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NFL POWER 32 – 2017 FINAL

Better late than never! I purposely waited until now to allow myself the time to actually reflect on the season. It will probably result in nothing much different than what I would have said the minute Philadelphia walked off the field with their first Lombardi Trophy, but even with that said, I think it’s always interested to see how time can change perceptions of what happened. A little distance helps with clarity.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope The Eagles did it! Doug Pederson & Nick Foles were able to do what Dick Vermeil/Ron Jaworski and Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb weren’t. Namely to give Philadelphia their first Super Bowl championship! The Eagles did an outstanding job even with losing QB Carson Wentz. There wasn’t a real weakness to this team as even corners did a decent job holding up. Doug Pederson at this point might be the 2nd best head coach behind Bill Belichick. What I liked the best about the Super Bowl was that Pederson ALWAYS played to win! That’s how to do it!
#2 Computer Hope I know the expectations in New England at this point is Super Bowl win or failure, but the Patriots got to their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years, something they’ve only done once before. It was also the 8th Super Bowl in the Tom Brady & Bill Belichick era which has NEVER been done. I think the Patriots defense & in ability to force turnovers finally caught up to them with giving up 41 to the Eagles, but it’s nit picking. At this point you wonder when Father Time will catch up with Brady & how much longer Gronkowski plays. Age is always an issue but 2017 was a great season.
#3 Computer Hope The 38-7 whipping at the hands of the Eagles in the NFC Championship game certainly leaves a sour taste in any Vikings fan’s mouth, but this was a solid season for the Vikings finishing the year at 13-3 & the #2 seed in the NFC. The last time Minnesota played in the NFC championship game was in 2009 when Brett Favre was still gunslinging! It’s worth to note that the Vikings did this without Sam Bradford & Dalvin Cook. In the big picture this is a massive success but it underlies the potential limitations of both Mike Zimmer as a HC and Case Keenum as a QB. Tough ending.
#4 Computer Hope What is going to stick out most about the 2017 Saints is the play that looked like Marcus Williams seemingly whiffed on which led to Stefon Diggs going 61 yards to give the Vikings a 29-24 win over New Orleans, propelling Minnesota to the NFC championship game. That’s tough! I thought Williams had to pull up there because if he didn’t it would have been an easy pass interference. In retrospect I think the Saints would have rather had the penalty! At the end of the day this was a great season & surpassed expectations. Like Minny & Philly, this team had no weaknesses.
#5 Computer Hope Pittsburgh spotted Jacksonville 21 points in the AFC Championship game early & it was too much to overcome as the Steelers fell 45-42. From an offense, defense, special teams aspect, there was no better team in the AFC than the Steelers & they did finish 13-3. The defense fell to pieces but the offense hummed along with Ben/Bell/Bryant while the young players on defense stepped up. Sadly I’m not sure how much longer Pittsburgh’s window is open. Big Ben might very well walk out the door when Le’Veon Bell does & I’m not sure Mike Tomlin is a great head coach.
#6 Computer Hope From a metric standpoint the Rams might have been the best team in the NFL in 2017. Simply writing that sentence is crazy which goes to how amazing this season was for the Rams in their 2nd year back in Los Angeles! Losing to Atlanta in the wild card round wasn’t the storybook ending, but when you consider Todd Gurley firmly established himself as the best RB in the NFL while Jared Goff looked the part of a #1 overall pick, Rams fans could not be happier with how the 2017 season finished. Sean McVay proved to be outstanding & this is a Super Bowl contender in ’18.
#7 Computer Hope I think Carolina deserves to be this high. They finished 7-2 in their last 9 regular season games. Losing to the Saints in the Wild Card round in New Orleans is simply a bad draw. The defense is championship ready, but what hurts the Panthers is Cam Newton. I’ve written about this before, but Newton at this point isn’t a championship level QB. Sure he can run, but he throws interceptions and his completion % is sub-60%. Those aren’t likely to improve. Newton is who Newton is. Carolina with their defense can win 10-12 games a season, but a Super Bowl? Maybe not.
#8 Computer Hope Atlanta could never really get anything going on a consistent basis during the 2017 NFL season yet managed to still finish 10-6, beat the Rams in the Wild Card and lead the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles 10-9 at the half of a divisional playoff game that they’d eventually lose 15-10. A lot was made about Steve Sarkisian’s inability to get the offense humming & rightly so, but another problem with Atlanta is that they didn’t get as many turnovers as a top notch team needs. Super Bowl losers usually have a rough go of it, but Atlanta did well & is primed for 2018.
#9 Computer Hope If you look at every position outside of QB, you can make a pretty compelling case the Jaguars were the best team in the NFL. I rank them 9th because when you look at how well this team played, it’s insane to think they finished only 10-6. The Jags put 45 on the Steelers & if Doug Marrone coached more like Doug Pederson, they would have beaten the Patriots & gotten to the Super Bowl. If Bortles can play like he did against NE & PIT for a full season, the only issue facing Jacksonville will be whether or not Marrone learned his lesson on coaching to win instead of not to lose.
#10 Computer Hope The story of the Chargers 2017 season is their 0-4 start where they were outscored on average by 5.3 points! LA would go 9-3 in their last 12 which was 3 games better than Kansas City who eventually won the West. Remember too that 3 of those 4 first games were home games! The Bolts are a good example of championship teams needing little things to go right. LA was 3-4 in close games. Losing Mike Williams & Forrest Lamp to injuries didn’t help. They played an extremely difficult schedule. I think LA gets to the Super Bowl if they make the playoffs. Hopefully it’s 2018!
#11 Computer Hope Statistically a very good team, but I almost feel like this is too high. The Ravens finished the season 9-7 and outside of the playoff picture despite having a top-5 defense & playing the 4th easiest schedule in the NFL. How in the world does that happen? Two of their 7 losses came at home to the Bears & Bengals by a combined 7 points! You simply have to beat the teams you should beat. It’s that simple. At this point I feel like it’s a John Harbaugh problem. He simply gives Joe Flacco too many opportunities to pass. Baltimore is best when Flacco is complimentary & not center stage.
#12 Computer Hope Kansas City started the season 4-0 and finished the season with 4 straight wins to give them a 10-6 record & keep them one game ahead of the Chargers. The Chiefs biggest accomplishment this season was beating the Chargers twice which ensured an AFC West title. Not having Tamba Hali & Eric Berry were big issues for KC all season long. This was a much better team before the beginning of the season & losing to the Titans in the Wild Card was embarrassing. It essentially cost Alex Smith his job, but what about Andy Reid? Reid is a winner no doubt, but not a champion.
#13 Computer Hope I don’t think dropping from 13-3 in 2016 to 9-7 in 2017 is what the Cowboys had in mind, but when you consider that Ezekiel Elliott was going to miss 6 games and Dak Prescott was going to regress quite a bit, it makes a certain amount of sense that the Cowboys wouldn’t fare as well. The problem Dallas had is how much the Eagles improved in year 2 of the Doug Pederson era. In 7.5 years of coaching the Cowboys, Jason Garrett is 1-2 in the playoffs. In his only 5 years Jimmy Johnson was 7-1 with 2 Lombardis. In Tom Landry’s first 8 years he was 1-2. Cut bait or patience?
#14 Computer Hope Detroit had a season similar to Kansas City. The Lions were 3-1 in their first 4 games and 3-1 in their final 4 games, but got sort of sloppy in the middle. Unlike KC, the Lions had to deal with a Vikings team that was outstanding which prevented them from backdooring their way into the playoffs. Detroit is still sort of stuck in the middle. They aren’t a bad football team, but they aren’t a very good to elite football team either. Their O-Line could get better. They need a better run game. They need to get tougher on the D-Line. Matt Stafford is entering his 10th season. Time?
#15 Computer Hope Whereas the Patriots make it look easy to transition from year to year and rebuild/retool on the fly & keep winning, the Seahawks are showing that the process that New England makes look simple is a lot harder in reality. It wasn’t a terrible season at 9-7, but the Seahawks of today are a far cry from the Seahawks of last week. What we are seeing now is a version that is not reliant upon a strong run game combined with an aging defense that isn’t as fast/good as it was a few years prior. Unfortunately for Seattle, it looks like the Rams, Cardinals & 49ers are primed now.
#16 Computer Hope Finishing 7-9 is never a good thing, but the Redskins might have been even worse. Washington was 4-1 in close games & did a great job forcing turnovers. If those two factors were moving in the opposite direction, Jay Gruden’s boys might have been closer to 4-12! I can’t really figure out what is going on here. Kirk Cousins isn’t Peyton Manning, but you’d think listening to the Redskins brass that he was the problem the O-Line was terrible, the interior D was awful & that they couldn’t generate any running attack. Jay Gruden might be the one that needs to exit the building.
#17 Computer Hope Tough to judge the Packers considering Aaron Rodgers missed 9 games. I think what really sticks out for me with Green Bay is that Jamaal Williams looked like a runner who could emerge as a playmaker for the Packers from the backfield while Davante Adams proved that 2016 wasn’t a fluke season & provided the Packers with a pro bowl caliber WR. Getting Rodgers back is key but also is getting 100% healthy hears from tackles David Bakhtiari & Bryan Bulaga. It’s no surprise that this team finished 7-9 with so many injuries & a painfully difficult schedule. They’ll rebound in ’18.
#18 Computer Hope The Cardinals squandered a championship caliber defense by playing with an offense that was arguably the worst in the NFL. It happens when  you don’t really have a starting QB and you lose a RB for the year the caliber of David Johnson. When Johnson went down, Cardinals fans had to know that Arizona was playing from behind significantly. The fact that this team still finished 8-8 is a testament to how good of a head coach Bruce Arians is & how well the defense played week in and week out. Lot of regime change coming, but getting a QB & remaining healthy is key.
#19 Computer Hope The 49ers might deserve to rank higher if you were only looking at the last 5 games of the season, but this ranking is for the season in its entirety. Yes San Francisco finished the season winning their last 5 games, but they also started the season 1-10! Jimmy Garoppolo is the right man for the job. He’s undefeated for crying out loud & I think Kyle Shanahan is going to do be a solid head coach as well. When you HC/QB combination is cemented, the organization is primed to take off. Garoppolo is going to lose a few games in 2018, but the future is very bright for the 49ers.
#20 Computer Hope A playoff team ranking #20 at the end of the year!? The Titans might have given pause to some doubters because they beat KC in the playoffs, but Andy Reid is a notorious loser come January so beating one of his teams is hardly cause for celebration. Tennessee essentially needed the Ravens & Chargers to fold up to get into the playoffs which is precisely what happened. This is a solid team with pretty good pieces, but I’m not sure it’s coached right. Whether it’s not letting Marcus Mariota play to his strengths or keeping the ball away from Derrick Henry, it feels all wrong.
#21 Computer Hope Mavin Lewis completed his 15th season as the Cincinnati Bengals head coach and he is still 0-7 in playoff appearances. It makes no sense. In 15 seasons, Lewis has averaged 8.3 wins per season & has yet to win a playoff game. How in the world does the guy have a job? Better still? He’s coming back for year #16! I don’t expect it to fare much better. The Bengals are a ship going nowhere with Andy Dalton & Lewis, and it’s worth keeping in mind that the Browns might not be so bad depending on how their QB situations pans out. Does Lewis finally get fired if Cincy finishes in last?
#22 Computer Hope The Raiders couldn’t pull out of losing streaks in 2017. In Weeks 3-6 they went 0-4. They did the same to finish the season. What shocked people the most about the Raiders is that there didn’t seem to be a reason for them to fall to 6-10 after going 12-4 in 2016. Ultimately what it comes down to is inches. Derek Carr was a little off from his 2016 form. Amari Cooper didn’t play that well. Mario Edwards wasn’t as effective. The Oakland safeties didn’t play as well. The Raiders didn’t much help from their corners or LBs either. It all added up to Jack Del Rio losing his job.
#23 Computer Hope You have to wonder how good of a HC Sean McDermott might be as he systematically got rid of every star player the Bills had and then had to rely on a QB he really didn’t want, yet still managed to guide the Bills to a 9-7 record & get into the playoffs! McDermott was looking for every way possible to get Nathan Peterman into football games & when he finally did, it was abysmal which forced McDermott to go back to Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is certainly not going to be around so Buffalo needs to figure out their QB situation, but I’m big on what McDermott could potentially achieve.
#24 Computer Hope Lot of offensive weapons for Jameis Winston, but no running game to speak of combined with a defense that was borderline atrocious meant a 5-11 finish the Bucs in a season some thought Tampa Bay might be ready to take the next step. The 5-11 record is a little harsh. TB was 3-7 in close games and was -1 in TO margin. Those numbers themselves point TB to a 6-10/7-9 record. Still last place in a crowded NFC South but better. The problem with Tampa is that Winston is the worst QB in the division & that isn’t changing soon. It’s difficult to win that way.
#25 Computer Hope DC Vic Fangio did an OUTSTANDING job on defense with the pieces he had as the Bears finished in the top-10 in scoring defense. I thought rookie QB Mitch Trubisky looked good even though he had absolutely nothing to throw to while Jordan Howard looked great being the lead back. Chicago needs better O-Linemen and some receivers, but this is a football team that might be that far away from being in the Wild Car hunt. Chicago had just 5 wins, but 3 of those came against the Steelers, Ravens & Panthers! The is quite a bit to be excited about in the Wind City for ’18.
#26 Computer Hope The J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS! got everyone excited this past season opening up 3-2 with wins over the Jaguars & Dolphins! They couldn’t keep that momentum going though losing 4 of their next 5 all by close margins (the lone win coming against the Bills!). The season crumbled after that, but there was some positives. Jamal Adams is a serious playmaker at safety. Darron Lee & Leonard Williams are also solid players giving the Jets a star at every level of the defense. The offense needs to find a QB, but if they can then New York is going to be competitive.
#27 Computer Hope A potential disaster from the minute Ryan Tannehill went out with injury, the Dolphins thought they could band-aid the QB situation by luring Jay Cutler back into the NFL to be reunited with his former Bears coach Adam Gase, but Cutler wasn’t very good & the Dolphins skidded to 6-10 in Gase’s 2nd year after he went 10-6 his first season on the job. I’m not sure this is a very good football team. The O-Line was pretty good, but that was about it. Even when Tannehill comes back, does Miami really strike fear into anyone in the AFC? Are they any closer to the Patriots?
#28 Computer Hope HC Ben McAdoo lost his mind at times last season & the Giants suffered through an injury bug that must have been a secret Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder. This led to the benching of Eli Manning which killed his consecutive games started streak & also an unheard of 3-13 season for a proud franchise. That mark was the worst record the Giants have had since the schedule expanded to 16 games! McAdoo was fired at season’s end & it seems as if the Giants are going to build around Eli Manning rather than find his replacement. It’s an interesting strategy.
#29 Computer Hope Football moves fast! Before the 2016 season there was a lot of talk about how the Texans QB situation was terrible and that Bill O’Brien either wanted out of Houston or the owners wanted O’Brien gone. Then Tom Savage can’t get more than 2 quarters & rookie Deshaun Watson comes in and throws 19TD passes in 6 games while rushing for 2 more & all of a sudden this team looks like it could be a dominant force in the AFC South! It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in 2018. Defensive coaches now will get a solid year to prepare for Watson. Will he still throw 50TDs?
#30 Computer Hope When you start the season with guys like Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch & Brock Osweiler hoping to be your starting QB then you don’t have a QB. If an NFL franchise starts a season without a QB, then they can pretty well expect the season not to go so well. Denver was such a team and finished 5-11. The Broncos are ready to win now on defense & most of the offense, but without a QB everything else is background noise. It was just a couple of years ago that the Broncos were playing in Super Bowls with Peyton Manning. Does a Manning even at 45% make this a playoff team?
#31 Computer Hope You can’t expect much more than 4-12 when your QB is out for the season. Jacoby Brissett did a pretty good job avoiding turnovers, but that’s about it. From a roster standpoint, the Colts are about as bad as you can get. If not for Cleveland going 0-16, Indianapolis would have been dead last. Outside of Andrew Luck who hasn’t really played in 2 years, there aren’t any star players outside of TY Hilton. Malik Hooker was on his way until he was injured early & missed the majority of 2018. GM Chris Ballard has his work cut out for him, but Luck needs to stay healthy.
#32 Computer Hope There is no place for any 0-16 squad other than dead last. If you finish 0-16 you can be assured that nothing went right, but it is interesting that Cleveland did finish 0-6 in close games and was also -28 in turnover margin. I think there were some definite bright spots though. The Browns O-Line was pretty good. Josh Gordon returned and was dominant. The Myles Garrett/Emmanuel Ogbah duo on the edge could be scary as soon as 2018. Joe Thomas retires while Hue Jackson miraculously kept his job, but if Cleveland can get ANY QB play, they’ll get out of the AFC North basement.
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May 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2018 NFL DRAFT – ROUND 1 ANALYSIS

I’m back!!!! The 2018 NFL Draft kicked off last night with round 1 so I thought I would add my 2-cents into the mix as far as analysis is concerned. There are tons of opinions out there, but these are mine!

#1 – CLEVELAND BROWNS – BAKER MAYFIELD/QB/OKLAHOMA

Rumors were swirling that Mayfield to Cleveland was a done deal began Wednesday night. I really didn’t know what to think here to be quite honest. If you look to your own division as a barometer of success, then huge QBs have been key for the Pittsburgh Steelers & Baltimore Ravens. The closest QB that was considered a 1st round pick with that sort of physical size was Josh Allen so I thought the Browns might be a heavy Allen lean, but if that were the case I felt as if Cleveland could have taken a Saquon Barkley at #1 and probably still had the chance to take Allen at #4 if they wanted. That all became a moot point when the Browns took the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma. A lot of people are killing the Browns for this pick, but I don’t hate it. Troy Aikman said last night that accuracy is something QBs generally don’t get better at and Mayfield if anything is accurate. I think the size issues are overblown to be honest. I think the people in charge saw a lot of Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Brett Favre in Mayfield. Maybe he comes nowhere near reaching those heights, but no QB in the draft had as much swag & leadership ability as Mayfield. Maybe that was enough? I like the pick to be honest. If I was the GM and I had to go QB with the #1 overall pick I would have taken Sam Darnold, but I like Mayfield A LOT.

#2 – NEW YORK GIANTS – SAQUON BARKLEY/RB/PENN STATE

I thought the Giants would take Barkley at #2 if Darnold were off the board at #1, but with Darnold available, I’m surprised the Giants didn’t use the #2 pick to pick Eli Manning’s heir at the position. Instead, New York went all in with Barkley in what looks like a “win now” attitude. I can sort of see the logic I suppose. NY’s offensive line wasn’t that bad collectively last season, but their offense was abysmal. Granted, they played with a ton of injuries, but this year you are looking at a roster that now has Barkley, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. The offense should increase quite a bit, but teams typically don’t jump fro 3-13 to 13-3 overnight. New York has to upgrade their defense considerably and hope Eli Manning has a year or two of magic left in him. This is another pick that is being highly criticized, but if Barkley really is the best RB we’ve seen since Adrian Peterson, I don’t think anyone will complain. Look what Ezekiel Elliott has done for the Cowboys and what Todd Gurley has done with the Rams. If Barkley has that kind of impact, I’m not sure it’ll be enough for the Giants to overtake Philadelphia in the East, but they become a playoff team instantly.

#3 – NEW YORK JETS – SAM DARNOLD/QB/SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

I don’t think the Jets dreamed they’d be getting Sam Darnold when they traded up to #3 with the Indianapolis Colts. I think Darnold is the best QB in this draft and the Jets landed the #1 overall pick at #3. You can’t do much better than that! Darnold has all the skills necessary to be a winning QB in the NFL. He has to clean a few things up but he’ll get excellent coaching with the Jets and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was starting early in his career. I don’t think there was an Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning in this draft, but the closest thing to a sure thing was Darnold and the Jets picked him up. Excellent pick for a team that very much needed a franchise QB. The lights won’t be too big for Darnold in Gotham and I don’t think the media will be a problem for him either.

#4 – CLEVELAND BROWNS – DENZEL WARD/CB/OHIO STATE

A surprising pick but when you stop and think about it, the pick makes sense. Cleveland’s pass defense was terrible last season and their ability to turn the ball over was terrible as well. Ward immediately helps with both. He was the best CB in the draft and a physical freak on the outside. Sure he’s 5’10, but it won’t matter. In any other scenario, taking the best CB in the top-5 is considered laudable. The Browns certainly had a need at the position & in their minds got the best QB and the best CB in this year’s draft. Last year they got the best EDGE RUSHER meaning in the last 2 years they’ve gotten the #1 player at the 3 most important positions on a football field. Would it have been nice to pair Myles Garrett & Emmanuel Ogbah with Bradley Chubb? Sure, the Browns have Ogbah & Chubb already & don’t forget about guys like Carl Nassib & Nate Orchard. Chubb is a specimen, but so is Ward. It’s easy to laugh at Cleveland, but if Ward is the pro-bowl CB everyone things and Mayfield is more Russell Wilson than Johnny Manziel, then John Dorsey will be the only one laughing.

#5 – DENVER BRONCOS – BRADLEY CHUBB/EDGE RUSHER/NC STATE

Best pass rusher in the draft and now you pair him with Von Miller and the Broncos defense is absolutely NASTY! It’s easy to forget that the Broncos weren’t that great at getting after the QB last season. Von Miller led the team with only 10 sacks and guys like Shane Ray & DeMarcus Walker weren’t impact players. You know Denver wants to win now considered they passed on a QB and signed Case Keenum. You could have somewhat made an argument that the Broncos would have went O-Line here, but Chubb was easily the right call here for this squad. It takes pressure off of Miller. It also adds another body to their edge rush rotation. I think Chubb also allows guys like Adam Gotsis, Derek Wolfe & Shelby Harris to play even better. You can’t help but really like this pick and the Broncos have to feel fortunate that the best edge rusher in this draft (by a considerable margin) was available.

#6 – INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – QUENTON NELSON/OG/NOTRE DAME

The Colts were able to trade down from #3 to #6 and they still were able to get the best player in this draft. Nelson is a plug & play guard who is likely to be a pro bowl level OG from the start and he has the kind of upside that could potentially make him the greatest offensive guard to ever play the game of football. They simply do not come nastier than Nelson will plays through the whistle on every single down! He’s a mauler at 6’5/330lbs and simply can’t be moved. If the Colts were prioritizing Andrew Luck’s health, then Nelson was the guy they were hoping for all along. I think the Colts were going into the draft hoping for one of Nelson, Bradley Chubb or Saquon Barkley. They ended up with Nelson which was a huge win for the organization. He’ll be a fan favorite for sure & he’ll eventually have his name in the Colts ring of honor barring injury. One of the more obvious picks of the night, but the right one. Some Colts fans think a top-6 pick should have been used for an “impact” player but I disagree. Nelson is the 2nd best player on the team already and I think people are discounting how good the Colts O-Line could be if everyone stays healthy. Jack Mewhort, Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson & Anthony Castonzo look pretty good…..assuming health.

#7 – BUFFALO BILLS – JOSH ALLEN/QB/WYOMING

Risky pick for the Bills. There is no QB with more upside that Allen. A 6’5/230lbs kid with an arm that can throw the ball 80 yards with little effort, Allen’s physical tools are as good as anyone who has ever picked up a football. Allen has a ton of boom/bust potential and we really won’t know how this will play out until a few years down the road, but HC Sean McDermott has done a big job of trying to change the culture of the Buffalo Bills and Allen plays into what he is trying to accomplish. AJ McCarron can probably hold on for a year or two, but then Allen should take the reigns and we’ll see what happens. It’s tough for any fanbase to think about future seasons when the here & now seems like the only thing important especially with Buffalo coming off a playoff season, but if Allen pays off, it’ll be worth the wait.

#8 – CHICAGO BEARS – ROQUAN SMITH/LB/GEORGIA

Great pick for the Bears. Smith is a thumper at 6’1/236lbs who can also range from sideline to sideline. He should be a high volume player from Day 1 and fills a need the Bears desperately need. What’s really interesting is that you can make an argument that the MVP of the Bears last season was DC Vic Fangio and the Bears were extremely lucky that Fangio decided to stay on under new HC Matt Nagy! Giving Fangio a chess piece like Smith almost seems unfair at this point. The Bears had the 14th best defense last year according to Football Outsiders and they have a real chance to be a top-10 defense with Smith along with some of the other players they had on defense that should get better as they gain experience. You can hardly blame the Colts for taking a talent like Quenton Nelson given the Andrew Luck situation, the Colts should have looked extremely hard at Smith at #6. Having back-7 that included Smith and Malik Hooker would have been tantalizing.

#9 – SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – MIKE McGLINCHEY/OT/NOTRE DAME

Somewhat of a head scratching pick at the time with both Trent Brown & Joe Staley on board, but it makes more sense now that the 49ers traded Brown away to New England. Rumor had it that Brown was severely overweight and the 49ers were a little worried about him. Given the commitment that San Francisco just made to Jimmy Garoppolo you can see why there was cause for concern. McGlinchey eases some of that concern. Staley is still solid on the left side, but he’ll also be 34 years old in 2018. McGlinchey probably is a starting RT right now in the NFL meaning he can stay on the right side for a couple of years before moving left when Staley decides to hang them up. GM John Lynch is completely changing the culture in SF back to the kind of culture that won this franchise 6 Super Bowl titles. As a Dallas Cowboys superfan I hate the 49ers with a passion, but you have to respect what they are doing here. McGlinchey is one of the highest character guys in the draft and that has to be taken into account as well.

#10 – ARIZONA CARDINALS – JOSH ROSEN/QB/UCLA

The best pure passer in the draft, Arizona not only got their QB of the future, but they also got their QB of the right now as the Cardinals don’t really have anyone on the roster. Rosen is admittedly fairly upset about falling to #10, but this is a tremendous spot for him to land & if he can be competent the Arizona offense looks a lot more daunting that at first glance. Rosen will be able to rely on David Johnson who comes back after injuries kept him out of 2017. After the 2016 season, Johnson was widely considered the best RB in football. If he can get near that type of reputation, Rosen has a foundational pillar to lean on. Rosen will also have Larry Fitzgerald and a pretty good O-Line. Drafting WR Christian Kirk also gives Rosen a weapon to grow with as well. The Cardinals have an outstanding defense so a league average offense makes them a playoff contender. It’ll be interesting to see if Rosen can get on the field in year 1 with Sam Bradford signed. I hope he does as it’ll be interesting to see what Rosen can do in the NFL because at times it seemed as if Rosen was limited by his surrounding cast at UCLA. This was a great pick for the Cardinals.

#11 – MIAMI DOLPHINS – MINKAH FITZPATRICK/S/ALABAMA

I’ve listed Fitzpatrick as a safety but he’s really a jack of all trades DB who can play corner, nickle and safety. In a pass happy league you have to have a secondary that is solid in order to compete. The Dolphins were never going QB as Adam Gase seems committed to Ryan Tannehill and I think Gase is going a good job of trying to remake the culture here in Miami as well. Fitzpatrick is all ball all the time and is an alpha dog in the secondary. Nick Saban is absolutely in love with the guy and he’ll make the Dolphins better right away even if it’s just in their subpackages with extra DBs in the game. It won’t take long before Fitzpatrick is playing every down & Miami’s secondary should get a lot better. Xavier Howard flashed last season & Cordrea Tankersley should get better. You could have argued that Miami maybe had other more pressing needs, but sort of like the 49ers, Miami got a huge character guy and I think that matters more than most give credit for.

#12 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – VITA VEA/DT/WASHINGTON

The Bucs taking Vea was probably the biggest shock up to this point in the draft. Sure it’s possible not a lot of people saw Mayfield at #1 or Rosen falling to #10, but Vea coming off at #12 was not only higher than most thought, but I’m not sure many would have had him landing in Tampa Bay. It’s an interesting move. The Bucs must feel that Vea, who is an enormous space eater, will be able to take some of the double teams away from Gerald McCoy and will also allow new acquisitions in Jason Pierre-Paul & Vinny Curry to get to the QB a lot better. Tampa Bay had a terrible pass rush last season combined with a bad secondary. You might think they’d go edge rusher or corner, but in the ultimate team game, the Bucs chose a DT in the hopes that upgrading that position will by proxy upgrade the others around him. It’s an interesting angle and one that underlies how much football is like chess and not checkers.

#13 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS – Da’RON PAYNE/DT/ALABAMA

At times this season Payne seemed like the best interior defensive lineman in college football and you’ll find no shortage of anecdotes that some scouts thought Payne might be the best DT to come out of Alabama in the Nick Saban era! That is lofty praise for Payne which makes this pick an excellent one of the Redskins. The Redskins are drafting a lot of kids from Alabama. Last year they took Jonathan Allen & Ryan Anderson. Payne joins those guys next year. Washington’s D-Line was pretty last season so getting Payne in there is a sure upgrade. It would also be ideal if Allen could stay health. I think Anderson will do a good job replacing the departed Trent Murphy & he should team with Ryan Kerrigan to give the Redskins a solid pass rush. The trick will be getting Payne & Allen to make the rush defense better. Remember the Redskins were 7-9 last season. An upgraded D-Line against the run could give them another win or two.

#14 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – MARCUS DAVENPORT/EDGE RUSHER/UT-SAN ANTONIO

Davenport looks the part at 6’6/255lbs! A physical freak, Davenport is a bit raw when it comes to being an all around effective edge rusher. The Saints traded a 2019 first round draft pick (that they hope will be the 32nd pick!) for Davenport with the hopes of pairing him with Cameron Jordan to give New Orleans an INCREDIBLE edge rushing duo! If not for a botched play in the secondary, New Orleans travels to Philadelphia for the NFC Championship game so the Saints are in WIN NOW mode for sure. Davenport gives more support to a D-Line that can focus more in holding opposing runners. Sheldon Rankins will get a lot better this season just from having Davenport commanding attention as well as Cameron Jordan. I think Alex Anzalone gets better in his 2nd year as well. The secondary is stacked from top to bottom and the offense can score on anyone. If Davenport simply cracks this physical ceiling then New Orleans might be the best team in the NFC.

#15 – OAKLAND RAIDERS – KOLTON MILLER/OT/UCLA

Interesting pick from my perspective as I think the Raiders could have been served better by going the CB/LB route with options available on the board. Heck at this point Derwin James was still around and can you envision a player that looks the part of Raider more than Derwin James!? Teams can, at times, get nervous about protecting their QB investment. With the Raiders that Derek Carr and despite the Raiders allowing only 24 sacks in 2017, there was the thought that Oakland needed to do a better job of protecting the QB. With nobody slated to play RT worth a darn, the Raiders drafted Kolton Miller to take over at RT and eventually be Donald Penn’s replacement at LT. Miller is a huge kid at 6’9/310lbs, but guys that big can be tricky plays at time. Health and overall technique come into question simply because these kinds of kids are too big. Miller’s ceiling is unlimited, but I’m wary of this pick to be perfectly honest. I really like Jon Gruden but his first pick back as Oakland’s HC?

#16 – BUFFALO BILLS – TREMAINE EDMUNDS/LB/VIRGINIA TECH

ABSURD value at this point in the draft. Edwards is a physical freak at 6’5/255lbs with the ability to play sideline to sideline as a LB. His build is more in the vein of a 43DE or a 34OLB, but at Virginia Tech, Edmunds played primarily one of the LBs in a 4-3 scheme. Players comps are hard for a guy like him. Anthony Barr comes to mind as he’s 6’5/255lbs. Tak McKinley maybe although McKinley isn’t as long as Edmunds, but both played LB in college. The problem with Edmunds is that he’s likely to get bigger. He can potentially pull off 6’5/255lbs at LB if he were to stay at that weight, but if he grows into a 6’5 or 6’6 guy that is 275lbs, all of a sudden you have a devastating edge rusher if he keeps his speed. It’ll be really interesting to see how Buffalo uses him because in some ways they can bring him along slowly given their current personnel. Having sub-packages for Edmunds would be a huge luxury for Buffalo. With both Josh Allen & Tremaine Edmunds in the fold, Buffalo has done with impressive physicality with unbelievable upside.

#17 – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS – DERWIN JAMES/S/FLORIDA STATE

STEAL OF THE 1ST ROUND! How James fell to #17 is inconceivable, but giving James to a team that went 9-3 in their last 12 is almost irresponsible! James has a bit of an injury history, but this is an alpha-dog at its very definition who is all ball all the time. There wasn’t that much of a weakness to LA last year, but if there was ever a missing piece for this team it was James. There isn’t really anything he doesn’t do well and the scary part is that he can get even better. James even has the ability to rush off the edge in specific situations which is a scary proposition. I think the Chargers under Gus Bradley will use him very creatively and hopefully maximize his talent. James has drawn a few comparisons to Jamal Adams which is high praise indeed! If James can live up to that or even exceed Adams, he could immediately be a top-5 or top-3 strong safety in the NFL his rookie season. The Chargers defense is scary good at this point.

#18 – GREEN BAY PACKERS – JAIRE ALEXANDER/CB/LOUISVILLE

There wasn’t a bigger need in Green Bay outside of corner and the Packers did an excellent job of filling a need with Alexander who has the potential to be the best CB to come out of this draft. Some viewed Alexander as a bit small at 5’10/190lbs especially considering there doesn’t seem any room for him to add any weight, but he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the combine & is an incredible athlete with great instincts at corner. He can play press man coverage although he’s going to be a lot smaller than some of the #1 receivers. Because of that some want to think of the Louisville product as a nickle or a corner that takes on the opponents smaller #2 receiver. A bigger concern might be Alexander’s health as he suffered through knee problems last year at Louisville. When he’s 100%, you can see the talent he has and why the Packers would make him a first round selection. To be fair, Alexander could have been much higher and it would have still been a good value.

#19 – DALLAS COWBOYS – LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH/LB/BOISE ST.

There was a lot of pre-draft buzz about the Cowboys taking Vander Esch so it wasn’t a huge surprise that he was the guy. Cowboys fans have seen over and over again what the Dallas defense is able to accomplish without Sean Lee so getting Vander Esch in their should hopefully offset some issues caused when Lee inevitably will miss time with injury. Vander Esch also gives Dallas one of the best, if not the best, linebacking corps in the NFL when you consider that the Boise St. product will be joining Sean Lee & Jaylon Smith. Vander Esch only started one year of college football! Like most other first round picks, Vander Esch’s physicality jumps out at 6’4/256lbs with 4.6 speed. Like Tremaine Edmunds, Vander Esch is built somewhat like an edge rusher. Also like Edmunds, Vander Esch might still be growing & could very well end up an edge rusher. He’s extremely athletic and has a incredible nose for the football. Great instincts yet still hasn’t reached anywhere near his ceiling as a player. It was possible Dallas could have went WR here, but Vander Esch is the type of pick that reminds you of Dallas taking guys like Travis Frederick & Zach Martin. That worked out pretty well.

#20 – DETROIT LIONS – FRANK RAGNOW/OC/ARKANSAS

Not a terribly sexy pick, but when you look at overall roster construction, this is a great pick for the Lions. Detroit has invested quite a bit in their O-Line and Ragnow makes the unit even stronger. Detroit’s interior O-Line wasn’t great last season TJ Lang did a solid job at one guard position, but the C and other guard spots really took down an otherwise decent O-line. Detroit is a very good example for O-Line cohesion. Three players were pretty good (LT-Tyler Decker, RT-Ricky Wagner, & G-TJ Lang) but the other two were terrible & it made for a bad offensive line. Ragnow is a starter from Day 1 at center and should be a big help for Matt Stafford. Ragnow also allows the Lions to push Graham Glasgow to guard fixing 2 spots with one draft pick. Remember that the Lions were a 9-7 squad last season. Ragnow makes their team better.

#21 – CINCINNATI BENGALS – BILLY PRICE/OG/OHIO ST.

The Bengals might have taken a quarterback if one had fallen to them, but at the moment they are rolling with Andy Dalton so their best bet is to protect Dalton as much as possible. Cincinnati needed to upgrade their interior offensive line in a big way and Billy Price should be able to make that happen. He’s a tough SOB in the trenches and bring a legitimate toughness to the Bengals. Upgrading the interior offensive line should also help out 2nd year RB Joe Mixon. It should also help Andy Dalton with more time in the pocket. Like the Lions, this isn’t necessarily a sexy pick, but it is a pick that can help a football team get better. To be fair this was a tough spot for the Bengals to be in. They have a pretty solid defense. I suppose they could have maybe went LB but with Roquan Smith & Tremaine Edmunds off the board, what was really left outside of Rashaan Evans?  I guess corner possibly? Josh Jackson was still there. Wideout maybe? But they’ve drafted John Ross & Tyler Boyd the last couple of seasons. I’m OK with Price staying in Ohio.

#22 – TENNESSEE TITANS – RASHAAN EVANS/LB/ALABAMA

Speaking of Rashaan Evans……it’s hard to go wrong with an Alabama linebacker! Evans probably isn’t the second coming of Reuben Foster, but he’s a helluva instinctive player that can play sideline to sideline, cover and put pressure on the QB if called on to blitz. Tennessee certainly had a need at ILB in their 3-4 scheme. Evans should become an immediate starter and make an impact. The Titans traded up to get this player due to their concerns that Evans wouldn’t fall past the Patriots. That was likely the smart play. Wes Woodyard is still more than a solid player but he’ll be 32 for the 2018 season so the Titans are also thinking about their future. The AFC South is getting tougher & tougher so the Titans need to ensure their defense is clicking with no real weak spots. I think Evans guarantees this.

#23 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – ISAIAH WYNN/OG/GEORGIA

This was somewhat of a head scratcher unless you believe that the Patriots are starting to develop depth to their O-Line. Losing Nate Solder hurts a bit, but it’s difficult to believe the Patriots made the Wynn pick as a successor to Solder. Wynn is a bit undersized at 6’3/310lbs to play LT. The Patriots could switch Marcus Cannon to the left side, but Cannon wasn’t exactly great on the right side. The trade for Trent Brown is an odd one because Brown too is a right tackle. The place New England didn’t need help was on the interior with David Andrews, Joe Thuney & Shaq Mason except the interior is where Wynn most likely is headed. There is a lot to like about Wynn’s game, but this fit seems like an odd one with New England. Tom Brady makes his O-line better than it probably is, but this is a tough one from a physical standpoint.

#24 – CAROLINA PANTHERS – D.J. MOORE/WR/MARYLAND

There has certainly been an emphasis on surrounding Cam Newton with as many weapons as possible and that stayed the same with the drafting of Maryland WR DJ Moore. It makes sense though. Carolina has to get their offense aligned properly. Having Devin Funchess & Kelvin Benjamin on the same team didn’t make much sense so the Panthers jettisoned Benjamin to Buffalo. Funchess needs a running partner & the Panthers lost Ted Ginn to the Saints & Curtis Samuel really didn’t fit the bill last year as a rookie so Carolina went out and signed Torrey Smith & drafted Moore in the hopes of finding a #2 receiver. Moore profiles as excellent #2 receiver who can stretch the field, something Carolina could desperately use. Could they have used a safety? Sure, but with James & Fitzpatrick gone, grabbing Moore is an exceptional consolation prize with him having the upside of being the best WR to come out of this draft.

#25 – BALTIMORE RAVENS – HAYDEN HURST/TE/SOUTH CAROLINA

I think it’s worth noting that when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, Shannon Sharpe was their TE and caught 67 balls for 810 yards & scored 5TDs. It’s also worth noting that when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012, they had Dennis Pitta & Ed Dickson combine for 82 receptions for 894 yards & 7TDs. Todd Heap was also a solid player for the Ravens for quite a few years. The Ravens have tried to keep their TE position stocked, but Crockett Gilmore & Maxx Williams haven’t really panned out. To be fair, neither did Dickson or Pitta. Hurst is an older TE because he tried his hand at professional baseball before walking on at South Carolina. Hurst is a great athlete and at 6’5/250lbs he has more than enough size. He’s a very physical player as well. The only problems I can guess is that the guy really hasn’t played much football & because he’s older, his physicality has no room for improvement. The Ravens are hoping he can be a better football player. Given the needs of this team, the pick seems odd, but I suppose the Ravens are happy with their wide receiver acquisitions.

#26 – ATLANTA FALCONS – CALVIN RIDLEY/WR/ALABAMA

F-I-L-T-H-Y! This is insane value for whom some think was the best WR in the draft. Ridley immediately lines up as the #2 WR in Atlanta opposite fellow Alabama product Julio Jones. Mo Sanu is one of the best slot guys in the league & I don’t think the Falcons have really game planned Austin Hooper that much in the passing game. Throw in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman and I’m not exactly sure how anyone plans to stop Atlanta from scoring 30+ points per game. The O-Line is more than good enough & Matt Ryan has all the pieces he needs to completely obliterate the league in passing categories! There really is no weakness to this team & Ridley makes them THAT much better. Remember that two years ago the Falcons should have won the Super Bowl. To be quite honest, they had a GREAT chance to beat Philadelphia last season and the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl. Would anyone really be surprised to see the Falcons get back to the Super Bowl in 2018?

#27 – SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – RASHAAD PENNY/RB/SAN DIEGO ST.

You can kind of see where Seattle is going here. Despite a plethora of needs across the board for a team that is seemingly going into rebuilding mode, the Seahawks are trying to recreate the  Marshawn Lynch dynamic in Seattle, this time with Rashaad Penny. There is simply no denying Penny’s production at San Diego State, but there is enough caution there to make me think that a guy like Derrius Guice would have been a better play for the Seahawks if they are looking for a transforming back that can make Seattle a run first team again. With all that being said, the Seahawks have a plethora of needs that they simply didn’t address with their most valuable pick. Their O-Line is in shambles and with guys like Conor Williams & James Daniels on the board, it’s hard to fathom why Seattle would pass on them. They also have needs at practically every defensive position. An odd draft choice.

#28 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS – TERRELL EDMUNDS/S/VIRGINIA TECH

Terrell joins his brother Tremaine as the first brothers taken in the first round of the NFL Draft! Sort of an interesting pick by the Steelers. Pittsburgh had a need at free safety and Edmunds fills it, but he almost is more athlete that football player at this point. He’s very twitched up at 6’1/220lbs and ran a 4.7 forty yard dash. He actually came to Virginia Tech as a corner before moving to safety. Needs to work on his football skills and can lose the ball at time which isn’t a good think for a centerfielder of a defense. With Ryan Shazier suffering an injury last season, the Steelers could have used another LB and they could also use some more edge rushing ability although TJ Watt is a star in the making. Edmunds fills a nice hole, but the Steelers maybe could have gone a different route & found more of an impact player than what Edmunds might ultimately provide.

#29 – JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – TAVEN BRYAN/DT/FLORIDA

INSANE value for the Jaguars here! Bryan is about as raw as you can possibly get, but you can’t teach size and Bryan has it in spades at 6’5/295lbs! He’s an athletic specimen who essentially got by on his athletic ability while at Florida and will need time to develop. You know you are something special when at this size some pencil you in as an edge rusher. Jacksonville might have been the best opportunity for Bryan anyway. The Jaguars don’t have a need at DT which will allow Bryan time to develop and mature. If he can develop any kind of football skills/instincts, he’ll become one of the better DTs in the NFL. The Jaguars really didn’t need to get any better on defense, but they did just that with drafting Bryan. I would not have projected him to fall to #29. I’m guess Jacksonville didn’t either!

#30 – MINNESOTA VIKINGS – MIKE HUGHES/CB/UCF

Hughes to Minnesota feels a lot like Bryan to Jacksonville. The Vikings don’t really have a need at corner and Hughes needs time to develop his skills at the position. What Jacksonville & Minnesota did here really show just how advanced they are as organizations. Interior D-Line and CB are two of the most valuable positions on a football field. I’d even argue that the only two positions more valuable than those are edge rusher and quarterback. Neither team had a need for those positions, but every team has a need for depth and you really can never have too many bodies at interior D-Line and corner. It’s really solid planning by a couple of teams with no immediate needs. If a football has no needs, then why not take an extremely high upside player from an extremely valuable position? I love what the Vikings & Jaguars did here in the late 1st round.

#31 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – SONY MICHEL/RB/GEORGIA

We saw how valuable Dion Lewis could be to the New England offense and with Lewis heading to Nashville, Michel should be able to jump right in and take over. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Michel was just as productive. I loved Michel’s ability at Georgia and he feels like a home run threat every time he touches the football. He’s had ball security issues in the past, but if he is past those problems, then he has as much upside as any RB in the draft not named Saquon Barkley. I like the pick here for the Patriots but as with the Isaiah Wynn pick before, New England would have taken a Josh Jackson here or a Connor Williams. Michel certainly fills a need, but New England has been highly successful in the past using their short passing game in much the same way a running attack is used.

#32 – BALTIMORE RAVENS – LAMAR JACKSON/QB/LOUISVILLE

Jackson to Baltimore was floated around quite a bit before the draft so I’m not entirely surprised that Jackson ends up with the Ravens. With that being said, it is an interesting player for an organization that prides itself on being a VERY TOUGH and VERY PHYSICAL ball control offense that has done it’s best work with the likes of Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice running the football. In fact, when the Ravens have gotten away from this sort of smash mouth football is when they have struggled the most. Taking Jackson in the hopes of him eventually replacing Joe Flacco at QB turns that philosophy on its head which would be a major cultural shift for the Ravens. Is that organization really going to zig that hard when they’ve zagged their entire history? The Ravens gave up quite a bit so it’s a perplexing question regardless. One thing to consider as well is a first round pick has a 5th year team option. That’s an important consideration and one the Ravens certainly entertained when trading up for Jackson. It’s interesting to note that Flacco is under contract for 4 more seasons. Jackson’s 5th season could finally be his first to start and if that is the case he’ll have one year to show him being worthy of a multi-year deal from the Ravens.

May 4, 2018 Posted by | Game Theory, NFL, NFL Draft, Strategy | Leave a comment

Super Bowl Thoughts – Eagles 41, Patriots 33

The Eagles did it! It’s been almost a week since Philadelphia won their first Lombardi Trophy and I must admit it was a fantastic ending the 2017 NFL season. I don’t think I’ve seen a Super Bowl as amazing as the one we just witnessed and next year certainly has a huge bar to hurdle if it wants to come close Eagles/Patriots! Here are a few thoughts regarding the Super Bowl & its outcome:

1. Are we on the verge of an Eagles dynasty? That might be a bit premature & that reasoning is probably borne more out of the moment of just watching Philadelphia win a Super Bowl, but to be the man you have to beat the man, and the Eagles did. New England has had a stranglehold on the NFL for what seems like the past 20 years. For a league thought to be built on parity, the dynasty that New England has maintained almost defies credibility, but is Philadelphia on the verge of something similar? The NFC is loaded going forward. The Rams & 49ers with their young QBs and head coaches aren’t going anywhere soon. I think Mike Zimmer is an excellent head coach who needs a QB to go along with a world class defense. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees & Matt Ryan are still around. Even in New England’s most daunting years, the biggest threats they had were Peyton Manning’s Colts teams and Big Ben’s Steelers squads. The Eagles have the Packers, Saints, Falcons, Panthers, 49ers & Rams! This list doesn’t include the Seahawks, Lions or Cowboys! I think a lot of it boils down to Doug Pederson. The man proved that he might be the best coach in the NFL right now! If he can keep that moniker for the next 15 years, the Eagles could be the beneficiaries of 4-5 Super Bowl titles!

2. Speaking of young quarterbacks, you can’d find better guy that Nick Foles, but if everyone was right about him, what does he performance in the Super Bowl mean for roster management going forward? This is always a trick proposition because good QB play can cover up a significant lack of talent throughout the roster. Look no further than what Aaron Rodgers has been dealing with in Green Bay & how poorly the Packers play when #12 goes down. If Foles’ performance was more in line with him executing what Doug Pederson wanted to perfection, then it would seem going forward that teams would be looking for QBs who can work within a system that the head coach wants to implement rather than a QB who can create and make plays himself. I think the distinction is subtle, but given the contract we just saw Jimmy Garoppolo ink with the 49ers, how can teams hope to compete if all of their cap money is tied up in their QB? Sure the QB is the most important position on the field, but teams still need other talent in order for that QB to put the team in its best position to win. The Patriots model has been to underpay Tom Brady for his entire career. It matters.

3. I think we might have witnessed the end of the Patriots dynasty. New England has problems on defense. Sure their points allowed looked great during the season, but advanced metrics never really did like their D. Brady gets a year older. The coaching staff is breaking a part. Rob Gronkowski is thinking about making the jump from football to Hollywood. There is enough coming back to allow New England to win the East again in 2018. There also might be enough for them to get back to the Super Bowl, but I think the days of Belichick/Brady winning Super Bowls has finally come to an end. If Doug Marrone had called a game like Doug Pederson did, then Jacksonville would have been playing Philadelphia in Minnesota & not the Patriots. Ultimately you have to start thinking about age. Brady is already 40 years old. Gronkowski is pushing 30. So is Dion Lewis. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman & Chris Hogan will all be 30+ next season. Brandin Cooks will only be 25, but this is old team. The Patriots need to figure out a way to get younger & they don’t have the draft capital to do so. As great as Bill Belichick is, does he want to go through an entire retooling of the roster on the fly to take advantage of Brady’s last 1-2 years as an elite level QB? It seems like too much.

4. The sun may be setting on an entire era of professional football. The Peyton Manning-Tom Brady-Ben Roethlisberger era might finally be coming to a close. Manning left a couple of years ago and you have to wonder if Tom Brady isn’t thinking that 2016 should have been his last season. He could have went out as the only QB with 5 Super Bowl rings. Instead the season ends with a wave of questions about both Brady & his future. Ben Roethlisberger seemingly hints at retirement every off season. Luckily for us he has already stated he’s coming back for 2018. Brady & Roethlisberger could stick around for another year or two, but the writing is definitely on the wall. The NFL is going to enter a new phase of its history, and it’s going to enter it without 3 of the most recognized faces in NFL history! That’s incredible when you think about it.

What a year. It seemed like it went so fast and now we’ll wait until September for more meaningful football. Each year seems to go faster and faster……..

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 NFL FOOTBALL – SUPER BOWL PREVIEW

AFC QUICK THOUGHTS NFC
Computer Hope Super Bowl XXXIX rematch! We can talk about a lot of the easy topics such as Bill Belichick?Tom Brady or the fact that Nick Foles is starting a Super Bowl in place of the injured Carson Wentz, but as always with the Patriots, this game is going to turn on whether or not the Philly D can get to Brady & make him uncomfortable in the pocket which is exactly how the Giants beat #12 twice on the biggest stage. I think the real story is Jim Schwartz v. Bill Belichick & how Schwartz is connected to Belichick from their Browns days. If Philly gets pressure they’ll make it a game. If not? Pats roll. I think New England wins #6. Computer Hope

February 2, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is There a Limit to Active Super Bowl Winners?

Back in December of 2017 I wrote a post about the 5-year rule to championships. The original article written by Scott Kacsmar basically laid out a rule that a coach/quarterback pairing had to win a championship within their first 5 years together or it wasn’t happening. Something that I have kept track of over the years is how many active quarterbacks and head coaches have Super Bowl titles. For example, heading into the 2017 season, the following active coaches and quarterbacks had won Super Bowls.

Head Coaches (6)
Bill Belichick
Mike Tomlin
Sean Payton
Mike McCarthy
John Harbaugh
Pete Carroll

Quarterbacks (6)
Tom Brady
Ben Roethlisberger
Drew Brees
Russell Wilson
Joe Flacco
Eli Manning

If you are wondering why Aaron Rodgers is not present under the QB listings, it is because Rodgers didn’t play in half of the Packers games this season and therefore ineligible by my quite arbitrary rules for being listed as an active player with a Super Bowl title. Next year Rodgers will once again be on the list provided he’s healthy, but in retrospect, Green Bay’s #12 wasn’t much of a factor in the 2017 NFL season & thus was omitted from consideration. I would apply the same metric for a coach. If Mike McCarthy had been fired after Week 1, then the head coaches in 2017 that were active with a Super Bowl win would have been reduced by 1.

The first Super Bowl was played for the 1966 season, thus I have only gone back to track this from 1967 to the present day. In 1967, the only player & head coach to be active that had won a Super Bowl were Vince Lombardi & Bart Starr of the Green Bay Packers. You might think that the number of active head coaches & quarterbacks with Super Bowl titles would steadily rise with more teams winning the ultimate prize, but careers of both QBs and HCs are finite so at some point those numbers do dwindle because careers end. Here are the two rules that we can see when looking at both QBs and HCs.

Rule #1: The High Mark for Active Head Coaches With Titles Seems To Be 6 to 8.

The number of active head coaches with a Super Bowl reached 5 as early as 1973 after Don Shula won the 1972 Super Bowl with the Miami Dolphins. The 5 active HCs for 1973 were Shula, Tom Landry, Weeb Ewbank, Hank Stram & Don McCafferty. The number reached 5 after just 7 Super Bowls. The number would increase to 6 in 1983, to 7 in 1986, and to 8 in 1987! It would never get higher than 8.

After the 1987 season Tom Flores left the game. After 1988 Tom Landry & Bill Walsh left the game. By 1995, the number of active head coaches who had won Super Bowl titles had shrunk to just 3 coaches: George Seifert, Bill Parcells & Don Shula. It would take a decade before the number of active head coaches with Super Bowl rings would make it back to 8 when in 2004, Joe Gibbs came out of retirement to coach the Washington Redskins. The number would remain at 8 through 2006, but after the 2006 season, Bill Parcells & Bill Cowher left the sidelines while Tony Dungy won the Super Bowl putting the number of active championship winning coaches at 7 going into the 2007 season. The 2006 season was the last season we’ve had 8 active head coaches with Super Bowl titles.

What Does This Mean for Super Bowl LII & Beyond?

Assuming Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, Mike McCarthy & John Harbaugh all come back for 2018, we’ll have 6 head coaches with Super Bowl titles. This year we have Bill Belichick v. Doug Pederson going after the Lombardi Trophy. Because we don’t have 8 active head coaches scheduled to come back for 2018, Pederson joining their ranks would not be out of trend. Pederson would only increase the total number of head coaches to 7. If Belichick wins his 6th title, then the number remains at 6 although I suppose there is a slim chance the Patriots HC could ride off into the sunset seeing how he’ll have won his 6th Super Bowl title and will be losing both of his coordinators with a QB who is scheduled to be 41 next season. Could Belichick decide to go out on top? What about Pederson? What would it mean if Pederson were to win his first title?

Here are the ages of the current head coaches with championships for 2018:

Pete Carroll: 67
Bill Belichick: 66
John Harbaugh: 56
Mike McCarthy: 54
Sean Payton: 54
Mike Tomlin: 46

If Doug Pederson were to win the Super Bowl, he’s enter 2018 at the age of 50. Given their ages, it’s entirely plausible that Carroll & Belichick could retire soon opening a window for a couple of more head coaches to join the rank & file which would keep the number at a maximum of 8. But could this trend be heading upwards?

The relative youth of new head coaches makes it plausible that the number of active head coaches with Super Bowl titles will expand to a degree. Will it go to 9 or 10? It’s difficult to say. It could also remain at 8 with coaches coming in and out. Mike Tomlin is the interesting example. He’s only 46 years old, but already has 11 seasons under his belt. Being a HC for 20 years is an extremely long career, but another 9 years makes Tomlin only 55 which is 11-12 years younger than both Belichick & Carroll respectively. At this rate, Tomlin could seriously push for 30 years as an NFL head coach. Only Don Shula, George  Halas & Curly Lambeau have lasted longer than 30 years! Could younger coaches increase the number of head coaches with championships?

What seems more likely is that some teams are set up to dominate the NFL for the next decade or so. A quick look around the league has all signs pointing to the NFC starting to destroy AFC opponents led by the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles & San Francisco 49ers. Those 3 have young & exciting coaches and QBs. The rest of the NFL is aging. While we can speculate if Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold & Josh Allen are the next wave of young QBs that will come in and lead their teams to wins, we can say right now that Jared Goff, Carson Wentz & Jimmy Garoppolo look poised to take over the NFL in much the same way we saw earlier versions of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger & Peyton Manning dominate the NFL since 2001!

If the Eagles win the Super Bowl, it certainly seems like it won’t be Philadelphia’s last if trends hold. If the Patriots get their 6th title, it will seem like business as usual.

Sidenote: Jon Gruden returning the NFL makes this group increase to 7 assuming Pederson doesn’t win. If the Eagles win a title and Gruden is back, the NFL will have 8 active head coaches with Super Bowl rings going into 2019 assuming one of the 2018 actives doesn’t retire. If the number is static then your 2018 Super Bowl winners will come from this pool of squads: Patriots, Steelers, Raiders, Ravens, Packers, Seahawks, Eagles or Saints. That’s actually not a terrible bet.

Rule #2: The High Mark for Active Quarterbacks With Titles Seems To Be 6 to 8.

Rule #2 looks a lot like Rule #1 for obvious reasons. When franchises win titles with a head coach/quarterback combination, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the combination is going to stick together. There are exceptions of course. Jerry Jones got rid of Jimmy Johnson & won a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer while having Troy Aikman as the QB. Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy in Indianapolis and got his 2nd in Denver with Gary Kubiak. For the most part however, QBs are going to follow the same rule as the head coaches.

The one caveat that is odd about QBs is that I adjusted their inclusion based on their health. Tom Brady didn’t play in 2008. Peyton Manning didn’t play in 2011. This might artificially lower the QB participation, but I think it is important to adjust for injuries within the matrix. It took until 1974 for the number of active QBs with Super Bowl titles to get to 4. It would remain at 4 or less all the way to 1993 when the number ballooned to 6! It would drop to 3 the following year in 1994! The number reached 5 in 2005 and hasn’t dropped lower since. The high mark for active QBs with Super Bowl ring reached 8 in 2014 & 2015, but dropped to 7 in 2016 and 6 in 2017. How will this number change moving forward? Let’s look at the ages of our current Super Bowl winners going into the 2018 season:

Tom Brady: 41
Drew Brees: 39
Eli Manning: 37
Ben Roethlisberger: 36
Joe Flacco: 33
Russell Wilson: 29

Wilson will hang around for awhile longer but we’ve already heard retirement rumors concerning Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger & Manning. If Brady gets his 6th title, then nothing changes here assuming all 6 QBs are healthy in 2018. Aaron Rodgers should return to the list in 2018. If Nick Foles gets a Super Bowl win, nothing might change either if Foles isn’t a starting QB in 2018 which seems likely at this point. This is all to say that the number of Super Bowl winning QBs might be in short supply the next 2-3 years especially if some of the old guard keep winning while the new young guns aren’t quite ready to take over. Being a “winner” or “clutch” might not be entirely measurable, but there does seem to be something to it.

Combining QB/HC Trends with the 5-Year Championship Rule

The trick to the combination is looking at the head coaches. Let’s assume that all 6 of the current active head coaches with a Super Bowl title coach another 5 years. If the trend of having a maximum of 8 active head coaches at any one time sticks then the following teams have serious work to do:

Josh McDaniels/Andrew Luck: The 5-year clock starts in 2018. I actually think there is some merit here. McDaniels is pretty young and Luck is a superstar talent. The AFC looks thin especially if Roethlisberger, Brady & Rivers are on their way out & Alex Smith finds himself in the NFC. Don’t forget the Gruden effect either.

Bill O’Brien/Deshaun Watson: They enter 2018 in Year-2. The Titans & Jaguars look incredible. Can the Texans make up that much ground in 4-years time & win finish the job by hoisting the Lombardi?

Mike Vrabel/Marcus Mariota: Like McDaniels, Vrabel is a first year head coach, but unlike McDaniels, he inherits a much better set up with the Titans who reached the divisional round this year. Can Vrabel loosen the reigns on Mariota? Can Mariota stay healthy? Will he let Derrick Henry carry the ball 23-25 times per game?

Doug Marrone/Blake Bortles: 2018 will be Year #3 and the Jaguars are coming off a conference championship loss that should have been a win. In fact, it’s hard to think the Jaguars aren’t the best team in football playing without an ELITE level QB. If this marriage stays together, they are running out of time.

Anthony Lynn/Philip Rivers: Next year will be Year #2 for this marriage. Time is running out on Rivers who will be 36 for the 2018 season. I love this Chargers team and I’m a big Rivers fan. I’d love to see him get a ring, but bad luck follow the Bolts like I’ve never seen!

Jason Garrett/Dak Prescott: The 2018 season will be Year #3 for this duo and I don’t see it. I bleed Cowboys blue & silver, but I almost get the feeling that Garrett is a Andy Reid-lite and the Cowboys are just wasting time. I also don’t see Prescott as a Super Bowl winning QB which is the worst of both worlds for Cowboys fans. Garrett & Prescott might be good enough to routinely keep you in that 9-7/11-5 area where it’s hard to fire your coach/QB but neither are good enough to win a Super Bowl.

Jay Gruden/Kirk Cousins: 2018 will be year #4 for this pair assuming Cousins returns to the Redskins. I almost get the feeling that it would be better if Cousins left & then both coach & QB get a new lease on the 5-year rule.

Doug Pederson/Carson Wentz: Next year will be year #3 for these guys & this is why I have the sneaking suspicion that the Eagles are going to win 2-3 Super Bowls in the near future regardless of outcome this season.  The set up is entirely too good and from top to bottom, the Eagles might be the best organization in the NFL.

Matt Patricia/Matt Stafford: This one is interesting. The Lions aren’t that bad off and with a couple of moves could become the dominant force in the NFC North assuming the Vikings can solve their QB issues and the Packers never really solve their lack of talent outside of Aaron Rodgers issues. Could the Lions get a Super Bowl in the next 5 years!?

Sean McVay/Jared Goff: The Rams won the NFC West in McVay/Goff’s first season. I think this team only gets better meaning they are legitimate threats to win multiple Super Bowls in the near future. In fact, it certainly seems that the Rams are set up for titanic battles with the 49ers and the ever tantalizing storyline of Wentz v. Goff.

Kyle Shanahan/Jimmy Garoppolo: As a starter, Garoppolo has never been defeated. He’s 2-0 with the Patriots & 5-0 with the 49ers. He only played in 5 games this past season so in theory next year will be the first year of Shanahan & Garoppolo together. The NFC is simply amazing when you consider how the 49ers, Eagles & Rams are set up! It’s incredible.

CONCLUSION?

The NFL is headed towards a shift. The QB shift away from Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning & Eli Manning is already underway. Peyton retired a couple of seasons ago and these QBs are getting too old. The shift might not happen this season. It might not even happen next season to be honest, but it’s coming. The shift is also coming with the head coaches. Belichick & Carroll can’t stick around forever & I think it’ll be interesting to see how things play out with Sean Payton, John Harbaugh & Mike McCarthy. I’m not sure those are guys who are going to coach into their late 60s.

If the trends are correct, expect the Patriots to win another Super Bowl. I’d also expect the old guard to continue to win in 2018 and maybe even 2019. The face of the NFL will start to dramatically change for sure in 2020. It could definitely happen sooner, but 2020 looks to be a turning point where we’ll see a big paradigm shift in which active QBs and HCs will have Super Bowl rings.

 

 

 

January 27, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 NFL FOOTBALL – CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW

AWAY QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope I wouldn’t expect Jacksonville to score 45 points on the Patriots. New England’s defense isn’t very good, but they aren’t giving up 45 points to Jacksonville. The key to beating the Patriots is getting pressure on Brady. The problem with that is when New England goes to their hurry up offense, it’s almost impossible to get to him. The Jags couldn’t get to Big Ben last week & that is an ominous sign. The Jags have to play tight press coverage on the edges and get pressure or else they’ll lose. And lose badly. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Case Keenum v. Nick Foles! The aspect of this game to keep an eye on is Minnesota’s passing ability against the Eagles secondary. Minnesota was able to exploit some holes last week with Stefan Diggs & Adam Thielen against a Saints DB crew that is pretty good. Philly’s DBs aren’t as good as New Orleans’ so it’ll be interesting to see how if Case Keenum can take advantage. I also think the Vikings are going to be a MUCH tougher defense than Philly saw last week against Atlanta. Vikings have a huge edge. Computer Hope

January 18, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NCAA POWER 25 – 2017 FINAL

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope So the committee did get it right by including Alabama in the 4-team playoff seeing as how the Crimson Tide took down Nick Saban’s 5th national title in Tuscaloosa & his 6th overall which makes him the unquestioned greatest college football coach of all time. This was Saban’s most talented team & if you believe some of the more critical assessments, Alabama played the season with a RB at QB until Tagovailoa took control in the 2nd half of the last game of the season. Scarier still is that with Tagovailoa returning, Alabama could be even better in 2018! Get ready!
#2 Computer Hope Georgia took Alabama to brink and almost won their first national championship since 1980 with it being HC Kirby Smart’s second year on the job! The fact that Smart got the Bulldogs to the championship game is more than Mark Richt ever did, and I believe this season is a harbinger for things to come. I would have liked to have seen Georgia focus a lot more on Sony Michel in the 2nd half of the championship game, but second guessing is easy. Georgia won the SEC East. They won the SEC & made it to the title game. Best year since 1980. Incredible season.
#3 Computer Hope Oklahoma got out to a 21-7 lead over Georgia and also had a lead of 31-14 late in the 1st half. The Sooners would wind up scoring 45 points in 4 quarters of football, but the defense couldn’t hold up in the 2nd half. Georgia forced overtime & OU couldn’t keep scoring TDs indefinitely hoping the defense would get a lucky stop. Finishing #3 after losing an OT playoff game has to feel disappointing & Sooner Nation is still waiting for their first title since Bob Stoops won it in 2000. At the same time, you have to feel good about Lincoln Reilly’s first year. Now it’s life without Baker.
#4 Computer Hope The Buckeyes got out to a 24-0 lead over USC and cruised to a 24-7 win. Sure the Trojans defense toughened up, but the game was decided early & USC had absolutely no answers for Ohio State’s defense. The Buckeyes made a strong case they should have been one of the four playoff teams, but losses to Iowa & Oklahoma precluded that from happening. It’s odd that Ohio St. had arguably the best defense of any team in college football, but it was this unit that abandoned them in their loss to  both the Sooners & Hawkeyes. Big 10 champs & 12-2. Great year but empty.
#5 Computer Hope Losing Deshaun Watson was going to catch up to Clemson at some point & it’s amazing that it finally caught up to them after they won the ACC & made the playoffs. That’s not an indictment of Clemson. The ACC turned bad this season. Louisville wasn’t that good. Florida St. imploded. NC State wilted down the stretch & Miami-FL was somewhat exposed as an exploiter of a bad schedule. That doesn’t discount what Clemson accomplished. The Auburn win was great, but now that the dust as settled, Ohio St. was the better team. The Tigers will be better in 2018. Bank on it.
#6 Computer Hope UCF beat Auburn. Auburn beat both Georgia and Alabama when both teams were ranked #1 in the nation. UCF finished the season a perfect 13-0. I don’t think I can put UCF above the top-5 teams in the country because those teams proved to be ELITE level squads, but how do the Knight finish worse than #6? What a year QB McKenzie Milton had! The sophomore QB passed for 4,000+ yards with 37TD to 9INT. He also rushed for 600+ with 8TD. No, he shouldn’t have beaten Baker Mayfield for the Heisman. Yes, he should have been a finalist. Best Season Ever for UCF.
#7 Computer Hope Saquon Barkley didn’t disappoint as he rushed for 137 yards & 2TD in his final college game as Penn St. upended Washington 35-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. Penn St. finishes the season 11-2 with their losses coming by 1 point on the road to Ohio St. and by 3 points on the road at Michigan St. in back to back weeks. The year seems empty as the Lions didn’t win the Big 10, they didn’t win the national championship & Barkley didn’t win the Heisman, but it’s hard to think an 11-2 season is a failure. What makes it odd is the manner in which PSU lost. Those were brutal losses.
#8 Computer Hope Historically, Wisconsin’s 13-1 final record was the best record the Badgers have had since 1912 when Wisconsin went 7-0 under HC William Juneau! That’s over 100 years ago! I was happy to see the Badgers beat Miami-FL in the Orange Bowl. I think the Wisconsin was exposed a bit in the Big 10 championship game & beating the Hurricanes validated their record to a degree. The Badgers put up 34 points on a solid Miami defense & Wisconsin has practically their entire offense coming back next season. Jonathan Taylor will get huge Heisman hype heading into 2018. Great year.
#9 Computer Hope A little disappointing that Auburn couldn’t get it done against UCF, but it is worth pointing out that UCF had a great game while Auburn pretty much didn’t show up & yet War Eagle still only lost by 7 points 34-27. It was an interesting game to watch because Auburn couldn’t get their running attack going which was a big surprise for me. The Tigers end the season at 10-4 & SEC West champs. That isn’t a bad year & it took heat off of HC Gus Malzahn for a minute at least. Auburn’s losses were to LSU, Clemson, Georgia & UCF. Those teams had a combined record of 47-8. Crazy.
#10 Computer Hope TCU finished the season with a great 39-37 win over Stanford showing just how resilient this team was all season. The Horned Frogs can argue they were a top-5 team if you believe in Oklahoma, because the Sooners were the one team TCU couldn’t beat. I think the bowl season showed just how good the Big XII was in 2017 & definitely established the conference as the 2nd best behind the SEC. TCU finishes the year 11-3 & now Gary Patterson is 40-13 in his last 4 years in the Big XII with 3 seasons of 10+ wins. This is an elite program & has potential to be a playoff team.
#11 Computer Hope Of all the teams that needed a win in bowl season, none needed it worse than the Fighting Irish. At 9-1, Notre Dame had a playoff spot all but guaranteed as long as they kept winning. Instead, the Irish fell flat going 1-2 in their final 3 games with blowout losses to both Miami-FL & Stanford. The Irish still drew a solid team in LSU and ended up with a 21-17 win & potentially saw the future at QB with Ian Book leading Notre Dame to victory. The Irish finish the year 10-3, but you have to wonder if this is as good as it gets with Brian Kelly as HC? I think it might be which is uninspiring.
#12 Computer Hope USC showed in the first half of their 24-7 loss to Ohio St. in the Cotton Bowl just how far away they are from rejoining the truly elite teams of college football. Then in the 2nd half, the Trojans defense started to play exceedingly well & you got the feeling that USC is right on the cusp of being back to competing for national championships. The loss to the Buckeyes leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but the Trojans did finish the year at 11-3 & Pac 12 champions. The road loss to Wazzou was key. If they beat the Cougars, USC is 12-1 & Pac 12 champs. They would have been a playoff team.
#13 Computer Hope I’ve written this a few times, but it was appropriate for Washington & Penn St. to meet in a bowl game given that they pretty much had the same season with the same pre-season expectations. The Huskies were coming off a  Pac 12 championship & a playoff spot. Penn St. should have been in the playoffs in 2016 & were coming off a Big 10 championship. Both teams had playoff aspirations. Both teams lost close road games which precluded them from winning their division. UW lost to Penn St., but still finished 10-3. Great season but feels extremely empty.
#14 Computer Hope It was going to be darn near impossible to beat UCF’s Scott Frost for coach of the year, but this season was the finest coaching I’ve ever seen out of Mark Dantonio. The Spartans had nobody returning from their 2016 squad. They dealt with a lot of offseason distractions before the season started. They still went 10-3 with wins over Michigan, Penn St. and Iowa & ended the season with a win over Washington St. in the bowl game! QB Brian Lewerke proved to be a game changer. The Big 10 is changing with Ohio St., Michigan & Penn St., but Dantonio proved Sparty isn’t going away!
#15 Computer Hope It’s easy to be just a smidge disappointed with Miami-FL season as they ended with back-to-back losses to Clemson & Wisconsin, but it’s good to remember the process. The Hurricanes finished 9-4 last year which was the best season they had since 2004. The year THE U finished 10-3 & won the ACC Coastal which is the best year they’ve had since 2003! Miami was also ranked #2 at one point in the season. Mark Richt has done an amazing job in Coral Gables, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can do at Miami-FL what he couldn’t do at Georgia. The process is working here.
#16 Computer Hope INCREDIBLE performance by the Bulldogs defense against Louisville in leading Mississippi St. to a 31-27 win in the Taxslayer Bowl. QB Keytaon Thompson was outstanding passing for 127 yards & rushing for 147 & 3TD. Aeris Williams chipped in 88 of his own showcasing a Bulldogs running attack that Louisville couldn’t stop. Hail State played incredible defense against Lamar Jackson turning him over 4 times! Losing QB Nick Fitzgerald was brutal. The rumors & eventually loss of HC Dan Mullen was tough. The Bulldogs still finished 9-4 with 3 losses coming to Georgia, Auburn & Alabama!
#17 Computer Hope The Cowboys had no answer for Virginia Tech’s rushing attack, but the defense made stops when it had to and the offense still posted 30 points on an average day & Oklahoma St. finished the season 10-3 with a  30-21 win over the Hokies. Ten win seasons are great, but you have to start wondering if Mike Gundy can take the Cowboys to the playoffs or if this program is capable of it. OK State drew Oklahoma & TCU at home and lost. Their other loss was to Kansas St…..at home! The Cowboys were 3-3 in Stillwater and 7-0 on the road. When exactly will OK State make the jump?
#18 Computer Hope Pac 12 North champs that came up just short against a very good TCU squad 39-37 in the Alamo Bowl. The Cardinal were easily the best 5-loss team in the nation & if you watch them in a vacuum, it’s impossible to think they should be ranked this low, but 5 losses are 5 losses. Stanford didn’t quite have the season that Penn St. & Washington did but there are parallels. All of their losses came on the road & like TCU with Oklahoma, the Cardinal couldn’t beat USC. Losses to  San Diego St. & Washington St. also look odd in retrospect. Their record doesn’t match their overall talent level.
#19 Computer Hope Losing to Notre Dame 21-17 to end the season 9-4 instead of getting to 10 wins is a major disappointment & you have to think that HC Ed Orgeron is going to be facing some heat. What is going to happen to Orgeron is exactly what happened to Les Miles. He’s not a bad football guy, but he’s not a great head coach. The SEC West already has Nick Saban & Gus Malzahn. Now Jimbo Fisher is going to Texas A&M. Chad Morris is now at Arkansas. Matt Luke did a great job at Ole Miss & I think Mississippi St. nailed it with Joe Moorhead. Does LSU have the worst HC in the SEC West?
#20 Computer Hope Incredible season for Northwestern who ended their year on an 8-game winning streak & finished the season with a 24-23 bowl win over Kentucky. The Duke loss was ridiculous & precluded the Wildcats from an 11-2 finish, but they’ll take 10-3. Two of their losses came against Wisconsin & Penn State. They beat Michigan St., Iowa & Purdue so they weren’t entirely a creature of schedule. Pat Fitzgerald did a TREMENDOUS job & you could even argue this was Northwestern’s best season since Gary Barnett took Northwestern to the Rose Bowl in 1995! Great squad. Great head coach!
#21 Computer Hope Different year, same story for Boise St. who finished the 2017 season with an 11-3 record, a Mountain West championship and a bowl win over Oregon that was over before it even began. Boise St. could have given Central Florida a run at a New Year’s 6 bowl if not for odd losses to Washington St. & Virginia early in the season. They would have had to have beaten Fresno St. late, but an 11-0 Broncos team going into Fresno would have been different. What’s impressive about Boise St. is their discipline. They weren’t overly great, but they don’t beat themselves with penalties and turnovers.
#22 Computer Hope An amazing come from behind victory over Michigan in the bowl game put an exclamation point to a great season that ended 9-4. The loss to Kentucky shouldn’t have happened & it cost the Gamecocks a 10-3 season, but Will Muschamp improved from 6-7 to 9-4 in his 2nd season & has SC poised to be even better in 2018. I think you have to look at South Carolina the way you do Miami-FL. The process is working. Two of SC’s 4 losses came to Georgia & Clemson! One was a 24-17 loss at Texas A&M. It might be another season or two to establish but 10-wins should be the norm here.
#23 Computer Hope Quinton Flowers put on a clinic against Texas Tech as South Florida bested the Red Raiders 38-34 in the Birmingham Bowl to finish out the season 10-2. Flowers passed for 311 yards & 4TD while also running for 106 yards & a TD. USF’s 2 losses were close affairs against UCF & Houston. The Bulls were overshadowed by UCF all season long & if they had beaten UCF they would likely be AAC champs & would have gotten the New Year’s 6 bowl instead of the Knights. Great season for USF. Their 2nd best season in school history & a fantastic debut for Charlie Strong as HC.
#24 Computer Hope Iowa finished their season by blowing out Nebraska & then beating Boston College 27-20 in the Pinstripe Bowl. Despite finishing the year 8-5, Iowa was probably just as tough as any football team in the nation. They HAMMERED Ohio St. in Iowa City but lost close games to Penn St., Michigan St., Northwestern & Purdue. The loss at Wisconsin was legitimate but this was a squad that was THIS CLOSE to 12-1. That’s the story with Iowa. On any given Saturday they can beat anyone, but getting them to play that way consistently is what seems to flummox Kirk Ferentz on an annual basis.
#25 Computer Hope Maybe too high, but the Owls finished the season on a 10-game winning streak & absolutely DESTROYED Akron 50-3 in the bowl game to finish 11-3 and Conference USA champions. Lane Kiffin has an interesting past coaching at USC, Oakland & Tennessee, but there is no denying the guy can coach & is an offensive mastermind. It’s also amazing that Kiffin didn’t get a huge job after this season, but it will be completely outside the realm of imagination to see Kiffin coaching at FAU in 2019. Is FAU a top-25 team? Maybe not, but I’m not sure anyone wants to play them either.

DROPPING OUT

#19 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: Not good. Michigan ended the season losing 3 straight & failed to beat Michigan St., Ohio St. or Penn St. en route to finishing 8-5. I’m not sure Jim Harbaugh is ever going to feel heat in Ann Arbor but he needs to get a win over the Buckeyes & push Michigan back into the national landscape. He’s recruiting exceptionally well, but he need to figure out his QB issues immediately if not sooner. The Wolverines defense was incredible this season & the only thing separating them from 8-5 & 13-0 seem to be QB. Shea Patterson might fix these problems as soon as 2018. We’ll see.

#22 MEMPHIS TIGERS: That was a tough 21-20 loss to Iowa St. in the Liberty Bowl. Memphis finishes the year 10-3 which is great. They had 2 losses to UCF so you can’t really say they blew any games they should have won. Iowa beat Iowa St. so I couldn’t very well justify putting the Cyclones ahead of the Hawkeyes in my final rankings. That left the #25 spot open and I couldn’t very well put Memphis head of Iowa State. Memphis had a great year and I think they along with UCF, South Florida, Houston & Navy showed that the AAC is A LOT better than they are getting credit for.

#23 WASHINGTON ST. COUGARS: Mike Leach got it right during the early part of the season with the Cougars, but Wazzou fumbled the last 7 games finishing 3-4 to end with a 9-4 mark which was a major disappointment. The Cougars had a chance to win the Pac 12 North, but were blown out by in-state rival Washington. They followed that up with a loss to Michigan St. in the Holiday Bowl. Wazzou looked great at times this year but something always felt off. Luke Falk seemed to be in the dog house all season long while losses to Cal & Arizona had to be demoralizing.

#24 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES: There are worse fates than losing to an amped up Oklahoma St. squad 30-21 in the Camping World Bowl. What killed all of Virginia Tech’s momentum was their 28-10 loss to the Hurricanes in Miami-FL. That essentially eliminated Virginia Tech from ACC Coastal contention & the team seemed to lose their edge. They followed up that loss with a loss to Georgia Tech. VT barely got by Virginia & Pittsburgh to finish the season & then lost to Oklahoma State. They finished 2-3 in their last 5 and 9-4 overall. I wouldn’t argue if you want to claim them a top-25 team, but their finish wasn’t good so I have them finishing just outside.

January 14, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 NFL FOOTBALL – DIVISIONAL GAME PREVIEWS

AWAY QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope It felt like Atlanta controlled LA last week in the wild card from start to finish. That was because Atlanta’s defense had arguably their best game of the season & looked like the fastest defense in the NFL. That will be important this weekend with Nick Foles under center for the Eagles who plays particularly slow. The Eagles D will keep them in the game, but the speed of the Falcons D & Foles ability is what gives this game to Atlanta. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Titans can stay in this game if the Mike Mularkey & Terry Robiskie free up Marcus Mariota and allow him to play sandlot football out there. Mariota is a different QB when the leash is off & he’s able to use his legs. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Derrick Henry breaks through with a big game. All of these are reasons why Tennessee could potentially pull off the upset. They won’t. KC isn’t New England. The Pats will score too much. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Sure it was Buffalo, but Jacksonville put on a clinic defensively last week. Both defenses in this one are going to have great games, but the limiting factor here is Blake Bortles. Against the Bills, Jacksonville did just enough to win, but the Jags aren’t going to be able to keep Pittsburgh out of the endzone the entire day. I’d guess Pittsburgh is at least good for 17-20 points. The question becomes whether or not the Jaguars can match. I don’t think so. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Imagine if this game were being played outdoors? The temp in Minneapolis is supposed to be around 7 degree at game time with wind chills at -10 with snow on the ground! How effective would Drew Brees be in those conditions? Instead, the Saints get a dome & Brees should be as great as ever. These squads are the most complete teams in the playoffs. The question is whether or not Case Keenum can step up when the lights are brightest. Computer Hope

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NFL POWER 32 – 2017 WEEK 17

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Jets 26-6. People complained a bit about the Patriots starters playing the entire game against the Jets, but to be fair, New England couldn’t have counted on Cleveland beating the Steelers so they needed a win to secure homefield advantage. The emergence of Dion Lewis at the right time is going to be problematic for the opposition. Hard to think Brady & Belichick don’t win #6.
#2 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Browns 28-24. Pittsburgh didn’t even play their starters & yet they still won a vintage 2017 Steelers game by pulling out yet another close, ugly win. The Steelers are amazing 8-2 in close games this season yet are only +2 in TO margin. At some point winning close games is a skill & it seems like Tomlin & Co. have it in spades. That breeds confidence in times when it matters the most.
#3 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Bears 23-10. The Vikings needed to win to ensure their #2 seed. Minnesota played before New Orleans, Carolina & LA so if they wanted to cement their status as the #2 team, they needed to win. Turns out, they could have lost, but 13-3 sounds pretty nice! Case Keenum has had a monster year as the starting QB. He can cement his status as a franchise QB with a deep playoff run.
#4 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Bucs 24-31. Losing to TB isn’t fantastic, but I’m not sure New Orleans even cares. I do think it interesting that if the Saints really didn’t care about this outcome, they really didn’t care who they were playing in the wild card. To me that shows tremendous confidence on the part of this team, and you have to like their chances moving forward. If experience counts in January, Brees is nice to have.
#5 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to 49ers 13-34. The Rams rested their starters & thus took a loss. I think what the Saints & Rams did was interesting. In the Rams case, they assumed the Vikings would win so they were playing a wild card game regardless. To them, seeding didn’t matter as much as rest so in some ways the Rams could have cared less who they played in the wild card. Does rest matter more than match up?
#6 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Panthers 22-10. Atlanta needed a win to get into the postseason & got it behind solid QB play from Matt Ryan & a tremendous defensive effort that saw the Falcons force 3 turnovers. Atlanta has been inconsistent all year, but people forget just how fast this defense is and the veteran leadership of Matt Ryan & Julio Jones can’t be understated. If things start clicking, this team is dangerous.
#7 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Raiders 30-10. The Chargers made mincemeat of the Raiders in their season finale. Unfortunately, LA needed the Jaguars to upend the Titans for LA to get in & that didn’t happen so arguably the hottest team in the AFC is on the sidelines for the playoffs. The Bolts were 9-3 in their last 12 games. The only AFC teams better? The Steelers at 10-2 & Patriots at 11-1. They should be a force in ’18.
#8 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Falcons 10-22. Not a good look for Cam Newton to throw 3 picks in game that could have given Carolina the #3 seed & a home game in the wild card round had the Panthers beaten the Falcons. Carolina is always going to be interesting because they are in a conundrum offensively. The team is better when Can Newton runs, but the team also wants to keep his injury risk at a minimum. Tricky.
#9 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Broncos 27-24. Patrick Mahomes got a start & didn’t look particularly good but Kansas City played well enough & Denver made enough mistakes to give the Chiefs a win to finish the year with 10 victories. I think double-digit win seasons matter so this is a big win for Kansas City. Even bigger is that the Chiefs get their starters some rest & they go into the playoffs with quite a bit of momentum.
#10 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Cowboys 0-6. There was no incentive for the Eagles to beat Dallas in the season finale & most of the Eagles starters didn’t play much, but losing is losing even if it is only 6-0. I think the loss of Carson Wentz is huge obviously, but I almost wonder if it wouldn’t have done the Eagles well to try & gain momentum with Nick Foles by playing hard going into the playoffs? We’ll see how it goes.
#11 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Titans 10-15. On the one hand, this was a meaningless game for the Jaguars who were locked into the #3 seed. On the other hand, the Titans were a team playing terrible of late & the Jags played their starters yet still lost & Blake Bortles was terrible. Jacksonville ends the season losing back to back games against the 49ers & Titans? I guess the good news is they avoid the LA Chargers.
#12 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Bengals 27-31. A last minute 49-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd ruined the season. Really Baltimore? Worst case scenario for New England & Pittsburgh was for the Ravens & Chargers to make the playoffs. Instead of Joe Flacco & Philip Rivers, the rest of the playoff teams have to deal with Marcus Mariota & Tyrod Taylor. I hate when the best teams don’t get into the playoffs.
#13 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Rams 34-13. Is this a wild card team!? With Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the 49ers are on a 5-game winning streak and won 6 of their last 7 games. The 49ers are in the playofffs if you use only the last 7 games! And it wasn’t like the 49ers didn’t beat anyone. They won their final 3 games against teams who will be playing in the playoffs. You have to wonder what is going to happen in 2018.
#14 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Cardinals 24-26. Beating Arizona wouldn’t have mattered because Atlanta beat the Panthers, but I’d be willing to bet a significant amount of money that Blair Walsh is not kicking for Seattle in 2018. How ruthless is the NFL? The Seahawks don’t make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 & rumors circulate that Pete Carroll might be too old to keep coaching! That’s ridiculous.
#15 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Eagles 6-0. To little too late. At least Dallas’ loss to Seattle was rendered pointless because the Falcons beat Carolina in their finale. Sure the Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs which is disappointing, but their young players were flashing at the end of the season & following up 13-3 with a 9-7 mark isn’t terribly considering Elliott missed 6 games & some regression was due for Prescott’s play.
#16 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Dolphins 22-16. Bills fans will forever be Andy Dalton fans now that a Dalton pass propelled the Bills into the playoffs for the first time since 1999! A lot of credit needs to be given to HC Sean McDermott. He got rid of a lot of players this year and the Bills were still able to win 9 games & backdoor their way to the playoffs. The kicker? I think Buffalo has a decent shot at beating the Jaguars! 
#17 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Jaguars 15-10. They had quite a bit of help from Blake Bortles but the Titans played a game that should have the Chiefs worried. With DeMarco Murray sidelined, the Titans will be forced to feed Derrick Henry the ball. That didn’t work out THAT WELL against the Jaguars defense, but Henry can go off at any time. I love that he got 28 carries against Jacksonville. That is winning.
#18 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Packers 35-11. Like with Dallas & Seattle, Detroit’s loss last week to the Bengals doesn’t look like much in retrospect because they wouldn’t have made the playoffs anyway. The Lions did the right thing by firing Jim Caldwell. He might be a great guy, but Caldwell isn’t going to win a championship and Matt Stafford is the kind of QB who should be competing for championships. They’ll be better.
#19 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Seahawks 26-24. It’s pretty amazing to think the Cardinals had everything go wrong that could & still managed to finish 8-8. The downside is that Bruce Arians is retiring as is Carson Palmer so the Cardinals will start with a new HC & a new QB for 2018, but the rest of the team turned out to be pretty good so I could see Arizona making a 1-2 win jump in 2018 which could make them 10-6.
#20 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Giants 10-18. The Jay Gruden criticisms of Kirk Cousins are ridiculous. In his 3 years as a starter, Cousins has completed 67% of his passes and has averaged 4400 yards & 27TD per season. In some ways I hope Cousins bolts Washington so Gruden is forced to get another QB and then deal with 4-12/5-11 seasons while he simultaneously loses his job & wonders what went wrong. Crazy.
#21 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Ravens 31-27. Marvin Lewis saved his job for another 2 seasons with back to back wins over the Lions & Ravens, but this was worst case scenario for Cincinnati if you believe in the 5 year rule to championships. Unless the Bengals get rid of Andy Dalton, Cincinnati can expect more of the same mediocrity going forward until wholesale changes are made. That’s tough because this team has talent.
#22 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Chargers 10-30. The a disappointing 30-10 loss to the Chargers marked a very disappointing end to a 2017 Raiders campaign. Jack Del Rio lost his job and now it appears that Jon Gruden is finally leaving the booth to back to Oakland & then Las Vegas. Derek Carr took a step back & the offense wasn’t as explosive as we expected this year. Can Gruden change that with this system in 2018?
#23 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Lions 11-35. That was ugly. There was clearly no incentive for the Packers to play, but 35-11? These guys are professionals aren’t they? I think what has been apparent all season is how much the presence of Aaron Rodgers covers up the deficiencies of this squad. Green Bay needs to get quite a bit better on defense for them to be a factor. It’s crucial because age is starting to creep up on #12.
#24 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Bills 16-22. Miami didn’t even bother to play Jay Cutler in the final game of the season, instead going with David Fales who wasn’t horrible. This season was always going to be an uphill battle with Ryan Tannehill going down with an injury. Jay Cutler seemed like a solid decision given his history with Adam Gase, but Cutler’s inconsistency was too much to overcome. Will he find a job in 2018?
#25 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Saints 31-24. Jameis plays poorly and the Bucs get a win! Sure there wasn’t much meaning behind it and Winston did throw 3 picks, but Tampa Bay needed a win in the worst way if nothing else so they can go out on a high note. It looks like Tampa is bringing back Dirk Koetter & Jameis Winston for another go around. That’s extremely tough. How will it be any better in 2018 than in 2017?
#26 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Texans 22-13. Colin Cowherd’s comments about the Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick & Tom Brady triangle are interesting to Colts fans as they relate to Jacoby Brissett. You almost get the feeling that Brissett had quite a bit of value which makes me wonder about Brissett’s long term value to Indianapolis. This is a QB who did only throw 7 picks all season. The Colts have issues but QB isn’t one.
#27 Computer Hope Last Week Beat Redskins 18-10. Eli Manning quite possibly end his tenure with the Giants with a win. Eli is an interesting case. Sure he has 2 Super Bowl victories, but he’s also a QB with a career completion % of less than 60% and a TD:INT ratio less than 2. Eli’s career record is 111-103 so he’s basically a .500 QB. His counting stats are pretty good, but is this really a Hall of Fame QB? I don’t know.
#28 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Patriots 6-26. The Jets were a good story but they end the season losing 4 straight & 6 of their last 7. Could Josh McCown have made a difference in the last 3 games? Maybe against the Chargers but there isn’t much difference between 5-11 & 6-10. There aren’t moral victories in professional sports, but if the Jets can get a franchise QB, they have enough young talent to be a factor.
#29 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Vikings 10-23. The Bears didn’t stand much of a chance against a motivated Vikings team who completely shut down Chicago’s running attack. Mitch Trubisky doesn’t have any weapons on the outside so taking away Cohen & Howard spelled disaster. John Fox was fired, but the good news is that Vic Fangio might stick around as head coach. Keeping Fangio in house would be a good move.
#30 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Chiefs 24-27. The season finally comes to a merciful end in Denver after Vance Joseph guides the Broncos to a 5-11 record in his first year on the sidelines. Denver isn’t that bad of a squad, but their QB issues are significant. The Broncos might be a significant player  in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes to be fair. I don’t get a sense that Cousins is rightly appreciated & Denver could use him.
#31 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Colts 13-22. Losing at Indianapolis is tough but Bill O’Brien is coming back next year and presumably with a healthy Deshaun Watson. That could change everything for the Texans. Throw in a season in which JJ Watt & Jadeveon Clowney are playing together & the Texans could easily go from worst to first. On the other hand, can Watt stay healthy? Is Watson really as good as he showed?
#32 Computer Hope Last Week Lost to Steelers 24-28. Ugh. Cleveland joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams in history to go 0-16. The Lions would win 2 games in 2009 so if the Browns replicate that feat in 2018 & Hue Jackson really does keep his job, Jackson will have a 3-year total of 3-45! The 2011 Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Maybe the Browns get back to the playoffs in 2020? It’s possible!

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

AWAY QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope Incredible game! I think this game is going to come down to experience, fatigue & the run game. It’s one thing for Nick Chubb & Sony Michel to run over Oklahoma. They don’t play defense in the Big XII. It’s entirely different running over an Alabama D that looked incredible against Clemson. I also think it’s going to be more difficult for Georgia to recover after a brutal game against OU. Now throw in a true frosh QB against Alabama. Overcoming all of those obstacles will be too tough for UGA. ROLL DAMN TIDE! Computer Hope

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment