Monday, January 2, 2017

Football this 'n' that

The regular season is over in the NFL, so now the playoff tournament begins, and everyone assumes that Tom "Crybaby" Brady and the New England Patriots' "DeflateGate Revenge Tour" will conclude at the Super Bowl. Don't be so sure. Remember, New England's only two losses this season came at home. Let's consider the field:

AFC:
Wild Card Round: 

#6 Miami @ #3 Pittsburgh
#5 Oakland @ #4 Houston

Yes, you read that right. The Raiders lost the AFC West title, and you can point to the season-ending broken leg QB Derek Carr suffered on Christmas Eve as the reason why. 4th year QB Matt McGloin (Penn State) finished that game, but didn't finish vs. Denver, leaving rookie Connor Cook (Michigan State) to mop up as the defending champion Broncos, eliminated by Kansas City last week, salvaged the final game of the season. They'll be looking for experienced help for QB's Trevor Siemien & Paxton Lynch in the off-season, in addition to, if the rumors are true, a new coach, with Gary Kubiak reportedly stepping down due to health reasons. The Chiefs won the West and the #2 seed, and some say have the best chance of denying the Patriots another Super Bowl.

NFC:

Wild Card Round:

#6 Detroit @ #3 Seattle
#5 NY Giants @ #4 Green Bay

Detroit is the NFC's Raiders. The Lions choked away the North, losing to Green Bay, as the resurgent Packers won their last six games to reach the post-season. However, the Giants, runners-up to Dallas in the East, have had some playoff success at Lambeau Field. They were the ones who ended Brett Favre's run in Green Bay en route to beating New England in the Super Bowl after the '07 campaign. Seattle won the West, but have been wildly inconsistent, and it may be a psych thing after DB Earl Thomas was lost for the year.

Full playoff predictions coming later this week.
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You'd be forgiven if you fell asleep during the Peach Bowl on Saturday, as Alabama spotted Washington an early touchdown, then shut down the Huskies to advance to the title game for the 3rd straight season. As dominant as Alabama has been under Nick Saban, there's also a sense of boredom, since the Crimson Tide employ the philosophy of "next man up" better than any college team. QB Jalen Hurts is just a freshman, and likely could be convinced to stay a full four years, which would be a benefit to both the player and the school. Washington, after a 1st quarter score, couldn't adjust to the Tide's suffocating defense fast enough. Heck, I'd pick Alabama over the Patriots in an exhibition game if that was possible.

Meanwhile, Ohio State hadn't been shut out in a bowl game since 1920 (Rose Bowl). An early injury to an offensive lineman proved costly, as it opened a hole that Clemson's defensive line exploited over and over again, frustrating QB JT Barrett en route to a 31-0 win for the Tigers, the ACC champs.

There are those, though, who argue that Ohio State had no business being in the Fiesta Bowl in the first place, since they didn't win the Big 10. Penn State did, and they're playing in the Rose Bowl today vs. Pac-12 runner-up USC. Strength of schedule can be argued until the cows come home, but the simple truth of the matter is, three years in, that the system for the College Football Playoff is in fact flawed. The Fiesta Bowl would give rise to the argument that the field should be expanded to eight teams, which would allow the champions of all 5 "Power 5" (ACC, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big 10) conferences to get in, plus certain "elite" runners-up. It's either that, or rejigger the system so that an undefeated mid-major like Western Michigan, which is playing in the Cotton Bowl today, has an equal chance of getting into the playoffs. Strength of schedule, my butt. The system, like the BCS before it, is flawed because of politics getting in the way.
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San Francisco wasted little time dismissing "Paint" Chip Kelly after 1 season, and he's more likely to go back to the college ranks, as Saban did before him, rather than try to land another NFL job. Some think that Rex Ryan, after being dismissed by Buffalo last week, could land a TV gig. Nah, he's better suited as a defensive coordinator, as he was before, but with more openings, he could find another gig before Kelly does. The Jets, meanwhile, have opted to retain Todd Bowles for a 3rd year, according to early reports, acknowledging that injuries played a large part in the team's flop this season, falling from 10-6 in 2015 to 5-11 in 2016-7.

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