Monday, January 27, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS BEFORE SUPER BOWL XLVIII



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

Since the media has another week almost to conger up things to discuss leading up to the Super Bowl, I guess that's what is happening with this letter as well.

Upon request from a few loyal readers, here is the latest.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL

During the two-week wait between the conference title games and the Super Bowl, many stories get blown out of proportion because there is nothing better to talk about.  Following are a few discussion items during the hiatus.

NFL

RICHARD SHERMAN

The Seattle cornerback’s post-game interview took on a life of its own, just as if spontaneous generation was possible.  The Seahawks had just beaten San Francisco on an interception in the endzone, the pass having been tipped by Richard Sherman himself to prevent a Niners’ go-ahead touchdown.  The Seattle victory meant that his team would be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks.  Sherman’s rant became nearly as big of a story as the result of the game. 

After a game, I’m told the players usually get a 10 to 15 minute cooling off period before the media is allowed to interview them.  But this was a high-profile game, so the media had immediate access, and Sherman used his air time to personally attack 49’ers WR Michael Crabtree; he came off as crazed and out of control.  The interview was cut short by the network, anticipating that his remarks and demeanor could possibly have gotten even worse [Sherman’s mental state of mind reminded me of Howard Dean’s apparent intensity in an Iowa Caucus concession speech leading to his demise in his 2004 political race for the Democratic nomination].

But many players are very intense during a game, which especially helps defensive players reach peak performance levels.  Several former players noted that Sherman’s kind of talk and intensity is common among teammates on the sidelines during games.

Anyway, Sherman is no dummy and plays intelligently on the field (except for his taunting/throat choke penalty after the interception), and is not out of control off the field.  He graduated #2 in his high school class at Compton, CA, and I’m told he was the first Compton graduate in 50 years to get a college degree from Stanford (I cannot confirm that); he graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 GPA.
Still, for me he’s too arrogant, if that’s what you call it.  He had a personal vendetta against Crabtree and he shouldn’t have used that forum to exact revenge or soothe his own personal issues.
 (Ed- A great report on Sherman and not one use of the word ‘thug’. But then, not everyone ‘white’ is racist, and visa versa. Also Britt is a great place.)


POTENTIAL RULE CHANGES FOR 2014

The league is flirting with the idea of changing how the extra point after a touchdown is handled.  One alternative suggests giving a team 7 points for a TD, getting rid of the point-after-touchdown (PAT) kick entirely, but allowing a team to elect whether to go for an extra point with a play from scrimmage –-- get into the endzone and score one more point; fail to get into the endzone, lose one point.  I’m not sure this option will fly; scoring negative points just doesn’t seem right.  There are other suggestions, but let’s wait for more definitive info before getting too excited about this change.  Something will probably happen by 2015.

The league is also considering expansion of the playoffs from 12 teams to 14 teams.  This change, just like all other rule changes, requires positive votes from 24 of the 32 owners.
This expansion would involve two more games on Wild Card weekend (six games total), with a suggestion that games for that weekend could be played on Friday or Monday in addition to the current Saturday and Sunday format.  This is going to happen, but maybe not until 2015.  And from there, you can guess that the next move would be an expansion to 16 playoff teams (50% of all teams in the league making the playoffs).

OTHER

Denver’s DT Terrance Knighton got a little notoriety in the Broncos’ playoff game against the NE Patriots, getting a key sack on QB Tom Brady.  I mention him only because of his nickname, “Pot Roast”.  At 6’3”, 335 lbs. (give or take, depending on how big his last meal was), he has a bit of an excessive gut, but he is filling a role on the defensive line for the Broncos.
Pot Roast came out of Temple University and was drafted by the JAX Jaguars in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft.  He earned a starting spot in his rookie season, but struggled through his young career with conditioning issues.  He became a rotational player with the Jags in 2012, and his contract expired at the end of the season.
Denver picked him up as a rotational DL player at the start of the 2013 season, and he struggled mightily.  His production increased in the 2nd half of the year and has been solid in the playoffs.  The Broncos will likely need him to be effective in helping to stuff the Seahawks’ running game during the Super Bowl.

FINAL HEAD COACHING CHANGE


CLEVELAND           The Browns had been the only team without a head coach since mid-January until finally hiring Mike Pettine, formerly the DC for the Buffalo Bills (2013) and the NY Jets (2009-2012, Rex Ryan’s “right hand man”).  Pettine will be the 8thHC for the Browns since they re-entered the NFL as a new team in 1999 (see quiz question below), and the 5th HC since 2008.

BUFFALO                       With the loss of DC Pettine, the Bills now need to find a new defensive coordinator.  It may be Wade Phillips, who has a long NFL coaching history.  He was the DC for Buffalo from 1995-1997 and then was promoted to HC for the Bills from 1998-2000.  He was the ATL Falcons DC for 2002 & 2003, and then DC for San Diego from 2004-2006.  Phillips got the head job with Dallas for the 2007-2010 seasons, and then moved on to HOU Texans as DC for 2011 through 2013.


2014 NFL PRO BOWL

The game in Hawaii aired on Sunday, January 26th, at 7:30PM Eastern on NBC.

The NFL scrapped the AFC vs. NFC format this year.  The two teams who played in the Pro Bowl were selected by team “captains” Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, similar to the way we used to pick “sides” in sandlot games (e.g., at the water tower “field” in Britt, Iowa).  In conjunction with the change, there was a two-day draft for all of the Pro Bowl players held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Key Team Rice selections:
NOR Saints QB Drew Brees
IND Colts OLB Robert Mathis
PHI Eagles RB LeSean McCoy
STL Rams DE Robert Quinn

Key Team Sanders selections:
KC Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles
CAR Panthers QB Cam Newton
TB Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis
HOU Texans DL J.J. Watt

The MGM sports books in Nevada installed Team Rice as a 1.5-point favorite over Team Sanders. Team Rice won.


RECRUITING FOR NEXT YEAR

Leading up to the official signing day (early February) for high school players entering college, there have been many verbal commitments.  The players can still change their decision and some have not committed yet, but here are the early verbal commitments as of January 20th by conference for the top 100 ranked recruits according to Rival100:

Conference      Recruits           Breakdown
SEC                 38                    ALA 9, LSU 6, TEN 5, TXAM 5, FL 4
ACC                12
Big 10              12                    Ohio State 9
PAC 12              9                    Coaching changes at USC and UW probably hurt
Big XII              5
Notre Dame       4
MW                  1
Uncommitted    19

Comments:
And the highly touted Southeastern Conference teams just keep getting richer.
We can only hope that these youngsters have a change of heart before signing day (or that Rival100 did a poor job of ranking the recruits and many of the future college football stars come from Rival’s #101 to #500 ranked players).

COACHING CHANGES

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hire its new head coach recently, Bill Clark.  He was the 2013 HC at FCS Jacksonville State and led them to an 11-4 record and an FCS playoff appearance.  Prior to that, he was the DC for South Alabama.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII PREVIEW

Sunday, February 2nd  -- GROUNDHOG DAY
According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhogemerges from its burrow on this day, then springwill come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.
I tried to think of an idea to fit this into our football theme, but failed.  So there it is, for what it’s worth.

THE GAME

DENVER -2h vs. SEATTLE +2h
OVER/UNDER: 47 total combined points to be scored in game
If Denver remains the favorite, it will be the 30th straight game in which they have been favored (20-9 ATS in their last 29 games).  The last time they were an underdog was at New England in Week #5 of the 2012 season.

This game pits the AFC #1 seed against the NFC #1 seed.

The Broncos, the #1 offense in the NFL, are matched up against the Seahawks, the #1 defense in the NFL.  The irresistible force meets the immovable object (respectively).

There have only been four Super Bowls in history that have gone to kickoff with less than a 3-point spread.

Seattle is the first Super Bowl participant since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to have zero players on the active roster with Super Bowl experience.
Denver has only four players with at least one previous Super Bowl appearance.
This shouldn’t be a major factor in trying to determine the outcome of the game.

If Denver wins the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning will be the first starting QB to have won a Super Bowl for two different teams.

Denver won a coin flip and got their choice of jerseys for the Super Bowl.  The Broncos chose “ORANGE”, and to date they are 0-3 in Super Bowls when wearing the orange jerseys.

Weather is a big topic leading up to the game, since the game is…. Outdoors ….. in New Jersey…..in February.  As long as the temperature doesn’t get below 20 degrees or so and there is not a blizzard, the main factor could be the wind.  The early forecasts call for relative calm (8 mph winds).  But if the breeze kicks up, it could be a disadvantage to the pass-happy Broncos.

FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION

QUESTION #1:  The Cleveland Browns moved their whole organization to Baltimore for the 1996 season and changed the team’s name to the Baltimore Ravens.  Who was the last coach for the “old” Browns in 1995?







ANSWER #1:
Bill Belichick, from 1991 through 1995.
The Cleveland Browns “relocation controversy” was the decision by then-Browns owner Art Modellto move his NFL team from its longtime home of Cleveland, Ohio, to Baltimore, Maryland, for the 1996 NFL season.
Subsequent legal actions saw a unique compromise that would later set a precedent in American professional sports: Modell would be able to retain the Browns' existing player and staff contracts, but his team officially would be an entirely new franchise in Baltimore, later named the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, the Browns' name, history, and archives would stay in Cleveland, and a new Browns team would begin play in 1999 after a nominal three-year period of "deactivation".

See you next season unless I do an after Super Bowl letter, or the Gambling Police catch me at my bookie's - TFC

Friday, January 24, 2014

JERRY RICE, LEON SANDCASTLE TO PICK PRO BOWL TEAM THIS YEAR


SCHEDULE CHANGE, FAMOUS RBs USED TO HEIGHTEN AUDIENCE

Temecula, CA – In an effort to fatten the TV market share of the Pro Bowl, a football game forgotten by everyone except those into sports jock strap minutia normally played after the Super Bowl, the game’s playing schedule has been moved forward 3 weeks to this weekend. 

On top of the schedule advance, three of the most famous running backs of time, Jerry Rice (SF49er fame), Deion Sanders (Dallas Cowboy fame), and Leon Sandcastle (#1Draft choice KC Chiefs, 2013 Madden NFL fame) have been added to bring viewers in. 

After the jump we take a look back at Sandcastle’s first appearance from out of nowhere, it seemed.

And then to the t-shirt that is making the rounds at present in some sports circles and the man behind it, again, after the jump.

Of course we all know Sandcastle is Deion Sanders in real life, but the Richard Sherman controversy is more media spin, as we see in the clip below about the 'You mad, bro' dust up prior to the Crabtree cut down.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

THE RICHARD SHERMAN CONTROVERSY


WHEN OUTRAGEOUS MEANT SOMETHING IN SPORTS

Temecula, CA – Building up to the Super Bowl is the usual heightened controversy which seems to happen every year. I love the Super Bowl, and I don’t watch sports. This year however, the bone of

contention is a player’s after game, seemingly off-point interview on camera. The player’s name is Richard Sherman, and he hails from So Cali just up the road in another city called Compton. The ‘straight-outta’ place of Los Angeles. 

Watching the game and the interview, since Sherman (Seahawks) had just made the game defining end play, I was surprised to hear the taunts made to/about the player bested in the play. But rather than a quick judgment, you could tell there was some past resentment between the two that wasn’t team competition. 

With 60 million watching the incident, the outburst has grown beyond the person to the core level of being yourself. Coming from an extended family containing a college professor (Santa Barbara), a VP for General Motors (Detroit), and a judge helping to decide Detroit’s bankruptcy, I can relate to being yourself and how that can get you into trouble. And I didn’t come from Compton.

The first quote comes from our own Fugitive Commissioner who dodged the gambling police to deliver this.  ‘Johnny Unitas was the ultimate competitor, as this anecdote by Bubba Smith affectionately exemplifies:

“A guy broke through the line, hit him [Unitas], and pushed his head in the ground. He called the same play, let the guy come through and broke his nose with the football. I said, That's my hero!”’

This link will take you to another sports opinion about Richard Sherman and this video below with the man who graduated Stanford with a 4.0 and is now working on his Masters is for your viewing education. But in the end, one commenter sums up what we knew at Occupy LA.



“They headed straight for Sherman the second the game ended because they know he's a very emotional player who just made what may go down as the defining play of a stellar career and they KNEW they were going to get a high-voltage interview. They knew EXACTLY what they were doing and got the response they wanted. Sherman had a boring day up til that play because Kaepernick never threw his way.”

Homemade biscuit mix and cheese biscuits

I have been making my own biscuit mix for years now.  Once we learned Bill was no longer able to eat wheat or gluten, the convenience of grabbing a box a Bisquick went out the window.  Anyone with the same affliction knows the gluten free box is 3 times as expensive and 3 times smaller than the regular gluteny one.  If you were just a single person that might be okay, but not for a family.  I do not want to make 2 different batches of biscuits.  I just make everything gluten free.  Something that is not cost effective using the ready made stuff.

Lately I have noticed a lot of stores have started carrying ready made mixes for "Red Lobster Cheese Biscuits".  Having made these myself for years, I thought I would share my recipe.  No sense in spending $4 for a bag that will only make you 12 biscuits and is full of preservatives.  And for good measure, I am sharing my biscuit mix recipe as well.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL CONFERENCE TITLE GAMES



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

With only two games over the weekend (plus college "exhibition games), you'd think there wouldn't be much to talk about.  

But I believe it's worth your while to read the Commish this week, which includes three quiz questions, a preview of the 2014 NFL Draft, and a few other tidbits.

We're headed for an outdoor, potentially bad weather Super Bowl on February 2nd. 

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL

NFL

CONFERENCE FINALS RESULTS

The Sunday winners of the NFL Conference title games are going to Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014, to be played outdoors in East Rutherford, NJ (not a brilliant idea).  There are contingency plans to possibly postpone the game until Monday if the weather is really bad, which is not all that unlikely, considering it will be February in New Jersey (ain’t that right, Gary?!!?).  Regardless, why should they play in sub-30 degree weather and subject the paying fans to suffering in the stands when there are so many other options?
But I digress.

There was quite a contrast between the two Conference title games.

Last Sunday was the first time since the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1971 that one conference title game had two of the top three defensive teams in the league this year, while the other conference had two of the top three offensive teams.
The over/under for total points in the AFC title game was about 55, whereas the over/under for the NFC title game was about 39.

The AFC title game had two starting QB’s whose combined age (74.3 years) was the largest in league history for a playoff game [Peyton Manning 37+, Tom Brady 36+].  In contrast, the NFC starting QB’s had a combined age of 51 [Kaepernick 26, Wilson 25].

The NFC title game QB’s had a combined 5 years of experience [Kaepernick 3, Wilson 2], whereas the AFC title game touts Manning (16) vs. Brady (14) with a combined 30 NFL seasons of experience.

Also, the NFC quarterbacks had a combined 1,063 rushing yards during the 2013 regular season, whereas the AFC quarterbacks had a combined negative 13 rushing yards.
[Wilson 539, Kaepernick 524, Brady 18, Manning -31].




NFC

Sunday, January 19th

#5 San Francisco +3h at #1 SEATTLE -3h
FINAL:  SEA 23, SF 17; the game went “OVER” the total of 39 points.

The 49’ers got out to an early 10-0 lead, and still led 10-3 at halftime.  The Seahawks tied it up early in the 3rdquarter, but San Fran answered right back to retake the lead 17-10 mid-3rdquarter.  After that, it was all ‘Hawks on the scoreboard.
ATS:  With Seattle ahead only 20-17, the Niners got the ball at their own 15 yard line with about 8 minutes remaining in the game; SF QB Colin Kaepernick threw an ugly interception on the 2nd play of the drive, setting up the home team for a successful 47-yard FG, and now the Seahawks were ahead 23-17 and covering ATS with only 3½ minutes on the clock.   The Niners had one last chance, needed a TD but a toss into the end zone was intercepted with just 22 seconds left in the game.

The 49’ers had three turnovers in the game, two INT’s and a lost fumble by Kaepernick, all in the 4thquarter.  But he kept his team in the game with his running – 11 carries for 130 yards.  Seattle had just one turnover.  Both teams generated 308 yards from scrimmage for the game.
[Not to make excuses for San Francisco, but the team appeared to run out of gas late in the game.  The team had to travel five of the last six weeks (TB, AZ, GB, CAR, SEA), whereas Seattle’s players hadn’t left the State of Washington for a month, since its final road game of the regular season -- a December 15th game vs. the NY Giants at the Meadowlands in New Jersey (a “warmup” for the Super Bowl, which is also being played in the Meadowland’s MetLife Stadium)

One interesting comparison:  Even with a loss at Seattle last Sunday, Colin Kaepernick has three road playoff wins in his short (so far)  NFL career; Peyton Manning has only 2 road playoff wins in his 16-year NFL career (total of 7 road games).
One more:  Kaepernick has a 3-1 record in road playoff games for the 49’ers, whereas Steve Young and Joe Montana combined for a 1-6 record in road playoff games for the Niners during their illustrious Hall of Fame careers.

If you watched the last quarter of this game, you saw that horrendous call made by the officials.  Seattle faced third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, leading only 20-17 but hoping to extend the lead with only 8 minutes remaining in the game.  The pass is completed… now he’s heading for the goal line, SF linebacker NaVorro Bowman strips the ball from the receiver at the 1-yard line and clearly secures the ball as he hits the ground – play over…SF thwarts the drive, no points scored…..but wait, not so fast, my friends…the officials ruled that it was a fumble recovered by Seattle (not San Francisco’s Bowman), and because of an ill-conceived NFL rule, this play could not be reviewed in the booth.  Now it was Seattle’s ball, 4th and goal from the 1-yard line, giving the Seahawks a second chance to increase their lead to 10 points.

Let’s stop to reflect for a moment:
Remember not so long ago (2012) in Seattle that the replacement officials blew a touchdown call to give the Seahawks a win over Green Bay.  Two days later, on September 26th, the officials’ labor dispute was settled and the regular officials were back.  The replacement officials had been roundly criticized throughout their three weeks in temporary jobs – by fans, by the media, by anyone that paid attention.  Is it really that much better now with the regular officials?  These guys have had a tough year, with plenty of blown calls, but this latest one against San Francisco could easily have changed the outcome of a key playoff game.
[Editorial Comment:  Don’t get me wrong; the officials have a very difficult job and cannot be right all of the time.  NFL, please open up the “red flag” challenge to almost any play on the field, including PENALTY calls, and there will be a better chance of getting calls right.  If a coach wants to use a challenge to dispute a pass interference call (e.g., catch a defensive back grabbing the wrist of a WR just before he is ready to reach up and catch the ball, a sneaky trick that the officials usually cannot see), then let him.

Back to the game – 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Seattle leading 20-17 facing 4th-and-goal from the San Francisco 1-yard line.
The Seahawks have trouble with the handoff/exchange between QB and RB – fumble, and the 49’ers recover at the 15-yard line, giving the visiting Niners a “second” chance and plenty of time to retake the lead.
The officials were off the hook on their bad call, and the league’s questionable challenge rule was at least temporarily forgiven.  Hopefully, this incident will not be forgotten, and the rules will be cleaned up in the offseason.  And I still say that the “red flag” challenge should be allowed for penalties and all plays, not just for specific types of play (e.g., SF-SEA game, “running into” vs. “roughing” the punter penalty helped Seattle, and may have been reversed with a review from the booth).

AFC

Sunday, January 19th

#2 NEW ENGLAND +5h at #1 DENVER -5h
FINAL: DEN 26, NE 16; and the game went “UNDER” big time with a betting total of 55 points.

Denver was dominating the game in the first half, with the Broncos’ offensive line performing flawlessly in pass protection for the aging QB Manning.  New England’s defense did not look sharp.  But Denver twice had to settle for field goals and was ahead only 13-3 at halftime.  It was more of the same in the 2ndhalf, with the Patriots unable to unleash their running game (only 64 yards for the game).  The Broncos kicked another FG with 12 minutes remaining in the game to make the score 23-3; New England continued to battle but could not make up the huge difference.
Neither team had a turnover in the game.
Denver generated 507 yards from scrimmage; New England totaled 320.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

COACHING CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR

Vanderbilt lost its former HC James Franklin to Penn State, and his replacement will be Derek Mason, former DC for Stanford.

UNDERCLASSMEN DECLARING FOR NFL DRAFT

Last year a record 73 underclassmen declared for the 2013 NFL Draft (17 of them didn’t get selected in the draft).  This year, 102 underclassmen declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, which obliterates the all-time record set last year (a 40% increase over last year).  Many of these early entrants will go undrafted.
The NFL’s rookie wage scale backfired on college football by luring more young college players to the professional ranks so that they could start logging years toward their potentially more lucrative second NFL contracts.  And it doesn’t help that a running back is considered “over the hill” when he reaches the age of 30.

2014 NFL EARLY MOCK DRAFTS

Let’s compare four different 1st Round mock drafts from pundits Mel Kiper, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network, Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, and Dan Hope of Bleacher Report.  The players are listed in order of Kiper’s projections.  The exact draft order has not been completed yet, but this is a good estimate for now.  BAL and DAL will flip a coin for #16 and #17 picks overall, and picks #21 through #32 are determined by playoff results.
                                                            Mel                 Jeremiah           Rang                Hope
PLAYER/SCHOOL/POSITION              KIPER               NFL Net           CBS                Bleach

Johnny MANZIEL/TXAM/QB              #1 HOU               #4 CLE           #5 OAK             4 Cle
Jake MATTHEWS/TXAM/OT              #2 STL               #11 TEN          #6 ATL              2 StL
Jadeveon CLOWNEY/S.CAR/DE          #3 JAX               #1 HOU           #2 STL              3 Jax
Blake BORTLES/UCF/QB                     #4 CLE              #8 MIN            #3 JAX            20 AZ
Sammy WATKINS/CLEM/WR              #5 OAK             #2 STL             #7 TB               7 TB
Anthony BARR/UCLA/LB                    #6 ATL               #3 JAX            #8 MIN             5 Oak
Khalil MACK/Buffalo/OLB                   #7 TB                 #7 TB              #9 BUF            11 Ten
Teddy BRIDGEWATER/LOU/QB         #8 MIN               #5 OAK           #1 HOU             1 Hou
Greg ROBINSON/AUB/OT                 #9 BUF               #6 ATL            #4 CLE              6 Atl
Justin GILBERT/OKL.ST/CB             #10 DET            #12 NYG         #28 CAR            12Nyg
Taylor LEWAN/MICH/OT                 #11 TEN             #13 STL          #12 NYG           28Car
C.J. MOSLEY/ALA/LB                     #12 NYG            #9 BUF            #11 TEN             9 Buf
Mike EVANS/TXAM/WR                  #13 STL             #10 DET          #16 BAL            16Bal
Timmy JERNIGAN/FSU/DT             #14 CHI             #14 CHI            not 1st Rd       
Louis NIX III/ND/DT                       #15 PIT             #30 SF             #15 PIT             14Chi
Eric EBRON/UNC/TE                       #16 BAL            #18 NYJ           #18 NYJ            18NYJ
Ha Ha CLINTON-DIX/ALA/CB         #17 DAL            #21 GB            #14 CHI             13 StL
Marqise LEE/USC/WR                      #18 NYJ            #16 BAL           #23 KC              22 Phi 
Cyrus KOUANDIJO/ALA/OT            #19 MIA            #20 AZ            #13 STL             23 KC
Zack MARTIN/ND/OT                      #20 AZ             #19 MIA          #19 MIA        
Calvin PRYOR/LOUIS/FS                  #21 GB             #17 DAL         not 1st Rd             21 GB
Kelvin BENJAMIN/FSU/WR              #22 PHI            #15 PIT          not 1st Rd
Stephon TUITT/ND/DE                    #23 KC           not 1st Rd           #29 NE                15 Pit
Darqueze DENNARD/MI.ST/CB        #24 CIN           #22 PHI            #10 DET              25 SD
Bradley ROBY/OH.ST/CB                  #25 SD            not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd              30Den
Carlos HYDE/OH.ST/RB                   #26 CLE          #26 CLE           not 1st Rd
Antonio RICHARDSON/TENN/OT    #27 NOR        not 1st Rd          not 1st Rd
Brandin COOKS/OR.ST/WR             #28 CAR         not 1st Rd           #30 SF
Jace AMARO/TX.TK/TE                  #29 NE            #29 NE              #20 AZ                 31 NE 
Odell BECKHAM JR./LSU/WR          #30 SF            not 1st Rd          not 1st Rd              29 SF
Scott CRICHTON/OR.ST/DE           #31 DEN         not 1st Rd            #22 PHI               27Nor
Allen ROBINSON/FSU/WR              #32 SEA          not 1st Rd           not 1st Rd       
Paul RICHARDSON/COL/WR         not 1stRd          #23 KC              not 1st Rd
Ra’Shede HAGEMAN/MINN/DT     not 1st Rd          #24 CIN              #21 GB               17 Dal
Lamarcus JOYNER/FSU/CB            not 1stRd         #25 SD               not 1st Rd
Kony EALY/MIZZU/DE                   not 1stRd         #27 NOR            #17 DAL              24CIN
Jarvis LANDRY/LSU/WR                not 1stRd         #28 CAR             not 1st Rd
Morgan MOSES/Virginia/OT            not 1stRd         #31 DEN             not 1st Rd
Davante ADAMS/Fresno/WR           not 1stRd         #32 SEA              not 1st Rd
Ryan SHAZIER/OH.ST/OLB            not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd             #24 CIN
Marcus ROBERSON/FL/CB             not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd             #25 SD
Derek CARR/Fresno/QB                  not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd             #26 CLE              8 MIN
Jason VARRETT/TCU/CB                not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd             #27 NOR
Travis SWANSON/ARK/OC             not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd             #31 DEN
Trent MURPHY/STAN/DE               not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd             #32 SEA
Kyle VAN NOY/BYU/OLB                not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd            not 1st Rd           10 Det
Billy TURNER/ND.St/OT                 not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd            not 1st Rd           19 Mia
David YANKEY/STAN/OG               not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd            not 1st Rd           26CLE
Xavier Su’a-Filo/UCLA/OG              not 1st Rd        not 1st Rd            not 1st Rd           32 Sea

COMMENTS:
As you can see, the first 13 players listed here are all projected to be 1stround selections by the four pundits (and 18 of the first 19).  After that, there is significant doubt as to which players will be selected in the first round.  Of course, this could all change prior to the draft to be held on May 8th through 10th (two weeks later this year than last year), again this year in New York City for all three days.




FFHL – WEEK EIGHTEEN (in progress)

Week #18 is our finals week of the FFHL playoffs.  It started with the January 2nd bowl game and ends with the Super Bowl.  We have only one more game from which to choose – the Super Bowl.

FANTASTIC BOWL

KID RUST vs. MIGHTY DUCK

So far in the Fantastic Bowl matchup, Kid Rust at 3-4 ATS leads Mighty Duck at 2-4 ATS.  If Mighty Duck picks the winner of the Super Bowl (against the spread, of course), he will win the FFHL Championship; a tie ATS does him no good.  If he loses, Kid Rust will capture his first FFHL title and University of Oregon student Shawn will get only 3rdplace (not 2nd, since at 2-5 ATS he would not have beaten any team in the Consolation Bowl and therefore wouldn’t “validate”).

CONSOLATION BOWL

THE ROUNDERS have clinched a win in the Consolation Bowl with a 4-1-1 record ATS.  Scott and Kenny will get at least 3rdplace, but will get elevated to 2nd place if Mighty Duck loses on his Super Bowl pick (in which case The Duck wouldn’t “validate”).  Hawkeye at 3-3 ATS has already wrapped up 4thplace (even with a Super Bowl loss, he wins the tiebreaker), Tommy Boy at 3-4 ATS has clinched 5th place, and Yo Mama at 2-4-1 ATS gets 6thplace.

BFD BOWL

Kraut is 4-2 ATS and has clinched the BFD Bowl victory.  Moore Money finished at 3-3-1 ATS, and Wild Man is 2-3-1 ATS with a Super Bowl pick still to be made.

FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)

Listed below is a breakdown of all of our picks for Week #18C – the two NFL Conference Title games over the weekend:

                                    ATS Picks
Team                           For-Against     Result / Unsolicited comments

NE Pats +5h at Denver           4-2       LOSS, Broncos win 26-16 to cover by 4½
SF 49’ers +3h at Seattle          3-2       LOSS, Seahawks win 23-17 to cover by 2½





NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
NFL – 20th week (Conference Finals Weekend)

ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES              2-0-0  (100.0%)           2-0-0  (100.0%)          
HOME TEAMS          2-0-0  (100.0%)           2-0-0  (100.0%)

NFL
Cumulative percentages through 20 weeks:

ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES              128-126-9  (50.4%)     181-81-1  (69.0%)      
            HOME TEAMS          136-118-9  (53.4%)     157-105-1  (59.9%)

FINALS OF FFHL PLAYOFFS
FOOTBALL GAMES - FFHL WEEK #18 (through Super Bowl)

SUPER BOWL XLVIII (WEEK #18D)

Sunday, February 2nd
DENVER -2h vs. SEATTLE +2h

This game pits the AFC #1 seed against the NFC #1 seed.
The Broncos, the #1 offense in the NFL in both yards from scrimmage and scoring, match up against the Seahawks, the #1 defense in the NFL in both yards from scrimmage and scoring.  The irresistible force meets up with the immovable object, if you will, to determine if the laws of physics apply to football.

Many of the oddsmakers had initially posted Seattle as a 1 or 2 point favorite, but the betting has caused a big change in the line.  Right now, Denver is a 2½ point favorite to win the Super Bowl.
There have only been four Super Bowls in history that have gone to kickoff with less than a 3-point spread.  The SF 49’ers in Super Bowl XVI and Miami in Super Bowl VII both won as 1-point favorites.
The Seahawks have never been Super Bowl favorites; they were a 4-point underdog to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.
The Broncos have not been underdogs in a Super Bowl since the 1997 season, when the GB Packers were favored by 11 in Super Bowl XXXII.  Denver won that game 31-24.  The next year, Denver was a 7 ½ point favorite in Super Bowl XXXIII and beat Atlanta 34-19.

Obscure facts:  Seattle is the first Super Bowl participant since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to have zero players on the active roster with Super Bowl experience.
Also: Denver’s CB Champ Bailey (age 35) is going to his 1st Super Bowl.

MINUTIA FOR FOOTBALL LOVERS

UPDATE ON COACHING CHANGES - NFL

I’m still trying to keep up with the latest.
 [HC=head coach; GM=general manager; OC=offensive coordinator; DC=defensive coordinator]

MINNESOTA            New HC is Mike Zimmer (age 57), most recently the DC for the Cincinnati Bengals (2008-2013), and before that DC Atlanta (2007) and DC Dallas (2000-2006).  This is his first head-coaching position.
                                Joining him will be new OC Norv Turner (CLE OC 2013, SD HC 2007-2012, SF OC 2006, OAK HC 2004-2005, MIA OC 2002-2003, SD OC 2001, WSH HC 1994-2000, DAL OC 1991-1993; Wow!)

CLEVELAND             Still no HC replacement has been hired.
The Browns may want to pluck one of coordinators from either Denver (OC Adam Gase) or Seattle (DC Dan Quinn), and may be waiting until after one or both of those teams are eliminated from the playoffs before making their final decision.
           
SAN DIEGO              Hired Frank Reich to be OC, replacing the departed Ken Whisenhunt.  Reich was the Chargers’ quarterback coach last year and worked well with Philip Rivers.
Reich is best known to football fans for his years as a backup quarterback to Jim Kelly in Buffalo. With Reich filling in for an injured Kelly, the Bills overcame a 35-3 deficit to beat the Houston Oilers, the biggest playoff game comeback in NFL history (1992 season).
The Bolts recently re-signed DC John Pagano for the 2014 season.  He has been with the Chargers 12 years, the last two as DC.

NY GIANTS              New OC Ben McAdoo is filling the spot vacated when Kevin Gilbride “retired”.  McAdoo had been an assistant coach with Green Bay since 2006, including quarterback coach the last two seasons.  He is not related to Bob, the NBA star of yesteryear, age 62, currently an assistant coach for the Miami Heat.

WASHINGTON        New OC Sean McVay (age 27) was promoted by the ‘Skins from tight ends’ coach.  He has previously worked with new head coach Jay Gruden.

MIAMI                      New OC Bill Lazor will work under incumbent HC Joe Philbin.  Lazor most recently had been the quarterback coach in Philadelphia, working with upstart Nick Foles and Eagles HC Chip Kelly.

TENNESSEE             New DC Ray Horton, who was the DC in Cleveland last year, will join new HC Ken Whisenhunt with the Titans.  Horton was Whisenhunt’s DC in Arizona during the 2011 & 2012 seasons.

DETROIT                 New HC Jim Caldwell has hiredJoe Lombardi as his OC.  Lombardi had been the NOR Saints quarterbacks coach since 2009.  He is the grandson of some guy named Vince, who used to coach back in the old days.

FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION

QUESTION #1:  The New England vs. Denver game marked the fourth playoff meeting between two veteran quarterbacks – Manning and Brady.  This has happened only two other times in NFL history since the merger of the NFL and AFL.  Name the two pairs of quarterbacks that played against each other four times in the playoffs.

QUESTION #2A:  SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for 130 yards from scrimmage against Seattle on Sunday, which was the 2nd highest rushing total for a QB in NFL playoff history.  Who holds the all-time record?
HINT:  The record was set last year.

ANSWER #1:
Brett Favre and Steve Young (4 straight years – 1995 through 1998)
Terry Bradshaw and Kenny Stabler (4 straight years—1973 through 1976)

Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas played against each other in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, but the playoffs were abbreviated back then, so I don’t think they went head-to-head four times in what would have been considered a playoff game in those days (but if you picked this pair as one of your answers, give yourself credit anyway).

Unitas was the ultimate competitor, as this anecdote by Bubba Smith affectionately exemplifies:
“A guy broke through the line, hit him [Unitas], and pushed his head in the ground. He called the same play, let the guy come through and broke his nose with the football. I said, That's my hero!”


And Baltimore Colts’ teammate and tight end Raymond Berry explained:
“What made Unitas special was his uncanny instinct for calling the right play at the right time, his icy composure under fire, his fierce competitiveness, and his utter disregard for his own safety."

Back to 2013 and the quiz question: after Denver’s win on Sunday, Manning and Brady both have 2 victories when facing each other.  Overall, Brady’s playoff record is now 18-8, while Manning bumped up his career playoff record to 11-11.

ANSWER #2A:
Kaepernick, who rushed for 181 yards against the GB Packers in a 2012 playoff game.
He has rushed for 95 yards or more in 3 of his 6 career playoff appearances.  In the history of the NFL, only two other QB’s have rushed for 95 or more yards in a playoff game; they each did it once.
And how amazing is this?  Kaepernick has rushed for 507 yards in his six playoff games, while former Detroit Lions’ Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders rushed for only 386 yards in his playoff career -- also six games.

QUESTION 2B:
Besides Kaepernick, who were the two QB’s that rushed for at least 95 yards in a playoff game?  (answer below)
HINT: One QB is still active in the NFL; the other QB at one time played for the same team that the still-active QB now plays for.







ANSWER #2B:
Michael Vick
Randall Cunningham.