LOS ANGELES — The 2013 season of HBO’s excellent “Hard Knocks” opened Tuesday with some of the Cincinnati Bengals rookies out to dinner with running backs coach Hue Jackson, who was offering sage advice on the eve of the neophytes’ first NFL training camp. Jackson, the former Raiders head coach, was also busting on Giovani Bernard for driving his girlfriend’s mom’s Honda minivan. Bernard said that any car with automatic doors was good enough for him; hard to argue. Almost simultaneously, all-world receiver A.J. Green was getting himself into, and learning how to shift, a brand new BMW luxury sedan. The difference between the two players’ football worlds was clearly on display: one an unknown rookie whose potential seems as high as the Queen City’s skyline, the other a league superstar who’s only getting better and brighter by the day.
There was a line the brilliant narrator Liev Schreiber said during the hour-long episode that struck me: the Bengals are thinking Super Bowl, which is amazing to think about considering where the team was a few years ago during its first go-around on “Hard Knocks” in 2009. Then, Cincinnati was a team with just one winning season in 18 years – the forgetful 2005 campaign which saw Carson Palmer go down in the playoffs against the Steelers with an injured knee – and in that span suffered 13 losing seasons and 4 years of 8-8. You don’t get the nickname “Bungals” for nothing. But something funny happened during that ’09 season: a return to the playoffs. In the aftermath, Palmer threatened sit out or retire before he was finally traded to Oakland mid-year, and a 4-win season in 2010 yielded a new era and leader: Andy Dalton. The result has been back-to-back postseason berths.
And that’s where we are when “Hard Knocks: 2013” begins, Andy Dalton doing pilates with his wife and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis bluntly stating how the team hasn’t won a playoff game despite being in the tournament 3-of-the-last 4 years. Will Cincinnati be among the final two teams when Super Bowl XLVII kicks off this February in New Jersey? My Magic 8 Ball says “check back later.” That’s the NFL’s beauty; no one knows. But what I do know is for the next 4 weeks I’m going to enjoy the hell out of the all-access look at this new beast of the AFC North.
Lots of thoughts from this week’s premiere episode. In no particular order:
- Geno Atkins has the biggest traps/shoulders I’ve ever seen. Is there even a neck on that dude? And I don’t know where that first pitch ended up, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a strike. Though I’m not going to tell him that.
- James Harrison is still, hands down, the scariest dude in the NFL. Didn’t you get the feeling that when Jay Gruden was joking to him about not touching A.J. Green that Harrison was completely serious that he was really going to jack Green up if he came across the middle? Even when Gruden tried to play it off, Harrison never broke. Just pure mean. How great was that montage of him flipping off the HBO cameras or slamming the door in their faces? What a first class a–hole. And who’s Ford station wagon was he getting into? Dude barely fit in the back seat!?
- Marvin Lewis; nice digs, son.
- Of course Pac-Man Jones would run out of gas minutes from the stadium on the first day of Training Camp. That is the most Pac-Man Jones of all things he could’ve done. Ya know, aside from shoot somebody in a “script club.” And could you imagine being that guy’s wife?
- Devastating what happened to Larry Black. Just shows how unreal the raw emotion this show seems to capture year-in and year-out when Black was on the phone with his dad (I’m guessing). I was wondering when the producers were going to introduce the player we all should care about and as soon as they did, he went down. Tragic. Wonder who that player will be next week.
- How many of you out there had the same “damn, I need to get him in fantasy” thought I did during that Tyler Eifert catching montage? Dude is going to be a MONSTER in the red zone this year.
- Does anyone really know what “Who Dey?” means? ‘Cuz I sure don’t.
- Think about this for a minute: if you were to have an Oklahoma Drill at your work, how would you stack up against the competition? And would you rather be on offense or defense?
- It never ceases to amaze me how great “Hard Knocks” is at making me care about a team that, under completely normal circumstances, I’d have zero interest in; same thing happened last year with the Dolphins. Oh, and if you’re scoring at home: Lauren Tannehill > Jordan Dalton. (look them up yourself)
- On that note, I didn’t even have the Bengals on my “Hard Knocks Wish List” that I wrote back in May: check it out.
- Cool off-day montage with some of the guys playing golf (terribly), air hockey and backyard ladder at Dalton’s house. You forget that these Sunday gladiators of the gridiron are really just 20-something year old kids who just wanna play football and have a good time.
- As always, the footage the HBO crew gets is beyond spectacular. The slo-mo montage of players walking out for their first practice into their throws, catches, runs and hits gave me chills. Of course, the music selection helped tap into that emotion. In case you were wondering, the track was “Feeling Good (Bassnectar Remix)” by Nina Simone. Yes, I went back and Shazam’d it.
What did everyone else think?
LOS ANGELES — It’s not the superfight boxing fans had clamored for, but this one will do. And it should be simply put, fantastic. Late Wednesday, Floyd Mayweather announced on his Twitter feed that he’s agreed to fight fellow unbeaten champion Canelo Alvarez this coming September 14 in Las Vegas at 152 pounds, putting his own unblemished 44-0 record on the line. It will without question be Mayweather’s toughest bout in years and should smash his own pay-per-view record for his new home, Showtime.
“I’m giving my fans what they want,” Mayweather said in the Twitter release, and there’s no doubt that’s the case. Since Alvarez defeated Austin Trout in late April, he’s been the hot name for Mayweather’s next hand-picked opponent. Most thought their matchup would be next year at the earliest, given Mayweather’s recent layoff and hand injury suffered against Robert Guerrero, but that was put to rest Wednesday.
The fight will take place at Mayweather’s Las Vegas home, the MGM Grand and will take place on the same day as two-time defending NCAA Champion Alabama Crimson Tide battles reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and arguably the man having the greatest Spring Break of all-time, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. My calendar is already circled for that bound-t0-be epic sports Saturday.
If I was a betting man, I’d parlay the Aggies and Mayweather.
SPURS COAST, HEAT PUSHED BY PACERS
Tony Parker, in my mind, is the MVP of the NBA Playoffs to this point. The way he dominated the Memphis Grizzlies was remarkable and unexpected, especially considering how out-of-this-world Mike Conley had been playing in the first two rounds. Truthfully, I thought the Grizzlies would defeat the Spurs in 7 games and get blown out by Miami in the Finals, but now it looks like both maybe watching from their respective Italian leather couches. To the Heat/Pacers after one more point about Tim Duncan; what he’s been able to do this postseason has been remarkable. Talk about turning back the clock, applying the deer antler spray or whatever, to see TD just destroying the competition in the second season has been wonderful. And, it’s been reported, he’s been doing in all the while locked in a nasty divorce. Kudos.
Now, onto Indiana/Miami. Who saw this coming? Put your hands down. The Pacers are huge. Like skyscraper huge and it’s obviously posing seriously problems for Miami, whose biggest player (Chris Bosh) is a 6-11 jumpshooter (I’m not counting Birdman, I’m just not). When you get outrebounded by 19 in a playoff game, you have issues. And sure, that 6th foul on LeBron James in Game 4 was pretty dubious but you have to expect that kind of wishy-washy, make-everyone-think-the-game-is-rigged refereeing once in a while. I just can’t figure out the Heat. They should be rolling, and you saw that in Game 3 and then in Game 5 how badly they can dominate when running on fully cylinders, but it just seems like they coast too much. Though I really wanna see the Spurs dismantle them. Can’t get over how amazing San Antonio is playing. I think the Spurs are going to win the title, but I think they’ll end up losing Game 1 because of the long layoff, since it seems obvious to me Pacers/Heat is going seven games.
BLACKHAWKS ADVANCE, NO CLEAR CUP FAVORITE
I’ll be the first to admit I only pay attention to the NHL during the playoffs. I’m sure I’m not alone. And while I can name more than a few players on the Bruins, to say I’m a fan would be inaccurate. I was pumped when they won the Stanley Cup a couple years ago, and I want them to win again this year, but I don’t live and die with every line change and power play. I did get moderately into the Blackhawks/Red Wings series if only because my buddy Charlie is a die-hard Chicago fan, so it was nice to see them win so he could live a little longer only to have another heart attack when they go seven games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings here. It would be nice if I could get to a game, but it’s looking highly unlikely.
Penguins/Bruins should be a fun matchup as well. Lots of good storylines with Sydney Crosby and what Pittsburgh has been able to do this season with their super-loaded team, and Jaromir Jagr facing his former team, the team he won a couple of Cups with when he was just a rookie. Now he’s on Boston trying to lead this team to a title for the 2nd time this decade. Read somewhere that the final four is the last four Stanley Cup champions. That’s pretty neat. Hope both series go seven games.
Rooting for Kings/Bruins.
EXTRA BUTTER SUMMER-MOVIE STYLE
I’m pretty disappointed in my movie reviewing the last couple years, and every time I pledge to bring back Extra Butter, I always fall short of my own expectations (lot of first person in that sentence). So here’s some seriously quick reviews of this Spring/Summer films that I’ve seen thus far. Please note, I have yet to go see Fast 6, which I plan on doing. So in the true spirit of brevity, here’s my one-line reviews followed by my ranking.
Iron Man 3: Gwenyth Paltrow appears for a moment wearing a sports bra and Robert Downey is very polished now in his 4th go-around, if you count “The Avengers” but I thought it was a nice conclusion to the trilogy, however it made too much money not to make a 4th; as always, stay through the credits and if Jon Favreau happens to see this, eat a salad. 3.75/5
42: Harrison Ford was a little over the top as Branch Rickey, but it was a cool to sorta re-live” history” through this film, though it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. 2.75/5
Pain & Gain: This film had 3 things going for it from the get-go with me: Marky Mark, The Rock and Michael Bay, that meant there was going to be wicked awesome one-liners, probably some big dudes doing cool stuff, and shh blowing up with gratuitous sex where applicable. Check. Check. Check. Thrown in Ed Harris and University of Southern Maine’s own Tony Schalub and you got a success, despite its stupidity. 3.25/5
Olympus Has Fallen: The first of our “let’s blow up Washington D.C.” films this year featured Gerard Butler basically doing what he should be doing in all his movies: kicking ass and taking names later, but it was nice to see Dylan McDermott getting work again despite it being this insanly over-the-top, non-believable, there-must-have-been-1,000-body-count, flick. 2.5/5
The Great Gatsby: I went in thinking this was going to be a 2-hour rap video since that’s what the previews made me think this film was, and I left thinking that I could’ve done without the Jay-Z and Beyonce songs since they, ya know, weren’t alive in 1920, but I did enjoy it, and made me think for a minute that I wanted to read the book like I was in 10th grade again. 3.25/5
GI Joe: Retaliation: A movie that knows what it is, its audience and what it wants to accomplish; fun, explosive and wrapped up with the good guys winning and The Rock kicking some serious ass; it didn’t hurt that Bruce Willis made an appearance. 3.5/5
Star Trek Into Darkness: Hands down the best flick of the season thus far, and it’s so good I don’t even want to say anything about it, just go see it and then when it’s over, see it again. 4.25/5
Oblivion: Remember when Tom Cruise went insane and everything he made was tainted? Me too, and I hated that because I really like Tom Cruise and make it a point to see all his films, so with this one I really wanted to like it and the first half was pretty awesome and then it just got weird. But Morgan Freeman is in it, so there’s that, too. 3/5
NFL OFFSEASON IN FULL SWING
I was taking some heat on Twitter when it was announced that 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree would be missing most of the 2013 season after suffering an achilles injury, those blaming me for my line of questioning to him a couple months back on the Rich Eisen Podcast. While I stand behind my simple query, I wish injury on no man, let alone someone on the cusp of greatness like Crabtree. How this affects the 49ers offense in 2013 has obviously yet to be seen, but Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham now carry a larger burden than before. No question Colin Kaepernick was counting on heaving the rock #15’s way 125+ times this coming season and such will have to look elsewhere on fourth and goal in the Super Bowl.
Glad to see Charles Woodson land somewhere, though it proves that the one thing that drives these athletes is the all mighty dollar, as reports had C-Wood with several other offers with franchises with more favorable odds to advance in the postseason than Oakland.
Am I the only one who doesn’t hold Brian Urlacher in such high esteem for his middle linebacking of the last 13 seasons? Because it seems that way. Let’s say we give 54 his due for the Arizona “You Want To Crown Them?” game, because most seem to agree that was a seminal moment for him given how well he played in the second half against Matt Leinart and Co., but name me another quintessential Brian Urlacher moment that would beseech him such a title as Hall of Famer? I can’t think of one. He was a very good player for a considerable period of time who also seemingly was hurt more often than not. That’s how I’ll remember him. That and his flings with Paris Hilton and Jenny McCarthy.
Enjoy the weekend, everyone.
LOS ANGELES — The annual abnormally giant human fashion and accessory show we call the NFL Draft gets underway tonight at Radio. City. Music. Hall. Where the flyest 21 and 22-year olds have their names called and then they awkwardly hug the Commissioner for an uncomfortably long period of time. Seems like we were just here, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s that time of year again where NFL teams load up on potential and What-Could-Be, and kids become instant millionaires before a single ball is snapped on Sunday. Who will be the Next Big Thing? Who will be the Next Big Bust? All speculative, all conjecture, all fun. That’s what the NFL Draft is and will be from here until the end of time. Let’s get started.
As always, I’m tuning into NFL Network for my coverage; not because I’m a company man but because it’s the best. Enjoy.
4:01pmPST – The draft is now an hour away and already a couple Radio. City. Music. Hall. calls from my man Rich Eisen (he’s joined by Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin and, of course, draft guru Mike Mayock). Gonna try and drop a few thoughts here before the real coverage begins at 8pmET… And look at this, show starts with old footage of the guys on the set in college. Marshall’s is of him getting drafted. So tiny and nice flat top with Paul Tagliabue
4:02 – WOW. Look at that mustache on Mooch. “National Champion Northern Michigan!” Mooch is a proud Yuper, indeed.
4:03 – Man, Irvin is so hood. That soundbite from his draft day was incredible. Referred to himself as “The Playmaker” even way back then. Guaranteed he could still catch 50 balls for 700 yards and a couple scores even today.
4:04 – MAYOCK JUST INTERCEPTED DAN MARINO. Didn’t see that in the “30 for 30.” “Did you hold that up?!” Marshall yells at him. Incredible. And love that Mayock finally ditched the Philly gangster pinstripe suit. Still 3-piece though. Always OG.
4:06 – Hot damn, now THAT’s a gangster suit from Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. Early front runner for best dressed.
4:08 – Geno Smith tells Melissa Stark and Deion on the Red Carpet that today his his mom’s birthday. That’s pretty awesome. Can’t beat getting drafted as a birthday gift.
4:18 – Feature on Pat Summerall and John Madden gave me instant goosebumps. Incredible piece. Sumerall was so smooth and told you so much by being so brief. Best of all time.
4:30 – A Django reference from Eisen talking about John Idzik, the Jets GM. Wonder if it’ll be the last? probably… what the hell is a “War Daddy?” We need a Mayock dictionary.
4:44 – Assignments that don’t suck: Hawaii. Alex Flanagan is the big winner of the Draft reporters tonight.
4:47 – Manti Te’o says he’s not angry. I’d be pretty pissed if I was him, though what ya gonna do. Everyone will forget about this soon enough. All that matters in the NFL is how he performs on the field. That’s it. If he can play, all this crapola about Catfishing and whatnot will go away.
4:59 – Shot of Geno Smith sitting at his Green Room Table and he’s rocking some Nike Flight lines in the side of his head. Very sick.
5:03 – HERE WE GO!! Mayock says Eric Fisher, followed by Luke Joeckel are the first two picks and then the intrigue begins with the Raiders at #3. Mayock loving Lane Johnson. Thinks someone will move up.
5:04 – Roger Goodell hits the stage to welcome the crowd to a chorus of boos. New York Fans are seriously the best… classy move remembering the people of West Texas and Boston as crowd chants U-S-A! Love America. Land of the free, home of the brave.
5:06 – Someone resembling Joe Namath just did some awkward chanting to put the New York Superbowl on the clock. I can’t tell if he’s your kooky drunk uncle or just plain kooky. His hair is so bizarre, too. It’s a terrible rug, that’s for sure. And just under 283 days and counting until Super Bowl LXVII… and Goodell puts the Chiefs on the clock.. and look at that Hawaiian shirt on Andy Reid. Thanks for dressing up, Andy.
5:09 – Whoa, Eric Fisher’s mom. What’s up.
5:11 – I know these two oafs are going 1-2, but I really wish Al Davis was still alive so the Raiders could screw everybody’s board and take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin at #3. Now that would really be something.
5:16 – Here comes the Commish to more boos … “with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Eric Fisher, tackle, Central Michigan” … Alex Smith sleeps a little easier tonight.
5:17 – Jacksonville is on the clock. What are they waiting for? Immediately take Luke Joeckel. Come on! Blaine Gabbert is your franchise QB!!
5:20 – “I’m so proud of myself” … big ups to you Eric Fisher for giving yourself props. Somewhere Freddie Mitchell is nodding in agreement.
5:24 – Goodell out with the Jags pick … Joeckel is it, on his iPhone5 as he shakes hands and hugs his peeps in the Green Room. How do we feel about their new uniforms? Helmets are kinda cool with the half matte, half gold… classy 3 piece gray suit for Luke .. and good to see we’re still hugging the Commish like crazy. This is by far the weirdest facet of Draft day to me.
5:24 – Hip snap! Mayock needs that pop-up video treatment explaining all his lingo.
5:28 – Rich explains this is the first Raiders First Round pick since 2010 when they took Rolando McClain and his flock of pistols. They have to trade down, right?
5:29 – Darren McFadden is the only Raiders First Round pick still on the team since 2003. Being a Raiders fan must literally be the worst.
5:31 – “We need a word better than rebuilding,” Irvin says about the Raiders… OK, clock has stopped, which means we have a TRADE!!! Yes!!!! It’s about to get hairy up in herrrre.
5:33 – Dolphins move up. WOW. Miami going for broke this offseason to compete in the AFC East … and here comes Roger with the call …
5:34 – DION JORDAN!!! and we have a round of “whooooaaaaaasss!!!” from the guys on set. Unbelievable. Turning to my resident Ducks fan Chelsea for some reaction: “HOLY SHIT!!!! and it’ll be really easy to get tix to see him play.”
5:35 – “This is all about going to get some pressure on Tom Brady” – says Marshall. He’s absolutely 100% right. Miami has to compete and to do that they have to stop the Patriots. Well here’s one way to do it. What a move. Love it. Love when crazy takes over the Draft.
5:36 – Amazing bow tie on Jordan and not for nothing, he’s a freakin’ giant…. “He’s breathtaking off the edge.” Mayock is swooning.
5:39 – If you’re scoring at home, and I know you are, that’s 4 Radio. City. Music. Halls. out 0f Eisen.
5:42 – First pick of the Chip Kelly era is Lane Johnson, the big tackle from Oklahoma. Mayock’s adoptive son. “Most athletic offensive tackle in the Draft” … ROCKY theme playing in the background. Hilarious.
5:45 – Lane Johnson just said something about buffets. I have no idea. Great southern accent. Good ole boy for sure. Said he was excited to protect Michael Vick. Wonder what Chip has to say about that?
5:49 – Joey Harrington jokes never get old. Love Mooch pretending not to listen to Eisen rib him.
5:50 – Barry Sanders, your new Madden cover boy, out to announce the Lions pick.. and it’s Ziggy Ansah. Never played football until a couple years ago after getting cut from BYU hoops team and track team. Amazing. What a story. Mayock explaining how Ziggy wasn’t on scouts radars in September until he started dominating and then blew up the Senior Bowl…
5:53 – Browns fan draft party and guy wearing a “Punters Are People Too” shirt in the front row jumping up and down. Very cool.
5:55 – Browns select Barkevous Mingo. the winner of the All-Name team today. Don’t even think about it. He’s the winner.
6:00 – The Cardinals pick is in and we’re waiting … great shot of Bruce Arians rocking the Kangol. Are they officially licensed team gear? The Arians Era is basically going to be like if Samuel L. Jackson coached an NFL team. Someone get HR on the phone …
6:01 – Jonathan Cooper picked by the Cards….zzzzzzzzz…. come on, Cardinals fans, you’re not happy about that?! You don’t even know who he is?! Mayock says the team got better by drafting him. Well then, what the hell do I know??
6:04 – Rams have traded up with Buffalo to the #8 slot and talk from former scout and guru Daniel Jeramiah is they’ll be taking Tavon Austin, whose stock has risen like Apple computers in 2001 in the last couple days… Also, love Jeramiah. He’s going to be a huge star very soon and a big media winner when this Draft is over.
6:08 – Mega trade with the Rams and Bills with St. Louis getting 2 picks (1st and 3rd) and Buffalo getting 4 in this year’s draft. Bills loading up and here’s the Commish with the pick … Tavon Austin … Sam Bradford sleeps a litlte easier tonight… and snap, look at that burgandy jacket. Looking sharp, son. West Virginia swag.
6:12 – Deion asks Austin if he always has this much confidence. Um, come on Deion, look at that suit, of course he does. Pretty sure he wakes up and pisses excellence …
6:16 – Jets on the clock here with the 9th pick… fans on the edge of their seats in Radio City. Oughta be realllly interesting here … and the Commish says : Dee Milliner from Alabama … Revis out and another corner in. No pressure, kid.
6:18 – Mayock had him number 2 on his defensive board … and states “essentially the Jets traded revis for Milliner and 3rd next year” … as we see Milliner at the combine dropping passes like he’s Terrell Owens.. that’s just brutal video. Welcome to the NFL, son.
6:21 – Nice watch, Dee. Hope that’s a rental.
6:23 – “At least his first game isn’t against Revis’s new team … oh wait, yes it is. … at least his first nationally-televised game isn’t on a short week against Tom Brady … oh wait, yes it is.” Love it when Rich does this.
6:24 – Army troops in Afghanistan says the Titans should take guard Chance Warmack so Chris Johnson can get back to doing this thing .. and the pick is in and the Titans war room is very happy …
6:25 – Pick #10 and the Titans take Chance Warmack from Alabama … Major Taylor picked it right! “I told you 6 fatties would go in the top 12.” Mike Mayock, everybody!!
6:30 – Rapoport reproing the Bills could still take Ryan Nassib at 16 … Chargers pick is in and it’s offensive lineman DJ Fluker … 3rd straight Alabama player taken … Nick Saban, if you need him… Roll Tide.
6:32 – First time since 2000 that a quarterback wasn’t selected in the first 10 picks (Chad Pennington) … some guy named Brady was taken with the 199th pick that year. Whatever happend to him?
6:33 – “I love his length.” Mayock doesn’t give an eff.
6:38 – From Chelsea: “I’d love for the Jets to draft Barkley. Not in the first round, but eventually. That ‘d make me so happy.” Um, that would make us all happy.
6:46 – And the Jets pick is in … wow, fans are gonna go nuts here … Geno? … nope, it’s Sheldon Richardson, some defensive tackle from Missouri … wow. Very Anticlimatic … “explosive, freakish athlete at 310 pounds .. and Jets fans aren’t that excited” … uum, ya think?
6:50 – Panthers take Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a very good player who really shouldn’t have dropped that far. In that division you have to be able to stop offenses and this is one way to accomplish that. Also on the All-Name team for this Draft. He’s at home watching with his family. That’s the way to do it. Why come to New York when you can party with your family?
6:58 – Saints are on the clock and to say they need defensive back help would be an understatement. I threw for 378 yards and 4 scores last year against them… and here comes the Commish with a special guest from St. Jude’s hospital, whose favorite team is the Saints … Kenny Vaccaro is the pick … loving his suit, two-toned three piece .. very fly… can’t wait to hit up @fragglesrocks for the All-Swag team tomorrow.
7:00 – Mayock: “you never want to be limited in the box” … Addison chimes in: “you always want to be strong in the box.”
7:04 – Bills on the clock here at 16 and it’s QB time … will they do it? … EJ MANUEL from Florida St.!! WOW!!! The first quarterback taken!! unbelievable … Deion Sanders is going to have A LOT to talk about with him shortly … dang. Former Syracuse coach and new Bills HC Doug Maronne passes on our guy Ryan Nassib .. Kurt Warner loves that pick … I’m stunned.
7:06 – Just texted Owl, my resident Bills fan … we’ll see how angry of response he comes back with … “Love it. and I LOVE that they traded down.” Didn’t see that coming. Thought for sure he’d want Nassib.
7:08 – EJ emotional with Deion .. “I’m just so happy” .. good moment for him. his mom had breast cancer and beat it… you’ll be seeing this interview a lot in the next couple days.
7:12 – It’s getting fun now in here. The 49ers have traded up and have made a pick … swapped picks with the Cowboys … and we appear to be in a back log … Steelers up right now and take Jarvis Jones … WOW… Jantzen, our Georgia alum friend, is PUMPED RIGHT NOW!! unreal. still think he should’ve named his kid Jarvis.
7:14 – 49ers up and take Eric Reid, the defensive back from LSU, who’s in the green room holding his adorably cute daughter… “big physical safety” says Mayock … love former 9ers great Merton Hanks giving Reid his cap: “maybe he’ll make him do the chicken walk,” says Eisen … Reid walking out to meet the Commish with his daughter in his arms … very cool moment … maybe my favorite so far.
7:20 – G-Men on the clock with the 19th pick and the Commish is out… always curious to the crowd reaction … Justin Pugh … Syracuse Tackle … “I told you it wasn’t sexy, but I love the pick” … as some broad is dancing like crazy on screen … “she likes the pick” says Rich.
7:25 – Oregon guard Kyle Long goes to Chicago amid rampant Manti Te’o speculation. Long is the brother of Chris Long from the Rams and son of Raiders great, Howie. Talk about NFL bloodlines. He’s going to no doubt be a success. And let’s be honest, Jay Cutler needs needs protection.
7:33 – Bengals up at #21 amid report that Falcons have traded up to 22 … Bengals take Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame, arguably the best tight end in the Draft, which perhaps foils the Falcons plans … Eisen points out Falcons knew Bengals were taking Eifert when they made the trade … still curious who they’re grabbing now despite.
7:40 – Falcons take Desmond Trufant, defensive back from Washington who fits in and will start right away with a depleted secondary down in ATL. He’ll be tested too with all the weapons in that division. NFC South shaping up to be a really competitive.
7:42 – Lots of good players still available including Sharrif Floyd, Mayock’s top-rated defensive player and his most explosve player on tape all year … Geno Smith .. Ryan Nassib … Vikings are about to make their pick as members of the military coming out on stage … awesome.
7:45 – Floyd goes to the Vikings … he dropped but he’s going to play right away and learn from Kevin Williams.. what a force they could be in the middle there … “this kid will be a heckuva player,” Mayock says.
7:48 – Mayock getting out of his seat talking about Floyd’s explosiveness … “right now there’s a chip on my shoulder … and I’m ready to get going” he says with Deion … nice simple Mad Men pink shirt black tie combo … “I’m here and I can stand here today and say I’m a better man than I was a year ago.” Redemption is always a nice element to any sport.
7:50 – Painful shot of Geno Smith in the Green Room … getting that Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn treatment right now.
7:51 – Bjoern Werner going to the Colts at 24 … “a taste of Germany going to Indianapolis” says Eisen … “guy that does everything really well but doesn’t have a spectacular trait,” adds Mayock … compares him to Paul Kruger … Werner wipes off his girlfriend’s kiss on his way up. Don’t let her see this tape, young fella.
7:53 – Aaron Rodgers tweets to Geno Smith to hang in there and said good things come to those who wait … awesome.
7:54 – Vikings back up with their second pick of the round … Xavier Rhodes from FSU … “whoa” from Mayock. Hey, someone has to cover Brandon Marshall and Randall Cobb, right? … Te’o still on the board.
7:59 – Packers on the clock and they need a Running Back … is it Eddie Lacy time? Also, and can’t believe I’m just noticing this; Irvin’s suit is very conservative for the second year in a row…wonder if he’s feeling OK these days.
8:01 – Datone Jones from UCLA to the Packers … hey, you can never have enough pass rushers, right?
8:03 – Rich starts talking about Geno and Manti and how the audience is probably sick of hearing about them by now … “some players on the desk might think that,” Mayock not happy with the repeated Te’o talk.
8:09 – Deandre Hopkins from Clemson, a wide receiver drafted by the Texans at 27 to go with Andre Johnson and those weapons … Irvin says he reminds him of Roddy White … high praise (Nic Cage voice).
8:14 – Broncos pick is in at 28 and the Patriots are on the clock … Mayock giving us three names – Damaontre Moore, Sylvester Williams or Manti Te’o for Denver … we’ll see … guessing it’ll be Moore with the loss of Elvis Dumervil and that fax fiasco earlier this offseason.
8:15 – Goodell out and it’s Sylvester williams … Mayock was right , shocker… “he can immediately come in and start at defensive tackle.” Oh, you don’t say?
8:17 – Apparently Williams worked at a radiator plant … “Do you know how many radiators you have to make to make the kind of money he’s gonna make” … Irvin references “Game Changers” (fantastic show) again to which Rich responds, “I haven’t even once said the P word!” Referring to the podcast … “I HAVE A PODCAST!!” he coudn’t make it anymore.. I knew it.
8:19 – Wow, the Vikings are back in the First Round trading with the Patriots and could take Te’o … unreal … Classic Bill Belichick move. Cant’ wait to see the particulars … damn! 4 picks to the Patriots: a 2, 3, 5 and 7. What must Tom Brady be thinking…
8:26 – Former Patriots lineman and Boston Marathon first responder Joe Andruzzi out to talk about marathon … unreal moment. That guy is a real man and Patriot.
8:30 – Vikings take Cordarrelle Patterson, the explosive receiver from Tennessee. This is what frustrates Patriots fans. Remember a few years ago when Dez Bryant fell into their lap and they traded down to the Cowboys? Yeah, think Brady would like to have Dez right now? We’ll see how Patterson pans out.
8:37 – Rams up with another First Round pick and take Alec Ogletree from Georgia. “Les Snead played some poker tonight and won.” Guess Mayock likes the Rams draft.
8:38 – Two picks to go. Cowboys and Ravens. We’ll see what Jerry Jones has up his sleeve here. We know he always likes to make a splash.
8:42 – Travis Frederick, center from Wisconsin. HAHA. Wow. So that’s what we were waiting for, Jerry. Isn’t this guy not even the best lineman on his own college team and a 2nd day projected pick? Cowboys fans must be steaming right now. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folk.
8:43 – OK, so one last pick for Manti Te’o. There were only a handful of teams who thought to be in his market – Bears, Vikings, Ravens – and let’s see what they do.
8:47 – WOW. So Te’o will have to wait until Day 2 to get drafted as the Ravens go with safety Matt Elam from Florida to replace Ed Reed. What a First Round.
8:48 – Thanks for tuning in, everyone. Had a lot of fun with this for the 4th year in a row now. It was low on celebrity but thank goodness the trades were plentiful to keep it interesting. No players from Southern Cal or Miami, 12 players from the SEC and only 1 from the Big Ten selected. Only one quarterback chosen, and not the one we expected, and no running backs for the first time ever. What will come on Days 2 and 3? No one knows, so be sure to check out all the action. I’ll have sporadic commentary on my Twitter feed: @ChrisBrockman.
LOS ANGELES — The 2013 NFL Draft is in a couple hours and by now you’ve surely read 8,000 mock drafts telling which team should take which college standout where and what it should trade up to get him, who’s worth the risk and who’s getting passed up. You’ve read things like “heavy-legged waist bender” and “dancing bear” and dogs and cats and busts, and heard comparisons to Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell and Elway and Marino and everywhere in between. Well this is not like any of those mock drafts. This is way more fun and speculative. Based on NFL.com’s projections for each team’s biggest area of need, I broke down what each of the teams picking in the Top 16 should do if they were drafting celebrities, either based on their real lives or a character they once played long ago. Because what’s more hilarious and a waste of time than mixing sports and pop culture? Right. Nothing. Pretty sure Grantland’s whole existence is based on this premise.
Enjoy and don’t forget to tune into the 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft on NFL Network in a couple hours at 8pm ET and all throughout the weekend. And, as always, I’ll have my 1st Round Running Diary posted sometime before Friday night’s 2nd Round coverage kicks off.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs: Biggest Need — Offensive line. Celebrity Pick — Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family): This might be the easiest pick in the Draft. Not only is Stonestreet a gigantic Chiefs fan, but he’s also roughly the size of a starting left tackle. In fact, I don’t think anyone would notice if Kansas City took him instead. And I know ES has lost some weight recently, but who wouldn’t want to see him in a wing-off with Andy Reid? Who isn’t paying $9.95 to see that?
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Biggest Need — Quarterback. Celebrity Pick — Jerry O’Connell (“Jerry Maguire”): If you were going to be the No. 1 overall pick in a fake NFL Draft, that’s really all I need to slot you at the top of this mock draft. Now, O’Connell didn’t have the greatest arm motion in his brief football clips but hey, anything’s better than Blaine Gabbert, AMIRIGHT?!
3.) Oakland Raiders: Biggest Need — Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Rick Ross (rapper): You want to talk about a hole plugger, Ross is your guy. He’s Vince Wilfork but with vocal skills. And you don’t have to worry about him looking the part; Ross would immediately be in the Top 5 All-Tattoo Team and his rap sheet puts him on par with Rolando McClain. Sounds like a Raider to me.
4.) Philadelphia Eagles: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Abraham Benrubi (“ER”): Every year there are picks that make you shake your head, and this is one of those, but trust me, Benrubi can protect Chip Kelly’s fine jewels. First off, this guy was a nurse, so he knows how to take care of people. Secondly, I once saw him at California Chicken Cafe on Melrose, and let’s just say he can pack away a combo wrap or 5. Conditioning might be an issue in this new high-tempo offense, but a source tells me he’s ready to adjust.
5.) Detroit Lions: Biggest Need — Defensive End. Celebrity Pick — Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”): Aggressive? Check (the guy’s a werewolf). Looks the part? Check (yeah, 6-5, 260 is significantly bigger than Dwight Freeney).
6.) Cleveland Browns: Biggest Need — Defensive Back. Celebrity Pick — Anthony Mackie (“We Are Marshall”): Mackie brought the wood and looked legit doing it as a Marshall safety, and certainly he’s jacked up like LaRon Landry in his latest flick “Pain and Gain.”
7.) Arizona Cardinals: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Billy Gardell (“Mike & Molly”): Not only is Gardell a monster, he’s a security guard, so he knows what’s it’s like to protect the good. Not that Carson Palmer would be considered “the goods” anymore, but you get my point.
8.) Buffalo Bills: Biggest Need — Quarterback. Celebrity Pick — Keanu Reeves (“Point Break”): “Don’t you know who this is? It’s Johnny Utah.” ‘Nuff said.
9.) New York Jets: Biggest Need — Quarterback. Celebrity Pick — Jamie Foxx (“Any Given Sunday”): If there’s anyone who could come in and tame the New York media and become the new QB darling in the Big Apple it’s Willie Beamen. Not only was he ahead of his time with the spread offense, he’s not afraid to smack talk with his own players. Something Mark Sanchez definitely isn’t doing.
10.) Tennessee Titans: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Reuben Studdard (Americon Idol): I don’t know what big Rube is up to these days, but I’m guessing him right now, in 2013, would be better than anyone the Titans could draft here. He could probably play the whole left side of the line if my waistline trajectory projection is accurate. Chris Johnson could ride that sandwich to 2,000 yards.
11.) San Diego Chargers: Biggest Need — Offensive Lineman. Celebrity Pick — James Gandolfini (The Sopranos): There’s not a more offensive person in the history of the world than James Gandolfini. OK, that may be stretching it, but Tony Soprano has to be up there among TV characters. He didn’t even want Meadow causally dating that mixed dude in Season 2, and he was always so eloquent with his speech. This is someone you want protecting you.
12.) Miami Dolphins: Biggest Need — Tackle. Celebrity Pick — John Goodman (“Roseanne”): Explosive. Powerful. Volatile. That pretty much sums up Goodman in all his roles and that’s definitely the kind of attitude you want on the offensive line where he’ll be protecting 2nd-year Mr. Lauren Tannehill.
13.) New York Jets: Biggest Need — Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick — Jason Segal (“How I Met Your Mother”): Segal once told me and Hines Ward on the Red Carpet of the 2012 Academy Awards that if were ever to portray a football player in a movie, he’d be a tight end. So naturally, this is fitting for the Jets who need anyone to do anything productive on the field.
14.) Carolina Panthers: Biggest Need — Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick — Dwayne Johnson (Everything): Seriously, do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?
15.) New Orleans Saints: Biggest Need — Linebacker. Celebrity Pick — Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”): There’s literally nothing this guy can’t do, so why not start at middle linebacker for the Saints? He’s ripped. A physical specimen and you know if he ever picked one off and returned it to the house he’d have a fantastic end zone dance.
16.) St. Louis Rams: Biggest Need — Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick — Bill Bellamy (“Any Given Sunday”): This seems like an obvious choice. Bellamy told us he’s the greatest receiver of all-time. I have no reason to NOT believe him. All wide receivers are very level-headed individuals and never prone to self-aggrandizing and egomania.
LOS ANGELES — The final “You’re The Man” rankings of the 2012 National Football League season comes off one of the best Super Bowls of the last few years. The Ravens and 49ers displayed what we love about the big game; the story lines were thick, there were lots of big and memorable plays, there was a freakin’ blackout, a comeback and a goal line stand to decide the Vince Lombardi Trophy’s owner. In the end, the Ravens proved once again you don’t have to dominate the regular season to be crowned champs in the end; you just have to get hot at the right time. And have a quarterback who thinks he’s elite, God and some steroids on your side (allegedly).
As we head into nearly 7 months without real football games being played – though only 10 days until the Combine and 73 until the Draft – let’s take a look at some question marks teams have heading into the offseason, and stay tuned for hopefully other articles about the NFL and who knows what else (probably the Red Sox, Celtics, movies, life in LA and whatever else I can throw together) here at the site. As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars — To pay MJD or not to pay MJD, that is the question. And will they bring in Tim Tebow? Seems like the answer right now to both is “no.”
31.) Kansas City Chiefs — Being a Chiefs fan must be rough these days. How do you think they’re doing talking themselves into Andy Reid right now? At least he trimmed his mustache.
30.) Oakland Raiders — Will they go all-win with Terrell Pryor or bring back Carson Palmer for another go around at nearly 5x as much money?
29.) Philadelphia Eagles — Is Chip Kelly going to stick with Michael Vick to run his hurry-up, college-style offense? Or will he trade up and draft Geno Smith?
28.) Arizona Cardinals — Who’s going to play quarterback? That’s the only discussion Bruce Arians should be having with anyone.
27.) New York Jets — Mark Sanchez started tweeting again, actually he was on a retweeting positive comments binge; just reminding himself people still like him. Will they bring in any offensive weapons for him this offseason, because if they don’t, he might get irrevocably broken next season. (But I tell ya what, JaMarcus Russell rumors don’t appear out of thin air.)
26.) Cleveland Browns — Another team with a new coach. How long will Brandon Weeden be calling the offensive shots? He and Trent Richardson need help.
25.) Tennessee Titans — Is it time for the Titans to cut ties with Chris Johnson?
24.) Detroit Lions — Will this once playoff team find discipline in the offseason? Losing a few knuckleheads is a good start.
23.) Buffalo Bills— CJ Spiller is an emerging NFL star but for the Bills to compete in the AFC East they need to be able to stop the Patriots and the emerging Dolphins.
22.) San Diego Chargers — Now that a new head coach and GM have been hired, will the Chargers make The Leap? Not if they can’t beat the Broncos, which they won’t do with zero running game and a shaky secondary.
21.) St. Louis Rams — The Rams need to make a splash, and they need to reap the rewards of that blockbuster trade with Washington last year. They need a big, household name. Clearly, they can play; undefeated against the NFC champs.
20.) Miami Dolphins — It appears Reggie Bush won’t be back, but the biggest question remains who is going to catch the ball from Ryan Tannehill, since it appears he’ll be a halfway decent NFL quarterback.
19.) New Orleans Saints — Now that Sean Payton is back for the entire offseason, the offense should be back to form, but the Saints need all kinds of defensive help. Will they get it?
18.) Dallas Cowboys — Somehow Jason Garrett still has a job, but others do not. Recently, some questioned if the Cowboys are still Americas team based on their decade-plus of mediocrity. How will this offseason go in restoring that once-great moniker?
17.) Carolina Panthers — Face it, Steve Smith might not like Cam Newton but it’s not Cam’s fault Smith is old and can’t play anymore. The Panthers need a young, big-play receiver or 2013 is going to be a 2012 repeat, which means Ron Rivera will be out of work.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs gave away their best defensive back and then missed the playoffs. I’d say they’d want to get better at stopping people, what with them being in arguably the most talented QB division in football.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Injuries derailed the Steelers this season but finding a running game and some youth on defense are paramount for the black and gold.
14.) New York Giants — It appears the Giants want to be cheaper and younger across the board, let’s see how long that lasts this offseason. Can you buy discounted consistency, too?
13.) Chicago Bears — The defense isn’t getting any younger, it’ll be curious to see how they go about replacing Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and the rest.
12.) Minnesota Vikings — Is Christian Ponder the answer at QB? I’m still not sure. But someone has to be able to catch the ball other than Kyle Rudolph. You gotta give defenses another look besides Adrian Peterson running the ball 30 times a game. Not that you can stop him, but still.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals — Think the Bengals want to go back and change their game plan against the Texans in the Divisional Round to include getting the ball to AJ Green? I’d say so. Still, they need to get better on defense. Especially with the supernova Ravens now kinds of the NFL and AFC North.
10.) Washington Redskins — Clearly, the most important thing facing the Redskins this offseason is the healthy of My Good Friend Robert. All other questions will be deferred until RG runs in a zig-zag line without teetering over like a drunken sorority girl.
9.) Indianapolis Colts — The Colts need some big-time playmakers on defense, because I’m guessing Andrew Luck doesn’t want to come from behind and pull a win out of his ass in 2013 as often as he did this season.
8.) Houston Texans — Matt Schaub finally won a playoff game but having some secondary help might have got him a second.
7.) Green Bay Packers — The Packers were badly exposed by the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which means getting younger and faster on defense should be at the top of Ted Thompson’s offseason priority list.
6.) Denver Broncos — I completely whiffed on the Peyton Manning thing, but the more I think about it, I get the feeling Peyton’s gonna pull a Vikings-era Brett Favre. Remember how great Favre was in 2009? Then remember how terrible he was in 2010? Feel me?
5.) Seattle Seahawks — Top-to-bottom, the Seahawks might be the most complete team in the NFL. Russell Wilson proved he can be a big-time quarterback and their defense is as stingy as summer horse flies. Can’t hurt bolstering the offensive/defensive lines.
4.) New England Patriots — For the second year in a row Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots made strange clock management blunders to end the first half and again Wes Welker had a key drop in a situation that could’ve helped put the game out of reach. Is this the end of their decade-long reign or can they fill in the missing pieces – big play receiver, shut down corner, rush edge – to stay at the top?
3.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons were 5 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl but their issue isn’t on offense. In the second half against San Francisco they gave up 14 unanswered and couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick if they were the ones controlling his joystick. How will Atlanta improve on defense this offseason? Being so close to the big game you’d expect them to make a move.
2.) San Francisco 49ers — This is a team than can win the Super Bowl as it is: top-flight defense, an explosive offense and a fiery head coach. While Jim Harbaugh was out-coached Super Sunday by his brother, what the 49ers were missing against Baltimore was a deep threat. It’s clear they missed Mario Manningham, as Randy Moss didn’t give them that stretch of the defense they were expecting. Colin Kaepernick also show signs of what he could be become with a full season under his belt, but why not let him run it down by the goal line? Regardless, he vowed to start preparing for next season immediately, so it appears as if he’s on a mission. San Fran is the class of the NFC, along with Seattle and Atlanta.
1.) Baltimore Ravens — Finally, we’ve found out who’s The Man of this 2012 NFL season. It look 22 weeks but the Ravens emerged from beneath the rubble. Heading into this offseason their biggest question marks are on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, Baltimore’s offense behind Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and company are an absolute force. But defensively, it will be a different-looking Ravens squad in 2013 with the retirement of Ray Lewis (perhaps you’ve heard) and the likelihood of Ed Reed playing elsewhere, not to mention Terrell Suggs is older and banged up. We’ll see if they make moves to sure up that side of the ball in the coming months and in the Draft.
LOS ANGELES — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012’s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.
LOS ANGELES — I collected posters as a kid. I did a lot of things as a kid, but posters were my thing (and baseball/basketball cards; remember those days?). Whenever my family would head out to K-Mart or Roses or any place I knew sold them, the rack was the first place I went. I’d flip past at rocket speed until something caught my eye and stopped me dead in my tracks; usually it was a fast-looking car or a girl in a bikini but if there was one of Michael Jordan or Ken Griffey, Jr. they’d get my admiration, too. But hands down my favorite poster of all-time is of Bo Jackson.
You know the one. Bo standing there in a blue and black locker room. It’s just him surrounded by his equipment: helmet, bat, shoulder pads, glove, cleats, balls, jackets. There’s even a guitar and hockey stick, leftover from the Nike “Bo Knows” commercial, no doubt. It’s dark, there’s some smoke at the bottom and just the perfect amount of light shining on his Adonis physique. “BLACK & BLUE” the title read. I still have it at my mom’s house. Somewhere. Packed away. Of another generation, it seems. Much like Bo’s playing days.
Late November, Bo Jackson turned 50-years old. He last tore up the gridiron with his God-like power and speed nearly 22 years ago. People I work with don’t remember ever watching him play, only knowing him from throwback Tecmo Bowl games and stories of his freak-like strength and power. A super hero for the 8-bit generation. Last Friday, ESPN aired its latest “30 for 30” and profiled the man, myth and legend that was Bo Jackson. The athlete and the human, and it did not disappoint. For me, it was an amazing trip down memory lane. A time when I still viewed athletes as mythical beings who could do no wrong; statues of muscle and brawn who mashed home runs and scored touchdowns with ease, men who I wanted to be and replicated their every movements in my back yard.
“You Don’t Know Bo” starts from the beginning, at Bo’s home in Bessemer, Alabama and continues chronologically from high school, through Auburn and to the Royals and Raiders, his tragic hip injury, the comeback and then skips to now, with Bo in his man cave making arrows (like for a compound bow) and showing off his big game taxidermy.
The hour-long doc was filled with people from Bo’s past telling stories about what they remembered about him, from his high school football and baseball coaches, former Auburn head coach Pat Dye, Royals teammates George Brett and Mark Gubicza, Raiders teammate Howie Long and various sports journalists, including pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman. Of course, Jackson himself was prevalent in the doc, recalling the moments as they were presented.
A few of my favorite stories in no particular order: Bo saying as a kid he used to have crab apple fights with the other children in his neighborhood and he always won, even one time throwing the apples through screen doors at kids who thought just because they went inside the house they were safe from his wrath; Bo’s high school football coach on the day he was hired asking about the “maintenance man” by the field who turned out to be Bo; him choosing to go to Auburn because Dye went himself rather than sending his assistants and called him Vincent; his college baseball coach talking about hitting a ball over the center field green monster and to the base of a building 150 feet away; Bo recalling why exactly he ran into the tunnel at the Kingdome after his 91-yd touchdown run (he didn’t want to pull a hamstring trying to stop before the wall); Bo’s lead-off homerun in the 1989 All-Star Game and the great footage of him running up the wall and breaking a bat over his knee; remembering all the Nike commercials and, of course, the Tecmo Bowl montage.
I was so jacked up for the Bo doc last week, I nearly bought a pair of his old cross trainers on eBay, except I’m probably the only person in 2012 who has never used the other-people’s-trash collecting site so I wasn’t quite sure how to procure them. It also got me thinking about the time when I was 10-years old, paying something like $12 for the Score baseball card of Bo shirtless wearing shoulder pads and a baseball bat. It was one of my most prized sports card possessions back in the day. I think it’s worth 75 cents now.
Alas, the most interesting part of the doc turned out to be the conclusion most of the journalists made that Bo is the ultimate “What If?” athlete. It’s a tough notion to argue with. Can you think of anyone who had more natural ability than Bo? More strength? More speed? He ran a 4.12 40-yard dash at the Combine!!?! Do you know how incredibly fast that is? He legged out singles on balls hit a couple steps to the left of the 2nd baseman. He tracked down balls in the outfield with ease. He’s the only player in NFL history with two touchdown runs of 90-plus yards. He once said that anything he did outside of baseball season was a hobby; meaning, his entire football career was a HOBBY. What kind of hobbies do you have? Knitting? Stamp collecting? Halo?
It’s crazy to think what could have been for him. His 162-game averages of 33 homers, 97 RBI and 19 steals suggest an outside Hall of Fame career stretched out over 15-plus seasons; though his .250 average and 196 strikeout pace might say otherwise. But Bo never played more than 135 games (in 1989) in his brief 8-year career. His NFL numbers are even more suggestive, especially his 5.4 career yards-per-carry average, which is better than Barry Sanders (5.0), Adrian Peterson (5.0), Tony Dorsett (4.3), Emmitt Smith (4.2) and the man he replaced in Oakland, Marcus Allen (4.1), to name a few. However, Bo’s career high in games played is only 11 in 1989; hey, he had a good year.
Jeremy Schapp brought up an interesting idea late in the doc, and in a way, he’s right. What if (there’s that statement again) Bo had came around 10-12 years later, looking like he did, hitting home runs like he did, running over Brian Bosworth like he did? What would we all be thinking? Naturally, we’d assume Bo was taking something to enhance his performance. No one is that big, that strong and that fast. But Bo was. He was country strong and he did everything with such ease that if it were during another era the cloud of suspicion would hang over him.
Thankfully, that’s not the case. Sure, we only got to enjoy Bo for really 3-4 years but those were pretty freakin’ awesome.
I do know that.
LOS ANGELES — It’s that time of the year, people: Fantasy Football Playoffs. I don’t know about you, but of all the league’s I’m in (that would be one, two, three, four, FIVE), there’s only one that I really care about and pay attention to 24/7: The Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League.
This season is our 11th and it’s just as competitive as Season 1. It’s also been a wild one for the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Started out hot, winning the first 3 weeks, then lost the next two, before climbing to 6-3. But a three-game losing streak had me wondering if the playoffs were a pipe dream. But a Week 13 win had me again in the tournament, which is where you want to be. The closest I’ve come to winning was a year ago. I fell to Drew Brees and his owner, Parker Deay, in the finals. A finals that seemed out of reach when I began the year 0-4, but nonetheless I reached after upsetting a pair of higher seeds in the first two rounds.
This season, I’m again the 7th seed and Parker, a two-time champion, is again No. 1, so I had to get him over to Trojan Manor to chat about the season and the upcoming ROFFL Playoffs, which begin this Thursday with the Broncos at Raiders on Thursday Night Football.
Enjoy the banter, boys!
LOS ANGELES — Can’t believe it’s Week 13 already. Seems like Hard Knocks just ended and we were getting ready for Dallas and New York to kickoff on the Wednesday Night opener. Nope. Twelve weeks down. Only 10 remain. Who’s the Super Bowl favorite? Beats me. Who’s MVP? Your guess is as good as mine. Coach of the Year, who’s getting fired, your fantasy football league champ? Color me clueless.
One thing is known, though, who’s the Man. Let’s find out.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (record: 1-10) (last week: 32) — So who’s going to be coaching the Chiefs next year? Chip Kelly? Bill O’Brien? Bill Cowher? And who’s going to be the quarterback? Now that Matt Barkley’s stock has fallen, is it Tyler Wilson from Arkansas? Alex Smith? Blaine Gabbert? Tim Tebow? Kevin Kolb? Michael Vick?
31.) Arizona Cardinals (4-7) (26) — Losers of 7 straight don’t get mentions in this column.
30.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) (28) — See #31.
29.) New York Jets (4-7) (27) — The biggest news to come out of Jets camp this week: Tim Tebow jersey sales down! Oh no!
28.) Oakland Raiders (3-8) (23) — When the Raiders play the Browns this week, do you think Carson Palmer and Brandon Weeden have a side bet of who’s going to throw the first Pick 6? Because they should.
27.) Cleveland Browns (3-8) (30) — See #28.
26.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) (31) — Chris Law is jealous of Chad Henne’s Mo-vember ‘stache. And that’s saying something.
25.) Carolina Panthers (3-8) (29) –– Hey, Cam Newton, you actually won a game, so doing your whole Superman TD celebration actually made sense for once! Congrats!
24.) Tennessee Titans (4-7) (20) — Nate Washington has been in my fantasy starting lineup for a majority of the season. That should tell you all you need to know about the Titans and the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits.
23.) Buffalo Bills (4-7) (24) — Did you catch the Amish Rifle on “The League” a couple weeks ago? That was far and away his best performance of the season. Oof.
22.) San Diego Chargers (4-7) (19) — There are several famous sport plays where things have yet to be finalized: Albert Pujols’ ball he hit off Brad Lidge still hasn’t landed, Matt Holiday still hasn’t touched home plate, Bo Jackson still hasn’t stopped running and Ray Rice still hasn’t crossed the 34-yard line. Still, they should show that 4th and 29 play to high schools across the country and how NOT to tackle someone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) (22) — Alert to all fantasy football owners: Steven Jackson had 100 yards! Steven Jackson had 100 yards! Only the 2nd time all season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (5-6) (25) — When you watched Hard Knocks at the end of the summer, was there any shot you thought you’d be watching a 5-win, on-the-verge-of-the-playoffs team? Didn’t think so.
19.) Detroit Lions (4-7) (18) — Yes, the Lions got semi-hosed on Thanksgiving. Yes, Jim Schwartz should know the rules. Yes, Ndamukong Suh is driving his way out of the league.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (5-6) (16) — I can’t wait until these guys are sinking and the national media can stop talking about them. However, with a matchup with the hapless Eagles in Week 13, which will get Dallas to .500, we’re not out of the woods just yet. Sigh.
17.) Minnesota Vikings (6-5) (15) — Hey, Jimmy, how you feelin’ about your boys now: “You know it’s a bad day when the punt holder scores on you … I think we have 13 total yards this half … My team is so bad today that Fox switched games at the half … I can wait another year for a Super Bowl appearance.”
16.) Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) (17) — This is a team I’d be afraid to play down the stretch, along with the Bucs. Andy Dalton is quietly having himself another Pro Bowl season.
15.) New Orleans Saints (5-6) (12) — Losing last weekend really hurts the Saints playoff chances, but a win against Atlanta would certainly keep them in the mix. But they don’t play any defense, which is kind of a problem in the NFL, unless you’re the Patriots. And how Marques Colston got up after getting upended like he did, I’ll never know.
14.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) (10) — It baffles me that Pittsburgh didn’t call or David Garrard or Donovan McNabb to fill in at quarterback while Ben Roethlisberger is out. Maybe they did, and we don’t know it, but I feel like that report would’ve gotten out. You can’t roll with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. You can’t. Not when you still have a shot to win the Super Bowl
13.) Seattle Seahawks (6-5) (11) — Let’s see how good that Seahawks defense is when it has to go on the road (Chicago) and defend a red hot Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall without their two best defensive backs. Guessing Seattle falls by the wayside.
12.) Washington Redskins (5-6) (21) — I mean seriously, Robert Griffin The Third, if ya need him. So all My Good Friend Robert did on Thursday was annihilate the Cowboys, at JonesMahal, on Thanksgiving, in front of America. AND he did it by becoming the first rookie quarterback EVER to throw 4 TDs in consecutive games. NBD. I said it before and I’ll say it again, you are NOT changing the channel when the Redskins have the ball. EVER. I love caps lock.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) (9) — Are the Bucs the best of the 6-5 and 5-6 group? I’d say so, though if you can’t defend the home turf against a division rival, maybe you don’t deserve to make the playoffs. That was a tough one to lose, especially when you’re looking up at the Falcons. But two of these teams are going to be playing in January. My hunch is Tampa is there.
10.) Indianapolis Colts (7-4) (13) — Who’s making whom better this season: Andrew Luck or Reggie Wayne? Little of each, right? And to think, we all laughed at Reggie when he announced he was re-upping with the Colts for two more years. Insane! We all said. Who’s laughing now. Colts, back in the playoffs (almost). Crazy. And if they play Denver? Twitter might break.
9.) Green Bay Packers (7-4) (2) — “Paging someone who can block for Aaron Rodgers. Anyone out there who can block for Aaron Rodgers. Please report to Green Bay, Wisconsin immediately. We have a jersey waiting for you.”
8.) New York Giants (7-4) (14) — Man, where has THAT Giants team been all season?! That sure was something on Sunday night. Guess Eli really needed that bye week to rest his dead arm, and the defensive line needed some time off to hone their hunting skills. Sure, the Packers offensive line is about as good as a group of 7th graders, but Green Bay had been rolling lately and New York made it look like chumps. I may have to amend my Super Bowl pick.
7.) Baltimore Ravens (9-2) (7) — Nothing about this Ravens team inspires me. They are ripe for a Divisional Round upset to the Colts.
6.) Chicago Bears (8-3) (8) — Should Jay Cutler be in the MVP discussion? The stats are telling.: 1-6 without him in the last two years, 15-5 with him. Despite his hideous mustache, bro balled out this past weekend and has put himself in the Top 5.
5.) Denver Broncos (8-3) (6) — Is Denver the best team in the NFL? Not yet. But they are playing like it. Pretty unconvincing win against the hapless Chiefs for the best team in the league. That game should’ve been a boat race, but it wasn’t. Still, Peyton Manning is the MVP until someone rips it from him. Arian Foster has a chance. Outside chance.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) (5) — It’s hilarious to me that every former coach-turned-analyst on television right now is saying that Jim Harbaugh is doing the right thing by sticking with Colin Kaepernick, while every player is saying that Alex Smith is getting a raw deal and should get his job back. I’m not saying Smith isn’t a good player, but hell, what CK is doing can’t be duplicated.
3.) Atlanta Falcons (10-1) (4) — There’s a lot of people talking trash about the Falcons; calling them the worst one-loss team this late in the season in quite some time. Well, they’ve won 10 of their 11 games. Whether it was by one point, or 100 points, they’ve done it. Matt Ryan throws 5 picks? No worries, they still win. No running game? They still win. Still, people won’t be satisfied until Ryan and Mike Smith win a playoff game.
2.) New England Patriots (8-3) (3) — Can’t tell you how enjoyable that Thanksgiving Day game was to watch. When this Patriots team has it cookin’ on all cylinders they are a fun group to watch. And say what you want, but if you don’t want Tom Brady out there up 30 points throwing darts downfield, stop him. Just really hope they don’t look past Miami this week toward that Monday Night showdown with the Texans in Week 14.
1.) Houston Texans (10-1) (1) — To play 10 quarters of football in roughly 4-and-a-half days, wow, and to win both games (albeit a tad controversially), hell, that’s enough to make you The Man.
LOS ANGELES — The last year I was in Maine, I covered my high school, Thornton Academy, as it won its first-ever boys basketball Class A state championship. It was the greatest run for me both professionally and personally because of the team and individuals involved (I was a captain my senior year). Looking back, I feel like I wrote some of my best game stories and columns during that time, and while I might have had some extra motivation to be at my best, I relished in it the moment and tried to remain as objective as humanly possible.
Being there as the final seconds ticked and the celebration and the cutting down of the nets and talking to the kids and coaches afterwards is something I’ll never forget. I felt like I was a part of that team, and for no other reason than I spent a lot of time with them; at their games, at their practices, talking on and off the record to the coaches and players. Saco is a true community, and a giant local sports town, and I’m proud to forever be part of that community for my service there as a student athlete, teacher, and member of the media.
This past weekend, another of Thornton’s teams I have a strong affinity for, did something it hasn’t done in 24 years. The Golden Trojans football team reached the Class A State Championship game with a 20-13 victory over Cheverus in the Western Maine final to earn their first trip to the title game since 1988. We won the Gold Ball that year and if all goes to plan, we ‘ll take it home again on Saturday. I played 3 varsity season during my time as a Thornton Academy student, the last as its quarterback. I’ve known the head coach, Kevin Kezal, since he was my JV baseball coach in 1996. My first year out of college, he brought me in to be the Trojans wide receivers coach; it was one of the best times of my life. I’ve known all the coaches nearly as long and covered them for 5 years. To say I’m close to the program is an understatement.
The funny thing is, when I was home in May, I stopped by Thornton and talked to Kezal and another coach for nearly two hours. It was mostly just catching up, since I hadn’t been home or seen them in a while, but they noted how special this team could be; that they had a chance to finally be the one to end our Gold Ball drought. And now they’re 48 minutes away. It kills me not to be there. Good luck, boys.
We know who The Man is in Maine, let’s find out who’s The Man in the NFL this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) (32) — The Chiefs took the lead on Monday night for the first time all season. And then lost. Then got a penalty for a sick dance on a play that technically didn’t happen. That tells you all you need to know. #FreeJamaal
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) (31) — I’m glad we can put to bed all this “Alabama would beat the Chiefs or Jaguars” talk, with the Tide’s loss over the weekend to Texas A&M. But wouldn’t a game between them be fun?
30.) Carolina Panthers (2-7) (28) — OK, Cam Newton, I’m going to give you a mulligan for this season. I think you’re a good player. Really, I do. I called it two years ago when co-workers were trashing you, but please please please put the “Superman” dance away for the rest of 2012.
29.) Cleveland Browns (2-7) (30) — Not really much to say about the Browns so allow me to another opportunity to dial up a quickie Extra Butter for the new Bond flick “Skyfall”: I get the impression that in real life, Daniel Craig is a pretty big a-hole. I get it, he’s the biggest star in Europe. I’m sure I’d be one, too. But he’s an awesome Bond. Physical. Imposing. Vulnerable. Those piercing blue eyes. Quick-witted. I dig him. And I did this film. It’s an experience. Javier Bardem is an awesome villain and downright creepy, to be honest. An ex-MI6 agent, he’s seeking revenge for M selling him out to the Chinese years ago. Him battling wits with Bond makes for a riveting 143 minutes. Brockman Stamp of Approval: 4.25/5 shaken martinis.
28.) New York Jets (3-6) (22) — It’s tough to see how Mark Sanchez can continue to be the quarterback of this team. And while a lot of the blame has to be put on his shoulders for his very below average performance this season (9-of-22, 124 yards, INT vs. Seahawks), the coaching staff and management has not done a good job of playing to his strengths and surrounding him with players to bolster his weaknesses. I’m done talking about this team.
27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-5) (27) — Definitely giving up on this team, so allow me to tell how difficult it is to change a tire when all you have is one of those tiny rinky dink jacks. It’s really hard. And even harder when you try to change it on a public street. You have to angle your car so you have just enough room off the curb and on top of that, it’s was dark and the automatic sprinklers just went off for the 3 foot strip of grass. Then you’re car is low to the ground, so you have to lay on the pavement to spin the
26.) Buffalo Bills (3-6) (29) — Stevie Johnson is the most flamboyant player on the Bills. He wears really cool outfits and makes fun of Plaxico Burress after he scores touchdowns. However, he was not happy after Buffalo’s 37-31 loss to the Patriots.
25.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) (25) — Holy shnikes this team sucks. I mean, what the hell? Can’t Michael Vick go one game without getting his ass kicked like he plays for that team Adam Sandler was the water boy for? I actually think I had a dream last night that Andy Reid shaved his walrus ‘stache. Do you think if he did, that would confuse Eagles fans, reporters and even his own Jeff Lurie into thinking that it was a new coach and therefore no one would get upset and Lurie wouldn’t come damn near close to firing him every Sunday night? That might work, right? Hell, it’s worth a shot. Andy doesn’t have many bullets left in the holster.
24.) Oakland Raiders (3-6) (24) — Literally the only player worth having on the Raiders for fantasy purposes in their tight end, Brandon Myers, who I actually never even heard of about 5 weeks ago, but has been killing it for me in that span. However, he suffered a concussion, along with half the league, this weekend and is questionable against the Saints, which forces me to start Jermichael Finley, who I have grown to loathe this season. He couldn’t catch herpes if he had a threeway with Paris Hilton and Linsday Lohan.*
23.) Washington Redskins (3-6) (20) — Did I see that right, the Redskins have the exact same record at this point in the season as they did last year with Rex Grossman as their quarterback? I’m not saying any more. My Good Friend Robert needs a win though. Pretty badly.
22.) Tennessee Titans (4-6) (26) — I’m conflicted here with the Titans. On one side, I’m happy for Jake Locker that he came back from his injury and won a big road game against an apparently fraudulent Dolphins and got Tennessee back in the playoff mix. On the other side, I’m sad for My Brother Matthew, who won’t get any more burn this season unless Locker goes down with an injury again. Conflicted. Oh, and that TD run by Chris Johnson is one of the plays of the year. Dang, homey.
21.) St. Louis Rams (3-5-1) (23) — See, I knew I wasn’t the only ones who felt indifferent about the Rams. The Football Gods deemed it necessary to have them play in a tie this season. A TIE!!?! It’s been 4 years since the last tie in the NFL and Donovan McNabb regrettably stated he didn’t know the game would end that way. Now, after that episode, you’d think that no NFLer would dare admit that again, but lo and behold, Danny Amendola went and did just that to Peter King afterwards. When are these guys gonna learn to KEEP. THEIR. MOUTHS. SHUT? I’m guessing never.
20.) San Diego Chargers (4-5) (18) — You may not see a worse pass this season than the one Philip Rivers threw that Leonard Johnson intercepted and ran back for a touchdown this week. I don’t get Rivers one bit. Sure, he throws it uglier than Tebow but man he can make plays one minute and then the most boneheaded the next.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) (21) — It’s ridiculous how there are so many teams with basically the same record but who have very different feelings about their playoff chances. Such as the Bengals, who are 4-5 are in the same boat as the Chargers, but while San Diego might as well be walking the plank, Cincy is down below getting drunk on rum its huge win over the Giants. It’s all about trends and the Orange and Black is trending up.
18.) Detroit Lions (4-5) (17) — The Lions will never win anything until Matthew Stafford turns his hat around. No one ever won anything in a backwards cap. Not Ken Griffey Jr., not Tony Romo, no one.
17.) Miami Dolphins (4-5) (16) — The Dolphins had a chance to make as statement, get above .500 for the first time since who knows when and get into the AFC Playoff Picture and what did they do? Get absolutely boat raced at home by the Titans. Inexcusable. I’m so upset by this I need a new picture of Lauren Tannehill to cheer me up. Aaah, that’s better.
16.) Dallas Cowboys (4-5) (19) won — Does anyone stay alive quite like the Dallas Cowboys? They’re like that one last good run at the blackjack table as you’re nearing zeroes that keeps you around just long enough to lose your entire stake. Don’t trust them and never will. But that’s very noble of Jerry Jones to say he’d fire himself. So go ahead and do it, you dope.
15.) Minnesota Vikings (6-4) (15) — Definitely a must-win last weekend, in division against the Lions, for the Vikings. If it wasn’t for Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson would be the MVP of the league right now. You could make an argument the two should share that award and Comeback Player of the Year, which is incredible. Here’s my buddy Jimmy’s take: “Going into the bye 6-4, gonna finish 10-6. You heard it here first.” Yes, we did.
14.) New Orleans Saints (4-5) (14) — One of those annoying Pepsi commercials featuring Drew Brees and some band called “One Direction,” which is why I’m going this route. But is anyone else kind of tired of/annoyed with/want to punch Brees in the face? He hasn’t been doing himself any favors in the last 6 months with the holdout, the Bounty stuff, the tired pregame chants and now these commercials. They’re terrible. Deplorable, even. And on those pregame chants; who takes those seriously? Seeing Brees stand there and be all, “come on, uh huh, yeah” and say things like, “real Saints have swag,” get real, Drew. Don’t care if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re out.
13.) New York Giants (6-4) (9) — Even if their bye week wasn’t pre-determined for Week 11, I’m guessing Tom Coughlin would’ve most likely petitioned the league office to make it the Giants week off after the way they’ve played lately. Now with just a two-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East, Big Blue is reeling like it’s fly fishing season. Eli Manning has
12.) Indianapolis Colts (6-3) (13) –– It’s amazing what’s going on in Indianapolis. Truly. And if you think about it, the Colts are a Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts 80-yd bomb in the final two minutes away from being 7-2. That’s one people are going to look back and shake their heads at, especially when the Jags are 1-15 and the Colts are 11-5.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) (12) — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: really like what’s going on in Tampa Bay. Sure, Greg Schiano is a little insane, but this team has offensive firepower coming out its ears. Mike Williams has a 3 TDs in the last 5 games
10.) Seattle Seahawks (6-4) (11) –– I still don’t believe in Russell Wilson, but each week he’s making me look dumber and dumber for saying that.
9.) Baltimore Ravens (7-2) (10) — Seems like this team only plays well and home. And could Ray Lewis really come back and play this season? He was spotted at practice this week. Hmmm.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) (8) — Remember a little over a month ago when I wondered if the Steelers were any good? Well, four straight wins later I think they’ve proved me wrong. However, with Big Ben nursing a dislocated rib with the possibility of puncturing an aorta (what the what?!), Pittsburgh has to turn to 73-year-old Byron Leftwich and his hand crank delivery. At least they don’t play the Ravens two of the next three weeks. What’s that you say, they do? Hmm…
7.) Denver Broncos (6-4) (7) — You know who’s awesome? Von Miller. Here’s why; the dude likes to have fun while playing football. Imagine that. I really like how he does other people’s celebrations when he sacks them or makes a play. He’s Tebow’d, did Aaron Rodgers’ belt celebration, Mile High Saluted, Cam’s Superman and countless others. Always reminding us that it is just a game, and game’s are supposed to be fun.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) (5) — It appears Alex Smith (concussion) will be ready for the Monday Night clash against Chicago, but don’t you kinda get the feeling that the 49ers would like Smith to be out so they could see what life could be like with the dangerous Colin Kaepernick behind center? No? Am I the only one who thinks that? Kaepernick is bigger (hands), has a stronger arm, is faster and can make something from nothing. Sure, Smith is Harbaugh’s guy (when he’s not courting Peyton Manning) but why not rest him and see what you have in the young kid?
5.) New England Patriots (6-3) (6) — The Patriots give up far too many points, yards and big plays (they lead the league in 20+ yard plays) yet somehow find a way to win. It’s why I can’t have them any higher despite their three-game winning streak. I’d also be lying to you if I said I was confident in the 4th Quarter against Buffalo and that I think this weekend’s game against the Colts is a cakewalk. Lying to you.
4.) Chicago Bears (7-2) (2) — How come it seems like every season Jay Cutler does something very Jay Cutler-like (aside from all the douchey stuff) such as getting hurt when his team has a legit shot to go deep in the playoffs? Oh, right, because he does. Last year it was the thumb and this year it’s the concussion thanks to a Tim Dobbins helmet-to-helmet hit when Cutler was scrambling and near the line of scrimmage on a throw. Allow me to the first to wish Jason Campbell congratulations on still being in the league and reminding everyone of that when he walked on the field, Sunday night.
3.) Green Bay Packers (6-3) (4) — Word out of Wisconsin is Aaron Rodgers recently proposed to his girlfriend, Destiny Newton. Could that explain is elevated play in recent weeks? I have no idea, but while you’re here, take a peek at Miss Newton.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (8-1) (1) — Matty Ice and Co. failed to remain unbeaten, falling to the Saints last weekend, but if we’re all honest with one another, I don’t think any of us expected Atlanta to go 16-0. This smells like a 13-3 team. Just not getting enough out of the running game. Not sure if it’s by design, but even when his number is being called, Michael Turner is struggling big time. That’s gotta get fixed for me to be serious about the Dirty Birds as legit contenders.
1.) Houston Texans (8-1) (3) — I have just one rule: when you go on the road and defeat a fellow once-beaten team, and on top of that, knock said once-beaten team’s quarterback out of the game, AND you have Arian Foster, you deserve the top spot in my weekly You’re The Man rankings.