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Thank God For The AFC East…

…after another yawner Monday Night.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the New England Patriots didn’t play their best game that night.  But they didn’t have to.  And they knew it.

Why else would you go into the game with 2 running backs, one (James White) who is really just a receiver and the other (Kenjon Barner) someone who has bounced on and off the team a few times and is clearly someone the team doesn’t trust all that much.  More importantly, then give a stiff wide receiver 10 CARRIES?  That’s right, Cordarrelle Patterson lined up in the backfield plenty and also ran the ball plenty.  And besides breaking the one long run, not very well otherwise.

Dont’a Hightower was a late scratch as well.  Sure, he gets hurt a lot.  But no one really talked about him being in danger of missing the game…and then he did.  Cuz they played the Bills.  Good time for a rest.

With Derek Anderson behind center for the Bills, apparently a couple of weeks after he was trying to make some sort of professional golf tour, and perhaps their only true weapon, LeSean McCoy, possibly being limited from a previous concussion, the Pats were comfortable going into the game.  That’s the way we see it anyway.

Even though the Pats were pretty much limited to kicking field goals early on, did any of us think the game was in danger at any point at all?  Nope.

So once again, thank God for the ineptness of the division.  We’ve been through the whole thing with the Pats, how the year feels different, how the team usually has things a little more together at this point in the season, the question marks all over the place on the team…and all that.

But it doesn’t matter.  Now.

The Patriots will cruise to another division title with ease.  What happens this year in the playoffs may be a different story.  But we will cross that bridge when we get there.

Every year the “experts” think that either the Bills, Miami Dolphins or New York Jets are ready to pose a challenge for the top spot in the AFC East.

And every year, it just doesn’t happen.

This year will be no different.

I just hope the result of this game and the knowledge that the division is in the bag did not influence the trade deadline for the Pats.  That things are all good and there was no need to add reinforcements.  The team seemingly always does something at the deadline.  Something that doesn’t seem that major, but the players they get end up being key contributors down the stretch.

Why nothing this year?

Could have been the cost was too high.  But if that was the case, they should still have done it.  Especially at linebacker.  They are thin at running back, as noted.  But Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will apparently be back at some point.  Good enough.  Receiver was an issue early on.  I’m ok with what they have their now.  The defensive backfield is a little muddled.  But they should be ok.  Both sides of the line, not horrible.  Linebacker is a glaring need.  Perhaps no one was available that fit what they do.  Would have been nice to see one move there at least.

Not much I can do about it myself.  So I guess I won’t lose any sleep over it…for now…

Oakland at San Francisco (-3.5)

…and if I was going to ever lose any sleep, perhaps the answer will be to just put this game on.  2-13 combined.  Ugh.  Not what the NFL had in mind when they scheduled this one.  Jon Gruden vs. Jimmy Garoppolo battling it out in Cali.  Nope.  Instead, with the backup (C.J. Beathard) to Jimmy Football now questionable, we may see an undrafted free agent starting for the Niners in Nick Mullens.  Riveting.  Enjoy!!

Oakland 24, San Francisco 13.

Week (against the spread):  8-6

Week (straight up):  11-3

Season (against the spread):  62-59

Season (straight up):  77-44


So Much For That Theory…

…the one where we here in this space insisted for quite some time that the New England Patriots’ plan for the quarterback position was to have Jimmy Garoppolo take over the starting job by the start of the 2019 season.  Tom Brady will turn 42 in the 2019 preseason and really, how much further can he go?  I know, he talks about playing into his mid-40s and takes care of himself and blah, blah, blah.  But there simply isn’t any kind of track record of QB’s performing at a high level after age 40.  What makes Brady (and anyone else) think he will be different?

I say this often about players, but it’s certainly valid:  I don’t know if Garoppolo can actually play QB in the NFL at a high level.  Or even at an average level.  Sure, he looked pretty good for 6 quarters at the beginning of 2016.  He also didn’t play the other 2 games of Brady’s suspension due to injury and many people believed that he could have sucked it up and played…at least the last one after missing one week.  So that could be viewed as a little bit of a red flag.  But who really knows if he was the real deal?

You know who did think he was a sure thing though?  Bill Belichick.

Now, Bill has obviously never said that publicly.  But you can tell by his actions.  He hung on to him all of this time.  He apparently tried to re-sign him to some sort of “bridge” deal covering the time until (ideally) Brady retired.  Hell, he originally drafted him higher than most people thought Jimmy G would go.  And also drafted him when Brady theoretically had plenty of “life” left.  Add in the comments Bill made in his press conference earlier Tuesday, seemingly not happy to have traded Garoppolo.  And the fact that Belichick most likely would have loved to try to win a Super Bowl post-Brady.  I think all of this and then some means Bill thought he was the next guy.

Because of all of that, I believed that Jimmy Football was the next guy.  Again, who knows, since he really hasn’t played many meaningful snaps?  But from the above with Belichick and also trusting Bill knows what he has seen in practice for the past three and a half years, I had to go with that theory, right?

So that all being said, the Blowhard does not like the deal.  Other reasons?  You got it, in no particular order:

*Only a second rounder in return?  Seems light.  IS light.  People are now saying that Cleveland did not offer a first and some other compensation over the spring/summer as has been reported widely all along.  Who knows what reports are accurate?  But you’d have to believe they would have gotten more than just a second rounder if they shopped Jimmy G this past offseason.  I see at the deadline that Cincinnati almost dealt their backup QB, AJ McCarron, to Cleveland for a 2nd and 3rd rounder.  McCarron has played a few more games in the NFL than Garoppolo.  But not since 2015.  Probably puts them in the same ballpark as to what to expect for compensation.  Side note:  Glad to see that the Browns screwed things up again by filing late paperwork and not getting the McCarron deal done.  Great work.

*Why now?  Sure, they get a pick in the low 30’s in 2018.  Instead of perhaps a pick in the high 90’s in 2019 (as a result of the compensatory pick process if they consummated a trade after this season).  Yeah, that’s a 60ish spot difference and a year earlier.  But who cares?  Bill is going to turn that 2nd rounder into a third and two fourths at some point anyway.  It’s not like they got a top-10 pick.  What happens if something happens to Brady this year?  After all, he is getting crushed every week.  It could be a matter of time before he goes down.

*Speaking of something happening to Brady, what happens if his play falls off a cliff next year?  Not unheard of at that age.  And the Pats then will have traded the “future” a year or so too early.

*Why now, Part II?  The Patriots could have franchise tagged Jimmy after this year and then dealt him off of that tag if they so desired.  Once again, you would think that he would demand more compensation than a second rounder in the offseason.  When you could market him more.  One year at huge dollars would not scare teams off.  Including the 49ers, whom reports indicate have a ton of cap space available.  Plus, the team that acquires him could work out a long-term deal which would work better for that franchise.  And probably Jimmy himself.

*I believe Patriot owner Robert Kraft called the shot on this one.  Why?  Because in a situation like the QB one, Belichick ALWAYS opts for the younger player eventually.  Because, you know, that makes too much sense.  I know, as an owner, I suppose Kraft should have final say in everything.  Since he is footing the bill overall.  And I know, Brady is clearly a special case here.  It’s one thing to trade guys like Mike Vrabel, Logan Mankins or Richard Seymour…or release a guy like Lawyer Milloy.  It’s completely different when you are talking about one of the best to ever play the game.  Delicate situation, no question.

But one also has to think about the football team on the field.  And you can bet that keeping Brady for the short-term over Garoppolo for the long-term has to do with business…something that is the owner’s right…but something that as a fan I hate.

When an owner gets too involved in any teams’ on the field decisions, it makes me think of Jerry Jones.  Not positive.  But it also brings me back to the days when Kraft was using a stopwatch to time Tebucky Jones.  I’m all set with owners meddling too much with the on the field product.  Even if Kraft doesn’t really do that any more.  And even if it is only this one case.  Let the football people make the football decisions.

*Why now, Part III.  Wouldn’t it have made some sense to keep Jacoby Brissett if they had an idea that maybe Jimmy would have to be traded at some point?  Brissett has looked competent, at the very least, for the Colts after getting traded there right before the season.  Maybe he looks even better if he had a whole preseason and offseason with the team and not getting thrown into the fire there right from the start…on a bad team, no less.  Maybe long-term Brissett can’t play either.  But he sure would be nice to have right this second.

*It amazes me that the Patriots obviously banked a little bit on Jimmy signing that “bridge” deal mentioned above.  Something like a 2 or 3 year deal for good money, but not starters money for sure.  But why would Garoppolo do that?  He’s in his 4th year here.  He has 2 Super Bowl rings already.  He hasn’t made a ton of money.  And of course hasn’t played much.  Why would he want to wait another 1-5 years to take over this team?  I would think he wants to play…and of course get a fat second contract.  We all wanted Jimmy G to take a contract that benefited the team.  But if you were in his shoes, would you?  Ultimately, he wants to play.  And if I had a backup QB on my team that DIDN’T want to play, I wouldn’t want him on my team.  I don’t blame him one bit.  I just can’t believe that the Pats thought they could pull that kind of contract off with him.

So we will see what happens from here.  San Francisco is 0-8.  Maybe Jimmy G goes there and is putrid and then has an average career after his stock drops.  Maybe Brian Hoyer comes here as a backup to Brady, Brady gets hurt and then the Patriots ride Hoyer to another Super Bowl win.  Maybe Jimmy Football is like every other highly touted Patriot backup QB that never makes it…Ryan Mallett, Rohan Davey, Kevin O’Connell, Matt Cassel et al…including Hoyer himself.  Maybe the Pats use that SF pick on a QB from next year’s supposedly deep draft at the position, Brady plays 2 more years at a high level and then that pick takes over and wins games and Super Bowls.  Or maybe Brady plays at a high level until his Social Security kicks in.

We just don’t know.  But on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to like about this deal.

Interesting Start To Week Three…

…because we all know Thursday Night Football games are usually atrocious.  Especially the ones early in the season.  But not this one.  And it was Rams/Niners??!  For real?

There was a near pick-six on the first play of the game.  Fumbles.  Great catches (Pierre Garcon with a couple of sweet ones in particular).  Five touchdowns for Todd Gurley…er, I mean three.  But he should have had 5, as he was stuffed at the half yard line on 2 different drives.  Can you tell Gurley is on my fantasy team?  I know…you don’t care.  Sorry.  Anyway, the 49ers also made a nice comeback.  Key onside kick recovery at the end.  Then a late crucial two point conversion that failed.  Speaking of failure, another missed extra point was the reason San Fran had to go for that two in the first place.  Oh, and for good measure, you had a few people go into concussion protocol.  That phrase is now part of everyone’s everyday vocabulary now.

As for the combatants, I said it last week, I’ll say it again:  The Rams scored 224 points all of last year.  They’ve scored 107 points in 3 games this year.  Seems pretty inexplicable.  And the Niners had scored a mere 12 points in 2 games before Thursday night.  Then they put up 39 in Game 3?  Also inexplicable.

Maybe it was a pretty good game because both teams really aren’t that good.  Who knows?  But I think the fact that it was a good game is a step in the right direction, regardless of the squads involved.

Of course, that will all probably come crashing down on the Thursday night game in Week 4.  When the Packers hammer the Bears in Green Bay…

Baltimore (-4.5) at Jacksonville

Well, in London, not Jacksonville.  But that probably doesn’t even matter.  Surprised that the Ravens have come out of the gate at 2-0…though the disclaimer is that they have played the Bengals and Browns.  Surprised that the Jags are 1-1…only cuz I figured they’d be 0-2.  Anyway, I would expect the Ravens to shut down Blake Bortles and the rotating running backs…even in London.

Baltimore 27, Jacksonville 17.

Atlanta (-3.5) at Detroit 

People are getting all giddy about the Lions.  I am not one of them, however.  Sure, they should be a decent team.  But as good as people are talking like right now?  Not so sure.  Matty Stafford as the highest paid player in the league?  Yikes!  Anyway, the Lions have beaten two teams (Cards and G-Men) that people thought may be good this year, but very well may not be.  We know all about Atlanta.  Feel like they still get it done on the road and maybe push those expectations down a bit for Detroit.

Atlanta 31, Detroit 27.

Cleveland (-1.5) at Indianapolis

Ugh.  Someone has to win.  Ummm…I guess they don’t.  But someone has to cover.  Go Jacoby!!

Indianapolis 17, Cleveland 13.

New York Giants at Philadelphia (-4.5)

Philly’s home opener against what has been a wretched Giant team thus far.  By picking the Eagles in this game, I am probably going against my better judgement when I think about it.  Division games are always tough.  Benny McAdoo may be fired up for this game…ok, maybe Eli being fired up may be more appropriate.  ODB has a game under his belt now…and all that.  But I think I’m sticking with the Eagles here.

Philadelphia 27, New York Giants 20.

Tampa Bay at Minnesota (-2.5)

Tampa is another team in which people have been jumping on the bandwagon.  They should be pretty good this season too.  And Minny is going with Case Keenum again.  Seems like an easy TB pick, right?  I’m feeling that the Vikings being at home will matter.  I guess just another hunch.

Minnesota 23, Tampa Bay 20.

Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Chicago 

Breakout for Le’Veon?  I’m sure he rounds into form at some point after taking August off.  I just hope JuJu Smith-Schuster keeps getting involved.

Pittsburgh 31, Chicago 10.

Miami (-6.5) at New York Jets

Some people have called Miami a sleeper team this year.  Yeah.  I’m going to say that they still stink.  But the Jets stink far, far worse.

Miami 27, New York Jets 13.

New Orleans at Carolina (-5.5)

Carolina has given up only 6 total points in 2 games this year.  Yeah, against San Fran and Buffalo, I know.  And a 9-3 win over the Bills at home can’t inspire much confidence in Panther-land.  I’m still buying into the rebound year though.  Plus…New Orleans on the road and out of the dome.  ‘Nuff said.

Carolina 34, New Orleans 24.

Denver (-2.5) at Buffalo 

Not sure how this spread is so low.  Denver has looked pretty good.  Buffalo?  Meh.  Seems like an easy one here.

Denver 31, Buffalo 13.

Houston at New England (-13.5)

Not sure how this spread is so high.  Sure the Pats shut them out last year with Jacoby Brissett at QB.  But the Texans D will most assuredly cause the Pats offensive line some problems.  The NE OL hasn’t exactly been stout this year and may be missing one starter.  Three pass rushers on the Texans are absolutely stout.  Add to the fact that Deshaun Watson will probably make some plays with his legs…cuz, you know, the Texans have no receivers besides DeAndre Hopkins…I’m guessing this one is a little closer than the Pats want it to be…but not close enough to make anyone nervous.

New England 31, Houston 20.  

Seattle at Tennessee (-2.5)

Seattle is off to a slow start offensively…maybe the understatement of the year thus far.  I’m a little on the Titans bandwagon myself.  Kind of another hunch here, because I can see this going either way.  I can especially see the Seahawks breaking out at some point.  Home cooking here though.

Tennessee 24, Seattle 21.

Cincinnati at Green Bay (-9.5)

Marvin Lewis.  It’s time.  Well, it was time long ago.  Like a broken record here.  I’m sure firing the offensive coordinator will make a world of difference.

Green Bay 45, Cincinnati 17.

Kansas City (-3.5) at Los Angeles Chargers 

The Chargers are 0-2 because they apparently chose the wrong kicker in training camp.  The Chiefs are a good team at 2-0.  But these divisional matchups…you never know.  The Chiefs are the better team.  Just not today.  As long as LA has the lead late and doesn’t need to try another game winning field goal.

Los Angeles Chargers 27, Kansas City 24.

Oakland (-3.5) at Washington 

I’m all in on Oakland still, home or away…and even on the East Coast.  The ‘Skins?  Yeah, ok.  But I’m not overwhelmed by them.  Not this week anyway.

Oakland 34, Washington 24.

Dallas (-3.5) at Arizona 

Looking for a nice bounceback game from the ‘Boys this week.  The taste in their mouth from that shellacking last week in Denver couldn’t have been pleasurable this past week.  And the bashing that some of the players have taken as well.  The Cards are at home, but haven’t exactly looked good thus far.  Looks like they are going back to the 85-year-old Chris Johnson to go with the 97-year-old Carson Palmer in the offensive backfield this week.  Doesn’t sound promising.

Dallas 35, Arizona 17.

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread): 16-16

Season (straight up): 23-9

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