Friday, September 30, 2016

Cohen's Corner Pick Six Football Friday Week 4

We are at a critical juncture at the quarter pole of the 2016 season. Ranging from desperate teams to teams that are rolling right along at 2-1 and 3-0 things are about to heat up in the National Football League as we turn toward October, a.k.a the best month of the year, period. Let's pick six!

If there is one guy who can't wait to get on the field this week it's Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick turned into Fitz-tragic last Sunday in Kansas City when he threw a franchise record tying six-interceptions. The Jets turned the football over eight times overall in a 24-3 loss. Obviously they can ill afford to do that against the ball-hawking Seahawks. Seattle, by the way, is going to have Russell Wilson was at full practice on Thursday, meaning it looks more and more likely he will play. This is also a home-coming of sorts for Pete Carroll who once coached the Jets way back in 1994. It is also Seattle's first trip to MetLife Stadium since their Super Bowl XLVIII win over Denver. Prediction: Seattle 24, Jets 17.

It's now or never for the Carolina Panthers. At 1-2 they can not afford another divisional loss, especially to the first place Falcons (2-1). Who knew we would be here with the Panthers, but the Super Bowl hangover is real. The Panthers got punched in the mouth last week at home against Minnesota, ending a 14-game home winning streak. Atlanta, meanwhile outlasted New Orleans in a track meet 45-32. I don't buy the Falcons, and neither should you. Prediction: Panthers 31, Falcons 20. 

Something about fall, October and Raiders that just sounds about right. Yes, the Raiders are turning their fortunes around. They are 2-1, have a nice complement of talent young players, and they will head to Baltimore for an early 1:00 kickoff. Normally this is not an easy trip for the Raiders, and the Ravens (3-0) are a formidable team. Yet, a lot of people point to the fact that not only did the Ravens beat three bad teams (Buffalo, Cleveland and Jacksonville), they barely beat those teams. Last week they had to comeback to top the Jaguars 19-17. I got a feeling a mini upset is in the making. Prediction: Raiders 21, Ravens 17

It's Brees Bowl III and it will be live from San Diego for the first time. It is hard to believe that in the 10 years since Drew Brees left the Chargers that the Saints have yet to make an appearance in San Diego. That is the case. The previous two outings were in London and New Orleans, respectively. In both games, both Brees and San Diego quarterback, Philip Rivers put on a clinic. In 2008 the two QBs combined for 680 yards and six touchdowns. In 2012 they combined for 724 yards and six touchdowns. Expect a lot of milage in this one too, as neither defense is any good. Both of these teams are desperate, New Orleans at 0-3 and San Diego at 1-2, so this is going to be an all out slugfest. Both of these teams also have head coaches on the hot seat. I just got a gut feeling Brees has something to prove in this one.  Prediction: Saints 41, Chargers 38

I can't believe I am taking all these road teams so far; that ends here. The Steelers (2-1) got smashed last week by the Eagles 34-3 in one of the most lopsided losses in franchise history. The Steelers are due for a rebound performance against a good and pesky Chiefs team. This will be close early, but I expect Pittsburgh's D will be too much for Alex Smith and company. The Chiefs still have questions about Jamaal Charles availability, and both starting corners, Marcus Peters and Phillip Gains, are dealing with the flu. Prediction: Steelers 28, Chiefs 10

And last, but certainly not least we got the Vikings and Giants. The Vikings are off to a somewhat surprising 3-0 start, especially considering they are 3-0 without their starting quarterback and all pro running back in the lineup. Let's be honest when Teddy Bridgewater and AP went down, nobody though the Vikings would beat the Packers and Panthers in consecutive weeks. They did. Now they get the potentially lethal/potentially self-distructing Giants into town. The Giants blew a 14-3 lead last week in a 29-27 meltdown against the Skins. Eli Manning never plays well against Minnesota, and Odell Beckham Jr. is becoming a headache for new coach Ben McAdoo. This is not the team, nor the defense the Giants need to face right now. Prediction: Vikings 27, Giants 17

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fitzpatrick Woeful in Jets loss to Chiefs


Ryan Fitzpatrick did something on Sunday that Mark Sanchez never did, even on his worst day as a Jets quarterback. Fitzpatrick, the $12 million man, threw six interceptions in the Jets 24-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

And to be honest, almost all of them were his fault as he forced the ball into tight coverage, sometimes throwing the football up in ill-advised situations. Of the eight turnovers (that's right eight turnovers) the Jets had on Sunday, almost all of them led to points for Kansas City.

Whether it be the very first interception that Fitzpatrick threw into the hands of Marcus Peters that led to a Travis Kelce 12-yard touchdown scamper on a swing pass from Alex Smith, or Jalin Marshall fumbling a kick return into the hands of Demetrius Harris, who brought it back for six more points, this game was a nightmare for Gang Green.

This is not to say that the Jets defense was anything special. They allowed Kansas City to move up and down at will against them. Alex Smith was deadly accurate completing 25 of 33 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. Smith focused on the underneath game and picked apart the Jets secondary. With 6:11 to go before halftime, Kansas City held the football for over 16 minutes, while New York had the ball for barley seven minutes. It was flat out domination.

Yet, here were the Jets with a chance. Down 17-3, New York had a shot to get back into this game, but Fitzpatrick prevented the comeback from happening. Had New York comeback it would have been their greatest road comeback ever. Why? They've never won a game when trailing by 14 or more on the road...EVER!! That record will continue thanks to Fitz-tragic.

Midway through the third quarter the Jets got a huge break when the officials took away a Specner Ware touchdown. A very close play at the pylon, but the officials ruled that he was bobbling the ball while heading for the corner. Replay was pretty inconclusive, the touchdown should have stood, but it did not.

The Jets got lucky, and they should have taken full advantage. The cruelest part is that they were actually moving the football, and on their way to making the seemingly impossible possible. New York moved the football 75 yards down field, with Fitzpatrick connecting with Quincy Enunwa on a number of occasions. Yet, when asked to make a big throw on second and goal at the five, Fitzpatrick came up small. He tried to force a pass inside to Bilal Powell, but the ball was tipped up in the air by Derrick Johnson and into the hands of Eric Berry.

Instead of it being 17-10 in the third quarter, it was still 17-3.

But wait, it got worse. Again the Jets defense forced a Kansas City three-and-out. And again Fitzpatrick had the Jets within striking distance for the touchdown. And again he turned it over. This time he tried to force the ball into Enunwa, but like the previous interception, the ball was tipped in the air and picked off by Peters.

What started off as a horrific way to waste a scoring opportunity, soon became a sideshow as Fitzpatrick would cap off the Jets remaining three drives with a pick. The icing on the cake came on Fitzpatrick's fifth interception of the day, which was brought back 55-yards to pay dirt by Johnson to make it 24-3.

For $12 million this is not what the Jets envisioned with their quarterback. There is a reason why nobody wanted to sign Fitzpatrick in the offseason; a reason why the Jets were bidding against themselves. Fitzpatrick is a mediocre quarterback. He now leads the league in interceptions thrown by a quarterback with seven. He has once again shown poor decision making in big spots, something that was a huge issue in Week 17 last January.

Yes, the options behind Fitzpatrick aren't any better. But, there was no reason after -- even three interceptions -- for Fitzpatrick to stay in this game. Worse, if this keeps up there will be no reason to keep playing him.  The Jets quarterback issues just got a whole lot uglier.

Manning and Giants Stink It Up Against Skins


There is a reason why the Giants were fortunate to be 2-0 coming into their game against the Washington Redskins. In spite of producing two wins, the team made way too many mistakes in both contests, but only got away with it thanks to mistakes by both the Cowboys and Saints.

On Sunday there was no such luck for the Giants. All the mistakes Big Blue made on Sunday came back to cost them a key divisional game against a Redskins team that was ready for a mutiny of their quarterback, Kirk Cousins and likely their head coach, Jay Gruden.

The Giants spent boatloads of cash to improve their defense, and, on Sunday it looked like they all forgot how to tackle. The Giants yielded 403 yards of offense; they allowed Cousins to tear them apart for 296 yards and two scores, and allowed Washington to run roughshod at them with reckless abandon.

While Washington had to settle for five field goals in the game, it's little consultation considering the Skins scored on seven of their 11 possessions, and punted the ball only twice the entire day.  In fact, the Redskins scored on each of their first four possessions, including a quick 44-yard strike from Cousins to Desean Jackson that cut the Giants lead down to 21-16. Had the Redskins not screwed up the final drive of the first half when they refused to go for a field goal to cut the deficit to two points, Washington could have scored on every possession of the first half.

Even well before the Cousins-to-Jackson touchdown, the true turning point of this game came when the Giants were turned aside with 12:59 to go in the second quarter after a Eli Manning fumble and an offensive holding penalty forced the Giants into a three-and-out. The score was 14-6, Giants. Jamison Crowder brought back the punt 50-yards to the Giants 36, and Washington would settle for a field goal. Nothing too crazy, but the there was a seismic shift in momentum after that play, and the Giants weren't ready for it.

That one moment gave the Redskins the confidence they needed, and when Cousins hit Jackson for the touchdown with 3:40 to go before the half it was an all-out Redskins rally.

The Redskins took that momentum into the third quarter and rode the wave. On Washington's second series, Cousins hit Crowder on a small dump off pass that quickly turned into a 55-yard sprint to the end zone as Crowder shot past every Giants defender. Just like that Washington was up 23-21.

From that point on, New York couldn't help itself from committing one horrific mistake after another. First Manning fumbled the football on first and goal at the Redskins 10 with 7:30 to go in the third quarter. Fortunately, the Giants recovered. Two plays later it appeared that Manning threw an interception in the back of the end zone, but the officials ruled the catch incomplete, allowing Big Blue to settle for three.

After Washington marched down the field on a 15-play 68-yard drive for another Dustin Hopkins field goal, the Giants once again couldn't avoid the mistakes. Manning had the Giants rolling deep into Washington territory, but threw a killer interception to Quentin Dunbar, who caught the ball while falling backwards into the end zone. Will Tye was the intended receiver on the play, but the ball was never near him.

While the Giants would miraculously survive the Manning gaff, and eventually take the lead 27-26, there was a sense that this time around luck wouldn't strike for the third time for Big Blue. The Redskins made sure of it. With 7:53 to go in the game, the Redskins drove the football right down the Giants' throat. With the help of a huge pass interference penalty on Olivier Vernon, the Redskins used a heavy dose of Matt Jones to plow through the Giants D.

On third and one at the Washington 45, Jones gashed the Giants for 10-yards and a first down. Two plays later, Jones gashed the Giants again, this time for a 12-yard run to the New York 24-yard line. Washington settled for the field goal to take another slim lead, this time at 29-27.

On a day filled with so many mistakes by the Giants, and on an afternoon where their defense got beaten up by a bad Redskins team, the Giants had no answer. Manning threw a game clinching interception, right into the waiting arms of Su'a Cravens to end the ball game.

The Giants (2-1) now stare at a difficult stretch coming up. They will play the Vikings (3-0), Packers (2-1) and Ravens (3-0) over their next three games. The next two games will all be primetime match-ups. The Giants have to sure things up on the defensive side of the ball, and clean up the mistakes.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cruz and D Bail Out Giants from Near Disaster vs. Saints


For the second straight week the New York Giants escaped by the hairs on their chinny chin chin. It was not pretty at MetLife Stadium on Sunday; in fact it was downright ugly as a battle ensued between two teams more interested in finding ways to lose a football game, rather than win it.

The Giants outlasted another opponent and find themselves at 2-0 on the year. Nobody said 2-0 had to come with style points, because if they did, the Giants would be in the negative column in that regard.

Eli Manning and the offense owe the defense and special teams a steak dinner, for without them a 16-13 win over the Saints wouldn't be possible. The Giants shot themselves in the foot with bad play calling, untimely penalties and turnovers all afternoon against New Orleans, yet still found a way to into the victory column.

Hence the change in culture for the Giants from last season to this season, at least for now. A year ago the Giants would have found a way to lose against New Orleans. Now, thanks to increase in personnel on the defensive side of the ball, there is a tenacity and hunger that wasn't present a year ago.

No better example then in the first quarter when the Giants screwed up a goal line situation with the ball at the New Orleans three yard line. The Giants had driven the ball 73 yards to the Saints 11-yard line, and still couldn't punch it in for six. On third and two at the three, the Giants tried to dump the ball off on a screen by Manning to Larry Donnell, but the pass floated incomplete. Instead of taking the points, and grabbing the early 3-0 lead, head coach Ben McAdoo gambled and decided to go for it on fourth and a long two, and the gamble blew up in his face.

A year ago, Tom Coughlin would have been crucified for making such a gamble. In fact, he did make such a gamble against the Jets which spearheaded a Gang Green comeback.

But, thanks to this defense the complete blowup never happened. The Giants forced the Saints and Drew Brees into a three-and-out on their next series.

On the next Giants possession, running back Shane Vereen fumbled it back to New Orleans at the Saints' 38 yard line. Result: The Giants D held the Saints to three yards and punt.

Into the second quarter, the Giants buffoonery continued on the offensive side of the ball. Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 40-yard gain to the Saints 20, but the Giants' receiver fumbled the football at the Saints 16, and New Orleans recovered.

The Giants defense didn't relent. They allowed one first down and forced New Orleans to punt the football after just 18 yards on five total plays.

Just before the end of the half, Giants special teams came up huge when Janoris Jenkins came around the corner and blocked a Saints field goal, picked up the loose ball and dashed 80-yards, uncontested into the end zone for the only touchdown of the first half. Instead of it being 3-0 Saints, it was 7-0 Giants. For the rest of the afternoon the Saints would be trying to make up for the blocked kick.

Fast forward to the fourth quarter, the Giants once again stalled deep in Saints territory, this time at the New Orleans' one-yard line. The Giants had three chances to get into the end zone for the touchdown, and each time they failed, initiating a cascade of boos from the MetLife Stadium crowd. With 8:46 to go the Giants had to settle for three points to take a 13-10 lead.

With that much time on the clock, and down only three, one would figure it would be a matter of time before Drew Brees guided the Saints into the end zone for the winning touchdown. That never transpired. After hitting Colby Fleener for 21-yards to the Saints own 46-yard line, Brees missed on his next three throws as he couldn't handle the Giants blitzing defense. While the Saints would find a way to tie this game at 13 much later in the quarter, this defensive stand was a huge win for the Gaints, and a big reason why the won the game.

Finally, as we all know, the Giants offense woke up just in time to win the football game in the waning minutes. Manning's 34-yard heave down the sideline to Victor Cruz was the bone crushing delivering the Giants offense had been waiting to deal to the Saints all day. The catch set up Josh Brown's winning field goal.

Sure the Giants are 2-0. The skies the limit of course for any team that starts off 2-0, yet for the Giants one gets the sense that this team still has a lot of work to do. Offensively the Giants have to really dig deep down and figure things out; at least the defense is up to the task.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cohen's Corner Pick Six Football Friday Picks

Week 2 of the NFL season is now upon us. The Jets and Bills set the stage for what could be a wild week in the NFL, and we will have plenty of big match-ups this Sunday. The Bengals and Steelers meet up for the first time since last January's wild card game. The Dolphins roll into New England against the Brady-less Patriots. The Giants host the high-flying Saints, and the Vikings open up their new stadium against the Packers.

The Dolphins nearly pulled one out in Seattle last week, but there was too much Russell Wilson at the end of the day. The Dolphins are getting healthy. Mario Williams practiced on Friday, while linebacker Jelani Jenkins also practiced for the second straight day. The Dolphins have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball to keep things interesting against Jimmy Garappolo and the Patriots. Speaking of Garappolo, he really acquitted himself well against a Cardinals team considered by some to be the best in the NFL. This will be fun, but ... Patriots 23, Dolphins 16.

I was not impressed by the Giants last week in Dallas. Sure, Eli Manning threw for three scores, and the Giants defense looked better than it did a year earlier, but let's remember they beat Dallas by only a point. Had the Cowboys managed the clock better in their final drive, the Cowboys could have won this game. Not to mention the Cowboys were playing without their starting quarterback, and without several players on defense. Big Blue's D also failed to get pressure on rookie Dak Prescott. That will be an issue this week vs. the Saints and Drew Brees. Brees cut up the Giants last year. This figures to be another shootout, but what gives the Giants a shot here is the fact that the Saints defense is just plain awful. Giants 33, Saints 31.

The Bengals (1-0) are looking to enact some vengeance on the Steelers for last year's wild card game, but let's remember Cincy did more to lose that game than Pittsburgh did winning it. The Bengals can fling it, but their D is still suspect. No such issues for the Steelers who mauled the Redskins a week ago. This will be competitive, but there will be too much Big Ben, DeAngelo Williams, and Antonio Brown. Steelers 27, Bengals 20.

Something about these Cowboys I like. Even in defeat a week ago, Dak Prescott was impressive in his first start, if not unspectacular. Still the Cowboys found a way to lose to the Giants. The Skins meanwhile can ill afford to drop to 0-2, especially at home. They got manhandled by the Steelers last week, and need a rebound effort by Kirk Cousins and company. Like I said, something about these Cowboys. Cowboys 28, Redskins 21.

The last time the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos played each other in a game that DID NOT feature Payton Manning, you'd have to go back to 1993. Oh, the days when the Broncos wore bright orange jersey's, and had the giant letter D on their helmet. Oh, the days when John Elway still played, and ... Jeff George played for the Colts. Sorry Indy fans. Yes, it's the first ever post-Manning Bowl. The Broncos held off a late Carolina charge in Week 1 where they beat up Cam Newton into a pulp, literally. That could be a problem for Indy on Sunday. The Colts have had issues with their offensive line, which plays into the hands of the Broncos. That being said, if you ask me which quarterback I would rather have in the final two minutes, I am clearly taking Andrew Luck over Trevor Siemian. Upset Alert: Colts 24, Broncos 21.

I have a hard time buying into the Vikings with this whole Shaun Hill vs. Sam Bradford talk. Sure, the Vikings have a great back in Adrian Peterson, and they have a stifling defense. But, they are taking on the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in this game. I think it will be too much Packer offense for the Vikings to play catchup. Packers 31, Vikings 24.

2016 Jackals Recap Video

Here is a nice recap video I did with one of my colleagues at the end of the Jackals 2016 season. The Jackals finished the year with the best record in the Can-Am League at 62-38. The 62 wins tied a franchise record.

Here is a couple more videos I shot and produced. One of them with my call on Art Charles' breaking the Jackals single season home run record, and the other on the Jackals win the regular season title.

Fitzpatrick and offense take off in Jets win over Rex's Bills

JETS 37 / BILLS 31

Take that Rex Ryan!!

The Jets got some sweet revenge Thursday night in Buffalo as Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense turned things into second gear in a 37-31 victory. While the game was certainly sloppy to watch on both sides, the Jets nearly had four different players break the century mark en route to a dominating display of offense.

Brandon Marshall (six catches, 101 yards), Eric Decker (six catches, 126 yards, TD) and Matt Forte (30 carries, 100 yards, 3 touchdowns) were the highlights of the show. Quincy Enunwa almost joined them with 92-yards receiving on the evening. In short it was a huge night for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who picked apart a patchwork secondary for the Buffalo Bills.

Let's break it down!

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense:

Going into the game, all the talk was how Fitzpatrick struggled against Rex Ryan coached defenses, and with good reason. He was 1-8 against Ryan's teams head-to-head. Keep in mind a lot of those match-ups came when the roles were reversed, with Ryan coaching the Jets, and Fitzpatrick as the quarterback of the Bills.

It wasn't pretty early on. Fitzpatrick was strip sacked twice on the opening drive, with the Jets fortunately recovering the fumble both times. He even connected on a terribly designed shovel pass to Bilal Powell that the Buffalo defense sniffed out for a loss on the play.  Somehow New York was able to get a field goal out of the slop that was their opening series.

By the second quarter, Fitzpatrick started dropping dimes all over the field. He connected with Brandon Marshall twice on New York's first touchdown drive, including a 37-yard completion to the sideline to set up shop at the 29. Matt Forte finished the drive off with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone to make it 13-7.

On New York's next drive, Fitzpatrick was 5-for-5 with completions of 21-yards and 14-yards to Enunwa, and a 21-yard completion up the middle to Marshall to the Buffalo 22. Three plays later, Fitzpatrick hit a wide open Eric Decker for an 18-yard gain to the Buffalo five yard line, before hitting Decker again on a laser in the end zone for the score.

After falling behind 24-20 in the third quarter, the Jets responded with a 12-play 84-yard drive that ate 6:27 off the clock with Forte finding pay dirt, for the second time to give the Jets a 27-24 lead.

Fitzpatrick continued to work his magic in the fourth quarter. On the drive that culminated in a Nick Folk field goal that made it 30-24, Fitzpatrick hit Jalin Marshall for 27-yards to the Jets' 41 on a beautiful touch pass that Marshall came back to catch. Finally, he connected once again with Eric Decker on a 35-yard completion to the Buffalo 24.

Matt Forte capped off the showcase with a 12-yard spring to the end zone on the Jets final drive of the day to put the game away at 37-24.

Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards and completed 70 percent of his passes. It was his best day in a Jets uniform since last December's 23-20 overtime win against the Giants, when Fitzpatrick threw for 390 yards.

Decker was really big. Not only did he break 100 yards receiving, it seemed that each catch he made had back-breaking consequences for Buffalo as he helped move the chains for New York.

Brandon Marshall is one lucky dude.

Brandon Marshall is one lucky dude, and he knows it. He took a wicked slide into the turf where his leg got twisted in the opposite direction. By looking at the photo, Marshall was very lucky he didn't tear any ligament in his knee. When he went down it didn't look good. Marshall was able to get up on his own power and returned to the game. The Jets are very lucky.

Revis Island Where are You? 

While it was a great day for the Jets offense, it was not for Darrelle Revis. Revis was beat badly by Marquise Goodwin, a third round pick from the 2013 draft, for a 84-yard score that put the Bills up 7-3. It marked the second straight week Revis has been beaten badly by a wide receiver. It is pretty obvious that Revis can't handle receivers in one-on-one match-ups the way he used to. The Jets have to devise schemes where he gets more safety help.

This will be a story that will carry over into the next week.

Too Many Big Plays Allowed by the Jets.

The Revis play was one of many big plays Gang Green allowed last night. Like I wrote earlier, it was a sloppy football game. The Jets allowed Buffalo to hang around all night. At the start of the third quarter, they allowed Tyrod Taylor to roll out of the pocket and find a wide open Greg Salas for a walk-in 71-yard touchdown to cut the Jets lead to 20-17.

On the ensuing Jets drive, New York fumbled the football back to the Bills. Nickell Roby-Coleman picked up the loose ball and dashed into the end zone for the score to give the Bills the lead.

The Jets didn't get any pressure on Taylor, who threw for 297 yards and three scores. A week ago, New York sacked Andy Dalton seven times, but never once touched Taylor.  The lack of pressure up front, combined with the Jets leaky secondary allowed Buffalo to stay in the game the entire night.

What did we learn? 

The Jets offense is explosive. The emergence of Enunwa and Jalin Marshall complements the stars in Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall very nicely. They now give Ryan Fitzpatrick four options to throw to down the field, which puts tremendous pressure on secondaries. Not to mention, the Jets now have a stronger running attack with Matt Forte controlling things out of the backfield. The Jets are going to be a handful for this "impossible schedule" they have coming up, starting next week in Kansas City.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Miscues sink Jets in season opener vs. Cincy


The Jets 2016 season is off to an inauspicious start after a heartbreaking 23-22 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Jets had the lead for most the game, and had the converted on a number of mistakes in the red zone they could have easily beaten the Bengals convincingly. 

The turning point of this game came late in the first quarter with the Jets trying to add to a 7-0 lead. New York had just completed a 10-play 78 yard drive that resulted in a Quincy Enunwa score, and recorded an interception of Andy Dalton at the Bengals 31 yard line. If the Jets converted the pick into a 14-0 lead, they would have been well on their way to a tremendous afternoon. 

But, typical Jets, the afternoon was full of coulda, shoulda. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick guided the offense down all the way to the Bengals four yard line, before wasting away the opportunity. He missed Brandon Marshall over the top in the corner of end zone on first and goal. He then had Marshall right down the middle on a play that required a soft touch pass, but the throw was too hard. Finally, Fitzpatrick tried to dump it off, something New York should have considered on 1st and goal, and the Bengals read it like a book and stuffed the sideline. 

The final indignation came when Nick Folk had his attempt at a chip shot field goal tipped at the line before it went wide left. The Bengals survived, marched down the field and got three points of their own. 

Even the Jets defense had it's moments of good and bad on Sunday. They sacked Dalton seven times, five of those sacks came in the first half, but they had no answer for A.J. Green. Green torched the Jets for 181 yards on 10 catches, none bigger than the one he caught in stride for a 54-yard score to make it 10-7, Cincy. 

The Jets would respond in short order. A 65-yard kick return by Jalian Marshall set up shop at the Bengal 39, and it wouldn't take long for Fitzpatrick to find Eric Decker from 15-yards out for the go-ahead score. But, again, leave it to the Jets to screw it up. Folk missed the extra point wide, and instead of the Jets leading 14-10, they were up 13-10. 

All things considered, at most the Jets should have had a 21-10 lead by this point, even a 17-10 lead. Instead they were up only three, and the missed opportunities would bite them big later on. 

Cincinnati dominated the second half. Dalton was precise and accurate, picking apart the Jets patchwork secondary with short high percentage throws. The Benglas methodically drove downfield in the third quarter for the go-ahead score, a 92-yard drive that culminated in a Jeremy Hill touchdown to make it 20-16 Bengals. 

Then, when the Jets had some momentum going for them, and actually drove the ball all the way into the Bengals red zone, their offense went into a collective shell. The Jets had the ball first and goal at the Bengals three yard line, and New York decided it was a good idea to start off in the shotgun. Result: nobody was open and Fitzpatrick had to scramble around for a couple yards. The worst play call came on second down. 

With the Bengals stacking the line expecting run, the Jets decided to run the football up the gut with Matt Forte, who got leveled at the four-yard-line. 

This was a situation where Fitzpatrick should have called an audible -- instead he stuck to Chan Gailey's guns and paid for it dearly.  

Finally, on third and goal the Bengals read the Jets like a book when they tried desperately to throw the ball into the end zone only to have it deflected. Terrible situational football by New York at this crucial juncture. Yes, they got the field goal to take a 22-20 lead. And yes, the Jets defense needed a stop to win the game, but the Jets could have made it easier on themselves with a touchdown in this spot. 

Instead, Dalton drove the Bengals down field, with A.J. Green's catch on third and 13 at the Jet 40 proving to be the final dagger. The Bengals kicked the field goal to take the lead with 50 seconds to play. 

Fittingly the Jets had to end a frustrating day with a missed opportunity, when Brandon Marshall dropped a Fitzpatrick pass at the 50 yard line. Had he caught it, the Jets would need one more play to get into field goal range. Two plays later, Fitz was picked to seal the deal for Cincinnati. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mets Signing Tebow, A Nightmare Comes to Life

Leave it to the New York Mets to take away from the teams surprising wild card run by breaking a story that leaves everyone scratching their heads.

Yes, the Mets signed Tim Tebow. No, this is not a joke. This is a meme come to life. The New York Mets actually signed former NFL flameout Tim Tebow to the instructional league.

While signing and playing in instructional baseball doesn't necessarily guarantee an invite to minor league spring training next year, the fact that the Mets felt the need to jump in and sign a guy who hasn't played professional baseball since high school, and a guy who is using baseball as a "career change" more than anything else is an slap in the face at those who have been trying for years to get to the big leagues.

Don't worry this is not going to be a rant by an angry Mets fan. I am not angry at Tim Tebow, the person, who I thought got screwed over by the New York Jets a couple years ago in the Sanchez-Tebow fiasco of 2012. Tebow is a good guy by all accounts.

Let me give you a little perspective.

The road to the Major Leagues for a player is a process, paved with the slings and arrows of great joy and utter disappointment. It takes years of dedication to the game to make the "dream" come true.

Baseball players as young as 17-years-old begin their baseball journey, sometimes skipping out on college in order for a shot at the big show.  They will get drafted or sign with an affiliate, ride the bus through rookie ball, and if they are good, advance through the minor league system. They will face the thrill of being promoted to Single-A, Advanced-A, Double-A, etc. They might even see the disappointment of being demoted from Double-A to Single-A. Some will even get released.

Those that get released will, if they still have the desire and financial wherewithal, sign on with an independent league franchise with the hopes of wooing scouts so they get picked up again. It's not easy.

Let me give you more insight. I work for the New Jersey Jackals, an independent minor league baseball team located in Montclair, New Jersey. In my four years as broadcaster of the team, I have seen a lot of really good players come through the Can-Am League that either fell through the cracks, or are looking for the their first shot. In my time, only two guys that I have covered have made it to the Major Leagues, Tim Adleman (Jackals) and Stephen Cardullo (Boulders).

Adleman was the Jackals closer in 2013. He saved 10 games, and had an ERA of 1.45. More importantly he was a good kid, with a good education at Georgetown. His efforts in New Jersey got him noticed by the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the '13 season. Some three years after he first reported for Jackals spring training in 2013, Adleman was a on a Major League mound with the Reds on a cloudy May 1 afternoon against the Pirates. He is now 2-3 with a 4.02 ERA in eight starts at the Big League level. Heck the guy shutout the playoff-bound Dodgers a few weeks ago.

Cardullo, who was a Jackal nemesis for three seasons in Rockland, is now a Colorado Rockies infielder. He is killing the baseball right now, hitting .333 with two homers and five RBI in 10 games at the big league level. This was a guy who spent four years in Indy ball with no guarantee he'd ever get even a Single-A invite.

There is something about going through the process of becoming a major league player that Tebow probably doesn't understand, and if he thinks he does, will quickly find out. It's about going out there and earning it. Tebow's goal is to make a major league roster, period.  He should get in line, because it is stretches as the day is long.

The scouting reports on Tebow weren't glowing. He's 29-years-old, hasn't played baseball in over a generation, and is only doing this because he wants to be a major leaguer now at this stage of his life. Scouts use a 20-to-80 grade scale on players, and Tebow was below average to mediocre in run, arm, and glove mechanics. "He has the physical tools to suggest he could make it as a professional athlete, but he has certain (rather significant) shortcomings that figure to limit his success at the highest level," (NESN, Aug. 31).

With scouting reports like that, one has to wonder what the Mets were thinking? This team could use help at catcher, first base, third base, even outfield. Signing Tim Tebow does none of that. The sad part is, signing Tebow likely cost a guy who has been paying his dues a chance at a job. That is the biggest crime of all.