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Monthly Archives: January 2015
Super Bowl XLIX – Why the Seahawks Will Win
Bang it here to read Ginger King’s rant on why the Patriots will
win lose the Super Bowl. Cliff notes version: basically, GK talks about how awesome Brady and Gronk are, but then it quickly unravels into a NY Giants propaganda piece; you can’t spell Elite without Eli blah blah blah…
So sure, I got “stuck” with Katy Perry and the Seahawks. GK is not only disappointed that the G-Men are watching from home, but also that his boy Bruno bonerjam Mars declined an encore halftime performance. There is always next year buddy (spoken like a true Bills fan)!
Let’s get the ol’ clichés out of the way shall we? This time of the year you always hear “defense wins championships” and “you have to be able to run the ball and stop the run”. If that lazy analysis is all it takes then, BAM! Exhibit A:
I know what you’re thinking, Seattle shouldn’t even be here; this would be Rodgers v. Brady if Green Bay didn’t give away the NFC Championship game. But I’m not buying that weak ass explanation of how we got here. Green Bay didn’t give that game away as much as the Seahawks took it from them. Russell Wilson, who was playing pitch and catch with the Packer secondary all day long, made plays he when he had too. It also doesn’t hurt that Marshawn Lynch went all BeastMode in the 4th quarter either. Speaking of Marshawn…
Marshawn Lynch is the football equivalent of Dennis Rodman (except Lynch actually scores). Each takes on the persona of an over-the-top, in-your-face, stick-it-to-the-man badass (a shtick both use for their own capital gains… hey kids, buy your officially licensed BeastMode gear here!). Crotch grabs notwithstanding, it’s what Lynch does on the field that matters. Between rushing and receiving, Marshawn tallied 1700 all purpose yards during the regular season and scored more non-passing touchdowns (17) than anyone else in the league. That is beastly production. He has great balance and agility, which, combined with his power running style makes him nearly impossible for one guy to tackle. New England’s defensive is stout against the run, but they will have their toughest matchup of the season come Sunday.
Seattle has an effective read-option element to their run game that keeps edge defenders honest just long enough to buy Lynch an extra split second to find daylight. Should the defender get eager and commit too early, Russell Wilson is savvy enough to tuck it way and run with it. Speaking of Russell…
You know he isn’t going to throw four interceptions in the Super Bowl, right? But if he does, you know he has the mental make-up to shake it off and go make a play. A lesser quarterback would fold under similar circumstances. I imagine that said lesser QB will be watching the big game from his couch… or maybe filming another Papa Johns commercial.
Wilson is 10-0 against other Super Bowl winning QB’s. That’s a funny stat, because Russell doesn’t actually play against the others quarterbacks, Seattle’s nasty defense does. Speaking of the Legion of Boom…
Sherman. Thomas. Chancellor. These are household names by now. This secondary is full of ball hawks that fly (puns intended) around all over the field. But their front-seven, while less unheralded, is just as formidable. I’ve heard numerous talking heads say that New England is going to establish the run with LeGarrett Blount. I don’t see it. First, we’re talking about LeGarrette freaking Blount. Second, New England doesn’t exactly impose their will on the ground, evident by their 18th ranked rushing attack. Their offensive line has gotten pushed around and has looked pedestrian at times. While Seattle won’t have the benefit of the 12th Man (easily like the 17th or 18th best fan base in the league by-the-way…..that’s right, I said it) their front four will consistently make plays in the backfield. Haven’t we already seen what this defense can do on the biggest stage against an immobile, future HOF QB with marginal run support?
Lucky for us, this game won’t be a blowout. Points are going to be a premium in what will be a closely contested game. In the end, Seattle’s defense, running attack and Russell Wilson calm-under-fire demeanor are the difference. Give me the Hawks, 23-20.
Super Bowl XLIX – Why the Patriots Will Win
It’s almost time for the big game. This one’s tough to call. It’s #1 v. #1 (so much for parity). Both teams seem pretty evenly matched up. The Patriots and their high octane offense led by dreamboat Tom Brady and the honorary social chair for every fraternity, Rob Gronkowski, against Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom.
Yes, the Super Bowl is finally here, with all its grandiose display of shameless corporate promotion and endless interviews and press coverage. But that’s why we love it. It’s the biggest display of American excess pride we got. I mean, we call them “World Champions” but the sport’s only played here. How much more ‘Merica can you get?
At our Editorial Board meeting, it was decided that Roid Rage and I would each pick a team and explain why they would win the Super Bowl. Roid Rage will also be live tweeting the Katy Perry halftime special. Lucky for me, I got the Patriots, because they are going to win the Super Bowl. Like it or not, but Tom Brady is about to win his 4th Super Bowl title.
You can analyze all the stats you want, but this years’ Super Bowl comes down to three questions:
What is Tom Brady’s record in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants?
What is Tom Brady’s record in the Super Bowl against the rest of the NFL?
Are the Giants in the Super Bowl?
There you go. It is that simple. Arguably, Tom Brady should have 5 Super Bowls, the Pats should have a 19-0 record and Don Shula and the rest of the ’72 Dolphins would remain on lock down in The Villages (Florida’s friendliest hometown). But who knew that Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning would be their kryptonite? No such problem this time around.
The Patriots are built different than many other teams, and this goes right to how well coached they are. List the top wide receivers in the game. How many does it take before you get to a Patriot? What about running back? Their scheme involves a plug and play approach at the skill positions. Protect Tom Brady with a solid offensive line, and then it doesn’t matter who runs or catches the ball. Remember Jonas Gray, who ran for 201 yards and 4 tds against the Colts back in November? How many yards has he had since (including the playoffs)? 84. Christ, LeGarrette Blount wasn’t even on the team two months ago. Last week, he ran for 148 yards and scored 3 touchdowns.
Sure, the Patriots will stretch (read: willfully violate) any rule in the NFL rulebook, be it videotaping, illegal formations, or, most recently, deflating footballs. But you know what? It works, and Belichick couldn’t give to shits about what you think. His smug, pugnacious, arrogant demeanor embodies this team. Granted, they may be hated by the rest of the country and by everyone that can properly pronounce the letter “r” (it’s PARK YOUR CAR, dammit!) but he doesn’t care.
Bill should be looking at videotape (whether legally or illegally recorded) of the Seahawks/Packers game two weeks ago. In that first half, Russell Wilson had 2 completions and 3 ints. Green Bay did that by pressuring with the front 4 and containing the edge, preventing Wilson from executing the weak side read-option run that he is so brilliant at. The Patriots have the speed and discipline up front to do that.
On the flip side, Seattle’s D is predicated on their back 4 (the Legion of Boom), not the front 4. If Tom has time, I don’t care who is in Seattle’s secondary. And Gronk is a matchup nightmare for anyone.
And let’s talk about coaching for a second. Sure, Pete Carroll will have some tricks up his sleeve…his coaching is what turned things around in the NFC Championship game, with ballsy calls like the fake field goal (props to John Ryan (a ginger) for being the first special teams player to throw a touchdown in the playoffs), but does anyone think he can outfox Belichick? Really? I think Pete will try too hard to out-Bellichick, Bellichick, and it will cost him.
Regardless, this should be an entertaining game. There will be lots of fireworks and exciting plays. This should be a high scoring, close game, and when the clock hits 0:00, the blue and red confetti will rain down, and the Patriots will once again be crowned World Champions. Sometimes, being evil pays off.
AFC Championship Game
Indianapolis @ New England (-7.0)
Championship Sunday wraps up with the Colts taking on Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro. Brady + Belichick + Foxboro + January = I know where I’m laying my money.
The Colts are a fun team to root for. Andrew Luck is living up to his enormous hype…you know, the best quarterback prospect since John Elway. The Indianapolis brain-trust is vindicated in their decision to cut bait on an aging Peyton Manning for 15 years of Andrew Luck. Just ask Jim Irsay, he’ll be glad to tell you all about it. The Colts feature explosive wideouts in TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief. They can’t run the ball for shit, get pushed around in the trenches, are considerably reckless in the ball security department and don’t put up much of a fight on defensive. As a result, they tend to get into shootouts and let Luck carry the team on his shoulders. But didn’t they just hold the Broncos and Bengals to 13 and 10 points respectively you ask? Sure, but honestly could you pick two bigger playoff choke artists than Andy Dalton and Peyton Manning? Plus, as it turns out, Peyton McChokeyChoke had two bum legs to go along with that robo neck of his.
Tom Brady doesn’t choke in the playoffs….unless it’s the Super Bowl….against the G-Men. But don’t take my word for it, just look at their squeaky clean 16-4 home playoff record. By the way, half of those loses came at the hands of Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in recent years, so those demons got exorcised last weekend.
The Patriots are simply a bad match-up for the Colts. Look no further than the boxscore of the week 11 beat down the Pats laid on the Colts (in Indianapolis). They made Jonas Gray look like a young-and-not-so-bitter Jim Brown as he dropped 200 yards and 4 touchdowns on them. So Gray is going to go bananas again, right? Wrong! Remember, Belichick is a genius…or a lunatic, pick your adjective…for all we know Gray won’t even be active for the game (which will still make him as useful as Trent Richardson). For these reasons I’ve learned to stop hating and love the hoodie!
Vegas is predicting a shootout with an over/under of 54 and has the Patriots as a one touchdown favorites. I think Luck is game enough to keep this close for a few quarters but Brady-to-Gronk proves to be too much. The Patriots win by double digits and use this as a tune-up for the Seahawks. Silver-lining for the Colts: Andrew Luck will have a reason to shave that woodchuck hanging from his neck.
NFC Championship Game
Phew! We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks to a big dose of comeuppance, the Process Rule (Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3) keeps me from writing about the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game. Thank you, Process Rule. And now, on to the show.
Green Bay at Seattle (-7)
This is the matchup that we all wanted. Number 1 v Number 2 for a trip to the Super Bowl. The Packers limp in to Seattle and will try to Discount Double-Check themselves to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Seattle, and their loudest fans ever (The Machine’s already debunked that nonsense) will try to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls, for the first time since the Patriots in ’04 and ’05.
We don’t have to go back too far for some history on these teams. They played each other this season, Week 1 in Seattle. The Seahawks were 4.5 point favorites and went on to roll the Packers 36-16. In that game, Aaron Rogers did not throw to Richard Sherman’s side once (a stat that ESPN has brought up much too often this week). But the passing game takes second place to the run, which is the important stat to focus on. In that Week 1 game, Green Bay rushed for 80 yards, 1 td. Seattle rushed for 207 with and 2 tds. (A healthy) Eddie Lacy rushed for 34 yards, while Beastmode tallied 110.
Listen up all you “new age” football thinkers (you know who they are…the same people who thought Johnny Football and Tavon Austin were going to revolutionize the game)… as you get deeper and deeper into the playoffs, what you need is a consistent running game. Sure, a fast, punishing, intelligent defense helps, but the running game is the oar that steers the boat, the wings that fly the plane, the 12 pack that makes the baby…you get the point. The running game helps you eat up the clock, wear out the defense, and keep the other team’s offense off the field.
Listen we love Aaron Rogers…healthy. We love Eddie Lacy…healthy. Throwing for 3 tds against the Cowboys on a gimpy calf (at home) is one thing, but can he pull it off on the road against the nastiest D in 30 years? (props to the ’85 Bears). And can he pull it off with a banged up rushing attack? As much as we love the story, we don’t think so.
Bettors seem to think there’s a chance. The line opened at Green Bay +8.5 and is now down to +7. The late money is going on the Packers. But The Machine thinks Seattle will win and cover, but barely. Like 21-13. Seattle has so much balance on offense, plus balance between offense and defense. They are the most complete team in the NFL.
If Aaron and Eddie were healthy, this would be a much harder pick. But they’re not, and we got to play the cards we’re dealt. Green Bay’s defense is no slouch, Clay Matthews and crew fly to the ball, so they should keep Russell Wilson in check. As long as they contain the edge, they should be able to handle the read-option. Problem is, no one contains the edge in the NFL…they always over-pursue the runner, leaving gaping backside holes for Wilson. Look for the Seahawks to use some trick up their sleeve…Pete Carroll isn’t going to let Belichick win the crafty coach award two weeks in a row.
And don’t forget the weather. Rain and wind, making the running game even more important. See, it all comes full circle.
The Machine likes the Seahawks to return to the Super Bowl.
Divisional Weekend – Round 1
I know, I know. You’re still upset about how the refs handed the Cowboys the game last week. So are we, but they don’t play until tomorrow, so The Machine will hold back its disbelief for another day, and instead focus on today’s games.
Baltimore at New England (-7.5)
If you can only watch one game today (we don’t know why you would do that) it would be this game. At first glance, you say the Patriots will roll. The aura of Belichick and Brady, plus Gronk, plus playing at home, should be enough for New England to win. But consider two things:
One: The Patriots can’t cheat anymore (how many post-Spygate Super Bowls have they won?)
Two: Joe Flacco.
Yes, Joe Flacco. Flacco is about as bland a guy as you’ll find. He makes Alex Smith look like a badass. Christ, he went to the University of Delaware. The Fighting Blue Hens. But Joe has quietly put together a solid year, throwing for a career high in yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27). Also, this just in: Joe Flacco is good in the playoffs. Real good.
In his last 9 playoff games, he’s thrown for 20 tds with only 2 ints. Not surprisingly, the Ravens at 7-2 (with a Super Bowl) over that stretch.
That said, Brady is no slouch, and the Patriots have Revis Island to shut down Steve Smith. Plus, our conspiracy theory radar is on high – given last week’s Cowboys game – which means the NFL will do anything for another Brady/Manning showdown. And, the Ravens have no one to cover Gronk…he will create match-up nightmares all day.
Speaking of Gronk, here’s our literary recommendation for the week:
The Machine thinks this game will be close. The Patriots will likely pull it out, but we like Baltimore with the points.
Carolina at Seattle (-12)
Normally, when a team is a double-digit underdog, it means they’re not good. That theory holds true today as Carolina travels to Seattle. Yes, Carolina looked impressive last week against Arizona and third string QB Ryan Lindley, but they have their work cut out for them as they won’t be facing a JV quarterback. Instead, they’re up against a Seattle team that is peaking at just the right time.
Seattle has been up and down this year, but there’s no question where they are as of late. Seattle’s won 6 games in row (9 of their last 10) and are playing at a championship level. They’re also 7-1 at home.
The real match-up to watch will be the Carolina run game v. Seattle’s run D. The Panthers lead the league with 172 rushing yards per game…Seattle only allows 81 yards on the ground a game, good for third in the league. If Seattle can shut down the running game, that will force Cam to throw the ball, and he has struggled at that this year. We think the Seattle D is up to the task at handling the Panthers run game. Seattle is very familiar with the read/option, as their offense uses it often. Thus, Michael Bennet, Cliff Avril and the rest of the line know how to contain the edge, and not overpursue the runner. If they can shut down Carolina’s read option, this game will get out of hand quick.
Also, The Machine’s calling another epic Beast Mode run. Like this.
Yeah, yeah, we know these teams played each other this year (in Carolina) and Seattle only won by 4. We don’t care. That was in October. Don’t be afraid of the points. We like Seattle to cover.
Wildcard Weekend – Round 2
So The Machine was 1-1 yesterday. Not bad, but we think we can make a clean sweep of it today with our picks. Let’s get right to it.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-3.5)
This is a no brainer. Colts all day. Despite the fact that The Machine wants to see a ginger quarterback win a Super Bowl (America’s not ready for it) today’s not the day. With AJ Green not suiting up, the Bengals offense goes from good to not so good. They will have to rely on Jeremy Hill and their running game to set up the passing game. But Indy will be able to load the box all day.
The Colts, meanwhile, are an interesting team. You know the philosophy that you need a balanced offensive attack, both on the ground and in the air? Well, throw that conventional wisdom out the door. The Colts running game is very bad…anyone that was stuck with Trent Richardson knows that. However, their passing game more than makes up for that deficiency…anyone that had Andrew Luck knows that. The Colts love to throw the ball, and Luck has an arsenal of potent receivers. Andrew Luck is a freak, and is reminiscent of a young Peyton Manning. Let’s hope that Andrew doesn’t inherit Peyton’s playoff woes. He won’t, at least not today.
The Machine likes the Colts to roll at home.
Detroit at Dallas (-7)
Oh man, what a way to end Wildcard Weekend. The team with the player everyone hates against the team that everyone hates (you guess who I’m talking about). Yes, Ndamukong Suh being back in the lineup certainly helps Detroit’s chances, and they do have a pretty potent offense. And yes, Dallas has a very solid recent track record of choking in the playoffs, and Tony Romo making some very head scratching decisions. And The Machine loves it when they cut to the owner’s suite to see Jerrah all pissed off, and then watch him go down to the sidelines. Oh, it would bring us much joy if the Lions could take down the Cowboys in Jerryland…but alas, it won’t happen.
Dallas probably has the most balanced offense in the playoffs, with Demarco Murray leading the league in rushing and Dez Bryant leading the league in touchdown receptions. The Lions might hang for a little while, but Dallas’ firepower will be too much. Jerrah and the boys will make it through. Don’t worry, Cowboy haters, there’s still plenty of time left in the playoffs for Romo to lose.
For now, The Machine likes the Cowboys to win, and cover.
Wildcard Weekend – Round 1
Welcome to Wildcard Weekend! Before we get to today’s games, let’s first take a look back at the regular season, and see who ended up winning the Big Red Sports Machine’s Pick with the Pros [pops champagne]. Yes sir, for the second year in a row, Ginger King walks away with the regular season crown. I walk around the house with a better sense of pride, and my kids (and Mrs. Machine) are in awe of my (non-money making) ability to pick games against the spread. Some day…
Anyway, until the Big Red Sports Machine opens up its off-shore betting service (what’s you New Years Resolution?) let’s look at today’s playoff match-ups.
Arizona at Carolina (-6.5)
In the day’s first match-up, the 11-5 Cardinals travel to the 7-8-1 Panthers. First, stop with the whole “how does a losing team make the playoffs AND get a home game”? Enough whining, already. Carolina won the NFC South. Plain and simple. Stop trying to over-regulate it. The Panthers are at home, going against 3rd string quarterback Ryan Lindley. You got to like that match-up, right?
With that said, there’s no way in hell Carolina covers 6.5 points. In fact, the Machine likes the Cardinals to win this outright. Say what you want about Carolina being in the playoffs (actually don’t, because it’s annoying) but they’re still not a good team. Cam Newton has regressed, throwing the fewest tds (18), yards (3,127) and most fumbles (6) in his career. As Cam goes, so go the Panthers.
The Cardinals, however, are more of a complete team, and have been able to withstand promoting the ball boy to starting quarterback. Patrick Peterson is the most underrated corner in the league. He will be a difference maker. The Cardinals game plan should be to force Cam to throw the ball. Even with promising rookie Kelvin Benjamin ,the Panthers passing attack isn’t great. Letting Steve Smith leave will haunt them.
Take the Cardinals.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-7)
You better take the Ravens with the points before Vegas shuts this line down. With Le’Veon Bell in, Pittsburgh wins this game handily. The Steelers are tough to beat at home (6-2 this year) and even more so in the playoffs. Bell is their workhorse. He ran for over 1,300 yards and 8 td, and also had 83 catches for over 850 yards and 3 tds.
But, with Le’Veon Bell out, this game has become a toss-up. The Steelers are now one dimension. Granted, it’s a pretty good dimension, with Big Ben and stud receiver Antonio Brown. Brown led the league with 129 receptions for a league best 1,698 yards. He simply looks unstoppable at times. But how much of that potent passing attack is predicated on the efficiency of the running game? Regardless, Brown is simply too good to not be a factor. Pittsburgh will get him involved, perhaps even in the running game (we’re calling an end around).
On the other side, Baltimore has quietly put together a solid season. They lost Ray Rice, but still had a top 10 rushing offense, running for over 126 yards a game, good for 8th overall. Baltimore will want to play the ball control game, with long, time-consuming drives. They can do that behind their offensive line. Pittsburgh’s D isn’t what it used to be…James Harrison is back, but he’s not any younger. They are vulnerable. Look for Baltimore to use the run game to set up the play action deep ball to Torrey Smith.
This game will be close. Take Baltimore and the points.