why does that mean he’s winning, or even coming close for that matter, to beating Brady and Belichick at home. I know they’ve had their flounders this season, but Chicago’s defense isn’t going to suddenly come together and take away checkdowns to the backs and tight ends. Brady operates within the cover 2 shell better than anyone. Patriots 29, Bears 20.

Other Winners – Buccaneers, Texans, Browns

Tie Watch – Steve is tempted to go Birdwatch for the second week in a row, but settled for Titans-Texans. I’m going with Bills-Jets.

 

 

Week 7

47-28 overall….. oh, and one

Kitty Bowl

panthers

Basically what a tie looks like…

Steve got his wish last weekend. Not just a tie, but a 74 POINT TIE, and the second in seven seasons for the Bengals. Ties are very often picked based on offensive ineptitude week to week, but this kinda made sense. The Bengals missing AJ Green showed up in overtime, but more impressively Cam Newton’s perseverance showed up, too. This Panthers team isn’t going to roll over and die, and it’s a credit more to Newton than anyone else. Their backfield is a mess, their receivers ain’t much (except for Kelvin Benjamin, who has impressed me more than any rookie this season), and their secondary could easily wane as the season wears on. My father, of ALL people, predicted this would be an MVP season for Newton, and I’m shocked how not wrong he’s been so far. I totally expect them to cover at Lambeau. Packers 30, Panthers 27. Colts 31, Bengals 24. 

Victor Spoiled

cruz

 

I was at a wedding in Virginia over the weekend when Victor Cruz shortened his career with a patellar tendon tear. For those of you don’t know what that means, straighten out your leg, put your thumb and index finger just below your kneecap, and feel how tight that tissue feels. Now imagine it being ripped off the front of your tibia, an area that’s especially sensitive, and you’ll see why Cruz was crying all the way to the hospital. In a way, it overshadows how poorly the Giants played. They led us to believe they had an offensive line scheme figured out, and instead found that the Giants have two tackles signed long-term that can’t sustain individual blocks. Welp, they’d better sustain them tomorrow, because Eli’s going to need to go to Donnell in the middle of the field a hell of a lot more now. They’ll get Jennings back after the bye and be competitive, but I have a hard time believing that they’ll suddenly not fold under injuries the way they have in the past. Cowboys 26, Giants 24. They need to be 6-5 after eleven games to have a shot at the playoffs, and that includes a three week stretch after the bye of IND-@SEA-SF. They gotta steal this one, steal one of those three, and beat Dallas at home like they’re supposed to.

And you might wonder, how am I buying the Cowboys so quickly? Look at that line, man. Huge, young, quiet, and built for straight ahead blocking. Dallas’ weakness is that their defense won’t keep up the suprisingly average pace for 16 games, and that Jason Witten is done. As soon as a team stuffs their run and takes Bryant away, Dallas is toast. Philly should figure this out the way they figured the Giants O-line out and get the job done.

Percy Principle

I'm outta here duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

I’m outta here duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

And just like that, 1-6 team is carrying two starting receivers from the previous Super Bowl. Pretty sure that’s never happened. The Jets fought their tails off in their Thursday loss, and Rex has shown each of the last two weeks that he’s still imaginative enough to get the job done in containing elite quarterbacks (which I hear is a nice commodity in case, you know, he gets fired). The Percy Harvin trade (Part Deux), part one of which I trashed to pieces, is a continuation of this disturbing trend to trade for and extend the contract of a player who does not stretch the field whatsoever. Worse, he’s not even that good of a pure slot receiver. You need an entire team blocking, and the other entire team falling for the misdirection, for him to break anything big. That’s worth high draft picks and guaranteed money? Forget it. The NFC West powerhouses now both seem to have some discord, as jettisoning Harvin has come with a wake of Smittyesque stories about how he’s attacked Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin in practice. Every NFL player can get up the anger to play hard in a game, but those who can’t control themselves, especially when they never possessed the one-on-one receiver ability Steve Smith had, ain’t gonna be tolerated for long. I wouldn’t be surprised if St. Louis makes a real game of the Seahawks at home tomorrow. Wouldn’t that be a trip? Seahawks 17, Rams 14, OT. 

The Niners, on the other hand, seem to be slowly figuring things out. They haven’t looked overwhelming, but their transition to a passing team under Kaepernick has gone better than I expected. Understated have been the receiver upgrades, as Brandon Lloyd, Stevie Johnson, and Michael Crabtree have all been #1s at points in their career (As I wrote that sentence I forgot about Q, which would make FOUR). That trio doesn’t go on the field scared of anyone, and if they can get their tight end situation healthy, we might forget about Frank Gore altogether. If any team can go into Denver and surprisingly spank the Broncos, it’s the Niners, who have already shown to disrupt the advanced offenses in the league. I have a feeling people won’t underestimate the Niner secondary past tomorrow. Niners 31, Broncos 30.

Kyle and Error

Kyle

 

If there’s any symbolic team for how little anyone in the NFL has distinguished themselves from the pack, it’s the Bills, who despite a QB-controversy that sinks most teams, can stay one game out of first place with a win over the meager Vikings, who are down to a third string running back, rookie quarterback, and a full-scale downscale of Cordarrelle Patterson. I think the Vikings DO have a bright future, but this year isn’t any part of it. A full camp with Bridgewater as the starter and the Patterson-Jarius combo at receiver with Rudolph at tight end, then we’ll talk. Bills 23, Vikings 17.

Also in Bills news are C. J. Spiller trade rumors, which are especially interesting because aside from his injury history, he’s a dynamic 3-down back that can also contribute in the return game as part of a platoon. He’s taken fewer than half the snaps on the field this season and his increasing disuse has been met with increasing suspicion.

Quiet Winners

joique

Lions (4-2) vs Saints – If there’s one reason the Packers can’t R.E.L.A.X., it’s because the Lions are 4-2 despite themselves, and sport the division’s best defense by a mile. Of course, their kicking woes are virtually unsustainable (right?), but their uncanny ability to deliver a clunker at home like they did against the Bills recently is right around the corner to haunt this team. I think the Saints throw a wrench into the guarded happy times in Detroit. Saints 29, Lions 23.

Ravens (4-2) vs Falcons – Thanks to the aforementioned tie, the Ravens sit quietly a half-game out of first place in the AFC North. With the Steelers putting up another dud last week, you gotta wonder if the Ravens aren’t actually the team to beat. You’d presume that Steve Smith will run out of gas in the second half of the season, but then why couldn’t Torrey Smith pick right back up where he left off (1,100+ yds last year) and explode to pick up the slack. They suddenly have depth in their backfield, enough going on defense, and the coaching/QB combo that’s been there before to win close games. Ravens 27, Falcons 17. Atlanta’s not going to look good in this game. You have to be good on your lines to beat Baltimore.

Cardinals (4-1) at Raiders – The 5-1 Cardinals? Really? Yep! Despite all the QB problems, Arizona has the personnel to hang with anyone. If John Brown continues to develop, they’ll have the 3 WR looks Arians loves to use. If their defense continues to stick together through injuries, no one will be able to run on them consistently. Oh, and that Carson Palmer guy everyone loves to trash? Well, he thanks you. Because nobody believes in Carson Palmer, he became the first guy to throw for 4,000 yards on 3 different teams. Keep dismissing them. Cardinals 28, Raiders 10.

Line Play

Browns (-6) at Jaguars – When will you EVER see the Browns as 6 point road favorites? And how do we know the Steelers are even a worthy opponent to begin with? Can’t you see the Jaguars winning this game after we’ve congratulated Cleveland all week? Me neither, but man I’m getting 6 points against a team with new prosperity on the road? Browns 21, Jags 20.

Dolphins (+3.5) at Bears – Positively Chicago’s game to lose. Miami is bad. No, don’t look at the numbers, and don’t look at the occasional fight they put up. They’re bad. Don’t let them burn you. Brent Grimes might get his, but I still don’t think it would tip the game. Lamar Miller isn’t going off against that run defense either. I don’t care how bad you’ve seen it look in other games. Bears 33, Dolphins 23.

Seahawks (-7) at Rams – This is not the week to be taking the Seahawks on the road giving 7. I know the Rams are no good, but all that discord in the locker room becoming public combined with the fact that they have to figure out what to do with Percy’s touches makes me think the next 2-3 weeks will be a transition period. They’ll be the better team in each of these games, but I wouldn’t take them by more than 3 until they show me what they want to do. Seahawks 21, Rams 17. By the way, what would be the fantasy implications if the Seahawks played Thursday and the Jets played Sunday? Would you get 8 quarters to rack up points?

Titans (+5.5) at Foreskins – Talk about something unnecessary that should be cut off to look better, that 5.5 point spread is way too high. The Foreskins are abominable. Did you see what Jay Gruden was wearing during his loss to the Cardinals last week?

Washington Redskins v Arizona CardinalsHe looks like a fan who won a pay-to-enter sweepstakes from Dan Snyder to coach the team for a year. This could be a devastating loss at home. I’ll love it. Titans 23, Redskins 20.

Chiefs (+4) at Chargers – Betting against Andy Reid after a bye is a scary proposition. While I have no doubt that the Chargers’ offense will show, I haven’t seen wondrous play from their defense to the point where I’d simply expect it to show up and help cover. I think this will be a high scoring game, and the Chiefs will eek it out. I think the Chargers are due for a letdown. Chiefs 37, Chargers 34. 

Tie Watch

Steve, in the wake of such joy, gets to settle in on one of his favorite traditions: BirdWatch. He takes ATL-BAL

I don’t see how you don’t take TEN-WAS. Just seems miles ahead of the other choices.

 

Week 6

1-0 in Week 6

Driving to DC tomorrow in a rental car and I still haven’t packed. Let’s not waste time. Andrew Luck is good, J.J. Watt is REALLY good, T. Y. Hilton has his moments (and his real initials aren’t T. Y., did you know that?)

Big Brown

Anyone billing tomorrow’s contest between the Steelers and Browns, especially those favoring the Browns by 1 point, is wildly overestimating the Browns’ feisty play as something to build on for the future. That includes the Browns themselves, whom after drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round have decided to heat up contract talks with the quarterback they drafted him to replace. That alone should tell you this is the same old Browns with a dash of overachievement, but if you factor in that Antonio Brown owns Joe Haden, you’ll come back to Earth. Remember, this Browns team has played one good quarter against the Titans, one good game on their grass against the Saints, and have essentially looked inadequate the rest of the time. In fact, they may have looked better in their two losses than their two wins. Pittsburgh won’t take them likely with a second crack at them. Steelers 30, Browns 21.

Ride That Horse

The Broncos couldn’t ask for a better opponent to have their letdown game against. Peyton throwing for a career high in yardage (Were you surprised that Peyton hasn’t thrown for 500 in a game in his career? I was.) against a demoralized Cardinals team usually comes with some exasperation, or at least a slow start, the following week. Enter the hapless Jets: ten point home underdogs, missing meetings the night before games, and as disorganized a team as there is in the NFL now. Bless you, Rex Ryan: Broncos 41, Jets 13. Forget if the Jets can stop Peyton. Tell me how they’re scoring two touchdowns in this game.

Lion’ Shame

If I copied and pasted a paragraph from 2012 about how enigmatic the Lions have been in this week’s column, would you notice? Jim Caldwell has done much more to curtail the undisciplined nature of the Lions’ play than I imagined he would, and he has certainly improved the defense, but getting spanked by Carolina and losing to Buffalo at home are glaring. That being said, I don’t see how they lose to a Vikings team that is so beat on and over-reliant on young talent that the slightest slip up tilts the game radically in Detroit’s favor. The Lions should have no problem sticking to the run game with Calvin Johnson gone and play enough mistake-free ball to eek this out. Lions 23, Vikings 20.

By the way, the Bengals get to take that Panther Toughness Test the Lions failed in Week 2, but at home. Even without A. J. Green, they should be able to eek it out. They shouldn’t be touchdown favorites, as they really have nothing else in their arsenal to blow a game open, but their defense is good enough and their running game is good enough to match theirs and ride the home field to a victory. Bengals 26, Panthers 23.

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles

This Again…

Four weeks ago, you would never have said that the Giants were the best team in the NFC East, but with the best defense in the division by a mile and an offense that should only get better as Odell Beckham gets more reps, why shouldn’t we start saying it? The schedule, which as is wasn’t daunting, has set up for them quite nicely. There are two teams with four starting offensive linemen hurt, and the Giants get both of them back-to back. Who do they get after that? The Cowboys, who will likely be beat up from playing in Seattle the week before, and may even be starting Brandon Weeden if Romo doesn’t slip out of the way this time. Who do they get after that? A week off! Who said I was worried about the Giants? I mean… say Andre Williams decides this is the game where he has two rookie fumbles and causes a third in pass protection… Naaaaaaah, right? Giants 34, Eagles 30. Seahawks 24, Cowboys 17.

Line Play

Jaguars (+4/+170) at Titans – I think it’s time for the Jags to get off the proverbial schneid (is there a real schneid?). Anyway…The Titans probably haven’t regrouped from giving up a 25 point lead at home, and the carousel at the QB position could finally mean Bortles has an opponent he can beat. Jaguars 17, Titans 14.

Patriots (-3) at Bills – While I don’t think the Pats are all the way back, this Bills team will suffice for a live scrimmage. Brady will be able to work within the shell tremendously, making a ton of completions to the backs and Tim Wright. Being favored by only three is a joke. Patriots 34, Bills 20.

Ravens (-3.5) at Buccaneers – Juuuuuuust a bit high, right? Ravens shouldn’t be able to put up big numbers on the road against that secondary, and the lines still haven’t caught up to how much of an improvement Glennon has been over McCown. Ravens 17, Bucs 14. Juuuuuust a bit high.

Foreskins (+3.5) at Cardinals – Drew Stanton is cleared to play, Bruce Arians breathes a tremendous sigh of relief, and the ‘Slurs are in a whole heap of trouble. Cardinals 27, Foreskins 17. Peterson pick six upcoming.

Chargers (-7.5) at Raiders – You know when they tell you “When in doubt, take the points?”. Not one of those times. Chargers 31, Raiders 10.

Packers (-3.5) at Dolphins – I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, I get 3 and a HALF at home? I’ll take it! The Packers haven’t looked that great.”. You’re wrong. The Dolphins are awful at home, and soon to be plain awful. Disregard the return of Knowshon Moreno. He can’t cover anyone. Packers 30, Dolphins 24. 

Bears (+3) at Falcons – LOVE the Bears here. Yes, I love the Bears way more often than I should, but fuck you. The Falcons are a dream matchup for them, even in the Georgia Dome: small cornerbacks, bad offensive line, no dominant running game, questionable coaching tactics, and a total lack of pass rush that will give Cutler all day to hit these huge receivers on at least 40% of his passes. Bears 31, Falcons 28.

Tie Watch

Steve doesn’t like how I pick games, but you know that by now:

“If you think Jacksonville and Tennessee are so bad, why do you pick either of them to win?”. He goes JAC-TEN.

I’ll take CHI-ATL. Can totally see it as a high scoring regulation game that struggles to find a dagger in OT.

The Buddy System

10-5 last week. Ayyyy.

Look, it’s virtually asinine to fault Geno Smith entirely for what’s gone on since he got here, especially since it’s been going on long before he got here. His flipping off fans, missing important meetings, and other civil disobediences are setting him up to be the exemplar of how Rex Ryan has absolutely no clue what’s going on in his locker room, and it’s going to greatly impact his post-Jets career. He’s been an all too willing participant as the poster boy for how the Rex Ryan era comes to a tragic end, and for his own sake he needs to cut it the fuck out.

That’s not an if; the Rex Ryan era ends this year. It was decided in 2013 when, against all conventional wisdom in running a front office, the Jets decided to fire the GM that hired Rex Ryan and keep just about everyone he brought to the team. As a first-time GM, John Idzik must have been thrilled that he got the opportunity to ride out the incumbent head coach on the Peter Principle as a buffer to get 2-3 extra years on the job. While there’s a slim chance this season could go so bad that the house gets cleaned (or worse, the Jets think they have a 0.2% chance at Jim Harbaugh and fawn over him before firing the incumbents), John Idzik’s primary concern was not finding an offensive coordinator, developing a quarterback, or winning the division (something that Rex hasn’t done yet). Idzik came into this mess with a primary goal of getting to a second contract with the team: that the salary cap he would save ($20M this year, good job!) and the rebuilding moves he would make would not immediately bear fruit, and he needed to ensure that he will still be general manager of the team to receive credit (and the job security that goes with it) for the rebuilding effort. The easiest way to do that is to postpone the hiring of “your coach” by riding the current one into the ground. Well, land ho!

That’s not to say, however, that Idzik is exonerated for not having a plan this year, especially with the signing of a starting caliber guy in Michael Vick and an offensive coordinator that knew how to use him in Philadelphia. With the Patriots’ win total predicted to be 3.5 greater than any other team in the division, it’s perfectly reasonable to use this year to develop Geno as plan A, but Vick should have been developed and used as a plan B should the division appear winnable as it does now and strike while the proverbial iron was hot. I have a hard time believing Vick would look this unprepared and unmotivated if he was brought in with even a moderate prospect of winning the job. Unfortunately, the rudderless nature of this roster will do more to contribute to the poor end result than any comparison to another floundering AFC East team.

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As refreshingly open and honest as Rex is, so too is the one gaping flaw in his head coaching tenure: anachronistic infrastructure. Rex was a boy when his old man Buddy innovated the 46 defense in Chicago. Buddy Ryan was such an influence on the team, and needed so little input from Mike Ditka, that when they won the Super Bowl BOTH of them were hoisted in victory. They often clashed in their time together, as Buddy genuinely felt he could run the whole defense by himself without any input from above, and the players actually took sides. This lead to some of the defensive players using the lifting of Buddy Ryan at the Super Bowl to make a statement. Rex’s disconnect from his offense and the development of offensive players is just as glaring as that between Buddy Ryan and Mike Ditka. Rex thought he could run a team this way, and it just doesn’t work in today’s NFL. You have to have a genuine GM-Head Coach-QB central nervous system to regularly succeed in this league, and while this may favor offensive-minded head coaches, there are plenty of successful defensive guys like Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Chuck Pagano, and even Tony Dungy and Bill Cowher if you want to go back a little, who get the job done. I don’t think any of those guys had a disconnect with their quarterback.

Colts (-3.5) at Texans – Jeez… 3.5 road favorites? In the division? On short rest? This line is based on the overachieving Indianapolis secondary, which has kept them from becoming an entirely one-dimensional team in a bad division, which they still may be. I don’t buy the Texans lying down here. I think you’re going to come out of this game with some real questions about Indy’s ability to contend, even if they win. Texans cover. Colts 27, Texans 24.

Week 5 Picks: New Rules Edition

1-0 in Week 5 with a bullet.

I’m formatting my picks this way because I’m hungover, but this might be a good idea anyway. Let’s roll.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings

New Rule: Christian Ponder never gets to start a game in the NFL again.

If anyone wants to complain about Thursday night blowouts, they have to show me how Kirk Cousins, Josh McCown, and Christian Ponder would have played better on Sunday, because that’s 3/4 of any one argument either way. How Ponder ever became a high draft pick in this league astonishes me. He has no arm, no brains, and no toughness, and he looks like Pete Yorn. Anyone you could substitute Pete Yorn in for at QB and not notice much of a difference doesn’t belong.

With the Packers having their early struggles, and the Bears seemingly appearing to have 4-5 games this year where their defense doesn’t show up, this division is kinda laid out for the Lions, isn’t it? I mean, when you’re given 4 shots at the division with the talent they have, winning it once isn’t too much to ask. This is a great matchup for Detroit, as their crummy secondary won’t be tested and the handful of big plays they get on offense will pull them away. Lions 34, Bills 16.

perry1

Oh, and new rule: If you’ve never been to a college football game before, and didn’t go to college, you DON’T get to be part of the on-campus rally-style college football coverage.

Katy Perry showing up at the Ole Miss game today to spread her attention-grubbing antics (these were followed up by a stage dive at a local bar when Ole Miss won) is an exemplar for how much attractive people who suck at the rest of life seem to be able to get away with. This nauseated me. ESPN shouldn’t do it again. Find another celebrity. There had to have been an actual graduate form Ole Miss that would have given you better television.

After a great first half in Lambeau 3 weeks ago that looked like it would stamp the Jets as something to be reckoned with, the fireworks have fizzled over the last ten quarters and desperation has set in as they go on the road in San Diego. I love Rex, and I love his philosophy, but they simply drafted the wrong guy. In today’s game, you have to understand how taking a guy that the entire QB-starved league passed on sets you up to look awful if he’s anything less than great. Vick has his flaws, but he’s better than Geno Smith, and his failing just sets you up to draft someone in a more structured way. Drafting Geno in the 2nd round with Mark Sanchez healing up was a resounding “Ehhh, maybe” in response to the question “Do you want to give up on this guy and get a new QB?”. Eh, maybes don’t work at the QB position. Chargers 30, Jets 20.

From the border to the bay, I love the Chiefs coming into San Francisco and getting a win, especially if Vernon Davis is out. San Fran has been outscored collectively in their 4 games so far, and somehow had their whole week scathed by the press despite the fact that they WON last week against the Eagles. I expect Andy Reid to develop the screen game here, and cool off the Justin Smiths and Patrick Willis aggression, and I expect the Chiefs to be able to leave Sean Smith 1 on 1 with Crabtree. People don’t take Smith’s size into account when he matches up, thusly he can handle 3rd down guys who don’t burn you like Crabtree. The Harbaugh talk heats up as Alex Smith gets some delicious revenge. Chiefs 27, Niners 24.

New Rule: If you’re facing a dome team in your building with forecasted 17mph winds, four of their five starting offensive linemen out, and a defense that has generated absolutely no pass rush while giving up over 550 yards to a rookie QB, backup RB and Jarius Wright, YOU BETTER F$%&$ING WIN BY 48, YOU BUMS

Ahem, seriously though, no excuses. The Giants are lucky that Arizona game hasn’t come back to haunt them yet, so they just have to keep rolling. I don’t care how good their receivers are. If you’re facing scrubs off the street and potentially a tight end playing right tackle (Levine Toilolo had to sub in with all the injuries last week vs. Minnesota) if the injuries pile up further, you HAVE to get in Matt Ryan’s grill. He caves under A-gap pressure, and New York’s secondary is designed to man up across the field and jam receivers (See: Eagles, Week 7). Even the strength of the Falcons defense, their good young corner tandem, won’t be able to do what they do against this offense that targets the middle of the field primarily. Julio might get 1-2 big ones, but I don’t see how the rest of the offense holds up. Giants 33, Falcons 24.

New Rule: If a team is 1-2 and has scored 56 points total, stop picking them to win IN Philadelphia

Even with their offense getting shut out last week in San Francisco, the Eagles were the 2nd highest scoring team through four games behind the Colts (who have been abusing bad teams to pad their number up). I can’t believe people are thinking the St. Louis D-line matters in this matchup. They’ll just bubble screen right around it, score the 20-odd points they need and move on to next week. Foolish to think Austin Davis putting up numbers against their bad defense will matter. Eagles 31, Rams 20.

New Rule: No more expired beer and food at Foreskins games

expiredbeer

This is real, by the way…

…when are we as a society going to wake up, take the sensitivity of the American people into account, and change the owner of the Washington Redskins? How is he not fined for this? How is he allowed to be an owner when all he does is hurt people? Changing the name won’t do anything if this shit is allowed to go on, and there’s an entire fucking catalog of it since Snyder’s bought the team. Being a Foreskins fan has got to be the most depressing state in the league. I don’t think any fan base, even the Browns, has the stark contrast of great history with current futility.

Oh, and let’s save ourselves the Monday column while we’re at it Seahawks 44, Redskins 6. Take note of how absolutely awful the field looks Monday night before the game starts as Snyder thinks it’s cool to level the playing field with his shitty team by making the turf injurious to both teams.

New Rule: If you’re playing the Jaguars, just came off of a bad loss, and I’m starting your backup running back in fantasy, I’d better be seeing alot of him in the second half

Yes, I will be rooting for a Steeler blowout in Jacksonville today, and hoping I get some points for starting LeGarbagetime Blount in a desperation move. If the Steelers don’t come out mad and throwing and ready to kill, you have to have serious questions about where they’re headed this year. Even the best Steeler teams had a habit of dropping a bad one at home occasionally, but they always fired back the following week. Steelers 44, Jaguars 10.

New Rule: If you’re starved for wide receivers, and you’re outscored by 10 across your first four games, stop making them healthy scratches. 

Seriously? What the fuck are you doing, New England? Oh, I know, you have Josh McBrat running your offense for you and someone said something meeeannn to himmm awwwwwwww. You’re right, it’s just what Tom Brady needs: the guy who ran Jay Cutler out of Denver, then failed miserably, then failed in St. Louis, and now is failing again in New England now that he doesn’t have Randy Moss stretching everything for him. God, is there any coordinator in the NFL besides Rob Ryan who’s living on reputation alone like Josh McDaniels is? Can you at least CREATE THE PERCEPTION that you have control of your team? Can you at least CREATE THE PERCEPTION that there will be some throws outside the numbers? I suppose as long as your feelings aren’t hurt and everyone respects your childish brat persona (which totally works in the grown man’s NFL, by the way, since y’know nobody yells or screams), then getting blown out by the Bengals is ok. Bengals 28, Patriots 17. That Cincy defense is no joke, Josh. Get your weapons ready.

New Rule: Someone tackle DeMarco Murray

This can’t be real. The guy who would trip over the furniture if he ran through my apartment is leading the league in rushing? Hey JJ. Fill the hole and make him move left or ri-oh-yeah he can’t. Behind the admittedly well-built offensive line, Murray has been allowed to have a “breakout” season, when this is really all he’s ever done: run in a straight line until he gets hurt. He’s not the force in the passing game people say he is, he possesses no lateral agility whatsoever (which is why he fell in the draft) and his horrific pad level has been disguised by good blocking. Hit this guy JJ. Texans 23, Cowboys 17. 

and finally, New Rule: If Darrin Reaves and Fozzy Whitaker run all over your defense, you can go ahead and stop calling yourself a contender right now

Ah, the Bears. One week, masters of the air. Next week, leaky run defense sinks the whole cause. Shouldn’t be the case here guys. While the rookie matchup of Kyle Fuller on Kelvin Benjamin should be a dandy, this is really a “how bad does Chicago’s lines want it?” game. There is nothing Carolina presents on offense that an average Chicago team shouldn’t be able to take away. I expect to see the contender side of the Bears, and a message to be sent. Bears 37, Panthers 13. If not, we have to seriously question the Bears.

Other Winners – Cleveland, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Denver

Tiewatch

Steve wants to say the Browns, but he just can’t resist a Texas-sized Tie Watch: HOU-DAL

I’m taking CLE-TEN, and not overthinking it. I have the whole column to do that.