Monday, November 28, 2016

Same Ole Jets Invent New Ways to Lose to Patriots

PATRIOTS 22/JETS 17

It is getting harder and harder to call the Jets-Patriots rivalry 'a rivalry.' If you wanted to see a real rivalry, you were better off watching the Kansas City Chiefs-Denver Broncos game; at least those two teams are competitive and good. Here the Patriots have dominated the Jets for well over a decade, and Sunday was no different.

The game felt like a big tease with Gang Green jumping out to a 10-0 lead, and holding a slim 17-16 lead late in the fourth quarter. You knew it was only a matter of time before Tom Brady figured things out and beat the Jets, which he did.

Jets Mistakes: The Jets made a number of costly mistakes in this game against New England. When facing the Patriots, a team like the Jets can ill afford to make mistakes, and it came back to cost them in the end. The first mistake came with 9:59 to go before the half when Robby Anderson fumbled the football at midfield after a 25-yard completion. The Jets were ahead 10-3. This is not to say that if Anderson had held onto the football the Jets would have scored on this drive, but the fumble changed the complexion of the game. The Patriots turned the fumble into points when Tom Brady found Malcom Mitchell for the tying score.

Later on in the second quarter, Todd Bowles made a horrible coaching decision when he decided to kick a long 54-yard field goal rather than punt the football and pin the Patriots deep. The kick was blocked and New England had great field position with which to work. Fortunately for the Jets, Stephen Goskowski missed the field goal at the buzzer.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Jets mistakes continued to spring up thanks in big part to Fitzpatrick. In the fourth quarter, he killed the Jets with an intentional grounding penalty that pushed the Jets back into a third and 11 from their own 30. The Jets couldn't convert and had to punt back to New England.

After the Patriots took the lead 22-17, Fitzpatrick killed the Jets hopes when he got stripped of the football by Chris Long to seal the deal. While Fitz didn't throw a pick, he was horrible in crunch time. If this doesn't signal that Todd Bowles needs to make a change, I don't know what will.

Quincy Enunwa's Butt Catch: You may have heard of the buttfumble and the helmet catch, well on Sunday we had the butt catch. In the Jets lone bright spot of the evening, Enunwa hauled in a Fitzpatrick pass in the back corner of the end zone, got one foot down and fell on his rear end inside the end zone for the score. One butt = two feet in the NFL. Touchdown Jets!

The Other Guys: With Rob Gronkowski hobbled by back and lung issues, Tom Brady had to look elsewhere for support and he found it in Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan. The two virtual unknowns combined for 112 yards on nine catches and two scores. In fact it was Mitchell who burned Darrelle Revis on the game winning score.

The Patriots May Not Be That Good: This was a game that the Patriots were supposed to roll in, but they really struggled with the Jets. While it is a divisional game, the Patriots are supposed to be light-years ahead of the Jets, but it didn't look like it on Sunday. New England struggled to handle the Jets blitzes early on, and made a number of costly mistakes themselves (see James White forgetting how to score a two-point conversion). The Patriots (9-2) are supposed to be the best in the AFC, but it sure didn't look like it on Sunday. The monsters in the AFC West are aware.

What's Next: The Jets disaster of a season continues next Monday night against the equally inept Indianapolis Colts. The Jets would have an advantage, but it looks like Andrew Luck will play. At least that draft stock keeps ticking up for Gang Green.

What to expect: More losing.

Giants Ugly Ways Make Browns Game Too Close

GIANTS 27 / BROWNS 13

Big Blue's ugly ways continued this week, and it almost led to the Cleveland Browns finding a way to get their first win of the year. While Big Blue won this game by two scores, had the Giants not cashed in on a couple of huge turnovers this ugly win could have easily become an ugly loss.

Tis the life of Ben McAdoo's Giants. They love living on the edge of disaster and greatness. They are good enough to win six straight ball games inspite of their painfully obvious deficiencies. Let's break it down.

Invisible offense returns: The Giants offense was once again invisible for large chunks of this game against Cleveland. Midway through the second quarter the Giants mustered only 65 yards of offense against the Browns, which is totally inexcusable. At times the play calling was ultraconservative; in other instances, Eli Manning was just flat out off his game, throwing a handful of dreary incompletions and was sacked in the opening quarter.

Even when the Giants put up points in the second quarter, there was something amiss. There was no flow to the Giants attack all day. In fact in the third quarter alone, the Giants were held to 32 total yards of offense and punted four times. This hot-n-cold pattern has become way too prevalent for the Giants, and with a tough schedule ahead, they won't get away with it for much longer.

Odell Beckham had a huge afternoon: Beckham had a huge day for the Giants. One could argue that without him the Giants probably would have lost this game to Cleveland. Beckham had a 32-yard touchdown catch on second and ten from the Cleveland 32 with 1:13 to go before the half to give the Giants a 14-3 lead. Later, Beckham hauled in a 41-yard completion to move the football into Cleveland territory. Beckham would score the Giants final score of the day on a four-yard pass from Manning.

While Beckham was great, lets give a nod to Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepherd as well. Cruz had a 37-yard catch that set up the Giants second touchdown, and Shepherd had a 22-yard run on an end around to set up the final score of the day.

Jason Pierre-Paul: JPP had a huge afternoon for Big Blue, recording three sacks and had a 43-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Giants victory. He deserves a lot of credit for coming back with vengeance this season after last year's 4th of July fireworks incident.

Josh McCown Stinks: How bad are the Browns? They are so  bad that quarterback Josh McCown can't do the simple things right. Ask him to lead Cleveland on a scoring drive? Impossible. Ask him to get the Browns a much needed touchdown? Nearly impossible. This guy flat out stinks. Forget the fact he threw for 322 yards, McCown was sacked seven times and never got anything going for this Browns team. Cleveland regrets more and more for trading down in the draft to avoid taking Carson Wentz.

What is Next: The Giants are about to hit a very tough stretch in their season. At 8-3, the Giants are in control of their playoff fates, but with a trip to Pittsburgh upcoming, those plans could begin to get dashed quickly. The Giants are a flawed team, with an inconsistent offense and a defense that is prone to giving up the big play. This could be a total nightmare for the Giants this Sunday, and maybe for the entire month of December.

What to expect: Like I said, the Giants face Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington in the last five weeks of the year. Four of those teams are likely heading into the playoffs and will need wins against the Giants in order to get there. This season could spiral out of control really, really fast.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Big Blue Defense Clamps Down on Bears

GIANTS 22 / BEARS 16 

It was ugly, but the Giants still found a way to get the win. Where have we heard this refrain before? Just about every week for that matter when it comes to the New York Giants. No I didn't copy and paste from Monday's recap of the Bengals-Giants game, although it wouldn't have made much of a difference. Sunday against the Bears was ugly, but in the end it didn't matter, because Big Blue found a way to extended their win streak to five games.

Bears Dominate First Half: A lot of people tapped this match-up as a trap game for Big Blue, and for the entire first half it was coming to fruition as the Bears were flat-out dominating the Giants.

Jay Cutler was extremely poised in the Bears opening series as he guided Chicago to a game opening touchdown pass to Zach Miller to take the early 6-0 advantage. The Bears would score on their first three possessions of the football game, with tight end Zach Miller and tail back Jordan Howard killing the Giants defense.

On the Bears second possession, Miller had a 34-yard reception on third and nine from the Bears 40 that set up a Connor Barth field goal to give the Bears the lead back at 9-6.

At the start of the second quarter, Cutler picked apart the Giants again, this time with soft tosses of 10-yards and 16-yards to get the Bears to the Giants 38-yard line. Finally, Jordan Howard did the rest when he shot up the right side and dashed all the way to the Giants seven-yard line before being chased out of bounds. Jeremy Langford would cap off the drive a one-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Bears a commanding 16-6 lead with 8:35 to go before halftime.

The Good Eli Shows Up When He's Needed: While it was an inconsistent day for the offense, like he had last week against Cincinnati, Eli Manning was great when he needed to be. He calmly led the Giants down field for the tying score on their first possession of the game in the first quarter. On the drive, Manning was 5-of-7 with his biggest pass of the game coming on fourth and two at the Bears 17 when he hit Sterling Shephard for a 15-yard gain to the two. Rashad Jennings finished the drive with a two-yard dash into the end zone to tie it up at six.

Manning later elevated his play into a higher gear at the start of the third quarter with his team coming out of the halftime locker room trailing 16-9. He completed a big third and eight  with a 12-yard completion to Shephard to get into Bears territory. On the next play, Manning found Odell Beckham Jr. for 20-yards near the sideline to set up first and goal. Two plays later, Manning found a wide open Will Tye for the score to tie the game up at 16.

After the Giants defense forced a Bears three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter, Manning went right back to work. He connected with Shephard for five yards on second and nine from the Giants 22-yard line, then, Manning ran for a first down on third and short. On first and ten from the 31, Manning hit a streaking Victor Cruz for a 48-yard bomb to drive right into the Chicago red zone. Three plays later, Manning found his new favorite target in Sterling Shephard for the touchdown to put the Giants up for the first time all day, 22-16.

Sterling Shephard: Shephard had a huge day for the Giants. The rookie from Oklahoma hauled in five passes for 50-yards and a touchdown. He is second on this team in receiving yards, and is quickly becoming one of Manning's favorite targets.

Rashad Jennings: Jennings had his second straight solid game for the Giants out of the backfield. New York showed more commitment to the run, and Jennings awarded Ben McAdoo's confidence with 87-yards on 21 carries and his first touchdown of the year. While, the Giants offense did fall asleep after taking a 22-16 lead, the effort Jennings displayed is hard to ignore.

Giants D' Does it Again: Another close ball game, another big day for the Giants defense. After watching Jay Cutler have his way with them in the first half, Steve Spagnuolo's crew had none of it in the second half. Of the seven possessions the Bears had in the second half, only one drive went into Giants territory, a drive that would end in a missed field goal by Barth. Overall the Giants held the Bears to a grand total of 81-yards of offense in the second half. That is domination.

Jay Cutler was running for his life in the second half, as the Giants sacked the sluggish QB four times, two of which belonged to Jason Pierre-Paul. Landon Collins finished off the game with another game-killing interception for Big Blue. The interception gives Collins now five on the season, and one in each of the last four games for the Giants. It was also a big day for nose tackle Damon Harrison, who had six tackles on the day.

Not So Special Special Teams: Sunday was not a good day to be a kicker. Thanks to the bitter cold temperatures, rain, wind and snow across the lower 48, there were a total of 12 missed extra points in the NFL -- a new league record for a single day. The Giants-Bears game was no exception. Bears kicker Connor Barth missed an extra point and a field goal in this game, while his counterpart, Robbie Gould missed two extra points. Had this game been played in better weather, the score likely would have been 24-20, not 22-16.


What is next? The Giants have another "trap game" on the schedule for next Sunday when they visit the winless Cleveland Browns (0-11). The Browns are a horrible football team -- which is putting it mildly. Cleveland's best chance to win a game came and went when they blew a 20-7 lead against the Jets a few weeks ago. The Giants are a much better team than their MetLife Stadium counterparts, so the Browns are the ones who are in for it. This is a game Big Blue should win fairly easily.

What to Look For: Don't look now, but the NFC East is turning into a powerhouse division before our very eyes. Not only are the Cowboys 9-1, but the Redskins and Giants are right in the mix for the two wild card slots. The Skins destroyed the beat-up Green Bay Packers on Sunday night 42-24, and head to Dallas red hot at 6-3-1. The winner of the Dallas-Washington Thanksgiving tilt will give the Giants a good indication of where they stand in the race for the NFC East title and wild card berths. Not to mention, with Green Bay's loss it is looking more and more likely that the NFC East could send two teams to the playoffs. Keep in mind however that Minnesota does own a tiebreaker against the Giants.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

NFL Week 10 Power Rankings

After the best week of football this season, the dust has finally settled on week 10 of the 2016 NFL season, and, boy, did we have a landmark week. Of the 12 games played this weekend, the four highlight matches: Broncos vs. Saints, Panthers vs. Chiefs, Cowboys vs. Steelers, and Patriots vs. Seahawks all lived up to the hype. How did Week 10's results affect our power rankings? Let's dive in.

1) Dallas Cowboys (8-1): The Cowboys have knocked the Patriots from their perch atop the power rankings for this week. And why not? The Cowboys earned a hard fought 35-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Ezekial Elliot absolutely dominated the game, rushing for 114 yards, and adding 95 more yards on the receiving end. All told, Elliot scored three touchdowns on the night, including the final two scores of the day to push Dallas over the top. The Cowboys are rolling with Elliot and quarterback Dak Prescott, and it appears that nothing can stand in their way -- at least right now.

The Cowboys have a very interesting game this week against the Baltimore Ravens at home, this just days before their Thanksgiving Day clash with the Redskins. These are two big games to see if Dallas can keep the momentum train running against playoff caliber opponents.

2) Oakland Raiders (7-2): It's not often that a team can rise in the polls due to being on a bye, but with the Raiders being idle and the Patriots losing in Week 10, Oakland jumps up to number two in our rankings. The Raiders boast the NFL's 5th ranked offense both in yards per game and scoring. Their defense, however, is the achilles heal of this team. If the D can pick it up down the stretch, then the Raiders will be even tougher to beat.

3) New England Patriots (7-2): Hard to envision these guys slipping this far, and it will likely be the only time for the rest of the year. Sunday was not a good day for the Patriots. Bad turnovers and costly mistakes did them in against the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, there they were at the Seattle one-yard line with a chance to tie the game in the final minute. Unfortunately for the Pats, Tom Brady fumbled the football on third and goal, and overthrew Rob Gronkowski on fourth and goal. It has become commonplace for the Patriots to have that mid-season loss in recent years, and this was another one. Look for New England to go on a major run here and get back into the top spot in the power rankings.

4) Kansas City Chiefs (7-2): The surging Chiefs deserve the respect that comes with a top five ranking. This team has won five in a row, and if you go back to the final 10 games of last season, are a combined 17-2 in their last 19 games. And this is a team that hasn't had the services of James Houston and Jamaal Charles predominately all season.

 The best aspect of this team is their defense. Led by a stingy secondary of Jason Peters and Eric Berry, the Chiefs lead the NFL in turnover margin at +14, and are seventh in the NFL in points allowed at 18.7 points per game. It was the Chiefs defense that was the reason they came back and won on Sunday in Carolina. First Berry picks of a badly thrown Cam Newton pass and brings it back for a touchdown. Then, it is Peters who wrestles the ball away from Kelvin Benjamin and sets up the game-winning field goal.

5) Denver Broncos (7-3): Denver was this close to starring at 6-4 and an uncertain future in the crowded AFC playoff picture when Drew Brees connected on a 32-yard touchdown that tied the game at 23 with a little over a minute to go. Then the blocked extra point happened, and just like that the Broncos pulled the game out of the fire 25-23. It wasn't a perfect day for Denver, far from it. They blew a 10-0 lead and trailed 17-10, before coming back to take the lead. Trevor Siemian was inconsistent; he threw two touchdowns and was picked off twice, and sacked six times.  While they are 7-3, this is a very flawed Broncos team.

6) Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1): Sunday night's win in New England was huge for the Seahawks, mainly because Seattle's offense showed signs of getting its grove back.  The Seahawks biggest issue had been their inability to run the football, and Russell Wilson quelled those fears with an outstanding performance under center. He threw for 348 yards and moved around the pocket like the healthy Wilson we remember. Not to mention Seattle's stingy D played a huge role in upending the Pats. Next to Dallas, this is the best team in the NFC.

7) Atlanta Falcons (6-4): A very uneven day for the Falcons. All season I felt this team was walking on eggshells because of its rather weak defense. Little did I know that their offense would finally hit a wall. That is exactly what happened on Sunday in Philly. The Falcons trailed for almost the entire game, and inspite of his 135 yards receiving, Julio Jones had two big drops in key situations.

Before I move on to my last three teams in my Top 10, let me be clear, after the Falcons there is a such a drop-off in quality teams it is nearly impossible to rank a solid and complete top 10 without some trepidation. It would be easy to say the Giants are number 8 because they are 6-3; but I just don't love them to be that high on this list. So without further adieu ...

8) Washington Redskins (5-3-1): Here is why I pick the Skins. Not only do they have a win over the Giants, but just recently had a four game winning streak in October. While the Skins are definitely flawed, they are the defending NFC East champs, and have had a tendency to play well in big spots, like they did on Sunday against the suddenly sinking Vikings. So for now, the Redskins get a top 10 posting.

9) New York Giants (6-3): The Giants are a weird team. They have won games by the skin of their teeth, and at times have looked over-matched in games. Yet, they keep winning. Their defense finally stepped up to the plate on Monday night to deliver the win, with their best defensive player, Landon Collins playing a vital role. The Giants could go on a run here with games against Chicago and Cleveland on the docket.

10) Detroit Lions (5-4): Holy cow, the Lions are in the top 10! Another case where the bye week helped them move up. The Lions are in first place in the NFC North, and have some quality wins against the Vikings, Redskins and Eagles this year. Matthew Stafford is having a MVP-type of year, and they have two very intriguing games at home coming up. They will host both the Jaguars and Vikings over the next two weeks. Should they win both, can you say 7-4 Detroit Lions?

Play Ugly, Win Ugly Formula Works for Giants

GIANTS 21/BENGALS 20

One thing has become commonplace for these 2016 New York Giants, they know how to win ugly. Monday night was no exception. The Giants found a way to hold-off the incredibly putrid Cincinnati Bengals 21-20 to push their winning streak to four games. At 6-3, the Giants are firmly in control of one of the  two NFC Wild Card slots. Let's look back.

Early Fireworks: It looked like we were in store for a shootout at MetLife Stadium. The Giants opened the game on a thunderous 8-play 80-yard drive that ate up 3:55 to take a 7-0 lead. The Benglas quickly responded with a 3-play 80-yard scoring drive that culminated in a Andy Dalton touchdown pass to A.J. Green. The Bengals and Giants made it look real easy -- as the game had 45-38 written all over it at this point. Little did we know that the defenses would step it up.

Eli Manning struggles: It was not the best of days for Manning and the Giants offense. After their long opening touchdown drive, they went into a collective shell with their next four possessions ending in either a punt, a turnover on downs or an interception. It felt like the Greg Lewis drop on third and seven with 7:52 to go in the first quarter hung over the entire unit as the just couldn't get in sync.

As for Manning he was either missing guys or throwing floaters that could have easily been picked off had the Bengals played the ball better.

Any form of offensive brilliance was few and far between. The Giants late touchdown to close out the first half came on a Manning slant to Odell Beckham Jr. with 1:17 to play. New York would not score again until there was 14:05 to go in the fourth quarter.

Manning finished the night 28 of 44 for 240 yards with three touchdowns (the good) and two interceptions (the bad). Overall, it was an uneven night for Manning and the offense.

Giants Defense Steps up Big: With the offense sputtering once again to find itself, the Giants defense came up huge for the third straight week.  After the Benglas scored on their first two drives to start the second half to take a 20-14 lead, the Giants never allowed Cincinnati to get past mid-field. Of their final 23 plays of the game, the Bengals gained only 37 yards, with the Giants putting tremendous pressure on Dalton.

It seemed like every single time he dropped back to throw, Dalton was trying to avoid the Giants pass rush. The combination of Olivier Vernon, Damion Harrison, Jonathan Casillas and Jason Pierre-Paul were too much to handle for the Bengals offensive line. Harrison and Vernon both had big sacks of Dalton on the final Cincy drive of the day to ice the win. The turning point of the game came on Landon Collins interception, which came shortly after the Giants reclaimed the lead 21-20.

Giants Running Game Finally Shows Up: Holy smokes the Giants running game actually came to life!! The Giants have taken a lot of heat for not committing to the running game, and Rashad Jennings is probably the worst starting tailback in the League, but when it mattered on Monday, he got the job done. Jennings ran for 87-yards on 15 carries. He had a huge 24-yard run during the Giants game-winning scoring drive that pushed Big Blue into the red zone. He even had runs of nine yards and 25-yards to move the chains and end the game.

What's Up Next for Big Blue? The Giants host the Chicago Bears on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bears (2-7) are just awful. Jay Cutler has been uninspiring and the Giants are in a position to make some serious noise in the month of November.

What to look for: Don't be shocked to see the Giants at 8-3 when the dust settles for a long Thanksgiving Day weekend. The Giants get the Bears this week and the Browns on the road next week. If the Giants get these two wins it will set them up for a very difficult December that has all three divisional opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers and first place Detroit Lions.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Jets-Patriots Flexed Out of Sunday Night Football

No surprise here. The November 27 contest between the New York Jets and New England Patriots has been flexed out of the Sunday Night Football schedule in favor of a match-up of AFC West rivals, the Broncos and Chiefs.

With the Jets at 3-7, and destined to basically tank the rest of the season to find out who will stay and who will go, there was no room for NBC or the NFL to leave such a dead match-up in primetime. Everyone expects the Patriots to plaster the Jets in this game, and with the league's primetime TV ratings already suffering, this was a no-brainer.

It is slightly surprising that Broncos-Chiefs was left available to NBC. Usually, CBS and FOX have the ability to flag certain games they would want to keep on their air. A battle between the 7-2 Chiefs and 7-3 Broncos would have likely sufficed as a game CBS would want to keep.

The other possible match-ups to get flexed were the Cardinals-Falcons game or the Panthers-Raiders game. Either match-up would have been good primetime television.

This means that NBC will broadcast both Broncos-Chiefs games, with the other match-up coming on December 25, Christmas night.

The Jets-Patriots game will now be broadcast on CBS at 4:25 p.m. on November 27, thus avoiding a local broadcast clash with the Giants, who play in Cleveland at 1 p.m.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Petty Makes Debut, Jets Still Lose to Rams

RAMS 9 / JETS 6

Ugly is an understatement when it comes to describing this football game between the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams. Inserting Bryce Petty under center didn't prove to be the shot in the arm New York was hoping for when he was named the starter hours before kick-off with Ryan Fitzpatrick still dealing with a knee injury.

Instead Petty was just meh, while the Jets offense looked lifeless thanks in part to Chan Gailey's ultra-conservative play calling, and in part to the Rams stout front seven. Meanwhile, the Jets defense didn't play well at all. A hard sell when the scoreboard reads that the Rams scored only 9 points, but consider the fact that the Rams were chewing up yards and third down conversions at will, it was not a good afternoon.

Let's break it down.

Bryce Petty: Petty was just average in his first start as a NFL starter. He didn't make a lot of big plays, but wasn't awful. He made some bad reads, and missed a wide open Robby Anderson down the sideline for what would have been a walk-in 68-yard touchdown. Had Petty not overthrown him, it would have been 13-3 Jets at the half. Petty did display some good poise at times, and showed that he has the arm strength to push the ball downfield for the Jets. His 51-yard completion that dropped into the hands of Anderson on second and nine on a drive that originated the Jets own two-yard line was the best play of the day. That completion led to the Jets loan touchdown -- a hook and lateral to Bilal Powell.

At 3-7, the Jets should just let Petty start for the rest of the season. There were enough moments to think he could grow as a starting quarterback in this league, but the Jets need to find out. With the playoffs now firmly in doubt -- let the kid play.

Revis Island has a new president, Kenny Britt: It was not a good afternoon for Darrelle Revis, who got burned by wide receiver Kenny Britt all day. Britt had seven catches for 109 yards against Revis, and was making catches look easy all afternoon. In so doing, he made life less hectic for Case Keenum, who was able to move the Rams into scoring position three times.

Jets Red Zone Defense: While the Jets were getting burned between the 20's against Keenum and the Rams, they were getting the job done inside the 10-yard line. On the Rams opening drive, LA got the football all the way to the New York 1-yard line, before the Jets defense stepped up and forced the Rams to kick a field goal. In the third quarter, the Rams again threatened to put up six before New York locked down from their own seven yard line, and forced another field goal.

Lack of Playmakers at the Skill Positions: One thing that became disturbingly apparent all season is the fact that the Jets are bereft of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Yes, they have Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, but the lack of a pass catching tight end and another burner stood out because the Jets finally had a quarterback who can push the ball down field. Had Petty had a tight end to throw to, perhaps this would have been a different afternoon. Just saying.

Special Teams: Special teams was once again the culprit in a Jets loss. They were the problem in Week 1, when the Jets missed an extra point that proved to be the difference in a 23-22 loss to the Bengals. They were the difference last week during a 27-23 loss to the Dolphins, and they were the difference here. Nick Folk missed his second extra point of the season on the Jets lone touchdown. Instead of the game being 7-3, it was 6-3 -- a huge difference. Why? Had the Jets got that extra point, all they would have needed was a field goal to win the game, possibly, 10-9. Instead the worse they could do was tie the game had they got into field goal range.

What's Up Next for Gang Green? Bye Week. Let the meme's pour in. "Jets get bye week, still lose." Ok I get it, we all get it. But this is an important week off for New York to get this offense moving in the right direction, and maybe firmly insert Petty as the starter.

What to look for? Don't be shocked that the Jets game against New England on November 27 gets flexed out of Sunday Night Football. Nobody wants to see a 3-7 Jets team get blown out by the Patriots in primetime, especially with the league cognizant of plummeting TV ratings. Cardinals-Falcons or Raiders-Panthers would be a better Sunday Night game.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubs Win the World Series

CUBS 8
INDIANS 7
CHI wins World Series 4-3


The wait at long last is over for the long suffering fans of Chicago's North Side. The Chicago Cubs are world champions of baseball after holding off the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in a wild and crazy 10-inning marathon that was Game 7, a game that will go down in history as one of the best ever to be played.

It is hard to put into words exactly what happened on Wednesday night in Cleveland. What we all saw as a United States of baseball fans was two teams who were both equally unwilling to give in to the other. We saw a Cubs team earn the hardest 27 outs, and, in this case, 30 outs a baseball team has seemingly ever had to get.

This wasn't just winning a World Series. This was ending a stigma of losing that had held an otherwise proud franchise and city hostage for well over a century. Admit it, when Rajai Davis' two-run homer cleared the wall in left, you thought for a second that the Curse of the Billy Goat was meant to continue forever.

The Cubs were four outs away from winning the Series. They had their closer, Aroldis Chapman on the hill, and he couldn't shut the door. That was certainly no fault of his own; Chapman was overused by Joe Maddon in this series. He used him for 2.2 innings in Game 5 just to get to Game 6. Then in a blowout on Tuesday night, he used him again for 1.1 innings. Overall, Chapman threw 62 pitches before tonight's game. By the time he left tonight's action, he threw 35 more pitches.

Before we go into how the Cubs won this game, lets take a step back because this first part of this game showcased an unraveling Cleveland pitching staff. Cory Kluber making his third start of this World Series, and second start against the Cubs on short rest didn't have it. He got nailed for four runs on six hits over four innings of work. The workload of a long postseason clearly was wearing him down, and the Cubs potent offense took advantage.

Dexter Fowler noticed that Kluber was off, and deposited the fourth pitch of the game over the center field wall for a lead-off homer to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. A few innings later, the Cubs continued to tee off of Kluber. Kris Bryant singled to lead off the fourth inning, and Anthony Rizzo took a pitch off his elbow to put two men on with none out. After Ben Zobrist grounded into fielder's choice, Addison Russell hit one deep to left, allowing Bryant to tag up and score underneath the tag of Roberto Perez to make it 2-1 Cubs. Finally, Willie Cabrera cracked a double off the wall in right-center to push across Rizzo to put the Cubs up 3-1.

The last straw for Kluber came in the top of the fifth when Javier Baez launched a solo-homer to center to give the Cubs a 3-run lead.

Exit Kluber, enter Andrew Miller.  Here is where Terry Francona's decision making really started to backfire on him. Miller had nothing. The rubber armed lefty had no gas in the tank after being used on a daily basis, sometimes two or three innings at a time to get the Indians to this very point. In the postseason alone, Miller threw 19.1 innings. While his numbers were fantastic all October, it was only a matter of time before he couldn't do it anymore.

On Wednesday night in Cleveland, in Game 7, Miller had nothing. He gave up a single to Fowler, walked Bryant and served up a RBI single to score Bryant to put the Cubs up 5-1. After Cleveland cut the Cubs lead to 5-3, Miller went back out for the sixth inning and gave up a solo blast to David Ross in his final game as a professional baseball player.

Speaking of Ross, he entered the game in the bottom of the fifth with pitcher John Lester when Maddon nearly cost himself dearly when he took Kyle Hendricks out of the game. Hendricks was rolling right along, holding the Indians to two runs on four hits. He ended up losing Carlos Santana to a walk on a couple of very close pitches on the edge of the black, which precipitated the move.

Like I said, the decision nearly cost Maddon, as Lester struggled to his footing early as he gave up two runs on a wild pitch in the dirt to Ross.

But this was how magical this night was for the Cubs. What started out as a mistake turned golden. The Ross home run combined with Lester settling in in the middle innings made Maddon look like a genius later on.

So there they were, the Cubs just mere outs away from winning it all before Cleveland tied it. A proverbial grumble went through the air. Indians fans were feeling up. Cubs fans were beginning to question their very existence. So much hung in the balance that the air was thick with tension.

Then it decided to rain, and rain hard enough that the grounds crew had to tarp the field and stop play for what turned out to be a 17-minute delay. Reports were Chapman was seen crying in the dugout halls during the delay. Instead of celebrating in the rain drops, they had to wait to play again.

So at around 12:15 a.m. the umpires gave the 'Ok' to play ball, as both teams took the field like excited kids waiting out the rain during a little league game. And, like we saw with Miller earlier in this game, another Francona reliever just didn't have it. Bryan Shaw, who threw a ton of innings in this postseason came out to pitch the tenth and the Cubs wasted no time in grabbing all the momentum back.

Kyle Schwarber, a man who spent almost the entire 2016 season on the disabled list with a knee injury, stroked a single to right. Two batters later, the Indians decided to walk Rizzo for Ben Zobrist. Apparently, the Indians didn't see the video from last year's World Series where Zobrist made the Mets his proverbial punching bag. Once again asked to get a big hit in a big spot, Zobrist delivered. He crushed a pitch down the left field line for a RBI double to put the Cubs back up 7-6. Rizzo who stopped at third put his hands on his helmet and screamed in pure shock. Zobrist punched the air with his fists like Muhammad Ali taking down Fraizer. WATCH HERE!

While Bryant was probably more deserving of the MVP trophy, Zobrist got the award because he got the biggest hit in the biggest spot of this World Series. He ended the Royals 30-year drought last year, and was about to slay the Cubs 108 year drought this year.

Now leading 8-6, the Cubs were three outs away from winning it all. Of course they had to get into some trouble. The Indians cut the lead to 8-7 on a Davis RBI single before Maddon removed Carl Edwards Jr. for Mike Montgomery. In his entire MLB career, Montgomery never had a save -- until tonight. He got the ground ball he need, that trickled down the infield toward a charging Kris Bryant. Bryant scooped up the ball, zipped it over to Rizzo covering at first -- 108 years of losing; 108 years of the curse of the Billy Goat; 108 years of being lovable losers, was over.  WATCH THE FINAL OUT! 

Ball Game over! World Series over!

You earned it, Chicago!


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cubs Bats Comes to Life, Force Game 7 in Cleveland

CUBS 9 / INDIANS 3
Series tied 3-3

There will be a Game 7 after all. 

The Chicago Cubs punched their ticket to the Fall Classic's deciding game with a thunderous 9-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland. This sets up this tantalizing scenario: Either the Cubs 108 years drought will end, or the Indians 68 year drought will end. That is it. 9 innings, 27 outs, 1 Game will decide which suffering franchise will get to celebrate! 


The Cubs put this game away early. A combination of a slumbering offense finally awaking for the Cubs, and an Indians team that was clearly pressing, the Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead. Kris Bryant who hit a monster home run in Game 5 to help push the Cubs to victory, got the party started on Tuesday night with a long solo home run over the giant left field wall for the first run of the day. 

Three batters later, Addison Russell skied one to left, but center fielder Tyler Naquin got crossed up with right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall, and the ball bounced between the two outfielders, allowing two runners to score to make it 3-0. Russell was credited with a base hit and two RBI. 

Fast forward to the third inning, and Russell left little doubt that we would see a Game 7 when he launched a Dan Otero fastball over the left-center field wall for a grand slam homer to put the Cubs up fat, 7-0. 

That was all the offense Jake Arrieta needed. While he didn't have his best stuff, Arrieta gutted out 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits, while striking out nine. He improved to 2-0 in this World Series. 

Once again, the Cubs had to ask their closer Aroldis Chapman to go long relief, and the Dominican flame thrower was up to the challenge. Two nights after throwing 42 pitches over 2.2 innings, he gave the Cubs and 1.1 innings of shutout relief. Joe Maddon admitted that he would pulled Chapman before the ninth inning, had he had more time to get the pen warmed up after the Anthony Rizzo two-run home run. Chapman threw 20 pitches on the night, and is said to be ready for Game 7. 

For the Indians, dropping the past two games is surely disappointing, but they have a clear pitching advantage heading into Game 7. Not only will their ace Cory Kluber get the start on short rest, but Andrew Miller and Cody Allen did not pitch at all last night, meaning that both have at least two days rest under their belt. 

Expect a true classic later this evening. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NFL Week 8 Rankings

We are at the unofficial midway point of the 2016 season, believe it or not, in what has been quite an eventful first half.  We have seen our fair share of ups and downs this season. From great starts by the Vikings, Cowboys and Falcons to the rapid decline in NFL TV ratings and apparent discontent among fans over the quality of play in the League thus far. It's been interesting to say the least.

So lets dish out some power rankings as we look at the League through Week 8.

Top 10 Power Rankings

1) New England Patriots (7-1): When the season started the Patriots were without their future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who was serving a 4-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate. The Patriots surprised with wins over the Cardinals and dominated the Dolphins and Texans to open the season with Jimmy Garapolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Once Brady came back the Pats have been on fire. Brady has thrown for 1319 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. ZERO! New England has also been buoyed by contributions from running back LaGarret Blount, who is putting up Pro Bowl numbers, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. As they enter the bye, the Patriots are poised for the AFC's top seed.

2) Dallas Cowboys (6-1): Anyone remember Tony Romo? No? Didn't think so. With Romo on the shelf as he recovers from a back injury, the Cowboys have become Dak Prescott's team. As has been discussed at nauseam thus far is that the Cowboys should leave Prescott under center when Romo returns. I would agree. The kid has some special magic in him. He's played well under some tough circumstances and isn't making mistakes. Plus the team seems to like him a lot.

In addition, the Cowboys have easily the best young player in the NFL in running back Ezekiel Elliot, who leads the League in rushing with 799 yards. Elliot has shown a tremendous amount of power and speed and is a lock for Rookie of the Year. Also, let us not forget the Cowboys defense has been solid as well this year.

3) Denver Broncos (6-2): A hard sell at number three, but the defending world champions are winning old school style. The Broncos have the best defense in the NFL. They already have 26 sacks as a team and have forced 16 turnovers. Von Miller, the face of the franchise already has 8.5 sacks. That being said, the Bronco offense leaves a lot to be desired. Trevor Siemian has been unspectacular at quarterback, which can be a good thing as long as the team keeps winning. Losing C.J. Anderson to injured reserve hurts badly.

4) Oakland Raiders (6-2): The RRRRRAIDERS are back. The Raiders have been the most exciting team to watch in the League this year. They are 5-0 on the road to start a season for the first time since 1977, and are 6-2 for the first time since 2001. The Raider resurgence is pointed directly at head coach Jack Del Rio, who has infused his personality into this football team. Offensively the Raiders are explosive, ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense. Quarterback Derek Carr is playing at a MVP level, and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are total beasts. The one issue? The Raider defense is not that great, and Oakland has had to pull a rabbit out of their hats on several occasions this year. They are 5-0 in games decided by seven points or less.

5) Atlanta Falcons (5-3): Like the Raiders, the Falcons are explosive offensively and bad defensively. The Falcons have the NFL's top flight offense with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones both having MVP caliber years. It is hard to believe that a wide receiver has never been named League MVP, but Jones might shatter that glass wall with 859 yards receiving at the midway point.

The one issue for the Dirty Birds? Their defense stinks. They don't rush the passer and don't force many turnovers. They are also ranked 25th in total defense, and 29th in points allowed. This is a problem. If Atlanta wants to win big this year, their D must improve.

6) Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1): Speaking of D, there is the Seattle Seahawks -- the kings of D! Seattle's days of dominating the NFL might be nearing an end, but the Seahawks are still a really good team. I like the way Russell Wilson has played on a hobbled knee. He has shown tremendous leadership and poise in spite of the injury. Seattle's defense is still the best in the NFL, and one should expect the Seahawks to go on a major run for the NFC West title and a top seed.

7) Philadelphia Eagles (4-3): The Eagles have hits a snag in losing three of their last four, but Carson Wentz isn't the reason why they have struggled. The rookie has looked poised all season and played well in Dallas on Sunday. The Eagles just ran out of time on Sunday night, and Dallas scored on its first possession of overtime in a game that was tied at 23. The Eagle defense has been very solid most of the season, collecting 22 sacks and turnover ratio of +6. Philly is still in the thick of the NFC East race and wild card.

8) Kansas City Chiefs (5-2): While the Raiders and Broncos are gobbling up the headlines in the AFC West, the Chiefs are quietly going about their business. They are 5-2 after destroying the Colts 30-14 on Sunday. KC has won three in a row, and dominated the Raiders, Saints and Colts in succession. The Chiefs have done this with a solid ground game led by Spencer Ware, and a suffocating defense that is giving up only 19.6 points per game. The Alex Smith concussion is scary, but the Chiefs hope he is able to play next week.

9) Minnesota Vikings (5-2): The Vikings are sinking in the polls faster than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined. The Vikings were 5-0 and widely considered a top 5 team in the NFL. Now they have lost two in a row, including a Monday Night smackdown to the Chicago Bears. The failures can be attributed to quarterback Sam Bradford being ... well ... Sam Bradford. Not to mention not having Adrian Peterson is starting to hurt the Vikings lackluster offense. The Vikings fall could open the door for Green Bay.

10) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3): Losing two in a row dropped the Steelers out of the top 5 weeks ago, but Pittsburgh is hoping that Ben Roethlisberger returns from knee surgery in time for Week 9 at Baltimore. If he doesn't, then Landry Jones gets the start. Let us not forget this was a team that was on fire earlier in the year. The Steelers are still the favorites to win this division. If Big Ben returns healthy, they can still go on a run.

On the Bubble: Green Bay Packers (4-3); Detroit Lions (4-4); Houston Texans (5-3); N.Y. Giants (4-3); Buffalo Bills (4-4); Tennessee Titans (4-4).

Bottom five: 32) Cleveland Browns (0-8): They suck, what else can I say? 31) San Francisco 49ers (1-6): the Colin Kaepernick's are a miserable mess. 30) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5): Is Gus Bradley fired yet? 29) Chicago Bears (2-6): The Bears + Jay Cutler = losing mentality. 28) N.Y. Jets (3-5): I know they have a better record than the Panthers and Chargers, but these guys almost lost to the Browns, and are the worst of the 3-5 bunch.