My Tuesday Take: Jan. 22, 2019

On Sunday the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be making their ninth Super Bowl appearance together, a feat that has never happened before. This has caused more people to call Tom Brady the greatest of all time or “the GOAT,” but I don’t believe he is.

The Patriots have played in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL since the 2002 realignment. The Bills, Dolphins, and Jets all have losing records in the games played from 2002 to 2018. During that time, Buffalo only has three winning seasons. Miami has five, and New York has seven. To put that in perspective, AFC North teams have a combined 33 winning seasons, and the NFC North has 30. These are two divisions that have had teams go 0-16.

Patriots’ fans, you have to be honest and agree when I say that Brady has gotten calls over the years that other quarterbacks have not. Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton have been leveled after throwing the ball, and a penalty flag was never thrown. Meanwhile, Tom Brady can get tapped on the shoulder while throwing the ball and receive a flag for unnecessary roughness, like in the AFC Championship game. The true greats, like Montana, Staubach, and Marino, didn’t cry when a defender touched their shoulder.

Brady only looks great because he is smart enough to find holes in a zone defense, and teams still try to play zone against him. He has also had Hall of Famer Randy Moss and Wes Welker to throw the ball to, and currently has Gronk, Edelman, and one of the best receiving running backs in the league in James White. Tom Brady, frankly, is nothing without Bill Belichick, one of the greatest coaches of all time, and the team that was assembled by him.

Goodbye Joe Flacco

The Baltimore Ravens did everything but actually say goodbye to veteran quarterback Joe Flacco yesterday in their loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson started and played all of the Ravens’ first playoff game since 2014. Jackson, who has struggled with ball security all season, started off the game by fumbling on the team’s first two possessions. Both were recovered by Baltimore, but Chargers’ Melvin Ingram scooped up the next fumble that ended their second drive because running back Kenneth Dixon couldn’t hold onto the ball. Jackson then threw an interception with 8:57 left in the first quarter and lost a fumble as time winded down in the second.

Despite the fact that Baltimore was down 20 points and Jackson had negative passing yards at the beginning of the fourth quarter, John Harbaugh made the decision to keep him in the game. Saying that it was a passing situation is an understatement, and passing is not Jackson’s strong suit. By sticking with the rookie and leaving the better passer and former Super Bowl MVP on the bench, the Ravens clearly said that this is now Lamar Jackson’s team, and Joe Flacco is not part of their future.

Baltimore, at least trade Flacco to where he wants to go. You owe him that much.

Thank You, Trace

Arguably the greatest quarterback ever for Penn State played his final game in a Nittany Lion uniform yesterday. It may not have been the storybook ending to a record career, but Trace McSorley, who holds the PSU record for most wins by a quarterback, did what he’s always done – keep swinging until the very end. The Nittany Lions ultimately fell to the Wildcats 24 to 27, but it could’ve been much worse. Penn State started the second half down 10 to 7. The Wildcats’ quickly scored 10 points to open the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Sean Clifford started the second half for PSU because McSorley broke his foot in the first half. Trace wouldn’t let that stop him though. He pulled a Brett Favre and played through it, almost coming up with the win.

While the game didn’t end with a win, his career does. McSorley owns an insane amount of PSU records including most completions, passing yards, and passing and rushing touchdowns, but fans and players will remember his competitiveness, his ability to rise to any challenge, and what he did to put Penn State football back on the map. And for that, we thank you Trace.

Week 17 – Final Push for the Playoffs

It’s the last day of the 2018 NFL Regular Season. Only one spot in the NFC playoffs is still up for grabs while not a single seed in the AFC has been clinched.

Lock: Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5) over Denver Broncos

Denver lost running back Philip Lindsay for the rest of the season last week. They also lost Emmanuel Sanders earlier in the season. The Chargers are guaranteed to make the playoffs, but they could move all the way up to the #1 seed if they take care of business in Denver and Kansas City loses today. A healthy Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen will give Philip Rivers plenty of weapons to choose from today.

Upset: Cleveland Browns over Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)

This has more to do with me being a Steelers fan and praying that Cleveland can pull the upset. The Browns may not have a chance to make the playoffs, but they are still playing for a lot. Due to overwhelming demand, the Browns game will be on television in Columbus and other parts of Ohio instead of the Steelers. Cleveland can possibly end their season with a winning record for the first time in over a decade and sweep both Cincinnati and Baltimore in what has been the season of hope for Browns’ players and fans. Everyone knows how good the Ravens’ defense is and how Lamar Jackson has played, but Baker Mayfield won’t let those get into his head.

Random: Pittsburgh Steelers (-14.0) over Cincinnati Bengals

Antonio Brown and James Conner are both questionable for the Steelers, but they still have more talent than a Bengals’ team without Andy Dalton, AJ Green, and Tyler Boyd. Pittsburgh needs to win or else a Baltimore loss or Indianapolis-Tennessee tie means nothing. Big Ben should have a field day with the Bengals’ defense and do something he has never done before – pass for at least 5,000 yards in a season.

 

Side Note: After sustaining what could of been a career-ending injury, it is amazing to see Teddy Bridgewater get his first start in almost three years.

FBS All-Freshman Team

Bowl season is in full swing. As we marvel and think about the future of the seniors or those declaring early for the draft, I was thinking about how bright the future is for college football. Every year it seems that the freshmen get better and keep fans excited about the next three to four years. My friend at Tagline Sports and I have collaborated on an All-FBS Freshman Team. Excuse us for not including special teams.

Offense:

QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson – Kelly Bryant was the starting quarterback for Clemson at the beginning of the season, but it didn’t take Dabo Swinney long to realize that Trevor Lawrence was the best person for the job. Bryant knew his time at Clemson was done, and he decided to transfer. Minus a neck injury that took Lawrence out the of Syracuse game, he has been electric throwing for 2,606 yards and 24 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon St – In a season mostly full of downs for the Beavers, one up was Jermar Jefferson. He ran for 1,380 yards and added another 147 receiving on 25 catches.

RB Pooka Williams, Kansas – Williams’ recent antics almost got him kicked off this list, but his performance this season is hard to ignore. He averaged a full seven yards per carry and ran for 1,125 yards. To top it off, he averaged 8.8 yards per catch and had 289 yards receiving.

WR Rondale Moore, Purdue – Rondale Moore was probably the second-most exciting freshman to watch this season, only behind Trevor Lawrence. Moore broke the school’s record for all-purpose yards in his first game. His 1,164 receiving yards are the 11th most in the entire FBS. Add his 12 receiving touchdowns and 203 rushing yards, and he’s hard to ignore.

WR Terrence Horne, USF – I’m cheating on this one. Terrence Horne tore his ACL in September, but he was unstoppable returning kickoffs. Horne only caught three passes for 15 yards and one touchdown but racked up 282 yards and 2 touchdowns on six returns. I put him on this list because he’s special and probably would’ve broken many school and FBS records if he had stayed healthy.

TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State – Pat Freiermuth may have only caught 24 passes, but he made the most out of them. He averaged the most yards per reception (13.75) out of all the freshmen tight ends. Freiermuth also had some very clutch catches for PSU and added seven touchdowns.

OL Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech  – He started all 11 games this year.

OL Cade Mays, Georgia – Cade Mays started in 10 games and was named to the Coaches Freshman All-SEC Team.

OL Abraham Lucas, Washington St – Lucas played in 10 games and was named a freshman All-American.

OL Chris Murray, UCLA – Chris Murray played in all 12 games. He started the first three at center and then moved to right guard.

OL Dylan Wonnum, South Carolina – Wonnum played in eight games and earned SEC All-Freshman honors.

Defense:

DL Juwuan Jones, Western Kentucky – Jones had 42 total tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble.

DL Jamal Hines, Toledo – Hines had 45 total tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions.

DL Alim McNeill, NC State – McNeill had 24 total tackles, three and a half sacks, and one interception.

DL Xavier Thomas, Clemson – Thomas had 28 total tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble.

LB Merlin Robertson, ASU – Merlin Robertson had 77 total tackles, five sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble during Herm Edwards’ first season as the coach.

LB Micah Parsons, Penn State – Micah Parsons did not get his first start until the end of the season, but his presence was felt every time he was on the field, especially when the coaching staff allowed him to start rushing the passer. Everyone at PSU knew Parsons was special before he even stepped on the field. He chose to wear #11 in honor of LaVar Arrington, who is one of the best linebackers that has ever played for Penn State. Those are big shoes to live up to. Parsons tallied 69 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one forced fumble on the year.

LB Mike Rose, Iowa State – No team is safe when playing at Iowa State. Just ask West Virginia. Defense is a big part of that. Mike Rose recorded 68 tackles and one and a half sacks.

CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama – Patrick Surtain had 33 total tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. 247Sports has him ranked as their number one corner.

CB Corione Harris, Kansas – For a program that is traditionally not good, Kansas makes its second appearance on the list with Corione Harris. Harris tallied 44 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble.

S Devonni Reed, Central Michigan – Central Michigan may have only had one win all season, but Devonni Reed put up quite the stat line. Reed recorded an impressive 97 total tackles.

S Andre Cisco, Syracuse – Andre Cisco tied for first in the FBS with seven interceptions in 12 games. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone a freshman.

NFL Week 16 Game Picks

It is the second-to-last Sunday of the regular season. Some key games take place today to see who makes the playoffs and who is out. The Steelers need to pull the upset in New Orleans to keep pace with the Ravens for first place in the AFC North. Indianapolis looks to take advantage of a favorable matchup against the Giants to move into a wild card spot, while Dallas looks to clinch their division today against the Bucs at home.

Lock: Indianapolis Colts (-9.5) over New York Giants 

The Colts have done very well at home this season. New York is down Odell Beckham Jr. again, as well as wide receiver Russell Shepard and linebacker Alec Ogletree. That only leaves Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard to do the heavy lifting. If the Colts were to make the playoffs in Andrew Luck’s first year back and with a new head coach, it would be the stuff a good underdog story is made of that we all love.

Upset: Houston Texans over Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)

Running back Lamar Miller may be out for the Texans, but Watson, Watt, and Hopkins are all playing today. Head coach Bill O’Brien is an offensive genius, so Houston will find a way to run the ball without their starter. Philadelphia’s defense needs to step up big time to have a chance.

Random: Cleveland Browns (-9.5) over Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland has the chance to finish the year with a non-losing record for the first time since 2006. The Browns must win this game if they want to have a chance at finishing over .500. Cincinnati will be missing quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver AJ Green again. Add to the fact that their second-best receiver Tyler Boyd is also not playing, and their defense gives up over 424 yards per game.

 

NFL Week 15 Game Picks

It’s Sunday again, which means it’s time to pick my lock, upset, and random games.

Lock: Los Angeles Rams (-13.0) over Philadelphia Eagles

The reigning Super Bowl champs are having a disappointing season. Carson Wentz missed the first two games of the season coming off a knee injury from the previous season, and now it’s very possible that he’ll miss the rest of the season with a fractured vertebrae. The Eagles’ defense has also struggled. It will be very difficult for them to stop both Todd Gurley and Jared Goff. LA will look to get back on track after a defensive battle in Chicago last week.

Upset: New York Giants over Tennessee Titans (-1.5)

The Giants are on fire. Over the last two weeks, they have beaten the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins and scored at least 30 points in both games. Rookie sensation Saquon Barkley led the way last week when the Giants scored 40 points without Odell Beckham Jr. Derrick Henry ran for over 230 yards last week, and I highly doubt that will happen two weeks straight.

Random: Baltimore Ravens (-8.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

At 7-6, the Ravens are still very much in contention to win the AFC North. Lamar Jackson has been electric for Baltimore since he took over. Jackson, along with their number two defense, took the Chiefs to overtime last week. Jameis Winston is up one week and down the next. He can’t be trusted to lead the Bucs, and maybe the organization is starting to realize this.

NFL Week 14 Game Picks

Every week my friend and I each pick three Sunday games, so I thought I would start sharing my picks. One is an absolute lock (the favorite) pick. One is an upset and must be an underdog in points. The last is a random game of choice, so you can pick the favorite or underdog in whatever game.

Lock: Saints (-9.5) over Buccaneers

Drew Brees and the Saints look to keep pace with the Rams for the top seed in the NFC. In their first meeting this season, New Orleans’ defense gave up over 40 points and 500 yards to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The defense has greatly improved since then and will look to force Jameis Winston into some bad throws.

Upset: Cardinals over Lions (-3.0)

I don’t really like the odds of any of the underdogs today, but this game seems to have the best chance of an upset. The Cardinals went into Green Bay last week and pulled the upset that cost Mike McCarthy his job. Now, Arizona has the chance to win two straight for the first time this season as they take on the Lions at home. This pick has a lot to do with coaching. I have not been impressed with Matt Patricia in his first year as a head coach, and it’s mostly because of his game management. Can he make the right calls when it matters?

Random: Steelers (-10.0) over Raiders

The Steelers have to use this game to get back on track. They left 17 points off the board at Denver and were screwed over by the refs on two plays last week against the Chargers. Oakland traded two of its best players this year and ranks 28th in total defense. Even without James Conner, Pittsburgh should still be able to move the ball with rookie Jaylen Samuels coming out of the backfield.

Final CFP Predictions

We’ve spent all season watching teams go up and down the rankings. That all ends today when the final CFP rankings are unveiled. The committee has spent all day watching the games together and now has some difficult decisions to make.

  • Alabama secured their place as the #1 seed for the playoff in a comeback win over Georgia, but where does Georgia fall? Keeping up with Alabama definitely gives them a case for staying at #4. Could Georgia become the first two-loss team to make the playoff? The Dawgs faced a tough schedule all season long, but would the committee view a one-loss team with an easier schedule as the more deserving team, like Oklahoma or Ohio State?
  • Oklahoma revenged its only loss against #14 Texas, but the Longhorns were Oklahoma’s toughest opponent all season. However, a close loss to a ranked opponent looks better than losing by four scores to an unranked one.
  • Ohio State lost to Purdue by 29 points in their only loss. They also won a close one against Penn State and embarrassed Michigan. The Buckeyes also struggled against Maryland and Nebraska. The committee has punished Ohio State for struggling against that should be easy wins for them, and the Northwestern game last night was close until the fourth quarter.

Here are my predictions for the last poll:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Ohio State
  7. UCF
  8. Michigan
  9. Florida
  10. Washington

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