Saturday, December 31, 2016

17 Sports Predictions for 2017

Happy New Year 2017! Just like that 2016 is about to come to an end in just hours -- leaving us with a period of reflection of what was and foresight of what is to be. 2016 was a crazy year, both in sports and in life.

To some it was a rough year -- we saw a lot of well known celebrities pass away -- such is life.

It was also a year where the impossible became possible. The Cavs won their first NBA title. LeBron James actually delivered on his promise to the city of Cleveland. The Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, and the Cleveland Browns actually won a game!

Yes, 2016 will never be forgotten -- it was a historic year no matter how you slice it. The question is what does 2017 hold?

Let's make 17 fun sports predictions!

1) The Jets won't fire Todd Bowles next week. Sorry Jets fans, you won't get your wish. The reports will hold true and Todd Bowles will return to coach your team in 2017. Here's to 2018 Jets fans.

2) The New York Giants will get whacked in the wild card game. I predict that the Giants will get the Packers in the wild card game next week, and Green Bay will pound Big Blue into the off-season. The Giants lack of a sound running game, offensive line and overall consistency will do them in.

3) The Cowboys will NOT go to the Super Bowl. Technically this is still the 2016 NFL season, but the playoffs are occurring in 2017. But, I just don't buy the Cowboys. They are extremely talented, but I have seen too many teams like this in the past. Something tells me Dallas is in for a major upset. Jerry Jones is gonna be pissed.

4) The Packers and Patriots will play in Super Bowl 51. Brady vs. Rodgers -- that is all.

5) The Yankees will win the AL East. You heard me. The Yankees with all that young talent will beat out the Red Sox for the AL East crown in 2017.

6) The Mets will miss the playoffs. Not totally surprising, but I need to see it to believe it with the Mets. Too many questions about the health of their starting rotation, and an infield that bares too many question marks as well.

7) The Cubs become the first team since the 2000 Yankees to repeat as World Series champs. Call me a shill or one with a lack of imagination, but I'll say that the Chicago Cubs dominance in 2016 will carry over into 2017 and they will repeat as World Series champs.

8) The rift between Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson leads to Anthony finally getting traded ... to Houston.

9) The Warriors lose to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

10) The Cleveland Cavs roll over the East, and get upset by the Spurs in the Finals. LeBron cries a lot.

11) The New York Rangers ... ah, nobody cares about them anyway.

12) Tony Romo gets his release from the Cowboys signs with the Broncos. Get's hurt shaking John Elway's hand.

13) Mark Sanchez gets released by Dallas, signs with in Montreal of the Canadian Football League and gets traded to the circus.

14) Rex Ryan joins Jon Gruden on ESPN MNF. (Not enough oxygen in the booth).

15) Tim Tebow gets released by the Mets. (Thank God!)

16) Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens inch closer to a realistic entry into the Hall of Fame, causing Twitter and the world to explode.

17) The Cleveland Browns will ruin the career of another young college quarterback!

When It Comes To "Class" Darrelle Revis Shouldn't Talk

What's a pending Jets off-season without a little drama from Darrelle Revis.

Seriously, throughout the career of the Pro Bowl cornerback, drama has followed him like a bad dream. So I find it rather interesting when Revis tells the media that it is time for the Jets to respect him with class and make sure he retires a Jet, when one considers it was Revis who has never handled anything with class when it comes to his rocky relationship with the Jets.

Here is the quote:

"Would I love to be here? Yes. Will I be back? That's a great question. My thing is this: Do the New York Jets want to treat my situation with class or no class? With me being one of the best players in the history of the franchise, do they want me to retire here or not retire here?" Revis said.

It doesn't sound like Revis is saying that he loves being a Jet. It sounds more like a guy who is still full of contempt for the franchise, and is more concerned about getting his money.

Whether it was injury or not is irrelevant, because Revis played the 2016 season as if he was totally oblivious. Too many times he would play seven yards off the line of scrimmage. Too many times he would come in late on tackles, or not even complete a full wrap up of the receiver he was covering. He was beat consistently, as quarterbacks had a 108.9 rating against him. He only defending four passes this year, and never recorded an interception.

Receivers are not scared of him anymore. Quarterbacks don't care if he gets a hand on a pass anymore. Revis is finished as a player.

The fact that Revis feels he's entitled to be treated with kid gloves is a total joke in of itself. Let's remember this is the same Darrelle Revis who dragged a contract negotiation deep into the summer back in 2010 to the point it looked like both sides would never come together. Remember the Hard Knocks episode at the time when head coach Rex Ryan was in Mike Tannenbaum's office screaming at Revis' agent over the phone?

Eventually Revis agreed to a four year, $32 million deal just a week before the season opener against Baltimore that year.

This is the same Darrelle Revis who wanted more money from the Jets two years later in 2012. He hinted at another prolonged hold out, but decided to play through the season before suffering an ACL injury in a game at Miami that season.

This is the same Darrelle Revis, who coming off that injury wanted his contract renegotiated to the point that the Jets felt obligated to get him out of town and traded him to the Buccaneers. He signed a six-year $96 million deal with Tampa, making him the highest paid player at his position. He played well that year and was then released because his contract was killing the Buccaneers.

After toying with the Jets, Revis then decided to opt for the ultimate betrayal and signed with the rival Patriots and won a Super Bowl with them in 2014.

Throughout his career, Revis has been a greedy player who always felt he was underpaid and unappreciated. He never truly enveloped the role of being a New York Jet, instead toying with the franchise for the past seven years. He may be a Hall of Fame player, but as a person, Revis is far from it.

As his old teammate, Damien Woody said, football is a cold business. The Jets owe Revis nothing. He gave them three outstanding years in 2008, 2009 and 2011 where he was indeed the best cornerback in the sport. But now, at age 31 with his skills diminishing and his enthusiasm for football in question, the Jets are best suited to cut ties with him and move on.

If they cut him, the Jets will save $9 million on the cap. If he stays, the Jets will owe him $15.5 million. In other words his time with the Jets is over.  If Revis wants to keep playing, maybe the Patriots will welcome him back with open arms.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Coughlin Not Heading to Jaguars

Tom Coughlin will not be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. For Coughlin's sake, thank goodness!

Coughlin and the Jaguars met this week, but neither side found the necessary chemistry and will move on. The Jaguars are looking for a coach to replace Gus Bradley. Coughlin is still deluding himself in thinking that at 71, he can still be a productive head coach.

The Buffalo Bills are also interested in Coughlin.

For Coughlin it is a good think that he is not heading back to Jacksonville. As I said, he's 71-years old, and is too old to coach in a league that doesn't employ 70+ year-olds as head coaches. The Jaguars need a young voice that can handle the slings and arrows of a rebuild.

If Coughlin were to coach again, he would need to be on a team that is ready to win NOW!

Truth be told, the best situation for Coughlin at this point in his life and career is to be home and accept retirement. He had a great career as a coach both in the NFL and in college. He made the Jaguars legit back in the 90s. He won Super Bowls with the Giants. He has nothing to prove. His place in NFL history is secure. Just ride into the sunset Tom, you did great in the NFL.

With Bowles Likely Back, NY Radio Goes Nuts

With Woody Johnson likely to keep Todd Bowles as his head coach heading into 2017. New York Sports radio had a field day, specifically Joe Beningo on WFAN.

Beningo ripped into his "friend" Ira from Staten Island, claiming that he is buddies with members of the Jets front office, and that he wants to keep Bowles. Beningo, in case you didn't know, is the leader of the anti-Bowles movement. He has even said he wants the Bills to blow out the Jets in order to get Bowles fired.

This is classic stuff take a listen. :)


Later in their program --- which by the way is actually Mike Francesa's time slot, but Mike is on vacation, Beningo goes on a rant during a call from New York Post writer Brian Costello. Costello's reactions to Beningo are classic.


Oh the pain!

Todd Bowles Likely Returning in 2017

Inspite of a 4-11 disaster of a season Todd Bowles is likely safe as head coach of the New York Jets, according to multiple news sources this week.

The story initially broke from Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, who reported that a trusted source doesn't expect any changes to be made. If that is the case, one would have to assume that even if the Jets get blown out by the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Bowles isn't going anywhere. Neither is GM Mike Maccagnan.

The 2016 season has been a total dumpster fire. Bowles has taken and deserves his fair share of criticism. He has shown little interest in developing a quarterback with Bryce Petty getting only garbage games to play in, and Christian Hackenberg never stepping onto the field. Instead he, and even Maccagnan, allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to dictate things from his contract to his time on the field. And Fitz was a total stinker.

He allowed in-fighting to develop inside the locker room, which boiled over last weekend when Sheldon Richardson and Brandon
Marshall started ripping each other in the press.

He came in as a defensive guru and watched his defense become one of the worst in the NFL. The Jets secondary can't stop a nosebleed, which is both a combination of bad coaching and injuries that have beset that unit.

There has even been a sense that the team threw in the towel on the season weeks ago.

All of those indictments should point to a firing of Bowles. But is not all on him. Keep in mind it was Maccagnan who allowed Fitz to become a distraction. It was Maccagnan who has had two underwhelming drafts the past two years, and it was Maccagnan who spent all that salary cap space to bring in guys like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie before the 2015 season. If the chickens were to come to roost for Bowles, they almost certainly should come to roost on Maccagnan.

But it looks like that the chickens won't come to roost.

It's a controversial decision. One one hand one can argue that Bowles should be gone for all the reasons stated above. At the same time, one can understand why Woody Johnson would feel inclined to keep Bowles around for another year. Namely Johnson will be heavily criticized for giving up on a young head coach and GM just two years in. He put a great deal of time in looking for replacements for Rex Ryan and John Idzik after the 2014 season, even hiring Charley Casserly and Ron Wolff as consultants. If he changed course now, he would look like Jimmy Haslam in Cleveland.

Not to mention the Jets are one year separated from a 10-win season under Bowles. Which season was the aberration? 2015? or 2016?

But, perhaps the greatest argument to keeping Bowles is this: the Jets are going to tear apart this ball club. They are going to strip the fat of aging and costly veterans and do a full rebuild. In other words, success is no guarantee right away in 2017. If the Jets were to fire Bowles and look toward experienced head coach candidates, what candidate would want this job when they know full well that 2-14 is likely in the first season? There are none. In short, Bowles is a guinea pig. He is not a good head coach. He should be fired on Monday. But, because a full rebuild is coming, this job is not attractive to anyone out there.

Personally, Bowles should be fired. He is a terrible head coach, and it won't get any better next season. He has not shown any passion, appears uninterested at times, and has no say in the offense or special teams -- instead relying on his coaching staff to get the job done. The biggest indictment is that he calls the plays for the defense, and they are horrible. Bowles should go. But it won't happen.

The least Jets fans can hope for is that the likes of Chan Gailey (offensive coordinator) and Kacy Rodgers (defensive coordinator) get fired on Monday.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

NFL Coaches Hot Seat Getting Warmer

It's that time of the year again where NFL owners and front office executives make the difficult choice in firing their head coach. Fair or not, this annual purge takes out about a half dozen coaches and it looks like 2016 will spare no expense on its head coaching victims. As much as I hate compiling this list, because these are regular people we are talking about, these are the teams and coaches likely to part ways.

Already Gone: 
Todd Bowles might be next.
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars made the decision to fire Bradley two weeks ago. He compiled a record of 14-48 in four years on the job. It was not all his fault, but not winning games isn't going to make any friends with the front office. Doug Marone is the interim head coach; he could be a candidate to replace Bradley full time.

Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams: The Jeff Fisher era ended weeks ago with the Rams at 4-9, ending a rocky 4-1/2 year tenure with the LA/St. Louis franchise. Fisher went 31-45-1, and was best known for producing mediocrity, going 7-9 twice and 7-8-1 in his first season in St. Louis. Since being fired, Fisher is trying to repair his image through interviews, hoping he can land another coaching job. Recently he exposed Rams owner Stan Kronkie and his intentions to move to LA. The Rams are going for broke in their coaching search. Jon Gruden, Sean Payton, Jim Harbarugh, and even Ron Rivera are rumored coaches that the Rams are interested in.

Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills: The Bills fired Ryan on Tuesday morning, just days before the season finale against the New York Jets. Ryan went 15-16 in two seasons with Buffalo. He promised playoffs and never delivered. Ryan hasn't been to the playoffs as a head coach since 2010.

On the Hot Seat:
Todd Bowles, New York Jets: Bowles is likely coaching for his job on Sunday when the Jets face the Bills. Fair or not, Bowles' Jets have been uncompetitive down the stretch. They have gotten blown out by a combined 126-23 in three of their last four games, and have surrendered 41 points each in two of those contests. Bowles mishandled the quarterback situation, and his defense is one of the worst. Bowles isn't alone in blame though. GM Mike Maccagnan constructed this mess and should be on the hot seat along with Bowles. Jets owner Woody Johnson wouldn't surprise either way.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis is the longest tenured head coach in the NFL, and his Bengals have not done much in that time. Yes, Lewis has taken his team to the playoffs seven times, and he turned around a one time laughingstock of a franchise, but after an 0-7 playoff record and a season that will result in a losing record and no playoffs, many are clamoring for a change. However, owner Mike Brown is very patient -- he would have to be if he allowed Lewis to go on through the ridiculous Chad "OchoCinco" years without any retribution. There is speculation that Lewis might retire. Either way, it is likely the end of the road for Lewis in Cincy.

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: Pagano's Colts have been awful this year. A lot of that blame rests with Pagano for sure, but most of the blame should be pinned on GM Ryan Grigshon who built this mess of a team. What football executive decides to surround his franchise quarterback with no offensive line, an aging running back and no talent at receiver? And I am not the biggest Andrew Luck fan in the world, but seriously, what GM does this and thinks he's fielding a competitive team? While Grigson should take the fall, Pagano likely will fall on the sword first. He is fully responsible for the competitive performance on the field, and it hasn't been good for some time in Indy. Like Woody Johnson in New York and Mike Brown in Cincinnati, it wouldn't surprise if Colts owner Jim Irsay does nothing, but something should be done.

Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers: With the team likely moving to Los Angeles, and a full competitive rebuild also likely with aging stars Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates still on this roster, it is time for McCoy to go. The Chargers are bad. They have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons for the Chargers, and McCoy takes a brunt of the responsibility. Plus, losing to the winless Cleveland Browns does McCoy no help in keeping his job. Adios.

Rex Ryan fired by Buffalo on 12/27/16.
Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers: Kelly's future with the Niners rests with the fate of GM Trent Baalke, who many expect to leave the Bay Area. Kelly's system has not worked in San Francisco, and hell it didn't work in Philly either. With the 49ers starring at a 1-15 season, and with madman Jed York running the show, it should be curtains for Kelly. Time for him to go back to college.

Likely safe, but you never know:

Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns: The Browns have been dreadful. A lot of that is the fault of Jackson, but the blame really falls at the feet of owner Jimmy Haslam, who has admitted that there this 1-15 season is major part to past mistakes. In short, Jackson should get a reprieve for this season and should be allowed to comeback next year. The Browns have a ton of draft picks. If they can improve to 6 or 7 wins in 2017 -- that would be a "Hue" step in the right direction. That being said, Haslam is unpredictable. He did fire Mike Pettine, who seemed to have the Browns moving in the right direction in spite of the Johnny Manziel fiasco.

Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions: This might seem a bit unfair to include Jim Caldwell on this list, but think about it. The Lions were 9-4 and in full control of their playoff destiny. They are likely going to lose out and finish out of the playoffs, barring the Giants beating the Redskins on Sunday. Collapses like this usually get coaches fired. Caldwell deserves to come back in 2017, and likely will be back, but if the Lions decide to fire him after this finish, who could blame them.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings: This is so weird. If I told you in August when the team lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season, and shortly thereafter lost Adrian Peterson for most of the season, you would have said an 8-8 season would be a miracle for the Vikings. But, the Vikings decided to go for it when Bridgewater went down. They traded for Sam Bradford, and got off to a 5-0 start. They are 2-8 since that great start and will miss the playoffs. There is even talk of "miscommunication" between Zimmer and his defense. The same defense that was playing lights out in September. Zimmer isn't going anywhere, but his seat will be hot heading into 2017.

John Fox, Chicago Bears: Fox should be on the hot seat albeit with a record of 9-22 in two seasons with the Bears, but there hasn't been that much chatter in Chi Town regarding his job status. The Bears have a lot of issues, namely the quarterback position. Jay Cutler is a bum and the team is stuck with Matt Barkley right now. Unless the Bears make a swift move on Fox next week, expect him to be back for one more year. He does have two years remaining on his deal.

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: It's not so much that the Saints will fire Payton, quiet the contrary, they love the guy.  Its the fact that he will be wanted by so many teams without a head coach. The Rams want Payton, and word is he might be interested. If the Jets fire Bowles next week, you can figure that Woody Johnson would also want Payton as well. So while the Saints want to keep Payton as their head coach, he may want to go to greener pastures all to his own. Next to Lewis he's one of the league's longest tenured coaches, and he may want the challenge of a big market.

Bills Fire Rex Ryan Days Before Clash with Jets

Well, Sunday's season finale between the Jets and Bills will not have Rex Ryan involved at all. The Bills made it official on Tuesday firing both Rex Ryan and his brother Rob from their positions of head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively. Offensive coordinator, and former Jets running backs coach, Anthony Lynn will be the "interim" head coach for Sunday's game.

Ryan was on the hot seat for an entire calendar year in Buffalo. When the Bills missed the playoffs last year after Ryan professed (as he usually does) that his team would be a Super Bowl contender, the pressure was on Ryan to deliver this year. Instead it was a flame out season as Buffalo stands at 7-8.

The hot seat really heated up on Ryan after the Bills dropped a 27-20 decision to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home a few weeks back, with many speculating that Ryan was going to be fired shortly after that game. Instead Terry Pegula decided to keep Ryan around and let him finish the season. That changed after the Bills 34-31 meltdown against Miami on Christmas Eve.

The Bills blew a 31-28 lead late in the fourth quarter as Miami stormed back to put themselves in the playoffs. Ryan drew heavy criticism for not icing the kicker with six seconds to go in the game before the Dolphins tied it at 31. He claimed he was calling for time out but the referee never heard him. He later drew heavy criticism for not going for a fourth and two with 4:09 to go in overtime. Instead he punted the ball back to Miami, and the Dolphins proceeded to score the winning field goal.

Thus ends a wild and crazy two year stay for Ryan in Buffalo, and likely a wild and crazy eight-year run as an NFL head coach. From boastful proclamations that his teams would win the Super Bowl, to sticking with dreadful quarterbacks (Mark Sanchez and Tyrod Taylor) for way too long, to embarrassing himself with a foot fetish and ridiculous new conferences -- it's been, how should I say it, real.

Now Sunday's clash between Ryan's Bills and Ryan's old team the Jets will not be about two head coaches with their heads on the griddle. Instead it will be about whether its the last game for Todd Bowles. If the Jets win on Sunday and Bowles keeps his job, he can thank Rex Ryan.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Chiefs, Steelers, Dolphins Lock Up AFC Playoffs

The AFC Playoff picture is nearly complete as the final three teams that needed to clinch spots in the tournament did so on Christmas night. The only thing left to determine in the AFC is playoff seeding.

The NFC is still to be decided with two spots to determine between three teams.

In the playoffs: 
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers earned their way into the playoffs with a huge fourth quarter comeback against the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas night. The Steelers trailed 20-10 before Ben Roethlisberger led two huge touchdown drives to put the Steelers up 24-20 with a little over two minutes to go in the game. After Joe Flacco and company responded it was up to Big Ben again, this time down th
ree with 1:18 to go in the game. The Ravens couldn't stop the Steelers who drove 75 yards in 10 plays for the winning score as Antonio Bryant just got the ball over the end zone line for the winning touchdown. The win gives the Steelers the AFC North crown and the number 3 seed. The Steelers will host Miami in the Wild Card game.

Kansas City Chiefs: There was a scenario last night that if the Steelers won against the Ravens, it would clinch a spot for the Chiefs as well. Well it happened. Before KC ever took the field, they were in the playoffs thanks to the Steelers. Kansas City then went about dismantling the Broncos and knocking them out of the playoffs with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce having huge nights for KC in a 33-10 smackdown.

The Chiefs can still move up to the number two seed IF they win on Sunday at San Diego and the Derek Carr-less Raiders lose in Denver. If that should not come to pass, then Kansas City will be locked in as the five seed, and will visit Houston for the second straight year in the wild card game.

Miami Dolphins: Thanks to the Steelers and Chiefs, the Dolphins took the final spot in the AFC playoffs. The Dolphins earned the spot after a classic 34-31 win in overtime against the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins will face the Steelers in two weeks in the AFC Wild Card round.

Still Fighting: 
Detroit Lions: Tonight is a franchise defining moment for Detroit. Yes, it is that big. They are in Dallas tonight, and are heavy underdogs to the Cowboys, but if the Lions were to pull out the upset they would assure themselves a spot in the tournament. If they should lose to Dallas tonight, then the Lions must win against Green Bay next week in order to take the division and a playoff spot outright.

Food for thought: the Lions could go from being either a two seed or out of the playoffs in the next two ball games. If they win out and get a loss by Atlanta next week then Detroit can be the two seed. If the Lions beat Green Bay next week they are assured at least the three seed. If Detroit should win tonight, but lose to Green Bay next week they are still in as a sixth seed. If they get swept in the next two games, Detroit likely misses the playoffs unless the Giants beat the Redskins.

Green Bay Packers: Win and they are in next week in Detroit. Even if the Lions win in Dallas tonight, if Green Bay takes care of business next Sunday night in Detroit they will beat out Washington for the final slot in the playoffs. Green Bay could be a three seed if they win on Sunday and Seattle loses on Sunday.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins need to beat the Giants on Sunday afternoon and get some help. They would love for Detroit to lose their final two games of the season - as it would be the easiest way for them to get into the playoffs. If that doesn't happen, the Skins would need to beat the Giants on Sunday and hope Detroit beats Green Bay in order to get in. If Detroit wins tonight and Green Bay wins next week, it doesn't matter what the Redskins do to the Giants, they would be out of the playoffs.

Thanks for Coming: 
Denver Broncos: The defending Champs go out with a whimper this season. Don't expect John Elway to rest on his laurels and continue developing Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian next year. The Broncos are going for Tony Romo, period.

Baltimore Ravens: The inconsistent Ravens got what they deserved last night in Pittsburgh, a loss and out of the playoffs. They need help on the O-line, need a big receiver, and need to get faster on defense if they want to be taken seriously in 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Some say the Bucs still have a glimmer of hope. I beg to differ. Thanks for playoff Bucs.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Giants among three team to punch ticket to NFL Playoffs

We learned a lot about the 2016-17 NFL postseason brackets on Christmas Eve, with three spots firmly clinched, and one other spot just about clinched after Miami's overtime win in Buffalo. It was incredible interesting theatre. Not only did we see playoff berths formalize, but we also saw two young franchise quarterbacks go down that could alter the state of both franchises.

New to the Playoff Picture: 
New York Giants: The Giants punched their ticket to the postseason thanks to the Buccaneers losing 31-24 to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. The Giants needed either Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Detroit or Washington to fall on their sword this week after their debacle in Philly on Thursday. Thanks to the Saints, the Giants get the biggest Christmas gift they could ask for. Now New York plays a meaningless game in Week 17. Big Blue is in the playoffs and cemented as the NFC's number 5 seed. The game will mean a lot to Washington; more on that later. 

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons sure had a great Christmas. Atlanta dismantled the Panthers on the road 33-16 to inch closer to a playoff berth. Then they got a ton of help in the late afternoon when Tampa Bay lost and Seattle lost. Tampa Bay's loss to New Orleans gave the Falcons the NFC South crown. Seattle's loss to Arizona put the Falcons (10-5) into the number two seed in the NFC. All Atlanta needs to do is win at home next week against New Orleans and they will have a first round bye. Merry Christmas Atlanta. 

By the way Jets fans, Dan Quinn, the same guy the Jets didn't want to wait on before hiring Todd Bowles as head coach, is in the playoffs as Falcons head coach. Just saying...


Houston Texans: The Texans were this close to watching their playoff hopes come down to a Week 17 match-up with the Titans. Holding a slim 12-10 lead over the Bengals at home, Cincy was in position to win the game on a filed goal, but ex-Texan kicker Randy Bullock missed it wide right, sending Houston to a division title and playoff berth. Earlier in the day the Texans got a bigger gift when Tennessee lost to the Jaguars 38-17. More on that later. 

On the Doorstep of the Playoffs: 
Miami Dolphins: After a classic 34-31 win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday the Dolphins are a step closer to getting to the playoffs. While it is all but locked up, Miami must get a loss by the Denver Broncos on Sunday in order to get in before the end of Week 16. The Dolphins could still miss the playoffs IF the Broncos win out and Miami loses next week against New England, or IF the Ravens win tomorrow at Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh wins in Week 17, and Denver wins out could put both AFC North teams in and leave Miami out if they lose in Week 17. 

Kansas City Chiefs: Win on Sunday night and they are in the playoffs. That simple. They can still win the AFC West by winning out and getting a lose by Oakland in Week 17. 

Still with a lot to be decided: 
Detroit Lions: The Lions are not guaranteed anything. If they win on Monday in Dallas they are a step closer to getting into the playoffs. If they lose on Monday, they could still miss the playoffs if they lose next Sunday night against Green Bay, and Washington beats the Giants. 

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have put themselves in position for a win or else match-up with the Lions next Sunday. Green Bay disposed of Minnesota on Saturday afternoon 38-25 in a game that was never close. The Packers could get the wild card thanks to Tampa Bay losing on Saturday, but they will need Washington to also lose to the Giants next Sunday in order to assure there is a back door to the postseason. 

Washington Redskins: Washington 41-21 win over Chicago keeps the hope alive. They need a win against a Giants team playing for nothing in Week 17 in order to steal a wild card berth from the loser of the Green Bay-Detroit game. 

Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers: Sunday's divisional matchup is for one spot in the playoffs. The winner wins the AFC North. The loser needs to get creative in Week 17 just to steal a slot away from Miami. 

Left for Dead: 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Losing to Dallas and New Orleans the past two weeks has put the nail in the coffin on the Bucs magical ride this season. 

Denver Broncos: Still with a slight heartbeat, but a loss tomorrow night ends the run for the defending champs. 

Tennessee Titans: The Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in a disappointing Week 16 loss that will haunt this team for a long time. Why? Not only did they blow a great shot at making the playoffs this year, but Marcus Mariota fractured his fibula in the second half of the lopsided loss. He will obviously not play in a meaningless Week 17 game against Houston next week. Now begins months of rehab and his availability for training camp next July will be under heavy scrutiny. Now begins one of the biggest story of 2017 Training Camp. Can Mariota bounce back, and can the Titans finish the job this time? 

In Big Trouble this January: 
Oakland Raiders: Speaking of losing a franchise quarterback, the Raiders lost their franchise quarterback, Derrek Carr when he broke his fibula on a sack against Indianapolis on Saturday. The Raiders are going to miss Carr big time. He was having an MVP season, and the Raiders were considered one of the few teams in the AFC that could dethrone the New England Patriots. That picture now changes dramatically. 

With Matt McGloin likely the starter, the Raiders will be underdogs next week against Denver. Should Oakland lose next week, and Kansas City win out, the Chiefs will win the AFC West and take the two seed away from the Raiders. Oakland would then be forced to travel to Houston for a wild card game. With the Texans finding new life lately, this game is no slam dunk win for Oakland. What a shame. When everyone woke up on Christmas Eve the Raiders were a serious Super Bowl contender. Now they look like a team that could be one and done in the playoffs. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Patriots Gift Wrap Coal for Jets Christmas

PATRIOTS 41 / JETS 3

It was the equivalent of a preseason game for the New England Patriots on Saturday afternoon as they ran over the New York Jets 41-3. The lopsided loss was the third such defeat in four games for Gang Green. Let's recap this mess.

Bryce Petty is brittle: While it isn't totally fair to put any label on Bryce Petty after just four starts, one thing is for sure, he is quiet brittle. When Petty was sandwiched by Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Shu last week, one could understand why Petty had to leave the game. This week's injury was odd. Petty tried to dive at a Patriots defender on a fumble, and slammed his hand against his helmet and left the game. Next thing we know he has a shoulder injury, after admitting he head a pop in his shoulder and was last seen with his left arm in a sling. It doesn't look good for Petty next week in the season finale, and for all we know his chance at being labeled the starter heading into 2017 seems in serious doubt. The Jets want a franchise quarterback, not a quarterback who gets injured.

Tom Brady did whatever he wanted to against the Jets: As has become a common theme for the Jets in recent weeks they had no answer for the opposing team's quarterback. This time Tom Brady did whatever he wanted, throwing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. In a lot of ways both Brady and Bill Belichick took it easy on the Jets. They could have easily scored 50-plus in this game and chose not too.

Todd Bowles came back, it didn't matter: Inspite of a serious illness that left him in the hospital overnight on Friday, Todd Bowles was on the sideline for the Jets, and New York put no effort for him on Game Day. That is a huge indictment of both he players and the head coach. Mo Wilkerson condemned the team for the effort, saying that Bowles made the "sacrifice" to coach while ill, and that the "whole team should be embarrassed."

Todd Bowles has no confidence in his players: Trailing 41-0, and facing a fourth down and seven inside Patriots territory, Bowles decided to not go for the first down, instead kicked the field goal to avoid the shutout. While it is nice Jets didn't get a goose-egg against New England, the play echoed how little Bowles thinks of his players, particularly quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Sheldon Richardson vs. Brandon Marshall: Richardson and Marshall are not exactly exchanging Christmas cards this weekend. Marshall called the game "embarrassing" while talking with reporters. When asked if he felt the same way Richardson said that Marshall "should be embarrassed." When asked to explain why, Richardson replied, "No reason. He knows what he did." Yep, these guys are having a love in right now.

Leonard Williams cryptic postgame comments: Speaking of cryptic postgame comments, Williams said that the team wasn't prepared and was going through the motions, another huge indictment again of the head coach.

What is next: The Hot Seat Bowl at the Meadowlands on New Year's Day. Rex Ryan is about to get fired in Buffalo and Bowles may or may not be safe in New York. One or both coaches could be fired following this game. If Rex goes into the Meadowlands and lays wood to the Jets, don't be shocked if it is enough for Woody Johnson to kick both Bowles and Mike Maccagnan out of town.

Todd Bowles in hospital, uncertain for Jets Game

Jets head coach Todd Bowles was admitted to a hospital on Friday evening and didn't travel with the team to Foxboro for their game with the Patriots this afternoon at 1 p.m.  There has been no word as to what caused Bowles to fall ill, but according to Rich Cimini on ESPN NY, a source said that Bowles was tired, but didn't seem sick at the time. Mike Caldwell will coach the team if Bowles doesn't join the team in the morning. 

It is anyone's guess as to what is ailing the Jets head coach, but stress might be playing a role here. Bowles has been under fire all season for his perceived lack of innovation with the defense, lack of accountability with the offense, and clear mishandling of the quarterback position. 

Not to mention he's had to hear about his job security all season long. 

On top of that he has dealt with a defense that has badly underachieved with many players who look like they have checked out long ago. He also had to deal with the behavior problems of Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, and had to work with a cornerback in Darrelle Revis who is a shell of his former self. 

And, don't get me started on the quarterback position. 

Let us not forget that these head coaches work countless hours, sometimes 17-18 hour days and almost never leave the office. There are coaches who even sleep in the team facilities in order to get up at the crack of dawn and get cracking on the next day's plan for the team. It is not an easy job. Working in New York and dealing with all the stress and noise could have played a role here, it certainly wouldn't be surprising. 

Bowles is not the first coach to fall ill this year, in fact he is the fourth. Bowles' old boss, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians fell ill earlier in the year and complained of chest pain. He didn't miss a game, but had to take it easy for a few days. Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak missed a game due to a migraine headache, and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer had eye surgery. 

Let's hope that Bowles makes a speedy recovery from what is ailing him. We'll learn more by game time for sure. 

Giants Stink It Up in Philly As Playoff Berth Waits

EAGLES 24 / GIANTS 19

It was not a good night Thursday for the New York Giants as Big Blue blew their shot at clinching a playoff berth in Philadelphia. Not only was the game disappointing, but it ended any thought that this team is a truly serious Super Bowl contender, at least for the moment. The Giants can still get into the playoffs if they get one of four teams to lose on Saturday, but the opportunity was there for the Giants to make a statement and they failed totally.

Let's recap:

Eli Manning was a disaster: It has been a horrible year for Manning. Take the stats and throw them out the window, because Manning has been horribly inconsistent all season. Whether it has been overthrowing his receivers, lacking the appropriate timing with his wide outs or turning the ball over, Manning did that and more on Thursday. He threw three interceptions, with none bigger than the one he threw to Malcom Jenkins for a 34-yard Pick-6 that gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead. This right off the heels of the Eagles completing a 78-yard scoring drive for the first score of the game.

It got worse from there. The Giants offense couldn't move the football at all against the Eagles in key situations. Yes, the stats say the Giants were 10-of-22 on third down, but no team should EVER have to convert 22 different third down opportunities. In short this night rests on Eli Manning's shoulders.

Field Goal Party: There is an old saying in football, you can't win games by settling for field goals all the time. The Giants settled for 3 points way too often. They had four lengthy drives come to a screeching halt deep inside Eagles territory because Manning threw costly incompletions on third down. The result, the Giants were always knocking on the door, but never kicked the door in.

More Giants miscues: Speaking of Eli Manning mistakes, he wasn't alone. The Giants offensive line was also bad. They had a huge false start penalty on fourth and one at the Eagle 32 yard line, when the offense was actually trying to go for it. Instead the penalty pushed the G-Men back five yards, and Manning threw yet another incompletion.

Defense Didn't Step Up: The Giants defense has been front and center for this team in the second half of the season, particularly the past two weeks. On Thursday, they came up small. They allowed Carson Wentz to pick them apart, and allowed 118 yards rushing on the day. Not to mention a guy like Nelson Agholor was wide open in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown that pushed the Eagles lead to 21-6.

Are the Giants Done? No. They can still get into the playoffs IF the Packers, or Redskins, or Lions or Buccaneers lose this weekend. If one of those teams should fall, the Giants are in the playoffs. The most likely team to fall this week is Detroit. The Lions are in Dallas Monday night. The Lions are reeling and could let the Giants into the playoffs.

If the Giants don't get help this weekend, they would need to beat the Redskins next week in order to get in by themselves.

There is a scenario where the Giants could miss the playoffs. If the Giants lose to Washington, and Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Atlanta win out, and the Lions beat the Cowboys then the Giants would be out of the playoffs. Not a likely scenario, but it does exist.

Last Take: The Giants aren't as good as people were beginning to believe. The Giants problems up front on the offensive line, combined with a horrid running game, and a quarterback who has been woefully average is holding this group back. The Giants will likely make it to the playoffs this year, but their stay won't be long if the offensive woes continue.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Just Say No: Coughlin Should Tell Jaguars 'No Thank You'

The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking for a new head coach after the dismissal of Gus Bradley on Sunday.

Now the woebegone franchise is looking to possibly go back to the future by contacting former coach Tom Coughlin for the job.

While Coughlin might feel a bite of nostalgia being contacted by the team that he helped create in 1995, and has said publicly and privately that he still wants to coach, it would be in his best interest to just say thanks but no thanks.

Coughlin was part of the Jaguars inception in 1995. If anyone knows about starting from scratch it is he. He made the Jaguars relevant with two trips to the AFC title game, and four seasons at or near the top of the AFC Central.  Like I said, a reunion of sorts would mean a lot to him -- that franchise is still close to his heart. Coughlin even has a home down in the Jacksonville area.

However, Coughlin is no youngster. He would be 71-years-old in a league that doesn't employ head coaches over age 70. In his last two seasons with the Giants, he clearly lost a step or two as the firebrand who brought two Super Bowl titles to the Big Apple, as the Giants went 6-10 in each of his last two years. In today's NFL it is just as important to have a coach who can connect with players as well as lead them. At 71, while Coughlin has earned the respect of his peers and certainly his players, his ways of communicating might come off as stale to this new generation.

The Jaguars are no exception. They are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. With a quarterback in Blake Bortles who has been a total bust, the Jaguars will need to retool their roster and find winning players. It will take a lot out of the next head coach for sure. At 71 is Coughlin ready to be part of total rebuilding effort? The Jaguars are not one or two players away from being a contending team. The Titans and Colts have franchise quarterbacks. The Texans have a top 10 defense. Those three teams aren't letting up any time soon in the AFC South.

Not to mention this franchise hasn't had a winning season in nine years, and they heaped all the blame on Jack Del Rio in 2011 and have heaped all the blame now on Gus Bradley. The problems in Jacksonville are deeper than the head coach. Del Rio is doing great things in Oakland now, and Bradley will likely resurface as a defensive coordinator next season. In short this is not the same Jaguars franchise that Coughlin left in 2002. Wayne Weaver no longer owns the team, and Shahid Khan has not been too successful since taking over the franchise -- in fact he is the one who spearheaded all this NFL in London talk when he pushed for the Jaguars to play there annually.

One can understand that the challenges facing the Jaguars might motivate Coughlin further. His competitive fire will undoubtedly convince him that he can do the job. But, it might be better for him to move on and pass on this opportunity.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

NFL Playoff Race Update

The NFL playoff picture is starting to crystalize as we approach the Christmas holiday. Throughout the weekend we have seen some teams clinch spots in the playoffs, while others put their hopes in dire straits. Let's take a look.

In the Playoffs:
New England Patriots (12-2): Patriots clinched the AFC East with a 16-3 smackdown of the punchless Denver Broncos. This game was a snoozefest, but the Patriots won because their defense was too much for the battered Broncos. Trevor Siemian was under siege all day, and the Broncos had no running game. While it wasn't a great day for Tom Brady, the Pats ran for 136 yards with 95 yards coming from Dion Lewis. Yes, Bill Belichick continues to find guys we never heard of, and they still win games.

Oakland Raiders (11-3): the Raiders punched their postseason ticket with a comeback win over the San Diego Chargers. They trailed the Chargers 16-13 in the fourth quarter before Derek Carr led a couple of field goal drives to send the Raiders to they 19-16 win. Right now the Raiders are in first place in the AFC West, thanks to the Chiefs losing to Tennessee.

Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1): The Seahawks clinched the NFC West on Thursday in a 24-3 beatdown of the Rams. The NFC West sucks. The Cardinals were overrated all year, and the Seahawks, in spite of some obvious flaws on both sides of the ball are still the Seahawks.

Dallas Cowboys (11-2): These guys clinched a playoff spot couple weeks ago, but haven't played great in several weeks. Right now they are playing Tampa Bay. We'll see how this goes, but Dallas is still trying to inch closer to a division title. The Giants win over Detroit complicates things for the Boys. The Boys could still lose the NFC East to New York, should the Giants win out and the Cowboys lose two of their last three.

On the Bubble:
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5): The Steelers inched closer to a division title with a 24-20 win over the Bengals on Sunday. They can clinch the AFC North outright on Christmas Sunday when the host the inconsistent Baltimore Ravens. Keep in mind, Baltimore still has a shot here, and they are unbeaten in the division. Nothing is a given here for Pittsburgh.

Kansas City Chiefs (10-4): They blew their chance at clinching a spot on Sunday. They had a 17-7 lead on the Titans heading into the fourth quarter and watched Tennessee come all the way back to win it. It appeared that KC got a huge break when Mike Mularkey made a hideous mistake when he decided to let his Titans go for two after they scored a touchdown to cut the Chiefs lead to 17-16. However, the Chiefs went three and out on their next drive, giving the Titans and Marcus Mariota more then enough time to win it. Mariota hit Delanie Walker for 15 yards to the Chiefs 35 and that was all they needed to set up the winning kick. The Chiefs need a win next week at Denver in order to clinch at least a wild card berth.

Atlanta Falcons (9-5): The Falcons destroyed the 49ers 41-13 on Sunday to improve to 9-5. If they get some help on Sunday night in Dallas with a Buccaneers lose, they can inch closer to a division title. Otherwise it will get interesting in the final two weeks.

New York Giants (10-4): The Giants can clinch a berth on Thursday if they win at Philadelphia. This unlikely group has won games with strong defense and bad offense. Eli Manning has been inconsistent this season, but it hasn't stopped the Giants top ranked defense from shaking things up. Landon Collins has been the leader of the Giants D, racking up turnovers and tackles for Big Blue. If they get some help they can win the NFC East, but they'll happily take the wild card as long as they don't see the Green Bay Packers in the wild card game.

Could Go Either Way: 
Green Bay Packers (8-6): The Packers have won four straight including a last second win in Chicago on Sunday. This run by Green Bay is starting to look like and feel like their run to a Super Bowl title six years ago when they came out of nowhere to finish 10-6 and run through the playoffs. They need to beat Minnesota on Saturday to set up a win-and-your-in scenario with Detroit. That game could also determine a division winner.

Detroit Lions (9-5): The Lions are in a tough spot. The looked helpless on Sunday against the Giants and now face the Cowboys and Packers in the next two weeks. They need one win to likely assure themselves a better shot at the division title, and would need wins and lots of help just to assure a wild card backdoor. Injuries to Matthew Stafford and many others doesn't bode well.

Tennessee Titans (8-6): The Titans are impressive, and have wins over Green Bay, Denver and Kansas City this year. Would love to see them in the playoffs but they need either a collapse by Houston or Miami and Denver in order to assure themselves a spot in the playoffs. The game against Houston in two weeks could determine either a division title or a wild card spot.

Houston Texans (8-6): Don't trust these guys. They won a game they could have lost to the Jaguars on Sunday, and needed their back-up quarterback in order to win the game. Brock Osweiller is a total bust, and had the Texans lost on Sunday, we would be talking about Bill O'Brien being on the coaches hot seat.

Miami Dolphins (9-5): Right now the AFC's number six seed, but that could change with a loss and wins from Tennessee, Denver and Houston down the stretch. The Dolphins dismantled the Jets on Saturday, but face tricky tests the next two weeks. The Bills will play hard for Rex Ryan in his final home game at Buffalo, and the Patriots might need the final game of the season in order to clinch home field over a team like Oakland. No gimme the Dolphins make it.

Baltimore Ravens (8-6): They got lucky by the Eagles own stupidity on Sunday, otherwise they could have lost that game. The Ravens are too inconsistent to think they will make it. They play a season definer on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Win and they should win the division. Lose and the season is likely curtains for the birds.

Denver Broncos (8-6): The Broncos are falling apart. Their defense is not what it was a year ago, and this team has no help at quarterback and the running game is non-existent. I bet Broncos fans miss a hobbled Peyton Manning. The Broncos face the Chiefs and Raiders the next two weeks. Both of those teams are battling for a division title. It looks bad for Denver, especially next week against a pissed-off Chiefs team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5): The Bucs are playing Dallas right now and are tied at three in the second quarter. If the Bucs win vs. Dallas (unlikely) they will be alive in the NFC South. A loss and they drop into the mix for the sixth seed with Detroit, Green Bay and Washington.

Washington Redskins (7-5-1): Remember them? Yeah, well if they win on Monday night against Carolina they would stand at 8-5-1 and would hold a slight edge over Detroit, Green Bay and Tampa Bay for the final wild card spot. The Skins do own a tiebreaker with the Packers.

Giants D paving way to playoffs with win over Lions

GIANTS 17 / LIONS 6

This Giants defense continues to put up scary numbers in the NFL. The league's Number One ranked defense over the previous five weeks, the Giants dominated the Detroit Lions on Sunday 17-6. With the win the Giants move a win shy of clinching a playoff berth -- a feat that seemed so unlikely weeks ago when this team was struggling to find an identity when they were beating up on bad football teams.

Let's break it down!

The Giants D is for real: Obviously. The Giants defense has been one of the best units in the NFL this season, especially in the second half. The Giants held the Lions to only five yards per play, and totally flustered quarterback Matthew Stafford. While Stafford was dealing with an injured middle finger, it didn't stop the Giants from pounding the quarterback. He was hit five times, sacked once and under siege for much of the afternoon. Whenever he put up a pass that looked destined for a Lions reception, a Giant defender would step up and swat the ball away. It was a totally frustrating day for the Lions who couldn't cash in on their opportunities to score points in this game.

The Lions blew their chances: There were four different moments where the Lions could have changed their fortunes greatly on Sunday, but came up snake eyes each time. First Matthew Stafford appeared to have Golden Tate wide open for touchdown down the right sideline, but cornerback Eli Apple snuck in underneath and slapped the ball away to force the Lions to settle for a field goal.

Later in the second quarter, the Lions were rolling toward a touchdown, but running back Zach Zenner fumbled the football in the end zone; Giants' Olivier Vernon recovered the ball for a touchback.

Ironically on the Giants ensuing possession after the Lions fumble, they fumbled themselves when Shane Vereen lost control of the football near the end zone. The Lions had three guys around the ball, but none of them could recover it, as the Giants kept possession, and turned that bit of good fortune into a field goal to make it 10-3.

The last moment of misfortune to bite the Lions came at the start of the third quarter when they drove all the way to the Giants 18-yard line, only to stall and settle for a field goal to make it a 10-6 game.

Eli Manning was solid: After a rough number of weeks, Eli Manning was crisp on Sunday. He opened up the game a perfect seven-for-seven in pass attempts, and led the Giants on an inspiring 10-play 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game. Overall, Manning threw for 201 yards on 20-of-28 passing with two touchdowns. It was his best game in weeks, and the best day for the offense in some time.

Justin Pugh Returns: The Giants got a shot in the arm on Sunday when left guard Justin Pugh returned from injury. His presence helped the Giants set the tone offensively with 114 yards rushing on the day. He also helped solidify the blindside for Manning.

What's Next: A Thursday night extravaganza in Philadelphia. The Giants need the win in order to clinch a playoff berth. The Eagles would love to ruin the fun, and have played solid football at times inspite of a 5-9 record. This could be tricky.


Jets blown out by Dolphins, Petty gets decked

DOLPHINS 34 / JETS 13

Another home game, another blowout of the Jets. Believe it or not for one half of football the Jets were actually playing well, and had a chance to win this game, trailing only 13-10 at the break. Then Dolphins back-up quarterback Matt Moore turned into Dan Marino when he lit up the Jets putrid secondary for three touchdowns in the third quarter and the Dolphins waltzed to their ninth win of the year.

Bryce Petty looked pretty good on Saturday: For once the Jets problems last night had nothing to do with the play of the quarterback. Let's call that progress. For the most part, Bryce Petty looked pretty good under center for the J
ets on Saturday night. He had nice touch on many of his deep throws, and early on was doing a nice job withstanding the Dolphins heavy blitz. He lead the Jets to a game opening touchdown drive on a 40-yard completion to Robbie Anderson. Think about this with a horrible offensive line, he was still able to complete 20 of 36 for 235 yards and a score.

At the same time, Petty made a lot of young quarterback mistakes. He held the ball too long too often, and got drilled when doing so. The costly strip sack he took from Cameron Wake was a huge turning point in the ball game. Later in the first half, Petty threw a costly interception right into the hands of Wake. Petty didn't even see Wake in coverage.  While Petty looked good at times, overall it was an uneven performance.

The Jets offensive line is horrible: The Jets offensive line was absolutely ravaged by the Dolphins. The combination of Ndamukong Shu and Cameron Wake dominated the line of scrimmage blowing away the Jets makeshift lineman. Overall, Miami recorded eight quarterback hits, eight tackles for a loss, seven passes defensed and three sacks. The Jets, who have been without center Nick Mangold for much of the season were totally exposed by Miami. Worse of all, they nearly got Petty killed when he was sandwiched between Shu and Wake on a quarterback pressure. Petty was spun into the air by both defenders and fell on his ribs. He left the game and never returned. Obviously offensive line is a huge need for the Jets in 2017.

Bilal Powell should have been the starting tailback all year: I've said for a long time, Bilal Powell can play in this league. On Saturday, he dominated with 162 total yards against the Dolphins. He recorded 84 yards on the ground and 78 yards through the air. The guy has tremendous speed and the Dolphins couldn't keep up with him. With Matt Forte regulated to back-up duty, Powell is the Jets starting tailback from here on out. Give that man a new contract.

The Jets defense once again stunk up the show: The Jets defense, specifically the secondary, was once again the culprit for the Jets. Nobody had an answer for Matt Moore who threw for 236 yards and four touchdowns in his first start in five years. In fact, Moore became the first Dolphins quarterback to throw for four scores in a game against the Jets since Dan Marino (no shock there). The secondary showed no effort. They were getting beat all over the field, and made no attempt to keep pace with the Dolphins receivers. This was an embarrassing effort, and it falls on head coach Todd Bowles, who prides himself on coaching secondary play.

Todd Bowles on the hot seat...again: A week ago, it looked like Todd Bowles hot seat had cooled off. Woody Johnson said he planed to keep both Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan and the Jets beat the 49ers. Then came last night. Bowles took the blame last night, saying, "It's on me. I did a terrible job getting these guys ready to play." He sounded like a man resigned to his fate. Perhaps Bowles was trying to make a statement about his coaching staff, but if Woody Johnson changes his mind in two weeks, Bowles won't get a chance to change anything about his coaching strategy.

What's Next: The Jets visit the Patriots next week. That is all that needs to be said. Yeah, 4-11 here we come.




Monday, December 12, 2016

Giants D leads way in upset of Boys

GIANTS 10 / COWBOYS 7 

As has become commonplace for the New York Giants this year, their win versus the Dallas Cowboys was not pretty. But considering some of the nail biters the Giants have played this year, and considering they were going up against the best team in the NFL, Big Blue's 10-7 win was their best performance of the season.

Giants D was HUGE: This game was about one thing and one thing only, the Giants defense. After giving up a first quarter touchdown to Terrance Williams, the Giants completely shut down one of the most potent offenses in football. New York held the Cowboys to just 260 yards of offense, and held Dallas to a putrid 1-for-15 on third down. More importantly they made Dak Prescott look like a rookie, and neutralized the effectiveness of Ezekiel Elliot.

The game was clearly won upfront on the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys have prided themselves this year as having the best offensive line in football, but the Giants made them look second rate on Sunday night. Prescott was under duress all night. He was sacked three times, hit a total of eight times and threw two huge interceptions. It could have easily been three picks had Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie held onto the football deep inside Dallas territory in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter alone, the Giants held the Cowboys to a measly 38 yards on 18 plays as Dallas never got farther than their own 32-yard line.

The last time Dallas ever got into Giants territory, there was 4:29 on the clock in the third quarter. That is how dominant the Giants defense was.

 For a team that was missing its leading sacker in Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants didn't miss a beat, as his replacement Romeo Okawa was incredible. He blew things up from the blindside, recording eight tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits. Devon Kenard was also big, recording six tackles, a sack and punishing Elliot on the ground with a couple of tackles for a loss.

It was a showcase.

Eli Manning and company Struggle Again: While the Giants D was spectacular, the Giants offense was again amiss. Eli Manning had accuracy issues for much of the night, completing only 17 passes for 193 yards and an interception. He was very fortunate that he didn't throw a second pick late in the fourth quarter when the Giants were at their own 32 yard line. Had that happened, the Cowboys would have been in field goal range. Manning wasn't helped by the fact that his receivers again let him down with a number of costly drops, including three by Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking of Beckham, he continues to 'wow' when it matters. While the drops were killer, he made the biggest play of the day when he hauled in a 61-yard touchdown from Manning to put the Giants up for good. Beckham's touchdown catch continues what has become a disturbing trend for the Giants, where their offense falls asleep for long periods of time, before exploding when it needs to.

What's Next: The Giants host the (9-4) Lions at the Meadowlands on Sunday. This game means a lot to both, obviously. Both of these teams have their eyes on the playoffs, and win by either will go a long way in cementing a ticket to the playoffs. A loss will throw either team into the muck with Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, Washington, and Tampa Bay. Detroit needs the game to inch closer to a division title in the North. The Giants would love to get their 10th win now, in order to put more pressure on Tampa Bay and Green Bay.

Even if the Giants win on Sunday, 10 wins doesn't guarantee anything. There is a scenario where if the Giants, Bucs, Redskins, and Falcons all finish with 10 wins then the Giants would be out. Looks like 11 is the magic number.

What to expect: A great ballgame between the Lions high-powered offense against the Giants high-octaine defense. Matthew Stafford will be wearing a glove on his hand due an injury he suffered against Chicago on Sunday. His effectiveness in the bitter cold of New Jersey will be a huge factor in who wins this game. For the Giants to win, they must reestablish themselves offensively.

Petty and Powell Spearhead Jets Spirited Comeback

JETS 23 / 49ERS 17 - Overtime

Give it to the Jets, down 14-0 after the first five minutes of this game in San Francisco, they could have easily packed it in, and turned up the heat on their head coach Todd Bowles. Instead, behind a spirited effort by their young quarterback, Bryce Petty and some tremendous running by Bilal Powell, the Jets pulled out a 23-17 win over the listless 49ers (1-12) in Santa Clara.

While the Jets playoff hopes have been dead for weeks, this was a big win for a franchise that needed to show something after last Monday's 41-10 drubbing to the Indianapolis Colts. Let's break it down.

Todd Bowles: Make no mistake Bowles needed this win. Earlier on Sunday, CBS reported that Woody Johnson plans to commit to Bowles and Mike Maccagnan unless the Jets continue to perform ineptly down the stretch. Down 14-0 in the first quarter, those thoughts were on their way to changing quickly. We have seen owners say one thing and do another many times. Even Johnson has been notorious for that. He once gave Rex Ryan the dreaded vote of confidence before firing him at the end of the 2014 season when the team finished 4-12. The fact that the Jets showed poise and effort on Sunday bodes well for Bowles. If New York were to even win one or two more games here against their division, it will cement his return.

Bryce Petty: It was a mixed bag overall for Petty. Early on he didn't look good. He made the typical rookie mistake by telestrating his read on the first play of the game, only to have the passed picked off by Jimmie Ward at the Jets seven yard line. Petty was also sacked six times, and struggled to get the offense moving in the first half.

Still come the second half it was a totally new ballgame. He guided the Jets to a field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter, and would guide the Jets on scoring drives on four of their six possessions in the second half. With New York trailing 17-6 late in the third quarter, Petty was tremendous in engineering a 15-play 66-yard scoring drive that 8:23 off the clock. On third and 11 at the 49ers 46 he completed a nine pass to Brandon Marshall to set up a fourth and two. Petty converted the down on a key 10-yard pass down the middle to Charone Peake to set up a first down at the Niners 27. Three plays later, Petty dove for a first down on a third and four from the San Fran nine yard line to set up  first and goal situation.

Finally, with the game on the line, Petty was 3-of-4 for 27 yards as he guided the Jets to a game-tying field goal. Petty's leadership and poise under pressure was impressive, granted it was against the horrible 49ers.

Jets Spotty Defense: The Jets defense was spotty at best on Sunday. They allowed the 49ers to jump out to that aforementioned 14-0 lead, and watched as Colin Kaepernick completed his first six passes of the ball game. Worse off, the Jets had a hard time stopping Carlos Hyde. Hyde ran for 193 yards on the Jets, and nearly broke off a game winning touchdown run in overtime were he not knocked out of bounds at the Jets 45.

That being said, Gang Green's D kept the team in the ball game and made plays when they had to. No play was bigger than the fourth down and two stop of Hyde in overtime to turn the ball back over to the Jets offense.

Bilal Powell: I have said it many times, Bilal Powell is one of the most underutilized Jets on this roster. The kid has explosive written all over him. With Matt Forte out with a leg injury, the Jets turned to Powell and he rewarded New York with a game for the ages. Powell ran for 145 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. This is not the first time that the seldom used Powell has shown this kind of burst. He lit up the Buffalo Bills for 149 yards back in 2013. Powell, who was extended int the off-season will get an extended look at starting tailback down the stretch.

What's next? The Jets head home to host the Dolphins on Saturday night. The game means everything to the Dolphins, who at 8-5 need the win to keep pace with Denver and Tennessee for the final wild card slot in the AFC. The Jets lost a heartbreaker to Miami earlier this year and would love to deliver some payback.

What to expect: Expect the Jets to continue this transition with younger players getting more and more playing time. While the win vs. San Francisco was nice, keep in mind the Jets had to win two games this year while trailing by deficits of 13 and 14 against two teams that are a combined 1-25.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Todd Bowles and Mike Mccagnan Belong on Hot Seat

The Jets got crushed on Monday Night 41-10 by the Indianapolis Colts.  But it wasn't so much the game itself as much as the full display of a lack of effort on the part of the Jets that was so disturbing on Monday night. So disturbing that many are wondering if Todd Bowles is the right man for this job.

The Jets never tired on Monday. Colts wide receivers like T.Y. Hilton and tight end Dwayne Allen were open all day, and in some cases, so wide open that the closest defender was at least five yards away. Andrew Luck, who has been beaten to smithereens this season with sacks, was only touched once by the Jets defense. Frank Gore who has looked older with each passing game, looked spry on Monday night.

And don't forget the Jets lackluster offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick was plan awful. He was 5-of-12 for 81 yards and a pick. The man who single-handedly held the Jets hostage during the offseason over a contract dispute, piloted the Jets into the 2017 off-season, and with it, piloted his Jets career, and possibly his NFL career into oblivion.

It was ugly. And a lot of blame this week has fallen on the shoulder's of head coach Todd Bowles. Bowles was even quoted twice this week as saying he is not worried about his job security, and understands that NFL coaches are always under an intense microscope.

However, when you are coaching in New York City, especially a franchise that hasn't won a championship in nearly 50 years, intense microscope isn't the half of it. Bowles is on a volcano and it is about erupt.

To be fair, Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan under normal circumstances should be allowed some wriggle room here, and be allowed to come back for a third season to prove they can rebuild the team. But here lays the problem. Both men, especially Maccagnan, came to New York under the guise they could have a "competitive rebuild" of this team. Maccagnan frivolously spent Woody Johnson's money on bringing back Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, two players whom the previous GM, John Idzik got rid of because of many of the same reasons we see now -- age and price tag. They also threw big money at Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick to speed up the rebuild.

In economic terms Maccagnan inherited a surplus and turned it into a deficit. The Jets are in salary purgatory once again, and many veteran players are likely on their way out, including Revis and center Nick Mangold.

Not to mention, Maccagnan's drafts have been suspect. Outside of Leonard Williams, the Jets don't have many standouts that were drafted by Maccagnan. His drafting of two quarterbacks, Bryce Petty in 2015 and Christian Hackenberg in 2016 is looking worse and worse with each passing week. Petty will get the start for the rest of the year, but he is too green in the gills for this. Word on Hackenberg is the guy can't play.

In retrospect 2015 was the worst thing that could happen to both Maccagnan and Bowles. Winning 10 games ratcheted up the expectations, and the fans demanded a winner this year.

It wasn't all that surprising that the Jets suffered a five-game losing streak in September and October, especially when one considers they had to play Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Seattle, Arizona, and Cincinnati in that stretch.

However it has been the way they have lost games this year, combined with the fact that Bowles has failed in every phase of coaching that has doomed this team in 2016. He has shown little depth and charisma when it comes to handling a locker room as Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson have gone rouge on him way too many times to count.

He has allowed the quarterback situation to get totally out of hand, with the latest gaff coming when he never informed Fitzpatrick that he was going to be benched for the final games of the season, regardless of the outcome of Monday night. Fitzpatrick only learned about it through the media after Colts 41 - Jets 10.

He has shown little interest in getting involved in the offense -- a trademark that buried Rex Ryan after six seasons -- instead leaving the offense in the hands of Chan Gailey. We are still waiting for Gailey to discover football in the 21st Century.

More importantly, Bowles bread and butter, his defense has been dreadful. The secondary can't stop flies as the Jets are ranked 23rd in the NFL in pass defense and 16th in the NFL in total defense. The Jets also have the second to worst turnover ratio in football at -17. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars at -18 is worse. The fact that the Jets can't stop anyone is a huge indictment of Bowles. It is even worse when ESPN cameras catch Bowles yelling at his players on the sideline and they just shrug him off.

To compare him to Rich Kotitte isn't fair. At least Bowles won 10 games in a season. Kotitte never won more than three games in a season for the Jets. But, the feeling of loss and hopelessness is reminding Jets fans of those dark days from 1995-1996 when the franchise was a combined 4-28.

So the Jets are at a crossroads. They have four games to prove that they have some semblance of pride in that locker room. They have four games to prove that they, as individual players, belong in the National Football League. They have four games to possibly prove that Todd Bowles should remain the HC of the NYJ.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Giants exposed by Steelers in blowout loss

STEELERS 24/GIANTS 14

The Giants six-game winning streak turned into a pumpkin on a cold Sunday evening in Pittsburgh. The Steeleres walloped the G-Men 24-14, and it wasn't even that close. The Giants were totally slapped around by a Pittsburgh team that gashed the Giants defense for 389 yards, and was 7-for-15 on third down.

By halftime the score was 14-0, Steelers. The lead soon ballooned to 24-7 before the Giants got a garbage time touchdown to make the final score somewhat respectable. Still it was a horrible loss that puts the Giants in a situation where they have no choice but to settle for the wild card.

Inconsistent Eli Manning: Manning wasn't great on Sunday. He failed to lead the Giants stagnant offense, especially in the first half where they were shutout for the second straight week. Manning threw a costly interception at the Steelers nine-yard line that eventually led to a Pittsburgh touchdown before the half. Overall, Manning threw for only 195 yards on 35 attempts with two interceptions. While the offensive line certainly deserves plenty of blame for not giving Manning enough time in the pocket, he isn't getting the job done consistently this year.

Odell Beckham Jr Delivers More Headaches: Beckham had a good day, hauling in 10 catches for 100 yards, but the guy continues to be a lightening rod for controversy. He was blasting the officials after the game, and his wore his friendship with Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown on his sleeve on Sunday. When Brown scored a touchdown for Pittsburgh, the camera's quickly shot over the Beckham who was smiling and clapping his buddy on. What is with this guy? Clearly Beckham continues to fail when it comes to understanding the game both on and off the field. He shouldn't be rooting for his friends especially when they are playing against him.

The Giants D was Woeful! The Giants defense has easily been their strength this year, but on Sunday they couldn't stop a nose bleed. Le'Veon Bell gashed them for 118 yards on the ground, and Ben Roethlisberger picked them apart for 289 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Outside of Olivier Vernon's two sacks there was not much to talk about regarding the Giants' defensive effort on Sunday.

What is next? More tough games. The Giants host the Dallas Cowboys (11-1) at the Meadowlands on Sunday night. The Cowboys are due for a loss, but the Boys remember that their only L this year came against Big Blue in Week 1. Expect some serious payback. If the Giants tackle the way they did in Pittsburgh, Eziekiel Elliot will have a monster evening.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cespedes for the Rest Of Us. Mets and Yoenis Agree to 4-Year Deal

While the New York sports scene has been filtered with negative headlines on the Jets and Knicks for a better part of the past month, the New York Mets were quietly going about their business this off-season.

Once the season ended ingloriously in the NL Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants, the Mets barely popped up on the radar screen until Wednesday night. On Wednesday the Mets finalized a four-year extension with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, cementing a long term deal with the All-Star after two productive seasons in Mets blue and orange.

As Mets General Manger Sandy Alderson put it, this is the third time the Mets have acquired Cespedes. They got him in a trade with Detroit in the middle of the 2015 season, and signed him to an opt-out friendly one-year deal last off-season. Many suspected that Cespedes would sign elsewhere. The Yankees were said to be interested. The Giants and Nationals were also on Cespedes' trail, yet the Cuban native wanted to stay in Queens.

"I said long before it happened, I wanted to be with this team," Cespedes is quoted as saying. "I wanted to come back. God willing I will finish out my career with this team."

At 31-years-old, Cespedes' contract is good for four years at $110 million with a no-trade clause. He will make $27.5 million a year, the most ever given to an outfielder in baseball history, and most the mets have paid in annual salary to a player ever; and this is a team that paid big money to Mike Piazza, David Wright, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, and, yes, Bobby Bonilla in the past.

Paying Cespedes this much is a huge shift for the Mets. This is a team synonymous with not paying big bucks, rather settling for the cheap fix ever since Fred and Jeff Wilpon were caught with their hands in the Bernie Madoff cookie jar. But times have changed. The Wilpon's are making money, and the team has been fairly successful the past two seasons. It is time for this team to go for it.

Cespedes gives the Mets relevancy. While the team is still unsure how its infield will look in 2017, and is still unsure if David Wright will ever play again, and unsure how Matt Harvey will bounce back from a season on the disabled list, signing Cespedes was a must.

When his head is in the game, Cespedes is a five-tool player. He has come off his two most productive seasons at the plate, 35 homers in 2015 and 31 homers in 2016, and has been a consistent .280-.290 hitter in Terry Collins lineup. The Mets needed Cespedes even more than he needed them.

The Mets are not done. Rumors are they will try to trade disappointing outfielder Jay Bruce at some point during the Hot Stove season. They will also need to heavily upgrade their catcher position, since Travis d'Arnaud has become an unreliable bust. The bullpen will need tweaking too with closer Jeurys Familia expected to be suspended by Major League Baseball for his involvement in a domestic violence incident with his wife. Who will play third base? That is anyones guess because of Wright's health issues. How about first base? Lucas Duda was not bastion of health either in 2016. His status is also uncertain.

So while there are plenty of questions for the Mets as they enter 2017, at least they have one of the best outfielders in baseball under their Christmas tree before the hot stove heats up.