Tag: Atlanta Falcons

What does the NFL playoff picture look like?

Just two weeks to go, and unlike most years, the NFL playoff picture is very clear.  In the AFC, New England and Cincinnati have the inside track to first round byes.

Pittsburgh and Kansas City have the inside track to wildcard berths.  Denver must win another game to avoid getting passed.  The Jets are poised on the edge, waiting to jump in.  And the Houston Texans appear to have won the suck lottery known as the AFC South.

In the NFC, Carolina and Arizona have the byes.  Green Bay and Minnesota are both in – Green Bay probably as a division winner.  Seattle is the wildcard no one wants to play.  In the NFC East, Philadelphia can clinch if they win out.  Washington can clinch if they win this Saturday.  The Giants can probably still get in too, but no one cares because the NFC is a giant shitpit where football goes to die.

Let’s just hope the crap teams who don’t belong get eliminated early, because I’m antsy to see second round games like Pittsburgh at New England and Seattle at Carolina.  Who the hell WOULDN’T want to see those?!

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Random thoughts from Week 9 of the NFL

The first half of the 2015 NFL season has been crazy.

Right now, the Atlanta Falcons are in sole possession of the second wild card in the NFC… but does anyone really believe this team will be there at the end?  They’ve lost three of their four, including back to back losses against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, unforgivably, the San Francisco 49ers.

While the loss to the New Orleans Saints a month ago was simply a case of running into Drew Brees healthy and at home, and even last week’s loss to Tampa Bay featured an insane number of turnovers that you would not expect to see again, the loss to the 49ers this week was simply inexplicable as the Falcons running game completely disappeared against a very bad team.

In context, it now looks like the Falcons are finding ways to lose every week, and their current lead (a game and a half over the Rams and Seahawks)  seems unlikely to hold up since they still play the Vikings, the undefeated Panthers twice, and New Orleans again.  But beyond that, it’s easy to imagine this team dropping one of their two road games at Tampa Bay or at Jacksonville, and you have to wonder just who’s left on the schedule that the Falcons might actually beat.

This Week’s Sucked And Won

Andre Johnson, WR (IND):  I know the Johnson signing hasn’t really worked out, but this week against Denver he caught zero passes for zero yards and was only targeted three times.  It looks like Johnson doesn’t figure into the Colts offense at all.

This week’s poor sport award goes to former Panthers and current Packers DE Julius Peppers.  Knowing former teammate Cam Newton’s propensity for giving touchdown footballs to kids in the stands, Peppers snatched the ball away before Cam could give some kid the coolest souvenir imaginable.  Of course, Green Bay’s defense still got their asses spanked, but the kids in the stands got to see a former hero acting like a spoiled brat.  Class act, Julius.

Shocking realization of the week

By beating the Jaguars, Ryan Fitzpatrick became the first quarterback to start and win against the same opponent with five different teams.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets

“Blue! 33! My thumb hurts! Hut!”

This week’s Catch Of The Day goes to the Bills Sammy Watkins, on just a picture perfect 44 yard throw and catch TD from quarterback Tyrod Taylor.  Watkins called for the ball, then ran to the spot where Taylor’s had perfectly placed it.  A thing of beauty.

Drew Brees must have felt like a marked man against Tennessee this week, as the Titans drew 3 roughing the passer penalties in their game against New Orleans.  Brees also got sacked 4 times and hit (legally) bunch more than that.   Duck Drew!  Duck!

This Week’s Great But Lost

Michael Crabtree, WR (OAK):  Crabtree caught 7 passes for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to lift Oakland over the Steelers.

This week’s “no substitutions please” award goes to the New York Jets.  Due his thujb injury, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had to be replaced as the holder on special teams.  His substitute?  Kicker Nick Folk, who couldn’t kick because of a quad injury.  His substitute?  Punter Ryan Quigley, who went xx for xx in field goal attempts.  I’d love to tell you that for some reason back up QB Geno Smith had taken over punting duties but sadly that was still Quigley.

Thursday Pick:  Buffalo (+3) @NY Jets (MGM Mirage)

The long term trends here favor the Jets:  the home team has had the better of it in this divisional rivalry and the Jets own a modest advantage over the last half a dozen years.  The short term trend favors Buffalo:  they crucified the Jets last year, winning both games by a combined 55 points.  The bottom line though is that the Bills just got healthy whereas the Jets are all banged up.  These two teams aren’t that far apart:  injuries make the difference.

Buffalo Bills 23, New York Jets 22

N-F-Yell

“There is nothing wrong with our team.  We just lost a tough game.” – Packers coach Mike McCarthy, on his team’s loss to the undefeated Panthers.

“It was fun to see him out there chasing the quarterback.” – Giants QB Eli Manning, on teammate DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who saw his first action of the year after his unfortunate fireworks mishap and injury.

“I thought we would get the kick, get the stop defensively, then use our timeouts and go attack on offense.  We’re a really good two-minute offense.  I felt like we were stopping them defensively and could do it again and go win that way.” – Falcons coach Dan Quinn, on his decision to kick a field goal to make the score 17-16 with 3 minutes to go against the 49ers.  The Falcons never got the ball back and lost 17-16.

“We’re close to leading the league in penalties right now.  That’s gonna get you beat.” – Saints QB Drew Brees, after his team lost to Tennessee overtime.

“It’s nothing that a little Charles Woodson wine won’t take care of.” – Raiders CB Charles Woodson, deflecting a question about his injury status and taking the opportunity to chat up his Napa Valley vineyard.

“We won, that’s the biggest thing.  Obviously there was some sloppy things we have to clean up.” – Jets coach Todd Bowles, on his team’s closer-than-expected win over Jacksonville.

“We will bounce back. We are 7-1. It’s a long season. Name me the last undefeated champion.” – Broncos S TJ Ward, putting Denver’s first loss of the season in proper context.

“I don’t agree with the hit.  I think some of those players on that team are pretty cheap, to tell you the truth. I hope we see them again.” – Vikings G Brandon Fusco, echoing the comments of a number of Minnesota players about the Rams’ hit on QB Teddy Bridgewater that knocked him out of the game.

“There are three people I have zero respect for in this world.  It’s people who hit women, people who molest children and rapists. I’m glad he didn’t have a good day.  I think it’s a joke a guy like that is able to play this quickly.” – Eagles C Jason Kelce, taking a huge shot at Cowboys DE Greg Hardy.

 

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NFL Week 5: Random thoughts

Random thoughts from NFL Week 5! (Yes, we’re a little late. Sue us. Wait, don’t do that.)

I am rather angry at the NFL and more specifically the phony media outlets that pretend to challenge the powerful league on, well, anything.

The latest phony outrage is over Greg Hardy, who didn’t play at all last season and served a four game suspension this season, yet I’m hearing all kinds of complaints that Hardy is now back with the Dallas Cowboys.

I’m not defending Greg Hardy, but what the league does to its players both economically and physically makes what Hardy did to his ex-girlfriend look like a gentle massage.  The league pays players less than any other professional league, and doesn’t guarantee contracts, so it can throw away used up or injured players like yesterday’s trash.  It’s also censored ESPN and threatened other networks if they pay too much attention to the “man behind the curtain,” specifically, the growing ugly mountain of evidence about how hideously awful playing NFL football is for your long term health and how the NFL has basically taken a shit on its veterans for four decades, while ownership have become billionaires in the process.

Yeah, it’s just awful that Greg Hardy is back playing football.  But, frankly, I can’t think of a better punishment.

This Week’s Sucked And Won

Sunday’s Catch Of The Day belonged to Browns TE Gary Barnidge.  If you somehow missed the replay of this find it on youtube.  Barnidge sandwiched a Josh McCown pass between his legs, then bent himself in half, snatched the ball into his hands and, just for good measure, rolled into the endzone for a touchdown.  Maybe it was luck (for a “lucky” receiver, Barnidge had a hell of day, catching 8 passes for 139 yards), but it nonetheless a remarkable play and, if nothing else, some truly heads up football by Barnidge just for realizing that the ball had not yet hit the ground and the play was still alive.

Shocking realization of the week

On Sunday, Charles Woodson became the oldest player since the merger to have a multi-interception game.  For you youngsters, the “merger” was when the NFL and the old AFL combined into one league about 50 years ago.

This week the NFL truly delivered on how exciting a Sunday slate of games can be.  Three early contests went into overtime, the Chiefs-Bears game ended with a very late Jay Cutler TD to take a lead with Kansas City then trying what would have been a record setting 66 yard field goal to win it.  The cherry on top was a thrilling finish on Sunday Night, with Eli Manning leading a truly outstanding end of the game drive to score the winning touchdown.   This is why football is forgiven for so many sins.  This and all the betting.

This Week’s Great But Lost

Todd Gurley, RB (STL):  The rookie running back was a real horse on Sunday, carrying 30 times for 159 yards, and was the Rams only real offensive threat against Green Bay.

Can everyone shut the hell up about how Tom Brady is so great but never had any weapons like Peyton Manning did?  First of all, most dopes who start this conversation then immediately turn to how Rob Gronkowski is the most unstoppable, most uncoverable, most valuable offensive weapon in the entire NFL.  He also has Julian Edelman, the best slot receiver in the NFL today.

Let’s remember Brady had Gronk and Aaron Gonzalez together for a while.  He also had Randy Moss for three seasons, Wes Welker (possibly the greatest slot receiver in the history of the league) for six seasons.  Before he had all those guys, he had one of the league’s elite defenses on the field, along with Corey Dillon in the run game and Troy Brown and Deion Branch at receiver, and while those guys weren’t elite, they were certainly good enough considering everything else the team had going for it, including one of the all-time greatest coaches in NFL history.

But yeah, Brady never had it good like all the other quarterbacks.

Listen, Brady is an all-time great, but this pointless argument advanced in his favor is a huge load of crap.

N-F-Yell

“All of them” – Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, responding to a question about which turnover bothered him the most this week.

“We haven’t played well enough.  It’s as simple as that. No, I’m not pleased at all.” – Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith, criticizing his team’s play despite its second win of the season.

“Kickers are people too, but they’re not football players.” – NFL analyst and former coach Brian Billick, offending kickers everywhere.  I suppose it’s better than offending linebackers, right?

“It was cool, but I’m not one of those guys that likes publicity.” – Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski, on becoming the Raiders all time leader in games played.

“He’s worked hard, he’s a veteran player, he’s a smart guy, he’s been here for a little bit. There are always levels of knowing something. The more you’re around something the more experienced you are with the people doing it together, the better you’re going to be at it. But he’s certainly comfortable with our system.” – Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, uttering a bunch of nonsense about Matt Cassel, who will start for scape-goated Brandon Weeden this week.

“No matter how many times I look at this, I can’t get the end to change.” – Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, lamenting his inability to alter the past by watching video of it.

“We were going to the mattresses.” – Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, making an awesomely cool Godfather reference following the team’s win over San Diego.

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Everyone was wrong about the NFC South

Anyone can be wrong… about a team, about a player, about a coach. You’ll find plenty of people who had the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts meeting in the Super Bowl.

(Hell, I had the Baltimore Ravens winning the AFC.)

How are those picks looking right now? Every year, NFL general managers risk their jobs on whether a certain player will be better than another one in the NFL Draft. The entire NFL draft analysis industry annually has players ranked from 1 through 1,000 and then gleefully calls the first-round picks who don’t pan out “busts” despite the fact that most busts were projected as first-round picks in the first place.

But you don’t often see the experts wrong about an entire division in their preseason predictions… and it’s beginning to look like everyone who said the NFC South was the NFL’s weakest division, that it would (guaranteed!) only put one team in the playoffs and that 8-8 or (can you believe it?) 7-9 might just be good enough to win this awful division were wrong.

DROP DEAD WRONG.

Three weeks into the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the pretty bad team everyone knew they would be. They’re rebuilding. They’re not supposed to be good yet.

The New Orleans Saints have not rebounded from last year’s subpar effort and, in fact, they look even worse, if anything. Last Sunday, Drew Brees didn’t even play, so en route to an 0-3 start they had Luke McCown under center. It definitely looked like the Saints, whether they thought they were or not, were rebuilding as well.

And the Atlanta Falcons? Well, they’re rebuilding too, right? They were lousy last year. They miss Tony Gonzalez. Blah blah blah.

Really?

Are people really surprised that the Atlanta Falcons, who now stand 3-0 having beaten the three best teams in the NFC East, are a lot better this season. Let’s remember, last year their offense was decimated by injuries.

So this year, without having to do much in the draft or through free agency, they get an offense with the excellent but underrated Matt Ryan at quarterback, one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL in Roddy White and Julio Jones, and an offensive line they’ve been working on, highlighted by spending last year’s sixth-overall pick on offensive tackle Jake Matthews.

To juice up the running game, they spent a third-round pick this season on Indiana’s Tevin Coleman to pair him up with last year’s draft pick Devonta Freeman. Yeah, they have a damn good offense, and they didn’t have to spend a king’s ransom to get it.

To pair with it, they have a defense that’s in the process of being revamped by first year head coach Dan Quinn. You may have heard of him — his last job was defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, the best defense in the league three years running. So no, it’s no surprise Atlanta is a damn good team so far, and they will be winning more than eight games this year.

But wait! They have company. The Carolina Panthers, who have more or less had an exclusive deal on having the best defense in the NFC South for a while, are also 3-0.  Granted, they haven’t played the toughest schedule thus far, but just how tough do you think their schedule will get. They play both the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, but they also play the Eagles and the Colts, who both look about as stable as a Jenga tower at a drunken party. Add in two more games against divisional buddies Tampa and New Orleans and you’ve got a favorable outlook. Their toughest games of the year might be the two showdowns they have coming up with the Falcons.

Carolina’s weak spot has been their lack of firepower at the skill positions, but for now they’ve been riding on the multi-talented shoulders of their quarterback Cam Newton, another underrated former No. 1 overall pick who, while not a superstar, is most assuredly not a bust. There’s a long list of NFL teams that would gladly trade their busted former first-round pick to get Cam, but he isn’t going anywhere.

Except to the playoffs.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Not only does he read defenses, he’s friendly too!

And that’s the point. Both Atlanta and Carolina look too good to miss the playoffs. You can put Arizona in that column as well. Any team that had some other plan of action for getting to the postseason is now clearly on notice.

It’s crowded at the top, and the NFC South has no intention of being underrepresented.

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NFL 2015 Preview: Who will win the NFC South?

Predicted Finish:

Atlanta Falcons (9-7) (4th seed; Wildcard Round)

New Orleans Saints (8-8)

Carolina Panthers (7-9)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)

I’ve heard more than one prediction that the NFC South could become the first division in NFL history with back-to-back sub-.500 winners. I’m not joining them, but they might be right.

This is easily the weakest division in football.

My pick of the Atlanta Falcons to land on top here is not so much an endorsement of Atlanta as it is a rejection of the remaining teams. Carolina is probably the most talented of the group, but their schedule will do them in. And the Saints truly have the look of a team on the way down (and out).

Nevertheless, if you’re going to bet against the field, you could do worse than stacking your chips one more time on Drew Brees. For such a poor division, the NFC South certainly has some quarterbacks with lofty NFL pedigrees. Cam Newton and Matt Ryan are both former No. 1 picks and — of course — all eyes are certain to be on Jameis Winston in Tampa, especially early.

But don’t expect much from this year’s No. 1 pick this season. He lacks the supporting cast to go very far, even in a weak field.

So for my money, the Falcons are the pick in 2015. If nothing else, they’re the one team in this division that has clearly bottomed out and is now rebounding and on the way up. And you can’t help but admire their collection of offensive weapons, which remains an impressive cadre. They’ll get that far, but no farther, however, as I have them bowing out to the Vikings in the Wildcard round.

Games to Watch:

Week 1 – Tennessee @ Tampa Bay:  Mariota vs. Winston in Week 1? I don’t know if this was on purpose, but you gotta love it.

Week 4 – Houston @ Atlanta: A big part of the Falcons identity is their strong home field advantage. That was missing last year. Is it back in 2015?

Week 7 – Philadelphia @ Carolina: Want to see a (relatively) early test of the Panthers’ defensive abilities? Let’s see how they stay with Chip Kelly’s Eagles and his run-and-gun offense.

Week 17 – New Orleans @ Atlanta: The last week of the season features a game that will probably be for all the marbles. The NFL schedule-makers have got this kind of thing down to an art form.

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