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Travesty, Pt II

So this time we will reference the debacle in Miami.  I know, this game has been rehashed over and over again.  But let’s do it again!

Key Points:

*There isn’t any question that Rob Gronkowski should not have been on the field for the final miracle play.  It simply wasn’t a Hail Mary situation.  I’ve never really been much of a fan of putting an offensive guy on the field for a defensive play like that anyway.

Taking Devin McCourty off the field in that situation seemed a little bizarre as well.  Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson or one of the lineman may have been a better choice.  Devin should have been on the field for sure…despite the fact that he really hasn’t been real good this year.

But I believe people are missing the bigger issue here:  the replays I saw showed a few guys kind of standing around apparently waiting for another player to make the play.  Missed tackles.  Bad angles.  And all that.  That type of play should pretty much NEVER work.  There were personnel decision issues, sure.  But the play should have never gotten to Gronk in the first place.

*Stephen Gostkowski can have a tendency to miss kicks in key situations.  And that was the case again Sunday.  But people calling for his head are being unreasonable.  That was the FIRST extra point he missed this year.  And he’s only missed a handful of field goals this season.  He has been a pretty successful kicker in this league for a long time.  Especially considering the elements he has to kick in often at home.

He’s no Adam Vinatieri, I grant you this.  But have you seen the kickers in this league?  And how many bums are parading around out there?  I’ve said it a million times before, there are only 32 kicking jobs in the NFL.  How come the league can’t find 32 decent kickers in the entire world?  Mystifies me.  Off the top of my head, there are a handful of kickers over 40 in the league now (Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson, Sebastian Janikowski…I think these guys are all 40 plus, but if not they are close enough.  And there may be others).  There are no younger guys that can take these guys’ jobs like what happens at every other position on the field?

If you are one that wants Gostkowski out of town, be careful what you wish for.

*Tom Brady brain fart at the end of the first half.  All I can say is…wow.  I never in a million years would have thought I would ever see something like this.  Incredible that he didn’t throw it away.  Not to mention he missed a wide-open Chris Hogan in the end zone the play before.  I honestly think THIS play had more of an impact on the game than anything else.  They score a TD there and the Pats are up 34-21 at the half (or 33-21 if Gostkowski misses the point after, which I am sure some are thinking here).  The complexion of the game may have changed significantly if the Pats get this touchdown.  Not enough is being made of this, I can tell you that much.

*The defense.  Letting a 412-year-old Frank Gore and a career special teamer in Brandon Bolden carve you up for 152 yards on 14 carries is laughable.  Heat or no heat.  Letting an eminently mediocre and also hobbled Ryan Tannehill have an almost perfect quarterback rating is a joke.  I can’t even talk more about this unit.

*Running game.  A pretty uneventful 20 carries for Sony Michel.  The guy seems decent.  But I am still waiting to see what made him a first-round pick.  I actually like Rex Burkhead.  But he was invisible.  I know Brady is hurt or banged up or whatever you want to call it.  And you want to protect him a bit.  But if the running game is not working, go to what works.  And that was the passing game, for the most part.  And it usually is the passing game that works.  Has been for a long time.  Just do it.

That’s enough…let’s move on…

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (-3.5)  

The Chiefs beat the Chargers by 10 in Week One…a long time ago.  The winner of this game probably has the best chance at winning the AFC West as well as locking up the #1 seed in the AFC.  KC has been a little pedestrian in recent weeks.  But the Chargers just barely beat the Bengals and their backup QB.  KC has scored 105 more points than LA, but they also have given up 81 more.  Eric Berry is supposed to be back, but will it matter?  I’m trying to figure out a way to pick the Chargers and I’m not sure why.  But with the game in Kansas City, I think we are going that route.

Kansas City 34, Los Angeles Chargers 28.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  8-8

Season (against the spread):  112-96

Season (straight up):  129-79

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Taking One On The Chin…

…yikes…brutal week picking games last week for the Blowhard.  Well, not exactly brutal, but not coming up roses either.  Tough week to take a step back, what with year-long pools winding down and progress needing to be made to win some “points”.

In any event, we move on…

Not much to say about the New England Patriots either.  Not because there isn’t anything to talk about with Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.  But because the Blowhard was at the game live and can’t say he studied the game film since then to note the finer points of the game.

We will say that it was a nice win…but wait, was it?  The Vikings were supposed to be a pretty good team this year.  They were last year.  Then they signed a gazillion dollar quarterback.  Their young stud running back came back healthy.  Two filthy receivers.  And a stout defense.  To name a few.

So why are they only 6-5-1?  No idea.  We can’t say we watch a ton of Viking football or even read the stories by their beat writers.

But we can say here that we will take the win, nice or not.  The Pats D did seem to step up.  Are they finally on the right track?  Who knows?  Any step forward here in December is welcome, however.

But with the next two games on the road, which hasn’t exactly been kind to them this year, we will see if Sunday was actually a “step up”.  Miami stinks, but the Pats have had their share of problems down there over the years.  Not one of Tom Brady’s favorite places to play, regardless of how bad the ‘Phins have been in the 2000s.  At least this tilt is in December and not September.  Methinks the Pats win, but more on that in the next column.

Then…at Pittsburgh.  We know how explosive the Steelers can be.  Despite their being in a little tailspin as we speak.  The Patriots always seem to do well against Pitt., home or away.  But again, this year has been different in so many ways.  So we shall see.

The Blowhard still has some confidence in this team, despite the many holes that haven’t existed in recent years.  But sending a message the next couple of weeks would go a long way to justifying that confidence.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4.5)  

Tennessee won a riveting 9-6 matchup back in Week Three on the Jaguars’ home field.  What can we expect this time in Tennessee?  Welp, the Jags are 2-7 since, including a scintillating 6-0 win over Indianapolis Sunday.  The Titans are mediocre at best and needed a huge comeback from 16 down at home to top the wretched New York Jets this past week.  I’m looking forward to this atrocity…er, I mean, huge Thursday Night Football divisional battle!!  Watch, it probably will end up being a good game, because it isn’t supposed to be…but I’m not gonna bet on it.  For real anyway.

Tennessee 13, Jacksonville 10.  

Week (against the spread):  7-9

Week (straight up):  10-6

Season (against the spread):  103-89

Season (straight up):  121-71

Still No Clarity…

…on who exactly the New England Patriots are this season.  We’ve been through this a ton.  Their next game is in December.  We usually know by this month on the calendar.

We are clear on the AFC East stinking…yet again.  3 game lead for the Pats with 5 to go.  So that means another division crown.  Go figure.

The conference?  Not sure.  KC is obviously off to a fantastic start.  But it remains to be seen if they can stop anyone.  The Steelers coughed one up last week and should have lost the week before.  The Chargers or Texans?  Can we really expect these teams to do anything in the playoffs?  Doubt it.  The rest of the teams?  Don’t see it.

As for the Pats themselves?  Offensively a step behind what they usually do.  Maybe three steps.  27 points against the f’n Jets?  Tom Brady looks old and injured (sorry).  Rob Gronkowski?  Yup…”old” and injured.  Sony Michel?  We will see.  People think Rex Burkhead’s return this week will help.  But he’s always…injured.  Chris Hogan is no superstar.  But he can play.  And Brady refuses to even look at him anymore.  And so on…

The defense?  Sure, 13 points allowed in a game is nice.  But…the Jets.  Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty have been alternating between average and “washed-up” all year long in my eyes.  “Average” may be too kind a word for the personnel on D this year.  Think of it this way:  When Kyle Van Noy is one of your better players, that speaks volumes…I don’t care how well he actually seems to be playing.

Special teams?  You know, made up of a ton of guys that Bill Belichick likes to keep and can’t do anything else on the field?  Atrocious all around this season.  Well, I guess Stephen Gostkowski has been pretty good and every once in a while Bill raves postgame about the punter, Ryan Allen (like last week).  But the return and coverage units.  Bad.

By now, any issues are supposed to have been fixed.  Not this year.  Can they still be?  Not sure.  But now it’s a real fight to the end.  Starting Sunday against another team that likely should be better than they have been…the Minnesota Vikings.  More on them next column.

The rest of the schedule isn’t daunting.  But playing at Miami hasn’t always been great.  Even if the game is in December and not September.  The Pats have a good track record against the Steelers, even in Pittsburgh.  This year?  No idea.  Should be cakewalks against the Bills and Jets at home the last two weeks.  But can we even count on this now?

I guess we will find out in due time.  For now, the Thursday game:

New Orleans (-7.5) at Dallas

The NFC West has 2 doormat 2-9 teams, but the NFC East isn’t much better as a whole.  The Saints have crushed the other 3 NFC East teams they have played this season to the tune of 124-44.  Dallas may be home.  But New Orleans is actually 5-0 on the road.  Both of these teams played on Thanksgiving, so no advantage there.  I’m just filling space now.  There is no debate on this one.

New Orleans 41, Dallas 20.  

Week (against the spread):  11-4

Week (straight up):  11-4

Season (against the spread):  96-80

Season (straight up):  111-65

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