Behind the Mic: The NFL-AFC

The first weekend of the 2016 NFL season begins Thursday night, September 8, when the Broncos host the Panthers and it ends on Monday night with the Redskins welcoming the Steelers.  The other teams all play on Sunday.  So that can only mean one thing – it is time for my season outlook.  This week, I will analyze the AFC and do the NFC next week.  Remember everyone is 0-0 at the moment and the aspirations of the fans are running high.  If I dampen your spirit with my thoughts, just remember I don’t know any more than you do and, quite possibly, even less.

AFC EAST 

  1. New EnglandTom Brady will miss four games and Jimmy Garoppolo will take over. It probably will not matter.  Brady comes back stronger and fresher than ever; Garoppolo makes his case to get a big contract and start somewhere else; and, surprise, surprise the Patriots win the division.
  2. Buffalo They had a great draft; will get New England without Brady in one game; and have a good shot at making the playoffs.
  3. Jets Ryan Fitzpatrick has settled his differences and the back-up situation seems muddled at best with three other QB The schedule is murderous at the beginning and they get Brady for both games.
  4. Miami Adam Gase is the new head coach and the Dolphins have had a good preseason. The Dolphins just seem to underachieve.  If Gase can change that mindset, perhaps they can move ahead of the Jets.

AFC NORTH 

  1. Pittsburgh Their offense is virtually unstoppable as long as they stay healthy and avoid any more suspension problems (Le’Veon Bell). They need to improve in the secondary, but if the defense gets even a little better, the Steelers will not only win the division, but could have a shot at another Super Bowl ring.
  2. BaltimoreThey were really banged up last season placing 20 players on the injured reserve list. Since they finish the season with the Patriots, and the Steelers, their final game with the Bengals could be for the playoff spot.
  3. Cincinnati –They are better than the Ravens and they have reached the playoffs for five consecutive years, but something always seems to go wrong here. Their final game with the Ravens could move them up to #2.
  4. Cleveland – It’s Cleveland!

AFC SOUTH 

  1. Jacksonville – This team is solid – QB Blake Bortles is really good. If they can beat out the Texans, they could do well in the playoffs.
  2. Houston – This team could be VERY good. Only playing with a new QB and a new RB could cause some early problems as well as the absence of JJ Watt until his back heals.
  3. Indianapolis Andrew Luck makes them competitive; their defense does not.
  4. Tennessee – A tough schedule and an overall improved division keeps them at the bottom.

AFC WEST 

  1. Kansas City Jamaal Charles is back and he may be just enough to push them over the top. Andy Reid has a winner here.
  2. Denver – Plenty of lost personnel here starting with Peyton Manning, but my gut says they will not miss an offensive beat; defense was hurt more by free agency and the division got tougher.
  3. Oakland – The Raiders have an easier schedule than most, especially at the start. If they get confidence and momentum, they could crack the playoffs.
  4. San Diego – If you can run the ball and stop the run, you can win. The Chargers can’t do either; ergo, they won’t win.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
AFC Playoffs
Championship Game – Steelers vs Patriots
AFC Champions – The Pittsburgh Steelers

My Week One NFL predictions are coming next week.

Behind the Mic: Incognito – I Think Not

 

Incognito – I think Not

You often hear people talk about “living up to your name”. That usually implies you come from a famous, over-achieving family and your life will be scrutinized to determine if you are carrying on the successes. I suppose that if your name is Incognito, you live up to that moniker by simply not doing anything of notoriety.

Richie Incognito is certainly NOT living up to his name. Even before the incident that got him suspended from the Miami Dolphins, he was ejected from games in college, charged with assault after a fight at a party, voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2009, let go by the Rams because of a disagreement with the coach, and heavily fined for altercations on the field. He has done just about everything but remain incognito in his football career. But even those incidents pale in comparison to the latest firestorm he has created in the NFL.

If you are reading this and you are not a sports fan (first of all, thank you), Incognito has been publicly accused of ruthlessly bullying a Dolphins teammate, fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. The bullying came in the form of racist remarks, threats (real or in “fun”), and other hazing practices. Incognito, Dolphin players and, in some ways, even Martin blame the culture that envelops pro football as the true culprit. In the near future, more and more information about the relationship of these two men will certainly surface, but if you want to have a lively and, hopefully, educational conversation with others ask, some of these questions:

1) Is this situation more about an individual or more about a culture?
2) Should Jonathan Martin have simply stood up to the bully, like many of us were taught as kids, or simply walk away like HE was probably taught as a kid?
3) Are the Dolphin teammates who came out in support of Incognito as much responsible for the culture that created this problem?
4) Isn’t there one person in an NFL locker room who believes “rookie hazing” has gotten out of hand (read about Cam Cleeland’s 1998 initiation with the New Orleans Saints where he had to run a gauntlet with a sheet over his head, was hit by a sock filled with coins, and shattered his eye socket)?
5) If we love football because of the violence and the aggression, should we really be shocked that the players are violent and aggressive?
6) Are you leaning towards putting more of the blame on Incognito, Martin, or the NFL?
7) How would you rule in this case if you are the NFL commissioner?

Answer the questions as a group or for yourself now and then compare them to the answers that should be coming soon from the NFL.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. We often hear that this or that competitive contest is a “game of inches”. Lafayette had a third and one, followed by a fourth and one and gained only inches. They did not gain 36 inches, however, and any chance to beat Colgate and guarantee themselves a share of the Patriot League title was lost…by mere inches!

2. Did you ever wonder about those people who enter eating contests (hot dogs, wings, etc.)? Bill “El Wingador” Simmons is one of those guys. He is a five-time champion of the 94 WIP (Philadelphia radio) Wing Bowl. In his last attempt to win again, he devoured 250 wings, well short of the 337 wings eaten by the champion. “El Wingador” did not get the $20,000 first prize. He needed the money. On June 12, 2012, he was arrested for selling cocaine and in October 2013 was sentenced to seven years in prison. He will miss Wing Bowl 21 in more ways than one.

3. Word is that the Phillies actually would like to sign both Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz for next year. Because Halladay is coming off shoulder surgery, the chances are much greater that he could remain a Phillie than they are for Ruiz. Carlos is testing the free agent market and quite a few major league teams are in need of a good, everyday catcher. It probably is good-bye to Chooch.

4. District football action continues this weekend and the AAA and AA champions will be crowned, with the winners moving into the state playoffs. RCN-TV has Parkland at Whitehall LIVE on Friday night at 7:00pm followed by Palisades at Catasauqua for the AA championship at 9:30pm. The AAA title will be decided Saturday night when Southern Lehigh hosts Bethlehem Catholic LIVE at 7:00pm on RCN-TV.

5. Lafayette takes on undefeated (10-0) Fordham (#6/7 in the FCS polls) Saturday at 3:30pm. Catch that game LIVE also.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (6-8: Last week; 92-55 overall 63%)
INDIANAPOLIS
JETS
CHICAGO
CINCINNATI
HOUSTON
ARIZONA
PHILADELPHIA
DETROIT
TAMPA BAY
SAN DIEGO
NEW ORLEANS
SEATTLE
GIANTS
DENVER
CAROLINA