…and perhaps a few early offseason notes. I mean, the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl loss has been analyzed a gazillion times over the last week. How much more is there to say? Well, I had to write something to throw out my final pick record, so I’ll throw a few thoughts out there in no particular order:
*Josh McDaniels is the most recent story, so maybe we should cover that first. That was kind of a slimy thing he did to the Colts. But hey, the contract wasn’t signed, right? He changed his mind, for whatever reason. Sure, he gave the Colts every indication he was taking the job. Then, of course, didn’t. Maybe that’s an indictment on how the NFL handles these situations? If Josh signs that deal in the wild card week, then there is no backtracking, correct? But the NFL doesn’t allow that.
Most people feel bad for the assistants that signed contracts with the Colts. And yeah, there is some validity to that too. But again, why did they sign their contracts and leave their current jobs when Josh hadn’t actually signed his yet? Shouldn’t the head coach be sealed up in blood before anyone else does anything? Sure, the assistants planned to go with him for probably several months. And then officially for several weeks, once Josh told them he was taking the Indy job. But again, nothing was signed. I’ve heard a lot this week about “well, the assistants had been planning to go with McDaniels for up to a year when Josh got a head coaching gig”. Yeah, that may be true. But what if Josh never got a head coaching opportunity this offseason? The assistants were going to quit their jobs anyway like a year ago, even they didn’t know when McDaniels was going to be offered a head coaching position (more importantly, TAKE, a head coaching position)? I don’t know. Assistants often get screwed. And maybe I am taking a hard line here. But I am not feeling as bad as most about their “plight”.
One last thing, the “family” reason for why McDaniels stayed is sweet and all. But it’s also nonsense. Sure, stability for coaches and their families is not something that happens often in the league. But Josh didn’t stay for that reason. The Krafts made him the heir apparent to Bill Belichick. Period. Maybe nothing is signed. But you honestly cannot tell me that McDaniels sullied his reputation around the league and kind of torpedoed his head coaching prospects, at least for the immediate future, without receiving SOME kind of promise in the process. No way he stays otherwise.
*You know what else I have determined is also nonsense? The fact that everyone thinks that if Malcolm Butler plays in the Super Bowl, the Patriots automatically win. Now, don’t get me wrong. Having Butler on the sideline sure didn’t help. And for a player that played 98% of the snaps all season to all of a sudden be benched in the most important game of the year is certainly questionable. But would one player have had made the difference?
Reports came out this week that Matt Patricia and probably Belichick had the players often in the wrong positions all game. They didn’t match up to Eagle packages the best way. They had plays where Marquis Flowers was rushing the passer and their best pass rusher, Trey Flowers, was going into coverage. They left Nick Foles uncovered on his touchdown catch. They had dime defense in for obvious running downs. Etc., etc., etc.
We all know that Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards are special teams players at best and in Richards’ case, maybe not even a real NFL player. So Butler comes in. But then Eric Rowe is still out there. And he was terrible too. Maybe Bademosi and Richards still get snaps. And maybe Butler does ok, but the other three still get torched. Devin McCourty was awful too. And Butler has not been great overall this year either. EVERYONE on the defense, with the possible exception of Stephon Gilmore, was brutal in the Super Bowl. No pass D, no run D, no nothing. The coaches did not help things. James Harrison played something like 93% of the snaps. Sure, he was “fresh” from not playing much of the season. But you are really going to depend on him as well?
I think we all want to hear why Butler was benched. But with the entire defense being historically bad, and the coaching also matching that, to suggest that having his presence merely in the lineup would have changed things I actually think is a little bit of a leap.
I will also admit that I told someone during the game that “I would play a dead Malcolm Butler over a fully operational Jordan Richards” though. So there’s that…
*Most New England fans expected Doug Pederson to wet his pants at some point in the game and for the Pats even to win somewhat comfortably. I know I did. But that man deserves a ton of credit for the game he called. He wasn’t afraid, that was a big start. He exploited matchups. Went for it on 4th downs. All that. He was probably the real MVP and not Foles. Hell of a call on the 4th down TD to Foles down by the goal line. The Pats had no idea what was going on for that play. Well, for a lot of plays actually. But that one in particular.
*The Super Bowl loss makes me more angry that Brady did his whole “Tom vs. Time” Facebook thing and that Bill did his “The Two Bills” 30 for 3o. It probably doesn’t matter either way. But I feel like they have never done stuff like that in the past and now here they are doing it the week of the Super Bowl. Tom obviously had a choice on when to schedule his stuff and I am sure Bill did too. It just seems odd that this is the year they decide to do that kind of stuff. Just felt like to me that these guys kind of thought the game was in the bag. Maybe not, but that’s what I’m feeling.
*Speaking of one play on defense, by Butler or anyone else, maybe making a difference, how about the fumble by Brady with just over two minutes left? THAT’S the one I cannot get over. Didn’t we all think that when they got the ball back at that point that Brady would march them downfield and score pretty easily? Sure, Brady got swallowed up pretty quickly. And sure, it’s hard to nitpick an offense that had over 600 yards. But that was obviously a killer.
*On the fumble, it’s also hard to blame an offensive line that played over its head all day. But that was clearly a bad spot for a glitch.
*As for the people on the offensive line, Nate Solder has had a decent, if unspectacular career. Hard to criticize him too much also, since he and his family have gone through some significant battles off the field. But if he’s not retiring as some people think, I’m not resigning him anywhere near the 10-11 mil or whatever he made this year. As average as LaAdrian Waddle and Cam Fleming may be, I’d consider resigning them for short money, hope 2017 third round pick Antonio Garcia can contribute something and then add another vet or two to compete at lesser money. I’m spending every available penny to revamp that defense next year if I’m the Patriots.
*One offensive free agent I would spend a little extra to bring back, however, is Danny Amendola. Even if he is again the fifth receiver on paper next year behind Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. As long as Brady is here, I want Danny here. The guy is just money. He won’t take yet another pay cut to stay after his huge offseason, will he? He’s been taking cuts for years, does he finally go the other way? Not sure what the market will be for him, or what he wants to do, but I’m keeping him here. I’m good with these 5. Not sure I care much about Kenny Britt or Philip Dorsett.
*While we are on offensive free agents, I have loved what Dion Lewis has brought to the team, but if he’s looking to cash in, we’ll see ya later. I don’t blame him because of how his career has gone with injuries and being cut and all that. I’m just not spending a lot of dough on running backs. I’d give Gillislee another shot next year since he is signed. I’d also see if Rex Burkhead would come back at similar money as this year…or less. He missed some time this season but looked pretty good when he was out there. I’d like to see more. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of him in the Super Bowl, especially after Cooks got knocked out. Would have played him at receiver instead of Dorsett for that matter.
*It’s too bad Alan Branch retired this year and didn’t tell anyone. Could have used the 2016 Branch in the playoffs. Much more so than Ricky Jean Francois.
*I hope Brady isn’t blaming Amendola for overthrowing him on his pass route. Similar how everyone blamed Wes Welker in 2012 for dropping Brady’s wide open pass, including probably Brady himself and as we all know, Brady’s wife Gisele. Both throws could have been better. But both catches should have absolutely been made. Maybe Gisele understands now.
*Man I hope Jimmy G is the real deal for the sake of the 49ers. He’s pocketing like 43 million next year alone from what I understand. Just…wow…thank God Bill got that second round pick for him…ugh…
*Cooks trying to jump over the defender on the goal line when he could have beaten the guy to the outside was pure stupidity. Yes, that play could have worked. But I still think it was a dumb play call. Brady needs to throw it there, simple as that.
*Then the botched field goal the play after. Not Stephen Gostkowski’s fault in that case. Though being that short an attempt, the feeling here is he still should have made it. He got off a decent attempt actually. BUT, the missed extra point was brutal. Gostkowski had a pretty good year. But it’s time to at the very least bring in some competition for him next year.
*Guess the Eagles’ backup left tackle wasn’t so bad, eh? I suppose when you have a 39-year-old James Harrison playing over 90% of the snaps, maybe that’s a big part of the problem. But where also was Trey Flowers? Oh, sometimes he was in coverage. Nevermind…
*Not sure anyone is talking enough about how that stupidity with the kickoff return on the very last drive cost the Pats some pretty good field position. Maybe they are a lot closer on that last play and don’t have to fire up a Hail Mary?
*The strategy of deferring when winning the coin toss is something that has worked well for the Pats over the years. But in some games, doesn’t it make sense to take the ball, score on the first drive and make the other team actually play from behind instead of it always being you? Seems like this would have been a good time to do that, playing against a backup QB and a lot of players that hadn’t been on this stage before. Never know, the Eagles could have folded under the pressure early. Instead, the early lead for them in this game may have given them some confidence. Not to mention that the Pats allowed the Eagles to march downfield pretty easily right before the half. There goes that plan…
I guess that is enough. And we shouldn’t feel too bad I guess. 5-3 in Super Bowls in the 2000’s should make most people happy. Maybe it should be 6-2. Maybe it should be 2-6. The Pats probably should have lost to the Rams, Seahawks, and Falcons. Maybe they should have beaten the Eagles and won both Giants games. Who knows? Sometimes these things even themselves out over time.
Guess I am just trying to keep things in perspective…trying…
Week (against the spread): 1-0
Week (straight up): 0-1
Season (against the spread): 143-124 (53.6%…I can live with that!)
Season (straight up): 180-87 (67.4%)
So we are finally here. Super Bowl LII is almost upon us. These two weeks of hype always kill me…of course especially when the hometown team New England Patriots are in the actual game. The two weeks did help me for sure in one case however…it allowed Rob Gronkowski enough time to shake the cobwebs (literally) and allow him to suit up in the game. No need to speak about how important that is.
Did I pass my time last Sunday by watching the Pro Bowl? Ummmmm…no. But I suppose I should have watched that mess instead of what was probably the worst Grammy telecast of all time. But that’s a story for a different day.
By the way, did you know that David Carr was in the Pro Bowl? That guy had a putrid season. How the hell…nevermind. Another story for another day.
Time to get to the matter at hand…
Philadelphia “at” New England (-4.5)
Last year, I thought New England was going to hammer Atlanta from the get-go. Although I do think the Pats could win big here, I won’t make that mistake again.
Just once…ONCE…I would like to see a Pats blowout win in the Super Bowl. Win or lose, I am tired of the nerve-wracking endings in the Big Game during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. I know, cry me a river, right? The Pats have been to 8 Super Bowls with that duo, what the hell am I complaining about? My apologies. But I still want that comfortable blowout. And for those of you that may say, “well, the Falcons were blowing the Pats out late in the third quarter and THEY lost. You really can’t feel comfortable until the clock reads 0:00…”. That may be true in theory, you would be absolutely correct. I am generally a “0:00 guy”…talk to me when the game is officially over…in any sport. But I would also assure you the Pats ain’t blowing that type of lead that late. Sorry. So the chances that I would be comfortable under that scenario would probably be pretty good.
In any event, I don’t think I will ever find that comfort. It appears the formula seems to be set in the Super Bowl for the Patriots: don’t score in the first quarter, continue feeling the game out in the second quarter, make halftime adjustments and show some life in the third quarter, head into the fourth quarter down (just hopefully not to the tune of 28-3 or 28-10 or the like), score late to secure the victory…or give up a miracle catch near the end and lose a heartbreaking one. 3 point game in the end either way. Hard to go against what seems to be habit.
Enough of the preamble. Let’s get down to brass tacks. Although I have not watched a ton of Eagle football this season and sure as hell have not studied any of their game film. But after soaking in all the hype for the past two weeks, here are some thoughts/concerns on the game/matchups/etc., in no particular order:
*The Eagle defensive line scares the bejesus out of me because, well, the Patriot offensive line scares the bejesus out of me. That one is easy. No, Chris Long doesn’t necessarily make me nervous. But Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham kind of do. The good thing is that the Eagles apparently like to rotate these guys to keep them fresh. Why is that good? The Patriots can presumably go no huddle the times that the backups are in the game. Thus obviously keeping the starters on the bench. Unless the Eagles are willing to take penalties and/or use timeouts. Which also would be beneficial to the Pats. Not to mention the fact that running a lot of plays would seem to wear down those fat hogs on the line and perhaps the defense as a whole. See, Falcons, Atlanta, Super Bowl LI.
*Malcolm Jenkins seems to have a reputation of being a very good player. However, the rest of the secondary and linebacking corps don’t necessarily make me fret. Saw a stat recently that showed that Philly’s defense is rather pedestrian on the road, for whatever reason. Minneapolis is not Philadelphia, as you are well aware. Eli Manning also carved them up late in the season, while having virtually zero weapons on offense. This should make Eagle fans a little nervous since, you know, Manning is done.
If Jenkins and say, a linebacker, take Gronk, then that leaves the rest of the secondary to take on the Patriot receivers. Brandin Cooks had a pretty good game against Jacksonville, despite one horrific drop. Danny Amendola is money. But I also have a gut feeling that this is the week that Chris Hogan decides to show up again. I wouldn’t bet serious money on it, but it’s a lingering thought I haven’t been able to dismiss. Would be a nice story, since Hogan has been hurt/invisible for most of the year. We’ll see…
*Doug Pederson is from the “Andy Reid coaching tree”. What that essentially means is if this game is close in the 4th quarter, expect horrible game decisions and inexcusable clock mismanagement. There is no way around that. Pederson is also coaching in his first Super Bowl (with a backup quarterback…more on him next), Belichick his eighth. This fact simply cannot be overstated.
*If Carson Wentz was playing in this game, I may have a different prediction. Maybe not, but the point is moot. Nick Foles is the QB. Foles had a monster season a few years back in his first go-round in Philly. But has done little since. Ergo, that’s why he is a backup QB.
People seem to be overrating Foles at this point, simply because he had that one monster year and…he did play well against a good Viking defense in the NFC Championship. But have those same people seen the rest of the games Foles played this year? Wasn’t pretty. In fact, the Eagles had to go back to some plays that were in Chip Kelly’s playbook to make Foles feel more comfortable. I don’t necessarily think this is a great thing. Kelly is also close pals with Belichick. And likely is still vengeful toward the Eagles after his treatment there. Maybe he deserved it, but still, that doesn’t change his feelings. In any event, I’m guessing there was a conversation between Bill and Chip during the prep time. Of course, Pederson also probably spoke to Reid as well, so maybe it’s a wash.
One thing is for sure though…Nick Foles is not going to single-handedly beat the Patriots.
*I’m praying that Pederson runs the ball 40 plus times with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi to “keep the ball out of Brady’s hands”. This will not beat the Patriots. Will he be that stupid? I don’t think so, but you can’t underestimate some people. Oh, and if Blount can fumble early in the game like last year, that would help me a great deal. Thank you in advance.
*Speaking of Philly running backs, we all know Blount has hands of stone and judging by the numbers, Ajayi doesn’t do much damage catching the ball either. This is favorable for the Pats. We know their linebackers may be the worst collection of stiffs I have ever seen. I don’t care how many sacks special teamer Marquis Flowers had in the last two regular season games against the Bills and Jets. And if I see Elandon Roberts try to cover ANYONE in the Bowl…
*One big concern for the Patriot defense against the Philly offense is that Philly doesn’t have that ONE dude that Bill usually likes to take out of the game and let the others beat them. They have a bunch of dudes that can do some things. This undoubtedly makes things a little more difficult to prepare for. My guess is that they try to take away tight end Zach Ertz first. But then you have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and to a lesser extent, Blount and Ajayi and to an even lesser extent, but perhaps on a deep shot or two, Torrey Smith. Corey Clement may actually be someone to fear more than a smidge as well. As poor as the Patriots’ third down defense has been recently, this has to be a big concern for the team. Even with the two weeks to prepare. A lot of options.
*One thing about the Eagle offense that they themselves should be concerned about is that Jason Peters is not at left tackle. Peters is supposed to be awesome, from all the people who actually watch offensive line play. But he is hurt. His backup, some Vaitai character with a real long first name, has apparently struggled. The Pats D-Line is no juggernaut, as we all know. But maybe Trey Flowers makes his presence felt?
*Aside: Philly fans are absolute lunatics. This is absolutely no secret. I’m glad I’m not in Minny, as one of them may try to set me on fire. Better to let them do that to someone else.
*Aside, Part II: Loved Jeffery predicting a win. You be you, brutha! Don’t teams ever learn?
*Aside, Part III: Just for fun, with everyone on the active roster being “healthy” (ie: not injured enough to be listed on the injury report), here’s my take on the inactive list: Mike Gillislee (wasted year), David Harris (why bother even having him this season?), Alan Branch (too bad he apparently packed it in this year. He’s pretty damn good when he’s engaged), Bernard Reedy (who?), Kenny Britt (glad you came for the ride!), Jacob Hollister (sorry, just no room kid) and…Cole Croston (yup…who?). That seemed fairly easy, though don’t rule out Belichick surprising people. Like the year he released Tiquan Underwood the day before the Super Bowl, so he could activate someone from the practice squad (Alex Silvestro and yes, I just had to look that up) to have an extra defensive lineman available.
*Aside, Part IV: I don’t want to hear any more about injuries…Wentz’ specifically. Sure, having him healthy and active would probably put a different spin on this game. But you don’t think the Pats wish they had Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower, among others? EVERY team loses key players EVERY season. Deal with it.
*Aside, Part V: I don’t want to hear about the officials either. The Patriots have historically have had plenty of bogus calls go against them as well. No different from any other team. Those things tend to even out over time. And I would bet that officiating will not be a factor in this years’ Super Bowl either.
*Dion Lewis…PLEASE hang on to the ball. Thank you. I have a hunch you may be catching the ball quite a bit and not running it as much. Hopefully that helps.
*Rex Burkhead WILL make a few plays. Perhaps out of the slot.
*Stephen Gostkowski has had a nice career. But my confidence, and likely Patriot fans’ confidence, in him is not where it was a few years back. Let’s make him a non-factor, ok?
*With “Tom vs. Time” and “The Two Bills” and all that crap going on this week, it would appear Brady and Belichick are putting some unnecessary pressure on themselves to win this game. Like, why did they do these now? Tom certainly and Bill probably had some say in when these would come out. Why add this to the mix before the game if you really don’t need to? It probably doesn’t matter, what do I know? It just doesn’t seem like normal operating procedure for the two of them though.
Ok, that seems like enough. Prediction time…oh, one more thing. I love Seth Wickersham of ESPN picking the Pats to win 38-9. Yeah, the same guy who wrote that piece about New England organizational discord several weeks ago. I’d love to have his back on that prediction and see it come to fruition. But…
New England 27, Philadelphia 24.
Week (against the spread): 1-1
Week (straight up): 2-0
Season (against the spread): 142-124
Season (straight up): 180-86
Not a banner week for the Blowhard in the Divisional Round. Let’s see what we can come up with for the Conference Championship games:
Jacksonville at New England (-7.5)
This one opened up with a spread of 9 or 9.5, depending on who you may pay attention to. Now it’s 7.5. Maybe it goes lower by kickoff. Why? Tom Brady’s hand of course! No one knows how bad the thing is. He missed a couple of practices. He goes around with gloves on. He says “we’ll see” when asked if he will suit up on Sunday. No one on New England is going to give us any insight of course. But you know what I say?
Please. Brady ain’t missing this game, regardless of the condition of his hand. Well, if it was cut off, he may be forced to miss the game. But short of that, he’s playing. Make no mistake about that.
Furthermore, make no mistake that the Pats are still going to win this game handily, even with some sort of injured Brady under center. I’m going to stop short at this time of saying they would still win with backup Brian Hoyer at the helm. But I would still feel pretty confident. And don’t get me going on how the Pats should still have Jimmy Garoppolo…
In any event, I cannot believe how many people think that Jacksonville is some sort of elite team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Has anyone looked at their schedule? 6 games against powerhouses Tennessee, Indianapolis and Houston. Additional tilts against the Jets, Cardinals, Bengals and Browns. An early season trouncing of the Ravens…when Baltimore was atrocious. I am simply not impressed.
The defense? Sure, they are pretty good. They have some names. They had 4 or 5 Pro Bowlers and/or All-Pros. But they apparently also had half their season’s sacks in 4 games against the Texans and Colts. They also gave up 44 to a certainly rejuvenated San Francisco team with two weeks left in the regular season, but also a Niner team that does not have a ton of weapons. Not to mention the Jags had something to play for still at 10-4 and in the mix for even the top seed at that point. Then they gave up 42 to a certainly talented (offensively) Pittsburgh team last week. But 42 nonetheless.
The Jag offense? 45 points last week. But against a Steeler defense that was horrendous this year, especially down the stretch. Plus, oh yeah, the Steelers didn’t actually prepare for the Jags I don’t think. They did think they were automatically coming to Foxborough this week, after all. Let’s not forget that the Jags scored a mere 10 points, at home, against the vaunted Buffalo Bill defense the week before in the wild card round. I think the Jags offense is closer to the one from the Bills game than the one from the Steelers game.
Going back to the Jags D…the one concern I would have is their defensive line against the Patriots’ offensive line. But the stud corners (A.J. Bouye & Jalen Ramsey)? Not concerned. Why? No Patriot wide receiver, other than perhaps Danny Amendola, will make an impact in this game. It will all be the running backs and tight ends. Gronk, Dion Lewis, James White and I’m guessing Rex Burkhead will be the main focus in this game. Those corners can take away Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan all they want. Who cares?
Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and the Pats will shut down Leonard Fournette and make Blake Bortles beat them. Which has absolutely zero chance of happening. Brady’s bum hand or not.
New England 31, Jacksonville 13.
Minnesota (-3.5) at Philadelphia
This one is a little tougher to predict. I know, Captain Obvious.
When Carson Wentz went down, it appears that most people wrote the Eagles off for the year. Especially after replacement Nick Foles threw in a couple of clunkers down the stretch. Hell, the Blowhard had them losing to Atlanta last week. We absolutely wrote them off.
You know what though? I’m reconsidering my stance.
Especially since Case Keenum is on the other side.
Sure, Keenum has had a pretty good year. Maybe made himself some good money in the upcoming offseason. But the fact remains that the Vikings should be home playing golf this weekend. That prayer at the end of the New Orleans game has kept them in the tournament. But, speaking of prayers, Keenum threw up a couple of ill-advised (to be kind) passes in that game that could have taken the Vikes out of it even earlier. He didn’t exactly look like a “playoff QB” in that tilt. Not to mention that Coach Mike Zimmer seemingly has been looking for a reason to put Sam Bradford back in the mix for quite some time. But he’s been forced to ride Keenum’s hot run out. I don’t blame Zimmer for that. He’s kind of had to. But it seems like he doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in Case himself.
Yup, Foles is no gimme either. But I think he plays things a little closer to the vest. I think he does anyway. Maybe I’m wrong. Either way, being a little conservative should be a benefit in this game.
The defenses should both be stout. The QB’s should both be average. The running games should both be busy and decent. Philly being at home should have some sort of advantage.
This game is probably going to be low scoring and could very well be decided by a simple mistake. Who’s more likely to make that mistake, Keenum or Foles? I think you already know my answer. But don’t hold it against me if somehow Bradford finds his way into the game and changes the Vikings fortunes. I have to assume he won’t be going in.
And for whatever it’s worth…I still don’t think the Vikes will be the first team to play in their home stadium in a Super Bowl. Just a gut feeling there.
Philadelphia 20, Minnesota 17.
Week (against the spread): 1-3
Week (straight up): 2-2
Season (against the spread): 141-123
Season (straight up): 178-86