NFL Conference Championship Game Selections

After a undefeated wild card round, I stumbled to a 1-3 record after the crazy divisional round games. With only three football games left, sigh, I’m going to do my best to finish 3-0 against the spread.

One problem: I can’t quite get a read on these conference title games.

I said heading into the playoffs that I thought Arizona would win the Super Bowl. Now, I’m really second-guessing that selection after watching the Cards struggle last week. Do I really want to pick against Cam Newton in the season of Cam?

For Brady-Manning 17, I’m looking forward to this game more than the NFC tilt, since this is likely the last time these quarterback titans face off on the same field. Even though Manning isn’t the same, I wouldn’t be surprised if he conjures up one last batch of arm strength and pinpoint accuracy to beat Brady.

Season total: 98-114-7

Here are my NFC and AFC conference championship picks:

Cardinals at Panthers  The Pick: Panthers -3  As much as I like this Cardinals team, I feel like they are different on the road. I believe Carolina is the same home or away, but with the home field advantage and the MVP, I’m going to side with the Panthers here. Plus Carson Palmer was very, very shaky last week. And the Cardinals gave up two hail marys on the same drive. The one thing about the Panthers I worry about is their propensity to allow teams back in the game. I could totally see them blowing a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter.

Patriots at Broncos:  The Pick: Broncos +3.5  I like Broncos to win outright and advance to Super Bowl 50. I picked against the Patriots last week and it worked so well I’m stupid enough to do it again. This is going to be a cop-out, I know the Pats are the better team, but I just think Denver gets enough lucky breaks to win. I think there’s one or two random defense or special teams scores for them to win. I also think fate is aligning for Peyton Manning to get one more Super Bowl appearance.

So that’s it. Panthers Broncos in Super Bowl 50. I hope you enjoyed the scientific and analytical information I brought. Oh and congratulations to the Patriots and Cardinals who have already won their games today since I picked against them.

One more quick item. I want to rank the possible Super Bowl matchups in terms of watchability:

  1. Cardinals – Pats
  2. Panthers – Pats
  3. Panthers Broncos
  4. Cardinals Broncos

 

The Doug Pederson Hire is…

Just ok.

Nothing more, nothing less. He certainly wasn’t one of the first names that came to mind when Jeffrey Lurie released Chip Kelly. I’m not going to lambaste the hire, and I’m certainly not going to expect great things either. After putting all my faith in supposed genius Chip Kelly only to watch him fail and get shipped out of town abruptly, I’m not totally opposed to going outside the box with a boring and unexciting name.

Only Doug Pederson isn’t really an outside the box hire. He’s an Andy Reid disciple. Our we setting ourselves up for more of the same from what we got from 1999-2012? Granted a lot of playoff seasons were in there, but no championships. Doug Pederson’s ceiling feels like five seasons with one or two trips to the playoffs mixed in. It just doesn’t scream a decade plus of championship-level football. But then again, Andy Reid’s hire didn’t either, and I think that’s the one aspect of this that’s giving Eagles fans reasons to be optimistic.

Andy Reid is a good coach to learn from no question and Pederson has years of playing experience and time spent around some of the most successful people in the sport. He knows what it takes to be a player in this league and what a successful locker room should look like.

But then again, why does it appear like he was the Eagles third choice? When are other reports suggesting that Ben McAdoo and Tom Couglin were going to be named Eagles head coach if the Birds had worked something out. Clearly the Eagles like Pederson, but they have reservations. This is going to be a fascinating opening presser and there’s going to be plenty of other tough questions and topics for Lurie to dance around.

Why didn’t they interview with other candidates with other teams? The only outside candidates they spoke with besides Pederson were Adam Gase, McAdoo and Coughlin? Why not try Sean McDermott or Josh McDaniels or Hue Jackson?

Why did Pederson only receive one head coaching interview?

What is Howie Roseman’s roll now? If he’s in charge of personnel and making the hire, why isn’t he allowed to answer questions at the press conference?

It was a very puzzling search for a new head coach and you just have to wonder if the team was exhaustive and thorough enough in vetting possible choices. It’s clear Lurie was burned by Chip. Now is he forsaking upside to find someone too familiar or less controlling? When looking for a new head coach, it’s certainly smart to find elements of what worked in the past. But to expect Reid-like success from Pederson, to strike gold twice, is unrealistic.

Overall I have my doubts about the Pederson hire, but I’m certainly going to give him a chance. Welcome back to Philadelphia Doug, and good luck.

NFL Divisional Round Selections


Last week could have been one of my best football weekends ever. Not only did I pick all four Wild Card games correctly, bringing my seasonal total to 97-111-7, but I picked my best daily fantasy team ever. While I walked away with no money (thanks DeSean), I still finished very well considering I only had one entry and there were 17,000-plus entries involved in the DraftKings contests.

Let’s see if I can pull off a similarly good weekend for the NFL’s best weekend of the year: the Divisional Round.

Chiefs at Patriots: The Pick: Chiefs +5  I really do like the Chiefs outright and not just because the Eagles for and present head coaches are involved. I think their pass rush causes problems for the Patriots makeshift offensive line and the opportunistic defense makes just one or two big plays. As I type this, it’s murky as to whether or not Gronk is playing. Tom Brady is playing with an ankle that might or might not be injured and has Julian Edelman back for the first time since November. Still, the Pats haven’t looked right and I’m not sure getting several key cogs back is going to make them look like that dominant team that cruised through the season until mid-November.

The Chiefs don’t scare you offensively, and Jeremy Maclin being limited is certainly troublesome. I know it’s stupid to pick against Brady and Belichick. But I don’t care. I’m taking the Chiefs.

Packers at Cardinals The Pick: Cardinals -7.5 I’m still convinced the Cardinals are the league’s best team and I’m not totally convinced Green Bay is back. A win over the lowly Redskins just doesn’t cut it for me. This one will be closer than the Week 16 blowout, though.

Seahawks at Panthers The Pick: Panthers -2.5  I’m sticking with the MVP in this one. The Panthers were listed as underdogs earlier in the week, which surely raised some eyebrows in that locker room. While the weather will be much better for Seattle this week, it’s another cross country trip against a well rested Panthers squad. Missing Bene Benwikere and Charles Tillman, will be a tough hurdle for the Panthers to overcome, but I still think that defense is good enough.

This game should go one of two ways. A high-scoring affair feature big days from two of the best quarterbacks in the league, or a defensive struggle. I’m actually going to opt for the former as Cam shreds the Seattle defense with his arm and legs.

Steelers at Broncos: The Pick: Broncos -7.5 An injured Ben Roethlisberger and no Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams? Sorry, I just don’t see how Pittsburgh scraps enough points together to win this one.

 

 

NFL Wild Card Weekend Selections

Hello and welcome to the start of the NFL playoffs!! Before I make the selections, yes I skipped Weeks 16 & 17 due to the holidays and being under the weather. No, I don’t feel bad.

This is a really strange yet intriguing opening round of the postseason, and is example 4,890 while you shouldn’t wager on sports games (but you should keep playing daily fantasy sports because there’s no way you lose playing in those contests).

I kind of want to pick all four road teams just because they all have the experienced quarterbacks. But one of these home teams is going to win right? I guess we will find out.

Season total minus two weeks and a handful of games:93-111-7 

Chiefs at Texans  The Pick: Chiefs -3.5  I feel like the Texans have an ownership stake in the first time slot of wild-card weekend. Unfortunately, the Bengals won’t be coming to town this week. Andy’s big red machine won’t slow down this week. Plus, I feel like if the Chiefs can take away DeAndre Hopkins, Houston has little chance of scoring. Don’t screw this up, Andy.

Steelers at Bengals The Pick: Bengals +3  Hardest game for me to pick. The Steelers are missing their starting running back for the second straight postseason. But the Bengals won’t have Andy Dalton. I’ll take the Bengals, since I just can’t trust which Pittsburgh team will show up.

Seahawks at Vikings The Pick: Vikings +5.5 I think Seattle wins a nail biter here in the arctic cold of Minnesota. I think the cold weather affects both teams, but Seattle contains Adrian Peterson enough to make Teddy Bridgewater have to try to make more throws. I don’t like his chances.

Packers at Redskins The Pick: Packers +1  This is the one that I had to think about the least. I refuse to bet against Aaron Rodgers. The end.

 

 

 

 

The Abrupt End of the Chip Kelly Experiment

Well, I guess that’s that.

There will not be a Super Bowl championship in Philadelphia once again, when in fact it seemed like a sure thing that Chip Kelly was the guy who would finally deliver the elusive prize to title-starved Eagles fans all over the world.

Nope, he failed just like every other coach, and possibly worse than any other Eagles coach in history. I never got around to writing a post before the firing, but it was my belief, that because this year went so poorly, and all of Chips’s personnel moves backfired, I thought it would be best for the team to completely sever ties.

I was startled when he was “released” just like I was startled when DeSean Jackson was cut and LeSean McCoy was shipped to Buffalo. However, it was more of a pleasant surprise to me than an out-of-the-blue shock. Jeffrey Lurie made a huge blunder last year letting Kelly bully him into handing over total control and he quickly changed that mistake, rather than going through another season to see if the mistakes could be fixed.

Will Chip Kelly get another coaching job in the NFL? I believe so and I also believe he will be successful. But only if he realizes that culture DOES NOT beat scheme and you can’t build a team full of boy scouts. Talent wins in the NFL.

I’m not sure why I bought in and totally believed Kelly was some football savior. I tried to find parallels with other teams around the NFL, mainly Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, but Carroll would never let talent walk the way Kelly did, which should have been an obvious sign right there that Chip would not be successful.

I thought I could see some grand offensive powerhouse being built after watching a couple of impressive drives in the preseason. Nope, blind optimism got in the way there. It’s kind of hilarious how Eagles fans, like me, thought that small sample size would correlate to regular season success. Never again. (Until next year at least).

There will be a lot of reminiscing of this brief three-year relationship with Kelly and a ton of what-ifs.

What if Jeremy Maclin never gets hurt before the 2013 season? Then Riley Cooper never sees substantial time. Hell, he’s probably cut after the video of him using the N-word comes out. I bring this up because Cooper had his only productive year in Kelly’s system that season. Did Kelly simply think he could plug and play anyone in his system after Cooper’s success? It’s a shame we never got to see DeSean and Maclin opposite one another in this offense.

Why did he have to have total control over the roster? Why couldn’t he just coach? For a guy who said he only wanted to coach when he first got here, that didn’t turn out to be the case. Did his ego get inflated upon success in year one? Probably. Still, I’m not sure why he would want that responsibility.

Why did Jeffrey Lurie let Chip have total control of personnel when he had never accomplished anything of worth? He said in his post-firing presser that he wanted to hold Chip “accountable.” That’s a weird way to phrase giving someone more responsibility. If Lurie would’ve put his foot down and thwarted Kelly’s power play, maybe Kelly does bolt last year and the Eagles are actually in better shape than they are today.

And the Eagles are a mess. The offense has been stripped off all notable talent. The defense has a mismash of 4-3, 3-4 style players, so there’s going to be more defensive turnover for the foreseeable future to match whatever scheme the new coach chooses to implement. Huge chunks of the salary cap are tied up to unproductive veterans DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell. They don’t have a second round pick this year. And I could probably keep going.

It’s going to be another crazy off-season.

Ultimately, for a team with no Super Bowls, hiring Kelly was a risk worth taking. I don’t hate Chip and I hope he makes the necessary adjustments to his own coaching philosophy to become a success once again. The team needed as stark a contrast in  football scheme as possible from the Reid era. He certainly reinvigorated a fan base that had experienced 14 years of bitter disappointment and the same tired mistakes on the field. The promise of innovation, bold forward-thinking strategies was more than a welcome departure.

But there was always the risk, the risk of buying into a guy who was an assistant at New Hampshire only a decade ago. That his offense wouldn’t prove suitable for the highest level of football. That decades of traditional football operations would suddenly become eradicated by sports science up tempo offenses and new practice regimens. For every Jimmy Johnson comparison I chose to indulge, I conveniently dismissed haters who labeled Chip the next Steve Spurrier.

When you’re as championship deprived as Philadelphia fans are, you’ll pretty much talk yourself into anything. It’s a shame that Chip didn’t work out in Philadelphia, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

The Eagles got Demolished by a Real Team Sunday Night

And the same thing will happen if the Eagles win their final two games to lay claim as NFC East representative* in the National Football League Postseason.

*Calling them a champion just doesn’t feel right. 

The last two weeks were nice wins, and it was encouraging that the Eagles haven’t totally quit on the coach. But they’re still a bad team with myriad flaws. Plus, in that Patriots game, there were three return touchdowns and the Pats were missing a ton of key players. And the Eagles still nearly lost.

Many of those flows showed up again tonight in the loss to the Cardinals but the tackling, or lack thereof, was simply appalling. I know there were lots of backups in the secondary, but it was still just a pathetic effort.

The running game just can’t get going and the DeMarco Murrary fiasco keeps getting worse. Two carries for three yards. Thanks, Chip. I’m almost tempted to take the $13 million cap hit and get rid of him entirely for next year.

The Eagles actually moved the ball fairly well and Sammy Sleeves keeps looking more comfortable. Yes he had two bad interceptions, but the game was long over when those were thrown anyway. Who knows if Bradford will be here next year, but I’d probably bring him back. This team needs stability at the quarterback spot. The alternatives like Colin Kaepernick just aren’t enticing.

This is probably the least excited I’ve ever been for a possible playoff berth for the Eagles. With how bad Philadelphia sports are right now, of course I’ll take the Eagles getting in the postseason, but knowing they have no shot, much like the Sixers for the Doug Collins era, makes the whole thing seem kind of worthless. I’d honestly prefer 6-10 and a better draft slot.

  •  DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin produced 13 catches for 2013 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. The Eagles receivers, aside from Jordan Matthews and his meaningless touchdown yardage and touchdown reception: six catches for 74 yards. Nelson Agholar had no catches. I don’t care how good the Arizona secondary is, you have to produce something. It’s been a tough year for Agholar and the whole receiving coprs and I think it would be best if we didn’t go crazy about predictions after reading about how good they look next training camp.
  • Two years ago I called Bruce Arians a whiny crybaby after the Eagles beat the Cardinals with the help of some questionable officiating. This was also after he was less than complimentary of the Eagles offense and Chip Kelly’s scheme. The Eagles never interviewed Arians after Chip Kelly changed his mind. Hindsight is 20/20 but Arians is a great head coach and I wish he was coaching the Eagles and not “Big Chip.”
  • In the 2014 NFL draft the Eagles took Marcus Smith in the first round and Josh Huff in the third round. In those same rounds the Cardinals selected two studs, John Brown and Deone Bucannon. Both could’ve been Eagles, but Chip Kelly obviously didn’t like what he saw.
  • I wish the Eagles had just one of the Cardinals receivers. Hell, I’d take JJ Nelson.
  • Kiko Alonson needs to get the hell off the field. I’m going to chalk this year up as an injury-plagued one where he isn’t quite healthy. But that lack of effort in the second half when he bascially wanted no part of David Johnson plowing into the end zone was all I need to see from him this year.
  • Thank you NFL for showcasing another Eagles blowout in primetime. I said it two weeks ago and say it here now: Panthers-Giants should’ve been the flex choice.
  • I should’ve went to see Star Wars rather than watch this debacle.

 

 

 

 

NFL Week 15 Selections

Three weeks left in another perplexing and wildly entertaining NFL season. If only there weren’t so many key players going down with injuries. I feel like I barely know half of the players that are being utilized this weekend as fantasy playoffs ramp up.

Speaking of which, I lost in one of my money leagues. That’s about 200 hours I’ll never get back. It can be directly tied to losing one matchup by less than half a point two weeks ago, which caused me playoff positioning. If I win that, I’m the three seed and beat the six seed last weekend. Literally if one more play had worked out in a positive way for me, I’d still be alive. Fantasy is absurd.

Anyway, at least the Eagles are fairly healthy as the keep their miraculous playoff quest going. But a big test with the Cardinals coming to town. Can’t say I feel great about this one.

Last week 5-9

Season: 88-103-6

Here’s the Thursday night with the rest coming later…

Bucs at Rams   The Pick: Bucs +2.5  I hate taking road teams on Thursday night, but the Rams just stink offensively. Unless they realize this is their last game in town, then maybe they could put one more “Greatest Show on Turf” performance, but I doubt it.

 

Jets at Cowboys  The Pick: Jets -3.5  The Cowboys should just tank for the draft pick now.

Bears at Vikings  The Pick: Bears +5.5   Who the hell knows with these two teams?

Texans at Colts  The Pick: Texans +1.5 I’ll trust the Texans’ defense here.

Chiefs at Ravens  The Pick: Chiefs -6.5   Big Red and Co. should win out.

Bills at Redskins  The Pick: Bills -2  This might be wishful thinking but I think the Bills can trick ol’ Kirk Cousins into having a bad game.

Titans at Patriots  The Pick: Pats -14  Unlike the Eagles game a few weeks back, the Pats will dominate an inferior team.

Panthers at Giants  The Pick: Panthers -4   The Panthers could be in big trouble here, but I already was wrong when I picked them to lose to Dallas on Thanksgiving. I won’t pick against Cam until he loses.

Browns at Seahawks  The Pick: Seahawks -14.5 Seattle keeps motoring along as the Browns provide little resistance.

Packers at Raiders  The Pick: Packers -3.5 I think the Packers are finally going to take charge and look like the team we though there were going to be. Oakland is tough though. I could see them in the playoffs next year.

Broncos at Steelers  The Pick: Broncos +7 Too many picking Pittsburgh for my liking. I think Denver keeps this a low-scoring affair.

Bengals at 49ers  The Pick: 49ers-6  This San Fran team has been solid at home. Bengals close.

Cardinals at Eagles The Pick: Eagles -4.5  If the Eagles can win in New England, they can win this one.

Lions at Saints  The Pick: Saints -3  The Lions have given up while the Saints keep showing some pride at least.