…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%)
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
…Thursday Night Football was once again ugly this week. The New England Patriots did hold off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, 19-14. But it was kind of a sloppy game. A thousand penalties, including several real stupid ones by the Patriots. Jameis Winston missing wide open receivers…actually Tom Brady did too. The Patriots offensive line made the Tampa pass rush look like they still had Warren Sapp in his prime. One sack all year, they had three the other night. But it felt like 20, they way they were hitting Brady. I am not sure how the Bucs officially got only 6 hits credited to the stat sheet. Fumbles. Dropped passes. Dropped interceptions. And lastly, but certainly not least, a virtuoso performance by Tampa kicker Nick Folk. I guess once you’ve played for the Jets, that stink never really goes away. May explain why David Harris has only played a handful of snaps for the Pats this year, despite their linebackers being putrid. But I digress…
If you are a Patriot fan, you should be happy they got the win. Short week, on the road, against what is supposed to be a good team, defense in disarray and all that. I am happy for that. But…if you are a Patriot fan, you cannot say that all the problems from the first 4 games have vanished.
The defense played better, no doubt. But it appears they simplified it a little bit, though I didn’t study any game tape, I must admit. And they almost coughed it up late. Maybe they relaxed a bit at the end, who knows? But they could have very well lost the game on the last drive.
The offensive line…I don’t even know what to say. The same five guys are back from last year. And everyone’s favorite assistant coach, Dante Scarnecchia, is still here. So what happened? I really don’t know. But these guys are going to get Brady killed. And maybe you can lay a little blame on Tom himself for holding on to the ball too long. Or the wide receivers for not getting open. Or on the absence of Julian Edelman, and in this game, Rob Gronkowski, who are Brady’s favorite security blankets. Or on Josh McDaniels and the coaching staff, because they seemingly have run more downfield routes this year…partly due to the absence of Edelman, but also due to the arrival of Brandin Cooks. Or TE Dwayne Allen, who apparently sucks at both blocking and receiving. But you’ve all heard the stat, Brady has been sacked more times in five games already than in the 12 games he played last regular season. Not good.
Plenty of work still to be done. And I do think the Patriots will do it. But it’s going to take some more time. In any event, 3-2 is better than 2-3. With the Jets up next. Beautiful!
Now for the rest of Week Five:
Tennessee (-2.5) at Miami
Miami has scored 25 points in 3 games. Tennessee is probably starting Matt Cassel. I hate to pick the Dolphins again and lose, but I feel like I have no choice here.
Miami 20, Tennessee 13.
San Francisco at Indianapolis (-1.5)
A lot of people have some interest in this game…ummmm…ok, no they don’t. Indy is at home, is favored and has won one game this year. But I’m looking for the winless 49ers to finally break through after a three close losses in a row. Why? I don’t have any idea.
San Francisco 21, Indianapolis 17.
Carolina at Detroit (-3.5)
Maybe I am in the minority, but I really cannot jump on the Lions bandwagon. Jimmy Caldwell, for one. Matthew Stafford for two. Maybe I should…and will…give these guys some credit some day. Just not yet. Ok yes, wait. This week I will. Carolina is coming off a big road win in Foxborough. That means they will probably not show up in Detroit. I may be going against my better judgement here. But I really don’t know about this one.
Detroit 24, Carolina 20.
Buffalo at Cincinnati (-3.5)
Buffalo has been better than they should be. Cincinnati has been worse than they should be. Things have a way of evening out over time. Especially when those things concern two mediocre teams.
Cincinnati 27, Buffalo 20.
Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants (-3.5)
Speaking of two mediocre teams, or “SHOULD” be mediocre teams. Since that what they should be, though they both remain winless. A tie perhaps? Doubtful. This is another toss of a coin. When in doubt, take the points. But I will say that even though both offenses have also sucked, a shootout here would not shock me.
New York Giants 31, Los Angeles Chargers 28.
Arizona at Philadelphia (-6.5)
Arizona is fairly lucky to be 2-2. They beat both the hapless Colts and 49ers by three in overtime. And got smoked in their other two games against Detroit and Dallas. It’s an every other week thing too. This happens to be the week of the smokeshow.
Philadelphia 34, Arizona 17.
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-8.5)
Speaking of smokeshows. Look for Antonio Brown to be targeted early and often. Despite all that talk about how he needs to grow up and stop the tantrums and all that. The bottom line is that Big Ben WILL want to make him happy. So he will get him the ball and shut him up.
Pittsburgh 38, Jacksonville 17.
New York Jets at Cleveland (-1.5)
Yikes! Niners/Colts and Jets/Browns on the same Sunday?? Oh boy.
Cleveland 17, New York Jets 14.
Seattle at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)
The Rams may well be for real. But the Seahawks are not done.
Seattle 27, Los Angeles Rams 24.
Baltimore at Oakland (-3.5)
The Ravens have been abysmal the last two weeks. But the Raiders are likely starting EJ Manuel. ‘Nuff said.
Baltimore 24, Oakland 17.
Green Bay at Dallas (-2.5)
I’m not feeling the Cowboys this year. Still should be a pretty good squad. But 13-3? Nah. Well, they would have to go 11-1 from here, so I suppose that is pretty obvious. The Packers didn’t dominate out of the gates this year either. Even though the game is in Dallas, I’m feeling the Pack here…with of course no real statistical evidence for me to back it up with.
Green Bay 34, Dallas 27.
Kansas City (-1.5) at Houston
Houston isn’t going to put 57 up on the Chiefs this week. But the offense has found some rhythm for sure. KC isn’t going to go undefeated. They had a battle with Washington at home last week and managed to outlast the Redskins. This game kind of looks like where they have a little bump in the road…on the road.
Houston 24, Kansas City 23.
Minnesota (-2.5) at Chicago
Mitchell Trubisky may be better than Mike Glennon. But that’s not saying much. Sure, they’ve had a week and a half to get him ready for this game. Well, to start this game. They’ve had months to get him ready. Anyway, throwing him in on a Monday Night Football game against a divisional opponent with a pretty good defense? Not so sure about that. Whether or not Sam Bradford comes back or if it is Case Keenum again under center for the Vikes.
Minnesota 24, Chicago 10.
Week (against the spread): 1-0
Week (straight up): 1-0
Season (against the spread): 30-34
Season (straight up): 40-24