Johnny Man Crush and the NFL Draft.

Win Games, Sell Tickets, Or Both?

Win Games, Sell Tickets, Or Both?

Wow, that’s a long time between posts.  A record.  I almost forgot my login information.  I think I was so disappointed with the Masters that I had to leave this space for a while.  A whole post about the Masters being good even when it wasn’t and then that last hour and a half happened.  Unparalleled boredom.  I felt wronged.  And believe it or not, I try not to be wrong if I can help it, but sometimes you can’t help it.  I’d like to mix in being right every once in a while, but we’ve come upon the NFL Draft and no single event leads to more failed prognostications.  The leadup to the draft isn’t about being right, it’s about finding a community to be wrong with.  If you think your buddy from Summer Camp is going to Detroit in the 6th round, you can probably find a mock that backs you up.  Then, on Saturday, when your buddy goes undrafted and is fielding calls from Canada, you won’t be alone.  With the NFL Draft you are never alone.

We had a longer lead-in to this Draft than we’ve ever had and so most topics have been leeched of all intrigue.  Hey, have you heard this year’s crop of WRs is incredibly deep?  Only about four thousand times.  The yearly quarterback plummet (in the process of being named The Geno Smith Slip N’ Slide Perpetual Trophy) happened so long ago to Teddy Bridgewater that I’ve almost forgotten there was a time when he was considered a candidate for the #1 pick. Poor Teddy could have used the draft about six months ago.  In Bridgewater’s place we have Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garropolo and Derek Carr.  Derek Carr, who we don’t even have to pretend is related to David Carr–because he is! It’s that easy. The once fabled QB class looks like a train wreck to me, more shattered dreams in QB-less cities.  Can you imagine if the Vikings draft Blake Bortles?  Ponder and Bortles.  It just reeks of desperation.

I think we overlook how much desperation there is in the draft.  Such limited commodities and tremendously high stakes.  Is someone sold on Blake Bortles or are they just wishing?  Are they going to be out of a job in a year or two regardless, so it’s worth a swing?  You probably couldn’t be the GM of an NFL team (too many phone calls/not enough suits in your closet) but if you had a top-10 pick you could probably do that job.  Sure, the GM has access to reams of information you don’t.  Scouting is THEIR JOB and what have you, but is the difference on a guy like Bortles or Bridgewater going to be in the scouting?  I doubt it.  Is the guy available, does he fit a need and can you risk not taking him?

Don’t forget fear of making mistakes when we talk about tremendous draft blunders.  Getting a pick wrong carries a stigma, but so does leaving a guy on the board that becomes a star.  No one wants to see Johnny Manziel turn into their Aaron Rodgers.  Or Russell Wilson.  Or Tom Brady.  Factor in Manziel’s charisma, his pre-packaged persona, his knack for making football fun to watch and you’ve got someone who a lot of teams probably can’t afford to pass up.

There’s been a lot of talk about Manziel sliding of late and with that talk comes speculation in Philadelphia that the QB Chip Kelly once recruited could still be on the board at #22 when the Eagles make their pick.  Would the Eagles with countless holes on defense and an alleged starting QB already on the roster (along with the Sanchize) take Manziel if he slipped?  Would that lead to Chip Kelly offensive nirvana?  It has the sports talk hosts on cruise control, but I’m pretty comfortable saying it won’t happen.  Almost as comfortable as saying the end of the Masters would be thrilling.

There are 21 teams ahead of the Eagles in the Draft.  A lot of them need a quarterback.  Desperately.  Some have been waiting a decade for a quarterback.  Doesn’t Jacksonville owe it to their fans, the few that remain, to take Manziel. Sure, you can say, whoa–Jacksonville has too many holes.  They have to take the best player available.  They have to build a line and a good defense then they can look to a QB.  That’s horsebleep.  And, it’s sh*t because the “safe” guy they take at #3 could also be a bust.  And, no one wants to watch an offensive get built.  Or, if they take Sammy Watkins, who is going to throw him the ball?

I’m not terribly high on Manziel with my uneducated opinion, but he can run and he can throw and he’s certainly not lacking for confidence.  He’s not going to go meek in the huddle.  The consensus seems to be he plays too wild, takes too many chances–none of which will pay off the NFL.  He’ll be throwing picks across his body, when that body isn’t getting broken by NFL defenses.  He’s too small.  I’m starting to think that height is a bit overrated in NFL QBs.  You could fill up all the empty seats in Jacksonville with 6′ 4″ guys with big arms that couldn’t sniff an NFL field.  I don’t see why I couldn’t be wrong about Manziel the same way I was wrong about Russell Wilson.

And, so if I’m the Browns and I’ve been through the following carousel: Campbell, Weeden, Hoyer, Lewis, McCoy, Wallace, Delhomme, Quinn, Anderson, Dorsey, Gradkowski, Frye, Dilfer, Garcia, Holcomb, McCown, Couch, Pederson, Detmer, Wynn…what do you really have to lose?  One year of hype and ticket sales is probably worth it, isn’t it?  You’ve been starting over every year since you got the franchise back in Cleveland.  The best QB on this list eventually became so bad that we named a Fantasy Football league for terrible QBs after him.  Cleveland doesn’t need a slightly scrappier defense, or a slightly better offensive line.  They need to alter the history of the franchise.  They can take the slow approach, which hasn’t worked through various regimes over the last 15+ years, or they can buy a scratch ticket.

Cleveland is likely to pass on Manziel, but someone is going to take him and you can’t really blame the team that does, because the absolute worst that could happen is you are back where you started next year at this time and that’s something these franchises are all too familiar with.  I don’t know if Manziel is going to be Brady Quinn or Steve Young, but someone at the top of the draft is going to give him a chance.

***

I’d trade my entire draft for the following player: MIKE EVANS.

With no Patrick Peterson clones in this draft, I’m without my usual DB obsession.  With the gaping holes in the Eagles’ secondary there has been a lot of talk for months about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor.  I’m like, can’t we just go back in time and take Earl Thomas?  Please?  So, while I’d happily take either of those safeties to occupy the Kurt Coleman Gulf of Touchdowns at Lincoln Financial Field, Mike Evans rises above the fray with his obscene physical tools.  He’s like David Boston (on the juice) without the juice…if that makes any sense.  If it doesn’t, we probably can’t be friends anymore.  Of course, if you aren’t in the top 6 or 7 picks you have no hope of getting Evans, who’d fill massive holes for any number of teams at the top of the draft.

***

How will the Eagles draft go?  The latest rumor, after a week of googling a WR from Indiana of all places (that’s Cody Latimer), has the Birds trading up to get Odell Beckham the WR from LSU.  From the sounds of it, Beckham would remind you a lot of DeSean Jackson, minus the record company and questionable instagram account.  I must say that this troubles me a great deal.  I didn’t particularly care what Jackson’s salary was, or how well he got along with people.  I’ve never heard a great team whine about chemistry.  So, I’m afraid it could be another disappointing draft day.

In years past the Eagles would have been panicked with only 6 picks and promptly started trading down with reckless abandon.  They then would have taken three WRs in the late rounds (quantity over quality) and they all would have been aggressive busts.

This time around I think the Eagles do take a WR early, a 50/50 proposition at best, and try to fill a hole they created themselves while leaving the other pre-existing holes unattended.  But, we’ll see what happens on Thursday night when the NFL changes people’s lives in 10-minute intervals.

The Super Bowl Pick.

I'll Take The Clydesdales.

I’ll Take The Clydesdales.

This is it.  We’re entering the worst sports month of the year.  Perhaps we should thank the NFL for stretching their schedule into February, because the shortest month can be cruel to your sporting heart.  Of course, if you watch a lot of sports in February, you must REALLY like sports.  Congratulations on that, and honestly, I’m not in any mood to praise the NFL.

For the first time I’ve really noticed advertisers falling in line with the ban on using the term, “Super Bowl.”  If you pick up a flyer from Pepe’s Pizza, they can’t advertise that they have Super Bowl deals.  I’ve heard that the NFL is even trying to stop people from using the term “Big Game,” as a euphemism for the Super Bowl.  So, instead of making a reasonable ad, everyone is stuck with, “Hey, gonna be watching TV any time soon?  Call us, We might have some Dealz.”  Goodell probably just got a Google alert.  BORDERLINE language there.

I don’t see what this policy accomplishes.  Certainly the NFL isn’t selling pizza in your municipality.  I guess they just don’t want anyone on their coattails?  I guess they view the word “Super Bowl,” as something akin to the NFL logo. You couldn’t put THE SHIELD on your menu, so the term “Super Bowl” is out as well.  Anyway, as far as idiotic stands the professional sports leagues take, this one is right up there with MLB not allowing clips on YouTube.  It’s a Pick ‘Em over which is a bigger waste of time.

***

Before I make my pick, which is what everyone should be scrolling through this garbage for anyway (16-3-2 last 21 playoff games–that’s documented), I will list the five greatest consequences of each team’s victory.  I figured these out using science.

If the Broncos Win, Prepare for the Following:

5. We’ll live in a world where John Fox is a Super Bowl winning coach.  Not sure I’d be comfortable there.

4. Eli Manning will have nothing left over Peyton.  Eli gets dominated in every category from forehead area to sense of humor.  All he has is his 2-1 lead in Super Bowls.  If Peyton evens him up at two, I’m fairly sure Archie and Olivia slowly start to cut ties with the East Rutherford Pick Factory.

3. Tom Brady supporters will lose a bit more footing in the Brady vs. Manning debate, and die-hard Patriots fans may look into the deportation of Gisele.  The curse is real.

2.  Peyton Manning will almost certainly host Saturday Night Live again.  Or maybe he’ll star in a movie with Zach Galifianakis.

1.  Five million articles will be written.  2.5 Million about overrating the running QB, and 2.5 million about how defense doesn’t win championships in the modern NFL.

If the Seahawks Win, Prepare for the Following:  

5. We’ll live in a World where Pete Carroll is a Super Bowl winning coach.  I know I’m not ready for that.

4. Seattle fans will take WAY too much credit for the team’s success and somehow turn it into a sign the Sonics should come back.

3. The Peyton Manning choker narrative will live on–Probably forever.

2.  Russell Wilson will host SNL, and he’ll be terrible.

1. Five Million articles will be written.  2.5 million about the death of the pocket passer, and 2.5 million about how defense wins championships.

***

The Pick:

Having two weeks to think about a game is way too much time.  It would be like if you were in an intimate moment with the person of your dreams and they excused themselves from the boudoir….for 90 minutes.  By the time they get back, you’re ruined.  It’s ruined.  You’re going to screw it up.  Know that.  That’s what staring at this 2.5 for 12 days has felt like–to me.  Maybe that means I’m not normal.

A casual analysis says that with two weeks Peyton will figure out a way to beat the Seahawks defense, it says that Seattle won’t be able to score enough to win, and even the weather seems to be lining up right for Denver.  Of course, the vast majority of people are on the Broncos.  The line shot in Denver’s direction immediately after opening and has stayed steady since.

Am I part of the mob, part of the crowd who will dismiss those 2.5 points?  NO.

This game opened up as a Pick ‘Em, or even with Seattle as a slight favorite before shooting quickly in Denver’s favor.  So, is the early money the smart money in this case?  It’s not really a concern for me, because the line tells me that the teams are virtually even.  Seattle will be competitive.  If Vegas was worried about a blowout, or an avalanche of public money on Denver, the line would be much higher.  And, as far as Peyton getting two weeks to prepare, from what I hear, Seattle just lines up on defense and plays.  There’s not much to figure out, their success is based mostly on having very good players.  Weird. There isn’t a revolutionary scheme.

I think Seattle’s defense will be allowed to play their game by the referees, and I think Peyton will spend at least a portion of this game frustrated.  Denver’s running game will go NOWHERE.  Seattle’s ability to score is my only hesitation, but I think they can do it ugly.  Ugly and outright folks.  That’s the motto.  Seahawks, 23-20.

Other Picks:

JCK:  Denver

DC: Seattle

Nichols: Omaha

The NFL Semi-Finals.

Not A Longshot in Sight.

Not A Longshot in Sight.

Is Conference Championship Sunday better than Super Bowl Sunday?  Is this the one-day pinnacle of the NFL season?  I’ve heard this argument made, and while it makes sense on some levels (you’re getting two premium games as opposed to one) I really don’t like to hear Super Bowl Sunday disrespected in this way.  I can hear people saying all the pros you might list about Super Bowl Sunday don’t really apply to the football: parties, crazy prop betting, the commercials.  Well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?  If you are basing your argument solely on the amount of football, then your basic regular season week would reign supreme.  Siding with the conference championship games is like saying you prefer your birthday to Christmas, because on your birthday you don’t have to buy anyone else gifts.  Poor attitude.  So, while this Sunday is big, let’s not get it confused with the real thing.

***

The media, the fans, the announcers, they all love to boil games down to one thing.  If it’s possible to sum up a game in one sentence, or a quickly formed fragment–that’s the road people will take.  The games couldn’t be any better for that this weekend.

BRADY vs. MANNING

I can’t believe this is the 1st game of the day.  No disrespect to the further west residing people of Seattle, but I never thought this game would be the appetizer.  Is it TV network based?  It has to be.  Anyway, the battle between the generation’s two best quarterbacks will kick things off on Sunday.  The hype has actually become so intense around the quarterbacks that people are backing off.  The thing has been to say, “You know what, no matter what happens Sunday–it’s not going to define the legacies of these players.”  I’ve read that 100 times.  You know what I say to that?

ERRONEOUS, ERRONEOUS on all counts.

This game doesn’t impact their legacies?  Are you serious?  At some point we’re going to watch these guys battle in a big game for the final time.  They will eventually stop playing Super Bowls and wining MVPs.  For all we know, this could be it–what if Pey-Pey gets a scary neck scan after the season?  We’re not talking about whether or not these guys are making the Hall of Fame, we’re talking about best of ALL TIME.  You’re telling me if Peyton get’s his butt kicked again this Sunday, he’s got any claim to being the best?  With one Super Bowl and a career of getting bested by his most significant rival?  No chance.  And, for Brady we’re now about 10 years gone from his peak as a “winner.” A couple more losses in big games, and he’ll have officially faded away.  A fourth Super Bowl and he might be kicking aside Montana and Elway.  So don’t tell me the legacies are set.  They’re never set.  Ask O.J.

***

Defense vs. DEFENSE

I heard Ray Lewis breaking down the NFC championship game on Friday and he was speaking with a particular level of passion.  I didn’t exactly follow what he was saying, but I could tell he was fired up for this game.  Ray Lewis would like to play on both of these teams.  Seriously, anyone need a pre-game dance?

Colin Kaepernick has started to exert his control over the Niners a bit, so I might be stretching it with my headline there, but this is still the game that has everyone relying on the old “smashmouth football,” routine.  We’re going to line up AND PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH.

In Seattle, the defense, the crowd, it’s all morphed into this aura of invincibility.  And, aside from a blip against the Cardinals (and really, sometimes Carson Palmer just beats you), the Seahawks have been impossible to handle at home.  That includes throttling the same Niners on their last visit.  The Seahawks defense ate Kaepernick alive and the blowout put an apparent gulf between these two teams.  But, in the weeks and months since, the Niners clipped Seattle in San Francisco and are playing what most people perceive to be the better brand of football.  The question is, can they play it in Seattle, against that DEFENSE?

***

The Picks…

Big Dub, 7-0-1 (Whistle)

Three more wins to go for Pick ‘Em Immortality.

New England (+5.5) over Denver.  As much as I hate Peyton I have to admit the matchup between him and Brady is a coin flip. The defenses of each team is a coin flip. Special teams? Keep flipping the coin. The only edge I can clearly give any team comes at head coach. Do you really trust John Fox in this spot? I know Peyton is the one who really runs the show, but I just have this feeling that Fox is going to eff this thing up more so than Peyton.

San Francisco (+3.5) over Seattle.  Russell Wilson has proven an ability to manage games and not lose games, but I’m not sold on his ability to win games. The Nners and Seahawks are even across the board except offensively. Too many weapons for San Fran to go along with a red-hot Kaepernick.

***

Grossy, 5-2-1

Denver (-5.5) over New England.  What I noticed right away was that the line felt a bit high.  I was expecting to see the 3, 3.5 stuck on this, but for Denver to be this favored indicates to me that they are the better team.  They blew a big lead to New England on the road this year, but that game was so odd, you almost just throw it out.  Hard to imagine a New England team this decimated making it to the Super Bowl and the line is telling me Denver.

Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco.  Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense might not be in top form, but I’ve seen no indications that the Niners can win in Seattle.  I’m not sure they can even compete.  I think Kaepernick’s rise the last two weeks has been a bit overblown.  Pete Carroll’s going to the Bowl.  Live with it.

***

Kraft, 3-5

  1. New England (+5.5) over Denver
  2. Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco

***

Nichols, 4-3-1

  1. New England (+5.5) over Denver
  2. Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco

NFL Quarterfinal Winners.

Ever Been Last Picked?

Ever Been Last Picked?

This is going to be the round of the QB.  Pocket passers vs. Dual Threats.  Old vs. Young.  Idols vs. Upstarts.  Really the only thing missing is Aaron Rodgers.  In the spirit of this high concentration of QB talent I will rate the eight remaining QBs.  I usually do this every year before the playoffs start, but I didn’t do it this year which saved me the trouble of having to find a spot for Nick Foles.  The only criteria for the rankings is: who would you want to be quarterbacking your team for the rest of this post-season.  That’s it.  In ego-crushing, reverse order:  

8: Cam Newton.  I like Cam Newton.  He throws lasers, he’s durable.  He’s a bit like an in shape Duante Culpeper. But, in what will be a nit-picking process, Newton’s deficiencies stand out.  He’s the only QB left without any playoff success.  And, while he doesn’t have the greatest supporting cast, Newton is still too erratic to trust in a deep playoff run.  We still don’t know if Carolina can put together a run against good teams and that’s partly due to their QB.  

7: Russell Wilson.  Wilson is a leader.  There is no questioning that now.  He’s the smartest running quarterback in the league, maximizing effectiveness while limiting contact.  But, there are a few QBs remaining that lean on their defenses.  Wilson is one of them.  He’s not necessarily asked to win games.  It’s still too early for me to say you could take Russell Wilson and put him on Indy with that (relatively) terrible defense and he’d still be as effective.  

6. Philip Rivers.  Rivers is constantly the butt of jokes, but seems to be highly regarded by teammates who always have his back during the hard times.  In recent years, San Diego has given Rivers nothing to work with and his best chance to win a Super Bowl may have passed.  But, Rivers at his highest point can compete with anyone in the league. A three/four game hot streak at the right time is not out of the question.  

5. Drew Brees.  I’m down on Brees.  He was absolutely terrible in the first half against the Eagles and Philly not making New Orleans pay for those interceptions was the difference in the game.  There’s something wobbly about his arm-strength.  He’s accurate, but seems to increasingly need perfect conditions to execute.  He could make me look stupid today, but I don’t think so.  

4. Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick can flip plays, drives and games with one burst of speed or one incredible throw. He’s already nearly won a Super Bowl and is making a habit out of beating Aaron Rodgers.  He’s got a great defense to support him, but for me he’s a bit like Rivers with more ways to beat you.  When he’s going well, you can’t imagine a team ever drafting a pocket QB again.  

3. Andrew Luck.  Luck still makes a lot of mistakes, but he has that irrational confidence in himself that I love to see. And, what can I say, that throw to T.Y. Hilton last week won me over.  I could watch it all day.  

Zip.

Zip.

2. Tom Brady.  Brady is number two, because I hear a lot of Patriots fans and experts starting to talk about Brady in the past tense.  You hear things like, “That’s something Brady used to do.”  Perhaps it’s just a way to set themselves up for the eventual next QB, but there could be something to it.  Brady’s dominating the field in rings, but it’s been a while since he was at his best in the biggest games.  

1. Peyton Manning.  Manning on the other hand is coming off the best statistical year of any QB.  He’s been blessed with incredible skill position talent for almost his entire career, but he’s also made his share of stars.  Brady and Manning is something you always flip-flop on, and right now I’m tipping to the Manning side.  The good news is that these guys have a way of settling it on the field.  

***

The Picks…

Big Dub, Last Week: 4-0 (Whistle)

New Orleans (+8) over Seattle.  If there was ever a chance for a team to look ahead or look past an opponent in the playoffs, this is it. 

New England (-7) over Indianapolis.  If Luck falls behind by 28 again he and the Colts are dead. They’re going up against Belichick and Brady, not Reid and Smith.

San Francisco (Pick) over Carolina.  San Fran lost outright at home against the Panthers and then they opened as a favorite in Carolina in the playoffs. I’m buying what Vegas was originally trying to sell.

San Diego (+9.5) over Denver.  Peyton + Playoffs = Choke.

***

DC, Last Week: 1-2

  1. New Olreans (+8) over Seattle
  2. Indianapolis (+7) over New England
  3. San Francisco (Pick) over Carolina
  4. Denver (-9.5) over San Diego

***

Grossy, Last Week: 2-2

Seattle (-8) over New Orleans.  I’ve picked New Orleans in Seattle before.  Probably on multiple occasions.  It usually goes very, very poorly for me.  There’s only one game I really like this week, and this is not it.  It’s a ton of points to give Brees, but I don’t think he’s going to play well.  I can see something like 24-10.  Now go bet the over.  

New England (-7) over Indianapolis.  The Colts just aren’t good enough.  They come from a dreadful division. They exploited a collapsing Chief team last week, but keep in mind they gave up 45 points to Alex Smith and a third-string RB.  Andrew Luck might put a scare into Patriot fans, but it’s not happening yet.  Not this year in Foxboro.  Pats pull away late.  

San Francisco (Pick) over Carolina.  I think San Francisco is playing as well as any team right now.  The trip to Carolina should be a cake walk compared to last week.  The Niners are simply a better version of the Panthers.  Throw away their game from earlier this year.  Not relevant.  

San Diego (+9.5) over Denver.  I think Peyton and Company pull it out, but I like San Diego’s chances to keep it within one score, or possibly get a tasty backdoor cover.  Rivers is hot right now, there’s nothing too intimidating about the Denver defense.  35-31?  Why not?

 

Dylan Penn (Thankfully) Looks Like Mom…

dylan penn

…Has Those Winners

I’m done trying beers for a while.  The lax drinking efforts of some guests at a holiday party have left me with a ton of beer left over and there are only so many ways I can describe an IPA.  Resin-y!  Pine notes.  Great citrus.  So, as a nod to our great history here at Three Putt Territory–LOOK, a woman!

***

The Wild-Card Round:

The NFL gets good matchups for the wild-card round.  Let’s rate them in order of intrigue….

4.  San Diego @ Cincinnati 

Wait, the Chargers are in the playoffs?  Did anyone else have that reaction last weekend?  This looks like one of those middling AFC games that someone with an NFC bias shouldn’t care about, but there are several points of interest for this game, the first being the weather which is supposed to be terrible.  Philip Rivers in the slush, people. The Bengals are heavily favored, but haven’t won a playoff game in 23 years.  Andy Dalton might be the worst QB in the playoffs.  He’s 0-2 with 4INTs and 0 TDs the last two years.  Marvin Lewis has never won a playoff game.  The Chargers have a chance for an upset here.

Most Important Charger:  Philip Rivers.  Rivers was seen as a possible weak link during the LT years, but he’s dragging the Chargers into the post-season this year.  Rivers is capable of the spectacular and he’ll need to be almost perfect for San Diego to win this road game.

Most Important Bengal:  Giovani Bernard.  The Bengals leaned on their defense to beat San Diego 17-10 last month, but don’t expect them to contain the Chargers that well this time around.  Cincinnati will have to score more points, and Bernard is the only explosive player on the offense whose fortunes aren’t tied to Andy Dalton.

3. Kansas City @ Indianapolis

There’s something inherently boring about Kansas City.  Also, the game is being played in “Nap Town.”  But you get past those factors and this should be a very good game and an important milestone in the Andrew Luck development cycle.  Luck wasn’t as good statistically this season as some expected, but he’s still the most envied young QB in the league.  Luck’s first playoff game last year, a beat down against Baltimore, was definitely filed as a learning experience.  He’ll be expected to start winning now.  Kansas City at full health (they aren’t quite there) can beat anyone, and Andy Reid can definitely win in the Wild-Card round.  I’d throw out their game from earlier this year and expect a good one.

Most Important Colt:  Donald Brown.  Brown was part of the difference in their first matchup, gaining 110 yards and scoring two touchdowns.  The Colts offense is going to need the balance Brown provides and I wouldn’t expect the depleted and inexperienced Indy receivers to provide much support.

Most Important Chief: Alex Smith.  You know the Chiefs will get something from Jamaal Charles, and their defense should be healthy enough to keep them in the game.  The question will be if Alex Smith can make enough plays to put the Chiefs into the next round.  He was absolutely brutal in their matchup with Indy in week 16.  That cannot happen again.

2. San Francisco @ Green Bay.

This is a team vs. a mystique.  The 49ers are a better team than Green Bay.  They proved that in various ways during the season, including a head-to-head win in the opener.  But, even as road favorites, there are two major areas of concern for San Francisco.  First, the weather at Lambeau is going to be arctic.  A high temperature of -3 degrees. Secondly, they’ll have to deal with Aaron Rodgers who returned last week to give the Packers enough magic to make the playoffs.  I think Green Bay might have the advantage if it was twenty degrees.  At twenty below, I don’t know who that favors.

Most Important 49er:  Frank Gore.  Gore is coming off his worst game of the season, but Green Bay has a weak run defense and you’d think the conditions would lead to running the football.  San Francisco is also going to want to keep Rodgers off the field, so Gore’s help in melting the clock could also be a huge factor.

Most Important Packer: Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers is Green Bay.  That was evident last week and all year as the Packers were nearly sunk by his injury and the play of their atrocious backups.  I wouldn’t expect San Francisco to yield much on the ground, so Rodgers might have to pull this one off on his own.

1. New Orleans @ Philadelphia.

This isn’t all bias.  This game was given prime time on Saturday for a reason.  The weather will be cold, but I wouldn’t worry too much about its impact on the outcome.  The Saints are terrible away from the dome, dome teams are terrible outdoors in the playoffsbut it’s hard to brush aside Drew Brees with weather trends.  These two teams are headed in different directions.  Midway through the season the Eagles were thinking about drafting a QB and the New Orleans was trying to secure home-field advantage.  Now, the Saints are travelling and people are talking about Philly as the “hot” team, capable of making a long run.  First playoff game for Chip Kelly and Nick Foles, a wild and lathered Philly crowd.  Good things.

Most Important Eagle:  Nick Foles.  LeSean McCoy is easily the best player, but it’ll be up to Foles to guide the Eagles into the divisional round.  The 2nd year QB has risen to the occasion more often than not and Chip Kelly has done an amazing job of playing to his strengths.  Can Foles operate with the pressure cranked up another notch?  If he continues to take care of the ball, the Eagles will be tough to beat.

Most Important Saint:  Jimmy Graham.  The Eagles don’t have an answer for Jimmy Graham.  Fans should be terrified of the league’s premiere tight end, especially after watching Jason Witten pull in 12 balls last week.  Brees to Graham could be all the Saints need.

***

The Picks:  

San Diego (+7) over Cincinnati.  I don’t know if I’m feeling bold enough to say the Chargers will win outright, but it’s hard to trust the Lewis/Dalton combination given their track record in the post-season.  This is a lot of points to give to a team with a much better quarterback.  Remember, 23 years since the Bengals won a playoff game.  And since you’re wondering, Ickey Woods had 11 yards on six carries as the Bengals beat an Oiler team QB’d by Cody Carlson. True story.

Indianapolis (-1.5) over Kansas City.  Is now the right time to say I don’t have much a feel for these games?  The Colts appeared to matchup well with KC in their first meeting and I think Andrew Luck is ready to make a bit of noise.  The Colts are a hot team.  KC’s defense won’t be good enough to compensate for Alex Smith.  And, speaking of droughts, the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since ’93 when Joe Montana beat Warren Moon.

Green Bay (+2.5) over San Francisco.  I think San Francisco is the better team, but I’m going to cave under the pressure of Lambeau and yield to my love for Aaron Rodgers.  The Packers are going to lose at home when it’s 20 below?  Doesn’t feel right.

New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia.  I’ve spent all season doubting the Eagles.  Why stop now?  I don’t the Eagles can stop Brees.  I think the Saints came out of a stronger division (the only time the Saints played an NFC East team this year they destroyed Dallas), and I don’t think Nick Foles is going to have his best game.  The Eagles are moving in the right direction, but they’ll have to wait another year to make some post-season noise.

Other Pickers:

Big Dub:

  1. San Diego (+7) over Cincinnati
  2. Kansas City (+1.5) over Indianapolis
  3. San Francisco (-2.5) over Green Bay
  4. New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia

Nichols:

  1. Kansas City (+1.5) over Indianapolis
  2. New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia
  3. Cincinnati (-7) over San Diego
  4. Aaron Rodgers (+2.5) over San Francisco

 DC:

Indianapolis -1.5 over Kansas City.  I’ve been waiting all year to pick against Alex Smith and KCY in the playoffs.  Now’s my time.  Colts also seem to be peaking at the right time.

San Diego +7 over Cincinnati.  A pretty significant Cincy line here tells me I ought to be anticipating a Cincy rout here.  I just can’t get on board with that so I’m going the other way with the pick.

Green Bay +2.5 over San Francisco.  I’ll take the home team, Aaron Rodgers and the points.  We’ll see.

As a personal rule I don’t pick PHI games and I’m not starting now.

Handing Out Some Hardware.

Come Collect Your Prizes.

Come Collect Your Prizes.

Well, we’re at the end of another year.  The least impressive year in the history of Three Putt Territory, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean that the efforts of the people have been any less staggering.  Before I offer up one last, late and abbreviated post, I’d like to thank everyone for coming out this year and thank everyone who picked games and played D.A.  It really helped keep the engine going.  I’ve got a New Year’s Resolution to do more writing in multiple areas, so we’ll see if that means more and better blogging.

What we’ve all been waiting for….

Final NFL Pick ‘EM Standings:

  1. Big Dub, 45-33-3
  2. Grossy, 45-36-4
  3. Kraft, 46-37-2
  4. DC,  43-38-4
  5. Nichols, 43-40-2
  6. JCK, 39-40-1

Congrats to Big Dub who capitalized on Kraft’s rough 1-4 to close things out.  I’m sure it’s heartbreak for Kraft, who led most of the year.  Also, a bit of tough luck for JCK, who valiantly went 4-1, but still came up a game shy of .500. I don’t think we’ve ever had everyone finish over .500, but maybe we have.  Who can remember?  At least yours truly will be back picking the playoff games on the heels of a historic 9-1-1 run through last year’s post-season.  Sell your kid’s bike and lets make some money.

***

2013 D.A. Fantasy Football Champion:  Doubleback Vineyards.

I really don’t like winning things on my own blog (aside from Pick ‘Em, because that’s a real skill), but this is how is shook out this year.  In the two week cumulative final, I managed to get past Eli Esses D to the tune of 73 to .5. Chances are pretty slim that I buy myself a T-shirt, although history and tradition may require it.

***

Ok, that’s it for now.  Everyone take your bows and make your excuses.  Tentative and optimistic schedule for the rest of week includes a mailbag (part dated w/Christmas questions, part fresh as hell) and a playoff preview/pick combo post with a burst of nostalgia.  See you then…

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Beggars Grow Up to be Choosers.

Week 17 NFL Picks.

Week 17 NFL Picks.

It’s come to this, a week 17 game in Dallas for the season.  I often make the joke during an early season game, before a big play, “well, this is the season.”  That’s literally the case now, and an Eagles loss will be unacceptable, regardless of pre-season expectations.  They weren’t expected to contend under Chip Kelly this early, but the combination of Nick Foles magic, an improving defense and an atrocious division, changed the scale by which the team will be judged.  They’re a better team than Dallas, especially if Dallas is going to use the QB combination of Orton and Kitna. It’s a game they should win.

And, it’s a game to throw away petty personal feelings.  It doesn’t matter right now what I think about Nick Foles.  Do I deep down still find him to be a goof?  Of course, but I have no alternative right now.  They can’t tank for a draft pick, and they can’t lose this game–not to Dallas.  So, I’ll be watching Foles with good intentions on Sunday night. Unfortunately, as a fan, you don’t get to choose your QB–just your team.

***

Week 17 Beer: Lagunitas IPA

Lagunitas IPA is a bit like Sierra Nevada, in that it’s one of these “craft” beers that you can find anywhere, and it’s a common sight on tap in places that like to mix up their selection a bit.  It’s certainly more mass-produced than most of the beers I’ve tried so far, but like with Sierra, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a quality, and drinkable product.

Am I sorry I didn’t Get Sierra:  Not really.

The Lagunitas is a very traditional IPA, like the Smuttynose or the Ithaca, though maybe not quite as good in my opinion.  It has the familiar hoppy flavor, but drinks pretty easily for its 6.2 ABV.  It’s just a solid, if not obscure selection.

Top Ten Beers So Far:  

  1. The Alchemist, Heady Topper
  2. Ithaca Beer Company, Flower Power IPA
  3. Southern Tier, 2X IPA
  4. Smuttynose, Finest Kind IPA
  5. Bear Republic, Racer 5 IPA
  6. Shed IPA
  7. Lagunitas IPA
  8. Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale
  9. Red H0ok Long Hammer IPA
  10. Casco Bay IPA

***

Big Dub, 41-32-3

Atlanta (+6.5) over Carolina.  I can just feel the letdown, or maybe I’m feeling something else.

Chicago (+3) over Green Bay.  Getting points in the biggest game of the season?  Seems too easy even though Cutler Face is back in there.

Cincinnati (-6)  over Baltimore.  I feel like they cover this number a lot at home.  Lots of feelings so far.

Seattle (-11) over St. Louis.  Blow out.

Dallas (-6.5) over Philadelphia.  Hopefully, this works out as a reverse jinx.

***

JCK, 35-39-1

  1. New England (-8.5) over Buffalo
  2. Philadelphia (-6.5) over Dallas
  3. Green Bay (-3) over Chicago
  4. San Francisco (PICK) over Arizona
  5. Seattle (-11) over St. Louis

***

Grossy, 42-34-4

New York Giants (-3.5) over Washington.  Look at those Giants, going out with a bang.  If Eli plays well, maybe they can trade him to Jacksonville for their 1st round pick.  Mike Shanahan might coach this game via Skype live from another job interview.

Jacksonville (+11.5) over Indianapolis.  Last chance of 2013 to pick the Jags.  I don’t think there is any more to say.

New Orleans (-12) over Tampa Bay.  Does this game mean anything?  I have no idea.  I can’t be doing playoff scenario research over Christmas break.  What I do know is that Tampa has been getting rocked–by everyone.  The Saints should win by 2 TDS even if Brees is throwing to Joe Horn.

San Francisco (PICK) over Arizona.  Great season by the Cardinals.  Some monster wins.  Now, they just need a better QB than Carson Palmer.  The Niners win very ugly.

St. Louis (+11) over Seattle.  The Rams have been the dogs of the year.  They’re 7-8 against the spread–respectable.

***

Kraft, 45-33-2

  1. Philadelphia (-6.5) over Kitna
  2. Arizona (Pick) over San Francisco
  3. Jacksonville (+11.5) over Indianapolis (Weekly obligation)
  4. San Diego (-9.5) over KC’s 2nd String
  5. Seattle (-11) over St. Louis

***

DC, 41-35-4

  1. Minnesota (-3) over Detroit
  2. New Orleans (-12) over Tampa Bay
  3. Baltimore (+6) over Cincinnati
  4. Arizona (PICK) over San Francisco
  5. Green Bay (-3) over Chicago

***

Nichols, 40-38-2

  1. Carolina (-6.5) over Atlanta
  2. Cleveland (+7) Pittsburgh
  3. Giants (-3.5) over Washington
  4. Cincinnati (-6) over Baltimore
  5. Kansas City (+9.5) over San Diego