Your #NFL Weekend Update + #Superbowl50 Forecast

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Daniels helps Denver punch ticket to Super Bowl 50

In the 17th and quite possibly the final edition of “Manning versus Brady,” it was Peyton Manning and the Broncos emerging victorious over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Manning completed 17 passes for 176 yards and threw two touchdowns, both to tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and a 12-yard TD pass in the second quarter, and those were his only two receptions of the game. Daniels tied the NFL postseason record for receptions in a game, all of which went for scores, last done by the Colts’ LaVon Brazill, also against the Patriots, in the 2013 playoffs.

Daniels is the fourth player to catch two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in a playoff game. The previous three did so for the Colts against the Broncos: Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley in the 2003 playoffs and Reggie Wayne a year later.

Rare struggles for Patriots’ offense

Though a late touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski made the final score close, it was a day-long struggle for the Patriots on offense. Brady completed 27 of 56 passes, marking the first time in his professional career that he completed fewer than half of his passes in a postseason game. The 29 incomplete passes on Sunday were also a career-high for Brady in a postseason game.

The Patriots as a team converted two of 15 third-down attempts, good for just 13.3 percent. That’s New England’s lowest third-down percentage in a postseason game under Bill Belichick. The last time the Patriots converted a lower percentage of third downs in a postseason game was Super Bowl XX – New England lost to the Bears, 46-10, and were 1-for-10 (10%) on third downs.

Panthers pound Cardinals in NFC Championship

The Panthers are headed to Super Bowl 50 after overwhelming the Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC Championship Game. The 49 points by Carolina are the second-most scored by a team that clinched a berth in the Super Bowl – the Bills scored 51 points in the AFC Championship Game in January 1991 against the Raiders. The Panthers, who forced seven turnovers in their blowout victory, are the second team in the last 20 postseasons to score at least 49 points and record seven or more takeaways in a postseason game. The other team to accomplish that feat in that span is the Jaguars, who racked up 62 points and forced seven turnovers in their divisional round victory over the Dolphins in January 2000.

nullSuperman Cam is clutch for Carolina

Cam Newton put up an MVP-like performance in the Panthers’ victory, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores. Newton is the fourth quarterback to total multiple touchdown passes and touchdown rushes in a single postseason game. Otto Graham had two such games for the Browns in back-to-back NFL Championships (1954 and 1955). The other two players to do so prior to Newton were Jay Cutler (Jan. 2011 against the Seahawks) and Colin Kaepernick (Jan. 2013 versus the Packers).

nullPalmer ties ignominious record in loss

Carson Palmer struggled against the mighty Panthers defense, throwing four interceptions and losing a pair of fumbles. Palmer’s six turnovers are tied for the most turnovers by a player in a postseason game. The last player to turn the ball over six times in a postseason game also did so in a Panthers-Cardinals matchup – Jake Delhomme had five interceptions and lost a fumble for Carolina in January 2009 against Arizona.

A first look at Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers

LAS VEGAS – The Carolina Panthers will go to San Francisco favored by more than a field goal to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Oddsmakers didn’t even wait until the Panthers finished off the Arizona Cardinals to install them as favorites for the game against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7. At most books, the Panthers were a 4-point pick, though the early line varied, with the over/under settling in at 45.

Five Quick Hits

* I wish there had been more time in between games on Sunday. The nail-biter in Denver ended minutes before kickoff in Carolina, and if the game had gone into overtime, that creates a conflict for viewers.

* Even if you DVR the NFC Championship Game while you watch the end of the AFC Championship Game, good luck avoiding the scroll at your bottom of your screen, telling you that it’s 17-0 Carolina before you’ve even switched over. There should be a hour, minimum, between the conference championship games. Probably one and a half. I’d rather watch a pre-game show for 15 minutes than miss the first drive of the NFC Championship Game.

* Anyone else catch Rob Gronkowski complaining to the back judge near the end of the early game? He mimed that the Broncos had basically attempted to murder him, on a play that rightfully drew no penalties. Hey Gronk, there’s another sport where crying and faking does draw penalties. It’s called soccer. Either sign with the New England Revolution, or grow up.

* Cam Newton is an all-pro QB and league MVP, and he played great on Sunday. But I’ve never seen a quarterback so willing to throw a 4-yard pass on 3rd-and-10.

* Congratulations to this year’s finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award: Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Ben Watson. Boldin is the favorite. This is the second year in a row he’s been a finalist. Thomas Davis, who won last season, had also been a finalist for the second year in a row.

* Get an early look at the 2016 Super Bowl commercials.

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The Ghost of Christmas Future

Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Santa Clara, California
February 7, 2015

For the third year in a row, the top seeds from both conferences will meet in the Super Bowl. But this result wasn’t as likely as that stat would imply. The hottest teams coming into the playoffs were the Chiefs (on a 10-game win streak), the Cardinals (who lost a 9-game streak with a half-hearted Week 17), and the Seahawks (whose last four wins came by a combined 139-32). The Panthers had a tough road to the big game, and the Broncos just didn’t look particularly intimidating at the end of the regular season.

This is the first Super Bowl for both head coaches, though both have been to Super Bowls in other capacities. The Broncos’ Gary Kubiak becomes the seventh head coach to make a Super Bowl in his first year with the team, joining Don McCafferty, Red Miller, George Seifert, Bill Callahan, Jon Gruden, and Jim Caldwell. Additionally, Peyton Manning will become the oldest QB to start a Super Bowl, breaking the record held by his employer, John Elway.

CAROLINA ON OFFENSE

Denver has a great defense, but this is a bad matchup. The Broncos thrive on pressure, but Cam Newton’s running ability means he can evade pass rushers, and he’ll run through openings if you leave them. The Broncos will get some sacks, but their pressure won’t have the same effect it did against the Patriots. Denver’s pass defense is better than its rush defense, and Carolina is one of the most balanced offenses in the league, with a good ground game. New England prefers to throw, which played to Denver’s strength, but if Mike Shula is smart, I’d expect the Panthers to run about 50% of the time, more if they get a big lead. I’d also look for some sort of trick play to break things open.

The Broncos need to contain the rush, while preventing big plays downfield: make Newton throw short and intermediate passes, string together long drives. He’s capable of that, but the Broncos can’t get run over on the ground, or killed on sudden, momentum-generating big-play strikes. The Broncos have won with their defense all year, and they’ll need a low-scoring game if they’re going to win, so giving up a 50-yard TD would be devastating. Force the Panthers to work the ball down the field, preferably through the air, and hope you can force a couple of turnovers.

DENVER ON OFFENSE

This still seems weird to say about a Peyton Manning offense, but the Broncos are best when their offense is smart and conservative, with an emphasis on ball control. You expect to see what the team has shown its last few games. They’ll stick with the run, mostly grinding out short gains to keep the defense honest, and probably break a long one at some point. Manning has to take a few shots downfield, but his role is more to find the right plays and pick up first downs on 3rd-and-6. The priority is avoiding turnovers. The Broncos aren’t going to win a shootout, and they’re not expecting to win with explosive offense; they want big plays from their defense.

Carolina’s priority is probably to prevent Denver from establishing its run game and getting into a rhythm. Don’t make mistakes, and force Manning to win with his arm. The Panthers are effective ballhawks, as we saw in the NFC Championship Game, but they probably don’t need to force turnovers as long as they’re solid throughout the game. They need to be creative enough that Manning doesn’t pick them apart with his calls at the line, but they don’t need to be aggressive, exactly. Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman are terrific players, but Carolina’s most important defender in this game might be Kawann Short. Manning can’t overcome a good interior pass rush.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This might be a small advantage for Denver, which has a slightly better kicker, slightly better punter, and a more consistent return game. For the Broncos to win, they’ll probably need an edge from special teams: a big return or a blocked kick or something.

THE FORECAST

The three best teams in the NFL this year were all in the NFC: the Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks. The Panthers have already beaten the other two, pretty handily, and they’re 4-point favorites to win Super Bowl 50. Denver has a great defense, though, and you should never underestimate great defensive teams in a championship. The Broncos were in the Super Bowl two years ago, so they have Super Bowl experience, which the Panthers do not – not that it matters a damn. And it’s widely assumed that this will be Manning’s last game. I hate to imply that players don’t always perform at their peak, especially in a game of this magnitude, but sometimes you see a little more when emotions are running high. Who’s to say the Broncos don’t find something extra to help the Sheriff ride off into the sunset?

All the intangibles point in Denver’s direction. But the Panthers are a better team. They have a good defense, too, as their seven takeaways against Arizona would attest, and they have an offense that scores more points. Their ground game plays away from Denver’s strengths, and interior defensive pressure could radically disrupt Manning’s gameplan.

Source: Sports Central NFL – Super Bowl 50 Preview

Peyton Manning responds to HGH allegations; #NFL Week 16 upsets – MMQB with Peter King

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A strange weekend of football

The 10 stories that hit me over the head Sunday:

There’s one head-to-head division title game in Week 17, and it will be game 256. Minnesota (10-5) at Green Bay (10-5) was flexed to the Sunday night game next week, meaning the last game of the regular season will be a second straight frigid Sunday night game in the Great North. Forecast for Green Bay next Sunday: no snow, wind chill of about 10 degrees. But will the friendly confines help? Green Bay, trying for its fifth straight NFC North title, is 4-5 since Halloween (and would be 3-6 if not for Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary of all Hail Marys on Dec. 3 at Detroit). Incredible to think the team that started 6-0 with visions of home-field through the playoffs is now one loss away from traveling to Washington to play a wild-card game in two weeks. “We will bounce back,” said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. “That’s the way we are wired.” Perhaps. But the Packers haven’t looked like the Packers since September, and it’s too late to think McCarthy can just flip a switch and life will return to normal.

Pittsburgh? Really? My Pittsburgh friends shrieked “Tomlin must go” after Sunday’s totally embarrassing 20-17 loss at Baltimore, which made Pittsburgh’s playoff chances sub-50 percent. For the Steelers to make the postseason, they’d need to beat the Browns Sunday while Rex Ryan beats the Jets … or while Denver loses Monday night to the Bengals and next week to the Chargers, both games at home. Who knows? Rex would trade five years off his life to keep the Jets from the playoffs, so we shall see. But the Steelers were my fifth-ranked team last week, and to see them dominated by first-time Ravens starter Ryan Mallett was a stunner. The Steelers forgot this was a rivalry game, and Ben Roethlisberger was surprisingly mediocre, with his second touchdown-less game in the last three weeks.

Pop the corks, Dolphins. For the 43rd straight season, there won’t be a perfect NFL team. Formerly 14-0 Carolina is now 14-1 Carolina. This one felt different for the ’72 Dolphins, though, because coach Don Shula’s son Mike is the Carolina offensive coordinator, and Mike Shula said his dad wanted Carolina to be unbeaten more than he (Mike) did. But Carolina was flawed for the second straight week. Last week they gave up a 28-point lead to the Giants before pulling out a late win; this week they were flat, and Cam Newton played his first average game in a while. Carolina could still lose home-field in the NFC with a loss to Tampa Bay and a Cardinals win over the Seahawks on Sunday.

Did Cam open the MVP door a bit for Carson Palmer? I discuss below, but it’s not impossible.

There’s a difference in the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. It’s called offense.Against the best team in the AFC on Sunday, New York rushed for 143 yards, threw three touchdown passes, protected the quarterback serviceably against a good Patriots pass rush, and drove 80 yards to start overtime after New England coach Bill Belichick chose to begin OT by giving the ball to the Jets. In all, the only thing that could have made the day better for the Jets would have been Rex Ryan losing.

LaAdrian Waddle—yes, that LaAdrian Waddle—could all of a sudden be a key player for the Patriots. Waddle, waived by the Lions and picked up by New England two weeks ago, became the fifth left tackle for the Patriots in 15 games Sunday when Sebastian Vollmer went out against the Jets with an ankle sprain. New England is the black hole of injury reporting, so no one knows how bad Vollmer is … and then Waddle went out with what appeared to be shoulder or neck injury. Cameron Fleming finished the game on the left side. Waddle and Fleming combined to give up five pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, and Tom Brady was pressured, sacked or hit 17 times against the Jets. Seemed like more……(continue reading)

Source: Peyton Manning responds to HGH allegations; NFL Week 16 upsets | The MMQB with Peter King

What You Need To Know For #TNF & 4 More Things

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1.

By the Time I Get To Arizona…

 

The Vikes are missing 4 guys on D.  Anyone else think this could get ugly in a hurry in the desert?  If it was in the cold blanket of the outdoors of Minnesota, maybe…Sure A.P. is whining that he’s not getting the ball enough and the last time he did that he went off – this is the matchup tonight – Adrian Peterson, child-abuser versus the front 7 of Arizona.  For me, the issue is not so much that matchup, it’s can the Vikes score enough points regardless what A.P. does.

When Carson Palmer starts, the Cardinals as home favorites are 9-3-1 against-the-spread, but All-time, touchdown or greater underdogs against the Cardinals are 20-10-1 against-the-spread – so something has to give.  DC*3PO says the Cards win by only 4 so to take the Vikes – make mine the Cards, as they are the better team and Minnesota struggles against good teams – in fact John Beckwith made a bet that Minnesota would not beat another team whose record is above .500 – so far they have not.

Guys to watch on #DraftKings for Tonight’s game, according to DC*3PO

  • Carson Palmer $6,500 – 19.8 – 66.6%
  • Adrian Peterson $6,900 – 15.4 – 40.9%
  • Larry Fitzgerald $7,400 – 15.3 – 57.7%
  • Teddy Bridgewater $5,100 – 13.5 – 45.4%
  • John Brown $4,500 – 13 – 51.1%

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, during a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 6.

2.

Can The Seahawks Get Back To The Super Bowl?

The Seattle Seahawks came into 2015 as championship favorites, having put up one of the best two-year runs in NFL history, with a bid for back-to-back titles undone by one of the most shocking twist endings in Super Bowl history. But things went downhill in a hurry. Seattle lost four of its first six games; then won two in a row, against the foundering 49ers and Cowboys; and in Week 10 dropped a crucial home game against the Cardinals that effectively killed any chance of a third consecutive NFC West crown. It was mid-November and the Seahawks were unlikely to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl.

Source: Can The Seahawks Get Back To The Super Bowl?


 

3.

Last One Out of the Circus…

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich fired another shot from long range Wednesday night as he continued to voice his displeasure over 3-point shots.

“I still hate it,” Popovich told reporters before the Spurs’ 97-94 loss to theToronto Raptors. “I’ll never embrace it. I don’t think it’s basketball. I think it’s kind of like a circus sort of thing. Why don’t we have a 5-point shot? A 7-point shot? You know, where does it stop, that sort of thing.

“But that’s just me, that’s just old-school. To a certain degree, you better embrace it or you’re going to lose. And every time we’ve won a championship, the 3-point shot was a big part of it. Because……(continue reading)

Source: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says 3-pointer is ‘like a circus sort of thing’


4.

Day 3 and Counting…

The great thing about the Winter Meetings is that every club is involved. No matter who you root for, there is going to be a rumor or two tied to your team every day of the proceedings. With that in mind, here’s a look at the most intriguing rumors attached to each club, as of Wednesday night.

Source: Winter Meetings rumors roundup of all 30 teams | MLB.com


5.

Now We Are Just Finding Reasons?

As a player with the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots, Rodney Harrison thrived off every slight, real or simply perceived.

It seems Harrision may have a kindred spirit in Carolina Panthers’ cornerback Josh Norman.

On Sunday night, Harrison, now an NBC commentator, said on “Football Night in America” that the 7-5 Seahawks are more dangerous than the undefeated Panthers. On Wednesday, appearing on “ProFootballTalk,” Harrison gave the edge to Falcons’ receiver Julio Jones in his matchup with Norman this Sunday.

A Carolina fan tweeted that first Harrison “said the Seahawks are better than the Panthers, now he’s calling out” Norman, and wondered what’s wrong with Harrison while giving the link to Harrison’s ProFootballTalk appearance.……(continue reading)

Source: Panthers’ Josh Norman says NBC’s Rodney Harrison ‘horrible at his job’

9 Things To Know – #NFL Weekend Update

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1. Calvin and the Lions

Detroit survived a pair of missed extra points in an 18-16 victory at Green Bay, and a huge mistake from Calvin Johnson. The Lions’ streak of 20 consecutive regular-season losses at Lambeau Field, which began 20 years and one month earlier, was the longest in NFL history by any team at any stadium.

Of course, Green Bay’s dominance at home had extended well beyond its games against Detroit, particularly with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback against struggling teams. Rodgers had won 21 consecutive home games against opponents with a losing record at the time of kickoff, dating back to 2009.

Ironically, Matt Prater, who missed two extra-point conversions for the Lions on Sunday, finished the day as something of a hero, having kicked field goals of 49 and 51 yards in Detroit’s two-point victory. Prater was the first player in NFL history to miss two extra points but kick two field goals of 40 yards or longer in the same game. Only one other player kicked two FGs of 49 yards or longer in the same game at Lambeau Field: longtime Lions kicker Jason Hanson in 2010.

2. What’s Wrong With Aaron?

The Packers have lost three in a row. The good news is that the team built up some margin for error with a 6-0 start. But, that is mostly eroded now, and they need to start playing better immediately for this season to be a meaningful one. Though Green Bay had a chance to steal Sunday’s game against Detroit, a win may have masked some structural deficiencies. Right now, this is an average football team, or worse. Here’s hoping that the team is more aware that major adjustments are necessary than they are letting on publicly……(continue reading)

3. Sunday Was a Bad Day To Be a QB

The NFL’s Week 10 schedule featured some quarterback performances we’d all like to forget about.

Some of the worst showings from the league’s leading men were put forth by the usual suspects, while others were definite surprises.

This upcoming list would be even longer if not for some outstanding late-game efforts by a couple of superstars who pulled themselves and their teams up by the bootstraps after sub-par outings, saving the best for last.

The following quarterbacks would love to have a do-over after poor showings in Week 10……(continue reading)

4. OBJ and the Giants Can’t Close Out The Champs

You can debate all you want whether Odell Beckham Jr. technically “caught” a potential game-winning touchdown Sunday, but he knows there should never have even been any doubt.

The New York Giants wide receiver came close to snagging a go-ahead score with 2:02 remaining and the Giants trailing the New England Patriots 24-23. The superstar wideout had the ball in his grasp and came down in the endzone before Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler knocked the ball loose. The play was reviewed and it was ruled Beckham didn’t complete the catch……(continue reading)

5. All-Day and the Best of Sunday

Week 10 of the NFL season saw Peyton Manning break another passing record, the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers improve to 9-0 and the Detroit Lions win a game in the state of Wisconsin for the first time in almost a quarter century.

Sunday also saw Manning benched during the worst game of his career, the Lions nearly choke away said win and a couple of disastrous defensive performances.

Here is the rest of the best and worst from the NFL’s tenth week……(continue reading)

6. Edelman Broken Foot

Tom Brady looked a little downtrodden when he took the podium after the New England Patriots’ dramatic last-second win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

It seemed a little peculiar to see Brady at anything less than elated given the nature of the incredible comeback victory. But there was good reason for Brady’s lack of exuberance. One, of course, was just straight fatigue, both physical and emotional.

The other reason was Julian Edelman.

The Patriots lost Edelman in the first half……(continue reading)

7. It’s Never Been This Good For The Cardinals

During the “Sunday Night Football” broadcast of the Arizona Cardinals’ wild, breakthrough 39-32 road win over the Seattle Seahawks, television analyst Cris Collinsworth paused for a moment to reflect on what he was seeing. “When you’ve thought about the Arizona Cardinals over the years, you can describe it in one word: Futility.”

You’re telling me, pal.

In my 30-or-so years of being a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, there have been three periods of success. I don’t mean periods of sustained success; there has been no sustained success. I mean one-or-two-year stretches where it has been not been actively……(continue reading)

GettyImages-4972971228. Worst Penalty Ever

The 2015 Baltimore Ravens have shown an incredible knack for losing close games. To be sure, all nine of their games have been decided by one score, yet the team is now essentially finished with a 2-7 record.

How does this happen? The end of Baltimore’s 22-20 loss to the Jaguars Sunday is a good example. Baltimore had the game won when Jags quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked on the Jacksonville half of the field when time expired. The only problem: Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was flagged for a facemask penalty to extend the game by one untimed down……(continue reading)

9. The Rest Of It All

+ Six Super Bowl-winning QBs go down, an NFL firstnull

For the first time in NFL history, six quarterbacks who had previously started and won a Super Bowl lost on the same day: Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning,Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. The previous high on one day was four.

The most shocking performance among those six losing QBs was by Peyton Manning, who completed only five of 20 passes and was intercepted four times in the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs. Manning was the first player in 29 years to throw as many as four interceptions and complete five or fewer passes in the same game. The last quarterback to do so was Warren Moon with the Houston Oilers in 1986 (5-for-23 with 4 INTs against the Browns).

+ Hurns extends his scoring streaknull

Allen Hurns opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown reception in the Jaguars’ 22-20 victory at Baltimore. Hurns has now caught a TD pass in each of his last seven games. It is not certain that Jacksonville (3-6) will finish the season with a losing record. But it’s worth noting that only four players in NFL history caught TD passes in seven straight games for a team that finished the season with more losses than wins: Buddy Dial for the 1960 Steelers (an 8-game streak), Carl Pickens for the 1995 Bengals (7), Santana Moss for the 2003 Jets (7), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the 2007 Bengals (8).

+ Cutler and Langford star in Bears’ big winnull

Jeremy Langford scored two touchdowns, including one on an 83-yard screen pass, in the Bears’ 37-13 win at St. Louis. It was the longest TD reception by a Bears rookie since 1991, when Anthony Morgan scored on an 84-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh.

Of course, we may have buried the lead, since Langford’s TD reception wasn’t evenJay Cutler’s longest touchdown pass in the game. Cutler threw a short pass thatZach Miller turned into an 87-yard score. In 89 previous games with the Bears, Cutler had thrown only one TD pass of 70 yards or longer (89 yards to Matt Forte in 2010).

Weekend Update: #SadFansAreSad

#1 with a Bullet…

 

Oh the humanity…Bert, you got waxed again – remember when you opened your mouth at a Texas football camp and said; if you didnt have a fullback you would get your ass kicked?  Well Pepperidge Farms remembers and apparently so did Kingsbury.  All the offseason hype, all the faux-swagger and next week is Texas A&M – you’ve got Hawg-Town losing their minds.  Bert, you know it’s bad when the people of Hawg-nation are calling for Greg Schiano, Lame Kitten, or just outright cheating.  It’s gotta sting the nostrils a bit.  Sure, fans will get over ranking 118th in 3rd-down conversion-defense, or ranking 84th in penalty yards and even 119th in RedZone efficiency – but having Kliff Kingsbury put you in your place?  These are Dark Days Bert, dark days…


Dark Days ahead for Auburn too.  This is who Auburn is.  They just don’t go quietly into the night, they fall off the cliff.  It’s in their DNA.  Their history proves it, and when a defensive back spouts off about how easy it will be to stop Leonard Fournette…well we all saw what happened.  Fournette had Auburn quitting before halftime, especially Mr. Ford – the mouthee.   But, to me, the issue is Jeremy Johnson.  He had a lot of hype coming in and the expectation was that he would do and be everything we’ve come to expect from the field-general of Auburn’s offense.  He has the talent, just not the heart or more importantly the head to get it done, because it is not translating to the field in real time.  Seriously though, it’s Auburn and it was a great weekend for those who dislike the entire state of Alabama.


More sad fans were found in SoCal.  Beyond Sark’s pre-game holla-ba-looza earlier in the year, the only thing people really had to say about him was – He’s a nice guy.  I’m sure he is a nice guy and that is honorable, but when it is attached to a football coach that is getting treatment for a drinking problem, he says he doesn’t have and then Stanford happens, you get flashbacks.  The kind of flashbacks that take you back to Seattle where Sark was 34-29 and the thought was, “it was hard to breakthrough in Washington, and wait and see what he can do with national-elite talent.”  Well we did. Talent is important, but it’s what you do with it, and so far and far too often, Sarkisian is outmatched by the other guy on the other side-line.  It’s going to get harder for “the Fans of Troy” to believe this is going to work as envisioned, because, as of right now –  it’s not the symbol of victory that fans are giving, it’s the number of losses every year.


But what about Ole Miss and Alabama? The Rebels caused five turnovers Saturday and also benefited from a once-in-a-lifetime—see Auburn in bamasad2013—miracle touchdown in a six-point win in Tuscaloosa.  Alabama is going too have to, again, win out.  But is it the same as last year? Last year, Alabama had a defined starting quarterback. Saturday, Nick Saban went with sophomore Cooper Bateman (who got blown up) before he was replaced by Jake Coker – who had started Alabama’s first two games. Coker almost led Alabama to it’s best come-from-behind victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium since the one Cam Newton led in 2010.  This is a fluke they say, the dynasty is still intact, the emperor’s new clothes are still made from the finest invisible silks…To quote our friend Lee Corso – NOT SO FAST…Alabama is 4-5 against top 15 teams since 2013.  That’s a trend, not a fluke, and what I’m saying is – gone are the days that Alabama beats teams with comparable talent more often than not.  Back in the day, Alabama fans would be upset if you beat someone by 10pts instead of 20 and after they’d come back down to earth, they’d be on to the next week.  Now the freakouts seem longer and that might cause Saban to see the writing on the wall and pack up.

For week 3 we were 72% SU and 64% ATS – that still crushes, but it is not what we are used to around here – our upsets did pretty well, but the ones we thought would be E-Z, hmmm not so much as we’d like.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look at how Memphis tied the game at 41 in the 4th qtr against Bowling Green – yeah a full-on double-reverse-flea flicker!!!

Other thoughts I cannot put anywhere else:

  • Notre Dame has lost a starting defensive tackle, a starting tailback, a starting tight end and a starting quarterback to season-ending injuries. Saturday, it may have lost a starting safety to a chest-bump-celebration
  • TCU lost their cornerback to a knee injury against SMU and also had 5 other defensive players sit out with injuries
  • Doing his best Johnny Manziel impression – OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, accounted for a school-record 572 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in the Sooners’ 52-38 win over Tulsa
  • Al Golden escaped with a much needed victory over Nebraska, but it still does not seem to haved cooled off his seat any.  During the game you could see a plane pulling a banner that read: C’MON #FIREGOLDEN. THESE BANNERS ARE EXPENSIVE – nevermind the Hurricanes were up 17 by halftime.  Maybe he felt vindicated after watching Miami choke away a 23pt lead, yet still won 36-33 in OT
  • For Nebraska, it could have been one of the great comebacks in their history – then Tommy Armstrong threw an interception on the 1st play of OT, and then a player gets flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he shoved the Miami guy who intercepted it – Miami, short field goal – ball game.  It’s a heart-breaking way to lose a game, and yet it has happened to Nebraska twice in three weeks.

It’s all about the Benjamin

Some headlines will highlight Johnny Manziel‘s role in the Browns’ 28-14 win over the Titans. But the star of the show was Travis Benjamin, who caught touchdown passes of 60 and 50 yards from Manziel and returned a punt 78 yards for a TD. The only other active players to have scored three TDs of 50 yards or longer in one game were Chris Johnson (2009) and Tavon Austin (2013). Benjamin was the first Browns player ever to do so – ever.

Benjamin also caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Manziel in the Browns’ season opener. The only other player in NFL history with four touchdowns of 50 yards or longer in his team’s first two games of a season was Jim Brown for Cleveland in 1963 – 1963!

Manziel may have completed just 8-of-15 passes, but he was able to limit the turnovers and make plays when the Browns needed him the most.  In reality, there is absolutely no reason for Mike Pettine to go back to a lower-ceiling quarterback in Josh McCown.  As a result of Manziel replacing McCown, Cleveland extended its streak to 14 consecutive seasons in which at least two different players started a game at QB. That tied the longest such streak in the NFL since 1950, set by New England from 1980 to 1993. The Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe with the first pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, and Bledsoe ended New England’s streak in 1994.


Are the Cardinals early Favorites?

Fresh off a solid win against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, Bruce Arians and the Cardinals laid the smack down against an inferior Bears team in Chicago. While the game was relatively close about halfway through, anyone watching it knew full well that Arizona was going to end up pulling away.

For Carson Palmer, it was a continuation of what has been a stellar run for a USC quarterback. The veteran has posted a 15-2 record with 34 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions. His four touchdowns on Sunday – including three to Larry Fitzgerald – represents the first time Palmer has matched that total since he was with the Oakland Raiders back in November of 2012.  That was the first regular-season game of Fitzgerald’s NFL career in which he scored more than two touchdowns; he came into the game with 89 TDs.

Only one player in league history with that many touchdowns never scored three in a game: Charley Taylor (90 TDs) – (Note that Fitzgerald caught three touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game following the 2008 season, but never before in a regular-season game.)


New Rams, same as the old Rams

All the good feelings the St. Louis Rams may have felt following their Week 1 win over the Seattle Seahawks came crashing down in D.C. on Sunday. Never really in control of the game against Washington, St. Louis dropped an ugly game by the score of 24-10. At this point, we have come to expect Fisher-led squads to lay eggs following good performances.

It happened in all three of the Rams big wins last year — against Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. In fact, the Rams lost the following week after beating those favored teams. This is one of the primary reasons I avoided to pick St. Louis on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins completed 23 of 27 passes (85%) and Matt Jones gained 123 yards on 19 carries in the Redskins’ 24-10 win over the Rams. Jones and Alfred Morris, who gained 121 yards on Week 1, are the first Redskins teammates to rush for at least 100 yards in the team’s first and second game of a season (one in each game, that is). The only other running backs to do that in this century were LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner for San Diego in 2006.

For his part, Cousins posted the fourth-highest completion percentage in team history (minimum: 20 passes). The three higher marks were by Mark Brunell, 89 percent against Houston in 2006; Patrick Ramsey (Tulane), 86 percent against the Giants in 2004; and Sammy Baugh, 86 percent against the Steelers in 1945.


New England is putting the league on notice

Tom Brady passed for 466 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 40-32 win at Buffalo. Brady’s totals after two games-754 yards and 7 TDs without an INT-are rare even for a quarterback of his elite status. This is the second time he has passed for at least 700 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two games of season, the first being 2011. Only four other players did that even once: Jim Kelly (1991), Drew Bledsoe for the Patriots (1994), Peyton Manning (2013), and Aaron Rodgers (2013). Of those players, only Manning and Brady did so without throwing an interception.

Incidentally, Brady set a record for passing yards in one game against the Bills, breaking a mark that was set the same month that Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home-run record. On October 29, 1961, George Blanda of the Houston Oilers passed for 464 yards at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, and that mark remained the highest against the Bills until Sunday.

At some point, the Patriots will have to find a run/pass balance on offense – right?. They won’t be able to dominate like this through the air on a consistent basis – can they? The interesting dynamic here is that New England did average nearly four yards per rush. It’s not like the running game was completely ineffective.  Instead, Bill Belichick and Co. decided to make a statement, again, that the big boys of the East don’t reside in Western New York and play under Rex Ryan.  It could be a long year for anyone who gets in their way.


The Eagles are mess

About halfway through three quarters on Sunday against Dallas, the Eagles had racked up more penalty yards than total yards. Heck, the Cowboys domination could be summed up by the fact that they had run more plays (44) – at about the nine-minute mark in the third quarter – than the Eagles had total yards (34). It was that ugly.

The Cowboys defeated the Eagles, 20-10, in a game in which the story was Tony Romo‘s broken collarbone.  But storyline 1-A was the continued ineffectiveness of DeMarco Murray, who netted two yards on 13 carries one week after gaining nine yards on eight carries in Philadelphia’s season opener.  Over the last 30 seasons, there are only four games in which a defending rushing champion gained less than 10 yards on at least five carries. Christian Okoye did it in 1990, Chris Johnson in 2010, and Murray in each of his first two games with the Eagles.

Murray’s net of 2 yards was the third lowest in NFL history by a defending rushing champion in a game of at least 10 carries. Steve Van Buren of the Eagles was held to negative-2 yards on 10 carries by the Browns in 1950; and Clem Daniels, the 1963 AFL rushing leader, carried 14 times for negative-1 yard against the Boston Patriots in the Raiders’ opening game of the 1964 season.  But Murray’s performance on Sunday was extraordinary for any player, not just for a rushing champion. Over the last 37 seasons, only one other player finished a game with at least as many carries and as few rushing yards as Murray. Jonathan Wells of the Texans carried 13 times for 1 yard on Dec. 29, 2002 against the Titans.

It’s this type of offensive performance that will have many questioning Chip Kelly’s scheme moving forward. More than that, it will have skeptics on full alert when it comes to criticizing the team’s off-season moves. And now at 0-2 on the season, Philadelphia finds itself in a must-win situation against the New York Jets next week.


6 straight home losses?!

At 0-2 on the season (2nd straight year), Drew Brees and Co. are in a terrible position. Only 10 percent of teams that have started 0-2 since the 2007 season have earned a playoff spot. And while playing in the NFC South helps New Orleans early in the year, they just lost a home game against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that won just two games last season.  Costing many people their survivor pool!!!

Jameis Winston led the Buccaneers to a 26-19 win at New Orleans. Winston became the first quarterback chosen first in the NFL Draft to get a September road win in his rookie season since John Elway did so in 1983.  Of course, Elway’s two road wins in September 1983 have a big fat asterisk, since Steve DeBerg was the QB who rallied the Broncos to both of those victories.

Since that time, #1 picks had lost 16 straight September starts in their rookie season, and it’s an impressive list of QBs: two losses each by Troy Aikman, Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning, Tim Couch, and David Carr, followed by single losses by Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck.

There isn’t much left up for interpretation here. New Orleans appears to be terrible.

Looking well past his prime, Brees was outplayed by Jameis.  Drew completed 24-of-38 passes for 255 yards with one touchdown and one interception. This came on the heels of Tampa Bay’s defense yielding FOUR touchdown passes to Marcus Mariota last week.

If the Saints can’t win a home game against a bottom-feeder, it pretty much tells us what we need to know about this team. Unfortunately for Brees, the twilight of his career is likely going to be spent with fans watching him thru paper-bags.