Tag Archives: Patriots

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

 

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: Patriots;Whenever, Wherever

New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders

(game to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico)

After the Patriots manhandled the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, they decided to stay in Denver before flying back home.  Why?  Because coach Bill Belichick decided to keep his team practicing in a high-altitude-enviornment like the one they’ll see at Mexico City.  Smart play by “the Hood,” but that’s no surprise.   Remember when the Patriots started the season 2-2 and people said that this defense was probably the worst in the NFL?   That was cute.  Since then, New England has won five straight with their opponents highest point total being 17.  Meanwhile, the L.A. Raiders were supposed to be a top contender in the AFC and they have fallen miserably short.  The Raiders are currently 4-5 and a loss this Sunday can pretty much wrap this season up.  The Marshawn Lynch experiment is turning out to be a bust, Derek Carr is looking like a shell of himself from last season (13 TD’s, 7 INT’s); and the leading receiver on a squad that has Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is tight-end Jared Cook.  The Oakland pass defense is gives up the highest completion percentage to it’s opponents (71%), has recorded no interceptions on the season and is tied with the Giants in sacks (13) which puts them dead last in that category as well.   Gross.  Did you even notice how we didn’t mention Tom Brady once in this article?  Yeah.  Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -6.5

 

Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears

It’s time for the hopeful and misguided Chicago Bears fan to realize the truth about their team.  They are below average. As a Bears fan myself, I knew this before the pre-season, but many others let their minds wander to a false state of grandeur.  Now, the Bears are looking to play out the season, but whether or not they do it respectfully is what really matters.  With head coach John Fox just waiting for this season to end so he can move on with his life in retirement, the Chicago Bears have a defense that is pretty-decent -but also a lot of smoke and mirrors.  The Bears pass defense is ranked in the top ten when it comes to passing yards allowed, but they are letting opponents complete 65.5% of their passes and at seven yards a clip. The Bears’ rush defense is better-than-average allowing 3.9 yards a rush but this should all work out in favor of the Detroit Lions, who can’t run the ball, so they abandon it early – and usually end up airing it out most of the game.  Detroit’s receivers are averaging 11.9 yards a catch.  At the end of the season, Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford may be responsible for having two 1000 yard receivers in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.   Detroit’s in the top 10 in rush defenses which will give Bears running back Jordan Howard some fits, as he is the only source of offensive power on this roster.  The Bears tendency on defense of either missing tackles or letting opponents break out of tackles will be something to watch out for with the speedy players like Golladay, Tate and Abdullah for the Lions.

The Pick: Detroit -3

Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns

This is a big number for the Jaguars to cover.  It doesn’t matter who they’re playing.  Eh, they’re playing the Browns. . . The Jaguars are toting around the number one pass defense in the NFL  which is mostly due to cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.  Offensively, they try to manage the game around their quarterback rather than let their quarterback manage the game.  Blake Bortles is on thin-ice to be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville next year – but that’s next year.  This season, Bortles is the man under center, but it’s more about the guys in the backfield.  Rookie running back Leonard Fournette  has been as good as advertised (albeit he did get benched one week for violating team rules) but the Jaguars must be feeling cautious of not over-using him, as head coach Doug Marrone has hinted at spreading the ball among all three backs including Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon.    As a team the Jaguars are averaging 4.8 yards a rush and because it is what they want to do, the Browns actually pose a threat to their success on the ground.  The Browns have consistently been in the top five of the NFL when it comes to rush defense, allowing only 3.1 yards a rush.  The Browns are getting back wide receiver Corey Coleman this week, which will be good to see considering Duke Johnson, the number two running back on the depth chart, is the team’s leading receiver.  At the end of the day, who cares?  DeShone Kizer is still there throwing to the wide-outs with his 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Tennessee Turn Up?

Last week Beating Vegas went 50/50 on College and NFL picks. That’s just not going to cut it here, so let’s knock out these NFL picks!

Seattle Seahawks +3 at Tennessee Titans

In two weeks, the Seattle Seahawks have put up a whopping 21 points.  The offensive line isn’t what it used to be and quiet as kept. . .neither is Russell Wilson.  Wilson’s completion percentage is 56% and he’s averaging 5.4 yards a pass.  Those are pretty below average numbers for a guy who’s held in such high regard today.  It’s not all his fault though, the pass protection isn’t great and his receivers – if we’re being honest – they’re a pretty overrated group (sorry Doug Baldwin fans. . . all four of you).  Tennessee is a team, on the other hand that NEEDS to piece this thing together.  Quarterback, Marcus Mariota is putting up better numbers than Wilson – but  not by much, but unlike Seattle, he has weapons.  Running back Derrick Henry just may have taken over the reigns last week when Demarco Murray went down with a hamstring injury (day-to-day) and the young receiving core has talent with Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Rishard Matthews.  They’re just a young team that is finding ways to put it all together – at least one would hope.  The Titans need a signature win and this is their opportunity, to hit a heavy weight while it’s tending to it’s wounds.

The Pick: The Titans -3

Houston Texans +13.5 at New England Patriots

While Texans coach Bill O’Brien is muddling through the early goings of this 2017 season (blowout loss to the Jaguars and barely beating the Bengals) he has to take his team, led by rookie quarterback Deshawn Watson to go against his former boss, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.  O’Brien was awarded stripes while being the offensive coordinator at New England, than won people over by accepting the job at Penn State during it’s darkest times and eventually becoming head coach of the Texans.  It’s been rough though, as this once heralded “quarterback guru” has been shuffling through mediocrity under center since he arrived.  Now a rookie quarterback enters New England, where under Belichick rookie quarterbacks have gone 0-8.  Add to the fact that Watson is averaging less than 5 yards a pass and his second leading target is his under achieving running back Lamar Miller – things can get crazy.  This Texans defense is “supposed” to be one of the better ones in the league, but in two games they’ve netted three sacks and zero interceptions. New England on the other hand shook off their week one cobwebs and got their swagger back against New Orleans last week 36-20 (game wasn’t even that close – Brees through a garbage time TD with about 5 minutes left).  Houston is going to struggle to score and there will be more than a few three and outs. This will benefit the New England offense who by the second half will wear down this defense.

The Pick: Patriots -13.5

Miami Dolphins -6 at New York Jets

It’s easy to pick against the Jets because. . .it’s the Jets.  When a team is noticeably tanking, you take that into consideration, but this is a rivalry game and coach Todd Bowles is coaching for his life right now.  On the other hand, the Miami Dolphins are only looking up, as they bring to New York one of the more complete rosters in the NFL.   Miami went to L.A. and squeezed out a win against a gritty Chargers team that has a knack for blowing close games and now come back to the east coast to play their rivals in New York.  Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler looked like he didn’t forget a step in the Adam Gase offense and looked calm and in control throughout the game.  Cutler throwing over 70% completion rate, which is pretty much what the Jets allow at about 11.4 yards a pass.  Josh McCown is doing what he can on offense but with no real running game to help him out and only one real target in Jermaine Kearse, the frustration settles in quick.

The Pick: Miami -6

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Will The Pats Start 0-2?

New England Patriots -6 at New Orleans Saints

Last week’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs left Patriots fans feeling empty and it gave Vegas fat(ter) pockets.  Last week’s season opener was one of the biggest wins the wise-guys had on an opening day game.  The Patriots made losers out of anybody who took them straight up, second half, teasers, parlays etc. . . More so, the Patriots defense could not get their pass rush going and the offense seemed lack-luster.  Could this be the end of Tom Brady?  Most likely not.  Super Heroes go out as winners, usually.  Now, the public has to decide if the Pats reign over the NFL is coming to an end, or if the Pats will rectify this embarrassing loss.  The Saints on the other hand,  weren’t embarrassed by the Vikings last week, but they were definitely kept in check for all four quarters.  The Saints showed that their defense is still “bleh” and they also showed that the signing of running back Adrian Peterson is going to be a headache for most of the year.  Peterson is the least valuable back out of the three-man-rotation in the Saints backfield and that isn’t going to sit well with the future hall of famer.  Aside from that drama though, Drew Brees still completed 73% of his passes against a good pass rush, so just imagine what he’ll accomplish against this Patriots defense.  The Patriots are still winning the division, they can probably even win this game – but the Saints have the upper hand playing at home to avoid the 0-2 start.

The Pick: Saints +6

Minnesota Vikings +4.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Weren’t we just discussing the Vikings?  Yes, we were.  Quarterback Sam Bradford looked amazing carving up the Saints defense, and rookie running back Dalvin Cook, proved to be worth the first round pick running for 127 yards in his first game.  The Steelers opened as a 10 point favorite last week against AFC North doormat, the Cleveland Browns, but had to hold on tight for the entire ride to come out on top 21-18.  Really wasn’t an impressive win for the Steelers who people expect to have an almost unstoppable offense this year. Pats Pulpit on SB Nation wrote up a piece going in detail about how Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a completely different player at home than he is on the road.  In the last three years he’s thrown 62 touchdowns at home compared to 24 on the road and has a quarterback rating of 109.5 compared to a traveling QB rate of 85.3.  This is another case of the public seeing Minnesota look great on national television and getting the points against a veteran team who struggled against the lowly Browns.  Don’t fall for the trap.

The Pick: Steelers -4.5

Arizona Cardinals -7 at the Indianapolis Colts

I’ve got issues with both of these teams.  First, the Colts. . . Chuck Pagano is the worst coach in the NFL.  And has been for years.  Why is he still the coach of the Colts?  Oh, because the Colts are one of the more poorly run franchises in the NFL.  They have failed to give Andrew Luck a competent coach or a decent team; and now it seems their medical staff may have failed Andrew Luck who is still sidelined.  Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien looked awful against the Rams last week and even if newly acquired Jacoby Brissett doesn’t know the playbook yet, he’s the better option.  Jacoby Brissett is a “Beating Vegas” favorite because he was the reason money was put on N.C. State when he was the one under center.  With that being said, the Colts are awful. . . And that leaves us with the Cardinals.  The most disappointing, under achieving team in the NFL.  Unlike the Colts’ Pagano, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is actually a great coach – but something just isn’t clicking on this team.  Where it needs to click the most is the quarterback position but folks, remember you heard it hear first (said it last year too) – Carson Palmer is done.  He has nothing behind his throws and reminds me of the Cap Rooney character Dennis Quaid played in the movie “Any Given Sunday.”  This will be one of the most toughest games to watch this year.

The Pick: The Under at 44

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency, Pt. 2

Last week we discussed who should get paid, where they should land and who should be ignored.  We nailed Alshon Jeffrey landing with the Eagles, but what we didn’t see coming was his one-year price tag. For a young guy, only his fifth-season – signing a one-year deal worth $14 million seems to just short change his economic potential.  The Patriots made two moves, one in signing corner Stephon Gilmore, who we gave a “buyer’s beware” tag attached to his name, and then traded for Saints wide-receiver, Brandin Cooks – proof that the rich only get richer. . .

The move that made the most noise was the Cleveland Browns trade with the Houston Texans, and breaking it down, we’ll reveal why. The Texans traded quarterback Brock Osweiler, 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick and in return the Browns gave the Texans a 2017 fourth-round pick, and helped relieve the weight of the Texans’ purse.  The Texans are set to save about $10 million in salary-cap space this season because of the move, and are also out of a bad marriage, which was the contract they gave Osweiler.  From the onset it looks like a landslide victory for the Texans, but for the Browns it was all about the draft picks.  The Browns have more cap room than anyone else in the league (I’m not a “cap” guy, but it’s in the area of $100 million in cap space) so even if they decide to cut Osweiler, it won’t affect their plans in the off-season – it was all about the draft picks.  It’s a pretty unconventional move, but these two had to means and desire to get it done.  The Browns would be better off just cutting Osweiler instead of actually starting him, and Osweiler will most probably land somewhere as a back-up for what he’s really worth.  .  .

Jay+Cutler+Denver+Broncos+v+Chicago+Bears+btP9cW37bEGl

This trade opens up the quarterback position for the Houston Texans now, who many feel are one-quarterback-away from at least getting to the AFC Championship game.  Currently, their quarterback position is filled with the likes of Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  The “dream” scenario would be to sign Tony Romo if he was to be released by the Cowboys.  Only problem is, that still hasn’t happened.  Romo’s relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is what’s basically holding it back.  Jones does not want to trade Romo to a team that he doesn’t want to go to – which is admirable but at the same time, teams who are interested (like the Texans and Broncos) don’t want the lucrative contract that comes with the talented, yet very injury prone veteran quarterback.  In all reality, the Cowboys could still hold onto Romo and keep him on as a back-up, and knowing Jerry Jones, that’s very much so a possibility.  . . Back to the Texans though. . .  if Bill O’Brien and Houston can’t land Romo, who’s the next best option? Nick Foles? RG3? Colin Kaepernick? Or maybe, just maybe – Jay Cutler?  Previously, in the NGSC article entitled “Where Does Cutler Go Now?” five different landing spots were mentioned (one of which was ‘retirement’ which may still happen) but the Texans were never quite entered that discussion until now.  The Jets are so far the only team rumored to be interested in the veteran QB, but if the Texans can’t land Romo – are they really going to go through another year of Brian Hoyer type (who just signed with the 49ers)?  Very unlikely.  Cutler would actually make sense, and this would be his most complete team to start for in his career.

The running back position is always an interesting one in free agency.  The league just doesn’t want to pay the big bucks to that position, which seems foul, but it’s just becoming smart business.  We discussed last week how Adrian Peterson didn’t show much last year, but his name will garner him attention,  but there are a few other backs that should be interesting, if not anything else, to follow.  Isiah Crowell is a talented, strong back with a lot of upside on the field, but got into some hot water for his tasteless take on police brutality on his twitter account last year.  He is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen, even if you were to just interview him.  BUT, in terms of business a team may be able to pay him less than what he’s worth and it can benefit them.  Seattle, might be a good landing spot for him.  They are looking to bolster their running back group and are rumored to have interest in Adrian Peterson (yikes).

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A nice addition to any team would be Mike Gillislee.  Last year for Buffalo, he averaged 5.7 yards a carry and rushed for 8 touchdowns.  He’s perfect for teams that employ a split at the halfback position, although if he was asked to carry the full load, it’s doubtful he’d disappoint.  He played his college ball at Florida and the Jaguars like spending money at free agency, it could work out nicely for him to get a job in Jacksonville.

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The “30 and Over” crowd at the running back position usually get the raw end of free agency.  Guys like LeGarrette Blount, Tim Hightower and DeAngelo Williams can still be productive but if a team  takes them on, it will be at a discount price and in a clear number two (even three) spot on the depth chart.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Super Bowl Aftermath

During the pre-game of this year’s Super Bowl match up between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, Troy Aikman made sure to make mention of the Falcons’ “inexperience.”

Was Aikman totally off-base?  No, but still – the Falcons were bringing to the table the league’s number one offense and the league’s current MVP, quarterback Matt Ryan.  The Falcons were also bringing to the table, a head coach in Dan Quinn who has played a part in three of the last four Super Bowls.  The same man, Quinn, who has implemented a defense, concentrated on speed and athleticism that had gotten increasingly better as the season progressed.

And “defense” was all the start of this game was about.  The first quarter ended in a tie as both defenses seemed to be up to the challenge.

Then came the second quarter. . .

The Atlanta Falcons showed the world what the youth can do.  After the defense stripped Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount of the football, the Falcons responded with two passes to Julio Jones and then they had Davonta Freeman handle the rest as the Falcons took the first lead of the game.

Late in the second quarter, the Patriots found themselves down 14-0 but putting a drive together, mostly due to three third-down holding calls against the Falcons defense.  But even when things seemed to be going their way, things went terribly awry for Tom Brady and the boys and Brady tossed an interception into the hands of Falcons corner back Robert Alford, who returned it 82 yards for a touchdown.

But something happened at halftime.  Maybe it was Bill Belichick changing up the game plan, Tom Brady remembering he was Tom Brady or maybe it was Lady Gaga’s halftime performace (I give it a 8.5 out of 10 – solid performance.)  Whatever it was, things had to change for the Patriots.

Instead of change though, it appeared to be more of the same as Matt Ryan threw his second touchdown pass and the Falcons went up 28-3.  The Patriots finally put up a touchdown before the end of the third quarter, but their kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point.  After three quarters of play the Patriots weren’t even in double-digt-points.  Total disaster for the proud Patriots franchise. . .

Let’s go back to Lady Gaga for a second.

During her stellar halftime performance she performed a medley of her songs.  Two of those songs stood out “Edge of Glory” and “Born This Way.”   Those two song titles must’ve been the reason the Patriots decided to wake up in the fourth quarter to play some football.  There is no closer “edge” to glory than being down 19 points in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl.  And the Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady is just cut from a different mold of legendary quarterbacks.  It’s something that can’t be coached up, or even explained.  He was simply “born this way.”

Tom Brady, along with running back James White, must’ve saw either fatigue or inexperience settling into this Falcons defense, because they looked flawless in execution against them.  Meanwhile, Falcons offensive coordinator must’ve had his head and heart already in San Francisco (where he accepted the head coaching position) because the play calling, which has been nearly perfect all year – became highly questionable.  The Falcons were averaging just about five yards a carry against this Patriots defense and he seemingly abandoned it.  Most questionably when it was 3rd and 1 and they decided to throw a pass from shotgun and when they could’ve controlled/killed more of the clock –  they kept on throwing it. . .

The Patriots redefined the term “stealing the momentum,” as the Falcons looked completely shell-shocked. They not only gave up 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter – they gave up 25 unanswered points to close the game as the Patriots put up a touchdown in overtime, courtesy of James White to win the Super Bowl.

Keep this in mind.

Matt Ryan threw for 284 yards, 2 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 144.1.  The Falcons as a team were averaging 5.8 yards a rush and 7.5 yards a play. They even won the turnover battle (2-1).  The Falcons also had history on their side.  In the history of the NFL Playoffs, teams that lead by 19 or more points going into the fourth quarter were 93-0.   Now because of the Falcons, that record is 93-1.

But was history really on their side?

Tom Brady creates history.  Re-writes history.  Becomes history.  Embodies it.

As shocking as this incredible comeback was – this was the one team, led by this one player and this one coach – who have been incredible their entire careers together.  Achieving the impossible is well within the Patriots’ grasp.  They prove it all the time.

G.W. Gras

@GeeSteelio

 

How the Falcons Will Beat The Patriots

It’s all come down to this.  Finally.

The Super Bowl is upon us and we have the Atlanta Falcons representing the NFC and the New England Patriots representing the AFC.  At this point, it’s a given that the Patriots have made it this far again.  This dynasty has been one of the most consistent and dominant of any dynasty – in all of sports.  Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, scoffed at his silly four game suspension and ran through the league on a 12 game revenge tour throwing 28 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions.  We all know the accolades Tom Brady possesses and we know that winning this Super Bowl only adds to his incredible legacy but the truth is – we all already know how great Brady is.  Him and head coach Bill Belichick will be the quarterback/coach combo people will compare future pairings to for years to come.  But all good things must come to an end.  Don’t they?

When Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was a freshman at Boston College, Tom Brady had already won two of his four Super Bowls and was en route to becoming an American sports icon.  Both of them in the state of Massachusetts, separated by a 35 mile drive along Interstate 95.

Fast forward into time and Matt Ryan is now in his ninth season as a pro and Tom Brady is in his fourteenth season – in which seven of those led him to the Super Bowl.

This Super Bowl brings a story line most love to see in the playoffs – NFL’s number one defense verse the NFL’s number one offense.  The Patriots are only allowing 15.6 points per game while the Falcons are averaging 33.8 points per game.  Keep in mind the Patriots played five of six worse teams in the NFL this year, and they played against a plethora of back up quarterbacks this year (or guys who are at least the equivalent to back-up quarterback status).  Without taking anything away from them though, in the AFC Championship game they held a Steelers team that averages 25 points per game to 17, and held Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to average 6.7 yards per attempt.  What helps New England is that they are third in the NFL in points scored at 27.6, but again – the competition wasn’t much and the offense would usually find itself in great field position.

The Falcons are a young defensive team (four rookies starting) and had their struggles in the early going of the season and then it started to look as if it was coming together right when it needed to.   In their playoff games against the Seahawks and the Packers, they won those games at scores of 36-20 and 44-21 respectively.  All season long the Falcons had been giving up 25 points per game and their offense would generally score about ten more points than that to add a check in the win column.  Now, with this defense making life easier for an offense that is 3rd in passing yards, 7th in rushing yards and 2nd in total yards per game – – this team has gotten from “scary-good” to flat out “dangerous.”

The New England defense on average, allows 3.9 yards a rush, while the Atlanta Falcons average 4.6 a carry.  This results in what I have named a “Clash Average” of 4.25 yards a carry – favoring the Atlanta Falcons (don’t ask how I come up with this method – but it’s proven and it works).

New England’s pass defense will come under attack as well. They already allow the opposition to complete 61% of it’s passes and the Falcons are humming at a nearly 70% completion percentage.  While New England’s Malcolm Butler has transformed himself from a Super Bowl hero to a top five corner back in the league – he’ll be matched up against the best wide receiver in the game in Julio Jones.  Butler will probably have safety help (as they did for many plays against Antonio Brown in the AFC Championship) but that leads to a lot of issues going against the Falcons.  Much like Brady, Matt Ryan doesn’t “force” anything – he takes what you give him.  In doing so, the speed they have after-the-catch kills a lot of teams.  Sanu, Robinson and even the running backs Tevon Coleman and Davonta Freeman make things happen after slant, hook and “dump” passes.

Brady loves to do the same with the talent he has – but Atlanta’s defense has something that New England’s lacks — speed and athleticism in the linebacker department.  Head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive minded coach and he has built this defense more on speed than strength.  This means the rushes will be faster and the reaction to receivers who are “sitting in a zone” will be noticed quicker.

Vegas has set this game at -3 favoring the Patriots since last Sunday night and it hasn’t changed one bit.  The over/under is set at 59.  Falcons as a three-point dog and the over would be the way to go but when it’s all said and done we all just want to know who wins the Super Bowl and not just cover the spread. 

Matty Ice and the Falcons win this one 38-24.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Big Ben’s Ticking Clock

After last week’s embarrassing blow-out loss to the New England Patriots, the  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went on  93.7 The Fan, on Pittsburgh radio and sent a nervous tingle throughout Steeler Nation.  Big Ben went over the airwaves and stated the following:  “I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season.”  

If there was a bigger “if” spoken in the history of Pittsburgh sports it was probably never spoken in my lifetime.  Big Ben will be 35 years old in March, and has 13 years under his belt as an NFL quarterback.  He’s taken a beating physically – some of it his fault, some of it not his fault – but nonetheless, his body is definitely going through aches and pains that most men his age would feel when they turned 60.

So, is Big Ben’s declaration of “maybe” retiring a thing to be taken seriously.  Yes, and no.

Ben has two more years on his contract and he isn’t walking away from any money. Period, point blank.  What Ben is doing here though are two things.  1. Sending a message to the Steelers brass and 2. Acting, as what the kids would call “butt-hurt.”

The message to the Steelers organization is that he has two more years left.  He’s given everything he can.  For all things considered, he helped lead this team to the AFC Championship when most didn’t see that coming.  The Steelers have, arguably, the best offensive weapons in the league at their respective positions – wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back LeVeon Bell.  To repeat the kind of success this offense had this season would mean to retain the services of Bell, find a tight end that doesn’t get hurt and a compliment at wideout to Brown who doesn’t get suspended.

This is Roethlisberger not saying that he’ll leave – but one day, he won’t be under center for this team anymore and who knows how long it’ll take them to replace a player of his caliber.

It would be considerate of Big Ben to not leave this kind of notion in the air for too long though – considering the team is in “post-post-season” mode, which means they are looking at contracts, upcoming free agents and an NFL Draft to mold their franchise for next season.

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I referred to Roethilsberger as “butt-hurt?”  Well, I meant it.  The Steelers just lost to the Patriots by a score of 36-17.  And although the final score is what you’ll read, visually that game looked like 56-10.  The proud Steelers organization and it’s high profiled offensive stars were thoroughly embarrassed on national television.  Talking to a quarterback about the upcoming season after getting waxed like that, is like asking a girl if she’ll take her boyfriend back, when they just broke up five minutes ago.   Neither one is thinking straight and both are going to answer the question over-emotionally, with very little common sense involved in the equation.

So in this instance, Roethlisberger is a 19 year old girl.  But he has good reason to be.  As hinted at earlier, the window of opportunity for this squad is one or two more years.  One if we’re being realistic.  It’s a clutch and suave move by Roethlisberger.  When things aren’t going the way you like it, make some threats, stomp your feet and hope daddy buys you a new car – or in this case, hope the Steelers give Ben the help he needs to make it to another Super Bowl.

G.W.Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio