Tag Archives: NFL

Who Will Get Mad in March?

March Madness is usually all about College Basketball.  The Bracket Challenge.  The hype, the dramatics, etc, etc. . .  March is also the time when NFL fan-bases get over-hyped or overly depressed because NFL free agency has begun.

It’s usually fan-bases of bad teams that freak out.  If you’re a fan of the Jets, Bears, Browns, Giants or any other team that has a top-ten draft pick – it’s a nervous time.

But is it, really?

Source: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Every team enters the off-season with holes.  Whether it be because of lack of talent on the roster or someone is being paid too much.  Regardless of what it may be, free agency – in some people’s eyes – is the “quick-fix” to all their problems.  In truth free agency can be just what a team needs to get over a hump or take them to the promised land – for example, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012 (jeez, that was already SIX years ago. . .).  Or even in 2014 when the Patriots signed corner back DOn the other hand, free-agency can be the equivalent of a broken water pipe being fixed with some duct-tape.  For examples of bad free agent signings just look up any of these Redskins signings: Albert Haynesworth in 2009, Adam Archuletta in 2006 or even Jeremiah Trotter in 2004.  .  .Oh those Redskins. . .

This season, there were names that every bad franchise’s fan base wanted them to throw money at.  So far some players have agreed to terms with teams wanting their services.  This includes “house hold names” like Albert Wilson, who has agreed to go to Miami for three-year $24 million dollar contract and Trey Burton who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract.  Now, one isn’t saying that these men aren’t “good” and I could care less about the money they’re getting – BUT – fan bases all start to follow these type of guys on twitter and “all of a sudden” become experts on the “hidden talents” that players like these possess.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Come on, man. . .

Burton was the third best tight end in Philadelphia and Albert Wilson was probably a three or four guy in Kansas City.   If these are the caliber of players that will get fans in a frenzy because they “missed out” on these guys – then maybe, just maybe – you’ve lost it a little.

It’s easy for fans to say, get this guy – spend this money and fill that hole.  But the NFL is all about the right guys who fit in the right systems.  This is why an intelligent player like Richard Sherman, who’s only worked in one defensive system in his career, chose to sign with the 49ers who run a similar defensive scheme.   This is why teams like the Jets and Vikings are looking at Kirk Cousins to be their next quarterback.  Cousins just ran a west-coast style offense in Washington, and the Vikings and Jets (if we are to judge by their offensive coordinator hires) will be doing something of the same ilk.  Meanwhile, former Bears linebacker Christian Jones who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme is now going to play for the Lions who typically run a 4-3 defensive scheme, so if this signing turns out to be a bad one – there’s your first big clue as to why.

Listen, everyone loves free agency.  But when it comes to cursing out a general manager because he didn’t fill “a hole” with some over-priced shiny new object, there is no reason to throw a fit or curse your general manager’s family from now till eternity.  Oh, and it definitely doesn’t call for burning players’ jerseys.  That’s just stupid.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that winning teams are put together by smart people.  The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much get it.  They never want to over-pay for talent – they’d rather find those who can fit in their systems.

Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

So if you’re team is sitting on millions upon millions of dollars and not spending it like crazy in free agency, don’t flip out.  There’s a draft and there is also a coaching staff in place that is there to make players better – imagine that. . .

I mean, if you’re a Jets fan though.  Yeah, I’d be mad as all hell, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


The Giants: In An Awkward Place

Last week, I spoke with Earnest Christian on his “EJ Talks Football” podcast and in our ramblings concerning NFL free agency, we discussed the current position of the New York Giants.  It was a difficult spot for me because I have a hatred for this franchise that goes longer than a quarter of a century. I will not get into why I loathe this franchise so much, but I will say, the reasons have scarred me since a young boy till now.

As a fan who roots against the Giants, last year was a great season.  The Giants looked pitiful, the fans were frustrated and the season was over from the start.  But if one is to really step back and analyze where the Giants are at right  now, it  is a really, really awkward place to be.

The Giants are a team that sit with the number two pick in the NFL draft.  The Giants also have a terrible offensive line (one of the NFL’s worse), an aging quarterback in Eli Manning (whose talents have been diminishing for years and may be at a “rock-bottom” point) and a contract negotiation with stud wide-receiver Odell Beckham.

Source: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America

When it comes to the offensive line, there are already talks that free agent guard Andrew Norwell signing with the New York Giants is already a “done-deal.”  If this is so, this is the Giants moving in the right direction in the off-season, but it certainly cannot stop there.  Maybe the Giants look to free-agent tackle Nate Solder to help solidify a rebuild of the offensive line, or they look in the draft.  In this year’s draft, quite possibly the best player in it is Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson.  The Giants taking Nelson number-two overall though would be doubtful, and if this was the course of action they’d want to take they would likely trade down a few spots. . .just a few.

When it comes to Eli Manning and the quarterback situation of the New York Giants, new general manager Dave Gettleman, has told the New York fans and media that Eli Manning will remain as the team’s quarterback.  This was unexpected by many considering how Eli Manning has played in the last few seasons, and also considering that this seemed like a good time to just break free, and draft a new quarterback for the future with the number-two overall pick.  Instead, the Giants have given the cringe-worthy statement of keeping the decrepit QB under-center.  If this is true this means the Giants have no interest in Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold.  This doesn’t mean other teams don’t though.  The Giants can easily trade out of this spot for a mini-ransom of sorts, which is ideal for a team in their position.  Also, keeping Eli Manning in there for another year, really does no damage to the rebuilding model – if the model includes acquiring pieces to an offense that would be better for a new quarterback to control.

Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Finally, we come to the Odell Beckham drama.  With a heavy emphasis on the word “drama” because that’s all Odell is.  Well to be fair, he’s also a top five wide receiver in the league, and one of the two biggest play makers in football (next to Antonio Brown).  With that being said, Odell wants to be the highest paid receiver in the league.  Oh sorry, the highest paid player in the league.  Yeah, no thanks.  This comes at a terrible time for the Giants, but this is a business.  Odell is playing his hand correctly and you can’t blame him.  The truth is, Odell is a star.  A star in New York.  That equates to bigger things than just the football field.  But in the same breath, Odell is someone who came into the league with injury issues, and last year started the season missing week one with an ankle injury and then had his season cut off due to a left ankle fracture in week five.  Odell also has the reputation of being a petulant child and a general pest.  He has a huge target on him from defenders all over the league because he tends to show boat and talk trash — BUT he is the best player on this roster. . . by far.  The question here is, do you really pay a receiver that much (we’re talking in the ball park of ($17 million a year) while rebuilding?  Even if Odell signs a deal of a realistic $14-$15 million a year – where does the sense come in for all of this?  Teams that have the wide-outs with big contracts only make noise if the rest of the team is solid – like the Steelers or the Falcons — but even then – no championships.

This is a very awkward time indeed for the New York Giants.  If I said I feel bad for them, I’d be lying through my teeth.  The petty little demon inside of me is grinning ear to ear.

By the way, we only discussed their offense and how they should go about fixing that. . .this defense gave up the second most yards in the NFL last year as well. . .so uh. . .Good Luck out there with the rebuild G-Men.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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

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.

Beating Vegas: Super Bowl Prop Bets

The Super Bowl is not only the biggest sports event of the calendar year.  It is also the biggest gambling day of the year.  The folks at Vegas are taking tickets for just about any kind of action they can this Sunday, and for good reason.  This is the day that the hardcore gamblers look at as “their last chance to win big this year” and for the people who don’t normally place a wager on action – they feel they “must” for the Super Bowl.  Besides the general lines and prop bets, the Super Bowl goes nutty with prop bets as Vegas tries to suck your wallet dry – at least one last time.  Lucky for you, your pocket has looked pretty good this football year, if you’ve been following the Beating Vegas articles and podcast.  Let’s continue that trend with the final, Beating Vegas article of this football season, by looking into these ridiculous prop bets.

Will a roughing the passer penalty be called in the game?

Yes EVEN (1/1)
No -130 (10/13)

This is an easy one.  Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows that this game is just too big for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, or at least he hopes.  Foles will not be given the privilege of seeing line backers drop into a zone coverage in the early going, as Belichick will be looking to get him shook up early – and often.  This increases the chances of a roughing the passer penalty getting called on the Patriots, who aren’t the best pass-rushing defense out there and might get over-zealous.  On the flip side of things, the Eagles are a good pass rushing team, and Tom Brady is arguably the most hated offensive player of all time if you ask any defensive player for the last 15 years.  Due to this fact, referees are quicker to throw a “roughing the passer” penalty in favor of Brady to keep defenses in check.

The Pick: “Yes” at Even money

Total rushing yards – Jay Ajayi (PHI)

Over/Under 62½

Remember how Jay Ajayi was traded from the Dolphins to the Eagles mid-season?  Yeah, that’s because he’s not that good.   Ajayi had a fluke of a season last year and has had attitude problems and problems adjusting to defenses for most of this season.  He’s gone over the 62.5 rushing yard mark seven times this season.  He’s also going to be splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount how is averaging 4.4 yards a carry to Ajayi’s 4.1 and although lately Ajayi has been getting more carries than Blount, expect the former Patriot to get some action against his former team being he’s the veteran with playoff and veteran experience. The Patriots rush defense is pretty good, and will be focused on having more men in the box anyway against Nick Foles.

The Pick: Under 62.5 Rushing Yards

Will there be a score in the final two minutes of the first half?

Yes -300 (1/3)
No +240 (12/5)

Doug Pederson hurried and got the Eagles into field goal range before the first half ended, already up 21-7 against the Vikings, to hit a field goal with no time left – giving them a 24-7 lead at the half.  This showed Pederson’s willingness to “kick” an opponent when he’s down and it also showed that Pederson believe’s that “anything can happen” and if you can score points, you score the points.  Belichick has more trust in Tom Brady to get points before the half than probably any coach ever.  Belichick is also (for lack of better words) a “dick” to some degree and will look to put it in the endzone (or uprights) whenever he can and as many times as he can.

The Pick: Yes -300

 Will “nipplegate” be said during broadcast?

Yes +500 (5/1)
No -900 (1/9)
**Note: From kickoff until final whistle, halftime does not count.

Absolutely not, unless people want to get fired on-air during the biggest televised sporting event of the year. . .

The Pick: No -900

Will Justin Timberlake cover a Prince song during halftime?

Yes -120 (5/6)
No -120 (5/6)

Here’s a little fact on Justin Timberlake that people either don’t know, or refuse to believe.  He’s kind of a jerk.  Timberlake is all about him and what he can do to further his agenda.  He has a new album coming out in mid-February and he will be most likely performing the two (god-awful) songs he’s released and pepper in a lot of the this that we all know and love him for.  Prince has been an inspiration to many artists like Justin Timberlake, and I would not doubt for one second that Timberlake is a huge fan of Prince, but Prince-Estate is apparently holding any and any rights to the late-Prince’s likeness and won’t let that go down.  Also, the death of Prince has had some time to settle in and won’t be as big of an emotional impact that J.T. would be looking for.

The Pick: No -120


Super Bowl MVP

Dion Lewis +1000 or Rob Gronkowski +1000

At +1000 these are both good bets because Gronkowski is the ultimate x-factor when he’s in the game and Dion Lewis has been great since he’s come back into form.  Of course the popular vote here usually sides with Tom Brady (who is at -175) but what’s the fun in that?

The Game Itself

New England Patriots -4 versus Philadelphia Eagles

I pick the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl every year because – why not?  The Eagles impressed me this year.  Even after I read and listened to people hyping them up before the season started, I saw them as a .500 team.  I was dead wrong.  Underestimating Carson Wentz was the lamest thing I did all year and seeing him go down was probably the worst thing that happened to the Eagles and the league this year, as many – including myself – thought he could be league MVP in just his second season.  Coach Doug Pederson has kept it all together though and now has Nick Foles at quarterback.  Foles was once thought to be the future of Philadelphia football not-to-long ago and now he has the chance to make history for the franchise. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be going up against a true dynasty in the New England Patriots.  The Patriots were actually a five point favorite, until some Vegas big shots laid down $700,00 on Eagles money line and a nice million on the Eagles with the points.  Now the Pats sit at about 4 point favorites at most spots.  For either sentimental value of the Eagles maybe winning a championship or pure hatred towards the Patriots the public is going with the sharps and laying it all on the Eagles.  Looking at the Eagles without Wentz you see a shoot-out victory against the pitiful Giants, a lackluster win over a bad Oakland team, a gross 6-0 win against Dallas and two playoff wins where they looked like two totally different teams.  In this case, the public just wants to see Belichick and Brady lose but as mentioned before, if Belichick has two weeks to game plan against a back-up quarterback – how can you go against the hood?

Four points, may not be what I’d want – buy the whole point and at least take it down to a 3 to be safe.

Final Score should read Patriots 23 Eagles 18, in something of a grind.

As always good luck and wager wisely!


G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Tom Brady, Earning His Seat

A weird thing happened on January 21st 2018.  Did you happen to witness it?  There isn’t really a word for what happened on the Gridiron that day.  The New England Patriots were home favorites against a Jacksonville Jaguars team, that was young, cocky and talented.   We all saw what happened on the field, there is no need to get into the details of how the New England Patriots came from behind in the fourth quarter to pull off the victory against – for all things considered – the best defense in the NFL today.  We won’t go into those details because that is not the topic of discussion at hand.  For there are levels to this game of football.

There is the beginning, where young men delve into this rugged sport.  Some from the start know they aren’t cut out for it, but those that feel they are, endure the pain, the disappointment, the glory – all of it – that may or may not lie ahead. . .  then after they’ve gone through what they think is the hard part – they realize that there is a a shot at being a legend.  They realize there are moments that are immortalized in this sport, and they want to partake in one of those moments.  For others though, they strive for greatness, they strive for that bronze-busts which cements them forever in the Hall of Fame. Then there is a final level of football.  This is more a realm than a level, actually.  Very few people get to garner this respect and most do not even think about getting to this level because the bar is so high, some men have contracted vertigo even imagining themselves up on such a perch.  That level – this realm – is that of the Football Gods.

Brown, Payton, Unitas, Taylor, Munoz, Hannah, Rice. . . there are maybe ten names which fill out this realm.  Some have clouded vision when declaring who these gods really are – but if one is to be honest with themselves, these names are the sure fire ones that fit “the gold standard.”

Not many realized what happened on January 21st 2018.  If you blinked, you may have missed it.

With about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, the skies opened up.  Clouds separated among themselves, as if scurrying away from the light which would soon push through the marvelous and great blue which caresses the Earth, like wings, carrying it through the cosmos.  There was a loud noise, which pushed against the winds of fortune.  It was more like a dragging sound, if one is to tell this tale correctly. . . the sound of a chair’s legs, brushing along the floor.  A seat was being pulled out and then it happened – Tom Brady passed the football to Danny Amendola down the middle of the red-zone and scored a touchdown.

The Football Gods, looked to each other – now certain that their debating among themselves was all for not.  Unitas looks to Hannah and smirks.  Brown’s hand still at the back of the chair with a look on his face that says “I’m not standing here all day.”

A light shone upon the red-zone about six minutes later and with a wave of his finger, Rice makes sure that both of Amendola’s feet stay in bounds as Brady delivers a thing of beauty to him at the back of the end-zone.  Sealing the come from behind victory.

All of who become Football Gods deliver more pain and anguish to the on-lookers than they do joy to their followers – to be hated only feeds the hunger of the Gods.  Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. lives off of that hate like no other of the Football Gods.  Brady laughs at the hate.  Brady mocks the hate.  He sits at his dinner table, sees the hate in front of him, sprinkles animosity on top for flavor and washes it all down with a twenty ounce glass of water infused with electrolytes.  He has eaten this hate for over 10 years.

The Football Gods have noticed.  They even tried tripping him up.  They threw the obstacle of the New York Giants at him twice – only to watch him fail – consume more hate – and climb back on top of that mountain called Greatness (which now is looking to physically plant itself in Foxborough, Massachusetts just so the walk up and down the hill is a little easier for the man who is now forty years of age.)

The Football Gods thought they had him when they threw the best defense they could put together in years with the Seattle Seahawks – only to see him raise the trophy.  Then they pitted him up against a ‘hopefully newer’ and younger version of himself – who was surrounded by more talent than him in Matt Ryan — only to see Brady lead the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Brown has taken a seat next to the one he pulled out, as Payton tells him “it’s not over, yet.”

Brady, in two weeks will get his chance at yet another Super Bowl victory.  Win or lose though, his seat will be waiting for him.  He will be sitting at the same table with the Football Gods by the end of this season.

Deservedly so.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Playoff Positioning

Week Seventeen of the NFL season is the trickiest of all when it comes to getting an edge against the spread.  For some teams it’s “win and you’re in” while others need help from other teams so they can get into the playoff dance.

Cleveland Browns +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, this is a very predictable start for this week’s Beating Vegas.  The Steelers need to win in order to secure home field advantage but they also need the New England Patriots to lose their game against the Jets.  The last time the Steelers played the Browns,  it was week one and the Steelers squeaked by 21-18.  This loss was looked upon as a positive for the Cleveland Browns, who hung in there and made things difficult for Pittsburgh, but that premature optimism was proven to be idiotic because they are currently on a 15 game losing streak (just in case you didn’t figure it out, that means they haven’t won a game all season long).  Cleveland is in the pitts (burgh? eh. . .) and now many on this team are just auditioning to keep their jobs on the team or trying to play themselves off of it. . .  Cleveland’s one positive all year has been their rush defense but in the last two weeks, they’ve let up 4 yards per rush against Melvin Gordon and then 5.4 yards a carry against Baltimore’s Alex Collins.  Steelers running back LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards rushing the last time he went up against Cleveland and will be looking to make his mark this week.  Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer seems to get worse every week – while hovering at the 50% completion mark with only 9 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked in the top 10 this year and will have no problem confusing  “Disheveled Kizer.”  Pittsburgh is also top ten in rushing yards allowed in the NFL so this shouldn’t be a repeat performance of week one.

The Pick:  Pittsburgh -10.5

Carolina Panthers +4  at Atlanta Falcons

This game is interesting because two other games that directly affect the Falcons and the Panthers playoff hopes are being played at the same time.  Here is the breakdown for the NFC South:

  • New Orleans wins the NFC South if they beat the Bucs or if the Panthers lose
  • The Panthers win the NFC South if they beat the Falcons AND the Saints lose
  • The Falcons get a wildcard berth if they win OR if the Seahawks (who also play at 4:30) lose.

Keeping all this in mind, the public is going to jump all over the Panthers getting points against a team that since last year’s Super Bowl has been a punchline. . . The Falcons offense, has indeed taken a step back – but remember the numbers they were putting up – it was video-game-like.  Matt Ryan is still completing passes at 65%, Julio Jones has over 1300 receiving yards and the Falcons possess the second best running back duo in the league with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman (behind the Saints).   If Coleman’s concussion symptoms linger – Freeman has proven before he can carry the load for the whole four quarters. . . the Panthers defense is what generally keeps them competitive, but they are allowing 4.1 yards a rush and let opponents throw against them for a completion percentage of 64%.  Atlanta is pretty much right there defensively with Carolina – but nobody really talks about that. . . out of these two teams, Carolina is definitely the one you don’t want to play in the playoffs because their style of play can travel well; but in this scenario the Falcons at home are the play.  Don’t be cheap though – buy the whole point and give yourself the -3, even maybe buy a point and a half.

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons -4

Cincinnati Bengals +9.5 at the Baltimore Ravens

For the Ravens it’s pretty simple – win and you’re in.  It seems almost too simple.  You beat the Bengals and you’re in though, and the Bengals at 6-9 have nothing going for them. . .nothing except playing the role of spoiler to the Ravens.  The last time these teams played was on week one were the Ravens shut out the Bengals 20-0.  The Ravens went on to shut out two more teams this year (the Dolphins and the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, big whoop) and pretty much lucked in with second year running back Alex Collins who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry.  Joe Flacco is the most underwhelming “franchise quarterback” in the NFL, and it’s been that way for about four or five years.  Sure he completes 65% of his passes, but he only averages about 6 yards a pass.  Cincy might be without running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict this week, but believe it or not, there is so much talent on both sides of the ball, it shouldn’t make a difference.  Yes, I said it, there is actual talent here.  The results don’t show it and that is why this is head coach Marvin Lewis’ last year.  Expect the leaders on this team – quarterback Andy Dalton and wide-out AJ Green to expect their teammates to send their coach out with a win, against their division rival.  This is a team with nothing to lose, getting almost ten points and in a position to play spoiler against a division rival.  Who wouldn’t love the odds here!?

The Pick: Bengals +9.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio





Beating Vegas: Vikings of the North

Minnesota Vikings -8.5 at Green Bay Packers

The Minnesota Vikings are positioning themselves for a deep and serious playoff run, while the division rival Packers , have pretty much packed it in for the season.  After last week’s jolt from reality that Aaron Rodgers returning from injury was not going to propel the Packers into a magical playoff run, they have now shut down Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season.  The Vikings are the most balanced team in the NFL on offense and defense it seems that both units are cohesive and working in harmony.  Quarterback Case Keenum has been quite the story for the Vikings though.  If people aren’t talking about him being mentioned in the MVP race, they are talking about how he could be the next “big contract quarterback” – because that’s just the climate of today’s game when speaking of starting QB’s.  A lot of his success is due to the underrated receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs who are averaging 14.3 and 13.7 yards per reception respectively.   That doesn’t bode well for a Green Bay secondary that is already allowing 11.4 yards per reception which puts them in the bottom half of the league.    Green Bay back up quarterback Brett Hundley will be facing one of the NFL’s best defensive units while not having the services of Davonte Adams the team’s reception leader.  With the Packers fans and players all knowing this season is a wrap, it’s going to be hard for them to get up for this game on the holiday weekend.

The Pick: Vikings -8.5

Los Angeles Rams -6.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Los Angeles Rams are tied for most points per game in the NFL with 31.3.  They bring that ridiculous average over to Tennessee against a Titans defense holding opponents to 22 points per game.  That’s not too shabby, but when you’re only averaging 21 points a game – things shouldn’t line up in your favor.  For reasons that go far beyond anyone’s comprehension though, the Titans have an 8-6 record and are in the playoff hunt.  The good news for the Titans is that they are playing at home this week.  That’s generally good news for anybody, but more so in the case of the Titan’s who’s starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, is pound-for-pound the worst road QB in football today.  The bad news for the Titans is that. . .Mariota hasn’t been that great across the board.  The former Heisman winner has 12 touchdowns against his 14 interceptions and has been sacked 23 times so far this year.  This Ram’s defense has been impressive against the pass this year holding the opposition to a completion percentage of 58% but against the run, they have shown at times to get worn down.  This is the type of game where Tennessee will have to rely on running back Derrick Henry to move the chains.  This Tennessee defense is pretty good, but this offense isn’t the type to be bottled up for four quarters – especially when considering the Titans offensive attack will be pretty predictable in the early going.

The Pick: Rams -6.5

Indianapolis Colts +14 at Baltimore Ravens (over/under 42)

Whenever the Colts are on television – I pass.  Whenever the Ravens are on television – I pass.  When the Colts play the Ravens, let’s be clear – nobody wins.  According to ESPN’s Total QBR Rankings, the Raven’s Joe Flacco stands at 26 with a QBR of 40.9; and the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett is 29th with a QBR of 38.9.   To make things a little more interesting – Joe Flacco is dead last in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-pass (5.8) and Jacoby Brissett is 30th in league completion percentage with 59.6.  Both teams rely on the running attack, where Baltimore’s Alex Collins is having a great year and averaging 4.9 yards a carry and Indy’s Frank Gore is averaging a sad 3.6.  Much like the previously mentioned Titans, one look at the Ravens’ record will make you scratch your head as they too have an 8-6 record.  This will be one of the worse games of the week – nay – the year.

The Pick: The Under at 42

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: So What If I’m Petty?

New York Jets +15.5 at New Orleans Saints

Yes, you read it right the Saints are a fifteen point favorite in a professional football game.  This is not a college spread, this is an actual professional match up.  It won’t look like one though, as the Jets are now forced to go with back up quarterback Bryce Petty, in place of the injured Josh McCown.  McCown was having a career year and was the main reason this Jets team has been able to compete week to week when many doubted they could.  What the Jets lose with McCown goes beyond the stat-line though.  He was building a rapport with the wide receiver talent around him (even making Robbie Anderson emerge as a true number one), made up for a lack of a running attack and was the calm, confident leader this team needed.  Bryce Petty’s short career numbers are: three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 54%.  The Saints pass defense is mediocre, allowing 60% completion percentage but can get to the quarterback (34 sacks) and against this offensive line, they’ll be bringing the heat.  The last time we saw the Saints, they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Falcons on National Television, now they get a mentally defeated Jets team without their leader and on their home turf.  Considering the Jets defense put absolutely zero pressure on the frantic and easily frazzled Trevor Siemian last week, I’m sure the veteran Drew Brees will be someone’s MVP in fantasy football this weekend.

The Pick: Saints -15.5

Tennessee Titans +2 at San Francisco 49ers

With all things considered, and when all the numbers and analytics are figured out – Marcus Mariota is the 34th best road-quarterback in the NFL.  Remember, there are only 32 teams so that means – well you get it. . . Mariota has 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on the year and although this team is 8-5, word on the street is – they play like they’re 5-8.  This is a team that is in La-La-Land because they are three games over .500 and just don’t want to rock the boat.  Their only source of offense that teams should concern themselves with is running back Derrick Henry who is averaging five yards a carry and has really emerged as the go to guy in the backfield with Demarco Murray. The San Francisco 49ers rush defense is hard to figure out because they’ve allowed over 1500 rushing yards but they have an impressive 3.9 rush on average by the opposition.  Offensively, this offense have been pretty adequate all season long.  They are on a two game winning streak since putting in Jimmy Garoppolo at starting quarterback.  In his two games he’s posted a completion percentage of 67% and is grasping the offense more and more with each snap.  Garoppolo racked up wins against the Bears and the Texans, but the road gets tougher at home this week against the Titans, followed by the Jags and the Rams.  The 49ers fan base and organization as a whole have something to root for in a losing season as they all see the future in Garoppolo.

The Pick: San Fran -2

San Diego Chargers -1 at Kansas City Chiefs

Do people realize that the San Diego Chargers are on a four game winning streak?  Have people realized that if not for some bad kicking in their first two weeks, this is a team that could easily be 9-4 instead of 7-6 ?  The Chargers are right now looking to take control of their destiny as the final three games of their season are against a Kansas City Chiefs team that seems to have lost their identity, a  below average Jets team and a Raiders team that is just lost.   Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is well on his way to a 1000 yard season, and back up running back Austin Ekeler has been adding in a punch late this season with 5.5 yards a carry.  This backfield has helped give balance to this offense which is lead by quarterback Philip Rivers and his 3600 yards passing.  The last time these two teams played the Chiefs won 24-10, but this is back in week three when the Chiefs looked like the best team in the AFC, Alex Smith looked like the MVP and Kareem Hunt looked like the Rookie of the Year.  Times have changed and since they started out 5-0, they have limped since October 15th with two wins and six losses. The Chiefs control their destiny as well in this division, but you have to ride the hot hand in this situation.  Chargers are hitting their stride and the Chiefs are grasping at straws.

The Pick: Chargers -1

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Follow the Road

Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at Carolina Panthers

The Vikings are still top five in the NFL when it comes to total offense and total defense.  Quarterback Case Keenum has seen his popularity go from “he should be benched when Teddy Bridgewater is healthy” to “MVP candidate.”  Although the last claim may be a reach, the first one is definitely just words put together to make an incoherent sentence at this point.  Keenum is completing passes at a rate of 67.5% – his 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions show a competency at the quarterback position but doesn’t tell the whole story about just how affected he’s been under center.  The running backs Murray and McKinnon aren’t making defensive linemen lose sleep but they do help to maintain a balance to this offense which has helped the likes of Adam Thielen who has over 1000 receiving yards this season.  The Vikings defense is one of two who have not let opponents gain 1000 yards on the ground against them yet this season.  The Carolina Panthers though, are fifth in the NFL with 1533 yards aren’t going shy away from their offensive philosophy though. Although running back Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with 531 rushing yards, it’s quarterback Cam Newton’s 515 yards at a clip of 5.8 yards a carry that is the real threat in the backfield.  Cam Newton lost his favorite target, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo via trade, but it seems that move has pushed the talents of Devin Funchess foward, which is what the Panthers franchise has been waiting for. The Vikings though are second in the NFL in touchdowns allowed by receivers with 12 and although this Vikings team hasn’t faced a quarterback like Cam Newton -who brings the package of “unpredictability” to the table – in the last three weeks they took care of Jared Goff and Matt Ryan pretty easily.

The Pick: Vikings -2.5

New Orleans Saints -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons

Keeping it in the NFC South, this Thursday night is a good one between the Falcons and the Saints.  The Falcons are 7-5 and in the next four weeks they must play the Saints, the Bucs, the Saints again and then the Panthers.  Getting back into the playoff picture won’t be an easy task for the reigning NFC Champs.  Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seemed to finally have things on a roll for a few weeks but then hit a roadblock against Minnesota last week.  This week they play against a Saints defense that isn’t as good as the Vikings, but is miles ahead of what they were last year.  The Saints are holding quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 61% which isn’t too bad,  but Atlanta has been humming away at a 66% completion rate and have finally found ways to get the ball to stud wide out Julio Jones.  The story in this game will be about one thing:  which running back duo will outperform the other.  it is the Saints’ rookie Alvin Kamara (over 600 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards)  and Mark Ingram (over 900 rushing yards) versus the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman 589 rushing yards and Tevin Coleman with 561 rushing yards.  Now, by just looking at the numbers you can tell which tandem has caused more panic to defenses throughout the league but the Saints rush defense is allowing five yards a carry while the Falcons are allowing 4.4 yards a carry.  Watch the line on this game as it gets closer to game time, if the Falcons are getting three points before kickoff, take Matty Ice and the boys, but until then. . .

The Pick: Saints -1.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Both of these teams have very one dimensional offenses;  the Jaguars try do do any and everything in their power so that quarterback Blake Bortles won’t have to throw the ball, while the Seahawks offense is – Russell Wilson.  That’s not being cute either.  They struggle to run, have no real threat in the receiving game (calm down Doug Baldwin groupies. . .) and it seems that the majority of their big plays are never scripted – they are just Wilson creating while on the run.  The Jaguars will just run the ball, and run the ball and run the ball. . . rookie running back Leonard Fournette has carried the ball more than 200 times and is averaging 4 yards a carry.  This is a testament to his ability and the offensive line because defenses are stacking the box against Bortles every single week.  Last week the stout offensive attack of the Eagles was able to take advantage of the banged up Seahawks secondary but could not get anything done on the ground.  That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars.  The Jaguars defensively though, are one of the best units in the league and that is much due to pass defense that is as stingy as they come.  Nobody will get much done in this game.  Expect a score of 20-13.

The Pick: Under 40

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio