AMOS: Just Sign Him, You Know You Need Him.

The coolest thing about sports is its unique ability to reflect our collective selves through a lens of artificial fairness. It is supposed to be an honest and unflinching form of competition the only point of which is to establish a dominance that is a step removed from the real (and mostly unfair) forms of competition we all contend with and engage in during our day-to-day lives. It represents everything that democracy and capitalism is supposed to be like, if only those games weren’t so horribly rigged.

Pick your poison, America.

One side effect of the purity of competition in sports is that we’re occasionally exposed for not meeting the ideals exemplified by the competition on the field of play. And this exposure of our collective hypocrisy can sometimes lead to changes in our society for the better. Take Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics, who forced America to wrestle with the notion that black people weren’t inferior, and that America needed to choose who they hated more, Hitler and fascism or black people. Then Joe Louis became heavyweight champion of the world, dominating the division for over a decade. If a black man can lick anybody else on Earth in a fair fight, where does that leave society’s notions of white supremacy? Black soldiers fighting in World War II certainly played some role in Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947, and served as an underpinning for the civil rights movement in the 1950s.

And of course the 1960s brought us Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, along with many other athlete/activists who forced America to continue to reckon with the central lie upon which our nation was built. All of these men were vilified to varying degrees in their time, and are now revered as heroes.

“Now that I’ve been retired for 15 years and am worth $1.3 billion, it’s time to speak out…”

Since the advent of free agency in sports, and the explosion of sports as a business, many athletes have made hitherto unimaginable amounts of money, and in some ways that money served to silence them, or (in the eyes of white America) delegitimize whatever complaints they may have had about issues of social justice in America. Athletes like Michael Jordan never said peep for fear of damaging their “brand.” And when others did speak up, they were told to they should be “grateful,” as if they hadn’t worked to get where they were, that all their fame, glory, and riches were just handed to them.

The charge of ingratitude has been leveled at the man who began the latest wave of athlete-activism by people who want to pretend history has no effect on the present, and that everything is America is hunky-dory, especially as it pertains to race. As discouraging as it is to hear this dusty defense of institutional racism in this day and age, it’s equally encouraging to see how many athletes, particularly NFL players, have effectively exercised their First Amendment rights to draw attention to not only racial injustice, but other social ills. Many players donate significant amounts of money, and spend significant amounts of time helping disadvantaged people in their communities. And now, perhaps most encouraging of all, the players are getting to sit down with owners to discuss how the even more unimaginably wealthy team owners can participate in addressing the players’ concerns.

Jerry Jones is about to get a li’l woke, whether he likes it or not.

This strikes me as a turning point, perhaps not as sharp a turn as many would like, but a turn nonetheless in a direction that hopefully has players and owners walking together to participate in the betterment of society. Naturally, the owners’ personal interests will come into conflict with player demands and suggestions about what type of collaborative/collective action both sides can take to address player concerns will be shaped by that conflict and how it’s resolved. The owners will bring a perspective to these discussions about the overall health of the league and how everyone needs to come to some sort of agreement or understanding about how their actions might affect everyone’s bottom line, but it’s inevitable at this point that some very wealthy, powerful, white men are going to come to terms (in some measure) with the everyday realities of racial injustice that many of their employees have faced their entire lives. This can only be a good thing. How good is yet to be seen, but the fact that it’s happening is heartening.

In a year chock full of surprises and upsets, week 6 was probably the craziest week yet. Did anyone see the winless and offensively beleaguered Giants going to Denver and plowing through the best defense in the league? And in Atlanta, the Falcons blew a seemingly insurmountable first half lead (sound familiar?) to a team that was averaging about 10 points per game. And the Steelers, a team in disarray just a few days earlier, went into Kansas City and beat the formerly undefeated Chiefs.

RomoCollarbone

Add to that the crazy 90 point game between the Saints and Lions, the Jets getting screwed out of another possible major upset, and Aaron Rodgers going out for the season with a broken collarbone a week too late for my tastes, and what’s left to talk about?

AMOS OPOTW Meets AARB

He told us.

Last week I joked that Adrian Peterson, who said he had “4 or 5 good years” left in him, might have 4 or 5 good weeks left. He responded by pounding the rock for 134 yards and 2 TDs, powering the Cardinals to a 38-33 victory in a must-win game against the Buccaneers. While the smart money is still on AP not performing like that 4 or 5 years from now, his re-emergence has put the 3-3 Cardinals back in the thick of the NFC West race.

AMOS DPOTW

A sweet homecoming for Adrian Amos, this week’s AMOS DPOTW!

Chicago Bears 3rd year safety (and Baltimore native) Adrian Amos returned a Joe Flacco pass 90 yards for a TD in the Bears 27-24 OT win in Baltimore. With the Bears leading 17-13 in the 3rd quarter and the Ravens driving toward a go-ahead TD, Amos snagged a Flacco pass and took it the other way, which didn’t win the game, but like all pick 6s, was a huge momentum shift. Speaking of Flacco…

AMOS A Moment Of Schadenfreude

Remember when Joe Flacco was considered an elite QB? That seems like an awfully long time ago, and last Sunday you could’ve measured that time in geological terms, as Flacco completed 24 of 41 passes for a grand total of 180 yards. For those scoring at home, that’s less than 5 yards per completion. I’m too lazy to research how many RBs last week averaged more per carry than that, so instead I’ll add that Flacco threw a pair of INTs in the loss to the Bears, and that last week’s performance is par for the course for Flacco in 2017. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per completion, and has thrown 4 TDs versus 8 INTs. But at least he has a gigantic pile of money to cry into, as he’s the 7th highest paid player in the NFL this year, making over $22 million.

Who Needs Waldo?

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Speaking of underperforming, overpaid QBs, how many teams would currently benefit from signing the league pariah? My count is at ten right now.

Despite the Dolphins victory last week, Jay Cutler still sucks.

In Baltimore, Ravens owners conducted a fan poll before the season began when they were considering signing Kaepernick and chose to bow to the whim of the fans and take a pass on CK. One has to wonder what would be the talk of the town right now if Kaepernick was sitting on the bench behind the flailing Flacco?

As always, the Browns are a disaster at the game’s most important position, so there’d be nothing but upside to starting Kaepernick, particularly in terms of having a guy to groom DeShone Kizer.

Is it even worth our time to argue whether Kaepernick is better than Blake Bortles?

How about Indianapolis? They’ve known Luck would be out for several weeks, if not the entire year, since preseason. Could CK be any worse than Scott Tolzien or Jacoby Brissett? And if the NFL is concerned about ratings, imagine what kind of numbers the 49ers at Colts would’ve done a couple weeks ago when Vice President Snowflake walked out of the stadium in choreographed indignation when players knelt for the national anthem?


Or how about the Broncos, whose combination of Tervor Siemian and Brock Osweiler (who’s making $18 million this year) combined to produce a loss last week to an 0-5 team? This squad has the best defense in the league, and no shortage of weapons on offense, and yet somehow they are only 3-2.
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How about the Raiders? Isn’t Colin Kaepernick better than EJ Manuel?

 

And speaking of teams with injured starting QBs, how much better are the Packers chances of maintaining their dominance of the NFC North with CK under center instead of Brett Hundley?

And what of the Buccaneers, who just lost Jameis Winston? Are you telling me Ryan Fitzpatrick gives them a better chance to win?

The 49ers get a pass here, as CK declined to resign with them at the end of last year, but what about the Bears? I love Mitchell Trubisky, he’s certainly better than Mike Glennon, but I also think the team would have a better chance to win and it would benefit Trubisky’s development if he had the chance to play behind a Super Bowl QB like Kaepernick.

“Roger, who’s gonna take the hit here? How about Green Bay? Those people don’t have anything better to do on Sunday…”

Anyway, we’ll see what comes of all this as Kaepernick’s grievance, filed by the NFLPA against the league charging all 32 teams colluded to keep him off the field and the sidelines, works its way through the courts. While it seems unlikely he’ll be able to prove collusion, perhaps this process, along with the growing desperation of a number of teams as their playoff hopes dwindle later in the season, will provide a chance for a team to sign him and put all this to rest.

Week 7 Picks

Kansas City (5-1) -3 at OAKLAND (2-4)

Obviously, this is a “must-win” game for the Raiders, but with David Carr on the sidelines and EJ Manuel under center it feels a lot more like a “can’t-win” game. How much more exciting (or at least intriguing) would this game be if Alex Smith was returning to the Bay Area to face the guy who replaced him in San Francisco?

Tennessee (3-3) -6 at CLEVELAND (0-6)

Honestly, I’m a bit wary of giving this many points on the road to the Browns, half of whose losses are by less than six points. But I think the Titans are about to win 4 of their next 5 and establish themselves as the favorites in the AFC South, and I can see them winning by 14 late in the game and running out the clock.

Jacksonville (3-3) -3 at INDIANAPOLIS (2-4)

Laws of Parity say otherwise, but I see one team that has some very powerful tools on offense (sans a QB), and another team that just looked terrible in a Monday night loss last week. This game should be called the “Kaepernick Bowl,” as both teams would be a lot better with CK under center.

Cincinnati (2-3) +5.5 at PITTSBURGH (4-2)

This game is basically the Bengals entire season. If they lose, the Steelers run off with the division, and the Bengals chances for even a wild card become very remote. The Steelers looked great last week, but the Bengals are coming off their bye and looked pretty good the previous three weeks.

MINNESOTA (4-2) -5.5 vs Baltimore (3-3)

The Ravens are so bad it’s hard to figure out how they won three games. This is easy.

New York Jets (3-3) +3 at MIAMI (3-2)

I know the Dolphins are coming off a big win last week, but they’re still averaging about 12 points per game, and the Jets, who were robbed last week, always give them hell, so I’m taking the points.

BUFFALO (3-2) -3 vs Tampa Bay (2-3)

Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to Buffalo! It’s actually not that special, as there are more than half a dozen stadiums Fitzpatrick could be “returning” to. The man has played everywhere, and with the exception of some flashes of brilliance and bravery here and there, he’s been a guy teams start when they have nowhere else to turn. The Bills defense is too good to let this guy beat them, and the Bucs don’t have a kicking game, so I’ll take the Bills and give the points, despite the obvious Laws Of Parity issue.

CHICAGO (2-4) +3 vs Carolina (4-2)

Honestly, I was hoping to get more than 3 points here. But I’ve already gone against three home dogs, so I’m riding with Mitchell Trubisky.

GREEEN BAY (4-2) +5.5 vs New Orleans (3-2)

Sure, the Saints scored 647 points last week, but they can’t do that in Lambeau, right? I do like the Saints to win, but I think the Packers will find a way to keep it close.

 

Arizona (3-3) +3.5 vs LOS ANGELES RAMS (at London) (4-2)

Why would you have two west coast teams traveling halfway around the world (ok, a third of the way, or maybe a quarter) to play in London? This is stupid. This game had the potential to be good, and staging it in London is just a way to to recklessly inflate the NFL’s biological footprint. So I’m taking the points in the Jetlag Bowl.

San Francisco (0-6) +6 vs Dallas (2-3)

I believe Dallas wins this game, but the 49ers have lost their last 5 games by 3 points or less, so they’re playing teams close. Dallas is coming off the bye, and they somehow managed to keep Ezekiel Elliott on the field every Sunday, despite a 6 game suspension looming over his head. I don’t like the way this game smells, I could see Dallas losing, but with my track record this year, that probably means Dallas wins by 28 points.

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-5) +5.5 vs Seattle (3-2)

Luckily for the Seahawks, this isn’t an early game, so jet lag should be less of an issue. But I still need to take the home team on the east coast versus a west coast team that’s giving almost six points. Seattle wins, but it’ll likely be close.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-4) -1 vs Denver (3-2)

Laws of Parity, I’m rolling with them here.

Atlanta (3-2) +3.5 at NEW ENGLAND (4-2)

Super Bowl LI replay! It seems like whenever they stage these Super Bowl rematches the next year, the losing team always wins.

Washington (3-2) +5 at PHILADELPHIA (5-1)

I’m not buying this whole “Eagles Super Bowl” thing. They’re the better team, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything this year.

Last week: 6-8

Season: 37-53-1

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A Month Of Sundays: Who Is The Biggest @sshole In America?

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Usually at this point in the season, fans are focused on whether their team is a real contender, is missing a piece of the puzzle, or if it’s time to admit to themselves their team sucks and stands no chance of making the playoffs, much less winning the Super Bowl. But that sort of self-reflection (for those of us who over-identify with our team) has been overshadowed by a contest to discover who is the biggest @sshole in America. And of course this contest is being presided over by the President, who will declare himself the winner no matter what happens.

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Last Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence spent a quarter of a million of our tax dollars to walk out of the 49ers-Colts game in protest when some players took a knee during the national anthem. This crass piece of political theater was crafted to inflame the rage of the 1/3 of Americans who think Donald Trump is God, and can’t live with the intellectual complexities of the First Amendment of The Constitution. On top of that, Pence’s stunt upstaged the ceremony to retire Peyton Manning’s number. Huge asshole move.

Ditka in the heyday of oppression-free America.

A couple days later, Hall Of Fame tight end and former Bears head coach Mike Ditka threw down a history lesson when he declared there hasn’t been any oppression in America “in the last 100 years.” Bear in mind Ditka is well old enough to remember what America was like before the Civil Rights Bill was passed in 1964, not to mention what it’s been like since then. Though in fairness to Ditka, he once traded his entire draft for Ricky Williams, has proven many times to be a garden variety meathead, and is not the Vice President of the United States.

No caption necessary.

Rounding out the field (at least for this week) is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has threatened to bench any player who fails to stand for the national anthem. Jones’s @sshole bona fides are unassailable, as his tenure in the NFL is replete with acts of craven moral turpitude, and his love for Donald Trump is perhaps second only to his love for money. Unfortunately, the only way we’ll discover just how much of an @sshole Jones is, is if Ezekiel Elliot, Dak Prescott, or Dez Bryant chooses to take a knee during the anthem, and it’s hard to see that happening. Actually, Jones signed Greg Hardy to a contract, so we already know how much of an asshole he is.

He’s not drawing a paycheck, but has donated almost $1,000,000 to charity this year.

The funny thing about all of this is that the response to the players’ protest has only made it grow. And the longer it goes on, the more likely it is to achieve its main goal, which is to raise awareness of racial inequities in this country. And if the NFL is smart, they will find a way to navigate this time of discomfort for their brand by whole-heartedly supporting the many charities and social justice projects that players all over the league are involved in. But the league is stuck between wanting to maintain a positive image, and not pissing off the white majority that makes up its fan base.

Speaking of whom, when will all the fragile snowflakes who hate America and our most basic freedoms come to their senses and realize the sooner they accept this form of protest as a legitimate expression of legitimate grievances, the sooner it is likely to die? You can only spend so many of your Sundays doing yard work and home improvement projects; just realize the First Amendment is the single greatest thing about America, and that black people still have some legitimate grievances about how they are treated in this country, and then you can return to your easy chair and start yelling at your TV again for all the right reasons.

“Always”?

And don’t get me wrong, MAGA men, I feel your pain. As someone who has been a diehard Cowboys fan for 45 years, I’m not in a happy place. The NFL is getting harder to support with each passing year, for a variety of reasons I’ve outlined before. But for some reason, those issues and the possibility of turning my back on the game entirely has felt like a lesser conflict than the prospect of remaining a fan of the game, but giving up my favorite team.

Yes, I had this card.

Even as a child, I wasn’t impressed by the “America’s Team,” label, but I did worship Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, and Bob Hayes. I was routinely thrilled on autumn Sundays by the ups and downs of one of the best and most exciting teams in NFL history. I gnashed my teeth through their Super Bowl losses and count their Super Bowl XII victory among the happier moments of my childhood. And when it would’ve been easy to switch allegiances to the local New York Giants in the ‘80s, I stuck by my Cowboys, even through the Gary Hogeboom years. I was disconsolate when Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry, but Tom Landry was the only coach I’d ever known, I couldn’t imagine the Cowboys without him, and I couldn’t recognize that it was time for him to go. And of course the ‘90s were great, but Jones took too much credit for the team’s success, drove Jimmy Johnson out of town, and after Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl on the fumes of Johnson’s team, it’s been hard times ever since.

Dak is an easy guy to root for.

The ascension of Dak Prescott has given Cowboys fans reason to hope, a kind of hope we were never able to fully muster during the heartbreak of the Romo years. So this is a pretty inconvenient time to have to think about shopping around for a new favorite team. I’ve tolerated all kinds of egregious player behavior, asinine statements from Jones, and the idiocy of Jason Garrett, but frankly when the team owner threatens to bench players for exercising their First Amendment rights, I have to consider my options. And it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to become a Seahawks fan, but being a martyr I’m just as likely to choose the Jets or Lions.

All of this was started by a guy taking a stand (or a seat) because his conscience compelled him to do so. And now there are rumors that he is more assertively seeking a position with an NFL team, and has allegedly stated he will stand for the anthem. If Kaepernick is able to find someone sensible enough to hire him, I will respect whatever his decision is regarding the anthem. He’s made his point, a movement has bloomed, and he’s put his money where his mouth is as far as donating to worthy causes. Kaepernick embodies everything that is great about America, and ought to be applauded for his bravery, moral rectitude, and dedication to living his beliefs.

One More Off Field Issue

One of the worst side effects of the protest controversy is I didn’t get to spend enough time discussing Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster and his hilarious viral video. All I know is that when you put South Florida, cocaine, and hookers together, you just get something that feels right.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Injuries are a bitch, and two of the game’s best players bit the dust last Sunday when JJ Watt and Odell Beckham Jr were both carted off the field, not to be seen again this year. Watt’s team will continue to contend for a division title in his absence, while the Giants will have a hard time scraping together 3 or 4 wins this year sans Beckham. I’m a fan of Watt, not so much Beckham, but I can’t bring myself to make fun of a guy who cried after suffering an obviously very painful injury that might alter the trajectory of his career.

New Feature! The AMOS AMOS

Some players are easy to hate, and some I just love to hate. OBJ falls into the first category, Ben Roethlisberger falls into the second, so he’ll be the player we contemplate during the inaugural A Month Of Sundays A Moment Of Schadenfreude. Roethlisberger performed abysmally in the Steelers shocking 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars, completing 33 of 55 passes for 312 yards and no TDs. Wait, he completed 38 passes, if you count the 5 INTs he threw, and he threw for 2 TDs, if you count the pair of pick 6s he connected on to Barry Church and Telvin Smith. If all of that wasn’t enjoyable enough, he was outplayed by Blake Bortles, who pitched this Canton-esque stat line: 8/14, 95 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT. Congratulations, Big Ben, you made my Sunday!

Side Notes

Will it be poor clock management? Inopportune time outs? Or some new way we haven’t seen him lose yet?

How ‘bout them Chiefs? They are, by far, playing the best football on Earth right now. But I still don’t trust them. Andy Reid is going to find a way to screw this up. He might not find it till January, but trust me, he’ll find it.

Deshaun Watson the most exciting player in football. I’m glad he’s finally been handed the reins in Houston, and not just because I said in August he needed to start on Day 1 rather than learning how to lose by watching Tom Savage. Watson makes plays with his incredible arm and his fleet feet, and he has the aura of a winner. However, he was a little too excited about scoring that superfluous TD at the end of the game Sunday night. Sure, he made his fantasy owners happy, and he padded his stats a bit for the inevitable assault on an assortment of rookie scoring records, and I understand the never-give-up attitude, but you can’t be looking that happy to lose a game.

It’s simply not fair.

Aaron Rodgers is great. When your team is about to score a go ahead TD with a minute left and you’re screaming at the guy with the ball to “GO DOWN!” at the one yard line to run more time off the clock, you know you’re dealing with greatness. And considering my current relationship with the Cowboys, I’m feeling a little less pain about this than in the past.

 

This guy will be lucky if he’s still playing in 4 or 5 weeks.

The Adrian Peterson trade actually makes a lot of sense for both teams. Peterson was never a good fit in New Orleans, as he’s not much of a receiver and an awful pass blocker. The Saints almost never rush the ball, except to keep the defense honest. And the Cardinals are desperate for anyone who might be able to carry it more than two and a half yards at a time. This is a last chance for both Peterson and the Cardinals. That said, Peterson is delusional about what the balance of his career looks like: “I have so much left,” he said. “I look to play four to five more years, God willing,” he said. “I have a lot left in the tank. Stay tuned. Stay tuned and you guys will be able to see that firsthand.”

AMOS OPOTW

Some good candidates for this, but for the sake of brevity I’ll avoid the rundown and get to the point: Leonard Fournette was The Man in Heinz Field Sunday, carrying the ball 28 times for 181 yards and a pair of TDs. About half of those yards came on a single play, where he went 90 yards for a TD, untouched. That means he spent the rest of the day carrying the ball frequently for hard and meager gain. But that was enough (along with those aforementioned Big Ben pick 6s) to keep the ball out of Blake Bortles’s hands, which is what Fournette is paid to do. Congratulations, Leonard Fournette, you are this week’s AMOS OPOTW!

AMOS DPOTW

Another Jaguar, LB Telvin Smith, made 10 tackles, 6 of which were solo, and 2.5 of them occurred behind the line of scrimmage. He also had one of the pick 6s I can’t stop talking about. Congratulations, Telvin Smith! You are the AMOS DPOTW!

Week 6 Picks

Philadelphia (4-1) +3.5 at CAROLINA (4-1)

Thursday games are usually inferior pairings, but dumb luck plays an important role in every facet of our lives, and it has fortuitously provided us with an intriguing match up this Thursday. The fact that the Eagles only loss was in a close game against the Chiefs makes taking more than 3 points here an easy decision.

HOUSTON (2-3) -9.5 vs Cleveland (0-5)

The Texans have been lighting up the scoreboard since handing the reins to Deshaun Watson, scoring 124 points in their last 3 games. The Browns have only scored 77 points all season. Giving less than 10 points here is easy.

New England (3-2) -9.5 at NEW YORK JETS (3-2)

Division games can always be tricky, so I don’t count the Jets out entirely, but the Pats are coming off a big win last Thursday, so have had extra rest and preparation, and it should show on the field Sunday. With the spread staying under 10 points, I have to go with New England.

ATLANTA (3-1) -11.5 vs Miami (2-2)

The Dolphins are a really crappy team, it’s hard to believe they’ve won 2 games, especially since they’re averaging a fraction above 10 points per game on offense. The Falcons are coming off a bye and should be ready to blow out a weak opponent.

Detroit (3-2) +5 at NEW ORLEANS (2-2)

I believe the Lions are a playoff team, and the Saints are not. Operating under that assumption, taking more than 3 points here is easy.

Green Bay (4-1) -3 at MINNESOTA (3-2)

Case Keenum vs Aaron Rodgers? Yeah, I’ll give you 3 points.

BALTIMORE (3-2) -6.5 vs Chicago (1-4)

I’m a big fan of Mitchell Trubisky, but I think the Ravens secondary will feast on the rookie this week.

San Francisco (0-5) +10 at WASHINGTON (2-2)

I’d feel better taking these points if this was a late game, but it’s not. If the spread was less than 10, I’d be taking Washington.

Los Angeles Rams (3-2) +2.5 at JACKSONVILLE (3-2)

Kind of difficult to believe both teams are 3-2, but there you are. And this is a late game, so jet lag will be less of a factor, which is why I’m taking the Rams.

Tampa Bay (2-2) -2 at ARIZONA (2-3)

Unless Adrian Peterson has a big game (and I don’t discount the possibility entirely that he has a monster game left in him somewhere), I don’t see the Cardinals winning, though if Winston is sloppy, the Cardinals will get a lot of INTs. I’ve almost talked myself into the picking the upset, but not quite.

KANSAS CITY (5-0) -4.5 vs Pittsburgh (3-2)

The Chiefs are going to lose eventually, but I don’t think it will be at home, and I don’t think it will be to a Steelers team that played it’s worst game in years last week.

Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) +3 at OAKLAND (2-3)

I like the Chargers outright in this game, so taking 3 points is just icing on the sundae, or something like that.

DENVER (3-1) -12 vs New York Giants (0-5)

Replay of Super Bowl XX! John Elway took the first of his three Super Bowl poundings back in 1986 when his Broncos lost to the Giants, 39-20. This game might be more lopsided than that, but in the other direction. The Broncos defense is still the single best unit in football, and the Giants offense is quite likely the worst, especially with their best player sidelined. I’d need more than 14 points to take the Giants.

TENNESSEE (2-3) pk vs Indianapolis (2-3)

He probably wouldn’t be the only guy to leave this game before it’s over.

Too bad the NFL doesn’t run a flex schedule this early in the year, because this game has Thursday night football written all over it. Because no one knows if Mariota is starting or not, there is no line on this game, so AMOS is going to call it a pick ‘em and take the home team.

Last week: 7-7

Season: 31-45-1

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A Month Of Sundays: Where’s Waldo?

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Last week President Trump picked a fight with the entire NFL and lost, but because he has a fire-proof ass, he was able to simply walk away from his apoplectic base, who spent last Sunday assiduously NOT WATCHING FOOTBALL (doing home improvement or yard work with products bought from NFL sponsors?), and fly off to Puerto Rico to throw rolls of paper towels at hurricane victims. In Herr Trump’s wake, we can dispense with the carnival outrage about disrespecting the flag and refocus on why these demonstrations began in the first place, and who started them.

 Where’s Waldo?

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At the beginning of the year, there were six teams for whom Colin Kaepernick would’ve been an immediate upgrade at starting QB. And for almost every team in the league, CK would’ve been a huge upgrade at back up QB. But no one has signed him and it seems extremely unlikely anyone will. Granted there are a lot of reasons a team may or may not be a good mix for any QB, particularly a guy who insists on starting and has struggled at times in his career. We don’t know how much money CK has asked for, but nonetheless, the fact that he’s not on an NFL roster is more than a little suspicious.

You gotta love photoshop.

The New York Jets have shocked the world by winning two more games than many people thought they’d win all year, and they’ve done it with Josh McCown at QB. McCown can generously be called a competent game manager who has managed to throw only 3 TDs in 4 games, but also throwing only 3 INTs. He’s also added a rushing TD, but has fumbled 3 times, losing 1. While Kaepernick has had some erratic stretches in his career, last year he threw 16 TDs and 4 INTs in a full season on a very bad team; you don’t have to be a genius to see McCown is not on pace to improve on either of those measures. Critics will point to CK’s subpar completion percentage, which is 59.8%, but he also adds a dimension to the running game and a deep ball threat that McCown certainly does not. As long as the Jets keep winning and performing substantially above expectations, a legitimate argument can be made that the Jets didn’t need the “baggage,” Kaepernick would’ve brought, but right now the NFL is already carrying all that baggage anyway.

The Cleveland Browns are 0-4, and maybe deciding to go with rookie QB DeShone Kizer is legitimate reason for avoiding a guy like Kaep, but the fact of the matter is that Cleveland has a famously abysmal track record when it comes to choosing to start rookie QBs, and for the flashes of talent Kizer has shown, his completion percentage is barely above 50%, and he’s already thrown 8 INTs. If anybody could’ve benefited from being an apprentice to an experienced pro who came this close to clutching a Lombardi Trophy, it’s DeShone Kizer. Additionally, the Browns have enough talent on both sides of the ball that a competent QB could have them at 2-2 right now.

The Jacksonville Jaguars might be the league’s most schizophrenic team, as they destroyed the Texans in week 1, and embarrassed the Ravens in week 3, yet were annihilated by the Titans in week 2 and lost to the Jets in OT last Sunday. Who are these guys? Probably a team that was lucky enough to catch the Texans before they were smart enough to listen to me and start Deshaun Watson on opening day, and lucky enough to catch the Ravens sleeping in London.

Which guy would you rather have?

Fourth year QB Blake Bortles, who was picked 3rd overall in the 2014 draft, has been hot and cold his entire career, and most of it has been cold. This season is clearly his last chance in Jacksonville, and probably his last chance to hold a starting job anywhere. His 55% completion percentage is lower than Kaep’s, and his 7-3 TD:INT ratio is due entirely to the London game where he threw 4 TDs. Even if you want to pretend Bortles is a better QB than CK, Chad Henne is the back up, and there’s no denying CK would be a much stronger guy to stand behind Bortles, and perhaps goad him into approaching the vast potential he was perceived to have when he was drafted.

The Indianapolis Colts are 1-3 and already have a franchise QB, but no one seems to know when Andrew Luck will be back or if his shoulder injury will permanently affect his career. They began the season Scott Tolzien under center. Let’s be blunt, Scott Tolzien sucks. They’ve since moved on to 2nd year QB Jacoby Brissett, a poor man’s Kaepernick who shows a lot of athleticism, but no seasoning. One could argue they’re essentially mailing in the season, that they wouldn’t stand a chance to beat any decent team without Luck on the field, but no one can argue that CK isn’t better than anyone who has been under center for the Colts this year.

The Denver Broncos defense might still be the single best unit in all of football, and at 3-1 people might be reluctant to criticize them. Trevor Siemian has impressed at times, but he’s not better than Kaepernick in any significant way. His 62.7% completion percentage isn’t anything to brag about, and he offers virtually nothing in the way of a running threat. As a more experienced pro, Kaepernick is likely to make better decisions and garner more respect from teammates. Kaepernick is a guy who played on a team with a great defense and made big plays with his arm and his feet often enough to get them to the Super Bowl. It’s quite possible the Broncos go into their bye at 4-0 with CK under center.

The Miami Dolphins were the team that could’ve most benefited from signing Kaepernick, and instead chose to sign the retired Jay Cutler for a one year, $10 million contract. The result? A 1-2 record with only 25 points scored. Cutler has completed 2/3s of his passes, but for a guy with a cannon arm, he should have completed a pass for longer than 31 yards in 3 games. His 2 TDs and 2 INTs are not very impressive, considering the Dolphins have faced the Chargers, Jets, and Saints, none of whom boast a particularly great defense. And Cutler brings less than nothing to the running game. And with Cutler, you can’t even use the “baggage” excuse, because Cutler’s middle name is “baggage.”

Speaking of QB Play…

I’m not crazy about them giving him Bobby Douglas’s number either, but…

The Bears have finally woken up and seen the light, and have moved to rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky this Sunday after watching Mike Glennon completely suck for 4 weeks in a row. In 5 years of NFL play, Glennon has won 6 games and lost 16. Often there is wisdom in setting a rookie QB with potential on the bench so they can watch a seasoned pro win some games, and hopefully that pro will take the rookie under his wing and teach him whatever he knows. Watching Mike Glennon is not a recipe for making any young QB better. If anything, it’s likely to make him more nervous and gun-shy. Kaepernick would’ve been a much better choice for the Bears, not only as a mentor to Trubisky, but as someone whose philanthropy likely would’ve been a hugely positive influence in some of the struggling communities in Chicago. In any case, moving from Glennon to Trubisky can only improve the Bears.

Is it Halloween already?

Andy Dalton and Cam Newton appear to have woken up and realized the season has actually began. Rumors of Bengals teammates lobbying for the team to sign Kaepernick after week 2 might’ve been a coincidental prompt for Dalton, but here are his numbers from the first two weeks versus the next two weeks:

36 of 66 completed, 394 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT

46 of 57 completed, 498 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT

Just Sayin’.

Cam Newton fields a question from a female reporter.

Newton appeared to sleep walk through the first three weeks of the season, then exploded last Sunday in New England, throwing for 3 TDs and running for another. The 3-1 Panthers are now just another extremely unpredictable team. I thought they had a good chance to bounce back from their post-Super Bowl loss slump last year, and the fact that they played pretty poorly the first three weeks but still managed to emerge 2-1 before upsetting the Patriots is a good sign.

Kill The Guy With The Ball

This is what “Kill The Guy With The Ball,” looked like, but without uniforms or protection.

That was one of the more socially acceptable names for the most popular game played at recess when I was in elementary school. It was simple, fun, and effective in establishing the male pecking order. One ball, preferably a football, but in a pinch a tennis ball, handball, or kickball would do, was tossed in the air in a manner not unlike a jump ball in basketball, and whoever caught it would run and everyone else would try to tackle him and then take the ball away so they could become the runner. For kids, it’s not all that dangerous. Kids are a lot more durable than we give them credit for, and when there is a large disparity in size and athleticism, most kids have the good sense to avoid unnecessarily putting themselves at risk. It was a fun game, even though it did somewhat frequently lead to fist fights.

Howard Glenn died of a broken neck after walking off the field.

In the NFL, the game is more civilized, what with all the pads and rules and teamwork, but players rarely back down from a hit, unless it’s a QB or RB or WR who runs out of bounds when they’ve gained all the yards they’re likely to get. But NFL players are highly trained, very large, very fast adults, and therefore serious injuries are fairly frequent. What’s remarkable is that only one player has died on an NFL field, and that was by heart attack in 1971. Two AFL players died from injuries sustained in a game; New York Titans guard Howard Glenn, and Kansas City Chiefs RB Stone Johnson, both of whom died from broken necks. The threat of player death on the field (and on national TV) seems to loom around the game (and is quite likely part of its allure), or at least in the back of every fan’s mind.

 

Last Thursday night, I thought I witnessed the first player death on the field as a direct result of a hit in NFL history. Bears LB Danny Trevathan delivered an absolutely brutal hit on Packers WR Davante Adams, snapping his head back so violently that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it roll across the field to the sideline. Packers teammates began frantically waving medical staff onto the field before Adams even hit the ground. He was removed on a stretcher, but was able to put up a thumb as he was carried away, and later in the game it was thankfully reported he had movement in all his limbs. For all the talk of how dangerous football is (and it obviously is very dangerous), it’s pretty amazing (and of course, wonderful) that no one has died during an NFL game.

AMOS OPOTW

That was a close one…

For a minute, I was worried Andy Dalton had earned this award, but then I remembered his 25/30-286-4-0 stat line came against a team that hasn’t won a game all year. Whew, that was a close one.

Considering recent developments, this would’ve been awkward.

The previously mentioned Cam Newton had a big game in a huge upset over the Patriots, throwing 3 TDs and running for another. A very strong candidate, but not quite.

Not a good look.

Todd Gurley crushed my Cowboys, gaining 215 total yards on 30 touches and a TD. Fuck that guy.

The Jaguars were seeing this guy’s ass all day.

Jets RB Bilal Powell rushed for 163 yards and a TD in an OT win over the Jags. Nice work, but it was the Jags. C’mon.

Not even a facemask was going to stop him.

Eagles RB LaGarrette Blount gained 136 yards on only 16 carries. Nice work, but not quite.

For some reason, it’s ok for a ball carrier to grab a facemask.

Le’Veon Bell ripped the Ravens a new one, carrying the ball 35 times for 144 yards to a pair of TDs. So close…

Congratulations, Deshaun Watson, you are the week 4 AMOS OPOTW!

The winner is Houston Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson, threw 4 TDs and ran for another in a 57-14 destruction of highly touted division rival, the Tennessee Titans. Watson is this year’s Dak Prescott, but on a less talented team.

AMOS DPOTW

Keenum would’ve Zettelled for less of this guy in his face.

Three players made impressive runs at this award, two of them on the Detroit Lions, and one on the Buffalo Bills, both teams that pulled off impressive upsets on the road. These teams also stand a good chance of making the playoffs if they keep putting forth such stellar defensive efforts.

Whitehead recovers one of two fumbles Sunday, as Minnesota RB Dalvin Cook suffers an injury.

Detroit LB Tahir Whitehead had 5 solo tackles and 2 fumble recoveries, while teammate Anthony Zettel sacked Case Keenum twice, hit him four times, and recovered a fumble.

Congratulations, Micah Hyde! You are the week 4 AMOS DPOTW!

But the award goes to Bills DB Micah Hyde, who picked off two passes and recorded 7 tackles in a huge upset win over the Falcons in Atlanta.

AARB

Take it into the tunnel, pardner, it was a good career.

The first old RB to bite the dust this year was Eagles 34 year old Darren Sproles. A consummate 3rd down back and punt return threat, Sproles suffered two severe leg injuries on one play, and his career is likely over. Sproles won’t be in Canton anytime soon (or anytime ever, unless he buys a ticket), but he was a very good player for a very long time, for the Chargers, Saints, and Eagles. Adios, Mr. Sproles, you will be missed.

It’s on you, pal.

Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch began the year putting up respectable numbers the first two weeks, but in the last two games, Lynch has carried the ball 15 times for 30 yards. Granted, the Broncos have a very good run defense, and Washington outplayed the Raiders in every facet of the game the previous week, but if Lynch isn’t more productive in the next couple of weeks, the Raiders will need to shift Lynch to more of a situational role, which might not sit well with him, and might not be an effective use of his talents, as he tends to be better in short yardage situations when he’s had all afternoon to soften up a defense. It’s not over for him, but it’s not looking good right now. And with EJ Manuel now under center, Lynch is needed more than ever.

At least someone is giving you a thumbs up.

Saints RB Adrian Peterson was never much a receiver or pass blocker, he was always the pure runner, which is a harder road to hoe at 32. Peterson had 4 carries for 4 yards last week, and has gained 81 yards on 27 carries this year. He has already been demoted to situational work, though I believe the situations upon which he is called are generally characterized by the fatigue of teammate Mark Ingram. He’ll probably remain on the roster all year (unless it earns him a contractual bonus), which means we can count on Peterson adding about 200-300 yards to his lifetime total of 11,828 yards. He’s #16 on the all-time yardage list, and if can bust out 500 more, he’ll land ahead of Jim Brown at the #10 spot. Good luck.

There’s something to be said for longevity.

Lastly, Colts 34 year old RB Frank Gore has stuck around long enough to land at #8 on the list with 13,256 yards. He’s 3 yards behind Eric Dickerson, and a little over 400 yards behind Jerome Bettis and Ladainian Tomlinson. If he can manage another 900 yards this year, he’ll surpass Curtis Martin for the #4 spot. The Colts suck and aren’t going anywhere, and as great as Gore is, he’s already ahead of RBs on the aforementioned list who were a lot better than him, so it’s difficult to root for him climbing this list. However, it obviously means something to him, and it’s tough to root against a guy so old and stubborn. Good luck, Mr. Gore.

Week 5 Picks

TAMPA BAY (2-1) +5.5 vs New England (2-2)

This is actually a very intriguing Thursday night game. Laws Of Parity favor the Patriots here, as it’s easier to see them at 3-2 and the Bucs at 2-2 than the Bucs at 3-1 and the Pats at 2-3, but the Bucs are an up-and-coming team with plenty of talent, they should be able to compete with the Patriots, at least enough to cover this spread, if not win the game.

Los Angeles Chargers (0-4) +3.5 at NEW YORK GIANTS (0-4)

Much as I’d love to see the Giants slide to 0-5, this “someone has to win it” game will go to the east coast home team against a west coast team playing in the early game.

Buffalo (3-1) +3 at CINCINNATI (1-3)

This is a huge Laws Of Parity game, but Buffalo has such a good defense, I’m taking the points.

New York Jets (2-2) +1 at CLEVELAND (0-4)

Sorry, Cleveland, but you lose. Again.

PITTSBURGH (3-1) -8.5 vs Jacksonville (2-2)

The Jags aren’t as good as their record, and they are very banged up at WR. It’s a lot of points, but Pittsburgh is due to blow someone out at home.

Tennessee (2-2) -3 at MIAMI (1-2)

I wish I knew if Marcus Mariota is playing, because if he’s not, the Titans don’t have Colin Kaepernick coming off the bench, they have Matt Cassel, who seems like one of the few guys who I’d take Jay Cutler over. So I’m gambling Mariota will play, in which case giving 3 points to a team that has scored a total of 25 points in 3 games is easy.

San Francisco (0-4) +1.5 at INDIANAPOLIS (1-3)

Just taking the points here, and also have a hunch those pesky Laws Of Parity come into play.

PHILADELPHIA (3-1) -6.5 vs Arizona (2-2)

The Cardinals are an ugly 2-2, while the Eagles are a very impressive 3-1. If the line was over 7, I’d probably be taking the Cards, but I wouldn’t feel good about it.

Carolina (3-1) +2.5 at DETROIT (3-1)

I hate like hell to pick against the Lions, but they had nine guys in their injury report Wednesday.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-1) -1.5 vs Seahawks (2-2)

Seattle always struggles with the Rams, even when the Rams suck. But the Rams don’t suck, they are in 1st place.

OAKLAND (2-2) -2.5 vs Baltimore (2-2)

I don’t feel good about giving points with Derek Carr on the sideline, but the Ravens aren’t a very reliable team and they’re traveling across the country. I have a bad feeling the Ravens secondary could give EJ Manuel fits (Where’s Waldo?), but I’m betting the Raiders defense will keep it low-scoring and make things simple for Manuel.

Green Bay (3-1) +2 at DALLAS (2-2)

I love the on-field talent Dallas has, but I don’t trust Jason Garrett in a game like this.

HOUSTON (2-2) +1 vs Kansas City (4-0)

As the point spread indicates, this game could go either way, but I’m feeling Deshaun Watson in a big way here, and the Chiefs are so due for a loss.

Minnesota (2-2) -3 at CHICAGO (1-3)

Let the Mitchell Trubisky era begin! I like this kid, but he needs to take his lumps, it may as well begin on Monday night.

 Last Week: 10-6 (I guess the Laws Of Parity also apply to me…)

Season: 24-38-1

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A Month Of Sundays: POtuS vs the NFL

The President has even managed to make Dan Snyder momentarily look like a good person.

One of the most upset-laden weekends in NFL history (versus the spread) was overshadowed by politics when President Donald Trump stopped rattling Kim Jong Un’s cage long enough to call NFL players exercising their First Amendment rights “SOBs.” If that wasn’t bad enough, he then publicly dressed down NFL owners as if they were feeble-minded children for allowing the players to act in such an uppity manner. President Trump has been promising to act as a “unifier,” ever since he was elected, and it was refreshing to see him finally get around to unifying two parties who almost never agree on anything: NFL team owners and NFL players.

This was undoubtedly the most conflicted moment of Jerry Jones’ life.

Many teams (maybe even all of them?) performed some act of unity in response to the President’s decidedly unPresidential attack. And many fans totally lost their shit. Even the Dallas Cowboys, who are owned by right wing vampire Jerry Jones, chose to kneel and lock arms BEFORE the anthem (as did their opponent, the Arizona Cardinals), and yet the fans still booed. What were they booing? The flag hadn’t been displayed, and the anthem wasn’t playing. Like many of the people who are pissed off about these acts of peaceful protest, what they’re really pissed off about is that they don’t feel free to say n***** in public anymore, and yet these athletes are flagrantly enjoying their First Amendment rights to the fullest on national television.

WHiteyMcSportsfan

The punchline is all the pages are blank.

Ratings are down because many fans are offended by black men exercising their First Amendment rights, and other fans are boycotting the games because Colin Kaepernick is being blacklisted. I’m a staunch supporter of the First Amendment, and I think when so many African-Americans are saying racism is still a huge issue in this country, the rest of the country ought to hear them out rather than gripe about their method of communication.

Remember how upset all the same fans who decry the mixing of politics and football were when this guy was in the booth on MNF? Yeah, me neither.

There are those who will insist they just don’t want politics interfering with their football, and that NFL players are doing a job and they should focus on that and not make political statements in the workplace. And that sports are a diversion from all the troubles of the world, that there is no place for political activism in sports. To them I would say this…

NFLanthem

… and I would ask them about people like Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Arthur Ashe, and others. What would the world be like without these athletes who used their fame and their talents to open the minds of so many Americans about issues that were so crucial to improving the overall quality of life in this country for everybody?

About Those Games…

Only the Jets stood between me and perfection.

Holy smokes, what a week. And I’m not just saying that because I only picked one game correctly out of the entire 16 game slate (thank you, J-E-T-S!). Pretty much everyone who bet on NFL games this week took a long, deep bath. My 1-15 record this week is the worst in AMOS history. The Laws Of Parity were in heavy effect, as we entered week 3 with nine undefeated teams and left it with two. Week 3 also began with nine teams carrying an “0” in the win column, and now there are five such teams left.

Sometimes you suck so bad not even the Laws Of Parity can save you.

One of these teams is going to win a playoff game, but it’s not who you think.

Gambling aside, the biggest upsets were the Bears defeating the Steelers and the Bills beating the Broncos. And those upsets came very close to being overshadowed by the Houston Texans falling short in New England, and the Bengals losing to the Packers in overtime in Green Bay. And in the most meaningful game of the week, pitting the undefeated Lions against the undefeated Falcons, the Lions came up inches short of the goal line on the game’s final play, losing to the Falcons 30-26.

AMOS Offensive POTW

Again? Yeah, again.

There were a lot of good candidates for this week’s award, with Case Keenum and Blake Bortles having career-best days in upset victories; Kirk Cousins teaming up with RB Chris Thompson to lead Washington to a lopsided upset of the Raiders; Todd Gurley and Jordan Howard leading their teams to victory; and Kareem Hunt (our week 1 OPOTW) having another huge day; but the winner has to be, for the second week in a row, the guy everyone wrote off in week 1, Tom Brady. The Patriots had their hands full with the DeShaun Watson and the Houston Texans, and Brady had a scary moment when he fumbled into the air and Jadeveon Clowney caught it and returned it for a TD, but Brady was otherwise damn near perfect, completing 25 of 35 passes for 378 yards and 5 TDs, not to mention leading them on a game-winning drive in the waning minutes. Everyone hates you, but AMOS recognizes your greatness, Mr. Brady.

 

AMOS DPOTW

Terrance Mitchell: 9 solo tackles, 4 passes defended, and 2 INTs. Not too shabby.

Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence totally dominated the Arizona backfield in the Cowboys victory over the Cardinals Monday night, recording 4 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 6 QB hits, none of which properly exemplify the huge impact he had on a game in which his team struggled early. But Lawrence was upstaged by Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney, who not only scored on the aforementioned fumble recovery, but recorded 6 solo tackles and 2 sacks. But Clowney was upstaged by the unlikely occurrence of 4 players each intercepting a pair of passes in their games last week (and two of them are named Terrance). Lions DB Darius Slay had a pair of INTs and 5 solo tackles. Colts DB Rashaan Melvin picked off a couple passes in a victory over the Browns. The Jets Terrance Brooks picked off two Jay Cutler passes, but the winner this week is the Chiefs Terrance Mitchell, who had 2 INTs and 9 solo tackles.

 

Week 4 Picks

GREEN BAY (2-1) -7 vs Chicago (1-2)

It’s hard to imagine the Packers struggling at home with a crappy team two weeks in a row, but in division games you never know. This seems like a textbook “get well” game, so I’ve got to go with the Packers, but if the spread were 7.5, I’d probably be taking the Bears.”
Well, luckily for me the spread wasn’t more than 7!

MIAMI (1-1) (London game) +3 vs New Orleans (1-2)

Tally, ho!

The Dolphins have yet to play an actual home game this year. Has anyone ever played their first home game of the season in October? With Miami coming off an upset loss and the Saints coming off an upset win, and the game being played in London, there are so many shaky factors in play that I’m just taking the points.

NEW ENGLAND (2-1) -9 vs Carolina (2-1) Super Bowl XXXVIII replay!

The Panthers are a mess, but have somehow managed to win two games. I’d have given 14 points here, so 9 is no problem.

Buffalo (2-1) +8 at ATLANTA (3-0)

0 TDs this year.

The Falcons are a pretty flawed 3-0 team, as their defense is not much better than last year, and that squad was nothing special, plus Julio Jones is a bit hobbled and has yet to produce as expected this year. Add to that the fact that Buffalo is playing good defense and managed to upset the Broncos last week. I can’t see both these teams coming out of this week at 3-1, but I won’t be at all surprised if Buffalo covers the spread.

CLEVELAND (0-3) +3 vs Cincinnati (0-3)

Another awful Buckeye Bowl, with zero wins between the combatants. Oddly, this could be a meaningful game for the winner in that 1-3 and third place doesn’t look so bad with the Steelers and Ravens playing each other after both suffered humiliating defeats last week. In other words, the winner of this game can continue to kid themselves about being relevant, while the loser is going to be 0-4. I’m taking the home team and the points.

Los Angeles Rams (2-1) +6.5 at DALLAS (2-1)

Dak demonstrates the importance of neck bridges.

Dallas looked like they were becoming, to quote Dennis Green, “who we thought they were,” midway through the second quarter Monday night against the Cardinals. Dak Prescott’s head-first dive in the end zone was a huge boost of confidence for himself and the team. Prescott had looked shaky throwing the ball the first two weeks and the first quarter of last week’s game, but after that TD run he was throwing lasers on the run to guys who were not exactly wide open, and got results. Conversely, the Rams are looking better than most people thought, so I’m not really comfortable giving more than 3 points here, so I’ll take 6.5.

Detroit (2-1) +1.5 at MINNESOTA (2-1)

This guy? Really?

No way Case Keenum beats one of the best teams in the league this week. I’m riding with the Lions.

Jacksonville (2-1) -3 at NEW YORK JETS (1-2)

Jags are the first team carded in 2017!

This could be a sneaky Laws Of Parity game, but the Jaguars are the more talented team and it’s hard to see the Jets winning two games in a row. I doubt the Jags have started a season at 3-1 since the days of Mark Brunell, but maybe they’re due?

Pittsburgh (2-1) -3 at BALTIMORE (2-1)

Can’t we respect both?

Both teams are coming off tough losses, but the Ravens were absolutely hammered. Plus the Steelers are simply more talented. If the Ravens were getting more than 3, I’d probably be taking them, but they aren’t.

Tennessee (2-1) -1.5 at HOUSTON (2-1)

2018’s Dak Prescott?

With such a small spread, I’ll take the more talented team, despite the fact that I love DeShaun Watson.

San Francisco (0-3) +7 at ARIZONA (1-2)

Carlos Hyde: this era’s Stephen Jackson?

This is a get well game for the Cards, and I expect them to win, but I also expect the 49ers to make it competitive. Both teams have surrendered 76 points, and the Cardinals have only scored 5 more points than the 49ers.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (0-3) -1.5 vs Philadelphia (2-1)

This has Laws Of Parity written all over it, especially with the Chargers being perhaps the best 0-3 team ever.

TAMPA BAY (1-1) -3 vs New York Giants (0-3)

Do we stick a fork in the Giants this week? I hope so. The Buccaneers had their asses handed to them by the immortal Case Keenum, and now are coming home after hurricane Irma to face an 0-3 Giants team. I think this is going to be a somewhat competitive game in the first half, then the Bucs will drill the Giants into irrelevance.

DENVER (2-1) -3 vs Oakland (2-1)

Uncle Fester is out for the season.

Every division game in the AFC West is going to be huge this year. All four teams are good, and three of them have solid playoff aspirations, if not legitimate Super Bowl hopes. Oakland is the more talented team overall, but the Broncos defense is the best unit in this game. Factor in home field advantage, and Sebastian Janikowski being on IR, and I’m giving those 3 points.

SEATTLE (1-2) -13 vs Indianapolis (1-2)

Chris Carson went from 3rd string to feature back in no time.

Thirteen is a lot of points for a team with an anemic offense to give, but the Seahawks are due for a breakout game, the Colts suck, and the game is in Seattle. Am I concerned they won’t bother to cover the spread? Yes. But I can’t take the Colts in Seattle. I just can’t.

KANSAS CITY (3-0) -7 vs Washington (2-1)

Take a good look, Chiefs fans. This is as close as you’re gonna get.

I kinda smell upset here, but maybe that’s just what three days without a shower smells like… I’m not buying the Chiefs as Super Bowl favorites, but it’s indisputable they’re playing the best football in the league right now. And that will last a few more weeks. So expect this MNF game to add a lot of seats on the bandwagon, but it’s a ride that will come up short.

TrumpShitSandwich

Last Week: 1-15

Season: 14-32-1

 

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A Month Of Sundays: The Reports of Tom Brady’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Cheer up, even this guy lost in Week 1.

What a difference a week makes. If your team lost in week 1, sure, you’re disappointed, but maybe they put forth a good effort, or they were on the road against a tough opponent, or maybe they just weren’t in synch. It happens. Half the teams must lose on any given week, right? But if your team loses again in week 2…

The 12%ers

Hey, you, at 0-2! This could be you! (Just kidding!)

Teams that lose their first two games have only a 12% chance of making the post-season. So unless you’re the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, who were defending champions and lost their first two games due a contract holdout by their star running back, Emmitt Smith, maybe panic is in order.

Jerry owes that ring (and his life) to Charles Haley.

Those Cowboys went on to repeat as Super Bowl champions after Dallas DE Charles Haley almost decapitated team owner Jerry Jones by hurling a helmet at him in the locker room after their week 2 loss. But it would be the height of understatement to compare the current Jets, Browns, Bengals, Colts, Chargers, Giants, Bears, Saints, or 49ers to the 1993 Cowboys.

Why not?

There’s no need to analyze the 0-2 starts of the Jets, Browns, Bears, or 49ers, as all of them were expected to compete for the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft anyway. But of the other four teams…

The Bengals have a lot of talent on their roster, as they have for the last several years, but it appears to be time for coach Marvin Lewis to move on. They’ve scored 9 points in 8 quarters of play, and have yet to reach the end zone. And they play in Green Bay this Sunday. And a group of their players have openly appealed for the team to sign Colin Kaepernick. You don’t need to stick a fork in the Bengals, but you can reach down and twist the one they’ve already stuck in themselves.

The Colts

Somewhere in here is a joke on that old saying, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Andrew Luck’s injury is largely responsible for this team’s inability to overachieve in the way they have since Luck was drafted 1st overall in 2012. They are thin on talent at almost every other position, and without Luck, they can’t maximize the talents of guys like T.Y. Hilton. What would they have to lose by signing Colin Kaepernick? They play the Browns this Sunday, so maybe they can kid themselves for another week.

The Giants

There were so many great images to choose from…

No offensive line, no running game, and a defense that is bound to succumb to despair when they see their efforts going for naught week after week. This Sunday 0-3 is likely to stare them in the face in Philadelphia. And even if they win, they travel to Tampa Bay the following week, and then will host…

The Chargers

It’s not all his fault, but it would help a lot if he’d make one of those field goals.

To say this team is a decent kicker away from being 2-0 is a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s enough truth in there to say it. The team has been playing reasonably well in close losses at Denver and versus Miami, but their rookie kicker, Younghoe Koo, from South Korea, has come up short (or wide) at the end of both games. This will be a very frustrating year for Chargers fans, as they are a pretty good team in a division so stacked they might be the only team in it to not make the playoffs.

Speaking of not making the playoffs…

Dude, pull it together.

The Cowboys are bursting with talent, but if Dak Prescott doesn’t stop throwing like he’s afraid of getting picked off, they are going nowhere. Last week’s absolute demolition at the hands of the Broncos was inexcusable. Sure, the Broncos have a great defense, but Trevor Siemian threw 4 TDs on the Dallas D. Siemian may be a tad underrated, but no one will confuse him with Aaron Rodgers. Dallas is a run first team, and the fact that Denver held Ezekiel Elliott to 8 yards on 9 carries means Dak needed to step up and perform. The Cowboys have a couple softer touches coming up in Arizona and hosting the Rams, but they need to win both of those games and Prescott needs to show the same confidence he did last year, or people in Dallas are going to start missing this guy…

Candidates for the 75%ers

With this guy in the backfield, you can even win with Jay Cutler.

Nine teams are currently undefeated, which is about right for week 2 in a 32 team league. Teams that begin the season with three victories stand a 75% chance of making the post season, so all eyes should be on the 2-0 teams this week. Miami had a week 1 bye, so they aren’t in this club yet, but it was impressive that after Irma wracked their state, they were able to fly all the way across the country and beat the Chargers. They play the Jets in New Jersey this week, so they stand a good chance of going 2-0, then host the Saints in week 4 in what should be an emotional homecoming (or at least it will be portrayed that way on TV). They look to have a decent shot at 3-0, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Who will be 3-0 when the dust settles on Monday?

The Steelers

You gotta like their chances in Chicago.

The Ravens

He can even throw INTs underhanded.

Don’t count the Jaguars out this week, but Baltimore already has picked off 4 passes in each game this season, and Blake Bortles tends to be pretty generous in that regard.

The Broncos

Don’t expect anyone to mistake this guy for John Elway this week.

Expect a defensive battle in Buffalo this Sunday, and a win for Denver.

The Chiefs

Who doesn’t love the Andy Reid baby?

Kansas City is playing the best football of anybody so far, though two weeks is a small sample. I wouldn’t be that surprised if they lose to the Los Angeles Chargers this week.

The Raiders

I hope Dan Snyder gets some of this.

They were a popular preseason Super Bowl pick, and they lucked out a bit on the schedule this week as their east coast game is on Sunday night instead of Sunday morning, when many west coast teams tend to lose to jet lag, even against inferior opponents.

The Panthers

Carolina hosts the Saints, a team they should beat. In fact, it’s not out of the question all six of the above teams are 3-0 when the sun rises Monday morning, but there can be no more than eight undefeated teams next week (and there are likely to be less) because…

Someone’s “0” has got to go…

This is how you run out the clock against a team with an elite QB.

The Lions will be hosting The Falcons this week in what I see as an early, pivotal game for both teams. In the AMOS 2017 Preview, I picked the Lions as the only sane longshot choice for a Super Bowl victory, with the odds at 100:1. If they can beat the Falcons and go to 3-0, they will be well on their way to heightening the disappointment of their fans when they lose in the playoffs. The Falcons dismantled the Packers last week, 34-23, in a game that was not as close as the score indicates. If they win emphatically Sunday, it will certainly appear that they’re not suffering the annual Super Bowl loss hangover so many teams succumb to the following year. On a related note, how frustrating must it have been for Falcons fans to watch their team gain a big early lead on one of the best teams in the league and then run the clock out? It’s nice they learned their lesson, but…

Week 2 AMOS POTW

Congratulations, Tom Brady, you are the AMOS OPOTW!

After the week 1 blowout at the hands of the Chiefs, many people were murmuring about Tom Brady getting old. In a 36-20 victory over the Saints in week 2, Brady’s stat line was very Bradyesque: 30 for 39, 447 yards, and 3 TDs. He was a slam dunk choice for the AMOS OPOTW.

Imagine if he’d played more than 32 snaps.

On defense, Chiefs DE Chris Jones edged out the Falcons Desmond Truffant (who scored a TD on a fumble return, and intercepted a pass) by sacking Carson Wentz 3 times, intercepting a pass, and causing two fumbles, while only playing part of the game. Jones was a force in a closely contested game.

Bad News, Good News

There’s always plenty of bad news related to the NFL, and Aaron Hernandez’s autopsy revealing brain damage (CTE) is another dent in “the shield,” as the NFL logo is called. We don’t know if the brain damage related to football played any role in Hernandez’s behavior, but virtually every NFL player’s brain that has been examined post-mortem has revealed CTE. Perhaps it’s a coincidence…

They can blackball CK, but they can’t get rid of everyone who speaks their mind.

In good news, it was reported earlier this week that in August a group of players, including Eagles DB Malcolm Jenkins, his teammate Torrey Smith, Seahawks DL Michael Bennett, and retired WR Anquan Boldin had sent a letter to Roger Goodell trying to reach out and get the league involved in social issues players are trying to address in their NFL cities. The league isn’t happy about the national anthem protests, as they’re partly blamed for declining ratings, so the players have reached out to attempt to get the league to understand what the protests are about, and get the league on board in promoting players’ efforts to improve their communities. This is a great development, but forgive me if I assume the league will find a way to screw this up and shoot themselves in the ass.

Week 3 picks (10 home dogs!)

Rams -2.5 at 49ERS

So much for covering that spread.

The Niners have yet to score a TD this year. I don’t expect that drought to last, but I also don’t expect the Rams to have too much trouble beating them decisively.

Ravens (2-0) -3.5 at JAGUARS (1-1) (London).

Can we stop the Thursday night games (except for Thanksgiving) and the London games? I’m nervous about giving that last half point, as it wouldn’t surprise me if this game were close and won in the final seconds on a long, Justin Tucker field goal. But I can also see the Ravens manhandling the Jaguars after making Blake Bortles’ life hell.

Browns (0-2) -1 at COLTS (0-2)

Someone’s “0” has got to go! Condolences to those of you in the Indianapolis market who will be stuck watching this game.

Steelers (2-0) -7.5 at BEARS (0-2)

He’s got to be better than Mike Glennon.

Chicago is not a far commute for the Steelers, and the Bears are a terrible team. This shouldn’t be close.

JETS (0-2) +6 vs Dolphins (0-1)

Hurricane Irma, cross country travel to San Diego, then back to Miami, then up to New Jersey for a team that usually gives the Fins trouble, even when they suck, all adds up to me taking those six points.

Broncos (2-0) -3 at BILLS (1-1)

I’d feel a lot better about this pick if the guy on the right was under center.

This should be a pitched defensive battle. Not sure I’d be taking the Broncos if the spread was more than 3.

PATRIOTS (1-1) -13.5 vs Texans (1-1)

Just ‘cuz…

The only question is “will the Pats bother to cover this large spread?” I’m betting they will.

PANTHERS (2-0) -6 vs Saints (0-2)

Don’t be surprised if 2015 Cam Newton shows up for this game.

The Panthers are 2-0 without having played particularly well. The Saints have no defense. I’m a little wary of giving this many points in a division game, but I can’t take the Saints against a halfway decent team.

Buccaneers (1-0) +1 at VIKINGS (1-1)

These guys might be doing something special this year.

The Buccaneers might be a special team. The Vikings might be mediocre.

LIONS (2-0) +3 vs Falcons (2-0)

Someone’s “0” has got to go! I kinda like the Lions for the win. But that’s how I am about the Lions.

EAGLES (1-1) -6 vs Giants (0-2)

The body language says it all.

The Giants have really significant problems on the offensive line, and I don’t think they solve them this week.

Seahawks (1-1) +2.5 at TITANS (1-1)

An all-too-familiar site for Seahawks fans.

The Titans have lost to a good team at home, and beaten a bad team on the road. The Seahawks are a good team with a bad offensive line. I think the Seahawks find a way to win this. Though the longer I type this, the less sure I feel…

CHARGERS (0-2) +3 vs CHIEFS (2-0)

This guy knows how to have fun,

I’m taking these points, because I smell upset.

PACKERS (1-1) -9 vs Bengals (0-2)

Nine points doesn’t really seem like that much here. The Packers are coming off a bad loss, and play a home game against a team that doesn’t seem to care.

Raiders (2-0) -3 at WASHINGTON (1-1)

One of the Super Bowl’s most iconic moments.

Super Bowl XVIII replay! The Raiders won’t need Marcus Allen to trounce the Epithets.

CARDINALS (1-1) +3 vs Cowboys (1-1)

C’mon, dude, pull yourself together.

I need to see Dak Prescott throw with confidence before I’ll take the Cowboys on the road against a good defense again.

 

Last week: 8-8

Season: 13-17-1

 

 

 

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A Month Of Sundays: It’s Only One Week, Don’t Worry, It’s A Long Season. Especially Without An Offensive Line.

When being wrong is better than being right.

Predicting anything is a fool’s errand. Weathermen are the most mundane example. This is part of why they end up spending so much time standing out in the rain on TV. Hurricane Irma caused a lot of damage in Florida, and it will be a long time before things are “back to normal” (that phrase must be put in quotes in reference to Florida) in much of the state, but after a week or so of hearing how this “category 5” hurricane was going to kill everybody who didn’t evacuate, Irma landing as a category 3 was a merciful letdown. People often criticize weather forecasters for being wrong, but in this case, everyone’s just relieved they weren’t right.

Alex Smith shows me what I know.

Picking the outcome of NFL games is also a fool’s errand. Predicting the outcome of entire seasons is outright idiocy. This was never more apparent to me than last Thursday when I watched the Kansas City Chiefs destroy the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, 42-27, primarily by utilizing their team speed and a deep passing game. In the AMOS 2017 NFL Preview, I said, “Reid is so in love with the short passing game, he under-utilizes Tyreek Hill in the passing game, and sticks with a QB who doesn’t really throw downfield very well.” Anyone who watched the game saw Alex Smith hit Tyreek Hill in stride on a 75 yard TD pass in the 3rd quarter. In the 4th quarter, Smith hit rookie RB Kareem Hunt on another deep ball for a 78 yard TD that put the Chiefs ahead for good. So what do I know?

Andy Reid stares me down.

I know enough to not completely freak out over this. I picked the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl, and the Chiefs to earn a playoff spot and lose in the first round. Both of these things are still entirely possible, perhaps even likely. But if Andy Reid calls games like this all year, the Chiefs are going to be tough to beat. While it would be completely out of character for Reid not to do something to screw this up, there’s always the chance he’s matured since his days in Philadelphia and will allow his talent on the field to dictate how he calls each game.

 

A Month Of Sundays Offensive Player Of The Week

We could be seeing a lot of this in 2017.

In any case, Reid utilized his talent well last week, and as a result, rookie RB Kareem Hunt set a record for total yards in his NFL debut, racking up 246 yards (148 on the ground, 98 via air) and scored 3 TDs. Hunt touched the ball 22 times, averaging over 11 yards per touch. This made him a fairly easy choice (Alex Smith was in the running) for the AMOSOPOTW award. Congratulations, Kareem!

 

Hey, would you mind blocking that guy?

Poor offensive line play was the undoing of the team I picked to win it all this year, the Seattle Seahawks. Their highly anticipated opener in Green Bay looked like a great match up on paper, and much credit ought to be given to the Seahawks defense for keeping them in this game, but ultimately a combination of shabby offensive line play and a pair of incidences of poor officiating prevented the Seahawks from having a chance to win this game. Let’s get the officiating out of the way, because if we don’t, my Seahawks fan readership will be ripping their own faces off.

When is a touchdown not a touchdown? Not here, according to the refs.

No fans gripe more about poor officiating than Seattle fans. And it’s not just the Seahawks. This city if full of people who still explode with rage over the discrepancy in number of fouls called in a 1993 NBA playoff game between the Supersonics and Phoenix Suns. And even though the Seahawks have won a Super Bowl, fans here still gnash their teeth about the officiating in their loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL (never mind that the Seahawks played like absolute shit that day). So it is with this in mind that I bring up a couple of poor calls by officials at crucial times during last Sunday’s game.

To the naked eye, this looks like a TD, when in reality it is a 3 and out.

Aaron Rodgers threw an interception to Seahawks DB Nazair Jones, who returned it 64 yards for a TD. However, officials called back the return because of a “block in the back,” by Cliff Avril on Aaron Rodgers, and ejected DB Jeremy Lane for “throwing a punch” at Packers WR Davante Adams. Replays showed the “block in the back” was more a routine shoulder shove, and Lane did not throw a punch, though he did give a bit of a forearms shiver as he and Adams took each other to the ground. Instead of a TD, the Seahawks ended up with the ball at the 50 yard line, where they promptly snapped the ball three times before punting.

You make the call.

 

In the third quarter, Jimmy Graham was completely mugged by a pair of Green Bay defenders as he went up in the back of the end zone to grab a Russell Wilson pass. No flag was thrown on the play, and the Seahawks settled for a 21 yard field goal. In other words, poor officiating cost the Seahawks at least 7 points, if not 14, in a game decided by 8. But again, had their offensive line performed at even a mediocre level, they very likely would have won this game.

 

Hey, would you mind blocking that guy II?

Unless you live in the wake of Harvey or Irma, you had a better Sunday than Eli Manning.

Another team that great things is expected of by many (not me!) is the New York Giants, who also went on the road to battle one of the better teams in the league and lost primarily because they can’t block anybody. The Dallas defense looked like the ’85 Bears in completely dominating the line scrimmage in their 19-3 victory. With Giants star WR Odell Beckham Jr on the sideline with an injury, Dallas didn’t need to worry about the quick slant that Eli and Odell have burned them with before. Instead, they focused on pressuring Manning and stopping the feeble Giants running game. The Giants were held to 35 yards rushing, and were limited to only 5 pass plays that gained 10 yards or more, and three of those plays were in garbage time on the Giants final possession, down 19-3. The Giants and Seahawks are both talented teams, and there is plenty of time for their o-lines to improve, but with an immobile QB and no legitimate ground game the Giants aren’t equipped to survive subpar o-line play. The Seahawks might be able to get away with it because of their stellar defense (though requiring them to spend 40 minutes of game clock on the field against Aaron Rodgers is a predictable way to lose) and their mobile QB.

 

The Bills, Jaguars, and Rams are all in 1st place!

Enjoy it while you can!

The Bills and Rams hosted two of the worst teams in the league, and did what you’re supposed to do against bottom of the barrel teams. Bills might not be used to winning, but that doesn’t prevent them from knowing how to enjoy it (NSFW). They defeated the Jets, 21-12.

Colts fans better get used to seeing this.

The Rams absolutely annihilated the Colts, 46-9. I believe this says less about the Rams than it does about the Colts. People were predicting the Jets would go 0-16, but the Colts appear to be front-runners in that contest right now.

Tom Savage gets all the action he’ll see this year.

The Jaguars went to Houston, where Texans fans gave JJ Watt, the guy who has raised millions of dollars for flood relief, a raucous ovation as he waved a giant flag coming out of the tunnel. Unfortunately, none of that positive energy had any effect on the play of the Texans, as they were manhandled by the Jaguars, 29-7. Houston’s starting QB, Tom Savage, was wisely replaced at halftime by rookie DeShone Watson, who promptly led his team on their only scoring drive of the day, before being overwhelmed the rest of the afternoon by Jacksonville defenders.

 

A Month Of Sundays Defensive Player Of The Week

One of those defenders, Jaguars lineman Calais Campbell, earned the AMOSDPOTW award by getting 4 of the team’s 10 sacks on Sunday. Congratulaions, Calais Campbell!

 

AARB Watch

Emmitt Smith, in the days before he became a famous pitchman for “Just For Men” hair coloring.

Is there anything sadder than watching someone stay at their job longer than they can do it? This is particularly painful when it comes to pro boxers and NFL running backs. And it’s particularly unfair for running backs, because almost all of them are completely done by the age of 32, if not earlier. We’ve all seen our favorite guys stay a year too long, running on the fumes of their former glory in a strange city. Larry Czonka in New York comes to mind, as do Tony Dorsett in Denver, OJ Simpson in San Francisco, and Emmitt Smith in Arizona. As a big fan of lost causes, I always take a morbid interest in old boxers and old running backs. This year, the three guys I’m watching are Marshawn Lynch of the Raiders, Adrian Peterson of the Saints, and Darren Sproles of the Eagles.

I’m not sure what’s sadder, his name across the front of his helmet, or the Chevron ad on his shoulder.

Peterson is 32 and currently sits at #16 on the NFL all-time rushing list with 11,765 yards. He needs about 600 yards to crack the top 10, which seems possible, but not likely. Even less likely is Peterson winning a Super Bowl in New Orleans. That means he’s doing this for the money or because he doesn’t know what else he’d do with himself. I’m not sure which is sadder. Last Sunday he led the Saints in rushing. Unfortunately, he was able to do it by rushing for only 18 yards on 6 carries. Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara posted virtually identical numbers in the Saints loss to the Vikings.

This is actually pretty cool.

Lynch is 31, won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks, and has a thriving apparel business in his home town of Oakland, where he has chosen to play what is likely the last year of his career. Beast Mode isn’t doing this for any statistical milestone or for money, and though he already has a ring, I’m sure winning another one with his hometown team would mean a lot to him. He’s an easy guy to root for. Lynch showed some of his old Beast Mode ways Sunday, carrying the ball 18 times for 76 yards, a 4.2 average. He also converted a crucial 4th and 1 in the red zone after being hit twice in the backfield. And he caught a pass for a 16 yard gain, giving him 92 total yards on the day. Not bad, but honestly I don’t think making him the feature back every week is a good plan.

Like the beloved old beater you bought for $600, this guy will run until he can’t do it anymore.

Darren Sproles is in his 13th season and is 34 years old. Over the course of his career he’s been one of the best and most consistent 3rd down backs in the league. I think he’s just doing this because he can, though I’ll be surprised if he plays beyond this year. Last Sunday he ran for 2 yards on 2 carries, but he was still productive as a receiver, catching 5 passes for 43 yards.

Week 2 picks

Houston (0-1) +6.5 at CINCINNATI (0-1)

This guy might revive the Texans season.

After last Thursday’s marquee match up between the Patriots and the Chiefs, we’re treated to this week’s Crap Bowl early.

The Bengals were shut out, at home, by the Ravens, while the Texans had their asses handed to them by the perennially awful Jaguars. How can a team that was shut out be favored by 6.5 points? I touted the Bengals as a wild card team last week, but they went straight to post-season form on Sunday, as Andy Dalton turned the ball over five times. Nobody wants to start the season 0-2, it’s not a statistically favorable way to reach the post-season, but if last week is any indication, that’s not something either of these teams need to worry about. The Bengals are the more talented team, but I don’t think they care.

Tennessee (0-1) -2 at JACKSONVILLE (0-2)

For the last several years, you could pen these guys in for two Crap Bowls per season. But now the Titans are everyone’s pre-season darling, and the Jaguars went on the road and stomped a team favored to beat them last week. This is suddenly an intriguing game. Can the Jags host a good team and win? Can the Titans put last week behind them and avoid 0-2? I like the Titans here, but I don’t think I’d be willing to give any more than 2 points.

Cleveland (0-1) +8 at BALTIMORE (1-0)

Kizer gives Browns fans a reason to kick their heels.

I’m not buying the Ravens after one week, and I like the way the Browns hung with the Steelers. I can’t see them going to Baltimore and winning, but I do think they’ll cover the spread.

CAROLINA (1-0) -7 vs Buffalo (1-0)

When this guy enters the haberdashery, the salesman is like, “Watch what I put on this fool’s head…”

Someone’s “0” has got to go, and this one is going all the way back to Buffalo. The Panthers might be for real, the Bills definitely are not.

Arizona (0-1) -7.5 at INDIANAPOLIS (0-1)

Kerwynn Williams or Andre Ellington? It won’t matter.

With David Johnson out for the season, who will carry the ball for the Cardinals, Andre Ellington or Kerwynn Williams? It won’t matter. This is the perfect game to work the rust out of Carson Palmer’s throwing shoulder, and to light up the scoreboard. The Colts are going to get blown out a lot this year. Enjoy their home opener.

New England (0-1) -6.5 at NEW ORLEANS (0-1)

You don’t want to see this guy a week later.

The Saints defense is pretty awful, and Belichick is going to have his team ready to play. This should be a lopsided win.

KANSAS CITY (1-0) -5.5 vs Philadelphia (1-0)

Give peace a chance.

The Chiefs are one of the best teams in the league right now, and the Eagles seem pretty mediocre to me.

Minnesota +6 (1-0) at PITTSBURGH (1-0)

Super Bowl IX replay! This game will look nothing like the 16-6 classic from 1975. The first score will not be safety, and unfortunately, the halftime show won’t be a tribute to Duke Ellington from the Grambling State University Band. This will be a close, high-scoring affair, likely won by the home team, but not by more than 6 points.

TAMPA BAY (0-0) -7 vs Chicago (0-1)

Bears fans, beware, this guy is gonna torch your secondary.

This will be an emotional home opener for the Bucs, whose week 1 game in Miami was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Like the Titans, the Bucs were a darling of the preseason pundits, and while I’m no pundit, I’m pretty confident the Bucs will be in the playoffs this year. The Bears, however, won’t. They put up a valiant effort against a Falcons team that still might be suffering a Super Bowl hangover, but the Bucs are going to drill this team on Sunday.

CHARGERS (0-1) -4.5 vs Miami (0-0)

The Chargers almost came back to beat Denver last week, and this week they’ll be hosting a Dolphins team that might be fatigued or extra motivated from dealing with Irma. And it’s Philip Rivers vs Jay Cutler, so I’m taking the Chargers.

OAKLAND (1-0) -14 vs Jets (0-1)

Fourteen is a lot of points. The Jets are that bad, and the Raiders are that good.

Dallas (1-0) -2 at DENVER (1-0)

Super Bowl XII replay! Like Super Bowl XII, this game will feature a lopsided QB match up, with Dak Prescott being a lot better than Trevor Siemian, though not in the same way Roger Staubach was better than Craig Morton. And while Dallas’s defense looked great last week, the current Denver defense bears a stronger resemblance to the Doomsday Defense than the Cowboys current squad. I expect this to be a low scoring game, as Prescott, who looked like he was afraid of throwing interceptions last week, is likely to be feeling even more paranoid about it against a defense of this caliber. But I think the Cowboys stronger running game will eventually be the deciding factor in a close, hard-fought contest.

RAMS (1-0) -2.5 vs Washington (0-1)

This has Laws Of Parity written all over it, but I think the Rams are going to have a lot of confidence going into this contest, the cross country flight will have its desired effect on the visitors.

San Francisco (0-1) +14 at SEATTLE (0-1)

Remember when this was the best rivalry in the league?

This is a classic get-well game for the Seahawks, but I just don’t see them putting up a lot of points against anyone. I might be wrong, but 14 just feels like too many points, even against a team as lousy as the 49ers.

Green Bay (1-0) +2.5 at ATLANTA (1-0)

Even the guy running the scoreboard will need to shower after this game.

Along with the Dallas at Denver game, this is one of the two marquee games of the week. The Packers looked better against a better team last week than the Falcons, who didn’t steamroll the Bears the way they were supposed to. This game opens the Falcons new stadium, though that doesn’t really seem to effect what happens on the field.

Detroit (1-0) +3.5 at GIANTS (0-1)

How are the Lions getting 3.5 points? That’s more points than the Giants scored last week.

 

Last week: 5-9-1

 

 

 

 

 

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A Month Of Sundays 2017 NFL Preview!

The 2017 NFL season is upon us, and never in modern times has America been so uncomfortable with the NFL and our collective enjoyment of the game. A combination of incidents of unsavory (and sometimes criminal) player behavior off the field, sideline protests, and growing concerns over brain injuries associated with football, have led to reduced TV ratings and in many cases moral conflict among those of us who continue to watch. And the league’s predictably inconsistent and often irrational responses to these issues has done nothing to assuage our apprehensions.

This year’s poster boy for bad behavior is Dallas Cowboys star running back, Ezekiel Elliott. The NFL served him a six game suspension for allegedly beating up his girlfriend when he was in college. And there was another alleged incident a few months ago of him punching someone in the face in a bar. Elliott has taken the unusual step of filing a restraining order against the league (I guess to prevent them from further questioning him?), as he has appealed his suspension. Whether some or all of these allegations are true (it’s virtually impossible that he’s completely innocent), it’s clear that Elliott has some problems that need to be addressed, though it would be surprising if the league were able to facilitate that in any constructive or effective way.

Without getting too deep into the weeds here, let’s just say Elliott is in real danger of ending up like Ray Rice, who will forever be remembered as the guy who KO’d his girlfriend on an elevator, effectively ending his career, rather than the guy who converted one of the most unlikely 4th and 29 situations in a late season game that turned out to be the difference between the Ravens making or missing the playoffs the year they won Super Bowl XLVII.

Speaking of players who have effectively ended their careers, last year Colin Kaepernick chose to protest police brutality against people of color by sitting or taking a knee during the National Anthem before each game. He also wore socks during a practice with pictures of police officers as pigs. Kaepernick succeeded in drawing more attention to systemic racism in the US, but he also made himself a lightning rod for those Americans who feel his protest is un-patriotic, misguided, or self-serving. He then opted out of the last year of his contract with the 49ers, and has been unable to land a spot on any roster since. Several other players have followed his lead and taken a knee or a seat during the anthem, and have drawn almost no criticism and have kept their jobs. What’s really notable here is there hasn’t been any criticism of the many thousands of fans in attendance at each game who choose to urinate, defecate, buy beer, or play with their phones during the anthem.

Some argue that Kaepernick’s play in recent years, combined with the “baggage” he brings, has led to his unemployment. But there are six teams starting QBs on Sunday who are clearly inferior to Kaepernick, and he’d be an upgrade at back up QB for virtually every team in the league. It’s valid that in some cases he’d command too much money as a back up, or in Seattle’s case, he wanted a chance to compete for the starting job, which was a no-go, but there can’t be any doubt that the NFL team owners discomfort with Kaepernick’s public stance on these social issues is the primary reason he’s not suiting up this weekend.

As for the CTE issue, I find the outrage to be a little disingenuous. While it’s absolutely true that knowing the details of how playing football impacts the brain is alarming, and will undoubtedly lead to many parents across the country making different (better?) choices for their children, the NFL is composed of grown men, and anyone who doesn’t understand that bashing your head against someone else’s for sixty minutes every Sunday is not good for your brain is either stupid or willfully ignorant. Not that I don’t agree the NFL ought to take better care of their players during and after their careers, especially since it’s such a lucrative endeavor for team owners, and I’ll be surprised if there aren’t some fundamental changes in how the game is played in the coming years, but the reality is that the violence and danger of football are part of what makes it so popular. And the owners know this. Everyone knows this. If there is alarm that TV ratings were down last year, just wait till they strap flags around the player’s waists before the coin toss.

With all of that unpleasantness behind us (or all around us), let’s talk about the 2017 season and what’s going to happen on the field to each team, along with their pre-season Super Bowl odds, and let’s start at the bottom…

 

Jets: Vegas has these guys at 1,000:1 to go all the way. Save your money, these guys are not the 1999 Rams. Though I’d be curious what the odds of the Jets going 6-10 are, because that is best case scenario. If they split with the Bills and Dolphins (totally possible), then beat the Browns in Cleveland, the Jaguars and Chargers at home, and if the season finale at New England turns out to be meaningless for the Pats, you’ve got 6-10. That’s as bright as the ray of sunshine for the Jets is, because this team is awful and management knows it and isn’t even trying. Some are predicting an 0-16 year for the Jets. I’m thinking they win a game or two. Also, the only thing that would be worse for Colin Kaepernick than being blackballed by the league, would be if the Jets had signed him.

Bills: At 200:1, Buffalo is a better bet than the Jets, but that’s not saying much. The management in Buffalo seems to pretend to care about winning only slightly more than the Jets owners, but as the only NFL team without a playoff appearance in the 21st century, the Bills have been doing this too long to be offended by the upstarts. To be bad for this long, it takes more than just a series of bad drafts and illogical signings, it takes a level of buy-in to poor organizational philosophy at the managerial level you don’t often see in sports. A bad owner can tank a franchise for a couple of generations (I’m looking at you, Dan Snyder), but you need something even larger than that to bounce between being lousy and almost mediocre from one year to the next for almost 20 years. Something supernatural, perhaps a curse. I think there is something like that at work in Buffalo, and it’s related to “wide right,” four consecutive Super Bowl losses, and O.J. Simpson. And I think it will be a while before it’s fully understood (if ever), or it ends (when flags are tied about the waists of players before the coin toss).

The 100:1 Club includes the Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Dolphins, Rams, Washington, Lions, and Colts. I thought this would be the best Browns team we’ve seen in a while, but then they let go of their best defensive player, CB Joe Haden, who was signed by their week 1 opponent, Pittsburgh. Although this team has some talent on both sides of the ball (compared to previous years), ownership clearly does not give a crap. Maybe they just like all the press they get for stockpiling draft picks each year and then using three different QBs of various levels of ineptitude? It’s a mystery almost as deep and murky as the forces at work in Buffalo. Like the Jets, the best the Browns can do is 6-10, even though I like DeShone Kizer. Remember, they are paying Brock Osweiler over $15 million this year to sit on the bench in Denver. They are so screwed. They will probably win 4 games.

Stephen Jackson knows your pain…

The 49ers are so bad, Colin Kaepernick chose not to play for them, even though he had to know there was a strong possibility no other team would sign him this year. Brian Hoyer will be their starting QB. Or is it Bobby Hoying? It doesn’t matter. The sad part about this is they have one of the best RBs in the league in Carlos Hyde, a punishing runner in the mold of Marshawn Lynch, whose career will end up looking like that of Stephen Jackson, if he doesn’t find a way to get off this crappy team. On defense, the 49ers also have a good corps of linebackers, but that won’t matter when they’re always playing from 17 points behind at halftime. They’ve got 3-13 written all over them.

This is going to be a tough year for the Bears. Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky looked good in the pre-season, but will start the year holding a clipboard while Mike Glennon teaches him how to go 0-7. If Trubisky is smart, he will spend those seven weeks watching the opposing QBs, five of whom have played in the Super Bowl, and three of whom have actually won it. Then he will trot out onto the field after having played in only 12 NCAA games in his life, and he will be very rudely welcomed to the NFL. If he’s got enough toughness in him, he will get through the second half of the Bears schedule, which is a bit kinder than the first half, and actually win a couple of games. 2-14 seems about right, but if Trubisky survives without fracturing his psyche, the Bears might be able to turn it around next year.

The Jaguars are another shitty franchise that seems to think stockpiling draft picks and then picking lousy QBs is the name of the game. This is a team to whom once nearly-great players like Chris Ivory go to die (in a pile of money). That said, the Jaguars have a soft schedule and a promising rookie RB in Leonard Fournette, so I think they’ll surprise enough teams to go 8-8.

I almost called the “100:1 Club,” the “Where’s Waldo Club,” since almost all of these teams would be upgraded at QB by signing a certain guy, but two of them have superior QBs to Waldo, and two others are investing in rookie QBs. That said, the Dolphins have no excuse. Jay Cutler turned down a lucrative broadcasting career to sign an even more lucrative one year deal with the Dolphins ($10 million), then made the hilariously honest comment, “you don’t have to be in good shape to be a QB.” If you play Cutler’s style, he’s correct. You basically take the snap, take two steps back and hand the ball to someone else and then watch the play, or take five steps back and throw it downfield. Yes, you get knocked down here and there, but that’s what painkillers are for. This was almost as funny as former heavyweight champion George Foreman coming out of a ten year retirement in his mercurial pursuit to regain the heavyweight title, and selling himself with self-effacing fat jokes. What is most funny was Cutler’s comment that his wife suggested he play another year. Widely regarded as one of the most disliked teammates in the league, he inadvertently admits his wife doesn’t care all that much for him either. In any case, I smell 6-10 all over this team.

The Rams have some impressive offensive weapons in Todd Gurley, Tavon Austin, and Sammy Watkins, but I’m not a believer in Jared Goff. I am enough of a believer in their defense to expect them to surprise a few teams along the way and win some games that maybe they shouldn’t. 6-10 seems reasonable, 7-9 possible.

Washington has the worst owner in all of pro sports not named James Dolan. I’m not a Kirk Cousins fan, but he’s going to put up pretty good numbers on a losing team and make a lot of money being mediocre somewhere else for the next few years, while Washington will continue to flounder and not have a QB. And Snyder will be excoriated for not signing Cousins to a long-term deal, even though Cousins is nothing special. I hate this team so much I don’t even know which guy to hate more. 6-10.

The Lions are one of those teams I inexplicably have a soft spot for. Maybe it’s because they always seem to have one or two pieces of the puzzle (when they aren’t historically bad), play in exciting games, and always fall short in a city that itself is one of the saddest stories in the America of the last 50 years. Or maybe they just have the coolest helmet in all of football? I don’t know. But for me, they are the not very attractive woman with whom I inexplicably have chemistry. She talks a little too loud, sometimes dresses so poorly even I notice it, or has a weird mole in a prominent place, but for some reason I’m mildly aroused whenever she’s within four feet of me. Which indirectly explains why I might be tempted to lay some money on this team at 100:1. More precisely, they have a lot of not-quite elite weapons on offense, and a decent defense, and only need an injury to Aaron Rodgers to find themselves atop the NFC North. Can they go to Seattle and beat the Seahawks in the post-season? No, but maybe someone else manages to do that for them, and they find themselves in the Super Bowl against someone who knocked off the Patriots. I’ve talked myself into this in the same way I’d talk myself into sneaking off to Vegas with the aforementioned woman for a weekend that would ultimately be disappointing and shameful (and it would be entirely my fault). This is an uncomfortably revealing way of saying this team is going to go 10-6 and land a wild card spot.

The Colts are the last member of this club, and perhaps the worst. I’m a big Andrew Luck fan, but I’m worried about this shoulder injury and his career. I can’t recall any major star having an injury with such murky prognoses in terms of when he might return. Without Luck, these guys might win as many as four games. This is just sad.

Marvin Lewis’s January face.

The Bengals, at 80:1, are a terrible bet. After Marvin Lewis put together an impressive squad in the early part of this decade, and made them perennial post-season participants, this underachieving team has just ended an era of potential greatness. For the last six years the Bengals have had a sometimes great defense, a really good offensive line, some very explosive skill players and playmakers, and Andy Dalton. If Carson Palmer had just been a little more patient and stayed in town, this team may have won a Super Bowl.

Or at least played in one.

They definitely would’ve won a playoff game.

Probably two or three.

Anyway, this team was stacked, and a mixture of poor play calling in the post-season, poor team discipline, and poor QB play, sank the Bengals. Now they’ve lost some of their better players to age, free agency, or complacency, and Marvin Lewis has become a very poor man’s Marv Levy. They still have many talented players, and Joe Mixon might make a splash at some point this year, and they suffered a lot of injuries during their 6-9-1 2016 campaign, so they could have a bounce back year, but as long as Dalton is at the helm, this team won’t get past the first round of the playoffs. And I’m not even sure they make the playoffs this year. 9-7 seems about right, and if they can squeeze out another victory somewhere along the line, maybe they get a wild card. But at best, they are first round fodder for somebody.

Melvin Gordon is set up for a big year.

The 60:1 Chargers could surprise some people, as a coaching change will lead to a more run-oriented offense, which will benefit both Philip Rivers and third year RB Melvin Gordon. They’ve also bolstered their o-line with Russell Okung and some recent draft picks, and their defense will be improved as well. After two consecutive losing seasons, I expect improvement from this team, but they are a year away. An 8-8 season wouldn’t surprise me, but if they can beat Denver this week and build on that, I wouldn’t rule out 9-7 or even 10-6, especially if the Chiefs, Raiders, or Broncos suffer a key injury or two.

You know things are bad when I have to post a picture of your kicker.

The Ravens are a bit overrated at 50:1. They don’t appear to have a much of a running game, and their receiving corps is average. And their defense is nothing special. Their kicker, Justin Tucker, is the best in the league. Good for him. I think 7-9 is about the most we can expect, 6-10 a lot more likely.

This guy is still making an impact at RB at 34 years old.

The Cinderella Club consists of a bunch of 40:1 teams, some of whom wouldn’t be horrible bets to win it all, if you’re looking to cash in at some long odds. The Eagles look pretty hot to those who believe Carson Wentz is going to have a break out year. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are both great pick ups at WR,  and Zach Ertz is one of the best TEs in the game, but a running game that is counting on consistent production from LaGarrette Blount, 34 year old Darren Sproles, and a couple of rookies is a running game that is counting on Carson Wentz to be the next Dan Marino. Their defense won’t be very good, and they play in a division with at least two teams that are better than them. Like the Ravens, 7-9 seems like the best Eagles fans can hope for, with 6-10 being a better bet.

Watson is going to be good, but perhaps not good enough in 2017.

The Texans are a slightly better 40:1 bet than the Eagles, as they play in a crappy division, have a defense that will keep them in every game, and if they don’t let Deshon Watson learn to lose from Tom Savage for too many weeks, maybe they’ll find some Dak Prescott-esque magic. They have a better team than Philly, but Philly’s best QB is the starter, while the Texans best QB is not. While 7-9 is where the smart money is, if Watson gets in there and proves to be as good as many think, they could go 10-6 and win the division.

This guy is destined to be the most important acquisition of 2017.

The Buccaneers are a team that pretty much everyone loves this year, and I’m part of pretty much everyone. If the Falcons are undone by a Super Bowl hangover, and the Panthers don’t recover from theirs and re-emerge as a top team, I can see the Bucs going 12-4 and winning the NFC South. Worst case scenario is hurricane Irma fucks with them a bit early, and they finish 10-6 with a wild card spot. Jameis Winston is primed for a great sophomore season, Mike Evans will be extremely productive, DeSean Jackson will scorch many a secondary, and their defense, which was already pretty good, just picked up TJ Ward from the Broncos. Ward is the kind of guy who can make a huge difference with his playmaking ability and Super Bowl ring. The Bucs are a very solid 40:1 bet.

This was a looooong time ago…

The Vikings strike me as very mediocre. And I don’t like Sam Bradford. So let’s just say 8-8 and move on.

He knows better than anybody how chilly it can get in Denver.

If the Broncos had not released TJ Ward, I’d say they are one Colin Kaepernick away from being Super Bowl contenders. Their defense is that good, and their offense has enough weapons with that defense to make them competitive with anybody. But players were very outspoken about how they felt about losing TJ Ward, and it’s bound to express itself on the field in a way Broncos fans won’t like. They also won’t like losing a lot of 13-10 games this year, which is what’s going to happen early, then the defense will get dispirited and play below their talent level because why not. A team that had a real shot at 11-5 and contending for a championship will go 9-7 and further disintegrate.

He looks like someone’s dad in Arizona, dressed for game day in front of the TV.

The Cardinals are the final member of the Cinderella Club, and a lot will be determined by how they perform in Detroit on Sunday. If they can go on the road and win a shootout in a dome (or better yet, shut down an explosive offense on the road), this will be a team to watch out for. I don’t think in even the best case they can win the NFC West, but they could go 10-6, maybe even 11-5, and be the wild card team no one wants to play. Carson Palmer is 37, and he isn’t the only older guy on the roster, but they have a lot of weapons on offense and a more than solid defense. I can’t quite see them winning three road games in a row in the playoffs, but I suppose it’s not impossible. And as always, a key injury to their division rival could open a door that will make a 40:1 odds seem like a steal.

Everyone’s expecting a big year from McCaffrey.

The Panther are a very risky 30:1. They have two very good teams in their division, and the Saints can still engage almost anyone in a shootout and beat them. So it’s an uphill climb, but Carolina still has a lot of top-flight talent on their roster, and have added rookie RB Christian McCaffery, who should be the most productive back the Panthers have had since… maybe ever. A lot depends on how Cam Newton bounces back from last year’s disappointing Super Bowl hangover season. If he appears discouraged, thing could get ugly, though for a team this talented, 8-8 is probably as ugly as it’ll get. Along with McCaffery, Newton still has Greg Olson at TE, and Kelvin Benjamin and Brandon LeFell at WR. If the line can protect him consistently, they will put up a lot of points.

On defense, Julius Peppers returning to Carolina for his 16th season could inspire an already impressive unit to great things. On a side note, I do worry Luke Kuechly will suffer a life-ending brain injury. He plays as recklessly as anyone, and has already had a head injury so severe he left the field in tears on a cart. They look like a 10-6, maybe 11-5 team, and this might be the kind of year in the NFC where that one game difference decides whether you play in January or not.

Remember Emmitt Smith in Arizona? OJ in SF? Tony Dorsett in Denver?

I don’t know how the Saints are at 25:1. Did they pick up TJ Ward? Do people think Adrian Peterson has some greatness left? Like an entire season of greatness? The Saints have gone 7-9 the last three seasons, and with their division as stacked as it is, I think 7-9 is about their ceiling. Let’s say 6-10.

The Chiefs are also 25:1, which is weird because they are a lot better than the Saints, but there it is. You have to expect that kind of disrespect for the Andy Reid/Alex Smith tandem. Reid is so in love with the short passing game, he under-utilizes Tyreek Hill in the passing game, and sticks with a QB who doesn’t really throw downfield very well. I would love to see Reid switch to rookie Patrick Mahomes II (why not “Jr”? He’s not a rock band’s second album). But Andy Reid is a guy who had a stacked roster in Philadelphia for a decade, brought them to the Super Bowl once, and lost. He’s won a lot of games because he’s always had a lot of talent on the field, but he’s not a very good coach. The Chiefs also have an excellent defense, but so did the Eagles ten years ago. The Chiefs will go 10-6, maybe 11-5, make the playoffs, and then lose. It’s as predictable as a New Year’s Day hangover.

MVP? Not yet.

The Titans are another team everyone loves, as their 20:1 odds indicate. I’m a little less in love with them than most. Granted, Marcus Mariota is primed for a great year, he has a really solid running game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, he has a slew of young talent to throw to downfield, and they play in the crappiest division in the league. Their defensive line is really good, they were second against the run last year, but their secondary is suspect, so not too many teams will be running all that much, except to kill the clock late in the game. They could finish as high as 13-3 with their schedule, but these guys are going to be a lot like the Colts in Andrew Luck’s first few seasons, when he went 11-5 every year, made the playoffs, then got exposed as a good team with a great QB who fattened up on lesser competition. The Titans will be good this year, they will win the division, but they are still a year away from anyone putting September money on to win the Super Bowl.

Everything depends on how he responds to this.

The Falcons, at 16:1 are legit, but they didn’t do much to improve their defense, and that crushing collapse (especially in terms of play-calling) in the Super Bowl is bound to hang heavy around their necks. Despite all their talent on offense (and they are going to score a shit ton of points this year), I don’t think the coaches are going to learn from their Super Bowl mistakes. In fact, often coaches will double down on that sort of thing to prove it wasn’t their fault. The Falcons will be fun to watch, but I think 9-7 is very likely. Though they could totally prove me wrong and plow through the season with a gigantic chip on their shoulder and return the Super Bowl. But I just don’t see it.

How are the Giants at 12:1 to win the Super Bowl? Yes, they have a good defense, and yes, Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls that only Giants fans thought they would win, but they don’t really have a running game and their offensive line is still problematic. I could see putting them in the Cinderella Club at 40:1, but I think a lot of people have fallen for Odell Beckham, Jr (to his credit, not Odell Beckham II) the same way a lot of guys fall for the slightly inebriated, busty blond in the too-tight blouse and short skirt who is forward with every guy in a way that you know is only partially due to alcohol. Yes, he’s a supreme talent, and he can captivate the entire room with the way he moves, and the camera loves him for it, and for his erratic personality, but I believe this camera-love for Beckham makes people forget about the o-line and running game issues when they evaluate this team. I see them in the 9-7, 10-6 neighborhood.

Who’s gonna be MVP? This Guy!

The Cowboys are a more reasonable 12:1 bet, as they are a more balanced team. Sure, Dak Prescott could experience a sophomore slump (though he just as easily could have an MVP season), the Ezekiel Elliott suspension and lingering aura of ugliness could affect the team adversely, and the defense is still not as solid as the offense, particularly in the secondary; but I expect Dez Bryant to have a great year, Darren McFadden to be more than adequate during Elliott’s suspension, and the defense to be better than last year. This is a team with a legitimate shot of getting to and winning the Super Bowl. But if all the negatives listed above come to fruition, they could find themselves at 9-7, watching football on TV in January. But I think 12-4 is much more likely.

The fact he even considered this in the off-season should concern Steelers fans.

The Steelers are 10:1 and a solid Super Bowl bet. I don’t think they’ll be able to get past the Patriots as long as Tom Brady is on the field, but a bet that’s counting on only one or two breaks over a five month span isn’t too bad at 10:1. Maybe Brady gets hurt, maybe someone else finds a way to knock them off in the divisional round, who knows? Anyway, the Steelers are stacked on offense, and less stacked on defense, and their kicker isn’t very good, but they’ll put up a lot of points, and even on the Sundays when they give up too many, the other team will know they’ve been in a fight. If Martavis Bryant can lay off the bong for a few months, Le’Veon Bell can remain healthy, and Ben Roethlisberger can keep thoughts of retirement out of his mind, this team could go all the way. Picking up Joe Haden was a great move, exactly the opposite of what Denver did with TJ Ward. This team knows it’s good and wants to win now. They will win the AFC North, I see them at 11-5, maybe 12-4. Unfortunately for them, that won’t be enough for home field advantage, but they will get a playoff bye week.

The dark horse for ROY.

The Seahawks have been a solid bet (of this kind) for the last five years or so, and picking up Sheldon Richardson from the Jets has only increased the strength of an already fearsome defensive line. The offensive line is still not great, and they lost their starting left tackle, George Fant, for the year with a knee injury a few week ago, but they look to have pretty effective trio of RBs with Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and rookie Chris Carson, who may be the best of the bunch and be the starter before November. If the Seahawks finally fully exploit the downfield talents of Jimmy Graham, they will be very tough to beat. 13-3 is totally reasonable, and if that’s good enough for home field advantage, pencil them in for another Super Bowl appearance.

Beast Mode has a better chance than AP of being an impactful, aged RB.

The Raiders are at 8:1, and they’re loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Definitely legit contenders, but I’m curious to see how Derek Carr looks in a game that counts. And as much as I love Marshawn Lynch, a 31 year old RB who runs with his style has to worry you a bit over a 16 game season. The Raiders will undoubtedly score a ton of points, and get a lot of sacks, and they’ll probably go 12-4 or 11-5 and win the AFC West, but unless they get home field advantage in the playoffs, I can’t see them beating New England or Pittsburgh.

The Packers are also at 8:1, and they are very talented, have perhaps the best QB in the game right now, and a substantial home field advantage, but I think Seattle is better, and maybe Dallas and Tampa Bay are too. We’ll find out soon enough on two of those counts, as the Packers host Seattle this week, and travel to Dallas in week 5. We’ll have to wait until early December to find out about the Bucs. Everyone knows about the Packers downfield passing game, but their RB corps consists of Ty Montgomery, a fullback, and three rookies. Montgomery isn’t a big back, if he gets hurt, Packers fans better hope those rookies are good. Of course their receiving corps is the best in the league with Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Martellus Bennett and Richard Rodgers. Teams that can beat the Packers will need to be able to cover those guys and get fast pressure on the QB. It’s a tall order. Their defense isn’t as impressive as their offense, but it’s still pretty good. This team will definitely contend, but until I see them beat Seattle in week 1, I think they’re a bit oversold. But they’ll be 11-5, maybe 12-4, maybe even 13-3, which would give them the edge they’d need to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots odds are currently 11:4. And that’s without Julian Edelman. What can you say about this team that hasn’t already been said? They are a prohibitive favorite for good reason. They look like a 13-3, maybe 14-2 team, and some are even predicting 16-0. You know Belichick doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s not impossible.

 

Playoff Predictions
NFC

  1. Seattle
  2. Dallas
  3. Green Bay
  4. Tampa Bay
  5. Carolina
  6. Detroit

AFC

  1. New England
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. Oakland
  4. Tennessee
  5. Kansas City
  6. Cincinnati

 

Super Bowl Prediction

I see the Patriots getting back to the Super Bowl and facing the Seattle Seahawks. This time, the Seahawks don’t start celebrating early, and use the painful experience of Super Bowl XLIX to remain focused and vanquish more than an external enemy, but an internal haunt.

 

Week 1 Picks

NE -9 vs Kansas City (readers will have to trust I make my Thursday picks before the game, as AMOS won’t be posted until Friday morning)

BUFFALO -9 vs Jets

Atlanta -7 at CHICAGO

HOUSTON -5.5 vs Jacksonville

Philadelphia -1 at WASHINGTON

DETROIT +2 vs Arizona

TENNESSEE -2 vs Oakland

CINCINNATI -3 vs Baltimore

Pittsburgh -9 at CLEVELAND

RAMS -3.5 vs Indianapolis

Seattle +3 at GREEN BAY

Carolina -5.5 at SAN FRANCISCO

Giants +4 at DALLAS

New Orleans +3.5 at MINNESOTA

Chargers +3.5 at DENVER

 

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Top 10 Pound-For-Pound Boxers, Says Me

sugar-ray-robinson-57a

Everyone loves a Pound-For-Pound list, mostly because people like to complain and argue about stuff that can’t be definitively proved true or false. Politics, religion, and lists like this one are the stuff barroom brawls are made of. Since this is my list, I’ll tell you my decisions were weighted toward recent performances in the context of the level of competition. That means if you’ve been fighting top level opposition, even if you struggled some, that’s going to weigh in your favor. If you’ve been fighting B-level guys, you damn well better be winning convincingly, and be fighting in a division where you don’t have better options. The second most important criteria is overall skill level. This is maddeningly subjective in many cases, but applies most prominently with one particular fighter. What I considered third is overall resume, meaning if I couldn’t separate two guys by the first two criteria, I went with who had the deeper resume, even if it meant going back several years. This might be why about half my list is composed of guys who aren’t likely to be on here a year or two from now, or maybe won’t be fighting at all. Lastly, if I found myself thinking, “It’s absurd for the purposes of this list to be going back more than five years to make a decision,” I brought it back to the primal question of P4P lists: who would beat who if they were the same size right now? That really only came into play with the placement of two fighters on my list, who both happen to be welterweights.

In any case, here’s my list…

10. Shinsuke Yamanaka 27-0-2, 19 KO

shinsuke-yamanaka-boxing-bantamweight_2963912
The 34 year old southpaw has held the WBC bantamweight title for almost five and a half years, and in that time has defended it a dozen times. A fearsome puncher, Yamanaka has stopped 9 of his 13 opponents in title fights. As with most fighters below featherweight, US fans are largely unfamiliar with Yamanaka, but via the magic of youtube anyone can watch him ply his trade and appreciate the craft and power he brings to the ring. At 34 years old, I don’t expect Yamanaka to fight much longer, and I doubt we’ll ever see him on American television, as all of his fights have taken place in Japan and bantamweights don’t earn much money here. The most recognizable names on his ledger are Vic Darchinyan and Anselmo Moreno (who he beat twice, once by SD, then last year via KO7). His most recent defense was last month against Mexico’s Carlos Carlson, who he stopped in the 7th after dominating him the entire fight.
Next fight? Being a WBC guy, he’ll likely fight whoever the mandatory is in the fall. Right now, the #1 ranked WBC bantamweight is a young, undefeated Mexican named Luis Neary (23-0, 17 KO).

9. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 48-1-1, 34 KO

canelo-alvarez-the-source-interview
Canelo is the biggest attraction in boxing today, beloved in Mexico and by Mexican-American fans, and with his drawing power exceeding his abilities, he also has no shortage of haters. We’ve been waiting for almost a year and a half for Canelo-Golovkin, and I’ll be as disappointed as anybody if we don’t see it in September, but Canelo is in a tight spot. He’s the cash cow of the sport, and the only major money maker at GBP. While it’s somewhat understandable why they’d like to move him cautiously, the fact that he’s not protecting an undefeated record kind of makes it a moot point. If he fought Golovkin and lost, but didn’t quit or get totally steam rolled, I don’t think his reputation or earning power would be damaged much, if at all. And if he won, that would certainly enhance both. In any case, Canelo is in the #9 spot because of his underrated hand speed, combination punching, body punching, and upper body movement. He’s used these to great effect to beat guys like Miguel Cotto and Erislandy Lara. Though more recently he’s been in cash-grab fights with Amir Khan and Liam Smith. His Next Fight, on Cinco de Mayo weekend, is against Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. It’s a fight that can only elevate his marketability, and might prove some points if he can beat the naturally bigger man.

8. Keith Thurman 28-0, 22 KO

thurmangarcia2
The 28 year old boxer-puncher holds the WBA and WBC Welterweight titles, and is in his physical prime. Although he hasn’t been KOing guys now that he’s consistently fighting elite level fighters, he’s proven in his last two wins that he can adapt and win fights without relying on his power. Some will argue against his placement above Canelo, but it’s hard to argue against having him on the list at all. He won close but clear decisions against Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in his last two fights, and there is talk of him trying to add the IBF welterweight title to his collection by fighting the winner of the upcoming Kell Brook – Errol Spence fight. If that happens, you’d be hard pressed to name any fighter in the sport who has fought three fights in a row against that caliber of opponent.
Next fight: Hopefully the winner of Brook-Spence. If for some reason that falls through, I’d love to see him lobby for a Pacquiao fight, or that failing, Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, or Adrien Broner.

7. Manny Pacquiao 59-6-2, 38 KO

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The 38 year old Filipino senator is a boxing legend, a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer with a resume that compares well to anybody’s. Some derided him for fighting Jesse Vargas last November, and while it’s true I can easily name five other guys at 147 I would’ve rather seen him fight, Pacman seems to be somewhat a prisoner of Bob Arum, whose actions indicate in recent years that he prefers to get a cut of the purse from each of the guys in the ring when it comes to Pacquiao fights. And to be honest, I don’t really care to watch Pacquiao in the ring, he doesn’t have anything left to prove, he hasn’t KO’d anyone since he stopped Miguel Cotto in 2009 (not a typo), and he’s pretty much performing on the fumes of the great fighter he was for about a decade and a half. I almost kept him off my list, but then I realized those fumes were still good enough that I couldn’t think of any welterweight I’d confidently favor to beat him right now.
Next fight: He holds the WBO title, and his mandatory is a guy named Jeff Horn, an undefeated Aussie fighter. Yawn.

6. Terence Crawford 30-0, 21 KO

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The 29 year old Crawford currently holds the WBC and WBO Super Lightweight titles, and reigns over a division that doesn’t really have any worthy challengers for him. Crawford’s overall skill level is only second to Lomachenko’s. He fights equally effectively from an orthodox or southpaw stance, and is able to switch smoothly and at will no matter who he’s fighting. In some ways, Crawford reminds me of a blend of the young and older Floyd Mayweather Jr, in that he’s very aggressive, a great finisher, but also has a very high ring IQ and usually takes the first few rounds to see what his opponent has to offer before applying his game plan or an adjustment to dismantle his foe. Crawford’s biggest win was over highly regarded fellow champion at the time, Viktor Postol. Crawford took the measure of the taller jab specialist in the first two rounds, then put a frightful beating on him the rest of the evening en route to a wide UD win. Other than Postol, Crawford has spent the past three years fighting a collection of good but not great fighters, B-level guys who brought a variety of styles and challenges to the table, and he’s beaten all of them pretty easily. At 29, he’s got some time to raise his stock, but the biggest names for him are up at 147. An in-house Top Rank clash with Manny Pacquiao seems inevitable, but it appears Bob Arum doesn’t want to make that fight until he’s absolutely certain Crawford would win (and I’d favor Crawford right now), so why not fight Tim Bradley? Bradley’s a smaller welterweight, they could even do a catch weight of 144 or 145. In any case, right now the only person who can stop Terence Crawford is Terence Crawford; if he can stay out of trouble outside the ring, he could find himself at the top of the sport in the next two years.
Next Fight: Crawford will defend his two belts on May 20 against the light hitting Felix Diaz. It should be another dominant showcase win.

5. Gennady Golovkin 37-0, 33 KO

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The WBC, WBA, and IBF Middleweight Champion has become one of the most polarizing figures in boxing, as some fans and media overrate him as P4P #1, while others decry his level of opposition and accuse him of being a hype job with punching power and not much else, who fights “cab drivers” to pad his record. He was able to justify the biases of both camps when he won a controversial UD against Brooklyn’s Daniel Jacobs last month. Jacobs was undoubtedly Golovkin’s toughest test, and even though I scored it for Jacobs, there were many close rounds (and I know people who were at the fight who all said GGG won and that it wasn’t particularly close). So I’ll exercise a bit of humility here and grant that my scorecard may have been inaccurate. If it had been a more exciting fight, I’d watch it again, but life is too short. It was competitive, but not with the kind of action that warrants a second viewing. That aside, GGG’s previous foes might be less than stellar, but the fact remains that Curtis Stevens, Martin Murray, and David Lemieux are all dangerous fighters, and Golovkin didn’t just beat them, he dominated them with both skill and power. GGG doesn’t possess the fastest hands or feet, but he might be P4P the hardest puncher in the sport, and he’s an expert at cutting off the ring and has perhaps the best chin in boxing, which are three virtues no one wants to see standing in the opposite corner when the bell rings. GGG has been angling for a huge showdown with Canelo Alvarez, and fans can only hope it actually happens this September, though Canelo needs to get by Julio Caesar Chavez Jr in May first, and GGG may try to unify all four middleweight belts by fighting (and likely defeating) WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders. Golovkin is 35, so time is not on his side. Hopefully both he and Canelo win their upcoming fights and we get to see a great action fight in September for the undisputed, unified, middleweight championship of the world.
Next fight: GGG says he wants to fight in June, and would like Saunders, but may choose to wait on Canelo in September.

4. Roman Gonzalez 46-1, 38 KO

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Many are saying, “how is this guy so high on the P4P list? He lost his last fight and struggled in the one before that!” The 29 year old Nicaraguan boxer-puncher has faced top level competition fairly consistently for the past few years, and until he moved up to Junior Bantamweight, he was. dominant. The fact that he moved up to a fourth weight division, took on two of the best opponents available, and engaged in very close, exciting fights both times is not the kind of thing I’m going to penalize a guy for, even if he lost one of those fights. It should be evident to everyone that Chocolatito’s power is not the same at 115 lbs as it is at 112 lbs, and he’d be wise to move back down to flyweight where there are plenty of attractive fights for him. Like NFL running backs, fighters at the lighter weights don’t age particularly well, so unless he’s ready to hang up his gloves soon, going to war against guys who can take his power at 115 lbs isn’t the greatest idea. Like Pacquiao and Yamanaka, Gonzalez is not much longer for this list, but if everyone in the sport was between 108 and 112 lbs, I can count on one hand the number of guys I’d favor to beat him.
Next fight: Lots of people would like to see him fight the 23 year old phenom, Naoya Inoue, but I’d prefer to see him rematch Juan Francisco Estrada at 112.

3. Vasyl Lomachenko 8-1, 6 KO

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The 29 year old WBO super featherweight champion of the world has once-in-lifetime talent. His footwork, hand and foot speed, power, mastery of distance and timing, and combination punching make him must-see TV. Widely regarded as the best amateur of all time, the Ukrainian southpaw won a featherweight titIe in his first pro fight, lost to the rugged veteran Orlando Salido in his second fight (Salido failed to make weight for the fight, enjoyed about a 15 lb weight advantage on fight night, and committed a wide variety of unpenalized fouls throughout the night), and has since not only beaten, but dominated fighters like Gary Russell Jr, Roman Martinez, and Nicholas Walters. In fact, he completely undressed Russell, who looked completely lost coming out of his corner for the 5th round, and he forced Walters, a widely respected and feared bad ass, to quit on his stool after 7 one-sided rounds. In his most recent fight, he comprehensively beat and outboxed a very tough Jason Sosa, whose father stopped the fight after 9 rounds, fearing for his son’s safety. Lomachenko is so good I wouldn’t argue with anybody who had him at the top of their list. He’s certainly on his way there.
Next fight: It looks like a showdown with Mikey Garcia is inevitable, but I’ll be surprised if Garcia is his next opponent.

2. Andre Ward 31-0, 15 KO

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The 33 year old 2004 Olympic gold medalist won the WBA, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight championships via very controversial UD over Sergey Kovalev last November, and it looks like the contractually mandatory rematch will take place in June. A defensive specialist with top level infighting skills, Ward has been a somewhat polarizing figure his whole career, despite his soft-spoken confidence and lack of personal baggage outside of the ring. A smothering, defensive style difficult for the casual fan to appreciate doesn’t help, and neither has a long bout of inactivity (only two fights in three and a half years) after winning the Super Six tournament in 2011. And without going into detail, let’s just state the obvious: with his quiet confidence, undefeated record, and squeaky clean family man lifestyle, if Ward came from two white parents instead of only one, he’d be the most popular athlete in America. Anyway, he ended his spell of inactivity by agreeing to fight Kovalev, but needed to shake off the rust with a trio of showcase bouts against guys who posed no significant threat, stopping the first one, Paul Smith, and winning wide UDs against Sullivan Barrera and Alexander Brand. Many will ask why he’s not at the top of my P4P list after winning a UD over Kovalev last November, and honestly I was tempted to have he and Krusher tied at the top, but I felt Kovalev beat him. I’ve watched the fight three times and scored it for Kovalev each time, even while giving Ward more of the close rounds. In any case, this will (barring injury to either fighter in training camp) be sorted out in June when they have their rematch. Or maybe not. Maybe they have another close fight with a controversial outcome and we get a trilogy. I wouldn’t complain.

1. Sergey Kovalev 30-1-1, 26 KO

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The 34 year old former IBF, WBO, WBA light heavyweight champion is one of the most fearsome punchers in the sport, and has very underrated boxing skills. He doesn’t have the fastest hands, but nobody in the sport gets all their weight into their jab the way Kovalev does, and with snap at the end of it. When he follows it with the straight right hand, it’s a lethal combination. He won his first world title, the WBO strap, by stopping Nathan Cleverly in 4 rounds in August 2013. After Adonis Stevenson bolted from HBO to SHO via Al Haymon’s PBC in early 2014, Kovalev and boxing fans were cheated out of a tasty match up of 175 pound KO artists. Kovalev then fought a trio of WBO mandatories before winning every second of every round in a UD victory over the aged legend, Bernard Hopkins. Favored by many to win, Hopkins suffered a violent knockdown in the 1st round, then managed to stave off the efficient aggression of Kovalev for the rest of the fight, before going for broke and trying to KO Kovalev in an exciting 12th round. The victory garnered Kovalev the IBF and WBA titles, which he held until the Ward decision. I have Kovalev rated above Ward because I thought he won the fight, and has faced better competition in recent years. The rematch is scheduled for June 6, so in the near future there might be more clarity at the top of this list, or maybe another close fight with a controversial decision leads to a trilogy. Either way, the fans win.

A Month Of Sundays: Panic Now, Eagles Fans, Before The October Rush!

While it looks like he’s about to stomp the punter’s face further into the turf WWE style, Travis Benjamin is merely leaping over him to collect the AMOS POTW award.

This week, AMOS will get right to the point and declare Travis Benjamin the AMOS Player Of The Week for Week 2, and then move on to the Week 3 picks. Although Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Giovani Bernard, Matt Ryan, and of course Tom Brady were strong candidates, the Cleveland WR caught 3 passes for 115 yards, 2 of which were TDs, and returned a punt 78 yards for a TD in the Browns 28-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Congratulations to Travis Benjamin, the Week 2 AMOS POTW!

Picks

Here is what I wrote Wednesday night about the Thursday game…

Washington (1-1) +3.5 at NEW YORK GIANTS (0-2)

This man has not thrown an interception all year. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking next week when he plays against the Bills, he’s due.

“This is obviously a must-win game for the Giants, who would be sunk at 0-3, even in the suddenly shabby NFC East. With the Eagles floundering, the Cowboys hurting, and Washington being themselves, the division is now wide open, but if the Giants go to 0-3 they’re pretty much done. I do think the Giants will win Thursday night, it’s hard (but fun!) to imagine them blowing another double digit 4th quarter lead, but these division games are always tough, so I’ll usually take the team getting more than 3 points. The Giants will keep their season alive, but it’ll be close.”

Okay, so the game wasn’t very close, but Giants fans have to admit, they were getting a little scared in the 4th quarter.

Pittsburgh (1-1) -1 at ST. LOUIS (1-1)

It’s almost unfair how many weapons the Steelers have on offense now.

This should be a great game, as the Steelers explosive offense comes up against a formidable Rams defense. But with Le’Veon Bell returning to the lineup, I expect the Steelers to win. I hate the Steelers as much as humanly possible, but it’s hard not to appreciate a team that, under the new PAT rules, is committed to going for 2 points after every TD.

MINNESOTA (1-1) -2.5 vs San Diego (1-1)

Peterson had 31 touches for 192 yards last week.

I’m a little concerned the Chargers will be able to beat the Vikings with their deep passing game, as WRs Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd are tough match ups for the Vikings CBs, but it looks like Adrian Peterson is beginning to feel like himself, and as long as the Vikings can stay in the lead or at least within one score and Peterson isn’t expected to pass block, the Vikings should win. And most of the time any spread less than 3 is a pick ‘em.

HOUSTON (0-2) -6.5 vs Tampa Bay (1-1)

JJ Watt, when he heard Jameis Winston had said it would be “fun” to play against him.

I went back and forth on this one quite a bit; a rookie QB vs JJ Watt, or a Texans offense without Arian Foster or DeAndre Hopkins that is QB’d by Ryan Mallett. This has all the ingredients to be a very ugly game, but perhaps hilariously so, as every fan likes to see an overall #1 draft pick QB like Jameis Winston befuddled and humiliated by an all-time great defensive lineman like JJ Watt. Earlier this week, Winston said he was “looking forward” to playing against Watt, to which Bucs right tackle Gosder Cherilus said, “I wish he didn’t say that.” I expect to see some pivotal turnovers and perhaps a JJ Watt TD dance or two before this game is over.

NEW YORK JETS (2-0) -2.5 vs Philadelphia (0-2)

The two biggest surprises of the young season so far meet Sunday in a battle of teams going in two different directions. The Jets are looking to make Ryan Fitzpatrick this generation’s Trent Dilfer, while the Eagles are on the precipice of one of the most disastrous implosions in NFL history. With his roster finally shed of star players who doubted his genius, Chip Kelly is in the unenviable position of a guy who very publicly insisted and got everything he wanted, and now has to live with it.

LeSean McCoy was jettisoned in favor of DeMarco Murray, who is averaging half a yard per carry in two games, or just under $100,000 per yard according to his 5 year, $40 million contract. And it’s not just Murray; the Eagles have amassed a grand total of 70 rushing yards in two games, even though they also acquired Ryan Matthews in the off-season and retained Darren Sproles. Sam Bradford is an obvious downgrade from Nick Foles, and Zack Ertz, their tight end, is their best receiver. Their offensive line sucks, and their defense spends 40 minutes on the field every Sunday, suffering attenuated breaks from duty because of the offense’s inability to get even a single first down on many of their “drives.” It is only a matter of time before the defense throws in the towel and guys like Murray solace themselves by reveling in their wealth rather than focusing on the disaster taking place on the field every Sunday. Eagles fans are already impatient, and once they go to 0-3, there will be early calls for Kelly’s head, which will grow louder throughout the season. Think of the day Jameis Winston is going to have in Houston, and then apply that feeling all year to Chip Kelly. This is the easiest game to pick this week.

CAROLINA (2-0) -6.5 vs New Orleans (0-2)

If you score a TD upside-down, it should be worth double points.

The Saints might be the worst team in football right now. And thankfully for Drew Brees, he’ll probably get some time off after suffering a bruised rotator cuff against the Buccaneers last week. There is speculation he’ll play Sunday, but it was reported he didn’t throw the ball in practice at all Wednesday. His back up, Luke McCown, isn’t terrible, but the rest of this team is, especially the defense. And Carolina has an outstanding defense, so I expect the Panthers to put a hurting on the Saints.

NEW ENGLAND (2-0) -13.5 vs Jacksonville (1-1)

The face Brady will make when he rides the bench mid-way through the 3rd quarter with a 35 point lead Sunday.

The Patriots are playing outstanding football and the Jaguars are the perfect team for them to host after nearly blowing a big lead to Buffalo last week. This will be a very long day for the Jaguars.

Cincinnati (2-0) +2.5 at BALTIMORE (0-2)

The Ravens will be seeing plenty of this on Sunday.

This is a huge, must-win game for Baltimore, but unfortunately for them they are running up against a team that is playing extremely well. The Cincinnati secondary had no problems shutting down the dual deep threat of Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen last week, so Steve Smith and whoever else the Ravens have shouldn’t pose a huge problem. The Laws Of Parity say the Ravens win, but I like the Bengals, and since they’re also getting points, I’ll take them.

CLEVELAND (1-1) -3.5 vs Oakland (1-1)

Enjoy the Week 3 AMOS Crap Bowl, Cleveland fans! Raiders fans won’t be able to enjoy it because they’re starting in an early game on the east coast, and that is the only reason the Browns are favored by more than 3 points.

Indianapolis (0-2) -3.5 at TENNESSEE (1-1)

Little known fact: Andrew Luck fought the Battle Of Shiloh.

I don’t like giving more than 3 points here, because not only are the Colts 0-2, but they’ve looked like shit getting there. But I have to believe Andrew Luck is going to right the ship, at least on the offensive side of the ball (though if they’d let him play defense, I bet he would). I’m not certain they cover the spread, but I’ll be surprised if the Colts don’t win.

Atlanta (2-0) -2 at DALLAS (2-0)

This fuckin’ guy…

If Romo was healthy there’s no doubt I’d be taking my Cowboys, and honestly I still believe that if the defense can stop or at least limit Julio Jones, and the running game can help them control the clock, they could win. But Jones is playing the best ball of anybody at WR right now, so it would be foolish to assume anybody is going to completely shut him down. The Ryan-to-Jones combo is going to start clicking at some point on Sunday, and there won’t be much Brandon Weeden can do about it.

…and this fuckin’ guy.

Beyond this game, it doesn’t look good for the Cowboys, but if they can pull off a 3-5 record over the next 8 weeks and have Romo and Dez return to a 5-5 team, they will win the NFC East.

San Francisco (1-1) +6.5 at ARIZONA (2-0)

Could these guys really be 3-0?

The 49ers looked great against a mediocre team, then lousy against a good team, but in all fairness they played Pittsburgh in the early time slot traveling from the west coast, which was an easy loss to predict (even though I didn’t – I had as much pre-season rust as anybody). The Cardinals have beaten two very crappy teams, so I expect this to be another competitive divisional game that will be decided by less than 7 points either way.

SEATTLE (0-2) -15 vs Chicago (0-2)

Clausen can expect a lot of this on Sunday.

This is a classic get-well game for the Seahawks, who are gracefully considering a reduction of fines against Kam Chancellor for his two game holdout. The Bears will be without Jay Cutler, which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize Jimmy Clausen will be their QB. It’s going to be a very, very long afternoon for Mr. Clausen, who will be facing one of the best defenses in the league.

On a side, note, it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks get tight end Jimmy Graham involved more in their offense Sunday. Graham has 7 catches for 62 yards and 1 TD in two games and is clearly frustrated. Are the Seahawks a little gun shy about going out of their way to get the new guy the ball after their experience with Percy Harvin? Hard to say, but it’s even harder to believe he was only thrown to twice last week in the Seahawks 27-17 loss to the Packers. In any case, a home game against a dismal Bears defense would seem an opportune time to fluff Graham’s stat sheet and get him and Russell Wilson on the same page.

Buffalo (1-1) +3 at MIAMI (1-1)

The Dolphins could use that guy from “The Office” at QB.

Buffalo is simply the better team, so I’ll take those points.

Denver (2-0) -3.5 at DETROIT (0-2)

Whether it’s Stafford or Orlovsky at QB, you can count on seeing a lot of this.

It’s do-or-die for the Lions, and I’m pretty sure they’re gonna die. Matt Stafford will probably not be playing, and the Denver defense is good enough to carry the ghost of Peyton Manning toward another NFC West division title. I’m sorry, Lions fans, but you guys are toast.

GREEN BAY (2-0) -6.5 vs Kansas City (1-1)

Who needs Jordy Nelson when you can have Max McGee? And hey, who wants front row tickets to the first Super Bowl?

Replay of Super Bowl I! And I’m calling the same final score, 35-10, Packers.

Last week: 7-9

Season: 16-15-1

Leading With The Chin: Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’

This is always hard to look at.

One of the oldest stories in boxing is that of the faded ex-champion who doesn’t know when to hang up the gloves, and ends up fighting past the point where he can maintain his dignity or his health. Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and many others suffered this fate, some for financial reasons, others perhaps because they couldn’t imagine a meaningful life outside the ring. For their fans or anybody with a heart, it can be hard to watch, but often we find it difficult to look away, at least until about the third or fourth round when our capacity for self-deception is exhausted and the only person on Earth who still thinks the aged pugilist has a chance is the man in the ring himself.

Friday night on Spike TV boxing fans will see the aged shadow of former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver climb through the ropes for a heavyweight bout against Steve Cunningham. Author of the single greatest instance of sh*t-talking in all of sports history, the once rangy and powerful 175 lb southpaw has been plying his trade at cruiserweight and heavyweight the last five years, and is undefeated above the light heavyweight limit. Tarver claims he wants a heavyweight title fight, but at 46 years old it’s hard to imagine him doing anything but disgracing himself if he were to fight Wladimir Klitschko or Deontay Wilder, the two reigning heavyweight titlists.

The first obstacle between Tarver and his dream-that-would-surely-be-a-nightmare is Steve “USS” Cunningham (28-7, 13 KO). At 39 years old, Cunningham is no fresh-faced phenom, but he still fights near his best fighting weight, a few pounds above 200, and has looked decent for a smaller heavyweight since moving up in 2012. Why Cunningham continues to fight is no secret, as the Philadelphia native has a 9 year old daughter who recently received a heart transplant and who spent the first year of her life in a hospital. It’s tough to make serious money as a cruiserweight, particularly in the U.S., so Cunningham spent the prime years of his career fighting in Germany and Poland, where a cruiserweight can make a decent living and fight for world titles. While Cunningham also claims to a want a heavyweight title shot, his relatively diminutive size and 3-3 record at that weight indicates his chances wouldn’t be much better than Tarver’s of winning a belt. But Cunningham knows this, and is looking to squirrel away a few good paydays before hanging up the gloves and beginning his second career in the sport as a trainer.

Prediction

The winner.

Cunningham’s lack of power makes it hard to believe this fight won’t go the distance, but I suspect he’ll be so dominant after the first three rounds that fans will wish he could just end it with one punch. Tarver will stalk and stumble and grab as Cunningham uses lateral movement and superior hand speed to pepper the older man with jabs, double jabs, and overhand rights. If he works the body with any consistency, Tarver won’t have the energy to do anything but hang around and take Cunningham’s relatively light but quick punches. Tarver may go for the early KO, which is really his only chance, but Cunningham knows this and won’t be caught. I’ll be very surprised if Tarver wins a single round.

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