Tag Archives: Aaron Rodgers

Looking Passed Alex Smith

When people hear the name “Alex Smith,” there are usually two reactions: “game manager” and “meh.”   He is not the NFL quarterback who scares fans of opposing teams and when fans rank the top starting quarterbacks in the league, names like Stafford and (Eli) Manning come before his. . . and that’s just ridiculous.

Smith’s journey started at the University of Utah, while being coached by Urban Meyer – he put up impressive numbers after starting just two seasons: 66% completion percentage, 48 TDs, 8 Ints, 1072 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.   Those numbers make it obvious why he was taken first overall in the 2005 draft by the 49ers. . . at least at the time it was obvious.  Who knew that 23 picks later the Green Bay Packers would snatch up Aaron Rodgers?

For the rest of their careers, Smith and Rodgers have been linked and it’s not in the most complimentary of ways.  Football pundits scoff at the Niners – in hindsight – saying that the 49ers passed up on an all-time great and for who?  Alex Smith.

Never does anyone say “What if Aaron Rodgers got drafted by the 49ers?  Would he still be the Aaron Rodgers we all know now?”  The answer is: “Probably not.”  You see, Alex Smith was thrown into the fire – literally.  He was expected to pull off miracles with a below average roster, a clueless front office and had to deal with this stellar list of head coaches: Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and Jim Tomisula.   Aaron Rodgers?  He got to sit behind a hall of fame quarterback for three years and when his time came to start, he was the face of a franchise that is one of the best run in the league, with a mastermind of an offensive head coach in Mike McCarthy.

Fate was made so that Alex Smith would have to struggle.

As we all know, it wasn’t until Jim Harbaugh became the head coach of the 49ers that we finally saw  a coach build an offense around Smith’s strengths and we finally got to see what he could do. Nobody is saying that it was the most ridiculous season a quarterback could have, but what it did was give Smith back his confidence.  Smith led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and became the NFL textbook definition of what a “game-manager” is.  Then something weird happened.  The phrase “game-manager” had been around for  awhile, but now that it was tied in with Alex Smith – it now gained a negative aura about it.   Being a quarterback who moved the chains and didn’t turn the ball over became seen as “meh.”

Fast forward and we come to Alex Smith getting injured and losing his starting job to the young quarterback with promise Colin Kaepernick.  After nine games, Smith threw for 13 touchdowns with 5 interceptions at 70% completion rate – but after seeing  how electric of a player Kaepernick was at the time – there was no going back.

Smith now found himself in Kansas City with Andy Reid.  For five years in Kansas City, Smith showed the best version of himself.  Smith threw for 102 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and posted an average of about 3400 yards a year.  Reid was not only able to use Smith’s accuracy (finished the five years with a completion percentage of 65%) he also made good use of his legs which opened up the Kansas City offense.  With Kansas City, Smith became a three time pro-bowler and had the highest passer rating in 2017 with a digit of 104.7.  What did all of that get him?  Traded at the end of 2017, to once again – make way for another young quarterback.

Fate now finds Alex Smith, who is now 33 years of age and will be 34 by the season opener, with a pretty good offensive coach in Jay Gruden, but with a team in the Redskins who are very. . . “meh.”  Washington is where Alex Smith’s career may very well end and although this franchise has historically been one to make questionable decisions on both sides of the roster and has an owner who sometimes gives the impression that he lives in another world – SOMEHOW – it will fall on what Alex Smith “failed to do.”  At this point, Alex Smith has heard it all – “draft bust” – “game manager” and now “passed his prime.”  A good chunk of Smith’s career hurt him and it’s due to nothing else but bad luck and situations that he could not control.

Would he be an all-time great if he had a better situation?  Nobody is saying that.  Smith definitely has his limitations. He just deserved better is all.

How The Falcons Will Beat Green Bay

For the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers, this weekend’s game either sends them to the Super Bowl or sends them home.

Coach Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers have made it to the playoffs for the last eight seasons.  They have been a model of consistency in the NFL and for all their accomplishments and double win seasons (seven of the last eight) they’ve only netted one Super Bowl win.  Nobody is saying it’s “easy” to win the Super Bowl, but a team like the Packers has set a precedent for themselves that anything less – would be a disappointment.

On the Atlanta side of things, head coach Dan Quinn has a Super Bowl win as well, but as a defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.  He, along with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have helped to coach up the leagues number one offensive, ringing in 33.8 points per game.  Quinn was on thin ice coming into the year, and as a defensive minded coach, fans of the dirty-birds expected something a little more south than the 25 points a game this defense gives up.  The defense has gotten noticeably better late in the year, but that includes games against Colin Kapernick and Jared Goff, so hold a torch for those numbers as much as you’d like. . .

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers brings along with him, his 40 touchdown passes on the year, but as earlier reported by Ed Werder “Jordy Nelson and Davonte Adams responsible for 26 of Aaron Rodgers 40 TD passes. Both uncertain for Sunday.”  This would be  huge blow to the Packers (Captain Obvious, reporting for duty!) but chances are, Rodgers will at least have one of the two.  Jordy is by far the better receiver who has the better chemistry with Rodgers though.   The truth is, the Packers offensive line has led the late season charge for the Packers, as Rodgers seems like he has all day to make passes lately – and even when he doesn’t – he’s in such a groove right now it doesn’t even matter. . .

Matt Ryan is having, without a doubt, the best season of his nine year career.  Posting career bests in touchdown passes, quarterback rating, completion percentage and total yardage.  The Falcons offense has been too much for anyone to handle as virtually every member of this offense is a threat to break open a big play or be a threat in the red zone (13 players in total have been on the receiving end of a Matt Ryan touchdown pass).

Both teams have been on a roll, but while the Packers are healing from the thrilling shoot-out-style victory they had last week in Dallas – the Falcons are sitting pretty after shutting down one of the most loud-mouthed teams in the NFL in the Seahawks.

The wise-guys at Vegas are treating this game like a Big12 Conference match-up and have set the over/under at 61 (ridiculous for an NFL game).

There is no doubting the firepower of both offenses, it’s all about which defense will make more stops. . .

As talented as Aaron Rodgers is, Matt Ryan is gifted in his own right and has more talent to work with.  The running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are true dual-threats from the half-back position, while Robinson, Sanu and Gabriel have done well for themselves being on the field with (and even at times without) the great Julio Jones at wide receiver.  Rodgers has a wide-receiver turned running back as his best player in the back field, and last week he relied on an undrafted wide-out named Geronimo Allison and Jared Cook, a veteran tight end who was released by. . . the Rams. . .yuck.

With Rodgers simply having to do everything, it will be too much to handle.  This Atlanta offense – will not – and I repeat – will not stumble against a defense like Green Bay’s that allows 4 yards a rush and allows opposing QB’s to throw at a 65% completion rate.  Not saying the Falcons defensive stats are much better – – they are just all around, a more talented team.  And that’s what it’s all about at this time in the season: the better team, not the better player. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Who Should be MVP?

When discussing this year’s NFL  MVP Race,  a few names come to mind.  The Dallas Cowboys throw two names into the mix, the Patriots have their usual candidate, as do the Packers – while the Raiders and Falcons – get involved in the conversation this year as well.

First, let’s trim out who won’t get the award.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and . . . Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot.  This isn’t a bias thing either.  I actually have nothing against the Cowboys, or their fans – I think both get a bad rap to be honest. . . either way, these two – won’t be in consideration and here’s why.  Dak Prescott, stepped into some big shoes to fill this season and handled all of the pressure of being the Cowboys starting quarterback with the poise and consistency teams want in their franchise QB.  He threw for 23 touchdowns and ran for 6, had a completion percentage of 67.8% and threw for over 3600 yards.  Impressive – for a rookie.  Those numbers are great, and by comparison his stats looked a whole-lot-better than reigning MVP Cam Newton’s.  The issue with Dak is those are good QB numbers, but not MVP caliber quarterback numbers AND. . . the powers that be won’t give this award to a rookie. . . Zeke Elliot, was one of the most exciting players to watch this season, and his success running the ball could very well have been the main reason for Dak’s success this year. . .Elliot finished as the league’s top rusher with 1631 yards, 15 touchdowns and at an average of 5.1 yards a carry.  He made the NFL’s All-Pro First team as a rookie and showed not only his ability to run, but to catch and block at the position.  The issue here is that Demarco Murray played behind this same offensive line in 2014, ran for about 200 more yards than Elliot and did not win the award AND. . .the powers that be won’t give this award to a rookie. . .

Now, let’s look at who shouldn’t get the award.

Let me preface this by saying: “I love Tom Brady.”  There is not a thing to like about this man as a football player.  The professionalism, the consistency, the mastery within his system and that super-hero like chin – it’s all there.  The issue here is, as dominant as Brady was this season, and as much as one must love his “revenge tour” this year – he missed 25% of the season due to a suspension.  Yes, the suspension was petty and pathetic, but that’s not the issue here.  When looking at the numbers, he actually had a better season than the previously mentioned Dak Prescott (who started every game for the Cowboys this season).  Brady is a marvel to watch, a future Hall of Famer – and if he played a full 16 games this year, it wouldn’t even be close. . . Someone else who didn’t play a full 16 games, albeit in the most “unfortunate of fashions” is the Raiders’ QB, Derek Carr.  Although impressive at 63% completion percentage, it falls short of Brady and Dak – and he finished with 28 touchdowns to his six interception.  He was surely on his way to throwing for over 4000 yards, but his season was cut short due to a leg injury received in his week 15 contest against the Colts.  The Raiders, without Carr, ultimately dropped from a bye-week to a wild card in the playoffs and got booted out in the wild-card round by the Houston Texans.  Sure, his value was evident, as his absence made his team subsequently collapse but an MVP should be able to finish out the season – not be on the sidelines when the team desperately needs him.  It’s a tough break, but this is real life. . . This brings me to Aaron Rodgers.  My bias is a bit full blown here (BearDown for life) but Rodgers threw for over 4400 yards and a league leading 40 touchdown passes.  His heroics have been drooled over and over by commentators every week and his smug smile on this eight-game winning streak is the prominent image the NFL has going for itself right now.  Let’s not forget though this is a team we wrote off somewhere in that four game losing streak, where Rodgers looked either “off” or generally “uninterested.”   Folks love to live in the present, but this is an award based an a whole season – not the last few weeks.  When it’s all said and done, it will come down to the numbers and because of that –

. ..  The winner is. . .

Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.  Yes, Rodgers has two more touchdown passes than Ryan, but where else does Rodgers edge out Ryan?  Not in yards per game, yards per attempt, not in completion percentage, rating or even yards (where Rodgers falls short by about 500 yards although he attempted almost 80 more passes than Ryan).  “Matty Ice” has been the leader of the NFL’s strongest offense this season and has earned the respect to be in that group of “next level” quarterbacks in the league (I refuse to use the word “eli—” ah, you almost got me!).   In his ninth NFL season, Ryan has put together his best season to date.  At 31 years old, he could be at his “veteran savvy” stage, which means we should expect this level of consistency for years to come.  There is no doubt, Matt Ryan should win the MVP this year, and maybe another in the future.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Eighteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: If not for a backdoor touchdown scored by Clemson, we would’ve split the games last week.  Instead we got our first losing week in about a month and a half.  Although, I will say this: The playoffs will not count against my winnings for the entire football season.  There was a healthy plethora of games to pick from week to week, and now with the NFL playoffs, it’s slim pickings on how you want to wager your money. . .


Green Bay Packers (+7) at the Arizona Cardinals


Last week, the Packers made fools of everyone who believed that the Washington Redskins would skate away with a convincing win.  Now a Packers team that feels good about itself is going back to a place where they felt their worst all season long.  Back in week 16 of the season, the Packers visited Arizona and were destroyed by the  Cardinals 38-8.  The Packers were sacked 9 times in the meeting and to say their offense was suffocated by the Cardinals defense is an understatement.  Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense found themselves in prime field position for most of the game.  It was 31-0 in the third quarter and the game was over.  This time around, Green Bay’s offensive line has a renewed brand of confidence after handling the Redksins defensive front (albeit after giving up a safety) and revenge will be key for the Packers in this one.   The thing about the Cardinals is that they are coached by a man who some say is the smartest/best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  Arians saw how his defense dominated in that last meeting and will find different ways to attack.  Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has abandoned the pocket frequently this season and one should expect that trend to continue.  Green Bay will stick around in this one with Arizona pulling it off in the end.

The Pick: Arizona -7

Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5) at the New England Patriots


Kansas City pretty much had an unofficial bye-week in the first round of the playoffs and now they go against Tom Brady and the Patriots.  The Patriots and the NFL Playoffs go together like Bill Cosby and . . . nah, I won’t go there – The Patriots and the NFL Playoffs go together like peanut butter and jelly (boring, yet safe).  New England has an ambiance about them which many perceive as arrogance but if you’re the Patriots, you’ve earned the right to be arrogant . . . and hated.  The Kansas City Chiefs are allergic to losing as they have knocked out 11 straight victories since last losing to the Vikings on October 18th.  The Patriots needed the bye-week in the Playoffs after suffering back to back loses to division rivals the Jets and the Dolphins.  Both of those games should raise flags for the New England faithful because both of those teams they lost to, play a physical brand of defense  – and one team, in the Dolphins, doesn’t blow you away offensively and against the Pats, they seemed to do enough to win.   The Patriots are hurting offensively, with an offensive line that is underwhelming and outside of Rob Gronkowski, no real threat to worry about for an opposing secondary.   Tom Brady is a legend and it’s hard to count against him, especially in the playoffs – but the Chiefs are on a tremendous winning streak and are getting points against a New England team that is favored because of their legacy and not of what they presently represent.

The Pick: Kansas City +4.5


The Pittsburgh Steelers (+7) at the Denver Broncos


It was only four weeks ago, that the Steelers were a seven point dog to the Broncos, except last time it was the Steelers that were home, and it was the Steelers who not only covered the spread but won the game outright (as predicted by yours truly here).  Things are different this time around.  Steelers’ running back Deangelo Williams is highly unlikely to play due to injury, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is day-to-day with a shoulder injury and wide receiver Antonio Brown is under the NFL’s concussion protocol.  With those three weapons in doubt, things look very grim for the Steelers.  The Steelers’ best-case-scenario would be Brown being cleared to play, Roethlisberger playing through discomfort and Williams still being sidelined.  That even seems tough to swallow, especially when going against this Denver Broncos defense.  The offense of the Broncos will be led by Peyton Manning, but this isn’t the Manning we’re used to seeing, this version of Manning still spends a half hour calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, but to ultimately throw a duck towards the sideline or check it down to the nearest receiver.   Safe to say, Rothlisberger  will force himself out on that field and he may not look much better than the previously mentioned Manning.  .  .  this is how we’re doing the pick for this one:

The Pick(s):  If Antonio Brown and Rothlisberger play, take the Steelers +7; If either one of them are not available, they won’t move the ball against Denver, so take Denver -7.

Hope you guys got that!  And as always, Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Entry Seventeen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: I have no problem being wrong about USC last week because I’m pretty sure 95% of America was with me on that one. . .

The Division 1-AA Championship Game:

Jacksonville State (+4) vs North Dakota State:


Despite two close wins against Chattanoga and a near upset of a “then ranked” Auburn team in over-time – The Jacksonville State Gamecocks have been winning with ease week to week.   They caught the attention of the college football world in that game against Auburn, in which they exposed what the Auburn Tigers really were and we were introduced to senior quarterback Eli Jenkins.  Jenkins is a true dual-threat quarterback who has thrown for over 2700 yards and rushed for over 1000.  Jenkins along with stud running back Troymaine Pope (average 8.4 yards a carry and over 1700 rushing yards) lead a Gamecocks offense that is putting up 41 points a game.  The North Dakota State Bison have been the most popular team in Division 1-AA because of their recent run of dominance and because of the seemingly annual trip ESPN’s College Gameday makes out there to show love to the Bison.  The Bison have a very blue collar way of going about their business – they make minimal mistakes on offense and play hard nosed defense.   Both of these defenses allow less than 3.5 yards a rush and both defenses keep opponents throwing at a 50% completion rate.  This is a tricky one  because one group of people will see how Jacksonville State almost beat an SEC team in Auburn, while the other half will see a North Dakota State team which has been the media darling for the better part of five years.  The line is right where it should be, but bet on the defenses in this one.

The Pick: Take the UNDER at 58

The Green Bay Packers (+1) at the Washington Redskins


It may sound crazy, but although the Kansas City Chiefs are on a ten game winning streak, the hottest team in the league just may be the Washington Redskins, who are currently riding a four game winning streak.  The Redskins won the nearly laughable (and collapse-able) NFC East and are at home to one of the league’s most storied franchises, the Green Bay Packers, who are anything but “hot” entering the post season.  The funny thing about Green Bay, is that even in a “sub-par” season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has still thrown for 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions in a season, where he struggled to find help from his supporting cast.  The offensive line disappointed many and the wide receiver core showed how “regular” they can be without Jordy Nelson out there.   Running back Eddie Lacy has been “okay” as of late, but with only 743 rushing yards on the season and only three touchdowns by way of the ground – it’s easy to tell that the hefty tailback has been running to IHOP more than to the end zone this year. . . Luckily for Lacy, Rodgers should find some spots in a Washington secondary that has given up 30 touchdowns this year, so it’s very likely that the running attack will be rarely displayed from Green Bay.  The Washington Redskins quarterback, Kirk Cousins is one of the better stories of this year.  He’s taken shots from the media and has looked at times – flat out, awful – as a quarterback, but something clicked in him this year and he has stood out as one of the better passers in the second half of the season.  Cousins leads the NFL in completion percentage at 69.5% and was 10 yards short of throwing for 4000.  He’s looking better in the pocket now and has a healthy Desean Jackson to help stretch the field.   Jordan Reed is a top five tight end who the league, who is a match up nightmare for any defense.  The Packers are by no means going to get blown out, which is why Vegas has them as a slight underdog.  Vegas is also betting that people will fall for the allure of the Packers over the Redskins, who up until this year have been one of the NFL’s punchlines.

The Bet:  Washington Redskins -1

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) at the Houston Texans


This will be a defensive battle in the state of Texas, and if you’re trying to find out which team has the better defense, you’d be splitting hairs to do so.   Alex Smith is one of the most under appreciated players in the NFL, but he keeps throwing at high completion rates and he keeps NOT turning the ball over.  Oh yeah, remember when he didn’t throw a touchdown pass to a receiver all of last year?  Well that all changed once they gave him a receiver to spread the field with in Jeremy Maclin.  Maclin turned out a 1000 yard season with seven touchdowns and is still a dynamic play maker.  After stud running back, Jamal Charles went down for the season, coach Andy Reid was able to find life and stability in his backfield with Chacandrick West and Spencer Ware.   Meanwhile, the Texans haven seemingly used five different running backs this year who all pumped out average numbers, but it doesn’t matter because they will find ways to get the ball in wide out Deandre Hopkins’ hands as much as possible.  Hopkins is one of the most “un-coverable” guys in the league, who has a combination of speed, athleticism and hands that makes any quarterback comfortable tossing the ball up in the air.  Brian Hoyer will be that quarterback, and after starting, being benched and starting again – he’s got to be happy that he’s a division winning quarterback with one of the best tools in the league to play with.   This game will be a chess match for all four quarters, as both teams are coached extremely well and for the most part are evenly matched.  Take the home team with the points though, especially because nobody has been enamored with the Texans this year.

The Pick: The Texans +4

If You Must: Even if you don’t watch/like college football, how are you going to NOT watch the National Championship.  The Clemson Tigers have finally made it over the humps that have stumped them in the past and are the number one ranked team in the country and even with that, they are underdog to Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.  Clemson has speed and spread formations that have given Saban’s teams fits before, but Saban is too smart to be beat by the same tricks again.   Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is a smart quarterback and a “gamer” who won’t be intimidated by the Crimson’s Tides blitz packages – expect Clemson to slow down the blitz with screen passes and quick slants early.  Alabama is driven by the playing style and over-all “awesomeness” of Heisman Trophy Winner, Derrick Henry but the Tide are actually a pretty well balanced offense.  On average, Alabama puts up 208 rushing yards and 214 passing yards a game.  This should an interesting match up because Clemson can defend both the pass and run very well.  Alabama makes it impossible to run against them, and if Clemson has to be one dimensional the whole game, it won’t bode well for them.  Clemson will get some scores in because they have way too much talent but in the end, Alabama -7 might be the way to go. 

Not enough to make me want to play with the lines this week to throw in a “teaser of the week” but as always, Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Seven

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: No excuses, most of us fell for that Utah trap.  Vegas won out on that one, getting about 75% of folks to take the road underdog in that won.  Although this weekly article is called “Beating Vegas” – you have to expect Vegas to swing back at you.  Even if it’s a low blow. . .

Rutgers (+19) at Wisconsin


The Wisconsin Badgers defense averages 11.1 points a game.  That looks impressive at first but after looking at their schedule it’s easy to see that those numbers are blown up after beating down opponents like Miami Ohio, Troy and Hawaii (one might even want to throw terrible Purdue in there for good measure).  This year’s Wisconsin team has been tough to watch.  They are not as dominant this year running the ball – still above average, but just not what we’re used to seeing.  And they have to stick with the ground game, even through its struggles because quarterback Joel Stave just doesn’t have the tools to pose a serious threat against any opposing secondary.  Add to the fact that Wisconsin wide out Robert Wheelwright has a serious case of the “drops,” it’s an all out struggle at times.  Rutgers isn’t that much better.  They have a 3-4 record but have gone score for score with a talented Indiana offense in a 55-52 victory, and gave all Michigan State could handle in a 31-24 loss.  Getting destroyed last week by Ohio State didn’t surprise anybody, but getting whipped like that at home must’ve stung a bit. . . Rutgers has two running backs in Robert Martin and Josh Hicks who can bang in the trenches and help make it a “grinder” of a game.  Wisconsin has lost the right this season to be a near three-touchdown favorite against a team that puts up a fight like Rutgers.

The Pick: Rutgers +19

Boise St (-20) at UNLV

This is the first time those funky Broncos from Boise State have been written about here.  They’ve had an impressive season if you don’t look at their two losses, where they gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter to BYU and then got totally blindsided losing to Utah State 52-26.  Boise has the number one offense in the Mountain West Conference and it’s led by wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck who averages a notch under 20 yards per reception.  Although Boise State’s offense gets most of the attention (38 points per game) it’s their rush defense that will be a problem for UNLV.   The Running Rebels of UNLV’s ground game is formidable, averaging 4.7 yards a carry and 213 yards a game, but they will be tested by a Boise State defense that allows only 2.5 yards a rush.  What makes things worse for UNLV is that their passing attack is a work in progress, to say the least.  Quarterback Kurt Palandech has added a little spark to the aerial attack, but not enough for Boise to worry about, especially since they hold opponents to a 50% completion rate and have 14 interceptions on the year so far.

The Pick: Boise State -20

Air Force (-7) at Hawaii


Here’s another match up out of the Mountain West conference.   Hawaii has been abysmal offensively averaging 17 points a game.  In true Rainbow Warrior fashion, Hawaii depends on a strong passing attack to move the ball.  The problem is, they are completing less than 50% of their passes and have a total of eight touchdowns to fourteen interceptions.  This leads them to fall behind quickly and abort a running game, that is pretty non-existent anyway.  Air Force is the polar opposite when it comes to offense.  They only attempt about 10 passes a game, but lead the Mountain West conference with a rushing attack that gets 333 yards a game.  That average puts them third in the nation – a spot behind Baylor and a spot above LSU – which shows how dominant this run game is.  The Air Force defense is strong against the pass and should only look stronger against this Hawaii air attack.  Air Force hasn’t won a road game so far this season and that will surely change this weekend.

The Pick: Air Force -7

Green Bay Packers (-2.5) at Denver Broncos


Both teams are coming off of bye weeks and both teams are struggling offensively.  We all knew coming into the season that the Broncos would have some issues, but Green Bay’s struggles are just confusing.  Running back Eddie Lacy is about to lose his job to James Starks in Green Bay, and CJ Anderson has pretty much lost his starting job to Ronnie Hillman  in Denver.  Peyton Manning’s Broncos are 6-0 and it’s all due to the defense.  Manning has seven touchdowns to ten interceptions so far this year, and on the ground the Broncos are only averaging 85 yards a game.   Green Bay hasn’t been awful on the ground, just inconsistent – and their passing game isn’t bad at all – just not as explosive as we’re used to seeing.   For a team that hasn’t looked crisp in their last three games – coming back and playing arguably the best defense in the league won’t be an inviting task.  With all that being said – forget about the winner and the loser of this game – look at this over/under of 45.5 points.  Vegas is playing the odds that the names of Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, under the lights of Sunday Night Football, will make casual fans want to see a shoot out.  Be smarter than the casual fan.

The Pick: The Under at 45.5

If you must:  Head coach, Bobby Petrino hasn’t gotten this Louisville offense where he’d like them to be and it’s an obvious work in progress.  On paper, it would seem that Louisville as a twelve point favorite is a slam dunk, but Wake Forest has a pretty good defense playing at home.  Wake takes a lot of shots through the air and this Louisville defense is letting opponents complete passes at a rate of 60%.  Wake Forest +12 won’t be fun to watch, but they should cover.

Tease of the Week: (4 gamer) Iowa -5, Western Kentucky -11, Arkansas State -6.5 and TCU -2

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Green Bay Packers 2015 Preview

Something has to be said for a team that never spends big bucks on players that aren’t their own.  A team that plays in Wisconsin and somehow still stays popular in the eyes of America’s most popular sport.  And aside from all the majestic allure which is the Green Bay Packers – nobody knows how they they blew a twelve point lead against the Seahawks in the final minutes of the NFC Championship Game.  That has to sting a bit.

For all the credit given to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, there is no denying the genius that is head coach, Mike McCarthy.  McCarthy proves every season that he can re-invent his own offense and find niches in his defense to help keep offenses frustrated at least.  This year McCarthy is taking a step back from his own responsibilities and has given assistant coach Tom Clements play calling duties on offense.  This is a big chance to take considering it has been McCarthy’s vision and insight that has guided one of the best offenses in recent years, but if McCarthy trust Clements, you have to feel it’s for good reason.


Regardless of who’s calling plays, the camera will always be on Aaron Rodgers.  The league’s reigning MVP does it all, and with a smug smile. . .  His accuracy is tops in the league and his chemistry with his teammates rivals only the Patriots’ Tom Brady.  As much as fans love Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, one has to question if they would have anything close to the success they have without Rodgers.   Randall Cobb re-signed with the Packers in the off-season and is now part of a receiving core that not only features two-pro bowl caliber players – but maybe three.  Of course it’s still early for the second year man Davante Adams to be considered an all-pro or pro-bowler, but when his number was called, it seemed as if he played like a veteran.  The youngster might be just as confident as Cobb and just as reliable as Nelson when it all comes down to it.

Running back Eddie Lacy had a slow start last season and comparison’s to fellow Alabama running back Trent Richardson were being made prematurely.  Fortunately for the Packers, Lacy turned it up and became the piece this offense needed to ease some of the pressures off of Rodgers.  In front of Lacy is the same offensive line that helped him finish the season with over 1100 rushing yards.  The Packers kept this unit in tact when they re-signed tackle Bryan Buluga.  This is a smart and reactionary unit that Rodgers has all the trust in the world in.


The part of this offense where Rodgers has zero trust in is tight end.  Andrew Quarless has been around for a while and has never been a difference maker while Richard Rogers has the same collegiate pedigree as Aaron Rodgers, but that and the last name are pretty much all those two have in common.

Defensively, the Packers got lucky with the signing of the veteran Julius Peppers.  Peppers played with trying to prove a point last year and we all got it: He wasn’t finished.  Peppers is on the latter side of 35 and realistically, expecting the same intensity all season long from the veteran should be done with caution.  Clay Matthews is the “Aaron Rodgers” of this defense, as the camera seems to never stray to far from the linebacker.  Coach McCarthy shifted him from outside to insider linebacker last season and it seemed to generate more of a pass rush (as McCarthy figured it would).  AJ Hawk is now in Cincinnati, which makes the inevitable move of Sam Barrington taking Hawk’s job, a little less uncomfortable.


Tramon Williams left Green Bay for a paycheck but Sam Shields and Casey Heyward figure to be the one-two guys at cornerback position this year, although Michah Hyde may slip out of nickel and into one of those one-two spots to the surprise of nobody.  Ha-Ha Clinton Dix played his rookie season with a few mental lapses at the safety spot, but his upside is what keeps this team optimistic.  Dix plays out of position usually thinking too much or trying to make a big hit/play, but he’ll realize that the game will eventually just come to him.  Morgan Burnett splits the safeties with Dix, but the Packers might be telling Burnett to keep that spot warm until mid-season for rookie safety Damarious Randall.  The Arizona State product has great hands and is a high impact tackler who isn’t afraid of coming down to the line of scrimmage and make a play.

The Packers should not see a drop off in offensive production because it’s the same squad returning.  Tom Clements knows well enough to not get cute and let this machine operate on it’s own.  Defensively, they may be weak on the defensive line, but expect coordinator Dom Capers to throw in a lot of pressure from his aggressive safeties.

Predicted Record: 10-6

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Aaron Rodgers, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

The NFL Hates Defense

When it comes to the NFL’s MVP award, the truth about the league is evident in it’s history.   Most professional football pundits label today’s game as a “quarterback’s league,” but in truth, it pretty much always has been.  The NFL’s most valuable player award has been given to the quarterback position 37 times, with running back coming in second with 18.  The other positions?  Defensive tackle, linebacker, wide receiver and believe it or not a placekicker (congrats Gino Cappelletti of the Boston Patriots)  have all won it once.

It’s no secret that the golden boys under center are the NFL’s most prized possession.  Once upon a time (not too long ago really) the running back position was the position of glory but recently that position is treated like the wide receiver position – it is common place for teams to use two or three a game.   Props must be given to running back Adrian Peterson for winning the MVP award in 2012.  It marked the first time in six years that a running back LaDainian Tomlinson had won the award.  Even then, look at what these two had to accomplish.  In 2012, Adrian Peterson was all sorts of bionic, while rushing for 2097 yards, while in 2006, Tomlinson had to rush for 1815 yards with 28 touchdowns, had 508 receiving yards and threw 2 touchdown passes.   In other words, for a running back to win the MVP award, you need to break all kinds of records to even be in the conversation.

At least most can recollect a clear memory of 2012 or 2006 – the last time a defensive player won the award was in 1986.  That means the last time a defensive player won NFL MVP the following things occurred: MIke Tyson won his first boxing title, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse premiered, Chernobyl fell prey to a nuclear power plant accident and Top Gun was the highest grossing film of the year.

Nineteen eighty six.


So why did folks think that Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt even stood a chance to win MVP last season?  Maybe because he should’ve.   J.J. Watt’s 2014 campaign was nothing short of ridiculous: 78 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, an interception and two defensive touchdowns.  Let’s also not forget his three touchdown receptions to go along with those stats.

Although those numbers are impressive, it’s what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet that separates Watt from the rest of the league.  Say what you want about Ndamukong Suh, Haloti Ngata or even Gerald McCoy – Watt embodies the phrase “one man defensive line.”  His athleticism, agility, strength and pure will makes him a double blocking assignment – and he still wrecks havoc.  His versatility allows him to line up anywhere near the line of scrimmage and not to mention coaches spend hours to days focused purely on how to stop him – and him alone.

And the award goes to. . . Aaron Rodgers. 


Nobody is arguing whether or not Rodgers had a great year: 4,381 passing yards, 38 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions – those are video game-like numbers.  They are also numbers that fans are used to seeing.  The league is made for at least a handful of quarterbacks to throw at a high completion rate all the while netting 4000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns.  It’s what the league wants – and the league’s best quarterbacks deliver.

It’s expected.  It’s not surprising. Yet – it’s awarded.

So what’s the NFL’s beef with defensive players?   What else could J.J. Watt have possibly done to win the MVP award?  There is an actual list of things J.J. Watt would’ve had to accomplish in order for him to win the award last season, here it goes:

1. Along with his stats from last year, Watt also would have needed to make five 40 yard field goals.

2.  He would have had to perform the surgery to repair teammate Jadeveon Clowney’s torn meniscus.

3. Won a fifth grade spelling bee.

4. Created a time machine to travel back to 1986 and single handedly stop the nuclear mishap in Chernobyl.

That’s quite the list.  It’s also evident that there was no way the NFL was going to give Watt the award, no matter what he did.  After Watt having a season like that and coming up empty – there is no way the MVP award will go to any other position but quarterback – unless of course a running back runs for 2500 yards in a season. . .


The rules of the game have blatantly changed to favor the quarterback.   In doing so, playing defense is harder  than it’s ever been – and still – the quarterback gets the benefit of the doubt in MVP consideration.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio