…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%)
Abridged (and last-minute) holiday edition. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy Festivus! Have a great “whatever you celebrate”!!
Indianapolis at Baltimore (-12.5)
Hate laying this many points with an average Ravens team. But their offense has picked up. And Indy’s D ain’t good. Baltimore still fighting for playoffs of course as well.
Baltimore 34, Indianapolis 17.
Minnesota (-2.5) at Green Bay
If Aaron Rodgers was playing, this game would be a whole lot more interesting.
Minnesota 31, Green Bay 20.
Detroit (-3.5) at Cincinnati
MARVIN LEWIS IS GONE!!! Or he will be. Will that spur the Bengals on? Well, it didn’t last week.
Detroit 27, Cincinnati 17.
Los Angeles Rams (-6.5) at Tennessee
Seems like the Titans should be better than they are. So when their collapse this year is complete, people should lose jobs. Only fear here is the Rams have a letdown from their blowout win against Seattle last week. And the cross-country travel. But I don’t see it.
Los Angeles Rams 37, Tennessee 23.
Denver at Washington (-3.5)
Brock Osweiler looked great in relief last week…wait…it was against the Colts. Paxton Lynch? Surprisingly, not a better option. The ‘Skins actually should have lost to the Cards last week, but the Cards couldn’t get in the end zone. Otherwise, Washington is also playing out the string. Tough call here.
Washington 24, Denver 17.
Atlanta at New Orleans (-5.5)
Second time these foes meet in three weeks, with the Falcons winning the first by three in Atlanta. Should be another close one that could go either way.
New Orleans 30, Atlanta 27.
Cleveland at Chicago (-6.5)
Hate laying this much with the Bears. But seems like they are letting Trubisky loose a little bit. Plus…the Browns.
Chicago 24, Cleveland 20.
Buffalo at New England (-12.5)
No revenge expected on Gronk with the Bills still being in the playoff chase. I think. Some think this game will be close. Buffalo, with Tyrod Taylor early on last game moving the ball fairly well. And maybe a letdown from the Pats after their “controversial” win in Pittsburgh last week. But don’t count me among that group.
New England 38, Buffalo 20.
Miami at Kansas City (-10.5)
Jay Cutler sure came crashing back to earth last week, eh? The Chiefs seem close to early season form as well.
Kansas City 34, Miami 20.
Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5) at New York Jets
I know, the Jets seemingly play everyone close. The Chargers are on the East Coast. There is some merit to all of this.
Los Angeles Chargers 20, New York Jets 14.
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-9.5)
Couple of three-point losses the last two weeks against the Lions and Falcons. Still a lost season for them. And the Panthers are in the thick of it, have won 6 of 7 and have been putting up some points. Don’t expect that to change against Tampa
Carolina 38, Tampa Bay 23.
Jacksonville (-4.5) at San Francisco
Could be a little bit of a trap here. The Jags appear to be for real, as I now begrudgingly admit. They are on the opposite coast. Jimmy G has the Niners playing some inspired football. The Jags could possibly be looking ahead to the matchup with the Titans next week. But since the Jags are inexplicably in the mix for a first round bye…and even the #1 overall seed in the East…I’m thinking they will show up this week. Led of course by their defense.
Jacksonville 31, San Francisco 13.
New York Giants at Arizona (-4.5)
Eli seemed rejuvenated last week against the Eagles. Arizona choked a game against Washington. In the end, I really don’t care about this game, but I have to pick someone.
New York Giants 27, Arizona 24.
Seattle at Dallas (-4.5)
I know, Zeke is back. The Seahawks are not the same team as in past years. Lots of holes. I just don’t see them throwing up a couple of stinkers in a row. Plus…every time you want to count Seattle out, they prove us all wrong.
Seattle 31, Dallas 27.
Pittsburgh (-9.5) at Houston
The Steelers need to keep winning games. They are probably still infuriated about last week. T.J. Yates. Pittsburgh hasn’t really blown many teams out this year. But expect it to happen this week, even with no Antonio Brown and a porous defense.
Pittsburgh 37, Houston 10.
Oakland at Philadelphia (-8.5)
The Raiders are just about done. Disappointing season, to say the least. The Eagles had a tougher fight than expected last week against the G-Men. Maybe a Carson Wentz injury letdown. But then Nick Foles comes in and tosses 4 TD’s anyway. The Eagles need to keep winning, so expect a score closer to what they have been normally doing this year.
Philadelphia 34, Oakland 20.
Week (against the spread): 10-6
Week (straight up): 14-2
Season (against the spread): 122-102
Season (straight up): 150-74
…jumping right in and feeling confident…let’s see how long that lasts:
New Orleans (-2.5) at Buffalo
Actually, starting off on one that I have no confidence in at all. Buffalo at home, where they are 4-0. New Orleans outside a dome, where they historically don’t play as well. Probably a cold weather game. Buffalo with 10 days to prepare after getting blasted by the Jets. Seems like a Buffalo pick, no? Well, no…and this is purely a gut feeling with no rhyme or reason behind it.
New Orleans 27, Buffalo 23.
Pittsburgh (-10.5) at Indianapolis
Indy has been a fairly competitive 3-6 team. But not this week.
Pittsburgh 31, Indianapolis 17.
Cleveland at Detroit (-11.5)
There’s usually no way in hell I’d ever lay 11.5 with Matty Stafford and the Lions. But I just have no more words to describe how bad the Browns really are.
Detroit 38, Cleveland 13.
Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville (-4.5)
Kind of another gut feeling here as well. Jax at 5-3 just doesn’t feel right to me. The Jags at 6-3 just seems even sillier. I think that’s all it comes down to for me actually.
Los Angeles Chargers 24, Jacksonville 21.
Green Bay at Chicago (-4.5)
Hard to believe that the Packers lose one guy and they completely fall apart. I know, Aaron Rodgers as that one guy is obviously huge. But Tom Brady missed a year and the Pats rode Matty Cassel to a more than respectable 11-5. Though when the Colts lost Peyton Manning for his year, they went 2-14. So I guess it shouldn’t be too hard to believe for the Packers. Whatever…
Chicago 20, Green Bay 13.
New York Jets (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
Tampa is reeling, no doubt. Lost 5 in a row. Jameis Winston is out. The J-E-T-S are a (very) surprising 4-5. But can this be a Ryan Fitzpatrick revenge game? FITZY!!!!
Tampa Bay 31, New York Jets 27.
Minnesota (-1.5) at Washington
This one I think could be a good one. Really? Yup. Big win for the ‘Skins last week at Seattle, coming back late…not one of Kirk Cousins’ strengths. Got them back to .500. The Vikes have cruised to 4 in a row, but against inferior competition. Should be a close battle, but going with the home team here.
Washington 24, Minnesota 23.
Cincinnati at Tennessee (-5.5)
How did A.J. Green not get suspended? Guess it really doesn’t matter for the Bungles.
Tennessee 27, Cincinnati 14.
Houston at Los Angeles Rams (-11.5)
Doesn’t appear that anyone can stop the Rams this year. Certainly not the injury-ravaged Texans, I would think.
Los Angeles Rams 34, Houston 13.
New York Giants (-0.5) at San Francisco
Hopefully no one is subjected to this game being televised in their market. Teams are a combined 1-16, so I suppose the half a point spread is about right. I don’t know if the Niners plan on starting (or even playing) Jimmy Garoppolo. But I say they should. The Colts threw Jacoby Brissett right into the mix and he has been serviceable. Isn’t Jimmy G supposed to be better? Plus, what better team to start him out at than the pathetic G-Men? OK, maybe the Browns, but you get my point. Just do it!
New York Giants 14, San Francisco 13.
Dallas at Atlanta (-2.5)
So I guess the Ezekiel Elliott suspension is back in force. I still believe the ‘Boys have enough to win without him. I said last week that I thought the Falcons look like they are done and I’m sticking to it. Especially after that brutal drop by Julio Jones last week on that 4th down play where he was 10 yards behind the defense. There’s really no explanation for that. Other than that the team is done.
Dallas 27, Atlanta 20.
New England (-7.5) at Denver
Speaking of things I said last week, I said that Denver’s D was still legit. Then they went out and gave up 51 to the Eagles. Nice call. But still, I am not ready to give up on the Bronco D at this point. I’ll give up on their QB’s, but not the D. The Pats are coming off a bye, but believe it or not, they’ve struggled some in that situation over the years…from what I recall anyway. Denver is always a tough place to play. It appears that Phillip Dorsett will log heavy snaps at receiver Sunday night, obviously not ideal. Game will be closer than most think. I wouldn’t even be shocked if the Broncos won.
New England 27, Denver 23.
Miami at Carolina (-9.5)
I still think Miami stinks, despite their 4-4 record. But the 9.5 seems a little high to me. The Panthers don’t exactly blow teams out.
Carolina 24, Miami 17.
Week (against the spread): 1-0
Week (straight up): 1-0
Season (against the spread): 66-67
Season (straight up): 85-48