Category: football

2020 NFL Draft Recap: AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Favorite Pick: All from the first two days – Seriously, what the heck do the Ravens do to ensure the right players fall to them every draft? Patrick Queen was the best LB in the draft for me, LB was the biggest need for the Ravens, and he falls right in their lap. Next round they go ahead and grab J.K Dobbins to start working with Mark Ingram and should be the featured back by the end of the season. Then Justin Madubuike slips to them as a DT that fits the Ravens way perfectly. Devin Duvernay is easily a second-round talent but, due to the depth in WR this year, falls to the end of round three and will be able to be a quality second receiver across Hollywood Brown. Malik Harrison is a quality player and basically just gravy for the Ravens in round three.

Least Favorite Pick: None – Seriously, I could try and make a case for Malik Harrison, but I would just be blowing smoke, so I am gonna say I did not have a least favorite pick for the Ravens.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 7, Pick 219 Overall – Geno Stone, S, Iowa – James Proche in the end of round six is another guy to keep an eye on and he easily could have been a selection on day two, but I am going deeper sleeper than that. Nothing about him is prototypical, but he is an intelligent center fielding safety that the Ravens will almost certainly get the most out of.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah – The Ravens brought in Trace McSorley a season ago as a sixth-round pick and, despite being inactive most regular season games, he balled out in the preseason. Now they bring in Tyler Huntley to add to the QB room, but he has the athleticism to potentially shift to WR. I thought he was a draftable guy based purely on athleticism, although the he is quite skinny which is a concern and the time it takes to let the ball loose may be what prevents him from sticking at QB.

Cincinnati Bengals

Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 1 Overall – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU – Burrow was set to go first overall for months and it came to fruition despite reports of the Dolphins making a real push to trade up. Burrow has possibly the greatest single season in college football history and pulled off the rare feat of Heisman Trophy winner, National Champion, and first overall pick all within the same year. If there is a knock it is the fact he was little more than average in seasons prior, but there is no arguing what he did in 2019.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 3, Pick 65 Overall – Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming – I didn’t dislike this pick, but I didn’t love it either and you can’t argue with Joe Burrow at the top of the draft and Tee Higgins at the top of round two. Zack Baun was still on the board when the Bengals selected Wilson and I don’t think there is much argument that Wilson is a better prospect. Given the new CBA rules, a diluted urine sample doesn’t have the same impact it once did, so that should not have prevented the Bengals from selecting Baun.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 5, Pick 147 Overall – Khalid Hareem, Edge, Notre Dame – Kareem was never a dominant pass rusher at Notre Dame and that won’t be what the Bengals are looking for from him despite his size being that of a traditional edge rusher. Instead, he will be the kind of guy who lines up on the right tackle and stuffs him in his place allowing the second level to come up and stop the run. He is first and second down depth, and quality value at this point in the draft.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: None – Again, I am not going to force a name I don’t believe in. The Bengals had a quality draft, but they haven’t brought in much talent thus far in UDFA. Not a knock, it is still somewhat early, just none that I see as worthy of calling out.

Cleveland Browns

Favorite Pick: Round 2, Pick 44 Overall – Grant Delpit, S, LSU – A throwback strong safety, Delpit is a downhill defender looking for the big hit to dislodge the football in the passing game and can stop a running back in the open field. His final season at LSU was hampered by injuries after a stellar 2018. Had he repeated what he did a season ago, he would have been a first-round pick, so grabbing him in round two is a great grab for Cleveland.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 10 Overall – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama – Said it in regards to the Jets first round selection, I don’t dislike Jedrick Wills, I just love Tristan Wirfs. Wills’ size screams for a potential move down to guard at some point in the future but he will probably be the week one left tackle, something I just feel there were better plug and play options at this spot.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 4, Pick 115 Overall – Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic – The Browns have no shortage in pass catching TEs as they bring back David Njoku, signed Austin Hooper, and now draft Harrison Bryant. Bryant will be the clear cut third option at tight end this season but could have a breakout sophomore campaign if they cut ties with Njoku. Unlike Njoku, Bryant is a quality blocker and will bring a multi-dimensional skill set to the club.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Kevin Davidson, QB, Princeton – Anytime there is an Ivy League QB added in UDFA it is worthy of keeping an eye on. Davidson did not see the field much his first three seasons but broke out in his senior year. He is an intelligent QB, not just because he is an Ivy Leaguer, with good touch and accuracy in short to intermediate throws. He does not have a big arm and struggles with the deep ball, so a trip to the practice squad is most likely for Davidson.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Favorite Pick: Round 2, Pick 49 Overall – Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame – it seems you could really highlight any team that took a WR in this draft and call it a favorite pick or a day three sleeper simply based on the depth at the position this year. Claypool fell right around where he should have been drafted, but you can make the argument to take him in round one, so the Steelers first pick coming in round two and getting Claypool is good value. He is a big body pass catcher that just missed a 4.40-flat 40-yard dash. Full package at receiver that should be a quality number two or three option.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 3, Pick 102 Overall – Alex Highsmith, Edge, Charlotte – Highsmith was productive in the Sun Belt, but he does not have great size or strength, making him primarily a third down edge rusher. Taking him on day three may have made him a sleeper, but on day two ahead of guys like Bradlee Anae and Curtis Weaver I just don’t like the pick.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 4, Pick 135 Overall – Kevin Dotson, G, Louisiana – Dotson was seen by more scouts than would typically be at a Rajin’ Cajun game thanks to fellow line-mate Robert Hunt, but Dotson made the most of the exposure. He is a punishing run blocker who regularly took care of the first level defenders and moved onto the second level. He will be a two position backup to start, but could easily be a starting guard by 2021.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Josiah Coatney, DT, Ole Miss – It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Coatney go undrafted, but he has landed in a great spot for his game. He has ideal size for a DT but can get knocked back too easily and does not excel in pass rush. Overall, he will really have to battle to make the team and will likely start on a practice squad, but I anticipate enough development to stick around and see some playing time over the next few seasons.

2020 NFL Draft Recap: AFC East

I will be running through each team’s draft highighting my favorite and least favorite picks (typically from days one or two) and a day three sleeper to keep an eye on. I will also feature my favorite undrafted free agent signing for each team. 

 

Buffalo Bills

Favorite Pick: Round 3, Pick 86 Overall – Zack Moss, RB, Utah – I really liked the selection of A.J. Epenesa in round two, but I think Moss will be the one we look back on as the best pick. As much as I like Devin Singletary, a fellow third round selection just a season ago, I believe Moss will become a true committee back along with him. The combo will give the Bills a very good two-headed monster in the backfield, while I believe Epenesa will open the season as a true backup.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 4, Pick 128 Overall – Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF – Typically my least favorite will be somebody from the first three rounds, but the Bills only had two picks in those rounds and I liked them both. I don’t have a real issue with Davis, I just didn’t feel he was the top WR on the board at the time, and he certainly was not a position of need given the fact they traded for Stefon Diggs. I feel they would have been better suited going after a position of need with Troy Dye or Bryce Hall.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 5, Pick 167 Overall – Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia – Fromm is certainly not an immediate need of the Bills, but Matt Barkley got starts when Josh Allen was out a season ago and another QB to battle for the backup gig is never a bad idea. Fromm’s biggest knock is a lack of arm strength and heading to the AFC East where three of the four teams are in environments that have adverse weather is not ideal, Fromm is exactly what you want from a backup. A smart QB with a winning pedigree, a solid selection.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Trey Adams, OT, Washington – One of the best offensive lineman to go undrafted, Adams has a real shot to make the Bills team. He stands 6’8” and weighs in at 318 lbs., he has to prototypical size for a tackle, although he does not use his body ideally, often playing smaller than his size.  He has plenty of athleticism, so he may be best suited to play guard despite his length.

Miami Dolphins

Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 5 Overall – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – The Dolphins came into the season “Tanking for Tua”, end up with a winning record over the final 9 games of the season, and still land Tua. The injuries are an obvious concern but, by all accounts, nobody throws a better ball that Tua and he does not have to start this season since they have Fitz-Magic on the roster. I loved the fact they added a trio of blockers to go ahead of him, and Raekwon Davis is a quality run stuffer, but the player this draft will be known for is Tua.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 30 Overall – Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn – Putting aside the fact few had Igbinoghene as the top corner on the board at the time, it was one of the few positions the Dolphins actually didn’t need help at. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are well paid and top tier corners, while the safety position needs help as does the linebacking and receiving groups.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 5, Pick 164 Overall – Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise State – I actually really liked the Dolphins draft as a whole, and I easily could have chosen Solomon Kindley as a bruising guard, or Malcolm Perry for the intrigue of the QB turned WR from Navy, but I wound up going Weaver here. I had Weaver as a day two selection and actually like him better than the end the Dolphins also selected ten spots ahead of him, Jason Stowbridge. Weaver got after the QB and was very productive for Boise who should be a situational pass rusher with success for the Dolphins.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Kirk Merritt, WR, Arkansas State – An absolute physical freak, guy can jump out of the building and has great strength. He ran track at Oregon before transferring out to the JuCo levels and heading to Arkansas State. He is still raw but has a real shot to make the club as a special teamer who can return kicks and the speed/strength combo to be a quality gunner on kickoff and punt teams.

New England Patriots

Favorite Pick: Round 2, Pick 37 Overall – Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne – I would have loved to see the Patriots take Yetur Gross-Matos here, a player who went one spot later, but they wound up getting two quality edge rushers so that wound up working out for them. Dugger is a guy I struggled with ahead of the draft because, as a D-II player, I saw practically no tape on him. After the draft, having spoken with many about the pick, I am officially sold. He plays tough downhill like a strong safety but can go get the ball like a traditional free safety. Overall, the perfect fit for the Patriots defense.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 5, Pick 159 Overall – Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall – I never come away from the draft really liking what the Patriots did, and for the most part that is the case yet again. I did not get the two TEs they took at the end of Round 3 as I felt there were better available, I had a list 750 names deep with me at the draft and they Patriots managed to select someone not on that list in Cassh Malula in the sixth, but Rohrwasser was a special kind of miss. Not only was it the first kicker off the board, granted it was a need, it comes out after he has an anti-government tattoo with some, well, questionable ties.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 6, Pick 182 Overall – Mike Onwenu, G, Michigan – Standing 6’3” and weighing in at 344 lbs., there is no denying Onwenu is a massive human being. Add to that 26 reps on the bench and a knack for pancaking defenders in run blocking, the Patriots may have stolen a future league average starter in round 6.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State – The Patriots surprised many by going through the entire draft without selecting a singe QB, so it is no surprise they landed on of the top undrafted guys at the position.  The fact he never completed 60% of his passes and often missed hitting receivers in stride is a real concern, but there is plenty of arm strength and ability to slide around the pocket to buy time.

New York Jets

Favorite Pick: Round 2, Pick 59 Overall – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor – Baylor got a lot of air time this season given their undefeated run before seeing Oklahoma twice, and every time you put on a Baylor ballgame, Mims was making plays. He has good size, a sub-4..40 40, and can block. In another draft he is a first-round receiver but depth at the position caused him to fall to the back end of round two in this draft.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 11 Overall – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville – This is the start of what will be a trend for me, essentially marking any tackle not named Tristan Wirfs as a least favorite pick. I actually like Becton a lot and think he will be a quality player; I just don’t think he was anywhere close to the best available.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 5, Pick 158 Overall – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia – Hall went back to Virginia for another year to try and become a first-round selection, but instead he slides to the fifth. This was undoubtedly one of the top needs for the Jets, and they get a guy who was once a no-brainer day two selection mid-way through day three, this decision was easy for me.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska – Yes, there are now two Lamar Jackson’s in the NFL, although this one will never be the star the QB in Baltimore is. I was actually quite surprised Jackson did not get drafted, as there were some that saw him as a potential day two selection. He is a big corner, standing 6’2”, and may eventually have to move to safety as he is very good with the ball in the air but can be beat by quick receivers. If he moved to free safety, his size and ability to get after contestable balls could make him a multiple year contributor to the Jets secondary.

 

Predicting the NFL Season

AFC

North

WLT

Div

Steelers

12-4

4-2

Ravens

10-6

4-2

Browns

10-6

3-3

Bengals

3-13

1-5

 

South

WLT

Div

Texans

10-6

4-2

Jaguars

8-8

3-3

Titans

7-9

3-3

Colts

7-9

2-4

 

 

East

WLT

Div

Patriots

12-4

6-0

Dolphins

6-10

3-3

Bills

4-12

2-4

Jets

2-14

1-5

 

West

WLT

Div

Chiefs

12-4

5-1

Chargers

12-4

4-2

Raiders

5-11

2-4

Broncos

5-11

1-5

   


 

    NFC

North

WLT

Div

Packers

12-4

3-3

Vikings

10-6

4-2

Bears

10-6

4-2

Lions

3-13

1-5

 

South

WLT

Div

Falcons

12-4

4-2

Saints

12-4

4-2

Panthers

11-5

4-2

Buccaneers

5-11

0-6

 

 

East

WLT

Div

Eagles

11-5

5-1

Cowboys

10-6

5-1

Redskins

3-13

1-5

Giants

2-14

1-5

 

West

WLT

Div

Rams

14-2

5-1

Seahawks

9-7

4-2

49ers

5-11

2-4

Cardinals

2-14

1-5

 

Super Bowl: Chiefs over Rams

College Football Playoff Preview

Let’s face it, we all wanted to get rid of the BCS, but is the current version of the College Football Playoff really that much better? Every Tuesday, 12 supposedly un-biased members of a playoff committee flew to Dallas to meet and discuss the playoff rankings which were announced on a weekly special on ESPN. If “weekly special on ESPN” doesn’t make you question the honesty of a committee, I am not sure what will, but then they went out and blatantly showed that is was all for money and ratings at the end of it all. TCU was ranked as the number three team in the playoff standings with one week to go, meanwhile Baylor was left out despite having beaten TCU head-to-head. Then, in the final week, TCU goes out and absolutely destroys Iowa State 55-3 leaving anyone with any sense about them to reasonably conclude they had secured a spot in the Playoff. Not only was that not true, but they fell all the way to sixth, behind the Baylor team that many had been arguing should have been ahead of TCU all along.

So, every ranking before the final rankings were clearly just a made for TV special so ESPN could make a few extra bucks and boost their ratings. If the rankings are so blatantly manipulated for ratings and discussion, why didn’t they manipulate the final rankings for premium viewership? Alabama got the number one seed, allowing them to stay in the South and play in the Sugar Bowl, and Oregon gets to stay on the West Coast and play in the Rose Bowl. That left Florida State and Ohio State as the next two team in the playoff, and the seeding is obvious right? Send Florida State to the Sugar Bowl to play Alabama and Ohio State to the Rose Bowl to create a traditional Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup. No, apparently a couple months of lip service BS specials on TV was enough devious manipulation for the committee and the easiest one would be too obvious for them. So Ohio State heads to the Sugar Bowl and undefeated, yet third ranked, Florida State heads West to the Rose Bowl.

Enough about the garbage that was the committee, let’s take a look at the games. The Playoff could feature the top three overall picks in the coming NFL draft, and a third string quarterback who said on Twitter “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS”. Yes Cardale Jones, you got a free ride to a premier university to be a third string quarterback and not go to class, I am sure you will be wildly successful in life after college.

So the third string QB who hates college despite playing college football will face the number one team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide. This is a matchup that is as interesting for the coaching matchup as it is the players on the field. There might not be two better college football coaches in the game today than Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, so it will certainly be fun to watch. Also fun to watch is receiver Amari Cooper, who is likely to be the first receiver taken in the coming NFL draft. In the end, Alabama should be able to win this game rather easily with their defense against a quarterback who has just one start under his belt.

In the Rose Bowl, the last two Heisman Trophy winners take the field in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Winston’s off-field issues will likely cause him to drop some in the NFL draft, but these two could end up being the top two pick come April 30th. Florida State has not lost a game in two years, but they also haven’t faced a team like the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks obviously have a high powered offense, but their defense gets underrated and I see them just pulling out a very close game.

That would set up a National Championship matchup of Alabama and Oregon in Jerry’s World in Dallas. Oregon has not faired well against premier SEC teams in recent years, but this team has the best chance to get it done. While I would be rooting for an Oregon victory, and could see it happening, if I had to place good money on the game, I would have to go with Alabama purely because of Nick Saban. The Tide is playing as well as any team in the nation down the stretch and they have the best big game coach in the country, but it won’t be a blowout, instead a very competitive game.

Homer Corner: Make Michael Sam a Ram

I think it says something positive about society that one day after SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam comes out as gay, the media has already moved on to way more important things…such as still debating and theorizing on why Shaun White opted not to compete in slopestyle. Now they can talk about not winning the Gold he was expected to, though regardless of what anyone says, a fourth place finish in the Olympics is hardly terrible.

That’s right, a nearly week old story about an Olympic athlete making a thought-out decision to not compete in a particular event is still commanding more headlines over the NFL soon having its first active openly gay player. 

Barring a terrible combine or suddenly going all Aaron Hernandez on an acquaintance, Sam will be drafted. He’s an excellent player as evidenced by his accomplishments this year. Some draft analysts have him going as high as the second round. Most have him in the third. All of them have him going somewhere. 

So where is that somewhere going to be? Let me be the first to say, let’s bring him to the Rams. Why? It’s the perfect environment for him. Look, one peek at Sam’s childhood/upbringing will lead you to the quick conclusion that coming out was hardly the toughest thing he’s dealt with. The kid has had three siblings die, and two more are incarcerated. He has a thick skin and will be able to deal with adversity. 

Still, you know there are going to be times when some player or fan in a spectacular moment of ignorance and bigotry will drop a slur or worse yet, wax poetic on some obtuse philosophy about football being no place for a man like Sam. Thick skin or not, when adversity rears its head, it’s nice to be where you are comfortable, feel supported and can bank on the right people having your back. 

So why the Rams? After all, if this were an episode of Family Feud, and Steve Harvey said, “Top five answers on the board, name a state associated with social tolerance,” think Missouri would crack the list? However, that’s where Sam went to college. And he came out to his team before the season started, and they all had his back. Nobody sold him out on Twitter. Nobody leaked a story anonymously to the press. They knew for months. We found out yesterday. Pretty freaking cool, huh? 

Second, there’s coach Jeff Fisher. I’ve long thought that his reputation as a coach is inflated. I still think he lacks the ability to make the in game adjustments to steal the extra win or three over the course of a season that the top coaches always seem to somehow manage. And I’m still convinced his eye for talent has cataracts. After all, this is the guy who thought Jim Walton, who presided over a breath-takingly bad secondary in Detroit, had the chops to handle a defensive coordinator position. But as a human being, Fisher seems the type to have his priorities firmly in line, and any intolerance will, for lack of a better way to put it, simply not be tolerated. 

Third, that defense is already populated with classy leaders; Chris Long, William Hayes, James Laurinaitas. Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn are growing into those roles too. (It’s worth mentioning Cortland Finnegan too. His atrocious play might spell release, rendering him a non-point, but nobody has ever questioned him as a leader to young teammates.) If these guys can provide an environment where young players deemed prone to getting in trouble, such as Alec Ogletree and Janoris Jenkins, can stay for the most part in line, providing a positive work environment for a teammate whose “difference” from everyone else is something as insignificant as sexual orientation should be a breeze. 

Ultimately, Sam’s success or failure as a professional football player will probably have nothing to do with his orientation, and everything to do with whether he can physically and mentally compete at the next level, just like it does for everyone else trying to make the jump from college to the pros. Personally, I’d like to see him succeed and I think St. Louis is great place for him to start that journey.  

Most Annoying Super Bowl Storylines

Every year around this time, the media does a phenomenal job out beating dead horses and desperately trying to make stories out of things that are non-issues. It’s unspeakably annoying. It’s as if they think a game the magnitude of the Super Bowl needs additional hype or something. Here’s a few that make us want to stab ourselves in the eardrums.

Torsten’s top three:

Number One Scoring Offense vs. Number One Scoring Defense: Ok, we get it. Denver has an explosive offense, Seattle has a sturdy defense. Here’s why it’s crap. Yeah, Denver scored the most points and Seattle allowed the fewest to be scored upon them. Does it make them the best? Maybe, maybe not. Sure, Denver’s offense is great, but their point total is somewhat inflated by the fact that they continued to bomb the ball down the field in garbage time of games that were already blowouts and their opponents had essentially thrown in the towel (See 12/22 vs. Houston). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping the pedal to the medal, per se, but it’s not a matter of debate that this type of philosophy will impact point totals. Additionally, Seattle’s defensive prowess is somewhat inflated because of how brutal the atmosphere is for visiting teams. At home, they’re liable to hang a goose egg on any offense. On the road, where offensive linemen can get off with the snap as opposed to a split second late, they can be run on a little bit, and that makes a difference.  But anyway, this is the Super Bowl! Obviously, any team that gets here is going to be pretty good on both sides of the ball. They have to be. That’s why they’re the last two remaining. 

Richard Sherman: It’s truly ridiculous. He goes on a WWE villain-type rant in his post-game interview after making the game-deciding defensive play, insulting Michael Crabtree, and everyone is quick to call him names, including “thug.” All of a sudden, people jump on the other bandwagon. Oh, Sherman overcame incredible odds to avoid gangs in Compton, demonstrate academic excellence in high school and again in college at Stanford, and look at the genuine distress he was in over NaVorro Bowman’s gruesome knee injury! Come on… having empathy when a colleague, even an opponent, suffers a terrible injury doesn’t make you special. It makes you not a sociopath. And his assertion that being called a thug is just a notch below being called the N-word, well that’s just lunacy. For those of you that care, the word thug originates from circa-13th century India about a nefarious group of scoundrels that gave people a bad time. It was and is commonly used to describe mafia and other organized crime henchmen whose sole purpose was to physically intimidate or harm people who didn’t “play ball.” And yes, it is used in connotation with black gang members as well, but if it’s equivalent to one of the more despicable slurs out there, why did Tupac Shakur start a hip hop group called Thug Life, alluding to thug life being more about overcoming adversity and achieving success? Anyway, what it boils down to is this. I’m not a shrink, but it appears Richard Sherman is an excellent football player, academic and intelligent, a little narcissistic, and perhaps a little underdeveloped socially. But ultimately, who gives a sh*t? He’s just one player, albeit a good one, who is gonna be on the field February 2nd.

The Weed: Granted, this is more of a joke than it is a storyline; the two states who legalized recreational marijuana use are represented in football’s biggest game. But believe you me, there are those people out there (who no doubt have done their fair share of recreational using) who truly believe that it’s some kind of cosmic justice or karma. Really? On the plus side, the topic has come up of medicinal pot use in the NFL, specifically pertaining to the treatment of concussions. Which, if it’s viable, needs to absolutely be implemented. Meanwhile, the joke is old. Let it go already. It’s not like stoners are suffering from a shortage of things that they find funny.

Shaun’s top three:

Before I jump into the three storylines I am sick of hearing, I want to add to one of Torsten’s.  Usually Torsten is the one that loves to throw about conspiracy theories within sports, just ask him about Sepp Blatter or the NFL referees, but he completely missed one.  We are probably all sick of the Peyton Manning and Papa commercials for Papa John’s, but is it really any surprise that main sponsor of the Super Bowl is a pizza company when the two teams that make it to the game come from states that have legalized marijuana?  I think not.  With that said, here are the three storylines I am sick of:

Peyton Manning’s Legacy: Really?!?!  So, if Manning doesn’t win another championship, does that mean he hasn’t been a great quarterback?  As a Patriots fan, I inherently cannot stand Peyton Manning, but there is no debating he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.  Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl, but guess what, he was great.  One more championship won’t be enough to catapult Manning over Joe Montana in the eyes of anyone that feels Montana is the greatest ever.  Trent Dilfer has won a Super Bowl.  The NFL’s leader in interceptions thrown last season, Eli Manning, has two rings.  Peyton’s legacy is set as one of the greatest ever, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game.

Weather: When it was first announced the Meadowlands would be hosing the Super Bowl, I was really hoping it would be about -20 degrees with 60 mph winds because I feel it is a terrible idea, but now that every sports outlet has a full time meteorologist on staff to let us know what the updated projected high and low for Sunday are every half hour, I no longer care.  The two teams in the game come from dynamic home climates.  One, the Broncos, play their home games at high altitude and cold weather.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks play in the wettest city in America.  Rarely does anyone look at the weather before the first cut to the stadium during a pregame show, so why should we this week?

Media: No, seriously, I am sick of everything on TV and radio in terms of the game outside of outlets that actually look at matchups and breakdown the game.  My phone sent me alerts yesterday (Monday) when each team landed at Newark Airport.  What?!?!  Teams flew to Jersey for the game, the plane arrived, and that is news?  Thank you ESPN, you make me a dumber sports fan one update at a time.  Then there is media day.  A whole event dedicated to the media interviewing players…which they do every day anyway, only media day is held on the field.  Oh, wait, no it isn’t, this year the game is in an outdoor stadium with snow on the ground, so they are hosting media day indoors, you know, kinda like every other interview ever. 

AFC Conference Championsip Preview

New England +4.5 @ Denver (55): The New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos in overtime, in New England earlier this season, after the Patriots handed over a 24-10 halftime lead thanks to multiple fumbles early in that game.  This game is in Denver, and I don’t expect it to be a sloppy game like the first one.  I do believe the Patriots will pull this game out, but if the line was Denver +4.5, I would tell you to take Denver on the betting line. 

The game will come down to a field goal or less, because, well, why not when you have a matchup of the two best quarterbacks in this generation.  In all the great Peyton vs. Brady mathups, neither has ever won a playoff game against the other on the road, but that changes this weekend.  Denver fans can get loud, but nothing like the Colts fans used to get in the dome, so Brady’s audibles at the line shouldn’t be an issue on Sunday.

The Broncos have lost another defensive back, and that could prove to be the difference.  The Patriots have the biggest selection of unassuming wide outs, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Austin Collie, as any team has ever had, but they are productive.  In addition, the running back depth is impressive, and Shane Vereen can create mismatches all over the field.

For the Broncos to win, they will need to lean heavy on Knowshon Moreno.  The Patriots are thin at defensive tackle and middle linebacker, so a between the tackle running attack is their biggest weakness on defense.  Despite this being a game between two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, the winner will be the team that is able to run the ball more efficiently.

You can follow Shaun Kernahan on twitter @shaunkernahan, add him to your network on Google, and like Shaun on Facebook.

NFC Championship Preview

San Francisco +3.5 @ Seattle (40): Does anyone else think it’s really funny that the Seahawks refused to sell tickets to anyone in California? Hey, a “rivalry” suggests that teams don’t like each other, right? And while both would probably deny it if you put them on the spot, I’m pretty sure the coaches don’t like each other much. Well, Pete Carroll probably doesn’t like Jim Harbaugh much from their college days after Harbaugh went for a needless two-point conversion with Stanford late in a blow-out win over Carroll’s USC Trojans. And Harbaugh…well, he’s just kind of a d*ck. 

Anyway, here’s where we cover all the obvious stuff. The game is in Seattle. Seattle almost never loses at home. It’s really loud. Blah blah blah. 

Well, last time San Francisco came to Seattle, they got embarrassed. Don’t think they will have forgotten that. So, the question then is, will that serve as motivation for the 49ers, or will it boost the confidence of the Seahawks defense? 

It’s going to prove tough for both offenses to move the ball. It may come down to which of two excellent kickers, Phil Dawson or Steven Hauschka, gets more opportunities. There have been times, this season where Seattle could be run on. If Frank Gore and company get going, it could make the difference. I’m going with a 16-12 win for the ‘Niners, with a late comeback attempt by Seattle stalling in the red zone.

NFL Divisional Weekend – AFC Preview

I will twist Torten’s rodeo analogy, a solid pull by the way, and twist it into the upcoming Olympics.  The Stain is standing atop the podium receiving our gold medals for terrible predictions last week.  Among the eight potential betting lines, spread and over under for each game, I am pretty sure we almost got one right, so if you are in Las Vegas this weekend, be sure to go completely opposite of our choices here.

Indianapolis +7 at New England (53):  As a Patriots fan, and knowing my history in predictions posted online, I am tempted to take the Colts in a blowout, you know, to reverse jinx it, but I have to remain objective here.  The Patriots should win this game, but the seven point spread is huge for this matchup.  With Brandon Spikes hitting IR this week, join Jarrod Mayo and Vince Wilfork, the three best middle defenders, and run stoppers, are now on IR.  Lucky for the Patriots, the Colts are terrible when it comes to running the ball.  The Colts will have to rely on Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, which is actually a good matchup for them this week.  Aqib Talib is a master at shutting down big #1 receivers, but can struggle against the smaller quicker types, aka T.Y. Hilton.  The Patriots offense is a whose who of who’s that.  Gronk is on IR, and the only household name left is Tom Brady.  Shane Vereen is as versatile a back as there is in football, and the best rusher is a guy best known for decking a guy on Boise State, LeGarrette Blount.  Amendola and Edelman are excellent slot guys, but the big play will need to come from one of the rookie receivers.  Robert Mathis will be in the backfield all game, and Brady will come out of the matchup beat up, but will do enough to win.  I see a high scoring game, 34-30 Patriots. 

San Diego +9.5 at Denver (55.5): San Diego is the hottest team in the NFL, having won five straight, including two against Kansas City, and one against Denver, and will give the Broncos all they can handle again.  Picking against Denver is a terrible idea regardless of the matchup, they are the most talented team in the NFL, and have the greatest offense in NFL history, so, I pick the Chargers to win.  Yup, I am running with the terrible idea, and I feel good about it.  Weather shouldn’t play much of a factor in the game, outside of the wind gusts that should reach about 25 mph, which can cause some trouble for Peyton, but that is not going to be the difference in the game.  Keenan Allen is as good a rookie receiver as there has been in several years.  He seems unassuming when watching the game, and never makes the big highlight plays, but watch a Chargers game, and #13 will be a staple.  He will end each game with near 10 grabs, around 100 yards, and a touchdown or two every game.  Ryan Matthews is running like the first rounder they expected when they drafted him several years ago, and Phillip Rivers might be the second best quarterback in the league right now.  Yes, I just punched myself in the gut after writing that, but he is truly playing the quarterback position as good as anyone not named Peyton Manning.  In order to win the game, the Chargers need to keep the score reasonable, and they will, easily covering the spread, and just coming in on the under.  I pick the Chargers, 28-24.

You can follow Shaun Kernahan on twitter @shaunkernahan, add him to your network on Google, and like Shaun on Facebook.

NFL Playoff Weekend Preview: NFC

Well, if they were giving out belt buckles for worst playoff predictions last weekend, our pants would certainly have been securely fastened to our waists. This weekend’s matchups will hopefully make us look less like blithering fools, and more like we actually know what we’re talking about with this stuff. 

New Orleans +8 at Seattle (46.5):  Well, what do we know? Seattle is brutal at home. Last visit the Saints made up there didn’t go well for them at all. And whatever this polar vortex thing is, it’s making places cold. Very cold. Does Drew Brees like the cold? Not really. Seattle can be run on, but unfortunately, the Saints don’t really have a strong running game. Last week, I bagged on the Saints D a little bit, but they performed better than I thought against Philadelphia’s explosive offense. And Seattle, while good, is not Philly on offense. That 46.5 over/under looks really high for me. I’m seeing a defensive and elemental battle here. Nobody (besides Arizona) beats Seattle at home, I’m taking the ‘Hawks 17-10. 

San Francisco -1 at Carolina (42): I hate clichés like “point are going to be at a premium,” and nonsense like that. Points are always at a freaking premium. Without them, you can’t win. It’s going to be a real “field position battle.” Really? F*** you! Every game is a field position battle. If it wasn’t, teams would go for every single fourth down. But anyway, they rankle me less for this game than others. I’d bet my life’s savings (not very much) on the under (and probably lose, kowing my luck). Coaches, except in game-winning situations, view field goals largely as consolation prizes. Well, we didn’t get in the end zone, send the pseudo football player out there to boot one through the big yellow thing. But when you look at this game, “field goal range” is probably going to be a very early consideration. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: when you go against superior defenses (which both teams have), you tend to adopt a conservative game plan, thereby putting a ceiling on how effective you can be on offense, making it easier for the defense to stop you. But at least you’re not committing turnovers! Anyway, both teams use the read option, so both teams can stop it. I really have no idea. I’m going to go with Carolina by a score of 16-6, but not because they’re the home team. Because they have former 49er Ted Ginn returning punts, and he might break one off.   

There you have it. Am I right? You can bet on it! Just know, if you do, you might lose.