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2015 Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Super Bowl XLIX(Shameless Plug Alert: check out my Super Bowl preview podcast here…)

With all the talk of “Deflate-Gate”, I am glad as hell that Super Bowl XLIX is almost here.  And what a matchup this is.

Both teams come into this game as the top dogs in their respective conferences – and for good reason.  The Patriots do employ a coach and QB named Bill Bellicheat and Tom Brady, respectively.  And the Seahawks have The Legion of Boom led by Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman.

The Patriots are a much tougher team than the one who played the Seahawks in last year’s Super Bowl: the Denver Broncos.  In addition to Brady, New England has a tough tight end, who happens to be a stud, in Rob Gronkowski.  And while the receivers do not scare anyone talent-wise, they do have a tough crew led by Julian Edelman.  Even though I think this dude is a quitter for what he did to my Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount is a beast running the football and has been a rough-rider in these playoffs.

I like the Pats’ D a lot.  They have an excellent secondary led by Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.  Vince Wolfork is a beast up the middle.  The linebacker crew is underrated thanks to the likes of Jamie Collins.  In short, this defense is a bit tougher and a lot more talented than last year’s crew.

Even though the Seahawks do not possess the offensive power as it had last season, they are still capable of moving the ball and putting up points if needed.  Seattle is led offensively by QB Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch.  Even though Golden Tate and Percy Harvin are no longer with Seattle, as long as Wilson can make plays with his legs and Lynch keeps summoning “Beast Mode”, the Seahawks will be fine.

Aside from the aforementioned “Legion of Boom”, Seattle also has a formidable front seven.  Led by Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril and bicycle enthusiast Michael Bennett, the Seahawks can get after the QB with the best of them – usually without blitzing.

As talented as both offenses are, I think this will be decided by the defenses.  Both defenses have not good but great secondaries, and can create havoc with their respective front sevens.

That being said, I am giving the edge to Seattle’s defense.  Its front four alone will generate more pressure on Brady without having to blitz.  And as we witnessed in the Patriots last two Super Bowl losses (both to the New York Giants), the best way to take down Brady and Co. is to have a ferocious pass rush.  I think that Richard Sherman and Co. can easily take away the likes of Edelman and Danny Amedola.  The only wild card is Gronk, and I am more than confident that he could be controlled by Chancellor.

New England may be much improved on defense, but I don’t think it’s improved enough to keep Wilson inside the pocket where he won’t do as much damage.  And I really do not like the Pats’ chances in slowing down Beast Mode, which means Seattle will be able to pick New England apart on the read-option.

This is going to be a close, low-scoring affair with the Seahawks D and Beast Mode leading Seattle to a back-to-back championship.  Seahawks 17, Patriots 13.  

The Patriots Are Making a Fool Out of Goodell

NFLThe year 2014 has to go down as the worst year, in terms of PR, in NFL history.

First we had the poor handling of the Ray Rice investigation.

NFL Commissioner/Warden/Playa Hater/All-Time Procrastinator Roger Goodell meted out the weakest punishment to Rice for knocking the hell out of his then-fiancee at a casino.  Goodell originally claimed that he didn’t see the second and most damning video which showed the actual punch.  Even though an investigation would back Goodell’s claims, I still find it hard to believe that TMZ got its hands on it and the NFL didn’t.

Next was the poor officiating that we fans had to suffer during much of the season.

While I could bitch and moan about the inconsistent officiating as it pertained to roughing the passer, hitting a “defenseless” offensive player (is any NFL player REALLY defenseless?) and such, let’s just point to the last two playoff games involving the Dallas Cowboys.  In their first playoff game vs. the Detroit Lions, there was that infamous pass interference penalty turned no-call that arguably killed the Lions season.  And just to show how much karma could be a bee-atch, the Cowboys were screwed the next week vs. the Green Bay Packers when a great catch by Dez Bryant was later ruled incomplete after a replay review, citing that silly “Calvin Johnson rule”.

And last, but not least, the NFL’s perceived bumbling of the New England Patriots and its role in illegally deflating balls before the game vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

Do we REALLY believe that Pats coach Bill Bellicheat did NOT know that the balls were under-inflated?  I will say he did a better job of passing the buck to his franchise QB Tom Brady.  Speaking of which, do we REALLY that Brady did not notice that the ball did not feel under-inflated?

Look, I’m not saying that the Patriots needed to cheat.  And I’m not saying that those under-inflated balls were key in helping the Patriots beat the Colts.  New England beat those Colts down so bad, it could have beaten Indy with a damn bowling ball.

It’s about if the Patriots DID cheat and WHY they felt the need to do so.  And WHY do they keep pushing the envelope?

There are several questions that Goodell and the NFL have to answer going forward – and quickly.  Where is Goodevil and the NFL in this investigation?  Why have they not gotten around to talking to Brady?  Are Goodell (I’ll stop being childish and stop the silly name-calling) and company waiting for this to blow over not take any measures on New England until after the Super Bowl?

Let’s not forget how hard Goodell came down on the New Orleans Saints.  Loss of draft picks.  Suspension of coaches, including head coach Sean Payton.  Suspension of players like Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, and Scott Fajita.  He would not let Payton and others get away with his plausible deniability excuse.

Goodell cannot afford to let Bellicheat and Brady get away with that.  If he does let the Patriots get away with little to no punishment, the league would lose any shred of integrity it has left.

No one would take Goodell and the NFL seriously going forward if he doesn’t make a move.  Why would fans invest in something in a sport that is no longer authentic?

Simply put, the NFL would be no better than professional wrestling where everything is scripted and favored – where the favored are always Brady, Bellicheat and the New England Patriots.

Coaching, not Bostick, to Blame for Packers Loss

NFLSeveral Green Bay Packers fans are still weeping and gnashing their teeth over what have been.

The Packers for the most part thoroughly – and I mean THOROUGHLY – outplayed the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.  They picked off Russell Wilson FOUR times.  They jumped out to an early 16-0 lead.  They led 19-7 with five minutes left to go in the game.

And yet they found a way to be outscored 15-3 the rest of regulation before losing in overtime.

So the question is this: who in the hell is to blame for the Packers’ collapse?

Well, the easy scapegoat is Brandon Bostick.  He was the boob who not only mishandled the game-changing onside kick, he didn’t do what he was supposed to – block for Jordy Nelson, the designated “hands” on the “hands team”.  After all, Packers fans could always say “you only had one job!”

However, I’ll argue that Bostick shouldn’t have been the main object of the fans’ ire.  In fact, I’d also argue that things shouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place.

Let’s engage in a quick review of the game.

The Packers had two 4th and goals from the 1-yard line early in the game.  Memo to coaches everywhere: if you are a decided road underdog with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line, you go for it on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line.  Period.  The Packers should have been up by more than 16-0.

Whenever a team kicks a field goal in those situations, those are not “plus-3s”, they are “minus-4s” (A touchdown, 7 points, minus a field goal, 3 points, is a four-point differential).  Green Bay essentially left eight points on the field.  Add those eight points, and it would have been a seemingly insurmountable 24-0 lead.

And remember that late interception that Morgan Burnett plucked out of the air with a little over five minutes left in the game?  Remember what the subsequent plays the Packers ran?  Three straight runs, which the first two losing four and two yards, respectively.

And we won’t go into Julius Peppers making Burnett fall to the ground after the latter made that interception.  You see how much room Burnett had in front of him if Peppers (not surprisingly an UNC grad) not gone brain-dead and let him return it?  Dude would still be running right now.

(Note: thanks to Twitter for the image)

This is all on the coaching, bad conservative coaching at that.  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was NEVER that conservative in any game I watched.  It’s as if he forgot that he has arguably the best QB in football right now in Aaron Rodgers.

I mean not going for it on BOTH 4th and goals from the 1-yard line?  Not running at least one pass play after that late Morgan interception?  REALLY coach???

Oh, and let’s not forget the two special teams gaffes the Packers committed in regulation.  First, any pundit would tell you that the Packers had no business being fooled on that fake field goal attempt.  Someone should have been at least in the vicinity of the offensive lineman who was inexplicably wide-ass open in the end zone.

And as for that onside kick debacle, Bostick should have been adequately taught to BLOCK instead of go up for the ball in that situation.  Sure the player should have known better, but a player should not have frozen at that moment and commit a boneheaded mistake if his job was thoroughly coached.

That’s on the special teams coach.

I’m guessing that the special teams coach will take the fall of the collapse and be canned by week’s end.  If McCarthy is truly about accountability, he would also fire himself.

 

2015 NFL Playoff Preview: Conference Championships

NFLAFC

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots. I must say this was not the matchup that I, and millions of fans, expected.  I expected (and kind of hoped) to see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady square off for a spot in the Super Bowl for potentially the last time this weekend.  Instead we get a whimper-snapper (Andrew Luck) against Brady.

I will say that the Colts have improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball.  It turned in stellar efforts vs. Cincinnati and Denver, and the unit appears to be peaking at the right time.  If the defense could somehow neutralize Rob Gronkowski and get some pressure on Brady, the Colts have an excellent shot at pulling an upset.

However, that will be much easier said than done.  New England has been virtually unstoppable at home, and Brady appears to be on a mission.  Gronk is a hard cover in general, and I don’t see Indy shutting that dude down. Darrell Revis and the Patriots’ D will certainly make life a living hell for Luck, especially since Indy has no running game to speak of.  Combine those with head coach Bill Bellicheat’s recent good fortunes vs. Luck, the Patriots will not lose to the Colts.

The Colts’ time will come soon – it just won’t be this year… Patriots 27, Colts 19.

NFC

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks. This will be the game of the day, and thankfully it will be the first game scheduled so we won’t have to wait to watch.

This is a classic matchup between an unstoppable offense vs. an impenetrable defense.  Aaron Rodgers – or as Stephen A. Smith calls him, “the BAAAAAAAD man” – is dangerous both in and outside the pocket, and has weapons on the outside.  Having Eddie Lacy toting the rock out of the backfield helps take some pressure off Rodgers, making the Packers that more dangerous on offense.

Meanwhile the Seahawks’ D is beyond nasty, it’s downright frightening.  That front seven led by Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin will terrify the hell out of opposing offenses.

And if the front seven is not terrifying enough, the secondary or “The Legion of Boom” give QBs and pass catchers nightmares.  Richard Sherman is hands-down the best shutdown cornerback in the league, and strong safety Kam Chancellor is a mountain of a man who is not only a ball-hawk but punishes the hell out of unfortunate pass catchers in his vicinity.

To me, this game will come down to how the Packers’ D will do against Seattle’s offense.  Russell Wilson is a stud who has proven that he can get the job done. It’s just that he does not have many weapons outside of Mr. “Beast Mode” himself, Marshawn Lynch.  If the Packers could somehow neutralize Lynch and prevent Wilson from creating big plays from his legs, I’d like their chances.

However, it is a tall task for the Packers to win in one of the more hostile environments in the NFL.  They do not call the fans at CenturyLink Field “the 12th Man” for nothing… Seahawks 24, Packers 20.

My Apology to Ohio State – and the B1G

big10-11-nav-logoThroughout the 2014-2015 college football season, I have been a member of the “Big Ten Conference Sucks” club.  I was not a believer all season until the bowl season kicked off.  It was then when I realized I had a lot of crow to consume.

Before I state my mea culpa, let me count the ways where I had sniped at the B1G from afar.

First, I questioned the conference’s strength vs. the rest of the Power Five conferences.  The notable losses were Michigan St vs. Oregon and the biggest being Ohio State losing to Virginia Tech (Virginia Tech???).  Second, I questioned the conference’s strength against the Mid Atlantic Conference, aka #MACtion.  Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois had a big say in that.  And finally, I didn’t believe that a team who lost to Virginia Tech should participate in the College Football Playoff.  Not over TCU and certainly not over Baylor.

Now that Ohio State and the rest of the B1G (a 6-5 record during the bowl season, which was better than the ACC and Big 12) made me look like an idiot for such assertions, I have crafted an apology to the Buckeyes and conference in the form of an open letter.  Here it goes:

Dear Ohio State,

I have doubted you and your conference this entire season. 

I scoffed at your conference’s struggles against the “mighty” MAC.  I didn’t think your conference measured up against the other Power Five conferencesYou gotta admit, y’all didn’t look too hot against the likes of Oregon, TCU, Washington, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech. 

And speaking of Virginia Tech, what was that Ohio State?  Maybe it was the case of you not bringing you A-game.  Whatever the case, you didn’t have the look of a contender – let alone a future national champion – after that game.

I held that Virginia Tech loss against you, especially since the Hokies were a shade better than mediocre this past season. 

I will say that you impressed me after that Virginia Tech loss, especially in the way you handled Michigan State at their place.  The icing on the cake proved to be in your curb-stomping of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, with a third-string QB.

I agreed that there was no way the College Football Playoff selection committee could leave you out of the playoff, no matter how well TCU and Baylor looked the last week of the season.

And if the blowout of Wisconsin was not impressive enough, you beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl – a virtual home game for the Crimson Tide.  And that championship game beat-down you laid on Oregon was not only impressive, it was friggin’ awesome.

It was a great showing all around for the Big Ten, as you guys won more than half of your bowl games – all of which you and your fellow Big Ten members were decided underdogs.

I must admit, I was wrong about your team and the Big Ten conference.  Please find it in your heart to forgive me.

Humbly yours’,
Klownboy

P.S. Jim Delaney, I still hate your pompous ass.  That shit will never change…

2015 College Football National Championship Game Preview

CFB-Playoff-Vertical Signature_RGBThis has been perhaps the most exciting year of college football in recent memory, if ever.

We all can thank the powers that be in college football for finally coming around and constructing a playoff.  In spite of what the critics said in the past, the playoff did not diminish the regular season in any way.  In fact, fans pining for weekly playoff rankings after the middle of the season made it even MORE exciting.

In the name of full-disclosure, I was one of those knuckleheads who favored the old BCS system.  In an act of stubbornness mired in stupidity, I always thought that it would weaken the impact of the regular season.

I am happy to say that I could not have been more wrong.

With that in mind, here is my two cents on how tonight’s national championship game will shape out.  Let’s go…

Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

As a fan of college football, I love this matchup.  This game features two of the best offenses in the country: Oregon’s fast break offense led by Marcus Mariota and Ohio State’s physical big-play offense led by third string QB-turned star Cardale Jones.

This game will hinge on two things: defense and coaching. Both defenses are like ‘meh’ coming into tonight’s game.  However, both defenses do a great job of forcing turnovers and capitalizing off of them.  If you don’t believe me, I could just point to what happened in to Florida State and Alabama last week.  Turnovers played a part in both of those beat-downs administered by Oregon and Ohio State, respectively.

The Buckeyes have a HUGE advantage in coaching thanks to Urban Meyer. While I am no fan of the man off the field, he can flat-out coach.  How else can one explain how Meyer has been able to win with both a second- AND third-string QB this season?  And while the Ducks’ Mark Helfrich is a good coach in his own right (not to mention a decent dude off the field), he had been given the keys to a Chip Kelly-bought Ferrari and has yet to seriously out-coach an opposing big-name counterpart.

Now Helfrich gets his chance to do so against Meyer in tonight’s National Championship game, and recent history suggests he will not do well in that department.  One cannot count out Meyer in a big game with a lot at stake.

Combine that with the fact that Oregon will be down TWO starting wide receivers and the odds that Oregon will prevail have grown much steeper.  As a result, this will be the first game that Mariota may have to throw into tighter windows. He struggled against the Seminoles in the first half of the Rose Bowl, and I do not think he will have too good of a game against the Buckeyes.

As much as I hate the Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, he will finally have some shit to talk after tonight’s game.  Buckeyes 37, Ducks 31.

2015 NFL Playoff Preview: Divisional Round

NFLAFC

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots. This is one of the better matchups this weekend. I said on Facebook that the winner of last week’s Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers wild card game will make some serious noise in the AFC playoffs, and I’m sticking to that emotion this week.

The Ravens owned the Patriots in the playoffs, going 2-1 in the last three games between these teams – all in Foxborough. And there is a reason for that: Baltimore matches up well with New England. The Ravens have the front seven that will give Tom Brady fits. And even thought their secondary is suspect, the Ravens do a good job of stopping the run and do a great job of rushing the passer. And more importantly, they are not afraid of the Patriots.

I think this will be a close, tightly competitive game. While it’s hard to go against Brady and coach Bill Bellicheat at home, I think the Ravens will pull this one out. And I hope so, because as much as I despise the Ravens, I hate the Patriots THAT much more. Ravens 21, Patriots 19.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos. It’s Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning. New school vs. old school. There are two things that are going against the Colts. First of all, the Colts defense is suspect. Manning is going to pick the Colts’ asses apart and should have much success moving the ball against them. Second, the Colts’ offensive line and running game are just that – offensive. I think the Broncos’ D is going to disrupt Luck and will give him fits the entire game.

And one more thing: something tells me Manning is motivated to get back to the Super Bowl to avenge last years’ curb-stomping to the Seahawks. Broncos 30, Colts 17.

NFC

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks. As excited as I am for Cam Newton winning his first playoff game last week vs. the Cardinals, there is not much to say about his Panthers’ chances in this game. In fact, I think this is going to be an epic curb-stomping in the Seahawks favor.

Let’s examine this for a minute. The Seahawks have the 12th man, a ferocious pass rush, the Legion of Boom, Marshawn Lynch aka Beast Mode, Russell Wilson, and coach Pete Carroll. What do the Panthers have? They have Newton, an okay defense, a pop-gun offense and coach Riverboat Ron. ‘Nuff said.

Prayers go up for Newton and the Panthers’ safety… Seahawks 37, Panthers 14.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers. This is the game of the weekend. This is a game feature two of the marquee franchises in all sports. It also features a matchup of two extremes. The Cowboys are undefeated on the road and the Packers are undefeated at home.

One thing that both teams have in common is that they both have suspect defenses. As a result, this will be a high-scoring game. In a game that features two high-powered offenses (another thing both teams have in common), you have to go with the home team. Plus, it is pretty tough to win at Lambeau Field, especially in the playoffs. Packers 35, Cowboys 30.

Playoff record last week: 3-1 (I knew I shouldn’t have jinxed my Steelers. C’est la vie…)

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