Tag Archives: Cam Newton

The NFL’s Quarterback Problem

So in old news,  NFL quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers for $137.5 million, with about $74 million of that guaranteed.  In the quarterback “free agency” market, Garoppolo was the most attractive option (pun-intended) because of his age and ceiling.  The 49ers decided to tie up a big chunk of their money to the quarterback they believe is going to be the key to their success because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.”


Eh. Who knows really.  In the case of Garoppolo he went 5-0 in the five games he played.  He also threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions in those five games – but, for what it’s worth – the 49ers were convinced that was their guy to give this massive contract too.

For the record, I like Garoppolo and hold no ill-regard toward the 49ers organization. I really don’t care what they do, and if Garoppolo can get paid – props to him.  This isn’t even about Garoppolo, it’s about the quarterback position and how ridiculous the pay-grade is for that position.

Everyone will tell you until they are blue in the face – you need a quarterback in today’s league.  Sure. Who can argue that? The league has changed in ways that they want you to throw the ball more.  What has over-paying a quarterback really gotten anybody though?

Ask the Detroit Lions, who paid “their guy” Matthew Stafford a five year deal amounting up to about $27 million a year. That contract was given to him in August of 2017 and in July of 2017 Stafford’s record against winning teams was 5-46.  That’s not a typo – FIVE and FORTY-SIX.  Stafford has been the starting quarterback for the Lions since 2009 and they’ve had three playoff games with three playoff game losses.  Sure he puts up great garbage time stats for fantasy football geeks – but all in all, it hasn’t worked.

Ask the Seattle Seahawks, who were loving life when they found a diamond in the rough who they drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft.  Most teams don’t find their starting QB in the third round.  They did.  They rode it out – made him a star, he performed well and they even won a championship out of it.  After 2014 and a new contract the Seahawks realized they needed to trim corners.  They couldn’t keep offensive linemen, secondary players etc — and because of that the team has suffered.

Ask the Baltimore Ravens, who were the greatest victim of the “okie-doke” as Joe Flacco played the best stretch of games in his life when he was nearly perfect on the Ravens playoff / Super Bowl run in 2012.  Lucky for him he was in a contract year and the Ravens “HAD TO” keep their Super Bowl QB.  So they paid him $120 million over the next six years.  That $120 million has gotten them average to below average play from the QB position since then. (Side Note: It’s difficult to even watch Ravens games with him at quarterback).

There are a whole list of others – just look around the league.  Eli, Cutler, Romo, Cam, Luck, Matty Ice, Dalton – all aren’t terrible – some are actually the reason for any success that their team has had – BUT – was the money that was tied into that position really worth it for the teams mentioned?  Eli kept getting paid when he was passed his prime, Cam might’ve already peaked – as well as Matty Ice and Luck. . .

Folks, we just saw a back-up quarterback, who was nearly done with the game of football – win the Super Bowl.  And for all things considered – the injured starter, Carson Wentz, probably would’ve had the same results and he is in his second year of his rookie contract.

General managers have collectively shown that they do not care for long contracts with running backs. . . and often with wide-receivers and corner backs they tell the player “test the market and come back to us.”  With quarterbacks though, it’s always “What do you want?  Here it is.  Sign this.” (Unless you’re Kirk Cousins, of course)

Maybe I’m old fashioned but these games are always won in the trenches.  If you are not stocking up an above average offensive line, or an above average defensive line, then what are you – as a G.M. really doing?

Nick Foles showed in the Super Bowl, if you’re a competent quarterback who is comfortable with the system you’re in – you should be fine — especially if the pieces around the offense have bought into the system.  This is what you see every year from the Saints, Patriots, Kansas City and L.A. (Rams) – we also saw it for two of three years with Kirk Cousins in Washington.

The truth is, until a general manager and coach have the “you-know-whats” to tell a “star” quarterback “no” and that they believe in their system and finding a player who can run the system as effectively – these ridiculous contracts will never stop.  Fans will complain and you’ll get killed by the talking-heads on sports television but financially it’s a great move, if you really know you’re job.   Finding a starting quarterback is hard  – yes – but these quarterbacks have to realize how fortunate they are to find systems that are working for them.  Look at “great” wide receivers, corner backs, running backs – even line backers – who leave for a pay-day, find themselves in a system that doesn’t fit into their skill set and are released.  What usually happens to those players?  They look to find the system that got them that big money deal and try to prove they are still “great.”

Quarterbacks are special, but not special enough to hamper a team moving forward, financially.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

2016 NFC South Preview

1. Carolina Panthers – It almost seems to easy to pick the Panthers to win this division.  How can you bet against a team that’s the reigning NFC Champs and return with the reigning MVP?  Cam Newton made the leap many of us have been waiting for and was a force all on his own last year.  Cam finished the season with 45 total touchdowns and he will need to continue this dominance for the Panthers to repeat as division champs this year.  Last year Cam was without wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and it was a blessing in disguise.  Cam was able to spread the ball around and make decent players out of dumpster fires like Ted Ginn Jr.  Expect former Michigan Wolverine, Devin Funchess to take over as the number one wide-out.  Tight-end Greg Olson, when it’s all said and done, is the most consistent and reliable target. . . Jonathan Stewart was eleven yards short of a thousand and was better than expected.  To expect anything more than eight-hundred yards out of Stewart would be lofty.  Head coach Ron Rivera’s bread and butter is the defense.   The Panthers could not agree on a contract with corner-back Josh Norman so he’ll be gone and there is a definite lack of support in that secondary.  Roman Harper took his leadership and salt and pepper hair back to New Orleans but it’s the front seven that is still the most athletic and dominant in football.  Teams will still struggle to run the ball against them, as they did last year as this defense yielded less than four yards a carry.  It will be a tougher road, but this is literally a black and blue team, who can take it as well as they can dish it out.


Prediction: 10-6

2. Atlanta Falcons – The story here is that Atlanta actually has better talent on their roster than most of the teams they play this season.  Matt Ryan wasn’t as sharp as we’re used to seeing him, but let’s just put it on learning a new system.  Ryan is a bright and dedicated player, he will only get better a year into this system.  The Falcons were able to run the ball last year with Davonta Freeman and the funny thing about that is he wasn’t even supposed to be the starter.  Tevin Coleman had beat him out as the starter but got hurt.  The running game and offensive line as a whole should get a lot better with the free agent acquisition of center Alex Mack who decided to not waste away his talents in Cleveland anymore. . .Defensively the Falcons should see some improvements.  Vic Beasley struggled during the year, but that’s mostly because the defense around him was pretty shaky.  Courtney Upshaw and Sean Witherspoon are some nice additions to the squad.  Ra’Shede Hageman was  dominant player in 2013 playing in the Big 10 conference and he needs to be more consistent with his play.  Hageman plays with a chip on his shoulder and fits the mold of a Dan Quinn defense.  The Falcons drafted Keanu Neal, the safety out of Florida, in the first round and that will turn out to be a nice pick for them as he plays behind one of the leagues best corners in Desmond Trufant.   Atlanta has the tools to become more dominant in this division than Carolina – but their time is not now.


Prediction: 9-7

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Okay everyone, you no longer need to hold your breath.  Jameis Winston seems to have taken life at the NFL seriously and is washing away the troubled image that followed him in college (somebody tell Johnny Manziel that it is possible to shape up . . .).  Tampa decided to part ways with head coach Lovie Smith, but didn’t want to shake things up too much and they promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to the position.  The Bucs must have all the faith in the world in Winston because they did little  in the off season to upgrade this offense.  Although the “little” they did was add J.R. Sweezy to an offensive line that is young and on the come up thanks to the likes of Hastings, New York product Ali Marpet who was taken in the second round of last year’s draft as a Division Three standout at guard.  Doug Martin proved that when healthy he is a top five back in the league as he finished last year with over 1400 rushing yards.  Vincent Jackson is still the veteran wide out on the team that generally goes un-noticed and forgotten in the league and if Mike Evans can stay healthy and produce, it may be Jackson’s last year in Tampa.  The Bucs drafted corner Vernon Hargreaves in the first round and he is a cover guy, always looking to force turnovers – he should show immediate impact from week one as he’s paired up with Brent Grimes in the secondary.  As long as Grimes keeps his wife off of twitter things should be okay.  Hard to have a lot of faith in the back end of that secondary when the horrible Chris Conte is there and amazingly still finds himself employed in the league.  The Bucs will have a losing record but fight until the final possession in a hand full of these games.


Prediction: 6-10

4. New Orleans Saints – Expect a lot of 35-32 losses by this team.  They can sling it with the best of them, but they’re defense is just horrendous.  The Saints are the NFL’s version of what a Big 12 conference team is.  Sheldin Rankins, the defensive tackle out of Louisville, was a smart pick in the first round of the draft but outside of him and defensive end Cameron Jenkins, there really isn’t much to see in this front seven.  Dannell Ellerbee keeps tricking people into paying him for his “athleticism” and Nick Fairley has a good motor but zero in-game focus. Drew Brees has lost a little bit of the zip on his passes but he’ll have some nice young targets to fling the rock to.  Rookie Micheal Thomas and the game-breaker Brandin Cooks figure to be the one and two – but Willie Snead had a nice breakout season last year and gelled well with the veteran QB.   The Saints are a great team to collect guys for your fantasy football team but to see them as a contender is just a “fantasy.”


Prediction: 5-11

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC South Team Needs

New Orleans Saints: DE, LB, TE, WR


It seems that the Saints are going to continue to milk this head coach/quarterback combo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees for at least another year but it won’t matter, because this duo is a far cry from what it once was.  While the offense does need help, it’s the 27th ranked defense that will get most of the attention.  The secondary was flamed last year, but mostly because the pass rush was pitiful.  With the number 12 draft pick in the first round this year, the Saints will probably have to choose between the likes of Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Clemson’s Kevin Dodd.  Robinson is the bigger of the two and has some range being able to play defensive tackle and defensive end.  Having that kind of versatility might be key for them, and if not, they can get Dodd, who is a “straight up” edge rusher.  Due to his character issues, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss, may be available to them in the second round.  Sure, he’s a head case, but he’s also an amazing athlete, and if he can keep his head on straight, Nkemdiche can be an All-Pro in the NFL.   Keeping this focus in the first two rounds is a step in the right direction for the Saints defense.  New Orleans lost tight end Ben Watson in free agency to the Ravens, but they signed a younger tighter end in Coby Fleener.  Fleener, surprisingly didn’t max out his potential playing with his college quarterback Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and maybe a fresh start in a tight end friendly system is what he needs.  The Saints have two good, young receivers in Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks, but neither of them are “big” receivers.  The Saints can look to get some bigger, veteran wide-outs at a cheap price like Nate Washinton or a Hakeem Nicks.  The Saints needs a viable red-zone target at that position – even a late round gamble on Tennessee’s Marquez North (6’2″, 223) might be worth the risk.


Atlanta Falcons: LB, DE, S, TE


The Atlanta Falcons were pretty much in the middle of the pack on defense and slightly below average offensively.  Put that together and you get a collective “shrug” from NFL fans who barely noticed the Falcons all year.  Head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive minded coach who knows he has mainstays at the quarterback, wide receiver and running back spots, which may be enough for him to go big on defense in free agency and in the draft.  Many were surprised to see former Seahawk  Bruce Irvin not sign with Quinn and the Falcons but since he didn’t, this means Alabama linebacker, Reggie Ragland – could be the seventeenth pick of the draft.  Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end of Oklahoma State, could slide into Atlanta’s favor as well, but Ogbah might need time to develop where Ragland is more good to go, now.   If the Falcons get lucky they can use their second round pick on Ohio State safety Vonn Bell, who plays well against the run and good-enough in the secondary.  Free agent safties James Ihedigbo and Bacarri Rambo just sound like less than stellar signings were used to the Falcons making, but let’s just hope this is a new regime/new method under Dan Quinn. . . The Falcons have had a void in that tight end position since the retirement of Tony Gonzalez and with what’s left in free agency and late round picks – it looks like it might be another year to struggle at that spot.  Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee might be a sneaky fifth round selection for Altanta – Higbee had 563 yards and 8 touchdowns for the Hilltoppers last season and offers some nice size at 6’6″, 250 pounds.
Carolina Panthers:  WR, RB,


If Cam Newton is truly Super-Man, than the Super Bowl proved that Super-Man needs a Justice League.  Sure the Panthers defense was tremendous this season, but the offense went as far as Cam Newton could carry them.  Enough is enough already – give the league’s MVP some help out there!   The Panthers had the built in excuse at the start of last season that their number one wide out – sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin – was out due to injury.  Be cautious of Benjamin though.  It seemed that by the second half of his rookie season, defenses in the league started making life difficult for him.  The problem is, the Panthers have the next to last pick in the first round and might miss out on the stud receivers in this draft.  If the football gods favor the Panthers, TCU’s Josh Doctson will be there, but with the Vikings, Steelers and Packers all drafting before the Panthers, it’s highly doubtful.  In truth, they may find some value in signing veteran wide outs like Marques Colston or Anquan Boldin – even if just on one year deals.  A nice sleeper pick for the Panthers could be the wide receiver out of UMass, Tajae Sharpe.  Sharpe provides nice size at 6’2″, 194 – but more importantly has impressed scouts with his route running and his good hands (aren’t we all tired of Tedd Ginn getting wide open and dropping perfectly placed passes from Cam Newton?).   Jonathan Stewart had a nice season, but to expect that kind of production from him again is almost insane.  There are more than enough free agent veteran backs that can fit into the mix – Tim Hightower, Ronnie Hillman and LeGarrette Blount to name a few.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB, DE, WR, OT


Dirk Koetter (who?) has taken the place of former head coach Lovie Smith to lead a team that, for the most part doesn’t look terrible on paper but on the field – different story.   With the ninth pick in the first round of the draft, the Bucs have a good shot at fulfilling any of their team needs immediately.  Florida’s cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is the  popular “can’t miss” prospect and it would help shore up a secondary that desperately needs it.  Yes, it’s understood that Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes are there. . . it’s understood so much in fact that drafting Hargreaves at this spot is a must if he is available.  They might want to address this position again later in the draft by taking Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez or Mississippi State’s Will Redmond.  Aside from the corner spot, the defensive end needs an upgrade as well.  Acquiring Robert Ayers in free agency was a nice move and it also might have included a little bit of brain washing on the part of the Bucs. . . Corey Wooten has been on Chicago and Detroit and has been pretty average at best, but he might serve well as a rotational piece if just for his size and athletic combination.  Quarterback Jameis Winston is going to need more around him and they should just toss a veteran receiver and a few late round picks for him to work with.  Former Green Bay Packer James Jones might be worth a look.  After being cut by the Giants last season, he was instantly signed by the Packers and had a surprisingly productive season.   Stamford wide receiver Devon Cajuste, can be a nice fifth or sixth round pick for Tampa.  He adds more size to this receiving core at 6’3″, 233 and is a smart route running wide out.  Even a late round pick in Baylor’s Jay Lee might be a nice investment.  Remember this is a receiving core that will have wide out Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to grow with, it could work out nice for the Bucs.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Who Will Now Carry the NFL’s Torch?


With everyone assuming that Peyton Manning’s career is done and with Tom Brady maybe having two more years in him, it’s time for us as fans – to move on.   Manning and Brady have been the center pieces for this league for as long as many of us can remember.  For some sports fans, they are the equivalent to what Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor and Dan Marino meant to the generation before them.  The question now is: Who’s next?

Who will be the new face of the NFL?  Who will usher in a new era of football?  Who has the charisma and talent to carry the NFL into it’s next realm?

Before we just throw out names, let’s have some guidelines.  The first is, although the NFL is in love with quarterbacks and quarterbacks-only, let’s give love to the other positions on the football field.  The second guideline is that this “face” of the league has to be no more than 29 years of age. Remember, the face of the league is not just someone with amazing talent, but also someone with a “look” and someone who can “sell” the league. . . as well as cars, cell phones, watches and whatever else comes with the territory. . .  With that being said, let’s scope out the talent.


The first three names are the obvious ones:  Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.  Wilson is the only Super Bowl winner of the group (for what that’s worth) and also has the better all around supporting cast.  Wilson, although he has the squeaky clean image, finds himself in the media’s eye often.  He has the pop-star girlfriend and “boy next door” demeanor, which people love about him.  Newton and Luck are a lot more similar than people care to admit (check out an article by yours truly, which was written before the season).  This season though, it seems obvious that Newton has taken a step further than Luck.   The Colts are a horrible team, no defense and a limited offense, so Luck will have an uphill battle along the way.  All three of these youngsters have a certain charisma that fans have flocked to and so have sponsors.

Although he’s only one year in and although he already has been injured at a position known to shorten careers, there is just no way to ignore St. Louis — eh, L.A. Rams running back, Todd Gurley.  Gurley reminds many of a younger Adrian Peterson and if that’s the case, Gurley will be a monster among men for the next ten years.  With the Rams being in L.A. now, Gurley moves a step closer to Hollywood.   Gurley has already said he wants someone to give him a shot at acting, so he’s looking to get himself recognized on and off the field in a hurry.  Now, the rest is up to the Rams to build something that looks like a football team around him. . .


Defensive players never get their due credit but at least JJ Watt has found himself getting on TV a lot, even when he’s not playing football.  Somehow, Watt has become a household name (sort of) and his dominance on the football field is second to none.  His intensity and explosiveness catches the eye of even the most non-traditional football fan.  What ultimately holds him back in terms of being the “face” of the league is the fact that he plays defense and that he doesn’t play for that other team in the state of Texas.


Rob Gronkowski is a fun player to watch and a fun name to say out-loud: “grahn-cow-ski.”  Although there is no doubting the “awesomeness” for which he exudes, there remains the question: “Will he be as awesome, when it’s time for Tom Brady to retire?”  Nobody knows.  Although, the educated guesser would say there would be some kind of drop-off in Gronk’s numbers when that day does come.  The NFL would probably not want to endorse Gronkowski as their “face” though because of his wild partying ways – especially after the likes of Johnny Manziel have made “partying” seem down-right criminal in the eyes of NFL loyalist. . .


Wide receivers are fan favorites because they are sleek, flashy and know how to celebrate better than most of the players in the league.  Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr all have a look, character and their own brand of swag to challenge anyone for the crown of the “NFL’s New Face.”  All have at least one thing against them though.  For Odell, it’s just him getting in his own way.  What seems like fun to Giants fans, is mostly just annoying to everyone else.  He forgets he isn’t the biggest guy in the world and has a huge target on his back in the league. . . Dez is another who just gets in his own way as well.  At times just overly emotional and doesn’t think before he acts, on and off the field. . . Julio Jones, might be the best out of the bunch, but Atlanta needs to get some W’s on the board, because the face of the league can’t be on a squad most teams use as a punching bag. . . A.J. Green, has seen the most success, but that success in Cincinnati is always a predictable first round exit.  It’s become a punch line in the NFL and that isn’t a good look. . .


If you had to guess for a secondary player, Arizona’s Tyrann Matthieu would get my vote.  That whole “honey badger” gimmick is working out pretty well for him and the fact that he came into the league with so many red flags and has kept himself quiet is a great sign.  He’s a natural and may already be the best safety in the NFL.  If you had to guess for an offensive linemen – Kyle Long.  Why not?  His lineage proves he can go “Hollywood” if need be and Chicago is dying for a star. . .

The NFL is definitely heading into a new era.  Offensively friendly and offensively softer, some would say.  These are the names that stick out above all though when it comes to carrying the torch for the NFL.  Some are soft-spoken, some are flamboyant.  Some are “sure things” while others are long-shots.  Either way, the talent is there for this new era, it’s all about who will separate themselves from the crowd.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Super Bowl Deluxe Edition

It’s been fun here at “Beating Vegas” all football season.  We finished about 10 games over 50% so all in all, not a bad season.  Now it all comes to the end with the biggest sporting event of the year – the Super Bowl.  The NFL’s most valuable and exciting player, Cam Newton on one side and one of the NFL’s most recognizable celebrities, Peyton Manning, on the other.   Vegas knows that this is their last chance to bank on football action for at least six months and they like to throw EVERYTHING at you.  The trick is to not bet all over the place, but to use your head and think logically – eh, forget logic, it’s the Super Bowl – it’s a time to let loose, drink, eat and have fun – BUT, here is my advice to you on those prop-bets and the game itself.

Total Receptions By Ronnie Hillman:


Yeah, this is a weird and random place to start but it could  be easy money come Super Bowl Sunday.  Ronnie Hillman is the smaller speed back, that shares the Broncos back field with the more physical CJ Anderson.  Hillman has more of the game breaker speed in him, but he is prone to injury and is known to fumble.  Anderson though will have his hands full trying to run the ball all day against a Panthers defense that allows less than four yards a carry.  The Broncos will look for ways to get the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands quickly all game and they will look to slow down the Panthers’ blitz attacks.  Screen passes and check downs in the direction of Ronnie Hillman will help the Broncos in achieving that.  The over/under for total receptions by Ronnie Hillman is set at 1.5.  Hillman is dangerous in open space and his speed is deadly once he takes off.  Take the over – it’s probably the easiest bet of the day and the payout is at +155. 


Total Field Goals Scored By Broncos:


The Denver Broncos have a three and out percentage of 26.13% and that number should be there or even worse against one of the NFL’s best defenses in Carolina.  The Broncos are not a high octane offense anymore due to Manning’s declining ability as a quarterback and Kubiak’s predictable, conservative offense.  The Broncos won’t get cute on fourth down when in the Panthers territory and they have a lot of faith in their kicker Brandon McManus who was perfect kicking from 20-39 yards this season.  From 40-49 yards out he was 5-8 and from 50 yards are more he was 5-7.  Points will be hard to come by for Denver but getting at least three field goals should be possible.  The over/under is 2.5 with a payout of +340 and that’s definitely worth the shot, at least for a small dime, for more than three times the payout.

What color will Beyonce’s footwear be when she comes on stage for the halftime show?


If your “guy” has this prop bet, consider these lines: Black: 3/2, Gold/Brown: 5/2, White: 11/14, Silver/Grey: 19/4 and any other color: 7/1.   Beyonce is a diva.  Beyonce is a trendsetter and (much like myself) a “walking fashion statement.”  Last time she performed at the Super Bowl, she had on black boots.  She wouldn’t be caught dead wearing something similar at the same function a few years later, so scratch that.  She probably won’t match up with Coldplay’s bland attire and she might want to separate herself from Bruno Mars, who is pretty unpredictable.   To prove her “queen” like ways, I expect her to go with something flashy and at the same time classy which is why the Silver/Grey line is more to my liking here.

How many times will “dab” or “dabbing” be said by the announcers during the broadcast?


The over/under for this line is 2.   Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are probably the most out of touch guys to ever call a football game.  Sometimes they don’t even know what’s going on during a football game so do you really think they have a chance to know about anything in pop-culture?  If it wasn’t for the commercials, I’d watch this game with the mute button on.  Take the under and good luck to us all having to deal with these two lame asses. . .

Super Bowl MVP:


There are only two names to look at here, Cam Newton who is the favorite at -145 and Luke Kuechly who is a long shot at +1400.  Cam is the obvious choice because the offense runs through him, he is dynamic and the NFL is more likely to give quarterbacks the credit for a win, than anyone else.  Luke Kuechly is an interesting name though, especially considering the payout.  This game has a slight chance of being a low scoring defensive battle or a high chance of being a blowout in favor of the Panthers.  Either way, Kuechly is a player who finds himself around the action and the football often.  If the defense is all the way dominant, it will be mostly because of his doing.  Eight tackles, coupled with a forced fumble, recovered fumble or interception might be enough for a defensive player to become MVP of this game, and who would be more likely to achieve that than Kuechly?

The Super Bowl Line:


The Carolina Panthers are a six point favorite in this game against the Denver Broncos and if you’ve read this article, you can guess where this paragraph will lean. . . Peyton Manning is a fraction of what he once was and against this secondary, he might be in for one of his worst performances since.  . . the last time he played in a Super Bowl.  Manning has never been a “big game” quarterback, even in his prime, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him struggle in this one.  Denver’s defense will be on the field for most of the game and have their back’s up against the wall a lot.  This works in favor for a Carolina offense that likes to be physical.  Cam is a difference maker, and there is really no way to coach how to stop him, because even he has no idea what he’s set to do at any given moment.  Carolina and Denver may be close in the first half, but in the second half Carolina pulls away and wins by at least 15 points.

The Pick: Carolina -6


Hope you guys have enjoyed “Beating Vegas” this football season.  We’ll be back next year and continue our winning ways here.  Thank you for checking back each week and as always: “GOOD LUCK AND WAGER WISELY!”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio








Cam Newton: More Than Just a Road to the Super Bowl

At 26 years of age, Cam Newton has come into his prime in his professional football career.  When he was drafted as the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Carolina Panthers were hoping they cashed in on their “franchise quarterback” and they definitely did.  This season is a special season for Cam Newton though.  In all areas of life, Cam has certainly come of age, professionally and personally.


This season Cam has established himself as the NFL’s most valuable and entertaining player in the league.  During this campaign he has led the Carolina Panthers to their second ever Super Bowl appearance and he has also witnessed the birth of his first child, a son he named “Chosen.”  This is a fairy tale like season for Cam and the Panthers but the road to getting here has had many ups and downs for Newton.

After being recruited by the University of Florida as a five-star recruit, he won the role of back up quarterback job behind Tim Tebow and when he got his chance to start the 2008 season, he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him (medical redshirt).  In that same year Cam was arrested for the purchase of another student’s stolen laptop computer.  Cam didn’t make himself look  innocent in the situation considering he tossed the computer out of his window in his attempt to not get caught with it.  After that, Cam found himself at Blinn University, a junior college where he led Blinn to the Junior College National Championship and put himself back into the focus of the recruiting plans for division one schools.  This is when the University of Auburn stepped in to win the services of Cam Newton.

Once at Auburn, he lit the world on fire.  He was destroying SEC defenses week to week.  The most memorable performance of his  was being down 24-0 to the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide defense, and he willed a comeback victory to seal the SEC Championship.  Even then, when things seemed to be approaching an undeniable climax, there was a cloud that hovered over Newton’s head.  Talk came about that his father was trying to talk Mississippi State into “buying” his son’s services for a certain price (rumored over $120,000).  In a weird turn of events Cam Newton was suspended for the National Championship Game by the NCAA but soon after called off the suspension.  .  . Cam won the Heisman Trophy (beating out Andrew Luck) and won the National Championship with Auburn.


Cam had a ridiculous start to his professional career, breaking 9 rookie records and earning himself a Pro Bowl bid.   It was at that Pro Bowl though, where players and NFL personnel alike were turned off by Cam Newton’s pri-madonna like ways.  This was only assumed to an even greater scale in his second season, where the sophomore jinx was evident and Cam appeared more like an isolated brat on the sidelines then the man-child the NFL wanted him to represent.

The following three seasons showed a maturity in Cam Newton though.  He helped lead the Panthers to three straight playoff appearances and instead of relying purely on his athletic ability to win games, he put in the work and became better as a quarterback.  This season was the apex of him putting together his abilities as a quarterback and one of the NFL’s most gifted athletes.


He has embodied what the NFL’s future should become.  A leader with a grin from ear to ear that can light up a stadium.  A player who can entertain the fans with gestures (whether to cheers or jeers) but at the same time will bear down and sacrifice his own body if needed just to get that extra yard.  The NFL playing field has become Cam’s personal playground and keeping that “playground” mentality as a focus for his brand, the younger fans are captivated by him.  That captivation is a product of what  he’s doing on the field or even how he engages with the kids in the stands and how he embraces every moment with open arms.


Cam Newton has taken on a lot of criticism, some was deserved and some wasn’t.  He has made it easy for him to be hated and at the same time made himself out to be loved.  Cam has taken his game to the next level and raised the bar for the future of the NFL.  Now he is set to play against the best defense in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and set to go against another quarterback who in his prime, raised the bar for the future of quarterbacks in the league in Peyton Manning.  Everything about these two quarterbacks is different – except for the fact they both possess commercial appeal to sell anything from pizza to yogurt.  This is a shining moment for Cam Newton to continue his path to football immortality and more importantly to do it his way.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Nineteen

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: Last week was all kinds of weird.  Lost one and pushed the other two.  That’s just a non-eventful day of nothing but lows.  Let’s see if we too can “push” through this week and come out on top, as we usually do on Beating Vegas by taking action on the NFL Conference Championship games.

New England Patriots (-3) at the Denver Broncos


This match-up has not been friendly to the team that travels in recent history.  In the last five meetings between these two squads, the road  team has gone 0-5, straight up and against the spread.  In the fictional “quarterback vs quarterback” world, Brady has bested Manning with an 11-5 record.  Don’t be a clown and base your wager on that silly tidbit of knowledge though.  The facts here are that Peyton Manning for all of his accolades and career records has pretty much been “okay” in the playoffs.  Even during his Super Bowl run of the 2006 season he threw only  three touchdowns and seven interceptions.  Considering that now Peyton is going up against a very underrated Patriots defense and Peyton’s arm strength is just about the equivalent to a big bowl of jello – what do the Pats really have to worry about?   The Broncos have a waste of two good wide outs in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryous Thomas; and are relying on a two back running game that doesn’t exactly put the fear of God into opposing defenses when they hear the names “Ronnie Hillman” and “C.J. Anderson.”  What the Broncos do have is the NFL’s best passing defense and the league’s third best rushing defense.  Denver will surely try to put the heat on Tom Brady and this much maligned Patriots offensive line as the Broncos also had an NFL best with 52 recorded sacks.  The problem with that attack is that Brady gets rid of the ball quicker than most and blitzing leaves the gaps open for the Patriots’ drag, slant and seam routes all day long.  The bye-week seemed to do Brady good as he looked sharp in his game against a good Kansas City Chiefs defense.  Not counting Brady’s six scrambles out of the pocket (one which resulted in one of his famous goal-line touchdown dives), the Patriots only ran the ball 8 times and they seemed fine with it.  The Broncos defense will stay strong against the Pats for a while, but the Broncos offense is gross.  Peyton Manning’s career should end with a loss to the Patriots and hopefully it does because the last time we saw Peyton in the Super Bowl. . . aye.  . .

The Pick: Patriots -3

Arizona Cardinals (+3) at the Carolina Panthers


If Cam Newton didn’t have the season he’s having, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer would be in talks for NFL MVP along with Tom Brady.  No question.  BUT, we don’t live in a world of “maybes” and Cam Newton is treating the NFL, like he treated the SEC in his Auburn days: The NFL is Cam’s Playground.  He has a way of improvising, an undeniable leadership and the ability to make things happen with a very, very thinly talented offense.  Aside from tight end Greg Olsen, his best option is running back Jonathan Stewart.  The defenses are evenly matched but each defense has to deal with their own issues.  For Carolina, they shouldn’t under estimate the abilities of Arizona’s running back David Johnson, who has an NFL leading 9 touchdowns in road games this year.   Johnson may have started as number three on the depth chart this season, but Arians has had him involved in this offense since week one, so there should be no “rookie gitters” coming from the multi-purpose back. Arizona also boast one of the best wide receiver trios in the league with the speedy John Brown, the (still) under-rated Michael Floyd and the veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who showed in the over-time win last week against Green Bay that if you sleep on him, he can still hurt you.   For Arizona their defense is just as complete as Carolina’s but the loss of safety Tyronn Matthieu is one that they can’t make up for.  His versatility and overall skill has him already mentioned as a top three safety in the league, and his ball hawking ability and presence on the line of scrimmage will be missed (and needed) against Cam Newton. . .  This will be a tight game but three points may not be enough to lean to the visiting team in this one.

The Pick: Carolina -3


As always, good luck and wager wisely!

P.S. There will be no “Beating Vegas” article up next week, because everyone knows when it comes to the Pro Bowl you either take the “over” or find something better to do with your time than waste it on that non-sense.  “Beating Vegas” will return the week of the Super Bowl for the final entry of the year though, giving you an in-depth analysis on the Super Bowl game and of course, the ever popular “prop bets.”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Stop Babying Quarterbacks

While watching Russell Wilson on Monday Night Football a few things occurred to me. . . The first of many things is that the NFL and it’s fans love / hate quarterbacks.  The position of quarterback is easily the most overly glorified and overpaid in probably all of sports.  Do you need a quarterback to win in the NFL?  Duh.  I’m not saying the position isn’t important – just overly glorified and overpaid.  Keep up with me here. . .

Whoever started giving quarterbacks credit for “wins” deserves to be shot.  Starting quarterbacks are not  the equivalent to starting pitchers in baseball.  There is not a win-loss column tied in with their stat sheet.  Another notion that needs to be faded away is how quarterbacks fare when playing “head to head.”  It’s ridiculous.  When football pundits bring up records of Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning, it’s the most absurd concept because the only time they are on the field together is when they shake hands at the end of the game. . . Peyton Manning versus Ray Lewis is a better head to head match up; or even Tom Brady verses Rex Ryan is a headline more worthwhile.



The second thing that came to my mind was how quarterbacks are “sheltered” and protected when they are struggling.  Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck have come under some criticism this season (fairly and unfairly).  In the case of Tannehill, who was just inked to a contract extension before the season started for six years and $95 million – has looked flat out bad.   In the midst of his struggles, those running to his defense have said – he has no weapons, it’s bad coaching and it’s a bad offensive line.  Oh really?  So he’s having the same  problems Carolina’s Cam Newton is having and he seems to be just fine.  Maybe its just a point of ability.  Cam, has been making due with very little for his whole career it seems and he just makes it work.  Tannehill has the same issues as Cam but looks bad handling it.  That’s not saying Tannehill can’t be a starting quarterback in the league – he just may be in a class with many starting quarterbacks, who needs a better cast around him.  The same can be said for Andrew Luck.  Since Luck has arrived in Indianapolis he has carried this franchise.  With the Colts off to a slow start, the pundits started tossing shots at Andrew Luck and his interception rate this year.  Slow down.  Luck has to throw the ball at a much higher rate than the Russell Wilson’s and  Ryan Tannehill’s in the league, and he – much like Tannehill and Newton – doesn’t have much to work with.   So why does one excuse work for one and not the other?  Furthermore, why doesn’t that elevate the perception of one like Cam Newton?


The third issue that came to my mind had me focused right back on the Monday Night Football game between the Seahawks and the Lions.   While Jon Gruden and 80% of social media were drooling over every little thing Russell Wilson did on the field – nobody was seeing the big picture.   Russell Wilson was playing against a bad Detroit Lions defense and the Seahawks offense seemed to be relying  on broken plays, in order to move the ball downfield.  When Russell Wilson was ducking, dodging and chucking – sure it was getting the job done, against a terrible Lions team – but for how long will that realistically take you?  Lately,  Wilson seems to do enough to get his team into field goal range, while his defense handles the opposition.  If that formula sounds familiar,  there’s good reason why.  It was the same formula that Tim Tebow and the Broncos had a few years back that wasn’t embraced by the media and social media alike.  It’s the same. damn. thing.

The NFL quarterback is the equivalent of a spoiled kid who is called an under-achiever.  If he doesn’t achieve anything, it’s not his fault and when he does, he is carried on the shoulders of those who support him.  Let your eyes be the judge, it’s really not difficult.  Or just keep pacifying the reality that the era of “quarterback nurturing” has gotten out of control.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio



Carolina Panthers 2015 Season

The Carolina Panthers may have won their division last year, but finishing with an 8-9-1 record means that there is still massive room for improvement.  Head coach Ron Rivera has had a .500 record in four seasons with the Panthers and is always on the “hot seat.”

Not many teams can lose a player of Greg Hardy’s talent and still be one of the league’s most respected defensive units, but that’s what keeps Rivera employed.  They have youth on this line with defensive tackle Star Lotullelei and defensive end Kony Ealy but it’s Charles Johnson, who needs to continue to be the veteran leader.  By doing so, he needs to lead by example and although his pass rushing isn’t what it used to be, his work ethic hasn’t missed a step, which will be key in keeping this line motivated.


The line backing group in Carolina should be exciting to watch.  Luke Kuechly is arguably the best linebacker in football while 11 year pro Thomas Davis is one of those guys who has found the Fountain of Youth, because he is just as fast and alert now as he was seven years ago.  Rookie Shaq Thompson came into this draft as one of it’s better athletes.  At Washington, he played linebacker as well as safety and running back.  His versatility will keep him on the field as much as the other two linebackers and his speed will keep offensive lines in check as he can cause a lot of damaged in delayed blitz packages.

Veteran Charles Tillman, was one of the toughest and intelligent corner backs in the league, in his prime – but his injuries have limited his playing time, and although it was hard for the Chicago Bears to part ways with the fan favorite, the move had to be done.  Rivera brought Tillman on to be the voice of leadership in a secondary that needs the help, but Tillman’s voice won’t be heard if he can’t be on that field.  Josh Norman can’t be trusted across from Tillman and safety Roman Harper has lost a few steps.   If the front seven of this defense turns out to be a monster – expect the Panthers to play with the possibility of putting rookie linebacker Shaq Thompson in at safety to help balance things out.


Ron Rivera likes to keep his offenses simple but this year he will need a lot of help from his offensive line that enters this season with a lot of questions.  Last year they Panthers had an undrafted rookie and practice squad-lifer start on their line and this year they are expecting third round pick Trai Turner.  Rob Rang of CBS Sports said of Turner: “Powerful run blocking will get Turner a chance in the NFL, but struggles in pass protection may make Turner’s conversion to the quickness and precision of the NFL difficult. ”  Luckily for Turner the Panthers like to run a lot – the flip side of that is: “Who is running the ball?”

James Stewart has been on Carolina for his whole career and if people were to speak honestly on the career of Stewart – “unimpressive” would be the word to describe it.  He’s a basic running back with basic abilities who never seemed to want to be the guy.   Rookie running back Cameron Artis-Payne has some explosiveness to his game and will most likely steal carries away from Stewart.  Payne is an Auburn alum like Cam Newton and is used to run heavy offenses.  Payne may be one of those players that “sneak up” on teams in the mid-season.

The issue with Carolina and quarterback Cam Newton is that, Newton was never given weapons at his disposal.  Last year Carolina took Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the first-round of the draft and he quickly gave them results.  The big wide out, proved to be a hassle to corner backs and his strength made him a match-up nightmare.   Teams seemed to catch up to Benjamin later in the year though, so keep an eye on him in the early going of 2015.  The Panthers took Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess in this year’s draft.  Funchess does a lot of what Benjamin does and provides another big target for Newton.  Much like Benjamin, people are not sure of the kind of “motor” Funchess brings week to week though.

For all things considered, tight end Greg Olsen is the team’s best receiving option and is their best player on offense – period.  His number of receptions and targets have gone up in each of his four seasons in Carolina and last year had his first 1000 yard season.  With a healthy Cam Newton this season, expect those numbers to continue to increase as long as Benjamin proves he is worthy of being a number-one receiver.


Quarterback Cam Newton, was hampered by injuries all season long and even had a nasty car accident last season, that injured his back.  Through it all, Cam Newton only missed two games last season and although it was a disappointing season from a statistical point of view, he gained the trust in his locker room and respect amongst his teammates, which was always an issue in Carolina.

There are so many “ifs” in this Carolina offense that it doesn’t quite stir confidence in the stomachs of Panthers fans.  A healthy Cam Newton is one of the NFL’s dangerous weapons and his maturity has come a long way from his rookie campaign.  Ron Rivera has pushed his luck before and he’ll try to do it again.  Carolina should still be in competition for the division at least.

Predicted Record: 7-9

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Cam Newton, Greg Olson, Luke Kuechly

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Cam and Carolina: It’s Complicated

When the Carolina Panthers announced last week that they signed Cam Newton to a five year, $103 million extension ($60 million guaranteed) the predictable question came up of : “Is he worth it?”


Cam Newton is an odd individual to really assess.  Cam is a legit duel threat back so when looking at his passing stats, one has to also look at his rushing stats.  With that being said, in his four years as a starter he has accounted for 115 touchdowns and 66 turnovers.  Last season his completion rating and completion percentage drop a few digits from his previous year and at times still looked like a rookie trying to figure out pro defenses.   But maybe those times when he was trying to “figure things out” – it was really him waiting on someone to give him an option downfield.

While most of the world was in awe of rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin last year, film would show more times than not, a rookie wide receiver who did not run his routes out at 100% each time and when he did run his route with a play still going on, he would more likely just stand around instead of looking for a soft spot in the defenses zone.  Jerricho Cotchery is a decent piece but nothing that will make opposing defenses worry about and this makes double covering tight end Greg  Olsen, a norm in defensive practices throughout the NFL.

The Panthers said this year they would go and get him weapons.  Their idea of “weapons” were giving the Panthers fans the reunion nobody asked for by giving Cam one of his former targets back, Tedd Ginn.  The also went out and signed 2012 draft bust Stephen Hill, who was so bad that the Jets didn’t even want him.   In this year’s draft the Panthers supplied Cam with Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess who is another big wide out ( “6’4” 230 lbs) but in a lot of ways may turn out to be more Stephen Hill than Kelvin Benjamin.  Funchess has the physical gifts to do something but is lazier than Benjamin and will have to work on technique a lot more (tends to “push off” defenders).

The running game has been a mess since the Panthers thought it was 1978 and they could just over pay three running backs to ground and pound their way to the NFL’s promised land.  Rookie Cameron Artis Payne is the favorite to win the job and he is to run behind one of the sorriest offensive lines in football.

So why give Cam this extension if the Panthers seemingly can’t get offense right?  Because he’s the only reason why this offense is being kept afloat.  Even if barely.


This is a franchise that seemingly has head coach Ron Rivera on the hot seat after the month of September and somehow, someway – Ron Ron pulls a rabbit out of a hat and keeps his job.  If there was ever a time to break the bank it is now for the Panthers.   The Saints are a shell of themselves, the Bucs look decent on paper but never live up to anything and the Falcons have somehow found a way to play “negative defense” in the NFL.

Signing Cam Newton is smart, but the way NFL franchises go about giving money at quarterbacks is idiotic.  Now they put a huge price-tag on a quarterback who played most of last year beat up due to poor protection in front of him and a lame running game behind him.  While people are asking “Is he worth it?,” Cam Newton should be asking himself “Why would I want to be here?”

It wasn’t too long ago that this franchise was questioning the potential of Newton in terms of being a “franchise quarterback.”  This was an instance of them knowing he would get signed in a second if he was to hit the market for the same or even more money.  If Cam is lucky, maybe an organization that knows a thing or two about putting together an offense will make a call and pay the king’s ransom for him.


There is another reason why the Panthers front office decided to keep Cam Newton.   He will get the blame for all of the front office failures.  Let’s face it, Cam Newton has made it easy for the media to come down on him.  Sometimes, it’s fabricated nonsensical stories about maturity and other times it’s his general demeanor that rubs people the wrong way : When things are good he’s a cocky showboat who can’t stop smiling / When things are bad, he pouts alone on the bench with a towel over his head.  The general public has been luke-warm at best with Cam.   If the Panthers fail this season, even with a bad offensive line and offensive talent around him – it is Cam who will surely take the blame.  All fingers will be pointing at number 1.  Wrongly, at that.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio