Behind the Mic: A Much Different Weekend

If you recall, last weekend in the NFL, all of the underdogs won.  That’s right.  The teams that were favored to win did not.  And the thought by many was that the Colts, Cowboys, Chargers, and the Eagles all had a legitimate shot to do the same thing this weekend.  Perish the thought!

The Colts were never in the game with the Chiefs (31-13).  Dallas needed a late score to make the game look closer than it was against the Rams (30-22).  The Chargers were anemic against the Patriots (41-28).  The Eagles, on the other hand, came within an unfinished drive of beating the Saints, but they, too, did not prevail (20-14).

So, the divisional round games were basically a bunch of “yawners”.  But, that should not be the case this coming weekend.  Each match-up is extremely intriguing.

According to the lines on the games – 3 points for the Chiefs and 3.5 points for the Patriots – the only difference between the four appears to be the home field advantage.  The other interesting thing about the match-ups is each game involves high-scoring offenses.  Again the over/under line is 57 for the Rams and the Saints and 57.5 for the Patriots and the Chiefs.  The 114.5 combined number is the largest in 30 years.

Obviously, the Vegas odds makers don’t just take offense into consideration when they arrive at over/under numbers.  They also must look at the defenses.  The Chiefs’ defense is the worst of the bunch and the rest of the group have average defenses, at best.

The other huge asset for each of these four teams and, it may be the best predictor of a great Sunday of football, are the four coaches.  What announcer has not mentioned the Andy Reid tree in the last month?  Sean Payton has maintained excellence throughout his career and then (duh) – there’s Bill Belichick.  That leaves Sean McVay of the Rams, who is, by far, the most innovative mind of the young coaches.  This is an elite group, for sure.

Speaking of elite – there’s the quarterbacks – Brady, Brees, Mahomes, and Goff – two future Hall of Famers and the best young talent around.

Sunday promises to be a great day of NFL football!!

P.S.  Check Gary’s Guesses to see which teams make it to the Super Bowl at the end of the blog.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSING)

 

  1. As much as Eagles’ fans want to keep Nick Foles around (and why wouldn’t they?), it will not happen. Carson Wentz is their future and the Eagles cannot possibly carry the $20.5 million price tag attached to Foles.
  1. There are cries to fire Jason Garrett of the Cowboys. He certainly is one of the most apathetic appearing coaches on an NFL sideline.  He does not seem to be the type to light a fire under his team, BUT, in the last three years, only the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs have won more games.  And all the noise about firing him comes from the outside, not from within the locker room. So, wait and see.
  1. If either the Patriots or the Saints win the Super Bowl, will Tom Brady or Drew Brees call it quits? Both have contracts that run through 2019.  They are so competitive that this is a tough call.  Look for them both to return.
  1. Alshon Jeffery dropped three passes all season, but every Eagles fan will remember the last one. And that is a shame. Alshon Jeffery is a great receiver and certainly was one of the main reasons the Eagles overachieved this year.  It is more appropriate to feel badly for Jeffery than to condemn him.
  1. RCN-TV has been the home of a number of upsets this basketball season – Easton over Beca, Liberty over Emmaus to name a few. This week, it’s Easton at Northampton on Tuesday night, Navy men at Lafayette on Wednesday, Easton at Parkland wrestling on Thursday, and Allen at Emmaus on Friday followed by Wilson at Bangor.

 
Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 3-1)  (Overall: 165-82-2  67% )
 
NFL PLAYOFFS
 
NEW ENGLAND
RAMS

Behind the Mic: Age is Just a Number

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.
 

When you get to be my age (and, trust me, it takes a while), and you are still doing what you love to do, it doesn’t hurt to find some inspiration from time to time. You know, some examples of those who could have packed it in and moved on, but decided to continue to give it a try.  Three of those stories played out this weekend.

I will start with Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Washington Redskins. At Oklahoma, in three seasons, he ran for 4,245 yards, 73 yards short of the career rushing record.  He did not play his senior year, opting to turn pro.  That was twelve years ago.  Adrian Peterson is 33 years old.

He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He stayed with the Vikings through the 2016 season.  In that time, he set or tied five NFL rushing records, and five Vikings’ records.

In the 2016 season, he needed knee surgery and he was released by the Vikings in 2017. The New Orleans Saints took a chance on him and signed him in 2017.  He played only four games and was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.  He injured his neck and did not finish out the season.   Great career, but it was time to retire, right?

Nope. The Washington Redskins took a chance and signed him this year.  This past weekend against the Packers, he rushed for 120 yards and scored two touchdowns.  He now has 102 touchdowns and it was his 52nd 100-yard game.  Thirty-three is old for an NFL running back, but, in this case, it’s just a number.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has played quarterback in the NFL for seven different teams. After graduating from Harvard, he was drafted by the Rams.  He has played for the Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, and now the Tampa Bay Bucs.  For most of these teams, he was the backup given starting opportunities from time to time.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is 35 years old.

This season began with the Bucs’ starting QB, Jameis Winston, suspended for the first three games. Fitzpatrick got the start.  In week one, he threw for 417 yards and four TD’s.  His team upset the Saints 48-40.  He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  In week two, he led the Bucs to an upset win over the Super Bowl champion Eagles 27-21.  He was again named the Player of the Week.

This Monday the Bucs lost to the Steelers, but Fitzpatrick led a second-half comeback. They lost 30-27.  Perhaps the game time was too late for this “old” QB.  Some would say he should be in bed!

And then there is Tiger. Tiger Woods is 42 years old.  He has won 14 major championships, 18 World Golf Championships, and has a total of 80 career wins, trailing only Sam Snead by two. Due to the wear and tear on his body AND his age, he went through four back surgeries and had not won a tournament in five years. Since his departure from the game, golf has become a young man’s sport with the real stars being in their early 20’s.  He was, more or less, written off as a future winner.

But this weekend, Tiger won again. At 42, he won the Tour Championship.  The five- year drought ended and golf had a resurgence of viewers.  The broadcast on Sunday drew three times the audience the same championship had last year.  And it was an NFL Sunday.  Since Tiger’s return, the size of the viewing audience has soared.  He was in contention for the PGA championship in August and the telecast drew the highest ratings in nine years.

And I just bet the audience was made up of all ages – young people who want to get to see Tiger’s greatness for themselves and the older viewers who can tell themselves, no matter what their age, that it is just a number! There is always more to accomplish.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. When the Bills beat the Vikings 27-6 this past Sunday, it was the largest NFL upset in the past 23 seasons. The Vikings were favored by 17 points. According to reports out of Las Vegas, one gambler bet $18,000 on the Vikings with a payout of just $1,000 if he won. He didn’t. Another person bet $9,000 on the Vikings to win $450. He didn’t either. And after the Lions beat the Patriots, the bookies had a good day.
  2. Carson Wentz did not have a great day for the Eagles on Sunday, but they won, he scrambled like old times, took some hits, dove for a first down, and came away healthy. That checked off a number of boxes!
  3. I’m sure Eagles’ fans who have been around for awhile remember Tommy McDonald, the small, but fast, sure-handed receiver from the 1960’s. He was part of the 1960 NFL championship team led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. McDonald passed away this past week.
  4. It’s officially over for the Phillies this year in terms of post-season play. The way this season is coming to a close puts a real damper on any enthusiasm the start of the year might have had on next year’s success. Here’s hoping…
  5. With the Celtic Classic part of the weekend schedule, RCN-TV will present one high school this Friday night, but it is a good one – Palisades at Notre Dame live at 7:00pm. Chris Michael and John Leone will have the game. Saturday, Mike Joseph, John Leone and I will bring the LafayetteCentral Connecticut State game to you at 6:00pm. You’re invited join us.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 8-8) (Overall: 26-20-2  57% )
 
Week FOUR
RAMS
NEW ENGLAND
INDIANAPOLIS
ATLANTA
GREEN BAY
DETROIT
JACKSONVILLE
CHICAGO
PHILADELPHIA
SEATTLE
CLEVELAND
CHARGERS
GIANTS
PITTSBURGH
KANSAS CITY

The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft “Recap Thoughts”

As the dust beings to settle from this year’s NFL draft, a few observations on the picks by the Eagles and Redskins:

Most of these players were, in fact, available and, although I was very high on Eagles adding Foster to shore-up their linebacker core, I can’t argue with the logic of either team’s number-one selection.

      • Talking with Redskins insiders in the days leading up to the draft, they were unanimous in that Washington had multiple holes still to fill and that adding the “best available” player in each round was the way to go.  They did that, picking up a stud defensive lineman in Allen with their top pick and acquired value at several positions—all of them should benefit from the added depth.
      • Fabian Moreau was a good gamble for Washington to take with their third round pick. Unlike rounds 1 and 2 (see below), I don’t have a problem with selecting a top-tier player buoyed by injury concerns in round three.  Moreau clearly will not be available for training camp, but hopefully we can start to see his potential by the season’s second half.  With the league moving towards a more wide open/pass-happy offensive sets (and three WR looks becoming more prevalent), adding a physical corner with Moreau’s speed could be an excellent pickup for the Redskins.
      • The Eagles also had multiple options to strengthen areas of need, specifically cornerback, running back, offensive line and wide receiver. Their biggest gap was a corner—an area I thought the Birds needed to add at least three quality CBs in order to have a “successful” draft.  They responded by added one-and-a-half (Sidney Jones will probably not be available to play this fall). IF (and that’s a big IF) he returns in 2018 and plays up to his pre-injury capability, it will be a tremendous selection.  However,…
      • The Eagles still have gaping holes at corner, with their only other CB selection (and a good one at that) being Rasul Douglas. You could argue that Philadelphia will not be a realistic playoff contender this fall, so they could afford to wait a year and hope that Jones recovers completely from his Achilles tendon tear (same injury that felled Ryan Howard, btw).  But, you won’t really know how good Jones will be by this time next year, leaving the Eagles will virtually the same concerns in their secondary going into NEXT year’s draft.

Another somewhat questionable decision by the Eagles was to NOT target a bruising running back who get can you yards between the tackles.  In fact, with the Eagles decision to NOT bring a proven, short-yardage back and not adding depth along the offensive line, you may even have the same number of holes a year from now: corner, o-linemen, wide receiver (if either Alshon Jeffery and/or Torrey Smith don’t return), running back…clearly, this would be a ‘worst case scenario,’ but by gambling with your second round pick, this is a legit concern.

Now, if the Eagles are setting their sights on next year, when Penn State highly touted running back Saquon Barkley might be available…?

We’ll have more insights and analysis of this year’s NFL Drafts with NFL Beat Reporters Nick Fierro and George Wallace on this Thursday’s program, live at 7pm on RCN-TV.   Email us (rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) your thoughts on this year’s draft along with questions as teams get ready for “voluntary” workouts.
*****
Again, big “thanks” are in order for some of our local “AD-s” for sending us this week’s top track and field performers:

4-28-17 boys frosh
4-28-17 girls top 60
4-28-17 girls relays
4-28-17 girls frosh
4-28-17 boys top 60
4-28-17 boys relays

Colonial League Boys Week 5 Link
http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/boys/boys-track-field/

Colonial League Girls Week 5 Link
http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/girls/girls-track-field/

School administrators:  don’t forget to send us your news notes, top athletes and other special achievements to us as we continue to spotlight local student-athletes in the RCN viewing area each week.  Also, be sure to catch our local sports features on this week’s “SportsTalk” show as well!

Behind the Mic: #51 Should Be Fun

The stage continues to be set for Super Bowl LI (that’s #51 for those of you who are not Romans).  This matchup between New England and Atlanta looks like it could be one of the best games ever.

You know the names – Tom Brady and Bill Belichick versus Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Atlanta, this year, was the 8th highest scoring team in NFL history and Bill Belichick is the best defensive mind in NFL history and this year was no exception – the Patriots have the top-scoring defense in the league.  New England has Tom Brady, but Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn made Brady and the Patriots very uncomfortable when he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.  The Falcons, however, gave up more than 400 points during the regular season.

In the playoffs, the Falcons outscored Seattle and Green Bay by an 80-41 combined score.  Matt Ryan threw for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.  And Julio Jones is a super-human receiver.  During these playoffs, he became the first player in NFL history to put back-to-back 150+ yards receiving and two touchdown games together.  Belichick is known for saying he designs a defense to take away the opposing team’s best player.  That is Julio Jones.  If that becomes New England’s goal, then Mohamed Sanu and company should have a big day.

But, you must consider the fact that New England and Belichick have had two weeks to prepare for the Falcons’ offense.  Consider, too, the intangible motivation – the Patriots taking the trophy from Roger Goodell after the four-game suspension penalty imposed on the Patriots and Tom Brady to start the season.  The Patriots have been solid in the playoffs – easily beating the Ravens and Steelers.

So who will win out?  This year’s probable MVP – Ryan, or, perhaps, the greatest QB of all time, Brady?  You have two great defensive minds going against two outstanding offensive units.

I think we can expect lots of scoring – the over/under is 58.5 and that is the highest number in Super Bowl history, and could be attained.  New England is favored by three to win the game.

64% of the time this season, I have correctly picked the NFL winner.  I would like to see a Falcons’ win this Sunday, but it is very hard to go against the dynasty:

NEW ENGLAND – 31                 FALCONS-27
P.S. – Take the under!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Super Bowl III was the first to use the term “Super Bowl” and the first to use Roman numerals. No Roman numeral was used last year for #50.
  2. The top 24 shows watched on network TV all-time are ALL Super Bowl games.
  3. Americans eat more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year except for Thanksgiving.
  4. The first Super Bowl was simulcast by both NBC and CBS. Neither was happy with the other company and they had to build a fence to separate the two production companies and their trucks.
  5. No Super Bowl has ever gone overtime – five AFC or NFC championships have gone OT.

ENJOY THE GAME!!

Gary's Picks 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 1-1; Overall – 168-95-2 – 64%)

 

 

 

           

 

 

Behind the Mic: Free Agent?

This is the time of the year when NFL fans get really nervous about some of their favorite players looking elsewhere, presumably for more money.  There are currently 650 free agents on the market.  650!  Free agency is a somewhat complicated process, which most of us, I would venture to speculate, do not understand.  I did a little research and will try to offer up in the simplest of terms, NFL Free Agency for Dummies.  Keep in mind this is written by a dummy.

For my example I will use Sam Bradford, last year’s starting quarterback for the Eagles.  By the way, there are 29 NFL quarterbacks right now in free agency. Sam Bradford is an unrestricted free agent (UFA).  The Eagles had until March 9 to sign him to a new contract before he was allowed to begin talking to and negotiating with other NFL teams.  In other words, after March 9, Bradford was “unrestricted”.  The Eagles could have named Bradford a franchise player before March 1, and he would have stayed with the Eagles for another year.  The cost to the Eagles would be the average salary of the top five players at his position.  The Eagles chose not to do that so Bradford is free to look elsewhere.

Bradford originally signed a six-year contract in 2010 with the St. Louis Rams for a signing bonus of $17,975,000.  He received an average salary of $13,007,500 per year.  He received bonuses from 2010-2012 totaling $17,300,000.  In the final year of his contract, the Eagles paid him $12,985,000.  His six-year contract totaled around $78 million.  When he signed the contract, he was guaranteed $50 million, but he obviously greatly far exceeded that.

So now what?  Of the 650 free agents, Bradford currently is the highest paid on the list primarily because he is a starting quarterback.  The second highest paid free agent on the market is defensive end Chris Long at $12,500,000.  Since the Eagles decided not to name him a franchise player or try to sign him before the deadline, Bradford now has his agent looking for a deal.  One service has his calculated market value at an annual salary of $18.6 million.  This value is arrived at by comparing Bradford to Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, and Joe Flacco, all NFL quarterbacks.  Of course, his true value will be determined by the team that eventually signs him.

So, in a nutshell, you now have the numbers that a general manager must analyze to determine if Sam Bradford is the man for you.  In addition, a GM must concern himself with salary caps, but that explanation is for another time.  Remember, the Eagles can still be a part of the negotiations.  Once they have a sense of the offers being made, they too can present their offer or perhaps look at the 28 other quarterbacks available.

So what is Sam Bradford really worth to an NFL team?  Should the Eagles do whatever they can to bring him back?  Or would you just keep shopping?  If it was your money, how would you spend it?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Now, you might be wondering what other NFL quarterbacks are available. To name a few – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Tavaris Jackson, Chase Daniel, Kirk Cousins, etc.
  1. The Yankees announced this week that they will no longer honor print-at-home tickets saying there is too much fraud in the process (“rampant, on a daily basis, every single game”). StubHub claims that they encounter fraud in 0.01 percent of transactions.  Is this the Yankees just showing their power against StubHub or a concern that will expand to other entertainment venues?
  1. Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats continue to be the #1 team in college basketball, according to this week’s poll. They are 24-3 and garnered 25 of the 32 votes by the coaches.  Villanova is the team that knocked out Lafayette in the NCAA tournament last year in Pittsburgh.
  1. The PGA tour is literally in Tiger Woods’ backyard this week in South Florida and he did not commit to playing. There has been no word about his health since December.  He had a major back operation 19 months ago and two similar surgeries since then.  He is no longer listed in the top 450 golfers.
  1. Watch our local teams battle for the District basketball and wrestling championships this week on RCN-TV. The PIAA state basketball playoffs begin Friday, March 4.

 

Behind the Mic: Who Wins 50?

So the two #1 seeds in their respective conferences will ACTUALLY meet in the 50th Super Bowl championship.  One team (Carolina) scored more points than any other this year and the other (Denver) got up the least amount of yardage.  As I write this, Carolina is favored by 4.5 points.  I will attempt to analyze the two teams and pick a winner.

DEFENSE
“You win championships with defense.”  How many times have we heard analysts tell us that?  If, indeed, that is the case, it would still be very hard to choose a winner based on that adage.  Both teams have outstanding defenses (maybe that’s why they are in the Super Bowl).  Carolina’s defense has been particularly tough on quarterbacks.  They are the best team in the NFL for creating the lowest opponent passer rating.  They certainly made life miserable for Cardinals’ quarterback, Carson Palmer.  And linebacker David Newton, who broke his arm in the Cardinals’ game, is expected to play after having surgery this past Monday.

The Denver defense, however, has stopped almost every team and had little trouble stopping Tom Brady and the PatriotsVon Miller is an awesome player.  The Broncos were first in the league in total yards allowed and had 20 quarterback hits last week.  I would think that the diversity of the Carolina offensive attack would be a bigger challenge than Denver faced against the Patriots.

ADVANTAGE:  CAROLINA

OFFENSE
QB’s – Cam Newton (Carolina) vs. Peyton Manning (Denver) – wow!  Talk about contrasting styles.  Newton never seems to feel the pressure of the moment and always looks like he is just having fun.  Manning, on the other hand, is like a scientist in his lab studying and dissecting.  Newton has the stronger arm; Manning has won this game, has the experience and the knowledge of many years in the league.

Receivers – Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn, Jr. (Carolina) vs. Damaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders (Denver).  I like Carolina here because of their defensive secondary and Greg Olsen is not unlike the Patriot’s Rob Gonkowski.

Running Backs – Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert (Carolina) vs. C J Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.  Both teams give up very little rushing yardage, but with Cam Newton as a running weapon, Carolina should be a bit harder to defend.  Both teams, however, give up @ 80 yards per game on the ground.  Running the ball (except by Newton) might be a non-factor.

ADVANTAGE:  CAROLINA

INTANGIBLES

  • Peyton’s last game?  This would certainly give the emotional edge to Denver.
  • Turnovers?  Carolina has a +20 turnover differential compared to Denver’s -4.
  • Carolina’s cockiness? This could serve them well on such a big stage or derail them if things do not go well early in the game.
  • Extra points ARE important – Just ask the Patriots; they chased that one point the whole game.

ADVANTAGE – DENVER

THE PICK
This is a really tough choice (as it should be).  On paper I like the Carolina Panthers; but I do think the emotional edge goes to Denver.

THE WINNER OF SUPER BOWL 50:
CAROLINA PANTHERS  24 – 17

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME SUPER BOWL  MUSINGS)

        1. If Carolina wins, Cam Newton would become the only player to win the Heisman, a national NCAA championship, NFL MVP and a Super Bowl.
        2. If Denver wins, Peyton Manning would be the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two teams. He won at Indianapolis.
        3. The Browns, Lions, Jaguars and Texans are the only teams that have not played in a Super Bowl.
        4. A 30-second ad this year will cost $5 million, 11% higher than last year. 4 million people tuned in last year.
        5. If you like to gamble, the odds before the season started that the Broncos would face the Panthers in the Super Bowl were 184-1!

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 10-6; OVERALL 160-96 (63%)
NFL PICKS (WILD CARD) – 3-1
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS – 3-1; PLAYOFFS (6-2)
NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS – 1-1; PLAYOFFS (7-3)

The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft Recap

I don’t believe there has been more excitement, angst, anticipation—and anxiety—for an NFL Draft than this year’s selection process for both the Redskins and Eagles communities.  Birds fans wanted new Eagles Czar Chip Kelly to move up and pick Marcus Mariota, and many Skins supporters wanted a move backwards to secure more picks.  While many dyed-in-the-wool football experts really thought the odds were against both of those things happening, it seemed that many, including the entire Delaware Valley, had convinced themselves—emotionally—that a major move would be made…one that would never occur.  After several days of mental withdraw, it’s time to take a step back and take a more pragmatic view of what transpired.

Day One…the first pick

REDSKINS PICK:                B+
EAGLES PICK:                    A-  (However…)

All things considered, I believe both Washington and Philadelphia made the “safe” move.  The Redskins were not able to get the number of quality picks to trade out of the number-five spot overall, and Brandon Scherff is a good choice for a team that needed a major boost on the offensive line.  While it’s normally startling to hear a top-five pick is slated for right tackle (the #5 pick is an awfully high pick for that position), it is an area that had to be addressed, and if he can also play guard, that versatility certainly is a plus.  I had Scherff several spots lower on my draft board, but I don’t think it was a major leap for the Redskins to make to enhance their O-line.

For the Eagles, I’ll first go back to the final game of the regular season.  They had NOTHING to play for, so why didn’t they give Matt Barkley the start at quarterback?  Kelly clearly doesn’t like him (is there another team in the country with more quarterbacks—all of them ahead of Barkley?)  Playing him in the season finale would have benefitted the team no matter what happened.  If Barkley played well, it would have served as a showcase for other teams so that you could have used him as a trade chip.  If he fell flat on his face and lost, the Eagles would have moved up several spots in the draft—perhaps enough to get Marcus Mariota, their prized quarterback.  Clearly Sam Bradford was not enough to enable the Eagles to get Mariota without also surrendering other major talent, but if Bradford is your guy, why haven’t they signed him to a long-term deal—like, yesterday?  If Bradford plays well, he’s going to ask for the farm—and get it.  If he fails (or gets hurt for the third year in a row), you’re starting year-four under Kelly with no definitive quarterback.

So after dropping the ball at several steps, Kelly saved face in the first round by filling one of the three major holes they needed to address.  Of course, if they signed Jeremy Maclin last summer as I had suggested they do, they wouldn’t have had that vacancy in the first place.

Day Two…Rounds 2 & 3

REDSKINS PICK:        C+       
EAGLES PICK:            A-

While I really like the selection of Preston Smith in the second round and think he has great potential, I was not a fan of the third round trade and their subsequent picks.  The Redskins picked up a running back (Matt Jones) that I had questions about and really don’t think will make a major impact with this team.  With the other acquired selections, Washington’s first-year General Manager Scot McCloughan clearly favored selecting players in spots of need over the best available talents, and there were enough players at their initial third-round selection position with more upside that could have made a bigger impact that the collective efforts of the players gained through the trade.  However, whether he’s right or wrong, I’ll give McCloughan credit for adding bodies in the draft (see below).

The Eagles made their best decision of the draft in the second round–trading up to obtain Defensive Back Eric Rowe out of Utah.  He can be an instant starter (that’s something new for a Kelly draftee) and could be a star at either cornerback or safety going forward.  While I question selecting an inside linebacker with their third pick (unless Kelly is planning on trading Mychal Kendricks or is looking ahead to the future), Jordan Hicks is a nice pickup with the 84th overall pick and can help right away on special teams.

Day Three…Rounds 4-7

REDSKINS PICK:   B-        
EAGLES PICK:  C        

With very few big names escaping past the first three rounds (which is why I did not like the decision to trade down), I think Washington did make some good talent additions to their squad overall.  Probably the one most likely to exceed their respective numbered-round expectations is Kyshoen Jarrett, a defensive back out of Virginia Tech.  Despite being undersized (5’10”), I think he can help Washington right away on special teams, and could carve out a nice career as a nickel back or an occasional number-two corner.

In the later stage of the draft, the Eagles added much-needed secondary depth in their back-half of the draft.  However,  I’m still shocked that they didn’t select ANY offensive linemen in the draft–which was one of the three major needs to the team going in. They also didn’t get a “pure” strong safety, so that could be a more minor issue to watch as training camp unfolds.

Final Evaluations/Overall Grades

Despite failing to solidify the quarterback position–which could be a major setback to the future success of the organization–the Eagles’ picks themselves make a lot of sense.  Keep an eye on non-drafted lineman Mike Coccia.  I announced several of his games and visited his workouts at Freedom High School.  He’s an outstanding young blocker who works hard and has always had good technique.  I think Kelly would be foolish not to hold onto him as he can add some much-needed depth along the Birds’ offensive line.  Still, Philadelphia needs a lot to go right to protect an already fragile Bradford under center.

Overall, the Eagles moved forward with this draft, with a couple question marks remaining.  They may have done just enough this past weekend (and, taking advantage of one of the weaker NFL schedules this fall) to propel themselves to a playoff appearance.  How far they’ll go remains a mystery, led by the quarterback combination of Bradford (when/if healthy), Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow et al, and the team certainly didn’t do anything to help protect their signal callers with their draft choices.

EAGLES OVERALL DRAFT GRADE:  B+

I also think the Redskins made some nice decisions in this year’s draft…but “nice” won’t result in a major improvement in the win total for this season.  Their draft selections should move the team in the right direction, and, with some luck, they could win at least six to seven games this season.  The team made a few weaker selections at some spots in trying to fill needs.  Skins fans hoping for some major moves are left disappointed, as they still look to be AT LEAST one year away from any possible playoff contention, and a subpar year from Robert Griffin III (whose option for 2016 was picked up last week) might just set that plan back even further.  I’ll take into account that it was McCloughan’s first draft with the Skins, and I do believe in him going forward.  But again, we’re analyzing with our head and not with our heart, which results in a…

REDSKINS OVERALL DRAFT GRADE:  B

What are your thoughts on this year’s NFL Draft?  Which picks did you like/hate and what grades would you give the Eagles and the Redskins?  We’ll have plenty of football talk on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” so email your opinions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and tune in as we respond to your comments live on air.  Don’t forget our show is now on at a new time, live on Thursdays from 7-8pm.  We’ll also have a phone interview with Washington Nationals broadcaster Charlie Slows to talk about the first month of the baseball season on this week’s program.

Behind the Mic: A Great (Between) Game

I think you would have to agree that Super Bowl XLIX (I like that they use Roman numerals because it helps me when I do crossword puzzles – I always confuse fifty and five hundred) was terrific.  And that was just the commercials!  The game was one of the best, but you can read about the game anywhere.  It’s the commercials that need to be discussed.  I thought there were some classics among the many and very few real duds.  Here were my top five:

  1. The Fiat 500X Blue Pill – I hope I just didn’t select this one because I’m old, forgetful, and, well, because I’m old. I just thought this was the most creative of all the ads.  It certainly kept you watching as the mini-drama unfolded and went right to the (dare I say climax) end until you realized the Fiat was promoting a newer and bigger crossover vehicle.  It was ingenious.
  2. Settle It the Usual way by Skittles – This one was a classic. Everyone in town – men, women, children, babies, and dogs all had, obviously, “settled it the usual way” by arm-wrestling.  I wonder, too, if there was a little NBC arm-twisting with Skittles since the candy got so many free plugs during the playoffs.  You know Skittles are Marshawn Lynch’s favorite pre-game snack (he ate some on camera right before game-time).  I laughed throughout the commercial.
  3. The Tortoise and the Hare by Mercedes – I both liked and disliked this one. I really thought the animation was excellent and, again, told a good story from beginning to end.  I really dislike the fact that I certainly cannot afford this beautiful Mercedes sports car.  Much like the tortoise, I felt like a loser after watching this one.
  4. First Draft Ever by Avocados From Mexico – This was a great concept for an NFL game – First Draft Ever. Doug Flutie and Jerry Rice were really good, the spot was humorous, and the choices were even funnier. However, I am not sure how I can help the company, Avocados from Mexico.  I do put avocado on my burrito and now feel it’s my way of helping Mexico.
  5. Loctite Glue –I never heard of the product, but I know it now and I would think that’s what a commercial is supposed to do. This featured very ordinary people dancing, gluing, and saving their marriage.  I now think Loctite!

There were certainly many others that were outstanding – “Like A Girl”, the Budweiser dog, the Jurassic Park promo, etc.  I would have probably loved the Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton and Victoria’s Secret commercials, but I was probably discussing the “Daddy” ads with my wife.  I may just have to go online to check those out.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Just when it looked like the Patriots would be done in again by a spectacular catch, the Seahawks coaching staff outsmarted itself by calling a pass play on the one-yard line. Marshawn Lynch is nicknamed “The Beast” because of the way he runs.  It was second down.  Give him the ball twice and then get clever.  Oh, well.
  2. It figures that right at the beginning of the Super Bowl there is a call that is questionable and NBC, unlike CBS and FOX, does not have a former official to call upon for an interpretation. Was it “roughing the kicker” or “running into the kicker”?  I believe Chris Collingsworth, but an official would have had more credibility.
  3. Be honest – Did you know who Malcome Butler and Chris Matthews were before the game? I never heard of Butler and only knew Matthews because he recovered the onsides kick in the Green Bay NFC title game.  They were the least likely to be the stars of the game, but each was.
  4. Are the Patriots’ four Super Bowl victories tainted by the cheating accusations? Think Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and A-Rod.  More to come on “Inflate-Gate”.
  5. I have basketball games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And NFL football is over.  Any suggestions as to what to do on Sundays, Monday nights, and Thursday nights?

 NFL PICKS FOR THE YEAR     (Last week – 0-1)  (179-85-1 overall – 68%)   

 

Behind the Mic: The “Super” Match-up

The Super Bowl is here – Seattle vs. New England. And it is certainly an intriguing one. Seattle is going for their second straight title and that hasn’t happened in 10 years when, you guessed it, New England was able to repeat as champions. New England is seeking a fourth Super Bowl victory which would tie the record for the most by any team (Steelers and 49’ers).

There certainly have been plenty of distractions during the first week of the two weeks of preparation. Who is not talking about deflated footballs? Is Richard Sherman going to be healthy enough to play for Seattle (he certainly has been healthy enough to talk this week)? Marshawn Lynch continues to be fined for obscene gestures and for not talking to the press and when he does, his answers are senseless. Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick only got asked about the weight of footballs, not the game, all week. But now it is time to play a football game.

Putting all of the distractions aside, here are my keys for each team to win the game:

Seattle:
5. Jermaine Kearse (WR) – He needs to catch the ball, not tip the ball (two tips led to two interceptions in the Packers game); his catch won the game. Catching is much better.
4. Russell Wilson (QB) – He needs to look to run more and throw less. When he runs, throwing to receivers becomes easier.
3. Kam Chancellor (S) needs to be matched up with Rob Gronkowski (TE). He has the size and the speed to deal with Gronk.
2. Marshawn Lynch (RB) – He, as he ALWAYS does, lets his performance do the talking. He should be able to run against the Patriots. Let the Beast loose.
1.  Defense – Get pressure on Brady and combine that with great cornerback play.

New England:
5. Julius Edelman – He needs to step up as both a return specialist and a receiver, especially if Seattle successfully defends against Gronkowski.
4. Derelle Revis (CB) and Brandon Browner (CB) – Both play their positions defending the run and the pass as well as anyone. Browner played for Seattle last year and may possess some inside information.
3. Offensive line – Open holes and protect. It’s that simple, yet it’s very difficult.
2.  LaGarrette Blount (RB) – I don’t like why he is a Patriot after what he did to his Pittsburgh team and I do not want him to do well. But… Packers ran on Seattle and he must also!
1. Tom Brady (QB) – He’s the best and can join both Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as a four-time Super Bowl winner.

Coaches:
Pete Carroll – He appears to be the most energetic of the NFL coaches and his players seem to love to play for him. If that’s the case, they might want to exact some revenge for their coach since New England fired him in 1999 and hired Belichick.

Bill Belichick – Stoicism and preparation are hallmarks of him and his teams. Distractions aside, no one will be better prepared.

It sounds like the perfect match-up for a great, great game. Enjoy!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 SUPER BOWL TRIVIA QUESTIONS:

1.   The Packers won the first Super Bowl. What team did they beat?
2.  We all know the Jets were the first Super Bowl American Football League Champions (Joe Namath). Which AFL team was the second to win the title?
3.  What Roman numerals will signify next year’s game?
4.  What three teams have appeared in eight Super Bowls?
5.  55-10 is the most lopsided Super Bowl score. Name one of the two teams in that game.

    Gary's Picks

(Last week – 2-0) (179-84-1 overall – 68%)            

AND THE WINNER WILL BE:
            SEATTLE – 27-23

  
ANSWERS:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. L
  4. Pittsburgh, New England, Dallas
  5. San Francisco over Buffalo (1990)            

Behind the Mic: Will Goodell Fumble?

I am a very competitive guy. I have always wanted to win and it really didn’t matter much what the perceived competition was. I had this competitive drive when I was playing football, basketball, or baseball in high school and college. And I would carry those same “competitive juices” over into ping-pong, cards, board games, golf, or even a debate. In those areas, winning or losing became apparent by the end of the contest. The score would tell the story. Even occupationally, I always was driven by the desire to be an exceptional teacher and an exceptional sports announcer. In my professions, however, the students or the viewers determined whether I succeeded.

Why, I even compete against my older grandchildren and I have informed them that I will never LET them win. My grandson now beats me in ping-pong and can hold his own against me in golf. My granddaughters certainly have become very good card and game players. They have earned their success. It was not given to them. However, once the contest was over, I was always more than willing to shake the hand of my opponent, win, lose, or draw. I would respect their skills and move on. I did not let defeat fester inside of me nor did I take it home with me.

Speaking of competitive people, I have, like almost everyone on the planet, been appalled by the recent violent actions of these NFL players: Ray Rice of the Saints (hitting his girlfriend with his fist in an elevator), Greg Hardy of the Panthers (hitting his girlfriend in his apartment), Ray McDonald of the 49’ers (beating his pregnant girlfriend) and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings (inflicting cuts and bruises on his 4-year old son with a small tree branch) and, I am quite certain, there must be others who have gone unreported.

Some people are trying to make the case that because these men play football, a very violent sport, there is a natural tendency to carry that violence into the real world. Nonsense!! Somewhere along the way, these players have not been made to distinguish the passion, anger, or power needed to play football from the compassion, tolerance, and understanding needed to live with loved ones and in society.

This point can only be made by the powers-that-be in the NFL. Punishment for domestic violence must be severe. If players have not been taught that the playing field is not the living room or the elevator or the nightclub, then the NFL office must send the message in such a way that the message trickles down to everyone who wants to compete. I assume sports and competition are loved by these players and if that is going to be taken from them because of their off-the-field missteps, the message will, hopefully, begin to sink in.

Of course, I am well aware that domestic violence is not just an NFL problem. It is in every segment of society. But these are men who are watched and idolized by men, women, and children and are, often, held up as role models. They are generously rewarded for their talent, but they need to also pay a price for their unacceptable human failings. These situations have drawn attention to this very serious problem. It must be dealt with in a very serious manner. Not with a two-game suspension. The ball has been passed to Commissioner Roger Goodell. This is no time to fumble!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. I hope your favorite NFL team is not 0-2 or their chances at making the playoffs are just 1.7%! That’s right – only one team has made the playoffs in the last five years after starting the season 0-2. By the same token if your team is 2-0, 64% of those teams have made the playoffs in that same time span.

2. You just might want to invest into some golf lessons for your child. The money is pretty good for the very best. The top 96 golfers all made over $1 million this season. The top 13 made over $4 million. Rory McIlroy topped the chart with $8.3 million in tour winnings. That’s if you do not count this past weekend when Billy Horschel won the Tour Championship AND the FedEx Cup (worth $10 million alone). On Sunday, he ended the day $11.44 million richer! He won $14,814,787 this year. Just a note – Rory McIlroy won $3 million more from the FedEx competition. Nice job if you can get it.

3. Was Phillies closer, Jonathan Papelbon, adjusting his “cup” as he claimed on Sunday or reacting to the booing of the Phillies fans after he blew a save? The umpire thought it was the latter and tossed him from the game. He received a seven-game suspension and was fined. I guess no one believed him.

4. The EPC football picture is beginning to look like a three or four team race (Parkland, Easton, and Freedom; maybe Whitehall). Or maybe it’s a one-team race – Parkland. Parkland, Whitehall, Freedom, and Easton play each other in the next three weeks. That should tell us something!

5. I have had a bad two weeks picking the NFL winners, but I doubt if anyone has a good percentage. Take this week alone – the Rams beat the Bucs with a third-string quarterback; the Chargers beat the Super Bowl champion Seahawks in Seattle; the Redskins destroyed the Jaguars after their starting QB was injured; the Browns beat the Saints; the Eagles over the Colts; well, you get the picture.

Gary's Picks

(Last Week 6-10; Seasonal Record 15-17: 47%)
ATLANTA
BUFFALO
ST. LOUIS
PHILADELPHIA
HOUSTON
NEW ORLEANS
CINCINNATI
BALTIMORE
GREEN BAY
INDIANAPOLIS
NEW ENGLAND
SAN FRANCISCO
SEATTLE
KANSAS CITY
CAROLINA
CHICAGO