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Super Bowl Leftovers…

…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%)

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“D” Is For “Disastrous”…

…or “disgraceful”?  Or “disgusting”?  I don’t know, maybe all of them.  Atrocious is another one, but that obviously doesn’t start with “D”.  And I am not talking about the Blowhard’s NFL picks last week.  Those weren’t so great either.  But we are talking about the Patriots’ defense here.  If you can even call it that.

Three weeks in and the Pats are at the bottom of a lot of defensive rankings.  I mean, the bottom.  Last.  I know…it’s only three games.  And Dont’a Hightower hasn’t played a ton.  And Eric Rowe missed the last game.  And a lot of new players are being integrated in, like Stephon Gilmore, Deatrich Wise Jr., Lawrence Guy, Cassius Marsh, Adam Butler, David Harr…well, nevermind on him since he doesn’t actually play.  And the Patriots figure it out every year.  And on and on and on…

Sure, those are all valid points.  But a lot of these guys were here last year.  The safeties particularly have not played well.  That shouldn’t happen with guys like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and even Duron Harmon.  Guys like Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts were here last year.  Harris can’t play over those two guys?  He has to be done if that’s the case.  And if he is done, why is he on the roster?  Van Noy just got himself a nice extension and I don’t think I’m the only one that has wondered why.  Moving on to Alan Branch…he got extended in the offseason too.  Is this where he reverts back to the problem that he has been in past organizations?  Got a ring, got a new contract and then…stop caring?

Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of Matt Patricia.  I HATE the way the defensive backs never seem to turn their heads around to look for the ball when it’s thrown downfield.  I don’t love it that they seem to give a ton of space to receivers off the line.  Among other things.  Yes, Patricia is obviously an extension of Bill Belichick, but still, he is the main man on defense.  And his troops have been abysmal thus far.

That being said, they usually figure it out over the course of the season.  I will of course allow for that.  But I don’t believe they have ever started in this deep a hole.  Not to mention guys like Jonathan Jones and Jordan Richards are playing entirely too much right out of the gate.  Probably Roberts, Van Noy, Marsh and Adam Butler too.  I think I saw that Van Noy has played EVERY defensive snap this year.  Really?!  And if they are truly trying to phase Malcolm Butler out this year, seeing that he won’t be here next year, then that doesn’t help.

So am I panicking?  A little.  I mean, how can you not?  Giving up a boatload of yards to Drew Brees isn’t something to be ashamed of.  But doing the same to mediocre quarterbacks like Alex Smith and rookie QB’s like Deshaun Watson is something that just shouldn’t happen.  Cam Newton this week too.  Well, he has played poorly this year thus far, so maybe it’s not as daunting a challenge as it seems on paper.  But it’s still not encouraging.

I think they will figure some of it out as the year goes along, like they always do.  As they always say about the team, “September is an extension of the preseason”.  But I’m not getting giddy about the defense’s long-term prospects.  I don’t think we are looking at a Top Ten defense at all, as currently constructed.

You know what will happen next though, right?  Pats will give up only like 10 points on Sunday and their defense will all of a sudden click and start to take off for the year.  Seems about right…

Chicago at Green Bay (-7.5)

Chicago is coming off a somewhat shocking win against Pittsburgh.  Even though they were home.  And even though that jackass on the Bears tried to showboat his way to the end zone after the blocked field goal before the half…only to never make it.  Hate the Steelers myself personally.  But loved the play.  Sometimes players are just boneheads.  And that’s being kind.

Green Bay is coming off a surprisingly tough win at home against the Bengals.  It’s a Thursday night game, sometimes a crapshoot with the short week and all.  Not to mention a divisional battle.  Last week’s Thursday night divisional matchup between the 49ers and Rams was an exciting game…and close.

All adds up to a close game…a probably Green Bay win, but a Chicago cover, no?

Well…no.  Thursday night games are usually putrid.  Last week may have been the one exception.  Divisional games can be hard to predict.  But I’m feeling a Packer rout.

Green Bay 38, Chicago 24.

Week (against the spread):  6-10

Week (straight up):  9-7

Season (against the spread): 22-25

Season (straight up): 31-16

Much better…

…we’re talking about both the New England Patriots’ performance last Sunday against New Orleans, as well as the Blowhard’s Week Two pick performance (did anyone notice we predicted the exact score & winner of the KC/Philly game?  No?  Not surprised…but it happened!).

Now, we don’t necessarily have to go back and entirely analyze the Pats game from four days ago.  But it was good to see the team get back to doing things that we know they are capable of doing.

However, I wouldn’t say all their problems are solved.  And that’s ok, because it is still September.  Plenty of time still to figure things out.  But it was disappointing to see the offense kind of sputter a bit in the second half against a historically bad Saints defense.  That’s one that stands out to me.  They should have put up 50 against that putrid outfit.

Of course, the injuries didn’t help.  Looked like Rex Burkhead was going to be a big part of the game plan.  He left early.  Phillip Dorsett was getting himself involved, then he left a little later.  No need to even talk about Gronk…we know he is an injury waiting to happen.  Every team has injuries and we will see what happens with these guys…including Danny Amendola and Dont’a Hightower, who of course did not play.  As well as Eric Rowe, who also left the game early.  But they seem to be hitting the Pats early this year.

More importantly, what is up with the playing time of Malcolm Butler and Alan Branch?  Is Butler already starting to be “phased out”, seeing that he won’t be here next year?  Is Branch causing problems somehow, as he has been wont to do in the past with other teams?  Curious dip in PT for these two.  And why did the team even sign David Harris when he has only played three snaps in the first two games…and the linebacking corps is suspect to begin with?

And where is Brandin Cooks?  The team dressed only 3 wide receivers and Dorsett eventually went down.  Plus, Burkhead apparently was going to play some receiver and he went down early.  And Cooks only had 2 catches (4 targets).  Seemed to me this was a game to get him involved more.

I won’t even start on Stephen Gostkowski.  3-3 on chip shot field goals, yes, but were any of them straight?  Another missed PAT and I’m not sure the other three made PAT’s were straight either.  And please recall that the game was played indoors.

Perhaps that is a little nitpicking for the second week of the season.  But they are all relevant talking points.  In any event, we are happy with the win, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

As for Week Three, here’s where we begin:

Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) at San Francisco

Another banner Thursday night game.  This could possibly be a worse matchup than Texans/Bengals last Thursday night.  Sure, the Rams have shown improvement from last year in their first two games of this season, but is anyone buying into them yet?  Sure, the Niners played the Seahawks close last week, but they have scored TWELVE points thus far this season.  Brian Hoyer is locking down that quarterbacking job at this point, I suppose that explains some things.

It’s a divisional battle, so maybe that’s something to grasp hold onto.  The color rush thing is kind of stupid, but if you like it then you can cling to that too.  But this sure smells like another Thursday night stinker.  Will I watch it though?  You bet!!

Los Angeles Rams 17, San Francisco 9.

Week (against the spread):  10-6

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  16-15

Season (straight up): 22-9

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