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Out With A Whimper And Then…The Picks…

…so a lot has been discussed already this week about the New England Patriots’ unceremonious exit from the NFL playoffs.  There will be a new Super Bowl champion.

And, in general, it appears to be the end of an era.

I know, most of the country (world?) is celebrating this fact.  It’s been a good run for Pats fans though.  Nothing to complain about.  Even the falling way short thing of this year.

We will dive into the future of the New England Patriots full force in an upcoming piece.

For now, a short chat about what went wrong against Tennessee last weekend.  Short, because these things have been discussed and analyzed ad nauseam all week…everywhere.  But, we officially need to get things off our chest.

So here goes, in no particular order:

*Horrific play calling, specifically the three straight runs near the goal line, when they haven’t been able to run the ball in from there all season.  Also, the handoff to linebacker Elandon Roberts on third and short earlier in the game.  And Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels will still get a head coaching job, perhaps before I am done writing this.  Not to mention the defensive play calling.  Everyone knew Titans running back Derrick Henry was going to tote the rock a lot.  How was he able to carve up that defense right from the get go?

*Julian Edelman’s crucial drop late, when he was wide open.  There was still third down to get the job done, but the air felt out of the tires by then.  Hard for me to get on Jules, with him playing through all sorts of injuries.  But that drop was MASSIVE.

*Offensive guard Shaq Mason being downfield at the wrong time.

*Mohammed Sanu adding nothing.  N’Keal Harry seemed clueless.  And Joe Judge is the head coach of the New York Giants now.

*Hate to even go after the head coach with all the wins Bill has given us.  But he got burned when Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel pulled the same thing with the penalties on the punt that ate up a lot of clock.  Belichick pulled this the same move against the Jets earlier this year when the game was out of hand.  Maybe Vrabel knew the rule all along too.  But why would Bill pull that out in a game where it wasn’t needed?  Then he was pissed when it went against him.  Hard to fathom.  Also, the late punt with no one back to receive it, letting the ball roll all the way to the one-yard line.  Couldn’t Edelman have caught it at the 20ish yard line and gotten a few yards to put the team in a better position?  Head scratcher.  Hoping for a blocked punt seems a little “pie in the sky” to me.  I guess it was a little too late then anyway.

*The fraudulent defense that was supposedly full of Pro Bowlers and All-Pros not being able to stop anyone when they needed to.

That’s enough.  It was a disappointing end to the season.  That’s an extreme understatement.  Losing to Miami and losing the bye pretty much sealed the deal for me.  I picked them to lose to Tennessee, but wouldn’t have been shocked if they pulled this one game off.  But no more than that for certain.  Playing the extra week was never a good idea for this team.  I was actually pretty calm as the Titan game was going on.  I had zero faith, even if they managed to win.  No lofty Super Bowl expectations here for sure.

The team gave me some false hope after the Buffalo win in Week 16.  But I also think they had some talent to go further than they did.  I never thought they were an 8-0 (first half) team.  But I didn’t think they were a 4-4 (second half) team either.  I didn’t think the defense was a record setting one like they looked like when they played a bunch of bums in the first half.  But I thought even against good teams that they could get a stop when they needed one.  I never thought the offense was as explosive as the Randy Moss/Wes Welker years (duh!).  But with Edelman, James White, Sanu, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel and with a sprinkle of Benjamin Watson and maybe N’Keal Harry and a smidge of Phillip Dorsett from time to time, the offense would have enough.  After all, there have been years with lesser weapons, in my opinion.

In any event, the Patriot season is over.  But hopefully, there is still some good football left to be played.  Let’s move on to that:

Minnesota at San Francisco (-7.5)

The Niners are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.  Week off.  Rolled through 2019 to the tune of a 13-3 record.  The Vikings had a nice win against the heavily favored New Orleans Saints on Wild Card Weekend.  But there are injuries all over the place on that team.  And if receiver Stefon Diggs gets past his illness and plays, he will likely pull another temper tantrum if the Vikes choose to ride the running game and Dalvin Cook to offset the injuries.  Which is what they should do.  The Niners should probably win big, but they won’t.  But they still should win.

San Francisco 31, Minnesota 27.  

Tennessee at Baltimore (-9.5)

Looks like RB Mark Ingram is going to play.  Expect TE Mark Andrews to play as well.  Will the bye week and the last week of the regular season where the regulars didn’t play create rust for the Ravens?  I am betting no.  Maybe at the start.  But not much more.  The Ravens defense was pretty good by season’s end.  And although Derrick Henry is a beast, I would say the Ravens put up more resistance than the Patriots.  Force Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball, which he didn’t at all last week.  Tannehill has apparently been reborn in Tennessee.  But the guess here is that he has less success against Baltimore.  Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was abysmal in last years’ playoffs.  This should be a complete 180 from that game.  How can it not be?

Baltimore 34, Tennessee 17.  

Houston at Kansas City (-9.5)

I don’t hear too much Chiefs hype.  Haven’t heard much this season, to be honest.  I get that Baltimore had a great year, no question about it.  But I feel like the Chiefs have just as good a chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  That game the Texans played against Buffalo last week was wretched.  Both of those teams were…no one wanted to win.  Even though Houston beat KC way back in Week 6 (yes, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes DID play), I have a hard time seeing how they do it again in this spot.

Kansas City 27, Houston 13.  

Seattle at Green Bay (-4.5)

Green Bay ended up 13-3 and secured a bye.  I’m still trying to figure out how that happened.  They won games down the stretch but played kind of uninspiring ball from what I could see.  The Seahawks stumbled a little bit at the finish as well.  They had trouble beating a 40 year old backup QB with a torn hamstring in the Wild Card game.  The ‘hawks also have pulled a few guys off the street to play running back the last few games.  Including The Artist Formerly Known As Beast Mode.  But they seem to always keep games close.  And are an amazing 8-1 on the road.  Gut feeling here.

Seattle 24, Green Bay 20.  

Week (against the spread):  3-1

Week (straight up):  3-1

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  10-7 (since we forgot to do one last week, let’s be done with it for the year.  Pathetic record for a Lock Of The Week anyway).

Season (against the spread):  133-127

Season (straight up):  167-93

Disgusting…And Then…The Picks…

…trying to find the right words to write while also wondering why Jason Garrett still has a job several days after the end of the NFL season…guess that is not something I need to worry about.  But still curious…anyway…bottom line is that Jerry Jones is probably weaseling out of the whole thing and letting Garrett’s contract expire on the 14th I think.  Maybe force the new coach after that to add Garrett to his staff.  But otherwise keep him “in the building”, without actually firing him as head coach.

Just find the whole thing in Dallas comical.  As opposed to Miami coach (and long time Patriot assistant) Brian Flores firing his offensive coordinator (and long time Patriot assistant) Chad O’Shea the day after the season ended…and after only one year…and after Flores brought O’Shea to Miami…and considering those guys were supposedly tight.  I find that story interesting, but nothing more.

What is NOT comical is the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.  I think all Patriot fans feel the same way.

Even though it has likely been a lot of substitutes for the main hosts on the local sports radio stations this week, we have not been able to bring ourselves to listen to the noise.  Because we fear the noise is accurate.  And I will make my own noise here.  Don’t you worry.

But even the subs have probably been saying the same things on the radio (and TV and newspapers and the internet and etc. of course) this week.  Stuff like:

*If they can’t beat Miami with a bye on the line, how do you think they will do in the actual playoffs?

*So much for that vaunted defense.  Letting the immortal Ryan Fitzpatrick march the offense downfield to win the game in the end.

*By the same token, so much for that Defensive Player of the Year award for Stephon Gilmore this season after being torched by Devante Parker all day.

*Tom Brady sure looked terrible today, eh?  Is he hiding an injury?

*Why did they give up ANYTHING for Mohamed Sanu?  He is brutal!

*Boy, Julian Edelman really needs some time off.  Could’ve used that bye!

*Brady is gone.  Josh McDaniels is gone.  Devin McCourty is gone.  Kyle Van Noy is gone.  Joe Thuney is gone.  Jamie Collins is gone.  (Insert other free agent player or coach here).

*Feels like the 2009 team all over again, right?!

And so on…

I can’t argue with ANY of that.  This space loved the 8-0 start.  But we weren’t completely sold on the team since they were playing teams that were barely better than some local colleges.  Well, maybe not local colleges, as Boston College still stinks.  But you get the point.

And yeah, the Dolphins sure turned things around from that 43-0 blasting by the Pats in Week Two, eh?

The FEEL of things out there regarding the team just doesn’t seem right.  And that is without getting into Brady’s future with the organization (or football as a whole).  We may get to that someday.  That topic has already been covered ad nauseam locally.  I’m not sure I have completely formed my opinion on that as of yet.  It feels like he is gone, to retirement or another team.  But this postseason could prepare a different script.  We can chat more about that later.

But back to the “feel”, meaning…the offense…and Brady himself… has never seemed right.  The offensive line has been bad, helping contribute to running back Sony Michel not running for many yards.  Though Michel has looked slow and indecisive in his own right.  Brady’s attitude and demeanor in interviews.  McDaniels’ play calling.  Does Brady ever trust the kid wide receivers?  Or do they just stink?  The defense not looking so great against good teams.  Why did they opt for Sanu over Emmanuel Sanders, who is playing well in San Fran?  The Antonio Brown fiasco.  The Gronk “will he or won’t he garbage”.  Edelman being banged up.  Is Brady too?  Giving Michael Bennett away instead of say, ditching Deatrich Wise Jr., who plays very little, but always seems to have a key penalty every game.  The Josh Gordon Experience.  Blah, blah, blah.

In any event, based on the history of this organization, it would not shock me at all to see them make another Super Bowl run.  Far-fetched, especially since they needlessly forced themselves to play an extra game?  Sure.  But the Pats have looked bad before.  And turned it around when no one thought they could.  See:  Last season.

Is a Super Bowl run likely?  Doubt it.  There are just too many strong teams out there.  Baltimore and Kansas City in the AFC.  (Side note:  I am not sure how everyone is handing the conference to the Ravens.  And have been for quite some time.  We know what the Chiefs can do, right?).  San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, even Seattle in the NFC (though those teams do have flaws that can be exposed, especially with two weeks of preparation time).  The overall competition just seems a little stiffer all around.

It’s just hard for me to rule anything out with these Patriots.  Despite what we all feel.  Yup, that the dynasty may indeed be over.

As for this weekends’ slate:

Buffalo at Houston (-2.5)

I love some of the latest chatter I’ve heard:  The Bills are going to go into Houston and win.  Then shock the Ravens in Baltimore.  Then when New England beats Tennessee at home and upsets the Chiefs in KC (well, they did that last year!), the Pats will be hosting the Bills in Foxborough for the AFC Championship game!!!!!  And guess what?  THEN the Bills will all of a sudden suck and it will be an easy win for the Pats to cruise into the Super Bowl!!  Please.  The Bills are a nice story.  I said it last week, Sean McDermott seems like a good coach and has the team headed in the right direction.  QB Josh Allen has his moments.  The Texans do have some trouble in the playoffs historically.  Resting some key guys last week will help them.  Maybe the return of J.J. Watt will as well.  The Bills ride ends here.  Sorry wishful thinkers.

Houston 27, Buffalo 17.  

Tennessee at New England (-5.5)

You know who else’s ride ends here?  You’ll have to wait a second.  As well as the Patriots defense has played at times this year, they have had some problems stopping the run.  Titans RB Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing yardage.  Also would not be surprised if the Titans resurrected old friend Dion Lewis from the depths of their bench.  The Pats D historically don’t do well against QB’s who can run, or at least move around a little.  Titans QB Ryan Tannehill can at least do the latter.  And upped his game for sure once he took over the Titans job.  It’s unlikely Bill Belichick will stack eight men in the box against the running game since the Titans all of a sudden have a receiver tearing it up in A.J. Brown.  The Titans can give up some points, but the Pats have trouble scoring them.  Not a lot of confidence from this usual homer.  And therefore you get this:

Tennessee 27, New England 20.  

Minnesota at New Orleans (-7.5)

Verizon FIOS is trying to make me feel bad.  They have removed the FOX channel from our cable offerings because apparently, FOX is trying to squeeze more money out of Verizon.  How’s that feel Verizon?  Look in the f’ng mirror.  Like you haven’t been screwing John Q. Public for years with your plans?  This message is on a loop on the channel now:  “This station is asking for a 70% increase in order to carry them.  That’s like the price of gas going from $2.99 to over $5.00 a gallon overnight”.  Comparing a huge corporation with Joe Average Person?  Please.  Enough with that nonsense already.  I digress, but I mention it because I will have to find an alternative way to watch this game.  Plus, I think it is as funny as sh&t that VZ is trying to do this.  Plus, I don’t really have much of anything to say about the actual game.  Looks like Dalvin Cook is ready to roll for the Vikes.  But how healthy is Adam Thielen?  Kirk Cousins had a nice run for a while, but I can’t say I’ve ever bought in.  The Saints should handle this one at home fairly easily I imagine.  Maybe I won’t even have to watch.

New Orleans 34, Minnesota 24.  

Seattle (-1.5) at Philadelphia 

The Seahawks lost 3 of 4 down the stretch and have emergency guys playing running back.  Yet, they were an inch (and a horrific delay of game penalty previously?) away from not even being in this game.  Maybe they should have fans call in goal line plays instead of whoever is coaching.  Might end up with better results than last week and…well, you know the other major time.  Philly won their last four, but 2 against the Giants and one each against Dallas and Washington.  I’m not sold.  Miles Sanders is supposedly giving it a go, but will Zach Ertz be able to?  The Iggles are banged up all around.  I just don’t see how they can win one against a good team here.  Being home and having the ‘Hawks go cross country should help.  But Seattle was surprisingly 7-1 on the road this season.  Even if Sanders, Ertz and their slew of injured players can suit up, it seems like a tall task.

Seattle 31, Philadelphia 23.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  9-7

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  10-7

Season (against the spread):  130-126

Season (straight up):  164-92

Are We Going To Blame The Refs?

Welp, that’s what everyone wants to do of course.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times:  You simply could not pay me enough to be an official in any sport.  Any place on the field.  At any time.  Etc.

These guys all have to make a split second decision on just about every play.  While we as fans get to see roughly 8,000 angles in instant replay in…well, an instant.

Most of the time, these guys actually do a pretty good job.  I often find myself amazed that they are able to see as many things as they are able to see.

I will say, some of these officials look like they are older than Jesus himself.  So maybe it is time for them to retire.  Some of the baseball umpires look like they can’t fit through many regular-sized doors either.  So maybe it’s time to introduce them to a treadmill, at the very least.

But they normally do a better job than we give them credit for.

Now, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium was not one of those days.

But were they really to blame for the New England Patriots’ loss?

Unlikely.

Sure, there were some horrible calls against the Pats:  The N’Keal Harry non-TD.  The Stephon Gilmore non-scoop and score.  The non-defensive pass interference on Phillip Dorsett.  Something coming out of the Gilmore/Sammy Watkins “scuffle”.  The failed first challenge where even if the Chiefs were determined to get the first down, the spot was still a yard further down the field than it should have been.  The 5 yard penalty mark off instead of 10.

But we’ve already heard about all of those ad nauseam.

The Chiefs had some bogus calls too.  But we don’t hear the specifics about them.  Especially around here.

There were also several flags dropped and then picked up.  The one I remember most clearly is when Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was dropped after the pass by Pats DE Chase Winovich.  First, it was going to be roughing the passer.  But the zebras decided to pick the flag up because “the defensive player went off to the side…”  Or something like that.  Then TV showed the replay and it showed Winovich landing right on top of Mahomes.

Yada, yada, yada as someone in Seinfeld would say.

The refs simply did not cost anyone the game, however horrible they were.

Was Gilmore truly going to score on that fumble pickup?  How do we know that?  Furthermore, that same drive was the Harry play.  Two plays after that missed call, Jakobi Meyers dropped a touchdown pass.

So they still should have gotten the seven either way.  If Meyers makes that catch.

They lost some time, sure.  But only 4 points (since they kicked a field goal).  Not 14, like some people want to think.  That’s how I’ve been hearing it anyway.

And for the people that are encouraged about the defensive play in the second half…we may have to pump the brakes on that as well.  We all could see Mahomes did something to his hand in the first half.  Apparently, it was causing him problems as the game went on.  So that tempers things a bit, I would say.

This all comes back to the offense…and in large part, the offensive line…again.  A week after giving Tom Brady seemingly plenty of time to throw against Houston, the same could not be said against KC.

Don’t get me wrong, Brady was not great in this game.  But the OL was atrocious.  The receivers other than Julian Edelman apparently could not get open.  When Meyers was open, he dropped a slew of passes.  Where is Mohamed Sanu, by the way?  The Dorsett early season hype train has jumped the tracks.  Harry played 2 plays.  Sony Michel was abysmal and would have been with or without a good line performance.  KC penalties and 2 trick plays helped the NE offense move the ball.  Not ideal.

You know who else we can blame even more than the offense?  COACHING!

Not one of Bill Belichick’s best games.  Or Josh McDaniels’ either.  Or whoever calls the defensive plays.

To wit:

*Questionable challenging the aforementioned spot.  Or offensive pass interference on that same play.  The odds of those getting overturned are low.  Not to mention it cost them when they didn’t have a challenge left on the Harry “TD”.  I know it’s hard to predict the future, but…

*Eschewing a 45 yard field goal on 4th and 7, presumably because kicker Nick Folk had his previous attempt blocked.  The 4th down play was unsuccessful.

*Going for a two-point conversion earlier than they needed to.  The try was unsuccessful.

*Attempting a punt block early in the fourth quarter and leaving no one back to return the punt.  The punt was not blocked and it ended up becoming like a 57 yard punt because it rolled quite a bit.

*Someone not telling Harry to get back on the field after the non-TD call.  We all could see Brady gesturing for him to get back on the field.  The next play was rushed and was a 5 yard loss on a run by James White.  Sure, the play we believe was also rushed because the officials apparently never reset the play clock after everyone ran off the field thinking it was a TD.  Maybe Brady was gesturing wildly for a play to be called.  Either way…

*Couple of conversions by the Chiefs on 2nd and 3rd and really long.

That’s more second guessing of Bill and his boys than I can ever remember doing.  Well, other than why didn’t Malcolm Butler play against the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  But at least that was only one move.

There were many reasons why the Patriots lost to the Chiefs.  The officials were just one of those reasons.

Some other brief thoughts on the game…and future:

*Part of me thinks Brady could have scored on his late run.  Now, there was a guy lined up to hit him for sure.  But it looked to me like he was laying up a bit.  And I didn’t see any other Chief defender in the picture.  I could be 100% wrong on both.  But I can dream, right?

*Time to give up on Michel?  Looks like he needs a better than average line and perhaps a better fullback than linebacker Elandon Roberts to do ANYTHING.  Everyone agrees he looked completely soft Sunday.  Playing Rex Burkhead more I would love.  But then he would just hurt sooner.  Can we finally get a real look at Damien Harris please?

*I’ve supported Meyers all year and I do believe there is something there.  And just last week, I said maybe it’s time to put Harry on ice.  This week, I’m thinking to scale back Meyers.  And force feed Harry against the next three opponents to see if he can be anything in the playoffs.  The Bengals, Bills and Dolphins should provide ample opportunity for that.  And maybe his confidence (and Brady’s in him) can skyrocket.

*I’m almost at the point where I want replay gone in all sports.  It seems to be more trouble than it’s worth.  But on the Gilmore and Harry plays, it is inexplicable that the refs did not let replay make their decision for them.  Heard something yesterday where the NFL is “going to look into things in the offseason”.  That kind of scares me a little bit though.

*Video scandal.  Here we go again.  I am not sure I have much to say until more stuff comes out.  But it would be extremely hard for me to believe that Belichick and anyone running “the project” would allow themselves to be put into this position after what they went through during Spygate.  It’s just inconceivable.  Belichick thinks he is smarter than everyone else and he very well may be.  But to act this smug.  Right in plain sight?  Taping the 1-12 Bungles?  I just don’t see it.  But the rest of the nation most assuredly has already made their judgment.  Let’s see what happens when all the info comes out.  But it’s not a good look, I will allow for that.

*One thing that can maybe help bury this video thing is if the team re-signed receiver Antonio Brown, like, right now.  Just think about how fast at least the local press will turn.  Perhaps the national press too.  Perfect timing, no?  Actually, I lifted this particular note from a comment I heard yesterday afternoon.  I never even considered it and even if I don’t really want Brown back on the team, it would be a typical shady move by a professional team.  Do it in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping or something.  Anyway, thanks for putting this thought in my head Craig F!!

On to the Thursday game:

New York Jets at Baltimore (-14.5)

The Buffalo Bills gave the Ravens a game last week.  Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson apparently has a quad injury.  Short week, anything can happen.  Especially if Le’Veon Bell plays, instead of going bowling like he did the night before he skipped last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with the flu.  But hey, he bowled a 251, so the weekend was not all lost.  That all being said, I don’t expect “anything can happen” to happen here.  Although the Pats loss to KC may allow Baltimore to ease off the pedal a smidge in the race for the #1 seed, I doubt the Ravens will overlook the Jets with two potentially competitive divisional games next on the schedule.  Jackson may get some rest late, but that will be because the game will be well out of hand by then.

Baltimore 38, New York Jets 17.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  11-5

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  103-105

Season (straight up):  134-74

 

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